The LOTR Movie Site
December 2, 2000

More Arwen for Max B.
Stephanie C.

Hi again Max!

I appreciate the compliment and would like to address some of your points.

1.) I'd be interested in the reasoning behind your assertion that Arwen and Legolas are, essentially, interchangeable. To me, that would seem like saying that Scarlet O'Hara and Ashley Wilkes were interchangeable simply because they're of the same race. We're talking about two very different people here, and both should be valued. Arwen comes from a terrific legacy of power and wisdom; Legolas comes from a different breed of elf and his hereditary difficulties with outsiders form a very important part of the Fellowship's story. I can't see Arwen being as haughty at times or as carried away in the moment.

By the way, as Elanor noted, I don't mind Arwen replacing Glorfindel. Elanor has a good point there. But Legolas is a much more important character, in my view, and I think enough of the LOTR audience knows Legolas to resent a switch. Not to mention that including a female in the Fellowship (Aragorn's beloved, no less) would change the group dynamics markedly. As some have noted, I don't think Aragorn would have allowed himself to be put in a position where the Fellowship's success might cost him Arwen or vice-versa. You don't put people you love in danger just for the sake of some political correctness. Nor do I find it consistant that Elrond would have enough sway over Arwen that she would wait to marry Aragorn until after Aragorn had been crowned but not enough sway to keep her from riding off into what everyone knew was mortal danger.

2.) I wasn't saying at all that Gimli could or would become obsessed with another lady. I was saying that it isn't in Dwarven culture to be friends or comrades with women, however strange that might seem today. Dwarven males either ignore women--as most of the dwarves in Bilbo's group did--or worship them. If you switched Arwen and Legolas, you'd have to dramatically change both Dwarven culture and Gimli. It would also seem very strange for Gimli to challenge people on Galadriel's account if he was "friends" with the lady many others were comparing with Galadriel.

3.) Maybe the biggest, barest bones of the story would remain unchanged, but any architect or builder can tell you how much time and money goes into making changes like adding a window, changing the shape or length of a truss, or altering the layout of a bathroom. A change here, a slip up there: sooner or later it adds up to real differences.

4.) I hope this means we're on the same page on at least this issue. I'm also glad that you agree with me that making changes sheerly to cater to prevailing social winds is wrong.

5.) People are concerned that Arwen would appear "butch" as an elven warrior-princess. Fighting isn't glamorous or glorious, and Arwen doesn't have to lead an elven war party in order to take a larger role in the story. Nor does she have to accompany Aragorn constantly. There may be times when women get involved in combat, but those occasions should, of necessity, be awfully rare. To me, it doesn't seem as if two of the three most important females in the movie should both be warriors. Women are so much more diverse than that.

6.) Society refuses to accept active women? I'd say it would be more accurate to say that Hollywood depicts women in a terrifically fantastic way, that it establishes hopelessly unrealistic expectations and misleads women as to the sources of their own worth. It's one thing for certain women to take on unusual roles, such as serving on the front lines of a war. It's another to make both of the prominent younger, active, beautiful women in the LOTR into warriors. Are we saying, here, that you have to go to war in order to be an active and attractive woman? What about the sacrifices and contributions of billions of women on the home front over the centuries? Don't their efforts have any meaning? Should they be considered passive? Did they suffer or sacrifice any less than combattants?

You caught me on a point that concerned me as well. I'm not saying that strength or activity is unintelligent. I'm saying that many people equate shows of force directly with strength. If you aren't out there on the battlefield, if you aren't holding a gun to someone's head, you're not doing anything no matter how much you might be contributing in other areas or how dumb an offensive strategy might be. Admittedly, I don't like violence, especially force untempered by reason or internal restraint. I prefer calm deliberation, foresight, and planning to trying to salvage a situation later with ultimatums and fighting. Conversely, there are sometimes just and compelling reasons both to fight a war and to take the offensive such as saving freedom, home, and family. Force is all some people understand, so (on occasion) one may have to respond in kind. I am not entirely a pacifist. I ask people to redefine "active" involvement in a good cause to include people other than those who are directly on the front lines. In saying this, I hope I'm not advocating a passivity I find unacceptable: obstructing necessary reforms, promoting isolationism or indifference when there is a clear and effective course one can take to alleviate suffering, refusing to participate in or become informed on public issues. I focus on this point rather than front line involvement partially because I feel women's contributions aren't often given their due credit and partially because I'd prefer to focus on the good guys' victory in the LOTR as the result of a tremendous team effort. I hope you don't misunderstand me on this point.

7.) Constrasts can be made with characters that are very similar, but those contrasts aren't often as effective or as meaningful to an audience. Think of Jean Valjean and Javert in Les Misèrables, or Marianne and Eleanor in Sense and Sensibility. Think, too, of the men in the LOTR. Tolkien characterized many of them through contrasts: Aragorn and Boromir, Boromir and Faramir, Gandalf and Saruman, Legolas and Gimli, Frodo and Sam. Much of the human interaction between characters loses its power when characters aren't distinct enough. As for the "Warrior Princess" issue, Sam is not a female (and so not as conspicuous in a fighting capacity), and Arwen's position automatically gives her that label if she chooses to be a warrior. That's simple reality, regardless of any feminist idealism on that point. I think, too, that you're ignoring a main point again: what effect does giving Arwen a warrior role have on Eowyn? Don't PJ's changes threaten to diminish at least one of them? I still think messing with Arwen in these ways will probably end up making Eowyn into a second-class character. And neither lady deserves that.

A note on interpretation: Many literary interpretations of a work can be valid. I think, though, that any interpretation of a text has to be judged in terms of its consistancy with the known details and background of the text and its ability to illuminate the text for readers. When one strays too far from the original words, phrases, or intent of a text (inasmuch as they can be determined), the product becomes not a translation or interpretation, but one's own work. If and when PJ tampers too much with the story, he might as well call it Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings and we'll all know what we should really expect.