I recently watched an interview with Cate Blancett who plays Galadriel in the LOTR/the Hobbit and she mentioned, almost cynically, that Tolkien didn’t write a lot of strong female characters.
Which, of course, just isn’t true. I would argue that the female characters in the LOTR and the Hobbit are very strong and extremely important. It isn’t about quantity of female characters but quality.
Now, I know I’m not the first person to make these connections, so I’m definitely not claiming ownership of these ideas, but the women of Middle Earth, in my mind, are personifications of the qualities of Mary. Whether or not this is true (or what Tolkien intended) is not the point of this post, these opinions just help me to enjoy the series more and add to the already brilliant work of Tolkien.
(Three apologies: I think that the film adaptations are important so this is not a novel-only post. I’m writing this like everyone has read/seen LOTR so if you haven’t, I’m sorry and please go do that. In case you are a super-nerd, I apologize for not keeping the accents in the spelling of characters and places).
Arwen represents the Queenship of Mary, the royal aspect of the Blessed Mother. If Aragon represents the Kingly aspect of Christ (which, pretty sure he does) then in my mind it just makes sense that Arwen is the female royal equivalent.
Although Arwen has some royal-ness already in her (like Mary, being united with Joseph and the Davidic kingdom) she can’t become Queen until the King takes his throne, Mary can’t be assumed and crowned until Christ takes His throne.
She has a lot of different names, The Lady of Lorien, Lady of Light, The Lady of the Wood, and simply The Lady. It’s so Marian I can’t even stand it.
She is the gift giver when the Fellowship leaves the woods. She gives a lot of gifts but the two that are most important are the lembas bread and Phial of Galadriel a “light when all other lights go out”.
Lembas is special bread made by the Elves that stays fresh longer than normal bread, and sustains life better than normal bread. Basically it’s a symbol of the Eucharist, it keeps men full longer and allows them to continue on their arduous journey (read the Wikipedia page on it because someone else did a lot of research)
So, Galadriel provides life sustaining bread. Mary bears the living Eucharist to us.
To me, the Phial of Galadriel can be likened to the Holy Spirit. It’s a light in the darkness, a way to be led out of whatever evilness plagues us. Sam and Frodo use it in Shelob’s lair and when they are within Mordor. Taken from the LOTR-wiki page: “The Phial of Galadriel seemed to inspire its bearers to call out to Elbereth, as both Frodo and Sam call out in the Elvish language, and Frodo also cries out words he doesn’t understand that refer to Eärendil the first time he uses it against Shelob”. Interesting that using the light makes the user (if he is faithful) call out in a language they don’t understand (speaking in tongues allusion?).
Mary gives us gifts as well. When she appeared to St. Catherine Laboure and presented her with the Miraculous Medal, Mary told her that she is mediator of graces and they can give them out as she chooses.
I could write forever about lembas and the giving of gifts but I won’t (yet).
I think every girl wants to be Eowyn being she’s a princess, but not like a super pink or weak one, and she gets to ride horses, and she saves the day. She’s the greatest.
She represents the warrior role that Mary plays, as well as the pure human aspect. Basically, in LOTR, everyone is pretty fed up with humans because they’ve proven to be useless and weak. The king of Rohan is possessed by Grima Wormtongue (but seriously, shame on Rohan for trusting a guy named Wormtongue) who has seduced the king into a state of hopelessness.
Eventually Gandalf gets rid of him (“Keep your forked tongue behind your teeth!”) and the King’s illness is cast away and we see a slow rise of courage in mankind.
When everyone goes to battle, Eowyn is told to stay behind but we all know she’s not going to do that. So she sneaks into battle and kicks butt. The Witch King shows up riding a dragon-like beast and Eowyn goes to face him and he goes “No living man may hinder me!” to which Eowyn responds: “No living man am I! You look upon a woman! Éowyn I am, Éomund’s daughter. Begone if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him!”
Then she cuts off the dragon’s head and stabs the Witch King in the face and kills him. So let that Genesis 3:15, “she will crush the head of the serpent” symbolism sink in.
Rosie Cotton is one of my favorite characters because she represents everything good and wholesome about hobbits, the Shire, and Middle Earth. According to the LOTR wiki page, “Sam and Rosie had thirteen children (Elanor, Frodo, Rose, Merry, Pippin, Goldilocks, Hamfast, Daisy, Primrose, Bilbo, Ruby, Robin, Tolman (Tom))”. How can you not love them?
Here’s another gem that the Wikipedia page provided:
“I think the simple ‘rustic’ love of Sam and his Rosie (nowhere elaborated) is absolutely essential to the study of his (the chief hero’s) character, and to the theme of the relation of ordinary life (breathing, eating, working, begetting) and quests, sacrifice, causes, and the ‘longing for Elves’, and sheer beauty.” - J. R. R. Tolkien letter dated 1951
So, in my mind, Rosie personifies the motherly role that Mary plays in our lives, most clearly because she is a mother, but also because she seems unimportant, or maybe an afterthought. We meet her early on in the films at Bilbo’s birthday party but it seems more like a character development tool to show us how awkward Sam can be. But then, at the end of all things when Frodo and Sam are sitting on the side of Mt. Doom and fairly certain they are going to die, Sam brings up Rosie.
Since I like to get way too involved with fictional characters, I’ve decided that Sam’s love of Frodo obviously drove him along this journey, but also his love of Rosie. So, I compare this to how Mary appears early on in the Gospels to set the scene, develop the “characters” and to see Jesus off on His journey. And then, at the end of all things, when His death is imminent, Mary is there and we see how important she is when Christ gives her to John (and to all of us). Although Rosie didn’t travel with the Fellowship or “do” much of anything, she is vital to the success of the mission because of what she represents (like Tolkien said, ordinary life, and sheer beauty).
Like I said earlier, I’m not saying the comparisons are perfect or even analytically correct, but they do help me enjoy the stories more.
“We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming ‘sub-creator’ and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbour, while materialistic ‘progress’ leads only to a yawning abyss and the Iron Crown of the power of evil.” –J.R.R. Tolkien (J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, Humphrey Carpenter, Ch. IV, 1977)