Aragorna, Daughter of Arathorn?
by Orangeblossom Took, with responses
was a musing that came to me while listening to The Lion, The Witch,
and The Wardrobe. It is a shame there aren't any fantasy classics where
the dethroned/exiled/orphaned/whatever rightful monarch is a female. It
is a little surprising to me because both Tolkien and Lewis lived in a
country, England, whose greatest monarch, Elizabeth I, was female. Not
only that but, since her, they had Anne, though she was too busy making
lace and burying babies to rule directly, and, more to the point and
very close to these guys, Victoria. Furthermore, there was the legend
of Boudecia, the Celtic British Queen who fought the Romans. Did they
have the statue of her in Tolkien's time? I think so.
Ah, well. I love Narnia and I love the allegory in it (particularly how
Susan and Lucy take on the Mary and Mary M. roles at one point) but
this lack of a female ruler bothers me more in it, probably because the
villian is a woman. I know Susan and Lucy become Queens but it is not
the same. Peter is the "High King" over the others. If Susan was the
eldest would she have been "High Queen?" Probably not.
Even Ursula K. LeGuinn, who was a woman, has Ged and Tenar helping a
Prince. At least she has a book, Tombs of Atuan, where Tenar, a female,
is the main character, and there is not, though I have not read all the
Earthsea books and it has been awhile since I read any of them, a main
Even in the Anne McCaffrey "Dragon" books, we have Mellonny and Lessa
but it is Jaxom who rules Ruatha and Mellonny does not become
Masterharper of Pern. In fact, the first book with Lessa made me VERY
angry because F'lar SLAPS her. And this was written by a woman. Sheesh.
Even in modern fantasy it is mostly a Prince. Princesses are for
rescuing, not restoring to thrones to rule. I have never really thought
of this before and it has not bothered me. I don't know what about
Narnia, which I still love and has 2 Queens, brought this to mind and
made it bother me. Yes, I know they are usually Queens and Princesses
and even Queens like Susan and Lucy but it is not the same. Tenar is
not the same. Lessa and Mellonny are not the same. Arwen CERTAINLY is
not, just the typical princess. I can't put my finger on it but it is
*Snicker* I wonder is someone has written a fanfic where Aragorn is a
woman who marries one of the twins and not Arwen. That actually has
angst potential, with one twin remaining to be King Consort and the
other going overseas. As with anything, it could be silly or done well.
I'm not doing it, though, it would have to be too long and I lack the
Response from AnnaEstel:
You've a point about the lack of strong Queens. Melian is a minor
goddess type, and she is still mostly just Thingol's wife. Galadriel is
as close as it comes to a female ruler in her own right.
I guess we must take comfort in the fact that Aragorn's line is
descended from Silmarien. She should have been queen, granted, and was
not simply because at that time the throne went to sons, but it was
'her' line that remained true and was therefore saved to establish
themselves in middle earth to begin with.
Response from Beruthiel:
The bard was fond of the strong woman but dressed as a male ,as Eowyn
was.This lead to some curly situations and questions raised.
As different behaviour is expected of men and women (eg Aragorn
hesitating wrt to his kingly role, or his healing touch) the storyline
may not seem as strong in places, when a woman does what comes
Aragorna is one thing but what of a bunch of girl cousins setting off
cross country or Gollumina?
LOL, yes. Froda, Mary, and Pippa. I hadn't thought about how the
storyline might not seem as strong with a woman being hesitant and
healing. Yeah, Shakespeare did like cross-dressing, LOL. As for
Beruthiel: Not much dress to cross ,
in the case of Gollumina
Response from Lindorie:
You might be interested in a book that I have checked out from the
library right now called Warrior Queens by Antonia Fraser. She has a
great deal about Boadiceia in the book along with sections on Matilda
of Tuscany, Maud/Matilda of England, Tamara of the Caucasus, Isabella
of Spain, Elizabeth of England, Jinga of Angola, and many more.
Let's face it, Tolkien bases his story on Western European Medieval
society and is heavily flavored with the Victorian and Edwardian
beliefs that he grew up with. Women were subservient beings and in most
of the 'civilized' parts of Europe in the 1000-1600 a.d. period, had
little rights, even as rulers. There were of course exceptions, but had
Elizabeth I married, we would have seen most of her power go to her
Women could inherit properties from their fathers but the rights to
govern them generally passed to their husbands. There were some men who
were intelligent enough to keep their paws off of their wives' lands,
but most took full advantage of their husbandly rights.
Eleanor of Aquitaine was one of the greatest heiresses of all time and
the only woman ever to have been queen of both France and England. When
she and Louis were divorced, she was nearly abducted and forced to
marry at least twice.
No doubt there were some remarkable women warriors, but unfortunatly we
are left little evidence of such by the typically male recorders of
history of that era.
I have recently come across information by the name of Nicolaa de Haye
who was the Castellan of Lincoln Castle during the reigns of King John
and Henry III. She was also the Sherrif of Lincoln, but I haven't been
able to find out a lot of details about her. I know that she inherited
the Castellan position from her father, but that she maintained the
power associated with the position even though married is rather
surprising. I know that during her tenure, Lincoln was besieged at
least twice and that John's troops were sent to break the siege.I am
currently researching women and archery in the middle ages. Not much to
go on there, either, hehehe.
Unfortunately, the impression that women were the weaker gender has
meant that little was written about these remarkable women and when we
do find something about them, it is usually negativly colored. The
medieval period is highly male dominated and the scholarship of the
Victorian and Edwardian periods about the medieval era has romanticised
women and their femaleness even more. Trying to get an accurate picture
of 'real women' is not an easy task.
Response from Varda:
I have put up quite a few posts about Tolkien's failure to provide us
with credible, feisty females. He gives us Eowyn, but something is
wrong with that picture; when she wakes up in the House of Healing,
Eowyn says 'oh well I suppose it is ok to be alive if I can fill an
Does any woman, in fiction or real life, talk like that? Tolkien's
shieldmaiden is a rather terrifying valkyrie in danger of losing her
femininity. Then the next moment she is all butter in Faramir's arms.
(messy.. Shocked ) It is not the character at fault, but the vision of
the writer. He just could not comprehend the total mind and heart of a
courageous, intelligent woman able to be the equal of men in war and
I would put the blame on Tolkien's generation, but that does him no
credit, he wrote in the 1950s, not the 1050s. Shakespeare has more
powerful women than Tolkien. Think of Cleopatra. Charlote and Emily
Bronte created powerful, intelligent passionate heroines a hundred
years before Tolkien, but he falls into the Arthurian romance way of
seeing women as prizes, or inspirational visions, not doers and makers
And yes, Britain had the two most influential female rulers of modern
history, Elizabeth the First and Victoria. So, Englishmen, what gives
with the wimpy heroines?
It is interesting that transferring the story to the big screen,
Jackson knew he could not get away with wimpy females; film is a modern
idiom, which gave us modern women heroes, Ripley and Sarah Connors
(Alien and Terminator) not to mention powerful females back to the
start of the age of sound, Marlene Dietrich (The Scarlet Empress) Garbo
(every woman she played) Bette Davis (Jezebel) Scarlett O'Hara etc. My
own favourite was Julie Christie, who gave a romanticism to the
beautiful, headstrong, intelligent women she played, like Bathsheba in
Far From the Madding Crowd.
It saddens me that Tolkien's treatment of women, being so apparently
outdated, leaves him open to detractors who belittle his whole oeuvre
as worthless escapism. I think Tolkien himself lived in a very male
world, of Oxford dons, a world never really breached by women, and he
takes that into his work. And also he is embued with medieval romance,
which has female heroines but these exemplify virtues then associated
with women, courage certainly but also modesty, chastity and obedience
to their male betters.
many thanks, OT for bringing up this fascinating subject....
Whatever influenced Tolkien to create his beautiful but remote Elven
ladies and queens, his studies of Anglo-saxon literature must have
influenced his portrayal of the Rohan people and their rulers.
Here is a description by the Roman historian Tacitus of the Germanic
warrior tribe the Franks on the Northern border of the Roman Empire
(these occupied lands adjacent to the tribes who would migrate to
England as the Angles and Saxons)
"the warlike and boldest men have no regular employment (except war)
and the care of house, home and fields is left to the women, old men
and weaklings of the family..."
Remember in the film how Eowyn rails at being left to 'find food and
bedding for the men when they return from battle'? And Aragorn tries to
tell her that is a good idea (shame on you, Aragorn!) I think Tolkien
knew that in the kind of society of the Saxons/Rohan women, with the
old and the weaklings, got to do the menial work. That is why Eowyn
wants to fight so badly; not only to gain freedom from the chores of
the palace but to gain status.
The problem for Tolkien is his world is based on virtues of warlike
valour, and in such society, as in the Frankish society of the 6th
centure, women just did not matter. Neither did children or the old.
This brutal climate was inimical to all but the very strong and violent.
Let's face it, increased freedom and influence for women is a sign of a
more advanced society, and it is noticable that Tolkien does not give
us any convincing Gondorian women except that stupid Ioreth. In fact
Tolkien has problems with Gondor, as an urban culture is not his thing,
he yearns for the rural Shire or the romantic warrior plainsmen of
Rohan. But he indicates, from his powerful portrayal of Denethor and
Faramir, that the future of Middle Earth and its human occupants,
depends on a strong, fair and cultured regime in Gondor.
So the problem of Tolkien's treatment of women is just part of a larger
set of issues in his work.
Response from sarahstitcher:
Also, Tolkien's intention in Middle Earth in general and in LOTR as
well, was to write mythology. The characters in mythology should not be
mistaken for role models in society. It's even more pronounced in the
Sil, of course. And this is in addition to the
influences/streams/tendencies/upbringing etc. that has already been
Don't you think myths are role models, as they transcend societal
norms,and we should do what is right, not what society demands?
Not many writers set out to write myth, deliberately, although some
(like Shakespeare) create them from the excellence of their writing.
Hamlet has created the myth of the sullen, disaffected young man. Who
actually has a reason to be sullen and disaffected, but James Dean did
the same thing without a reason, so the myth was true for two very
Tolkien's creations are less myths than archetypes, for they are often
not human, and sometimes lack human traits. His Gandalf is an
archetypal wizard, a true myth, but not in any way that could influence
our perception of people, whereas we all know a sullen young man.
I think Tolkien succeeded in creating myths, but not in the high,
idealistic sense he wanted. The recurring theme in his fiction is the
impossibly beautiful Elf maiden, who falls in love with a mortal. But
that has not impacted on modern sensibilities. What has is Gollum, the
eternal addict, and Frodo, the little hero who takes on an evil giant
and defeats him at the cost of his own sanity. Parallels with drug or
power junkies for Gollum, and little people who take on great
corporations for Frodo are obvious, as is the difficulty people have
with remote, impossibily beautiful and virtuous Elf-princesses. Tolkien
idealised women, and his myths followed suit. But the modern world has
not taken up that myth, but has seized upon other, perhaps more true
ones anyway, of the soul-destroying nature of addiction, and the saving
power of friendship in Sam's self-sacrificing love for Frodo.
And sadly, these myths are predominantly male. They are relevant to our
society and they were to Victorian society as well, but the relevance
of the Elves is less sure, and the Elf-princesses less again. There is
Galadriel, but she is not a typical Elf, and her beauty and power, her
magic wood and her machiavellianism makes her closer to the myth of an
Enchantress, which is what Tolkien strives to move his Elves away from,
as Witch kings and their like are on the 'other 'side, the Dark side,
Thanks, Sarah....more food for thought...
Reply from Orangeblossom Took:
I think you are right about myths and
about Tolkien's myths, Varda. I can relate to and even Gollum but not
Arwen and myths are the templates we use in our lives.
Response from sarahstitcher:
Myth operates on a much deeper level than role models. The union of
Luthien and Beren, or Arwen and Aragorn, isn't simply about a man
meeting an impossibly beautiful woman and marrying her. It's also about
integrating different aspects of a single person's being, whether that
person is male or female. Each of us has these different aspects, and
in a story they get represented as separate characters who join
together. I'm afraid it's a little late at night for me to go into more
depth here, but in this respect, it *matters* that Aragorn marries
Arwen and not Eowyn, for instance. And what makes Arwen "miss right"
isn't about her *doing* but her *being*.