Monday, February 28, 2011

Why is Shelob a she?

Why does Tolkien choose to make Shelob, his most fully described image of evil, female? All of his other evil characters are male, why is it important to him that Shelob be female?

4 comments:

Radagast said...

I know this isn't a really deep answer or anything, but I think it's usually female spiders that are more aggressive. I've heard that they tend to eat their mates and their babies too. So, it could just be that Tolkien was sticking with what is natural with spiders.

It could also be that he is showing that women can be both good and evil, just like men. If you notice, all of the other female characters in the Lord of the Rings seem to be good and always profoundly beautiful. Tolkien could have been asserting that women also can be evil and terrible.

Aredhel said...

I wonder if the female Shelob being a depiction of absolute evil could in some way be a parallel to Eowyn destroying the Witch King, another symbol of pure evil. I don't know exactly where I am going with that idea or if it makes any sense, but it just kind of popped into my head. Kind of going with Radagast here, Tolkien shows that not only can women be the epitome of evil, they also bear the standard of grace and peace and goodness.

Miriel said...

I want to agree with Radagast by thinking that Tolkien chose Shelob to be a she because of the nature of females spiders. It is much more natural and believable... thinking of this huge, fat, female spider.

Elendil said...

Well, I do agree with Radagast when we talk about female spiders being the stronger, more aggressive creatures. They eat their mates, they defend their nests and they're generally more nastier.

From a mythological standpoint, the most famous mythological spider was a woman: Aradne. True, it's Greek mythology, but I'm not mistaken in believing that Tolkien would have been aware of this fact, am I? I'm not sure. But traditionally, a spider's web has been associated with weaving. A woman's art. He may have been trying to either salute or subvert the traditional mythos.