“The Feminine Principle in Tolkien,” by Melanie Rawls

“The Feminine Principle in Tolkien” is an essay I happened upon about a month ago.  I was meandering through various byways—an article to a book to an article on that book which mentioned this essay—and discovered it like one finds a pretty pebble on the road.  It appeared at a particularly timely moment, as in those weeks I had been pondering Tolkien’s portrayal of women in his mythology—a thought train sparked by having watched The Hobbit movies a few times over the fall.

In “The Feminine Principle in Tolkien,” Melanie Rawls lays out the masculine and feminine traits found in J.R.R. Tolkien’s works.  Her approach is unique in that she separates gender (masculine and feminine) from sex (male and female).  Rawls lays out each gender’s strengths, weaknesses, and forms of creativity.  She then goes on to demonstrate how each character throughout Tolkien’s mythology has a different balance of these traits and, further, how the strongest marriages in Middle-earth are those which are composed of a man and woman whose masculine and feminine qualities complement one another.

I highly recommend setting aside time to read this essay.  Despite being technical and written for readers of Tolkien myth, it does not truly require prior knowledge of Tolkien’s works to be understood.  Rawls’ essay offers profound insight into characters and relationships that can influence how we view our own character and relationships, as well as those of the people around us.

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