Christine O'Donnell Is a Tolkienite

Digging through newly minted Republican Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell's previous TV appearances, comments, and writings has produced a treasure trove of unconventional views. There was the MTV interview in which she waxed on about the evils of masturbation, and the Bill Maher panel in which she said that she wouldn't tell a lie, even if she were harboring Jews in her home and Hitler popped by for a visit.

Perhaps the most endearing of all, however, is her professed love for Lord of the Rings. O'Donnell's MySpace page lists Lord of the Rings among her favorite books--not just The Fellowship, but the whole trilogy. And in 2003, she wrote a paper and later gave a lecture at The Heritage Foundation expounding upon the role of women in the books.

Politico's Patrick Gavin has already rounded up some key points from the lecture that give a thorough impression of O'Donnell's views on gender dynamics:

O'Donnell calls Arwen "the epitomy of femininity. She is beautiful, gentle, long-suffering. When her beloved goes out to battle she demonstrates devotion and faith, utterly believing that they will be reunited. She is there for him. Her greatest contribution to the war of the rings is the strength that she provides to the future king.

Now, to me, that says a lot about women and a lot about the role of supporting your man. Yet, in the movie, Peter Jackson had to change that, as if her softer side was offensive to women."

O'Donnell tried to pick which character -- Arwen or Eowyn -- was more like herself.

"Look at the significance that he gives to Eowyn, the lady of Rohan. She was a warrior spirit and, to me, that's who I love. I mean, I aspire to be soft and gentle like Arwen, but realistically, I'm a fighter, like Eowyn."

O'Donnell laments Peter Jackson's directing of the women actors in the Lord of the Rings movies. Arwen didn't need to be gussied up as a warrior princess, she argues -- Tolkien wrote a plenty strong character by depicting her supporting Aragorn from afar. O'Donnell focuses on the "softness" and "femininity" of Tolkien's women characters, praising how they complement his warrior men.

Sadly, O'Donnell's Tolkienism probably does not extend into Elvish-speaking, New Zealand-touring territory, since she revealed in her lecture that she had not seen the third movie. She also admitted that the real force behind the paper was her niece, who was working as her intern at the time and exhibited a truly impressive breadth of Tolkien expertise when she supplemented O'Donnell's commentary during the lecture.   

That said, it is not surprising that the stark moral landscape of Middle Earth appeals to O'Donnell, with her black-and-white views on sex and lying, or that the fantasy of an all-powerful ring resonates with a woman who has run for Senate three times.

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Nicole Allan is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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