Tolkien's Greatest Sleepers
Ask any die-hard Ringer what they think of Arwen Evenstar, or more specifically, the prospect of Arwen Evanstar as interpreted by Peter Jackson, and the response will most likely range from a grim look of terror to a long tirade about how she's going to destroy the movies. Fans seem to be able to stomach omission (did anyone really expect PJ to announce that Robin Williams would be playing Tom Bombadil?), but the notion of addition sets the foot-fur of even the staunchest hobbit on end. What purpose could Arwen serve in the movies, after all, other than to lure our esteemed, brooding hero into a bunch of goo-goo love scenes, á la Titanic?
Well, first of all, don't underestimate those goo-goo love scenes. As Anwyn aptly pointed out in her Green Books article Men Are From Gondor, Women are From Lothlorien, the women of the Lord of the Rings are often strong motivational forces in the hearts of their men (whether they should be anything more than just motivational forces is quite another matter, which I'll leave to the feminists). The fact remains that whether Aragorn is escaping from Moria, battling orcs, or walking the Paths of the Dead, he's always thinking about Arwen. Because Tolkien writes through hobbit eyes, we become acquainted with Aragorn not through his internal thoughts, but through his actions. However, when we are allowed a brief glimpse into Aragorn's mind, his thoughts are more often than not about Arwen. Out of all the stories he chooses to tell to the hobbits on Weathertop, it's the story of Lúthien and Beren that he most eagerly relates-a story that must serve as a constant source of inspiration and hope for him. Later, in the forest of Lothloríen, we're reminded of the springtime of Arwen and Aragorn's love, when they plighted their troth and chased each other around Cerin Amroth with flowers in their hair. Gazing at Cerin Amroth, Aragorn lets us in on his thoughts for the first time when he whispers "Arwen vanimelda, namarië" before turning to Frodo. Finally, when he receives Arwen's banner before walking the Paths of the Dead, secretly wrought, he already knows what it is without having to be told. This implies unseen communications, conversations held between Arwen and himself that Tolkien doesn't report to us. Or perhaps Arwen and Aragorn are so deeply connected they're practically psychic. In either case, they are always aware of each other's movements and actions. Arwen's presence in the movies is not an addition to the original Tolkien; it's already there. PJ is illustrating the back scenes which already exist, but are never shown.
And while Aragorn is battling against all the forces of evil, we've got to ask ourselves: what is he fighting for? It's not just to save Gondor, and it's not just to become King (such arrogance would never corrupt our Aragorn!)-he's fighting for the women of Middle Earth and for the things that the women represent: peace, serenity, prosperity, freedom. He's fighting so that the little folk of the Shire can gossip about their pipeweed, so that Ioreth and the other women of Gondor can do their laundry in the Anduin, so that the men of Middle Earth can focus on their homes and their families and have campouts in Ithilién. The life that Arwen is leading in Rivendell is not the dull world of needlepoint and poetry relegated to those who're left behind, but the last bastion of the type of life that Aragorn is hoping to reinstate, a preservation of Middle Earth family values, if you will. She symbolizes for Aragorn all that he's fighting for.
Of course, early reports indicate that Arwen will most likely be stealing Glorifindel's limelight in the race to the ford, but we must look at this from a movie producer's point of view. Their goal is to win the hearts of people who've never read The Lord of the Rings before (without alienating us, the dedicated fans). Arwen will be a neophyte's first glimpse of an elf, and given that her character plays such a crucial role in Aragorn's emotional life, it makes good sense to double the exposition of Aragorn's love and Intro to Elves 101 into one character and one scene (PJ is trying to convey as much information possible in the shortest amount of time, after all, in order to keep the movies from blossoming into a Wagner Ring Cycle). Furthermore, I'm sure New Line is well aware of the fact that out of all their target audiences, the mainstream female audience will be one of the hardest to hook, since women tend to shy away from fantasy and science fiction films (for reasons this female author does not understand). Arwen is one of the only female characters with a substantial part in all three movies-beefing up her role will give female viewers someone to latch onto early in the trilogy and then follow through the rest of the films.
Finally, Arwen's lineage must be considered. PJ and the folks at New Line seem to be playing up the fact that Arwen is an elf with a serious dilemma: the choice between remaining an immortal or following her love into death. In fact, her tag on the official website, designed to introduce viewers to the cast and the characters, says: "Arwen is the beautiful and bewitching elf who must choose between immortality and love." Sound familiar? If anyone thinks that Arwen is nothing but the cream to Aragorn's coffee, they should remember that her story and her choice is the quintessential Tolkien legend, foreshadowed by only two others in the whole history of Middle Earth: Lúthien Tinuviel and Idril Celebrindal. It's no small thing for an elf to marry a human. The first time it happened, Morgoth was overthrown and a silmaril wrested from his crown-quite a feat! The second time it happened, events were set in motion which eventually hastened the destruction of Gondolin. Arwen's love for Aragorn falls in a direct line from this depth of faith and devotion. We should applaud the fact that by enhancing Arwen's role, PJ is calling attention to the Silmarillion and the history of Middle Earth.
So, given that Arwen is Aragorn's constant emotional backdrop, why shouldn't she play a larger role in the movies? Goo-goo love scenes are not completely outside of Aragorn's character, anyway. He is a hopeless romantic, the last of a long line of hopeless romantics, starting all the way back with Beren and Turin. We can almost hear him singing Brian Adam's lyrics to Arwen as he works to overthrow Mordor: everything I do, I do it for you.
Oh, and a final note on Liv Tyler. Her acting credentials have been under attack for quite some time now, and admittedly, by working on such projects as Armageddon and Empire Records, she's done nothing to further her Oscar contention. However, for those of you who remain skeptical, rent Stealing Beauty and watch our future Arwen act her pants off (pun *somewhat* intended-go see the movie).