Immortality, certainly, is an interesting subject for Tolkien; however, my focus was quickly snapped towards the women Tolkien has created. Specifically, I found it interesting that this week we examined the stories of Lúthien, Arwen and Galadriel. Perhaps this may be because they are all elves, but it may also be because Tolkien has created an interesting link between the feminine and mortality. The only other strong female character in the Lord of the Rings is Eowyn (and perhaps Rosie for marrying Sam), but she is a mortal woman. However, her character also is faced with the challenges of her mortality – she strives against her society to go to war, and when she does Marry notices that her face “was the face of one...who goes in search of death.” I find it interesting that all of these women have strong connections with their own mortalities. Eowyn, Arwen and Lúthien were all determined to die for love. Galadriel, guided by ambition to cross the sea and rule, also resisted the eventual diminishing of the elves, until tested by Frodo. While I will not focus on Eowyn, some of the aspects I will discuss about women can relate to her. Still, we should ask why Tolkien gives his female characters such dramatic choices regarding their mortalities.
First though, it's important to examine Tolkien's perspectives on the sex. In a letter written to his son, Tolkien offers some insight on his opinion on relationships between men and women. “Women really have not much part in all this,” Tolkien states about love, “for it is their gift to be receptive, stimulated, fertilized (in many other matters than the physical) by the male.” Regarding marriage, Tolkien claims that “For a Christian man, there is no escape. Marriage may help to sanctify and direct to its proper object his sexual desires; its grace may help him in the struggle; but the struggle remains. It will not satisfy him.” Marriage then is more than a simple agreement – it is a divine contract that has far reaching consequences if one were ever to break it. Perhaps Tolkien's women are so certain in their decisions that they can accept death as a consequence. Seems fairly absurd and almost misogynistic, but we can see that all of the women Tolkien produces are warriors or at least very determined women. It's wrong for me to only point out these statements: interestingly, Tolkien also regards women as “guiding stars” in literary matters, and companions on the shipwreck of love in earthly matters. Given these perspectives, maybe it isn't too hard to see why the women that Tolkien has created are the way they are: Galadriel, the Lady of Light; Arwen, the Evenstar; Lúthien, the Morning Star. Perhaps all these women are guiding stars for the men they lead.
But, why must they make such incredible decisions when it comes to love? Arwen and Lúthien are forced to choose between immortal life or death. Galadriel refuses to return to her home, attempting to solidify her position in middle-earth, which she loves. The consequences of these decisions seem far greater than the situation would demand. Perhaps it's the jargon. “Demand” may not be the correct word. All of these women made a choice to enter into their contracts. Tolkien's perspective on women makes these decisions a bit more clear, as he believes women to be “servient, helpmeet,” and so a decision to sacrifice everything for love doesn't seem like a stretch for me. However, is life really everything?
In all, I find that women in Tolkien act as “guiding stars” for the people or men they seem to follow. The pattern between men and women isn't a linear as it may have initially seemed – instead, it is circular. By guiding, they in return are rewarded with companionship and procreation (with the exception of Galadriel, who instead is given redemption and a return home). The cycle of love, then, is immortal. The sudden mortality of Lúthien and Arwen isn't nearly as impactful. Tolkien himself remarks on this: “Death: by the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste (or foretaste) of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexity of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man's heart desires.” While Tolkien may be speaking about the Blessed Sacrament in this quote, I think we can make the assumption that by accepting love from men, Lúthien and Arwen are taking a Holy Sacrament. By accepting death, these women allow for their love to eternally endure, and allow for the divine mystery of copulation to occur. So, I don't think Tolkien is a misogynist. Just a really weird romantic.