There was a point in my life where I went to places that existed before Reddit and said Tolkien couldn’t write women just because I liked to watch fanboys get whipped into a slobbering frenzy and pull out every horrible word they could think of to describe my brain.

While I still think Tolkien couldn’t write a woman unless she was in drag or an elf never before have I had visual proof of his inability to write women.

Why do I say inability?

Because according to this graph less than twenty percent of the people mentioned in the Lord of the Rings universe were ladies.

Dude didn’t even try!*

Source [Geekologie]
*Come at me bro. This is one thing I will always troll about. I’m physically incapable of not doing it.

  • Well I love Tolkien, so my opinion could be 200% personal but I don’t think is quantity it’s quality. I like every female character in the Tolkien universe, because they’re so different and beautiful in their own ways. Some people tend to criticize mainly because of Arwen’s lack of protagonism in the books, but then there is Galardiel or Luthien, also the most famous Eowyn or the Valars themselves. There also minos female characters that are skilled as men. I don’t know I’ve never seen any difference between woman and man (elves, human or gods) maybe there are less woman but they’re never compared to man.

    • Tolkien absolutely wrote strong women, but he never fleshed them out to the degree of his male characters. Galadriel and Eowyn are probably the most defined and Galadriel is written as an unearthly and god-like character that is entirely unrelatable while Eowyn is written as a man for a big bulk of her story. They’re not bad characters but they’re not exactly proof Tolkien could write women. The graph above just supports the idea that he shied away from writing women into his stories. Which is understandable. If you can’t write something you probably shouldn’t fill your book with it.

      • Well, from a purely logical point of view, the presence of 20% women in his books is of course proof that he could write women, though I would agree that he wasn’t very good at it ;-)

        Tolkien’s women are not the front-figures of his stories (the exception being the story of LĂșthien and Beren, where LĂșthien is in part based on his own wife – he even had “LĂșthien” carved on her grave), and this of course adds to the effect, but even if we compare only the minor characters, I think that Tolkien’s women are generally more stereotypical than his male characters – they lack some depth.

        In his academic life, Tolkien appears to have been supportive of women’s education and of their participation in academia (i.e. not just education for the purpose of being well-educated house-wives who could offer their husbands some stimulating conversations), but his relations with his own wife appears, at least as they’re described in the official biography by Humphrey Carpenter, to have been rather more old-fashioned: in some ways (and this is of course a simplification) he appears to have put her on a pedestal and offered himself up as her knight in shining armour to protect her from the world. This is very unlikely to be the whole story, of course, but that is the picture the official biographer paints, and some of the advice he wrote to his sons regarding women seems to point in the same direction. This often leads critics (I am grateful that none of this has been raised above) to see Tolkien’s view on women as completely old-fashioned (or even misogynous), but such a picture would, in my opinion, be too simplistic (and the accusation of misogyny completely false), as I hope is shown by the presence of strong women in his works as well as his support for women in academia.
        Overall I think you’re right that Tolkien shied away from writing women (the gender distribution is clear evidence that something kept him from writing women), and I think it is likely that this was a realization that he wasn’t good at it – possibly he subscribed to the idea that the woman is supposed to be a mystery to the man (while the reverse is supposedly not true), and thus felt uncomfortable trying to penetrate that mystery . . .

        I should like to also promote the actual source of the diagram, Emil Johansson’s “LotR Project” at – if his work can spur intelligent reactions such as this, it is certainly worth promoting :-)

  • Demosthenes

    Don’t agree with the headline. Certainly Tolkien did not write (or, if you prefer, mention) as many female characters as male characters, but, well, the graphic just doesn’t bear out the proposal at all. And, in key instances, female characters act as co-stars. In the tale of Beren and Luthien, Luthien saves Beren from Sauron in Tol Sirion. She becomes integral to the success of Beren’s quest for the Silmaril (it becomes /their/ quest, really. In Unfinsihed Tales, Erendis is as important to the action as Aldarion. Likewise, without the help of Elwing, Earendil’s quest for Valinor would never have succeeded. When they reach Valinor, Elwing declines to stay with their ship and shares the risk of the wrath of the Valar. Also, often, in these first age stories, the women are headstrong, willful and proud — just like the blokes. And, just about as often, their actions bring about the downfall of the Eldar and the Edain. Whether you consider all this characterisation good is another thing entirely, but Tolkien is certainly not content to write only chicks who roll their ankles at first sight of an orc.