They were explicitly not. Allatar (one of the Blue wizards), Curumo (Saruman), and Olorin (Gandalf) were given the same mission: go help the people of Middle Earth, but do NOT show your full powers, and do not seek power over the people, Elf, Dwarf, Man or Hobbit. Gandalf was reluctant to go, saying he was afraid of the temptation of Sauron's power, but Manwe insisted that that was an even better reason for him to go.
Rhadagast was tacked on to Saruman by Yavanna, and he couldn't refuse the spouse of his Valar, Aule. Allatar took Pallando as a "friend", which makes the least sense of all.
The proscriptions held firm for all of them, though. Rhadagast, however, may have had an alternate purpose from Yavanna.
Where did you get this from? His purpose is never even hinted at!
Tolkien never made up his mind on the Blues. In some versions, they do do some good, but are killed by Saruman (who travelled extensively in the East). In others, they form cults, leading men to follow them, and thus falling from their purpose.
As for Gandalf, he explicitly says he doesn't go to the East:
I went through half of this, then stopped. Too much that made no sense.
The entire wall of text doesn't address that Gandalf spent the 18 years between Bolbo's departure and his return to the Shire hunting Gollum. He's the reason Aragorn found Gollum, and they knew the full history of the ring, and that Sauron knew the name Baggins. Being quite non-idiotic, Gandalf correctly prioritized not letting Sauron find out about the One Ring (if that is what it was), rather than satisfying his own curiosity first.
Could he have had the time to take a trip to Gondor? Possibly. And there is, in fact, no hint that he did not. Faramir certainly met him many times, and if the last time he met Gandalf was 18 years ago (when Faramir was 17), nothing in the books suggests it. Gandalf may simply have not had time to do a thorough enough search in those times, and could afford that time only once he knew Golloum was already captured.
As for the events in the Hobbit, the explanation is in the Unfinished Tales. As Gandalf tells the Hobbits, he was very worried that the rising power in Dol Guldur would claim the Dragon, and then Smaug would rage over the North, and destroy Rivendell. So he set in motion a two pronged attack. He sent a sneak team to fight Smaug, while he himself pushed the White Council to send Sauron far from Dol Guldur.
As for the rest, a lot of this seems to expect Gandalf to just take over. Any overtly heroic act from him would make men worship him, and that was something explicitly forbidden. Nevertheless, he certainly didn't sit on his ass. If he is known for bringing bad news, that implies he has given bad news to the Rohirrim many times. And a large number of Gondorians recognize him on sight, again hardly possible if he just visited a few times.
Gandalf's duty was to aid and give hope to the people. Not by directly saving them, but by evoking the best of their abilities. This, he seems to have largely done. From Faramir to Aragorn to Billbo, the very best of the men and Hobbits of the world sought wisdom and comfort from him. His mandate changed after death, which is why you see him be more active.
As for his death, he obviously wouldn't have brought a Balrog to Lothlorien, which was the only bulwark against an invasion from Dol Guldur to Gondor. We know that even in the First Age, killing a Balrog was a hugely difficult task for even the mightiest of Elves. Glorfindel died fighting one. As did Ecthelion. Feanor fought five of them, but he too lost his life. Any attack by the Balrog on Lothlorien would have only ended if Galadriel herself came out to fight it, and then she would have been either severely weakened or killed, leaving nothing in the way of the Nazgul led invasion from Dol Guldur.
Yeah I feel the same way about that incident. It was a cheap way to up the tension.
I liked WoR because it expanded the world, and it seems to me Shallan is (dreadful though her humor is) more poised to explore the more interesting aspects of the world. I did detest Kaladin in WoR, though. His "realization" was cheap and absurd.
There are two whole seasons of that for Korra and Asami.
There were indication, apart from the letters, but even if you missed them, why should there be indications? If you accept they had become increasingly close friends, why is it hard to accept that at that moment, tired from combat, excited for a new adventure during their vacation together, they first realized they felt more for each other than friendship? No one has said they were in a relationship during the series. The writers were clear that was the moment they openly acknowledged their attraction to each other.
Definitely not perfect, but I think it's a testament to the creators that the love triangle of doom ended so well. I mean, we end the series with Mako basically stating right out that he'll follow his ex into battle anytime. Within the world, that has no feminist trappings, but what an amazing example for all the kids watching.
The problem I have with Rothfuss is that his female characters tend to not be very three dimensional. The only three women we meet in the context of the university are all incredibly one-note.
And then, it also suffers from a problem almost all other fantasy does as well: why, in this fictional world, is the status of women the way it is? There are complex reasons for this in reality, but when fantasy fictions just present this sort of gender dynamic with no explanation, they perpetuate the idea that there's something natural about it. That all societies will end up there, so the causes (even to touch on briefly) are unimportant. This is also my problem with aSoIaF.
This is totally correct, but I don't think C.T. Phipp's point is that WoT, Hunger Games or any number of other books are worthy of discussion with respect to feminism just because some of the characters happen to be female. That, like you said, makes any number of crappy romance novels feminist too.
But while WoT, say falls far short of being a feminist work, its feminist aspect isn't just that it has many female characters, but that they have oodles of agency, that there are many female-female relationships of different flavors (though this being Jordan, it isn't like the characterization of these is particularly deep or anything), that just about the only character who can be defined as "air-headed love interest who serves little purpose" is male.
WoT is a deeply sexist work. It also has many storylines and elements that are not sexist at all. Chiefly, this is because Jordan never fully committed to his setting of a world where women dominate politically and in many ways, in all aspects of life.
As for the main question: I think fantasy, especially epic fantasy, still struggles with portrayal of female characters. That GRRM still stands out with the depth of his female characters is a crying shame. Maybe I haven't read all there is to read, but I've been very disillusioned in this regard.
A good example of what I'd like to see is more stories like the Legend of Korra, which is a Nickelodeon animated show. Korra is a muscular, dark skinned
woman. In world, none of those things are exceptional. But by writing a world that has no patriarchy, and committing to it, and then portraying a wide range of female characters (of all ages too), the show has achieved what I've really yet to see in any fantasy novel. I wish more authors would take notes while watching that show...
I'm actually interested in more than the romance. I hope it is there, but not too much of it. I'm more interested in Korra as a character now. She's past her teenage rebel years, she's more or less over her PTSD, she's flush from a victory that showed her the vastness of her spiritual powers, and she's (likely) in a stable relationship with a non-bender. I'd be very interested to see if Korra goes about championing the causes of her enemies. She'll certainly work for a stable Earth continent. Will she fight oppressive rulers, anti-spirit sentiment, and oppressive benders actively? I think there's a good story there if so.
Well, that story wasn't written by Bryke, so there's hope that those kinds of missteps will be avoided.
I suspect a big part of Bryke being so directly involved is because unlike the end of ATLA, which felt fairly final, the end of LoK was filled with possibilities. Aang and Katara just finally entered a relationship both had previously acknowledged they wanted. With Asami and Korra, there isn't that.
And unlike ATLA, where both sides on the Earth Kingdom issues were on Aang's side, here we have Kuvira supporters still rampant and with giant armies, many small states with their own loyalties and agendas, and the need for a peaceful way to transition from monarchy to a multiple state democracy already hinted at in the finale.
Plus, they pulled off the unlikely feat of making Korra a truly interesting and dynamic character. How she'll react to any situation is no longer easy to guess. I suspect all these kept Bryke interested in furthering the story, and that also makes me optimistic that the end result will be much better than the ATLA comics.
The story does continue... as comics! There's going to be no gap between the show and the comics, again, so we begin right after Korra and Asami are through the gate.
Apparently, they will focus on the relationship, and also the mess in the Earth Kingdom.
Adding to the excitement, Michael DiMartino is writing the story himself, and while they'll be hiring multiple artists, Bryan Konietzko will be consulting on the art as well. All said, this looks like it will be very very good.