TWT: Original or Stereotyped?

Whilst Tolkien can be cleared of the charge of inventing stereotypical female characters, I’m not so sure about Peter Jackson. His Arwen is undeniably far different from Tolkien’s original character, and considering the Arwen of the book and of the movies, I would like to decide which character is more cliché.

arwen_by_rysowania-d8vvvv5In the  book, we see very little of Arwen (other than in the appendices). She is mentioned first at the feast in Rivendell, and Tolkien describes her in detail, saying that Frodo had never before seen “such loveliness in living thing.”[1] After this she is barely mentioned save in passing until The Return of the King when Aragorn receives the banner which she made for him. And again she basically drops out of the story until she arrives with her father in Minas Tirith.

The scriptwriters for the film expanded this small part significantly. Replacing Glorfindel, Arwen saves Frodo from the Black Riders. She becomes a greater motivation for Aragorn’s character, several times encouraging him before the Fellowship departs from Rivendell (this mostly in flashbacks later on). A subplot is added in which she allows Elrond to convince her to take the ship from Middle-earth and almost goes through with it, only returning when she sees a vision of her and Aragorn’s hypothetical future son. Her subsequent loss of immortal Elven life is played for all it’s worth. Near the end of The Return of the King, she and Aragorn are reunited at his coronation and the love story comes to a happy end.

In the books, we see barely enough of Arwen to know much about her. We know little more than that she is the daughter of Elrond, as lovely as Lúthien[2]; the romance between herself and Aragorn is merely hinted at until her coming to Minas Tirith. Going by this minimal information, she may indeed seem stereotyped. However, there is something else to be considered. In most of fantasy literature, the gorgeous female sidekick is given a main part to play, especially in motivating the hero. Tolkien does not give any such role to his Arwen; she is in fact one of the least-mentioned characters throughout the book.

This mistake, however, is committed by the scriptwriting trio.[3] Out of Arwen’s ten or soArwen2.jpg appearances across the three films, four involve her giving Aragorn ‘pep talks’ or other-
wise encouraging or helping him. Approximately the same number of scenes is devoted to her teary departure from and return to Rivendell and the consequences of her choice to remain.

Whilst there is little of which to accuse Tolkien, there is much of which to accuse the scriptwriters. Arwen’s first appearance, in which she rescues Frodo, seems an attempt to portray her as an action heroine[4]; during the rest of the film trilogy her character goes downhill until she becomes merely the mighty warrior’s gorgeous but wimpy love interest. It is clearly in the films that Arwen is a stereotype, not the book.


Footnotes

[1] J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring (London: Unwin-Hyman, 1954), 239.

[2] Cf. FOTR, pg. 239. Lúthien Tinúviel, see The Silmarillion – ‘Of Beren and Lúthien’.

[3] Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson.

[4] In the original script she was also going to fight at Helm’s Deep. Whilst this would have been a dreadful change from the story, at least it would have been more consistent with this scene.

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4 thoughts on “TWT: Original or Stereotyped?

  1. This has nothing to do with this post, but I was reading “Tulips for Christmas” from the link in your Twitter feed, and saw that the phrase “Het spijt mij” was translated as “Hat spite my” (not sure if that was intentional, like she misunderstood the phrase or something), but het is the word for “the”; it doesn’t mean hat (that would be hoed). So the translation is something like “The spite [is] mine.” Sort of a Dutch equivalent of “My bad.”

    Language police over and out 😀

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    1. Haha, that was the pronunciation – I was aware the phrase basically meant ‘sorry’. Was it correct? The person I got it from online said he was Dutch so I assumed it was the correct pronunciation. In any case, I’ve edited that bit to make it clearer what I meant. Thanks 🙂

      Do you speak Dutch? That’s really cool!

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      1. Ohhh OK, I get it 😀 And yes, the phrase is correct. I don’t actually speak Dutch but I know a few phrases – I learned German in high school and took a brief foray into Dutch; I learned some words/phrases from Omniglot but they didn’t actually give you the pronunciations, just the spellings 😛

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