I Am Woman, Hear Me Think
One might assume that, in a story so full of swords, warriors, epic battles and heroic last stands as Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings," men would be the dominant fan base. However, the truth is, they are not. If one takes a cursory surf of websites it quickly becomes apparent that women rule the Internet realm of "The Lord of the Rings," and the spectrum ranges from giddy fan girls to scholarly analysis. Site-orientations can vary from gleeful gushing over "Orli," (everyone's favorite British elf) to forums housing protracted conversations over the construction of elven bows or how Sindar and Noldor elves viewed each other. But why are so few men in evidence?
Good question. My first and foremost guess is simple. I believe most guys are just not inclined to look for Internet communities in which to discuss their favorite books or movies. My husband loves "The Lord of the Rings" as movies. But while he is happy to tell you that he thinks the Rohirrim are magnificent, or that Gimli is one tough little dude, he is not about to sit down and spend thirty minutes typing up a post elaborating his thoughts. Perhaps things so ambiguous as the thought, intent, or symbolism of books and movies are more frequently something that women enjoy talking about. Not that men do not also have thoughts on such matters, but perhaps they are less likely to turn to the Internet for the intangibles of a book or movie. Or perhaps most men simply do not feel inclined to debate such things ad infinitum.
If you look to the nuts and bolts of "The Lord of the Rings" movies, the guys are most definitely present. Medieval reenactors' sites discuss the depictions of warfare and costuming, edged-weapons sites discuss the swords and swordsmanship, archery sites pick apart the archery and use of archers, and some martial arts sites might even pay attention to Legolas' fighting style. So the guys are out there. Perhaps they simply are not hanging out in the same places as the ladies. Or perhaps they do not choose to speak up in a general Internet forum.
Of course women are wowed by the visuals Peter Jackson's movies have given us. The scenery is stunning, the costuming is magnificent, the background and settings are lush with delicious details, and yeah, there are some incredibly handsome faces up there on the screen, Elf, Hobbit and Man. But is that the only reason we are here, because Jackson made Middle Earth look like a great place to take a holiday? Heck no!
We are here because our souls have been touched. We embrace our Internet communities because we want that interaction, we thrive on exchanges of thoughts, debates of ideas and dissections of what a scene or character was really about. There is a very real passion that appears in discussions of Tolkien's beloved works and the movies, and which often awakens arguments powerful enough for any college forum. Are we women simply more gregarious creatures than our male counterparts? Is there something innate in our psychological makeup, which lends us to flocking together to ponder whether or not Elrond's half-elven sons chose to sail into the West? I do not know.
Personally, I am not a woman who gangs around with a lot of other ladies. I am drawn to dogs, horses and other outdoorsy things. But I cannot deny that I am equally drawn to the society, the companionship, the very special fellowship that lives within our online Lord of the Rings communities. There is something magical that happens here. There is reason that people will travel across countries and even oceans to attend Lord of the Rings gatherings with people whom they have never met in person. There is something majestic and wonderful and timeless in Tolkien's epic that calls to the heart and soul and brings us together. What Peter Jackson's movies did was throw open the doors connecting our many nations, and lay a road between us.
Women are here in the Lord of the Rings fandom because we look up at the stars at night and think, "What if?" Women are here because we were swept away to a place so richly alive that it is hard to imagine it never really existed. Women are here because Tolkien gave us a realm where oaths matter and honor is real, and which we begin to realize is something we can take unto ourselves. Women are here because, in this story, something profound is touched and moved, and it cries out for expression. Peter Jackson simply had the wherewithal to share with us his own, very powerful, expression.
We are here, all of us, because in the books and on the screen we see more than epic battles and heroic deeds. We see metaphors for all that is good and grand and wonderful in this grubby old world of ours. It reminds us that we, too, can find hope in the darkest of times and aspire to our own nobility of spirit, just as did Sam Gamgee, a simple hobbit of the Shire. We are here ... because we dream. And that is something that J.R.R. Tolkien bequeathed to us all, man, woman and child.