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Reviewer: IgnobleBard Signed [Report This]
Date: April 10, 2017 - 09:52 pm
Title: Arwen Undómiel

This may be one of your best essays yet. You did a marvelous job of fleshing out the largely overlooked and misunderstood character of Arwen. despite Tolkien expanding the story of Arwen and Aragron in the Appendicies. You managed to bring out a lot of the aspects of her character I never considered, from her Valkyrie-like inspiration to what it really meant for Aragorn to marry someone of her standing. This is also one of the best essays on women in Tolkien I've read. I can't remember when I've enjoyed a work of nonfiction more. You outdid yourself here.

Reviewer: just_jenni Signed [Report This]
Date: April 08, 2017 - 03:39 pm
Title: Arwen Undómiel

Damn it, this better go in!


I commend you for poring through a huge amount of material in order to write such a thoughtful and informative, as well as thought-provoking bio!

This is so interesting!

<i>An important thing to realize about the narrative of the Aragorn and Arwen story is that neither of them existed in Tolkien's mind before he started writing the requested sequel to The Hobbit. Their tale was a late addition. </i>

I've always thought that Tolkien wanted to bring back the Beren & Luthien tale but in a more modern, less high-fantasy way.

Actually, Tolkien has surprised me many times with some of his writing. Since he was a strict Roman Catholic I admire him for his non-judgemental way of dealing with the odd behaviour of some of his characters, i.e. Melian and Thingol meeting in the woods, same for Aredhel and Eol, and living together without a mention of conventional marriage. Or as you wrote, this:

<i> There is no asking daddy in the book version; they simply return to Rivendell after spending a nice little interlude of time together in Lothlórien.</i>

But then I think he didn't want to impose his mid twentieth-century R.C. conventions on his characters from ancient times and in that way I think he had both great hindsight and foresight.

I love this too:

<i>Leslie Donovan in "The Valkyrie Reflex" refers to this quality when she notes that "Arwen is not only radiant in her person, but she also partakes of the courtly attributes of Germanic valkyrie figures by bestowing gifts of inspiration and reward with illuminative properties to heroes." </i>

Most of Tolkien's women were, I believe, "the women behind the men" except the argument could be made against that convention for some of his 'wilder' women, i.e. Luthien, Eowyn, Nerdanel, Aredhel and a few more I've probably forgotten, who did what they wanted and not what they were told. I just wish more of his female characters could have been fleshed out much more than they were in his books although to be fair he passed away before he could finish the Silm and it many stories.

Here's something else I found of great interest:

<i>The Evenstar of her people symbolizes the withdrawal of the Elves from direct intervention into the lives of Men and the fate of Middle-earth.</i>

When I was writing about Melian's choices for the Strength & Beauty challenge and was struggling with her reasons for not doing more to ease the situation between Thingol and the Sons of Feanor, I came to realize that her wisdom and that of the Valar existed in leaving things alone so that the ultimate Fate of the world could come to pass - which I believe was the Coming of Men - that they will be the Elves' 'replacements' and because of their relatively short lives would not be able to effect such massive screw-ups as the Elves made. Therefore Melian had to refrain from interfering and let all those Elves die and let the Doom of the Noldor run its course and come to its eventual end. I don't know why but this had never entered my mind in quite this way before and yet it's quite obvious. The story of the Elves - all of them including those like Luthien and Arwen who chose to die like Men - is so beautifully tragic yet they certainly had their heroes and heroines and Arwen was clearly one of those.

<i>The accusation that The Lord of the Rings demonstrates a "boys' book of adventure" type of story implies that it is literarily based in a world in which women are not yet necessary. (Ahem! This reader is not arguing this is true, but simply playing devil's advocate here.) The aesthetic of the boys' world is based around the assumption that everything that is needed can be found in the company of men.</i>

Now the above is really interesting but I'm not sure it's entirely fair. I know it's a popular belief that women were not considered necessary in the past but even back in the early part of the 20th century and before (!) women had their say and of course were totally necessary! I am thinking about both my grandmothers who were born in the late 1800's. One went to university (as did a lot of women at the time!) and became a schoolteacher, traveled a lot and was a wise and intelligent woman. The other grandmother married young and emigrated to Canada during WWI but was always outspoken and made her beliefs and wishes known always! I don't think anyone ever tried to shush her up or put her in her place (wherever that is or was!). If they had she would have beaten them down! I know that during those times there were men's clubs to which women were not invited, and women weren't able to vote until the early 1900's and a host of other unfair practices but women eventually went to work to set those things right.

<i>Arwen's absence in the books is significant to Tolkien, since it mirrors a pattern from his own life: the early death of his mother, the enforced 3-year separation from his beloved Edith before their marriage, the categorization of his life into private and public spheres. For Tolkien, women's absence is an essential part of their natures—or rather, their presence is best behind the scenes.</i>

I'm not sure I agree with that either, at least I don't think he would have written his stories that way consciously. I mean, he placed Eowyn in an <i>army, among fighting men</i> which must have been very avant garde for the time! Even he could not have envisioned that in the early 2000's there would be women fighting alongside the men!

<i> "All the Kisses Tolkien Wrote" by Amy Fortuna, 52 actually counts them.</i>

Very interesting about the kisses! I must read this. Are they kisses between men and women or does it include those between men (i.e. Aragorn kisses Boromir) and possibly between two women? (I can't think of any but it doesn't mean they aren't there in the text.)

Well, I've run out of things to say, except that I loved this bio! You did some great work here. :) You must be mentally exhausted though!

Author's Response:

Thanks for so a long and wonderful and thought-provoking review. I really like a lot of Tolkien's women characters and thing that they were far from simplistic. But there are not enough and I did not spend the bio giving chapter and verse of evidence in his work and biographical details of Tolkien's somewhat (cough, cough) antiquated, even for his time(!) or certainly for his time, attitudes about women.

Like you I come from a line of strong, intellectual, and socially and politically active women. My mother and father were an excellent example to me growing up of having a very strong intellectual partnership--he was trade union leader and his was a Democratic Party activist, who worked on every election campaign, despite having seven children. But she did have seven kids! And she did do the lion's share of the homemaking and cooking. He worked hard too, but outside of the home. While my father was a local hero or villain depending upon who was expressing an opinion and everyone knew his name--it was an interesting bit of trivia locally for those in-the-know that my mother playing an active role in everything he did also.

The Kisses link is worth following. I am very appreciative of it. She does touch on m/m kisses when they are explicit in the text and comments on them.

I think Tolkien's genius as a writer carries him beyond his personal beliefs and prejudices at times. On the other hand, he is limited by those at times also. There is material for many more essays in the material I barely touched upon or only in generalizations. So happy that people have raised various points that are not covered definitively in this bio. I thought I was pressing by luck a bit with what I did touch upon!

Thank you again.

I am so behind--largely writing this bio--on the B2MeM stories. I will definitely read and review your Melian story here (and there are others of yours I haven't read also! But I will very soon.).


Reviewer: just_jenni Signed [Report This]
Date: April 08, 2017 - 02:23 pm
Title: Arwen Undómiel

Gahhh!  I just lost a HUGE review I was leaving on your biography!  I could cry.  I will try to remember what I wrote and come back to post it again.  THIS time I'm going to type it in Word and then copy & paste.  Really, by now I should know better.


Author's Response:

I am so sorry. I do that all the time, but I never learn. Thanks for trying and do come back. I live for reviews!

Reviewer: Independence1776 Signed [Report This]
Date: April 06, 2017 - 09:12 am
Title: Arwen Undómiel

This is a great bio, Oshun! You’ve really done justice to one of my favorite characters.

Those long years she waited for Aragorn were not spent pining or in idleness

Yes, this! I have always seen her as somewhat of a military wife (though it’s a somewhat inaccurate term): not idle, not meek, not weak. It takes great strength and courage for her to give up everything she grew up with-- and her work in supporting Aragorn is not passive.

In doing so, she plays a double role as the symbol of the twilight of the Eldar—their Evenstar—and then the Queen of the Reunited Kingdoms who will help usher in a new world.

I never really thought of Arwen like that before, a bridge between times.

It seems unlikely that anyone could justifiably object to a more active role for Arwen, but the way in which the narrative was changed to provide room for that enhancement is open to discussion.

I have Opinions on her role in the films. I don’t mind her rescuing Frodo (there’s little point in having Glorfindel there when he plays no other role), but most of the rest? I’ll spare you the rant.

Author's Response:

++This is a great bio, Oshun! You’ve really done justice to one of my favorite characters.++

Wow! Thank you so much. That really means a lot to me.

++Yes, this! I have always seen her as somewhat of a military wife (though it’s a somewhat inaccurate term): not idle, not meek, not weak. It takes great strength and courage for her to give up everything she grew up with-- and her work in supporting Aragorn is not passive.++

This is also an interesting take on her and I can really see it, although I had not thought of it that way before. I have read a lot of discussion over the years about what steadfast and patient Aragorn was to agree to wait for her--i.e., fulfill what Elrond suggested ought be the parameters within which Aragorn should ask for Arwen's agreement to give up the life of the Eldar. But one reads less commentary about Arwen's willingness to let him put duty before their personal fulfillment.

[Incidentally, no where do I read in canon that Elrond demanded anything--his remarks fall between expressing an opinion and perhaps a foreshadowing he had of how it was going to work out. He was no Thingol on the subject of asking a more or less unprincipled bride price his daughter--do this insane sucidal thing, which is, in fact, impossible and I will trade you my daughter! That is no what Elrond said That is one of my rants!]

Thanks so much for commenting. I am thrilled that you liked it.

Reviewer: Lyra Signed [Report This]
Date: April 05, 2017 - 02:20 am
Title: Arwen Undómiel

You know, after the movies have pretty much killed every interest I had in Arwen's character - I am NOT a fan of what PJ did with her, and definitely not a fan of Liv Tyler's quivering lips - you managed to bring it back. So a huge thank you for that! I should say more, because your essay has given me a lot of ~feels~, but as discussions in SWG reviews are kind of difficult to have, I think I'll carry that over to LJ. But - thank you for another well-researched and well-written character biography!

Author's Response:

I feel bad for Liv Tyler. When she signed on to make the film[s], she was groomed to play an action hero, which she was not very good at, and then the concept of the project morphed from one film to two and then three and the script was totally rewritten, along with her character. So there is a rather a schizophrenic flip-flop from a tough warrior princess Arwen to Arwen the little girl fighting with her daddy over the boyfriend he doesn't like. She really did not have a chance to give a coherent performance. Just my take on it.

Thanks for the comments. If a bio provokes "feels" in either direction probably means I reached the audience! See you on LJ if you get a chance. I had fun doing the research.

Reviewer: Robinka Signed [Report This]
Date: April 05, 2017 - 01:05 am
Title: Arwen Undómiel

I think it might be interesting to see how many people, who first watched the movies and then read the books, had this omgwtf moment and asked, surprised, where was Arwen and who that blond dude on Asphalot was ;) I'm sure there are some of them out there and I kind of wonder whether they had a hard time accepting the seemingly boring book-Arwen who seems to just sit and look pretty.

But, there is a depth of symbolism to her character, as you point in this bio, and she is like a distant, but everlasting hope and source of strength for Aragorn in his quest to claim the rule over Gondor, not just a plain banner maker.

I agree that when Arwen arrives in Minas Tirith it seems as though that bunch of elves just passes by and drops in for a quick drink.

I seem to just babble about Arwen here, but hey, your bio is splendid. It is a great pleasure to read and a fuel for thoughts. Thank you so much for your hard work!

Author's Response:

Thanks for reading and commenting Robinka! It's fun to talk about LotR with old Silm friends. We share that same background but rarely chat about LotR. I am glad you liked the bio and, if it makes you want to babble about first impressions or the movie, then it means I struck a chord. I had hoped to take people back to those early days. You cannot even imagine how much fun it was to read the New York newspaper reviews, for example, which came out with the theatrical release of each of the first three films. I am such a sap I literally stifled a few tears when the movie theater closed last year where I saw the three films, three years running, with my family.

Reading the initial reactions, as opposed to scholarly reviews, I was pretty impressed with the newspaper writers' levels of engagement also. Peter Jackson really did reach the Tolkien geek/expert audience and hold them even if he gave them a lot to complain about, He also drew his mass audience in large numbers to pick up the books and read them for the first time. A fairly enormous achievement.

It was interesting to look at book-Arwen as being inspired as a valkyrie-like figure with magical gifts and inspiration to keep the hero on-track. (I could/should have detailed a list of her preternatural traits and action show in the texts--maybe another essay some day.)

I was shocked to re-read the book account of the banner's arrival at Pelennor Fields. It was impact on the battle is huge--turns near defeat into victory! Peter Jackson more or less replaced that impact with a horde of green CGI ghost warriors--who is indulging their little boy alter-ego with that choice? Not Tolkien, but PJ.

Reviewer: Keiliss Signed [Report This]
Date: April 04, 2017 - 04:24 pm
Title: Arwen Undómiel

I had forgotten how beautiful that scene was in the book when the elves finally arrive at Minas Tirith. I never liked the movie-version of  'Arwen almost misses the coronation'.

The biggest difference between Aragorn/Arwen and Luthien/Beren for me has always been that Aragorn and Arwen loved and respected Elrond and were both prepared to play by his rules - if they wanted to marry, Aragorn would have to win the crown of Gondor first. I understand Elrond there, his daughter's hand in marriage was a big ask, plus there were the politics of it - Aragorn not only claimed the throne based on a long-lost blood claim, he did so with the elf king's daughter as his bride. Convincing stuff for the doubters.

I just accepted the books had minimal female participation, it seemed that kind of male-oriented quest fantasy and pretty much in line with the science fiction I was also devouring in my early teens. Looking back, it's sad because I tended to dismiss Arwen as incredibly boring (all she did was sit home and sew) while I really liked Eowyn who had presence and energy and was decently kick-ass. I couldn't understand why Aragorn didn't want to marry her instead. I still think, notwithstanding the joining of two ancient lines and the continuance of the elven line in the world and the whole marrying up thing, that he and Eowyn would have been a great match --- though Eowyn was probably happier where she ended up.

Arwen had no business stealing Glorfindel's horse though. They could have had the decency to give her a different one. That was just not right.

I will have some potentially useful thoughts later, but tonight is not that night. I just wanted to tell you I'd read it and liked it and it made me think. And to thank you for that passage about them arriving at the end of day with white stars in their hair --- that will never lose its magic.

Author's Response:

Arwen had no business stealing Glorfindel's horse though. They could have had the decency to give her a different one. That was just not right.

I am so bad! I forgave almost everything else, except Glorfindel and Elrond as a grouchy nagging father. He wasn't like that at all in the books. He simply said that one of them was going to be really hurt--either Aragorn if he lost his love or Elrond if he lost his daughter.

Thanks so much for reading it and giving so much interesting feedback. I love to know how other people react to both the book-verse and the movie-verse. I'm a hardcore book-verse person, but the LotR movies are still way up at the top of my list of favorite movies ever. Cannot even count how many times I have watched them. I have to admit though--I skim the part of the threesome of Frodo, Sam, and Gollum in the Return of the King. It's not something I enjoy watching over and over. My favorite part of that is when they run into the Ithilien rangers and the beautiful dead Southron, which gives an indication of humanity among the Dark Lord's allies.

I had forgotten how beautiful that scene was in the book when the elves finally arrive at Minas Tirith. I never liked the movie-version of  'Arwen almost misses the coronation'.

That would have been such a beautiful scene and shorter and much cheaper to produce than some of the endless battle scenes! OMG! I am hardcore about wanting some slower scenes with dialog--which tend to be the scenes with women.

Reviewer: NelyafinweFeanorion Signed [Report This]
Date: April 04, 2017 - 10:03 am
Title: Arwen Undómiel

I really liked this. I've had some recent in-depth discussions about Arwen with friends. I always felt I wanted to know more about her. A daughter of Elrond and granddaughter of Galadriel--the potential for greatness in her is impressive. I think she gets relegated to a very minor role by some readers--the "prize" for Aragorn at the end of his long travail to restore Gondor and the line Of Elendil to the throne, the lovely lady the troubadours sing  of, the one who waits for the men to define her destiny. 

But that's not accurate. Granted she is not Luthien--who took matters very much into her own hands as far as her fate was concerned. But she is not a passive bystander either. She chose Aragorn, with all the heartache and difficulty that such a decision carried. Her choice. She watched over him from afar--I see a Galadriel like skill there. She was his inspiration but also his steadfast supporter. More than any other, she believed he could do it. 

I understand PJ's expansion of her role. I love Glorfindel and his deeds in the Silm and LOTR. Was I surprised in the movie theater the first time I watched the films  to see Arwen on Asfaloth, with a sword, and fulfilling Glorfindel's role? Of course I was, and at first I was irritated. But it made some sense to not introduce a glorious Elf that we knew nothing about and would never see again and give that brilliant scene and rescue to someone we know or will come to know. That it was Arwen made some sense in expanding her role. Personally I do think that the granddaughter of Galadriel, daughter of Elrond and sister of Elladan and Elrohir would have some skill with weapons. Her grandmother was known for her athleticism in the Silm. I have no doubt that Galadriel knew how to fight--she survived Alqualondë and the Helcaraxë. She cast down the walls of Dol Guldur. I also imagine that Arwen, with her frequent travels over the Hithlaegir to Lothlorien, had some skills in self defense--if not before CelebrIan's capture then definitely after.

I've rambled on enough and gone down my own rabbit hole of speculation here so I will conclude with a hearty "well done" on another character biography--I learned from it and it made me think more on the subject! Thank you for this.

Author's Response:

Thanks so much for reading. You make a good argument for Arwen doing Glorfindel in the movies. One can never please all the book fans when making a movie. OMG! Look at the comic book vs. movie fans going at it relating to the super hero films. My partner in crime, IgnobleBard, was reading this for typos a couple of nights ago and he laughed really hard when I made some jokes about it and said, some people want Marvel comics and I want Jane Austen. Not really--not entirely. Who do I think is closer to Arwen? Elizabeth Bennet or Natasha Romanova? Don't make me chose! I do think there were a lot of beautiful Arwen scenes that the film did not even consider and inserted action-hero material playing to a mass market movie audience instead.

The big crime is that Tolkien simply did not write more women or provide more scenes or more detailed characterization for the ones he wrote. I am a big movie fan, but I need a balance of sex, gender, and sexuality. I recall first reading Marion Zimmer Bradley at the time that I read LotR (her Darkover series) which did have that balance. Sure, Tolkien wrote the Novel of the Century and she wrote a lot of literary potboilers, but we should not have to chose.

I found in my research that Liv Tyler was scared of horses and did not have an aptitude for learning to use a sword either. So, that was a consideration also when deciding if they wanted to develop Arwen's potentially big magical and intellectual skills or put her in more scenes wearing armour. The version of the film in which she appeared at Helms Deep was a one-film project and cut and reassigned all sorts of roles. What we got in the final PJ films was closer to canon than we might have received. I don't feel like I personally need to see more women as physical fighters to give them important roles in books or movies, but some women like that. We all relate to who we are and/or who we can identify with; my main weapon has always been my brain and the equilalent of a sword or bow has always felt like a poor secondary weapon to me, even if I were good at either.

Thank you so much for the comments and giving me more food for thought.

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