The Paradise of Dangerous Women in LOTR

Great World Literature

Course on Tolkien Catholic Beauty in the Lord of the Rings

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.