Saturday, December 31, 2016

Ladies with Kick-Butt Class

In stories, some female characters in books tend to be portrayed as strong. They hold their own against the male characters, rivaling them in strength or wits. Others are strong for their personality, not merely their physical or mental strength. They stick out.

Sometimes, female characters can be both kick-butt awesome, and still be very much a lady like you might see in a Jane Austen novel. Female characters, heroines or supporting characters, don’t have to be all tough and take on a warrior role. They can be as much a warrior with a quiet spirit as they can be with attitude. It’s a unique kind of power all it own.

J.R.R. Tolkien has some of the most kick-butt lady characters I’ve ever read. They’re not competing with the men, fighting for equal footing, but they are still among the strongest characters I’ve seen. They’re tough women, but also ladylike. Elegant, respectful. This kind of character could be a unique twist on the female characters in our stories, and offer a different view.

In Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, I found several of these types of ladies. One of the more well-known is Luthien. Boy, let me tell you, that woman is kick-butt. She went face-to-face with Morgoth himself, showing zero fear. She sang to him, enchanting him to distract him from her husband, Beren. She chased Sauron out of his lair. She scared off Sauron, guys. But all the while, she still seemed very much a noble lady. Perhaps it was the style of Tolkien’s writing, but I suspect her character was quite ladylike.

Another Silmarillion lady is Melian, wife of Thingol and mother of Luthien. While she didn’t go off on adventures like her daughter, Melian is still pretty impressive. She can prophesy the future, and her magic was strong enough to keep enemies out of their lands. She’s also very wise, and even advised her husband on certain matters. But she didn’t try to challenge his authority. She conducted herself like a queen. And that made her pretty awesome.

Melian and Luthien seem to be the more quiet types of ladies in Tolkien’s world, but there are others who are a little more warrior-princess. And even these types can be excellent ladylike characters to use. They can grace the page, and they can also quickly assert themselves as a force to be reckoned with. But they also don’t seem to try and challenge any male authority over them.

Perhaps the more well-known lady of Middle Earth in this regard is Eowyn. She cared for her father, and seemed respectful of the men she encountered, but she also knows how to kick some serious butt. She took down the lord of the Nazguls. That kind of personality would make for a unique character in a story, and a fresh look at strong women characters.

So all three of these kinds of personalities would make for intriguing characters. Melian, Luthien, and Eowyn all are very strong ladies. They know their own minds, and they can be seriously intimidating when they want to be. But at the same time, all of them have a ladylike quality to them. They seem to suggest elegance and grace to go with their kick-butt moments. A female character like that could provide some interesting dynamics in a story. Instead of a sassy woman who knows how to hold her own against a man, who might rile the man up to push back, a woman who assumes the air of a lady, but also gives the impression that she won’t tolerate being messed with, could make for some interesting situations. The men (and other women) in the story may recognize that this person requires respect, and that’s probably a power all its own, without having to get up in anyone’s face.

This shouldn’t be the template for female characters, of course. They shouldn’t all be this way. Some should simply be ladies, perhaps with little to none of the kick-butt. Some should be the kind of girl to challenge the male characters. They all have their pros and cons. The type of lady I see in Tolkien’s work seemed like a unique character that I’ve not often seen in stories. A woman who isn’t vying for dominance, but does have a power of her own, while being a lady at the same time.

Having power and strength doesn’t always mean being tough and able to stand among the men. Sometimes, it’s quieter, like Melian’s. Or perhaps it’s a power in qualities that were likely cultured by a lady’s environment, like Luthien’s beauty and her singing voice, instead of skill with a sword or bow and arrow. A character who is an elegant lady with that kind of strength can provide a whole new layer of depth to a story, when she can control a situation without making a loud statement about her power.

(Images found via Pinterest.)

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