Great World Literature
Taught by David K. O’Connor
CLASS 2: The Paradise of Dangerous Women in LOTR
Three strong female characters are essential to Tolkien’s imagination of heroism and its limitations: Galadriel, the queen of the fairy-realm of Lothlorien; Arwen, the highest Elf princess and Galadriel’s granddaughter, who is espoused to the mortal hero Aragorn, for whom she gives up her immortality; and the young Lady Eowyn, human princess of the heroic people of Rohan, who must forge her own identity in a culture that leaves women too few paths to their own heroism. Tolkien uses these female characters to explore perennial themes that reach back into Homer’s Odyssey
, of the creative tension between our longing for dangerous adventure and our equal longing for a restful paradise. Tolkien’s dangerous women reach back into the human fantasies captured by Homer with the bewitching demi-god Circe, the seductive nymph Calypso, and Nausicaa, the lovely maiden princess of Homer’s own fairy-land of Phaeacia.
David K. O’Connor is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, member of TIC Advisory Board.