Sunday, November 1, 2009

Galadriel Establishes the Importance of Women in Tolkien's Literature

A lot of people have mentioned being bothered by the lack of female characters in Tolkien’s works. I wanted to touch on the significance of one of his female characters. The elf Galadriel is the beautiful and noble caretaker and sustainer of the territory Lothlorien. Her presence inspires awe and even fear from those creatures that are faced by her. Gimli is a stern dwarf and he reveals his soft side when he encounters her. He even comes to adore her and threatens to take the life of any who would hold her in suspicion or deny her beauty. It is almost as if she comes to resemble a mother figure for him.

It is very possible that Tolkien wanted Galadriel to play the role of the Earth Mother for Middle Earth. Various early mythos credit Earth Mother goddesses with creating and nourishing life. This can be observed when Galadriel gives gifts to the fellowship to help them on their quest. The phial that she gives to Frodo offers serious protection from negative forces. Earth Mothers have appeared in a large number of cultures throughout history. The Egyptians worshipped Isis; the Greeks revered Gaia; Ishtar sustained the Assyrians; and the Romans gave tribute to Ceres. Cultures seldom gave male gods the same level of importance for this role. Galadriel’s husband, Celeborn does not hold the high position that Galadriel does of sustaining the land.

It should also be noted that Tolkien was a devote Catholic. Not only did he give Galadriel qualities of ancient pagan deities but he added aspects of a particularly significant Biblical character. The Blessed Virgin Mary symbolizes divine compassion and wisdom. Galadriel, too gives the fellowship divine compassion and wisdom. She notes their dedication and weariness for their cause and provides her own strength and knowledge.

Galadriel is also a representation of strength and repentance. The Silmarillion shows Galadriel in her youth forsaking the land cared for by the mighty Valar. The Valar are comparable to gods in Tolkien’s world. Galadriel expresses her regret and repentance for this action when Frodo offers the one ring to her. This is a very tempting offer because with the one ring she could overthrow Sauron, preserve Lothlorien and the power of her ring of power Nenya. Whether or not Frodo is successful in his quest Lothlorien will diminish and and so will the power of her ring. By refusing the power offered to her, Galadriel exhibits her strength as well as her humility. In doing so she re- enters the grace of the Valar. This can also be compared with another biblical character, the repentant Mary Magdalene who repented her sins and became a companion to Jesus.

I believe that Galadriel shows the essential role that women play in Tolkien’s mythology. There may not be many penetrating female characters in his works, but Tolkien uses subtly. Middle Earth could not have prevailed without Galadriel’s guidance. Other noble figures such as Gimli, Legolas, Frodo, Aragorn, and Gandalf looked up to her, she gave them strength. In the examination of her character is can be clearly established that she was the Earth Mother of Middle Earth. I can’t complain about the lack of female character because the compelling role that Galadriel played is more than enough for me. One should probe beneath the surface to discover Tolkien’s intent for his characters.

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