Does Gender Matter?: 1. Foreword

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1. Foreword

Kristi Brobeck
Nashville, TN, USA
March 19, 2003


Does Gender Matter? Women, Tolkien and the Online Fanfiction Community


J.R.R. Tolkien is very nearly God.
Fanfiction is a harmless form of worship.
~Victoria Bitter


About a year after the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien and Middle-earth had come into my life, I discovered the world of Internet-based fanfiction. I had been exposed to a little bit that was posted on the fan site TheOneRing.net, but I had assumed it was a rarity. Then I emailed a friend about her writings and received an eloquent, passionate response. Armed by her enthusiasm I dove headfirst into the Tolkien fanfiction community and was astounded, not only at some of the writings themselves, but also by the sheer number of stories being written. The more I read, the more questions I found forming in my mind. I wondered if most of these stories were written by women, as it seemed, though it could not be proved since many writers use pseudonyms. Consultation with a Tolkien scholar with a background in fandom studies did confirm that, on the whole, most fanfiction across genres is written by women. Then I became more curious: why were hundreds or even thousands of women writing new stories set in Tolkien’s world, especially set within The Lord of the Rings (LotR), when there are so few women characters provided by Tolkien? Lisa Hopkins in her essay “Female Authority Figures in the Works of Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams” voices the sentiments I felt.

    His [Tolkien’s] books are of course notable on one level for their paucity of female characters:[...] And of the various forms of life that we encounter in the course of the books, it is notable that several species seem simply not to have any women: we meet no female trolls, for instance, the Entwives are missing, and an appendix to The Lord of the Rings informs us that dwarf-women are remarkably few in number- [...] And yet this small number of women have a range of parts to play whose importance is remarkably disproportionate to their numbers [...] What is perhaps even more remarkable is that women in Tolkien are not portrayed solely in the light of their relationships to men. (Hopkins, 364)

I decided to ask the writers themselves. My method will be described in more detail, but in overview, I researched the Tolkien fanfiction communities at yahoo.com and contacted the top ten by number of members, as well as the groups set up to write about Arwen and Éowyn in particular, and various other independent fanfiction sites. Over the course of two weeks I received 62 replies, and found myself awed, humbled, chastened, and surprised.

I am a woman and active member of Tolkien fandom. Before I discovered Tolkien fanfiction, I was an active participant on Tolkien Internet boards, flew cross-country to visit others of a like mind from a Tolkien chat room, and sewed my own costume and banner for a character from the Third Age (Finduilas of Dol Amroth). This essay will not, therefore, be objective. My position is that as written by Mia in her essay posted in June of 2000, “A Cyborg Subculture: Slash Fandom Online”:

    I cannot claim critical distance from my subject. Instead, I have chosen a participant ethnographical approach that engages with the model of […] criticism suggested by Jenkins, Jenkins and Green. [contributors to Theorizing Fandom] They argue that academic studies should take ‘as a given that the fan community has meaningful things to contribute [...] and their cultural studies will be enriched by listening to them speak.’

This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

Story Information

Author: Thevina Finduilas

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: Other

Genre: Research Article

Rating: General

Last Updated: 04/04/04

Original Post: 03/19/03

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