Tolkien’s Transformative Women: Art in Triptych

by Annie Brust (Kent State University)

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Annie Brust’s “Tolkien’s Transformative Women: Art in Triptych” argues for a wider appreciation of the women characters in Tolkien’s legendarium. While other studies have focused on a handful of women, Brust explores the ways that women are woven throughout Tolkien’s work. By emphasizing the sheer volume of women characters throughout Tolkien’s writings, the reader can see how important women characters were to the formation and continuation of Middle-Earth. Brust’s book will be influential to scholars and fans who study and enjoy the literature of J.R.R. Tolkien as well as those who have overlooked the importance of women in his stories.

Dr. Christopher Michael Roman
Professor of English
Graduate Studies Coordinator
Kent State University

J.R. R. Tolkien has been revered as the father of twentieth-century fantasy; however, many initially criticized him for his handling of the textual matter as male-centric magical lands that did not feature prominent female roles or significant female characters. This book will highlight the vast community of powerful female figures that Tolkien created in his fantasy writing, stemming from the distinct and dominant female forces he created in his academic translation and poetry.
These fierce women serve as a culmination of the powerful forces of women and female character that originated in Medieval, Norse, and Celtic traditions. They help to create the framework from which Tolkien shaped his female community, not merely as singular figures, as previously featured, but as a dynamic network of figures who shape Tolkien's creative art. For the first time, this discussion looks at the entire community of women, featuring previously excluded figures from his academic works and highlighting translation bias in modern manuscripts of the extant medieval works that influenced these women. It also seeks to create a comprehensive guide and detailed appendices exploring the female characters and influences throughout his writing portfolio.

This book seeks to uncover the hidden voices of the past to find their rightful home in the strong female voices of the present, rewriting history to regain a sense of the past.

The Medieval Triptych and Tolkien’s Art
Creating the Triptych framework—Performative voices in Tolkien’s literature
Establishing Tolkien’s Medieval Framework through the Critics’ Eye – The Tolkien Debate
Linking History to Female Autonomy and Translation Bias in Tolkien’s Opus
Foundations of Female Power – The Scholarly Discussion of Translation Bias
Women as a Central Focus of Tolkien’s art
Tolkien’s Evolutionary Women

John D. Rateliff

Chapter 1 Tolkien’s Manuscripts: Mapping Chronology and Textual Analysis
The Manuscript Evidence: Problems with Establishing Chronology
Establishing Tolkien’s Chronology— His translations, experiments, and creative license
Textual Analysis and Experimentation: Varda

Chapter 2 Tolkien’s Muses: The Ladies of Literature
Literary Women from Early Medieval and Norse Tradition
The Women of Beowulf and Judith Beowulf
Grendel’s Mother
The Judith poem

Chapter 3 Tolkien’s Warrior Women
The women of keen physical power and strength of conviction
Notes of Translation—parsing the pages of manuscript in Beowulf and the Volsüng Saga
Part 1: The Women Warriors of Beastly Exterior
Triptych 1 “She-Beasts and Swordswomen”
Grendel’s mother
The Ogress
Ungoliant and Shelob
Part 2: The Women of Internal Fortitude Triptych 2 “Moxie Ladies”

Chapter 4 The Women Who Rule
The Goddesses, the Ringbearers, The Prophetesses
Part 1: Magical Malfeasance and the Women of Spells
Triptych 1 “The Wiles of Witchery”
The Corrigan
The Fairy Queen
Part 2: Queen orators of wisdom, vision, and diplomacy
Triptych 2 “Tacticians of Treatise”
The Queen

Chapter 5 Tolkien’s Ethereal Women
The women who heal through vocal performance and dreamscape
Part 1: Ambassadors of peace and vision through oral performance
Triptych 1 “Self-Song of the Visionary”
Hildeburh—Finn and Hengest
The Entwives
Part 2: The Women Who Heal through Ethereal Vision and Memory
Triptych 2 “Aura borealis”


Appendix I
Index of female figures in Tolkien’s personal life
Tolkien’s personal life

Appendix II
Index of characters in Tolkien’s academic works and poetry as extensions of works
Female characters in Translations
Tolkien Academic experiments – poems created
from aspects of larger poems
Sellic Spell
The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún
Finn and Hengest
The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun

Appendix III
Index of characters from Tolkien’s fantasy writing
that make up his legendarium
Tolkien’s Tales and Lore
The Legendarium
Children of Húrin
Lúthien and Beren
Fall of Gondolin
The Silmarillion
The Book of Lost Tales I
The Book of Lost Tales II
Unfinished Tales


Dr. Annie Brust is a college professor and high school English teacher with over twenty-three years in the classroom. Much of her early research and study centered on the Beowulf manuscript, seeking to uncover the powerful female figures embedded in its rich verses. She has spent the better part of her research career seeking to illuminate the underrepresented voices within the text and completed her master's thesis on Translation Theory, which is the focus of her discussion on Tolkien's Triptych art. Dr. Brust was introduced at an early age to Professor Tolkien through his dramatic readings on PBS and the BBC and credits Tolkien partly for her introduction to medieval and Norse texts. Dr. Brust has published additional educational materials on medieval content in The Once and Future Classroom, a collaborative project with Wake Forest University.

Ethnopaleography, anthropological philology, triptych, art, Norse legend, mythology, Cotton Regius, Cotton Nero, Manuscript Studies, chronology, Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, Smith of Wooten, Kullervo, Beowulf, The Sellic Spell, Aotrou and Itroun, The Finisburg Fragment, Judith, Tom Bombadil, The Book of Lost Tales, Finn and Hengest, The Sagas, The Eddas, The Legend of Sigurd and Guthrun, Norse Mythology, Celtic Witch Culture, Fay, Faerie, Beren and Luthien, Pearl poet, Medieval Triptych, art, Greek Mythology, Etymology, Old English, Translation. bias, Performative Voice, The Fall of Gondolin, The Mabinogion, Benbecula, Malleus Maleficarum, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Faerie Queen, Philology, Tom Shippey, Kristine Larsen, Verilyn Fleiger, Alan Lee, The Kalevala, Snorri Sturluson, Jane Chance, Leslie Donovan, Arthurian Legend, Michael Drout, Nowell Codex, Exeter Book, Cotton Vitellius, Corpus folios, Dennis Tedlock, A.N. Doane, Katherine O’Brien O’Keefe, Thorkelin Manuscripts, Scribe A, Scribe B, John Niles, collation, stemma, John Bryant, textual pluralism, John Bowers, Christopher Tolkien, genealogy, Allen and Unwin, William Morris, Female scribes, Valkyrie, Seamus Heaney, Howell Chickering, Helen Damico

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Book Title

Tolkien’s Transformative Women: Art in Triptych





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Publication date

April 2024