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Perilous and Fair: Women in the Works and Life of J. R. R. Tolkien Paperback – January 16, 2015
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"[..] an invaluable book that should put to rest persistent clichés about women in Tolkien's work and life. Presenting both classic and new assessments, [it] makes the case that Tolkien scholarship not only has a past that should be acknowledged but also a present in which critics are examining issues relating to women, gender, power, and readership in nuanced and complex ways."
-- Anna Smol, "Gender in Tolkien's Works" and "Sexuality in Tolkien's Works" in The J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia
About the Author
Janet Brennan Croft is Head of Access and Delivery Services and Faculty of Research and Instructional Services at the Rutgers University libraries. She is the author of War in the Works of J. R. R. Tolkien (Praeger, 2004; winner, Mythopoeic Society Award for Inklings Studies) and has written on the Peter Jackson films, J. K. Rowling, Terry Pratchett, Lois McMaster Bujold, and other authors. She is the editor or co-editor of four collections of literary essays. She also edits the refereed scholarly journal Mythlore and serves on the Mythopoeic Press Editorial Board. Leslie A. Donovan is a Professor in the Honors College at the University of New Mexico, where she teaches interdisciplinary humanities courses for undergraduates. Among her publications are studies of valkyries in The Lord of the Rings (included in this collection), Tolkien’s mythology, women saints’ lives in Old English prose, the character of Hunferth in Beowulf, and various pedagogical topics. She has edited Approaches to Teaching Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and Other Works forthcoming from the Modern Language Association. In addition, she is the Editor of the Mythopoeic Press.
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The 14 essays are divided into five groups: Historical Perspectives, Power of Gender, Specific Characters, Earlier Literary Contexts, and Women Readers. As a former history teacher myself I most enjoyed two of the essays in the first section: John D. Rateliff's "The Missing Women," which challenges the conception that Tolkien spent his life in masculine society by detailing the women with whom he had family, social, and professional connections and by emphasizing his strong, and at the time unusual, support for women's higher education; and also Sharin Schroeder's "She Who Must Not Be Ignored," which examines gender and genre in both The Lord of the Rings and in such Victorian "boy's books" as H.R. Haggard's "She," which Tolkien is known to have read and enjoyed. I also liked "Power in Arda," by Edith L.Crowe and "The Fall and Repentence of Galadriel" by Romuald I. Lakowski in the second and third sections for their insights into Tolkien's ever changing conceptions about his sub-creation. And again because of my background in history I really liked Melissa A. Smith's "At Home And Abroad," on Eowyn as a war bride! The fourth section's "The Valkyrie Reflex" by Leslie A. Donovan makes some fascinating analyses of Galadriel, Eowyn, Arwen, and (!) Shelob while Maureen Dunn's "Hidden in Plain View" makes some fascinating comparisons between Shakespeare and Tolkien's female characters. The fifth section has one essay, Una McCormack's "Finding Ourselves in the "(Un)Mapped Lands," which describes some intriguing fanfictions on some of Tolkien's lesser known female characters like Ioreth and Lothiriel (as well as some Middle-earth women created by the fanfiction writers themselves).
As with any good collection of critical essays readers will find much with which to agree and disagree, but every selection is well worth reading. Most importantly, readers' appreciation for J.R.R. Tolkien's work will be enhanced by the insights and conclusions to be found within Perilous And Fair.
Diana Pavlac Glyer, author of The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community