It wasn't just your imagination: Middle-Earth is a total sausage-fest.
JRR Tolkein, books, statistics, lord of the rings
For me, nothing's a faster or more common turn-off in fantasy novels than the "one woman in the village" trope.
I was once in a fiction writing group, trying to explain this to a trite fantasy writer. The Most Horrible Person (who looks like Newman at age 21) pointed out that the male protagonist had a dead mother, so the quota had been filled. And then I felt like a POC watching your average ABC Family sitcom.
Smurfette often wondered what it would have been like to have a mother, a sister, a friend to confirm whether or not she was doing something right. Was this how other women curled their hair? Did high heels, in fact, go on the feet, or had she simply guessed in error, wandering blindly in a feminine vacuum?
But there was no one to ask, and so she went on alone.
@melis Fantasy novel idea: the one woman in the village goes goes feral from lack of models, goes on hero-quest for other ladies, meets other ladies and they have a super-fun sleepover and do their makeup FINALLY right. Then some badassery involving fighting dragons/sexists or something.
@Inkling Why would they need more than one woman? Women never do anything of worth except with regard to sex and motherhood.
I don't know much about fantasy fiction, but is there much written by women? I would like to read that.
@a whole thing of candy beans (formerly jen325) Yes, loads.
@a whole thing of candy beans (formerly jen325) A veritable mother lode, if you will.
Actually, I would love to see an adaptation of LOTR with the sexes reversed. Not sexy-reversed but just normal.
@a whole thing of candy beans (formerly jen325) There are shitloads of fantasy books written by women. BUT I find there is kind of this split where there is "girl fantasy" and "dudebro fantasy".
"Let me get this straight," Freyda asked the witch, eyebrows raised. "You want me to take this free gold ring and throw it away."
"You must throw it away," Gandalf whispered intently. "It will destroy you if you do not."
"Then I will definitely throw away this amazing piece of vintage jewelry, no problem, absolutely, thank you so much for coming to my biiiiiirthday party!" Freyda lied.
Not to mention, how you gonna drag that bitch away from Galadriel's mirror? THINK, child.
@Megano! See, that's not cool. Why can't we have something in between? "Girl fantasy" sounds like a cross between sparkly unicorns and romance novels.
@a whole thing of candy beans (formerly jen325) Yeah, you're partly right. There is stuff in between though. It is just hard to find. Like, A Song of Ice and Fire is one, and it's part of the reason why it's so popular.
I haven't read either of their works yet, but Ursula K LeGuin and Octavia Butler's work are supposed to be very good on both the inclusion of ladies and inclusion of POC characters. Also, I am contractually obligated to mention Terry Pratchett's Discworld books whenever I am talking about fantasy books, so please see: Terry Pratchett's Discworld books. The witches sub-series and anything to do with Ankh Morpork are my favorites.
@Megano! I know we *just* had a LeGuin thread, but URSULLLLLLLAAAAAAAA!
@RK Fire Discworld! I love everything about Discworld.
(The Watch books are really about justice. It's amazing.)
@Megano! Is this where I get to namedrop Robin Hobb? Because OMG Robin Hobb! The Liveship books in particular have some of the best inclusion of female characters I've heard in fantasy. Female adventurers! Old women! Mothers! Teenage daughters! Ambiguously gendered characters! Lots of the same worldbuilding and complexity as GRRM, without a lot of the nasty bits, both in terms of over the top violence and problematic sex. Lots less rape, and when rape does occur, it's handled very sensitively. Also like GRRM, though, full of lots of emotional punches to the gut.
Henchman 24: Come on! They have one female servicing a large group of males. That implies a species that lays eggs!
Henchman 21: Oh my God, you're crazy! They're so obviously mammals!
Henchman 24: Please! She'd be in estrus 24/7 if she didn't lay eggs.
Henchman 21: Smurfs don't lay eggs! I won't tell you this again! Papa Smurf has a fucking beard! They're mammals!
@TheBourneApproximation Yeah, but the thing to be careful about with Robin Hobb is that if you read the Farseer Trilogy or the Tawny Man Trilogy your emotional capital will vanish. It will be like October 1929 for your emotions. Also, you will be angry with Robin Hobb for forever. Don't do it.
No, but the books are great. But horrible. Beautiful and terrible as the dawn!
@RK Fire Tiffany Aching is the BEST.
@Ophelia Where was the Le Guin thread? I must have missed it!
@TheBourneApproximation Yes! Love Robin Hobb! I just started the Liveship books also I just realized I think my sister leant me her newest book AND I HAVEN'T READ IT YET.
@Megano! They are the best! But as always, as Lucienne warns, they should be consumed with a large box of tissues nearby.
@TheBourneApproximation I need a large box of tissues when I read anything, I am that much of a sap.
@a whole thing of candy beans (formerly jen325) I'm almost finished with The Mists of Avalon, and I am totally obsessed. I think the only reason I wasn't very "into" fantasy before is because of the problem you all have been discussing. I don't know much about other fantasy books with great female characters, but I can definitely recommend this one.
@Ophelia: I have not read these yet but I have a very precocious niece who is reading on the 4th grade level and I am dying, dying to buy these for her when the time comes.
@You'll be sorry Jo March Sounds interesting! There are so many recommendations here I don't know where to start.
@Megano! I loveloveloved the Farseer and Liveship Trilogies, but totally couldn't get into either the Soldier Son or Rainwilds Trilogies. I don't understand. Did she change? Did I change? Whyyyyy?
@a whole thing of candy beans (formerly jen325) Oh, well my favourite lady fantasy authors are probably N.K. Jemisin and Lynn Flewelling, but there are lots of good male fantasy writers that can write good ladies too, most notably R. Scott Bakker (Prince of Nothing! Esmenet is kind of perfect), Guy Gavrial Kay is usually pretty good, and Tad Williams. The Acacia series has really good female characters in it, although I'm not sure if I like that series or not.
@a whole thing of candy beans (formerly jen325) try Paladin of Souls - we get to follow a middle aged woman having a fantasy adventure.
I have never met any one else who has read Robin Hobb! I cant tell you how ridiculously excited I am. Oh Fitz!
For Discworld the witches are amazing and Angua is the most bad ass werewolf that ever bad assed. (Wait, dont the witches live near a town call Badass?)
I havent read the Farseer books in about 10 years. Do you think they need a re-read before starting the Liveship series?
@Kit Kendrick@twitter A fantasy novel with middle-aged female protagonist? Sold!
@RK Fire Le Guin is amazing. Ive been re-reading her stuff on and off over the past couple of months. Her ability to create complex and believable societies I feel is unparalleled and challenges the gender and relational definitions that are more common here on Earth. Her father was a famous anthropologist/archaeologist back in the day (Alfred Kroeber) and she definitely has his eye for describing human interaction and material culture. But yes Le Guin I heart.
@teaandcakeordeath I haven't finished that one, so I don't know. I actually read Rain Wilds before Liveship and was fine, so it's probably OK? Plus the Liveship books I don't think ever talks about the 7 Duchies or whatever the place is called that it takes place in.
@teaandcakeordeath The Farseer ones are entirely stand-alone, so I think you're fine. The Six Duchies are mentioned, but more as a general culture than anything in particular. There's a bit of subtle overlap, but you don't miss much if you don't catch it (trying to avoid spoilers!)
@MilesofMountains Er, the LIVESHIP ones are standalone.
@MilesofMountains The Liveship ones actually aren't standalone, they continue in the Rain Wilds books.
@Megano! Well, technically none of hers are truly standalone except I guess the Soldier Son ones since people and events move between them, but I think the Liveship trilogy is basically standalone in that it forms a full story with a decent ending, just like I'd say the Farseer trilogy is basically standalone.
@MilesofMountains Well the newest Rain Wilds book is full of charactes and plot threads from that series.
It has been decided. I'll read them ALL!
I'm 3 chapters in to the first Farseers book and already life is kicking Fitz in the balls. I'm hooked.
It's amazing stuff....thanks for sharing@l
AWWW NOW I LOOK CRAZY
@melis Sorry! I saw your comment on Smurfette and felt unworthy, so I deleted my mediocre comment on the kickass women of Middle Earth.
(You could still be crazy, though.)
Too crazy for Boystown, too much of a boy for Crazytown.
@melis Something tells me it's impossible to be too much of a boy for Shifty Shellshock
I'd always interpreted that as natural femininity drew her to wear a dress etc. However, never watched the show, just loathed its characters on my friend's pillowcase.
ETA Down here I guess w/e
Make sure you know before you go the [epic quest] bro-ho ratio.
You guys everyone is clearly forgetting that pretty much all of Middle Earth's evil spiders are female! Mirkwood and various dark caves are just crawling with role models!
@SarahP And the Entwives, I suppose.
@SarahP Well, of course...they're caves.
"GET IT, GIRL" the deathless voice boomed from every direction in the dank and sunless corridors. "GET IT, GIRL. GET IT, GIRL." Frodo closed his eyes and shuddered.
That's what fanfiction told me. Also, Merry is into some pretty freaky stuff.
@LacunaKale: SAM + FRODO = OTP
@RK Fire LEGOLAS AND GIMLI 4 EVER
I wonder if this is a big part of why I never really got into LOTR as a kid/teen. I was reading tons of fantasy and it should've been right up my alley, but I was Not a Fan. Perhaps because there are plenty of awesome fantasies with quests and magic and swords and dragons and elves AND women.
@Inconceivable! Yeah, this is most of the reason why I don't like it. And a lot of books. If there are not lots of cool ladies, I am usually not really into it.
Yeah, like, I read LOTR and then I went back to Robin McKinley, et al.
@Inconceivable! I couldn't get into LOTR either, never even finished the books. I felt guilty about it as a 14 year old, like a wimpy reader, so I read the Dune books instead...I feel like they had more women being cool and heroic? Can't really remember, reading the wiki synopsis now to check...
@maybe partying will help Robin McKinley is my favorite, ever. I read Beauty in middle school and it changed my life.
13-year-old me was SO MAD about Arwen having a larger role in the LOTR movies (well...at least the first one. Sneaking up on Aragorn! Putting a sword at his throat! Saving Frodo's ass and drowning Ringwraiths!) because THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN IN THE BOOK, SO OOC OMG!!!
WHAT A FOOL I WAS, WHAT AN ELEVATED FOOL, WHAT A MUTTON-HEADED DOLT WAS I
A friend recently wrote up a review of books-to-movie adaptations and complained about all the Arwen/Aragorn scenes because they didn't happen in the book and cluttered up the story with pointless romance and I wanted to brain him with my LOTR omnibus edition.
@royaljunk I do kind of have a problem with the action girl Arwen scenes (I irrationally love Glorfindel, okay) (no, but more seriously, I'm not crazy about "the only way to be important is to be violent!" message) (those aren't my Eowyn issues, but ask me about my Eowyn issues*), but I really liked the other added scenes. The minimal story kind of works in the books because you have all that weight of destiny in the books, but it's harder to work that kind of atmosphere into a film.
@Lucienne Oh agreed, I do think there's a problem with adding Action Girl scenes and pretending it's character development. On the other hand I do like to see added screentime for ladies in adaptations of sausage fest-y books even though it may not be strictly Book Canon. I liked the flashback scenes and cuts to Rivendell, because imo it provides a lot of backstory that you don't necessarily get in the text proper. There's a balance I guess? (I also generally liked what the Narnia films did with this wrt Susan and Lucy)
@royaljunk Yeah, I liked those scenes a lot too (see also, Eowyn at Theodred's burial). They fleshed out the world and the characters very effectively, I thought.
@Lucienne ugh yes, that scene was fantastic.
Once upon a time (the time was in fact shortly before the first LotR movie came out) I was seeing two boys. Both, independently, insisted that I read the first book (I had abandoned The Hobbit several times as a lass; I am not a Tolkien person) as the series had meant so much to him as a child. In fact, each gave me a brand new copy with a warm little inscription on the title page!
So I got about half way through LotR and was like, WTF is all this stories-for-boys bullshit and why am I reading it? Needless to say, both were disappointed in me and I wish I'd had the expression 'sausage fest' to help explain why I couldn't bring myself to give a shit.
Things worked out with neither of them. Neither had ever read Jane Eyre and wouldn't on my recommendation, so I didn't feel too badly about it.
Note: later I read and liked the one with the trees.
@laurel I never read the first one, because OMG are all the songs annoying. Plus like, hardly anything happens in that one anyway.
@MilesofMountains Wow, ok. A million posts of the same thing. No, that's cool.
@teaandcakeordeath: Yes! It was named after a notoriously hostile donkey.
How about Sherri Tepper? She writes awesome women characters. Although I admit to loving me some LOTR. Merry & Pippin, yay!
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