So the first part of "The Hobbit" is out in theaters. With the release of another Peter Jackson film based on the work of Tolkien, pundits everywhere can once again gloss the back cover of the book or watch the trailer of the movie and render sweeping judgments.
The latest one comes from Ruth Davis Konigsberg of Time Online. Her complaint is not a new one. The Hobbit and Tolkien's works in general are lacking in a sufficient number of female characters. This makes them unrealistic and very unapproachable by women.
The problem is one of biological accuracy. Tolkien’s characters defy the basics of reproduction: dwarf fathers beget dwarf sons, hobbit uncles pass rings down to hobbit nephews. If there are any mothers or daughters, aunts or nieces, they make no appearances. Trolls and orcs especially seem to rely on asexual reproduction, breeding whole male populations, which of course come in handy when amassing an army to attack the dwarves and elves.
Now, I know that Tolkien has many devoted fans among the fairer sex, so clearly there is enough in the books and stories to attract women to them, and I won't go on to detail all the important female characters that do exist or are mentioned. The critique I have is that this complainer is looking at the stories in the wrong light.
For the most part, Lord of the Rings and the mythology of Middle Earth is written based around the various wars fought between the powers of Good and Evil. The focus on male characters is only natural in this case, as men have historically been the primary participants and instigators of war. If one where to write the history of European wars, Chinese wars, Japanese wars, or any other nation's, one would find the books filled to the brim with males. This is not to say that women were not part of these wars. Some were very involved and very important, but the overall ratio is highly skewed to the Y chromosome.
Perhaps tales of women warriors would be more progressive, but they hardly would be more realistic. Perhaps the complainer does not wish to see a movie about a war? This would seem to me to be fine reason to show no interest in "The Hobbit" or "Lord of the Rings," but it is a poor reason to complain about them.
So what do people here think about Tolkien's female characters? Are there enough? Do the books seem unrealistic because of their scarcity?