One of the best things Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film trilogy did is give a prominent role to Arwen, the youngest daughter of the Elven Lord Elrond. Played by actress Liv Tyler in all three of the Lord of the Rings movies, Arwen steals the show when she rescues Frodo Baggins from the Nine Ringwraiths in Fellowship of the Ring and brings him safely across the Ford of Bruinen into Rivendell. It’s an epic chase scene in which Arwen utters her famous line, “If you want him, come and claim him,” while brandishing the sword Hadhafang and whispering an incantation that causes a tidal wave to sweep the Ringwraiths away.
It’s a scene highlighting Arwen’s badassery and bravery, but it’s one of her only action-oriented scenes the audience gets to see. Arwen was initially going to fight in the Battle of Helm’s Deep, one of the most famous battles from Lord of the Rings that occurs during The Two Towers. This was ultimately scrapped, but the idea of Arwen taking up arms and fighting alongside Aragorn in one of the trilogy’s most brutal and bloody battles is intriguing.
In the early drafts of the film, Arwen brings the sword Anduril to Aragorn during the Battle of Helm’s Deep and fights alongside him and his allies against Saruman’s Orc army. Some scenes of Arwen fighting were filmed, but according to the DVD extra features of The Two Towers, these scenes were leaked, and they weren’t well received. Some fans tauntingly called Arwen “Warrior Princess,” and the scenes were deleted with Tyler’s approval. Tyler also felt that Arwen didn’t need a sword to be considered brave or strong, and in a way, she’s right. Arwen’s strength comes from within. The rest of the trilogy didn’t give her much to do, and considering her potential, and the fact that she could clearly hold her own in a conflict, it’s a little disappointing.
This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy Arwen’s role in the films. She’s actually one of my favorite characters from Lord of the Rings, and I cheered whenever she was onscreen. I was excited that the film trilogy offered an expanded role for her in the first place. As much as I love the Lord of the Rings books written by J.R.R. Tolkien, the series is infamously a dude fest that only features a scattering of female characters, most of whom don’t even have much of an impact on the plot. It’s a shame because the women of Middle Earth are fascinating and memorable in their own right, and Arwen is a clear example of this.
Liv Tyler expertly portrays Arwen’s heartbreak and isolation. She can’t help but fall in love with Aragorn, even though she will outlive him as an Elf and spend the rest of her days mourning his inevitable death. She’ll outlive their children and her grandchildren, and if she remains in Middle Earth, she’ll be subjected to a life of perpetual sorrow and loneliness. She sacrifices her immortality, in the end, to be with Aragorn, and it’s a sacrifice that doesn’t come without weight. Elves are living history in Middle Earth. They remember what Dwarves and Men cannot. Giving that up is a huge loss, both to the Elves themselves and the rest of Middle Earth. It’s a decision that Arwen grapples with, and she almost decides against it.
But Arwen ultimately gives up her immortality because she still has hope for Middle Earth and believes the world can be saved, unlike her father and the other Elven folk. She has a quiet strength that’s sometimes glossed over, all because she’s criticized for not having more to do. Personally, I love Arwen, even with the limited scenes we did get of the character. Even though she didn’t get to fight in the Battle of Helm’s Deep, (can you image how much Orc butt she would’ve kicked?) I still consider her one of the heroes of the trilogy.
What do you think about the character of Arwen? She’s inspired many conversations about the role of women in the trilogy. Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and check out my website for all things pop culture. As always, stay nerdy!