Feb 22 2012 4:00pm

J.R.R. Tolkien and the First Paranormal Romance: The Women of Middle-Earth

The HobbitOK. Broad, sweeping generalizations and grandiose titling aside, I have this idea. It may sound crazy, but stick with me.

To this day, I recall precisely where in my elementary school library Tolkien’s The Hobbit was shelved. It was, and remains, my all-time favorite book. This is the book that I read no matter the situation. Feeling good? Grab The Hobbit. Had a bad day? Bilbo will make it better. When I found out there was a movie coming, and in that movie the Dwarves sing, I kind of squeed. It’s not something I’m proud of, but there it is. Then I found out ol’ Petey Jackson is creating a character for the movie. A female character.

The character will be a Mirkwood elf captain played by Evangeline Lilly. I understand why Jackson would add the character; The Hobbit was written by Tolkien for his sons, all of whom were under the age of 16 at the time, so it was understandably girl-free. What I don’t fully understand is the nerd rage flying around about the addition. Tolkien has plenty of kick-ass heroines. In fact, he was doing Paranormal Romance tropes before they were tropes. Hell, even before a lot of us were either born or old enough to care.  Not only that, I’ll prove it!

First and foremost is the story where we see the heroine’s love redeem the hero and allows him to realize his destiny—think Dark Lover’s Beth and Wrath, for example.

Lady Arwen is the daughter of Lord Elrond Half-Elven, and a noble of what we now call the Fey Court. They typically defend humanity from the forces of shadow, but her father and his allies have grown fickle in their later life. They would prefer to sail away and leave humans to their fate.

Arwyen and AragornEnter the hero of this particular tale. Aragorn son of Arathorn, last of a line of long-lived humans known as the Numenorean. As an outcast of both human and elvish society, he walks the wilderness with his Numenorian brothers-in-arms, fighting the evil that would swallow our world whole. He bears the curse of his ancestors whose desire for power allowed for that evil to survive. Fearing that the same corruption lives in him, Aragorn lives in self-imposed exile, refusing to take up his rightful throne.

Then comes the Shadow, and even though he refuses to admit he is worthy of his crown, he takes up the good fight. He wins the hearts of all those around him, even the loyalty of Arwen’s two brothers, in his fight to free his people. In the end, Arwen and Aragorn marry—she always knew what he was capable of and he only hopes that he can be worthy of her sacrifice of an immortal life.

Of course, then there is the other side of the PNR coin. The more Urban Fantasy type read with the kick-ass heroine who slays evil and finds unexpected love along the way. Think Stacia Kane or Kim Harrison.

Eowyn is the niece of Theoden and sister to Eomer who happens to be a high ranking member of Theoden’s army. Her uncle is captured and corrupted by an evil wizard and her brother is cast out of the house for refusing to bow before the new master. In the meantime, Eowyn must bear the advances of a snivvling lackey and know that her beloved uncle is a shadow of the man he used to be.

EowynThe spell over her uncle is finally broken by Aragorn, and seeing in him the greatness he doesn’t realize is there, Eowyn falls in love with the wandering warrior. But Aragorn’s heart belongs to another and Eowyn knows that she cannot compete. When her newly freed uncle is mustering his forces to join Aragorn in battle, Eowyn, realizing a dream to win glory in battle, dresses in the armor and weapons of a man and joins in.

Leading the forces of the enemy is the Witch-King, a powerful warrior-wizard who has already defeated the mighty Gandalf in a battle of sorcery. It is said that “no man can kill him” but as Eowyn points out, she is no man. Along with the help of her sidekick Merry, she manages to defeat the Witch-King, but is critically wounded in the process.

While recuperating from her battle, she meets Faramir, another wounded soldier. In his own way, he is nobler and more dignified than Aragorn. He lives for art and books more than fighting, but don’t let that fool you. Faramir has his own band of hardened warriors that held back the forces of evil in a last-line of defense.

He has always lived in the shadow of his older, stronger brother. But with his brother’s death, it has become imperative that he carry on his father’s legacy. What Faramir did not know is that his father had succumbed to the enemy.  Faramir nearly sacrificed himself to win his father’s approval, but Eowyn helped him realize how great he was without it. The two met on equal terms and quickly bonded over a shared troubled past. It also didn’t take too long for them to marry.

Women work in Tolkein.

My main point is that we should stay positive with the new elf being introduced. Peter Jackson has yet to lead us astray (well, except neglecting Tom Bombadil and Glorfindil, but that is a rant for another day). For anyone to get mad over the addition of a female character, and one who can hold her own in a fight at that, is silly. The idea clearly isn’t new to Tolkien or the world he created.


Christopher Morgan works for and He lives in New York City, and spends far too much time reading about hobbits.

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Victoria Janssen
1. VictoriaJanssen
Thanks for this post!

Those who don't like the idea of a female elf in the movie...don't have to see the movie.
Pam B
2. Pam B
I also got very excited when I heard that this was coming and can't wait. I have actually had to buy three different copies of The Hobbit as the first two died a death of being read too much. My copies of the Lord of the Rings haven't had that fate.
Synde Korman
3. SyndeKorman
Love this article.. I am not thrilled at the addition but I get it..
Im such a LOTR nerd...
Christopher Morgan
4. cmorgan
@pam I too have burned through a few different copies of The Hobbit. One my second set of LoTR.

Thanks Synde and Victoria. I am torn about the chracter. Not about creating a strong female role but I'm worried the extent of the chracter. Right now I'm hoping and guessing that she will have a large part to play in Mirkwood and in the Battle of Five Armies (which is already expanded, and I kind of like where they are going with tying the Necromancer to Sauron.
Pam B
5. Brenda D
I'm a total LOTR's nerd and love all things LOTR's--I've even studied the history behind the trilogy.

Anyway, I'm thrilled for the addition of a she-elf. I feel it can only make the movie stronger. And they can't get the movies exactly like the books--but I feel P.J did a fantastic job trying to keep with the books.
Vanessa Ouadi
6. Lafka
I guess it depends on whether you're a purist or not when it comes to on-screen adaptations.

As far as I'm concerned, I generally don't like when a movie takes too many liberties while adapting a book for screen. And adding a new character is taking liberties now, isn't it?

Nonetheless, I like kick-ass women. I also like elves _ very much. So I really don't think I'll mind the addition of a she-elf!

Plus, it's not as if Peter Jackson hadn't already taken liberties adapting the Lord of The Rings, so one more, one less...
One has to take into account the difficulty of adapting a masterpiece so dense as the LOTR universe into movies : if you want the movies to attract the largest audience, you must cut through the book and/or adjust some details to fit today's world.
Christopher Morgan
7. cmorgan
Right there with you Lafka. As much as I wanted to see Tom Bombadil run across the hills going "Ring-a-dong-dilio" in the movies, I know it doesn't add much to the main plot of Frodo and the Ring.

I'm hoping beyond hope that Beorn will be in The Hobbit, and seeing that shifters are hot right now he has a strong chance, but really the part doesn't play a large role in Bilbo's story. The she-elf can work as long as she is just hostile towards Thorin and kicks major ass in the battle with the Goblins. She just doesn't need to join the expedition.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
8. tnh
Anyone who thinks a kick-ass female character isn't Tolkienesque hasn't looked closely enough at Luthien Tinuviel. She just happens to occur in a story that's less easy to film.
Christopher Morgan
9. cmorgan
I don't know I could go for a Ken Burns-esq take on The Silmarillion...
Pam B
10. Ruby in the UK
In an ideal world, I would prefer the screenplay to stick as closely to the book as possible, but the reality of making movies these days is that it all comes down to money. The studio execs believe that women won't go see a film that doesn't have a prominent female character. Whether this would actually be the case for a story like The Hobbit, I have no idea (though I personally doubt it would make that much of a difference), but what the studio wants, the studio gets ...

BTW, I hate to be the dick, but it's Arwen, not Arwyen. And you call yourself a Tolkien fan!! :D
Christopher Morgan
12. cmorgan
@ Ruby- Fixed. I'll admit that I've never cared much for her. I always liked Elladan and Elrohir better and am still a little bitter that she took Glorfindel's place at the river scene in the movie.

@ Synde- Yes! Get to see me some vegatarian werebear goblin killin'. Going to be a good December.
Pam B
14. areana
Here, Here! I raise a pint to you, my friend. Well done!
Pam B
15. emmel
Love, love, love Eowyn and Faramir. I love the way Tolkien gives us both the teenage crush (Aragorn) and the mature love (Faramir) for Eowyn and makes that work. And let's all thank Priscilla Tolkien, JRR's daughter. I read somewhere that, when he was reading parts of LOTR to his kids, she wondered aloud why the girls couldn't fight in his story like the boys did. And lo and behold, Eowyn was born....
Kerly Luige
16. Celebrinnen
@tnh Exactly! I was about to mention that we also have the story of Beren and Luthien, and she could definitely hold her own as well :)
Pam B
17. filkferengi
Thanks for the fun post!

Useful tip: "Don't go drinking with hobbits." The album:
Pam B
18. brontëgirl
Cool post! @emmel, yes, and part of the appeal is that both Aragorn and Faramir understand Eowyn. A guy understanding you and recognizing qualities (intellect, for example, or common sense, or sense of humor) that others miss or just don't see you as having is very appealing.
Tim Marshall
19. smaug86
@12 Arwen didn't take the place of Glorfindel at the river. Arwen got Frodo's part. Frodo was by himself on Asfaloth, with Glorfindel staying behind with Aragorn and the hobbits. It was Frodo who defied the ringwraiths. The others caught up just as the black riders were crossing the river and helped, via firebrands, to push the rest of them into the rushing waters, wiping out the horses.
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