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Arwen

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Arwen
Half-elf
250px
Biographical Information
TitlesUndómiel, Evenstar, Queen of Gondor.
BirthT.A. 241, Rivendell.
DeathF.A. 121. (aged 2,901 years.)
Family
HeritageHalf-elven father, Elf mother.
ParentageElrond and Celebrían.
SpouseAragorn II.
ChildrenEldarion and several daughters.
Physical Description
GenderFemale.
Hair colorDark.
GalleryImages of Arwen
"Frodo saw her whom few mortals had yet seen; Arwen, daughter of Elrond, in whom it was said that the likeness of Lúthien had come on earth again; and she was called Undómiel, for she was the Evenstar of her people."
The Fellowship of the Ring, Many Meetings

Arwen Undómiel, often called Arwen Evenstar, was the betrothed of Aragorn II in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. She is the daughter of Elrond and Celebrían (and therefore grand-daughter of Galadriel). She rejects her Elven immortality (which she had the ability to do, since she was a half-elf, thus having the choice to be counted as an elf or a man) to marry Aragorn and die with him.

Contents

History

The romance between Aragorn and Arwen is reminiscent of that between the Man Beren and the Elf Lúthien, but as with many other tales of the Third Age, theirs is considered to be a pale copy of the deeds of earlier ages (Lúthien, for example, once defeated Sauron to rescue Beren). Still, few other marriages between Man and Elf are recorded in the annals of Tolkien.

A very young Aragorn encountered Arwen for the first time at Rivendell, where he had been living; she had been staying with her grandmother in Lórien. He fell in love with her when he first saw her, but it was not until they met many years later in Lórien that she fell in love with him.

Arwen's first appearance in The Lord of the Rings is at Rivendell, when the Hobbits arrive there, and Aragorn is seen with her at one point—the first hint of their relationship. Later, when the Fellowship come to Lothlórien, he remembers their earlier meeting.

She enters the story again when, before taking to the Paths of the Dead, Aragorn is met by a group consisting of Dúnedain, his people, from the North, and Arwen's brothers, Elladan and Elrohir. They bring to him a banner on black cloth: a gift made by the hands of Arwen, and a sign that encourages him to take the difficult path. When it is unfurled at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields to reveal the emblem of Elendil in mithril, gems, and gold, it is the first triumphant announcement of the King's return.

Arwen is mostly a minor character in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, but she is nevertheless described in detail in the Appendices after the third volume, The Return of the King. She does, however, play a role in the plot which is disproportionate to the number of scenes in which she appears. When Éowyn falls in love with Aragorn it is his fidelity to Arwen that forbids him from reciprocating, thereby motivating Éowyn's subsequent actions during the Battle of the Pelennor Fields which have major repercussions for the defence of Middle-earth. Arwen continually serves as inspiration and motivation for Aragorn, who must become King before he may wed her—not an insignificant task, considering the many long years he devotes to this cause.

Arwen was actually a very distant relative of Aragorn, being his first cousin sixty-three times removed. By their marriages the long-sundered lines of the Half-elven were joined. Their union also served to unite and preserve the bloodlines of the Three Kings of the High Elves (Ingwë, Finwë, and brothers Olwë and Elwë) as well as the only line with Maiar blood through Arwen's great-great-great grandmother, Melian.

Arwen gave up her life in 121 of the Fourth Age, at Cerin Amroth in Lórien, after the death of Aragorn.

Etymology

Arwen means "Noble Maiden" in Sindarin (from ara- = "noble" and wen = "maiden"). Her epessë, "Undómiel", means "Evenstar", from Undómë "evening twilight" and el "star".

Portrayal in Adaptations

Arwen does not appear in Ralph Bakshi's 1978 adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, nor in the 1980 Rankin/Bass adaptation of The Return of the King.

In Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, Arwen is played by Liv Tyler. Various additional scenes pertaining to Arwen are inserted, some of which deviate from the books and some of which seem inspired by the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen.

In the first film, she sneaks up to find Aragorn and single-handedly rescues Frodo Baggins from the Black Riders at Bruinen, thwarting them with a sudden flood, summoned by an incantation. In the book, it was Glorfindel who put Frodo on horseback and sent him alone to flee the Black Riders, and Elrond and Gandalf who arranged the flood. In the book, Frodo makes his own stand against the Black Riders; in the movie Arwen defends him. During this flight, Arwen wields the sword Hadhafang, stated to have once been wielded by her father in film merchandise. This sword, however, does not appear in the books at all; in fact, in the books, Arwen is never mentioned as armed (but she could have armed and defended herself as needed; see below).

Following the aforementioned scenes, the deviations include a scene in which Aragorn is injured and has a dream about Arwen (who kisses him), a scene where Arwen has a fight with her father about leaving for Valinor, and a scene where she (with Figwit) actually departs for Valinor and then suddenly returns when she sees an image of her future son, Eldarion. (In the books, it can hardly have been surprising to Arwen that she and Aragorn might have children together, since she herself is the descendant of two similar unions.)

Also, and perhaps most importantly, she apparently becomes sick with grief in the film version of The Return of the King — possibly over Aragorn's seemingly hopeless cause and his impending death — soon after she rides back from the road to the Grey Havens. Elrond takes the reforged Narsil, now Andúril, to Aragorn at Dunharrow, and tells him that her fate has become bound with the One Ring, and that she is dying. However, no explanation is ever given for these statements, not even in the Extended Editions. Later, after the Ring is destroyed, Arwen shows up at Aragorn's coronation looking no worse for wear.

Reaction

Arwen by John Howe.

Arwen had a very small visible role in the books outside of the Appendix (due to Tolkien conceiving the character late in the writing; Aragorn was originally supposed to marry Éowyn, as related in The History of Middle-earth). In addition to making Arwen a more visible character, the change employs the principle of "economy of characters". Characters like Glorfindel (the Elf who helps Frodo by lending him his horse and later aiding his companions in driving the Ringwraiths into the water in the book), who appear once and perform only a few tasks, are often excised from film interpretations.

In earlier copies of the script (when the movies were supposed to be filmed in two parts under a different production company), Arwen actually fought in the Battle of Helm's Deep and brought the sword Andúril to Aragorn. Some attribute the elimination of her character from the sequence to an early script leak. Another story is that Liv Tyler herself felt that the character's involvement in Helm's Deep was inappropriate, and convinced Jackson and his team to leave her out of the sequence, although the team did film at least part of her planned appearance at Helm's Deep.

These changes have met with mixed reactions. Many fans were upset because they seemed to pander to the lowest common denominator — that in order to make Arwen a "worthwhile" or "strong" character, she had to be a warrior — while in the books, her strength stems from her brave choice to forsake immortality and live a mortal life with Aragorn, which did not involve martial skill. Furthermore, there is already a skilled female warrior present in the story — namely Éowyn, but she first appears in the second part of the film trilogy. Some fans felt it odd to make it a point to insert a female warrior into a story which already had a prominent one, because this detracts from Éowyn's bravery in riding to battle. Also, he dominance at the Ford scene detracts from Frodo's bravery in the book (though admittedly the film Frodo is barely conscious - a case of Jackson "upping the ante"). However, in the second and third films in which Éowyn appears, Arwen's martial abilities are not shown at all.

Some criticize The Lord of the Rings for including few named female characters (though of course unnamed women are present, along with unnamed men) and thus accuse Tolkien of sexism. However, in the essay Laws and Customs among the Eldar, which appears in Morgoth's Ring, Tolkien writes that male and female Elves are in fact viewed in Elven society as equals, save for the fact that only the females are capable of childbearing and are thus viewed as literally holding the future of their people in their hands. It is for this reason that they traditionally refrain from going to war (although they are still trained in all the aspects of combat taught to male Elves), usually occupying themselves during wartime as healers. As the text itself states:

In all such things, not concerned with the bringing forth of children, the neri and nissi (that is, the men and women) of the Eldar are equal – unless it be in this (as they themselves say) that for the nissi the making of things new is for the most part shown in the forming of their children, so that invention and change is otherwise mostly brought about by the neri. There are, however, no matters which among the Eldar only a nér can think or do, or others with which only a nís is concerned. There are indeed some differences between the natural inclinations of neri and nissi, and other differences that have been established by custom (varying in place and in time, and in the several races of the Eldar). For instance, the arts of healing, and all that touches on the care of the body, are among the Eldar most practised by the nissi; whereas it was the elven-men who bore arms at need. And the Eldar deemed that the dealing of death, even when lawful or under necessity, diminished the power of healing, and that the virtue of the nissi in this matter was due rather to their abstaining from hunting or war than to any special power that went with their womanhood. Indeed in dire straits or desperate defence, the nissi fought valiantly, and there was less difference in strength in speed between elven-men and elven-women that had not borne child that is seen among mortals. On the other hand many elven-men were great healers and skilled in the lore of living bodies, though such men abstained from hunting, and went not to war until the last need. (Morgoth's Ring, The Second Phase, Laws and Customs Among the Eldar)

See Also