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‘Rings of Power’ Show Finally Introduces Female Leads to ‘The Lord of the Rings’ Franchise

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Rutgers chapter.

With the entertainment business expanding to incorporate more female lead roles, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has given the fans not only one impactful female lead but five female empowering leadership roles. This is a huge step for women in The Lord of the Rings franchise.

The Lord of the Rings franchise started with the publication of The Hobbit in 1937 and had been male-dominant, portraying women in submissive roles—wives, mothers, and grandmothers. To get these five women leaders, the franchise had to evolve from something that had no prior examples. J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit book had absolutely no female characters or even love interests in it. In a book that has hobbits, wizards, elves, orcs, goblins, and even a dragon, the author couldn’t (or wouldn’t) write a decent female character.

Due to the lack of feminine power in the books, Peter Jackson and his writing partners Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh created the character Tauriel played by Evangeline Lilly, as the head of the Elven guard for The Hobbit movies. She was created to expand the world of the elves and bring a strong woman character to a cast otherwise dominated by men.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy had relatively few female characters, and they weren’t written to be as powerful or thought-provoking as the men in the series. Eowyn is one of the most influential female characters introduced in the second of the three books. (Actually, the third due to The Hobbit starting the franchise.) Eowyn is the one in the end who destroys one of the main villains, the Witch King of Angmar (also known as the leader of Nazgûl). On top of this, the Witch King says how no man can destroy him, and Eowyn has this big reveal that she is no man—then kills him. It is like this in both the films and the books.

But, this accomplishment and the fact that this woman who was pushed aside to act as a maid and take care of the sick says no to the gender-formed role. To fight in battle and then kill this indestructible villain is often taken away from her. This is because one of the male hobbits, Merry, distracts The Witch King and then slashes his leg with a spelled-covered dagger that had been made during the original days of the Witch King in the North. As a result, people think the stab on the back of the knee began unraveling the Witch’s binding spells to make him weak enough so Eowyn could kill him herself.

So, even though we had this character take charge of her own destiny and break free of the gender-binding female role, she is still robbed of the accomplishment and bravery she had—despite being the one who killed this evil.

Only in the books do we have Gandalf point out to Eowyn’s brother that he should have thought about what it was like for her to be cooped up; she had no less of a fierce spirit than he does. But even with this and a few of the other male characters realizing Eowyn can lead and fight, they either move on without her or push past the realization and go back to how things were.

We also have Arwen Undomiel, who is basically in the books and movies as a love interest for Aragorn. She was there for that basic gendered love story.

Then, we have Galadriel: introduced in the first Lord of the Rings book, The Hobbit movie adaptations were made to have her in them. Tolkien wrote her as one of the mightiest and fairest of all Elves remaining in Middle-Earth in the Third Age, written and filmed to be someone who surpasses all with beauty, knowledge, and power; she bore Nenya, one of the three Elven rings of power.

Galadriel is needed in the franchise because even though her role in the books and movies wasn’t too impactful, this makes way for future female lead roles to emerge in this male-dominant world.

The recent Amazon Prime Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power show is based on the opening introduction in the first Lord of the Rings film narrated by Galadriel. This eight-episode show really goes to show how far women have come in the entertainment industry.

The main character Galadriel played by Morfydd Clark, doesn’t take orders from anyone and does what she thinks will bring peace. She is written in a way that enhances Tolkien and Jackson’s version of Galadriel. She is still beautiful, knowledgeable, and powerful. Yet, she is not only powerful in the female category; she is also powerful in an overall character category, including all genders. She is the one who brings everyone together while never giving up faith with each step of what seems like a never-ending journey.

As the protagonist, Galadriel is an independent woman who sees the best in people and makes them fight to the best of their ability to reach their potential. She doesn’t doubt anyone based on their race or gender while always maintaining a level head.

One of the other powerful ladies is Nori Brandyfoot, played by Markella Kavenagh. Nori always sticks to her gut and goes out of her way to help a complete—possibly dangerous—stranger. She doesn’t let the fact that she is a Harfoots prevent her from achieving what she puts her mind to. Nori never gets scolded by her family for being unladylike; she gets scolded for putting herself in danger. 

Queen Regent Míriel, played by Cynthia Addai-Robinson, is not only in charge of a kingdom and its armies, but also goes into battle with those armies, showing how she doesn’t just hide behind the walls of the castle. She leads in a world where she isn’t questioned if she could be her father’s heir because of her gender or the color of her skin. When she loses her sight, Míriel doesn’t budge on putting her people first. She doesn’t run away or act as if it is the end of the world even though that is something major to happen to a person.

Bronwyn, played by Nazanin Boniadi, rose to lead the Southlands in a time of need and also protected them from the orcs. The people who follow Bronwyn while others turn against her are not determined by her being a woman: it’s motivated by good and evil. Bronwyn had no one to go off of for an example of what leadership is. She stuck to doing what was good for the Southlanders and never stepped away from a challenge.

The increase in female characters on the show representing Middle-Earth’s races and genders means no single character has the burden of representing an entire gender like the franchise’s films. These five ladies came together to pave the way. With them being the leads, we can’t forget about all of the important female side characters as well: Princess Disa, Poppy Proudfellow, Marigold Brandyfoot, Malva, Vilma, Eärien, and female villains with The Dweller, The Nomad, and The Ascetic. All of these characters brought something important to the plot, and it wouldn’t have been possible without them.

In a misogynistic world, such representation—especially with more female leads appearing in the overall entertainment business—might have viewers believe that this is just another show that’s trying to force feminism down viewers’ throats. However, that isn’t the case. There was a different outlook on what good feminist representation was in the entertainment business all way back when The Hobbit was written; it is natural to look at it differently now. Especially, if the author only added female roles because his daughter asked him to. Thankfully the way we look at things now helped bring this show to not present gender as something the characters have to overcome to prove themselves. Each character makes choices, succeeds, fails, learns, and grows on equal ground.

Amanda Clark

Rutgers '24

Amanda Clark is a senior attending Rutgers University—New Brunswick. She is a Journalism and Media Studies major with a minor in Creative Writing. Amanda is passionate about feminism and expanding her interests while getting more involved on campus. Amanda is looking for roles where she can grow and apply her interpersonal skills to build on her writing.