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 Post subject: My Fascination with the Daughter of Elrond. (Arwen essay)
PostPosted: September 20th, 2009, 10:43 pm 
Gondorian
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So, here it is: my little (or not so little) essay on Arwen. Just a couple things:

a) This is my personal view of Arwen. I have reasons for my view of her, I think it's supported by the canon, but it's still my interpretation. If you disagree, that's cool-feel free to tell me why. I'd love to argue with you-in a friendly way, of course. :-D

b) any suggestions and constructive criticism is welcome.

c) even if you totally disagree with everything I say here-appreciate it anyways, okay? When I was revising it a couple weeks ago, I spent two hours getting it as perfect as I could-and when I tried to hit 'save', I hit delete instead. :duh:



My Fascination with the Daughter of Elrond

To my fellow LotR fans, it's no secret that I'm a fan of Arwen. Only a few, however, know exactly why. This essay is my attempt at explaining my fascination with this very minor character.

Part of my interest stems from the simple fact that she is a minor character. Reading the books, I'm always drawn to the little characters, the ones who slip in and out of the scenes, whose impact on the story is not always apparent, but who are busily at work behind the scenes. There's a mystery and elusiveness that draws me in. My interest is in Halbarad rather than Beregond, Celeborn instead of Elrond or Legolas, and yes, Arwen rather than Eowyn.

Some people find it incredible to say that I find Arwen more interesting than Eowyn. Eowyn is a complex, passionate character who, against all odds, slays one of the most terrifying creatures in Middle-earth. Arwen, on the other hand, is a minor character with only three physical appearances and one (count 'em, one) speaking scene.

Yet in her few scenes, Tolkien drops all these hints that there's more to this lady than meets the eye. Take for example the first time we see her, through Frodo's eyes, at a feast in Elrond's house.

'Young she was and yet not so. The braids of her dark hair were touched by no frost; her white arms and clear face were flawless and smooth, and the light of stars was in her bright eyes, grey as a cloudless night; yet queenly she looked, and thought and knowledge were in her glance, as of one who has known many things that the years bring.' (FotR)

Her first appearance, and Tolkien chooses to bring her experience and intelligence front and center. Arwen was approximately 2900 years old during the War of the Ring; in our world, she would have been about 19 years old in the year Rome was founded. Even if she didn't experience the horrors of war firsthand, or visit faraway lands, Arwen would still have gained a lot of life experience during her time; learning about people, forgiveness, anger, revenge, compassion. I think the point Tolkien was trying to bring out here is that she is not a sheltered maiden. She knows about the world, both the wonder and horror of it. The second thing that strikes me in this passage is the combination of thought and knowledge. Arwen must have been well educated, being brought up in Rivendell, a house of lore, and having Elrond, a loremaster, as her father. Rivendell was a refuge, not a fortress; a place of learning and peace. But it's interesting to note that her head wasn't just full of facts and great literature: she was intelligent. She weighed things in her mind and thought critically about them, not accepting everything at face value.

Arwen's perception and compassion are brought out in her second scene, when she speaks with Frodo in Minas Tirith. We know from Tolkien's letters that it was Arwen who first perceived that Frodo would not recover. Let's just stop for a minute and think about this. Frodo is in Minas Tirith with arguably the most wise and perceptive people in Middle-Earth. We have Gandalf, Galadriel, Elrond, Celeborn....it is said specifically of Galadriel and Elrond that they can read hearts and minds. Gandalf and Aragorn probably know him better than Arwen does. Yet who first sees his unrest and understands that he is never going to fully heal? Arwen. Her perception and skill in reading people probably came in handy as wife to one of the most powerful rulers on Middle-Earth. But she doesn't stop there; she is troubled by that and thinks up a way to help him, going to Gandalf and Galadriel for help, and using her own renunciation of the right to go West as an argument. You see her using her mind, thinking up reasons and arguments, using logic. Again, she's smart.


However, she's not simply content dealing with his future happiness:

'And she took a white gem like a star that lay upon her breast hanging upon a silver chain, and she set the chain about Frodo's neck. "When the memory of the fear and the darkness troubles you," she said, "this will bring you aid." ' (RotK)

Arwen's compassion in this scene struck me the first time I read that passage, and has every time since.

The relationship between Arwen and her father is another thing that draws me to her. Tolkien writes that the parting of Elrond and Arwen was one of the great sorrows of the Third Age, and that's brought out in the book many times. Elrond calls Arwen 'my beloved' and it is clear that Arwen's choice of mortality hurt him deeply.

"But there will be no choice before Arwen, my beloved, unless you, Aragorn Arathorn's son, come between us and bring one of us, you or me, to a bitter parting beyond the end of the world. You do not know yet what you desire of me." (Appendix A)

'When Elrond learned the choice of his daughter, he was silent, though his heart was grieved and found the doom long feared none the easier to endure.' (Appendix A)

On Arwen's side, love for her father was one of the chief sorrows of her choice.

" 'I will cleave to you, Dunadan, and turn from the Twilight. Yet there lies the land of my people and the long home of all my kin.' She loved her father dearly." (Appendix A)

I've always admired Arwen's strength in the face of such a difficult choice. I'm not married or engaged, but I can't imagine having to choose between my family or the man I love. Even the thought makes me sick. Arwen's quiet inward consideration and resolution is striking, but it's obvious it broke her heart.

She also seems to be a spirited and opinionated elf, perhaps jumping to conclusions on things she doesn't know much about. She uses strong words to describe her once held opinion of the Numenoreans around the time of the Fall of Numenor.

' "...not till now have I understood the tale of your people and their fall. As wicked fools I scorned them, but I pity them at last." ' (Appendix A)

A lot of people misunderstand this, thinking that Arwen hated the mortals she ruled over. However, that's not what she said. She scorned the First Age Numenoreans, for desiring immortality and rebelling and declaring war against the Valar. She could not understand why they would do such a thing, and not knowing, scorned them. However, once she is confronted with Aragorn's death, experiencing the same thing they did, she can see how afraid they were of death, and understands why they would seek to avoid it. This is, in my opinion, one of the most important scenes Arwen has. Why? Because it reveals she not some distant, perfect, unattainable being. She's very human, with faults of her own.

'She was not yet weary of her days, and thus she tasted the bitterness of the mortality she had taken upon her." (Appendix A)

In an unpublished letter to Eileen Elgar, Tolkien suggests that Arwen could have laid down her life at the same time as Aragorn, but that she was not yet prepared to do so. Even though Arwen became mortal, she was still by nature Elvish, with the long view of life held by that race, and to whom 'the Gift of the One to Men...is bitter to receive.' She's scared by the prospect of a mortal death. It's entirely foreign to her experience, and I think it held a finality that she didn't want to consider. While she was still alive, and bound to Middle-earth, I think she still felt a connection to her father, one that she knew would be completely severed once she died a mortal death, and went beyond the circles of the world. She shows weakness here, but I don't fault her for it; I like her all the more because of it.


Arwen's life was far from perfect. About 500 years before the War of the Ring, her mother was captured and tortured by orcs, and though rescued and healed in body by her husband, lost all pleasure in Middle-Earth and sailed West. Arwen would have seen Sauron's growing strength, and watched as the world grew darker and darker around her. It is said that at one time, during Arwen's life, Rivendell was besieged. She would have watched as her people withdrew, leaving Middle-Earth, and became the stuff of legends and folklore, tales told to children around the fire or at the bedside.

The relationship of Arwen and Aragorn is a hotly debated topic among LotR fans, with some defending it (as I do!) and others claiming it was a political alliance, or a mistaken infatuation and a hastily made promise on the part of Aragorn. The love story of Arwen and Aragorn is one of my favourite parts about the Lord of the Rings, so I'm going to spend a little time defending it.

One of the things that I love about their relationship is the maturity of how they handled the difficulty of Elrond's demands. Elrond, remember, told Aragorn that he would not agree to the marriage unless Aragorn became King of both Gondor and Arnor, which would mean a very long engagement, with the possibility of no marriage at all. They could have thrown off his authority and run off together, but they didn't, and that fascinates me. Arwen loved her father dearly, and now that she had chosen mortality their time was limited. She wanted that time to be as pleasant as possible, not filled with tension and anger. Aragorn, on the other hand, had been raised as a son by Elrond and owed him a great deal, as well as respecting and loving him. The idea that Aragorn might run off with Arwen against his express wishes seems to me to be totally contrary to Aragorn's character. I respect the fact that rather than taking the easy way out and running away, they chose to honour Elrond's wishes and try and work with it. I find that incredibly mature and, as one of my friends commented, is more often the way love is tested in real life, rather than having to break out of a tower.

Aragorn first met Arwen when he was twenty, rather young by Dunedain standards. He fell in love with her, but she did not reciprocate. Aragorn waited for over thirty years to get another chance at Arwen's love; when he met her again he was not an impressionable 20 year old, but a grown man, worldly-wise, mature, and noble, and fully capable of deciding whether she was the one he wanted to spend his life with. She was able to see him as an equal, not a love-struck youth, and as a partner worthy of her respect and admiration. They didn't rush into things either, but spent several months together in Lorien before plighting their troth. Their love stood the test of domineering fathers, time, war, and the day to day ins and outs of marriage. Even after 120 years of marriage, Aragorn is still calling Arwen beloved, and her grief at his death is heartwrenching.

Her decision to leave her children and spend her last days in Lorien, the land of her mothers kin, is seen by some as entirely selfish and cruel, and others as noble and self-sacrificial, not wanting to have her children see her fade. Her children were most likely full grown and capable, with families of their own. It's interesting to note that there are other characters in the Lord of the Rings who leave their children before they die, yet none seem to be hated because of it, as Arwen is. Aragorn lays down his life before his time, and Sam leaves his children after his wife dies to sail West. Secondly, I can completely understand her wish to see Lorien again; she spent much of her life there, and it was the heart of Elven-dom on earth-she was still by nature an elf, and a century with humans would not erase her attachment to her kin.

In the end, then, Arwen is not an insipid wallflower, but rather an interesting, intelligent, compassionate, and fully flawed character, with sorrows and joys all her own. Faced with difficult choices and heartwrenching sorrows, she weathered them all, and remains one of my favourite female characters of all time.

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Last edited by Minuialwen on September 20th, 2009, 11:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: September 20th, 2009, 11:07 pm 
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This was really interesting! And very well thought out, supported and all. You should use it as a school paper topic. :P

I suppose when I think of Arwen I usually think of the movie version, who I'm not a huge fan of. This was quite helpful here, making me remember who the real Arwen is.

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PostPosted: September 21st, 2009, 6:01 pm 
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Thanks for the comments, Nurr! I'm not a huge fan of movie!Arwen either. I like her enough to 'ship her with Aragorn, but it's so refreshing to go back and remember what the real Arwen is.

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PostPosted: October 3rd, 2009, 4:01 am 
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Wow, I really like this Minie! (I saw that you had been given a nickname in your intro post :-D )
As Nurr said, whenever I think of Arwen, I see Liv Tyler's portrayal but this essay really helped me understand who Arwen was as an individual soul. Absolutely love it! And I'm also 100% against Aragorn and Eowyn. She's much better off with Faramir anyway. Aragorn and Arwen were meant for each other! <3

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PostPosted: December 7th, 2009, 10:17 pm 
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Wow! I love to read articles (yes I dare to call it such... it's late and I have no vocabulary whatsoever at 2 in the morning) like this. I never truly liked Liv Tyler's portrayal of Arwen; while I loved her looks and was grateful to put a face to the name (i have such a hard time with that), I prefer how Tolkien originally intended her. I never saw the depth Arwen had, though I've read multiple times everything you referenced. This is extremely though-provoking, and very refreshing. I have a friend who rails against Liv's Arwen, and now I see why. There was so much more to her. I greatly appreciate Liv Tyler's attempt at Arwen, but I saw her as, well, I'm not sure, but Tolkien's Arwen is so much better. The original always is.
Thank you so much!!

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PostPosted: December 8th, 2009, 9:54 pm 
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Thank you both for your kind comments! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

I've been wanting to write it for a while, mainly because a lot of people's view of book!Arwen is: "There's so little of her in the books, she must be unimportant/she's boring/you can't know what she's like." As you can see, my view of her, (and Tolkien's, too, I think) is rather different.

No, she's not as out there as Eowyn and Galadriel, and she doesn't affect the plot in as big a way, but if you read carefully you can see that she is a mover and a shaker-she just works behind the scenes in different ways. I love her to bits, [s]in case you couldn't tell.[/s] :teehee:

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PostPosted: January 28th, 2010, 9:46 pm 
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You've stated you have a large fascination with Arwen, so I thought you might like one of my musings...

Erenwei in another time and place wrote:
“Arwen’s fate is now bound to the ring” a musing -

Elrond is possibly not telling Aragorn that Arwen is actually dying and that her fate is tied to the ring, but that she has chosen mortality and her fate is now tied to the earth- and she will not leave now no matter what, so Middle Earth better not go under Sauron’s dominion, or she will die (as will everyone else)! To explain, Elrond tells Aragorn that Arwen is dying, that as Sauron’s power grows, hers wanes, and that her fate is now tied to The Ring. This could be taken at face value, but if it is then it can be only really seen as a cheap plot device, urging Aragorn on to become King, but really only weakening his motivation as a character. So, as I looked at it recently, I decided to not take it at face value, and to instead try and find a deeper, better meaning .

First, take that Elrond tells Aragorn that Arwen is dying. I take this to be his subtle way of telling Aragorn that she has chosen mortality, for him. The fact that she was an Elf means that there is no way that she could be dying for no reason normally. Elrond is telling Aragorn that because she has chosen him, she is now slowly dying the death of any mortal, as they live and grow older. Seeing as (in the movie of course) Aragorn left thinking that Arwen had chosen immortality and was leaving Middle Earth, this is important information for him to know.

Second, the fact that Elrond says that as Sauron’s power grows, Arwen’s wanes. This has to do with the nature of Elves in Middle Earth. Because the kingdom’s of the elves are sustained by the Elven rings (Vilya in this case), as Sauron’s power grows, all of the power of the Elves wanes. Elrond is just putting a more personal note into this statement. A way of saying, “Yes, I know that you know that Elves are losing their power, but it always means more when you put the face of someone you love on it, so look at Arwen.” Now, I am not saying that Aragorn needed this kind of encouragement, but it is different from Elrond tying the fate of Arwen unnecessarily with Sauron’s.

This brings me to the third statement. Arwen’s fate is now tied to The Ring. This statement looks rather silly at face value, but try looking at it like this: Arwen has now chosen Middle Earth and mortality. If The Ring is not destroyed, all of Middle Earth will perish, and so will Arwen. She no longer has the choice to leave the troubles of Middle Earth behind. This is a way to tie the last points together. Arwen has chosen Aragorn and hence mortality, and Arwen is now tied to Middle Earth as a mortal would be, so that it is not just that if Sauron wins Aragorn will not be king and will not “get” Arwen, but she will suffer just like everyone else in the world- but not any more so.

I don’t know if this all makes sense or even helps any of you come to terms with this scene, but it did help me, so I wanted to share my musings. :)

Note- this is not meant as a defense of PJ’s changes, but only a musing on another way to look at it, so as possibly to be less disturbed by it in the future. The same sort of contrivance as when I say Frodo’s “real” lines in my head to myself as he claims The Ring, so that it seems the same to me.



I'm sure others have comet o this conclusion also, though maybe not in so many words...

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PostPosted: February 4th, 2010, 3:01 pm 
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Jasper Erenwei wrote:
Elrond is just putting a more personal note into this statement. A way of saying, “Yes, I know that you know that Elves are losing their power, but it always means more when you put the face of someone you love on it, so look at Arwen.”


Now that is interesting. I've struggled with that scene a bit myself, and have to confess that I still don't like it. But I don't like a lot of what they did with Arwen in the movie, mainly because I get frustrated thinking about how awesome she could have been.

But back to your point that I quoted above; I've read some people's comments on how that scene makes Aragorn look selfish, like he's only fighting Sauron to 'get the girl.' But you're right. Putting Arwen's face on it just makes it mean that much more. Makes it really come home.

And besides, fighting evil to protect your home and your future, so you can live in peace with the ones you love isn't selfish.

Good post!

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 Post subject: Re: My Fascination with the Daughter of Elrond. (Arwen essay
PostPosted: February 21st, 2017, 6:53 am 
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This is quite a good essay on Arwen. Not sure why I haven't seen it before now.

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 Post subject: Re: My Fascination with the Daughter of Elrond. (Arwen essay
PostPosted: April 3rd, 2017, 2:56 am 
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Minuialwen wrote:
Arwen's life was far from perfect. About 500 years before the War of the Ring, her mother was captured and tortured by orcs, and though rescued and healed in body by her husband, lost all pleasure in Middle-Earth and sailed West. Arwen would have seen Sauron's growing strength, and watched as the world grew darker and darker around her. It is said that at one time, during Arwen's life, Rivendell was besieged. She would have watched as her people withdrew, leaving Middle-Earth, and became the stuff of legends and folklore, tales told to children around the fire or at the bedside.


Just a side comment on this part. The story of Celebrían, the daughter of Celeborn and Galadriel and the wife of Elrond, is a truly sad one. To be captured and tortured by orcs is pretty serious when one would expect orcs to just kill a high elf. Then to be freed by her twin sons Elrohir and Elladan to find she had no joy in living in Middle Earth with her children and husband says a lot about how she was tortured. I wonder how many years she was a prisoner? I wonder what the reunion was like for her and Elrond when he did sail west. Her tale is a sad one. :'-(

Minuialwen wrote:
The relationship of Arwen and Aragorn is a hotly debated topic among LotR fans, with some defending it (as I do!) and others claiming it was a political alliance, or a mistaken infatuation and a hastily made promise on the part of Aragorn. The love story of Arwen and Aragorn is one of my favourite parts about the Lord of the Rings, so I'm going to spend a little time defending it.

One of the things that I love about their relationship is the maturity of how they handled the difficulty of Elrond's demands. Elrond, remember, told Aragorn that he would not agree to the marriage unless Aragorn became King of both Gondor and Arnor, which would mean a very long engagement, with the possibility of no marriage at all. They could have thrown off his authority and run off together, but they didn't, and that fascinates me. Arwen loved her father dearly, and now that she had chosen mortality their time was limited. She wanted that time to be as pleasant as possible, not filled with tension and anger. Aragorn, on the other hand, had been raised as a son by Elrond and owed him a great deal, as well as respecting and loving him. The idea that Aragorn might run off with Arwen against his express wishes seems to me to be totally contrary to Aragorn's character. I respect the fact that rather than taking the easy way out and running away, they chose to honour Elrond's wishes and try and work with it. I find that incredibly mature and, as one of my friends commented, is more often the way love is tested in real life, rather than having to break out of a tower.

Aragorn first met Arwen when he was twenty, rather young by Dunedain standards. He fell in love with her, but she did not reciprocate. Aragorn waited for over thirty years to get another chance at Arwen's love; when he met her again he was not an impressionable 20 year old, but a grown man, worldly-wise, mature, and noble, and fully capable of deciding whether she was the one he wanted to spend his life with. She was able to see him as an equal, not a love-struck youth, and as a partner worthy of her respect and admiration. They didn't rush into things either, but spent several months together in Lorien before plighting their troth. Their love stood the test of domineering fathers, time, war, and the day to day ins and outs of marriage. Even after 120 years of marriage, Aragorn is still calling Arwen beloved, and her grief at his death is heartwrenching.

Her decision to leave her children and spend her last days in Lorien, the land of her mothers kin, is seen by some as entirely selfish and cruel, and others as noble and self-sacrificial, not wanting to have her children see her fade. Her children were most likely full grown and capable, with families of their own. It's interesting to note that there are other characters in the Lord of the Rings who leave their children before they die, yet none seem to be hated because of it, as Arwen is. Aragorn lays down his life before his time, and Sam leaves his children after his wife dies to sail West. Secondly, I can completely understand her wish to see Lorien again; she spent much of her life there, and it was the heart of Elven-dom on earth-she was still by nature an elf, and a century with humans would not erase her attachment to her kin.

In the end, then, Arwen is not an insipid wallflower, but rather an interesting, intelligent, compassionate, and fully flawed character, with sorrows and joys all her own. Faced with difficult choices and heartwrenching sorrows, she weathered them all, and remains one of my favourite female characters of all time.


Awww... that is beautifully written! It also reflects much of what I think of Arwen too. Thank you for sharing this! :)

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