6 awesome female Tolkien characters from his extended works, otherwise known as 6 really good reasons to finally get around to reading the silmarillion

Hmmm. I don't think there's anything wrong with women who wield swords, definitely not. I find that sometimes if the author needs them to assert that they have discarded their femininity to do so, or are kicking back against patriarchy or whatever, it reads badly (unintentionally for the most part) - as if it's still a bad thing to be a feminine woman. All that's really happened is that the role forced onto a woman has changed. Hence it's a good thing to have the diverse range of female characters. I much prefer characters such as Arilyn Moonblade - from Elaine Cunningham's Elfshadow - who kick ass and take names without reference to gender at all. (I'm not saying it's a problem with male authors either; I've rolled eyes at Tanith Lee and Karen Miller while enjoying a variety of male depictions of strong women.)

As for the last paragraph, to be honest...I don't think that's true, or if it is it's on the way out, and I've read a broad cross-section of work in the last year. There is a problem with fewer women characters in general, protagonists defaulting male, or women being treated as special or beyond reproach (Vin in Mistborn springs to mind; she is super-powerful and super-competent; also Karen Miller's Rhian makes a lot of mistakes as a stateswoman but is praised by the author for most of the way she treats her allies), but not really with characterisation. Even at the time I was discovering fantasy twenty years ago, there were plenty of active female characters and protagonists to get me interested. There may not be enough, but of the books I've enjoyed as a reader and which have inspired me to write, I can't think of any where the woman has just been a love interest; there are a few where we are decidedly secondary to the male protagonist, but characters like Laurana and Kitiara in Dragonlance go back thirty years at this point, although it may just be that the D&D books were unusually well-balanced. Dragonflight is approaching its fiftieth anniversary; Lessa and Kylara are definitely quite well-defined, independent characters (to the point at which Kylara is beginning to annoy me as I read the sequel to the original Pern novel). The problem with undue focus on traditionally masculine traits above is more predominant in a genre with a focus on martial plotlines; getting away from gender roles in general is a good thing - I quite enjoyed GRRM's range of female characters.

I do think more needs to be done, but I think it's also a little unfair to say that we haven't actually made any progress.

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