The LOTR Movie Site
August 19, 2000

Arwen Skeptic
Stephanie C.

Maybe I'm spoiling for an argument. But some of the latest rumors about Arwen's newly expanded role in the trilogy are beginning to worry me. It has nothing to do with Liv Tyler or feminism, really, though the issue of feminism seems to put everyone on the defensive when we talk of Arwen.

Arwen is one of the few ladies in the Lord of the Rings. For someone in the film industry, that must seem extremely unbalanced. But I question the worth of what Jackson might do, or is at least likely to do, in expanding Arwen's role in the movie. I know she isn't going to be a member of the Fellowship (thankfully). That would be almost beyond stomaching--not because it would be giving a woman a REAL role, but because it would alter the dynamics of the story beyond repair. I don't mind cutting out Tom Bombadil; fitting three long books into six hours requires certain sacrifices, no matter how wrenching they might be until we get used to them. The storytelling, after all, is paramount in my view of the matter, and there's hardly room for a quarter of the good stuff in the time Jackson will have to tell the Ring's tale.

The real problem is that changing and expanding Arwen's role-and rumor has it that she's going to be fighting at  Helm's Deep and Minas Tirith-creates the need for a lot of messy explanations and plot diversions, which there isn't space for in the first place. I have a bad feeling that the changes to the script that have made her an Elven warrior are going to take up much more of the movies than they will add to them. Jackson has even invented a character, Morwen (a most un-Tolkienish sounding name to me) to highlight Arwen's struggles. Certainly the story of Arwen and Aragorn is integral to the story. I didn't know until I got reading about the controversy over her part in these movies how big a part her romance with Aragorn played in the War of the Ring. But if you're going to tell the story of their romance, tell it from what Tolkien said and at try to be consistent with the larger story.

Look at the possible effects of this move on the whole piece. How are we supposed to understand Eowyn's feelings of worthlessness and bitterness in her role in Rohan if other ladies in the film break through the same barriers so easily? What are we supposed to think about her intelligence if she falls for Aragorn when his lady-love is nearby and everything Eowyn is and more? What are we supposed to think of Aragorn's constance and concern for Eowyn's (rather innocent) infatuation with him if his very sympathetic fiancee is around? What admirable thing would come from insisting that the role of a woman in war is to be a warrior, as if women don't already expect themselves to be all things to all people? What of the role of women as healers and bringers of life and comfort when the men must fight and kill?

I am excited to see the films and very much respect what Mr. Jackson is trying to do. I very much admire his casting. I do wonder, however, if he wouldn't be better off going about expanding Arwen's role in a different way. Tolkien himself, as I understood it, had a great respect for women. He was simply modeling LOTR after the old Middle and Old English lays he loved.

Am I wrong to see things this way? You tell me!