In most cultures throughout history, from ancient Rome to China, from the Americas to Africa, there has been a general trend (although there have been plenty of exceptions) in assigning a gender to the sun and moon. Especially in cultures most familiar to Westerners, the sun is usually male, and the moon is usually female. For instance, the sun is associated with male deities such as Ra, Horus, Apollo, etc, and the name itself- Sol - is masculine; the moon is generally associated with goddesses, and the name is explicitly feminine- Luna. I am not sure why the sun is usually conceived of as male, but the belief that the moon is feminine apparently stems from the perceived connection between moon cycles and menstruation.

In Lord of the Rings, however, people (and Elves, and Dwarves, and Hobbits) consistently refer to the sun as "she" or "her", and to the moon as "he" or "him". I doubt that Tolkien was making a statement about gender equality, but I haven't the foggiest idea as to why he chose to reverse the most common traditional gender assignments for the sun and moon. Does he say anything about this in his writing?

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    Tolkien in the Lord of the Rings took a lot of inspiration from his work on philology in the Germanic languages, specifically Old English. In Old English, sunne is a feminine noun and mōna is a masculine noun. So in fact, there is no reversal: Tolkien is using the more traditional Germanic gender for the sun and moon. I would guess that this is the reason he assigns them these genders in the Silmarillion. It is (some) modern English speakers that have reversed gender associations with the sun and moon, probably under the influence of Romance languages and Greek and Latin mythology. – sumelic May 19 '15 at 4:41
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    Your initial presupposition is also fairly arguable. See this section of your linked article: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_deity#Male_and_female – sumelic May 19 '15 at 4:50
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    @sumelic Please write this as an answer, not as a comment. – Paŭlo Ebermann May 19 '15 at 12:18
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    @sumelic - you have my permission, but you never really needed it. "He didn't reverse anything, and your question makes assumptions that don't hold up, dummy!" is a valid answer, and seems to be the truth as well. :) – Wad Cheber May 19 '15 at 18:59
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    As a German I live in middle Europe and our languages love to place articles to nouns. For the languages I know the sun is female (German "Die Sonne") and the moon is male (German "Der Mond"). As Tolkien heavily based his universe on European mythology, he may just have been used to these languages. //EDIT: Note to myself, read answers before wisenheimering (in German you say "Klugscheißer", what translates to "pooping wisely") – Trollwut May 20 '15 at 10:30

It seems that in germanic languages, notably German, the sun/moon genders are "reversed" like that, as sumelic commented.

Die Sonne (sun, female) Der Mond (moon, male)

In other words, your assumption that male sun / female moon is somehow "general rule" doesn't hold up. And you don't even need to look at some exotic place.

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    your answer seems logically perfect as it is a verified fact that Tolkien's writings were influenced by Germanic mythologies. – RicoRicochet May 19 '15 at 8:27
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    Further, in Norse mythology (which, as already stated, influenced Tolkien a lot), the deity that is associated with the moon is male (Máni) and the one of the sun is female (Sól). See wikipedia – luator May 19 '15 at 10:05
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    After all, there is a Man in the Moon :-). – Francis Davey May 19 '15 at 11:36
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    A man, and lest we forget, a rabbit – Zibbobz May 19 '15 at 13:29
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    @FrancisDavey As far as innuendos go, that sentence can go both ways. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) – Ceiling Gecko May 19 '15 at 14:19

Another point to this (and maybe the cause why people of Middle-Earth refer to sun and moon in this way) is that in Middle-Earth mythology, the sun (which is a fruit of Laurelin, the golden tree) is guided through the sky by Arien (a female maia) and the moon (a fruit of Telperion, the silver tree) by Tilion (a male maia).

This is described in The Silmarillion (or in summary here on Wikipedia).

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    This is an in-universe answer, while the question appears to be asking for an out-of-universe answer. – jwodder May 19 '15 at 12:40
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    And also probably Tolkien choose these Maïar genders to be aligned with the germanic tradition and explain it at the same time. – Joel May 19 '15 at 15:55

As already answered, there are indeed cultures that have personified the sun and moon as female and male, respectively, and languages that have given them female and male names, respectively.

To be a bit more specific than the answer already given, the language that Tolkien would have been thinking of most when deciding how Westron worked (the language that is always "translated" into English) is Anglo-Saxon.

In Anglo-Saxon, sunne (from which the Modern English word sun is derived) is feminine, and mona (from which the Modern English word moon is derived) is masculine.

In keeping with Tolkien's idea that the LOTR should be an alternative folklore for the English-speaking peoples, and in his general use of language (e.g. calling the world "Middle Earth", as the Angles and Saxons did), he has Westron being a predecessor of English, and so feminine sun and masculine moon is the obvious choice.

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