E is for Éowyn and Éomer

LadyEowyn_Of_Rohan2614Bro_n_Sis_Éowyn and Éomer are two of my favorite characters in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Both continuously act with bravery, nobility, and a genuine passion for their people and way of life, throughout the story. There is a purity of heart and cause for both, and most importantly, they act with a significant regard for each other. Éomer specifically casts a loving and protective shadow over his sister, wanting to keep her safe but loving her for her courage and spirit nonetheless. He fears for her, yet is proud of her.

Éowyn and Éomer are the children of Éomund & Theodwyn, the latter being the sister of King Theoden of Rohan. Both died when the children were very young, Éomund in battle and Theodwyn of an illness not long after, so Theoden raised both children as his own. As such, they grew up in Edoras alongside the kings’s son, Theodred. Later, Theoden would refer to Éowyn as “dearer than daughter,” and would entrust Éomer to the charge of his kingdom.

While Theoden is under the dark influences of Saruman (through Grima Wormtongue), the kingdom slowly falls to the Uruk Hai. Éomer, once considered like a son to the king, is banished under this same dark influence. Despite being banished, he remains loyal to Rohan, attempts to assemble forces to fight Saruman and the orcs.

I serve only the Lord of the Mark, Theoden King, son of Thengel.We do not serve the Power of the Black Land far away, but neither are we yet in open war with him; and if you are fleeing frtumblr_lrylhiqm181r0wr0ho1_500om him, then you had best leave this land. There is trouble now on all our borders, and we are threatened; but we desire only to be free, and to live as we have lived, keeping our own, and serving no foreign lord, good or evil. We welcomed guests kindly in the better days, but in these times the unbidden stranger finds us swift and hard. Come! Who are you? Whom do you serve? At whose command do you hunt Orcs in our land?

When Theodred dies tragically against the Uruk Hai during the War of the Ring, Éomer becomes next in line for the throne of Rohan after Theoden. Through the intervention of Gandalf, Saruman’s power is driven from the king, but the effects on Theoden cannot be completely destroyed with it, and thus it becomes clear to Theoden that he must act quickly to restore the peace to his kingdom.

As the war escalates and the Fellowship came to Edoras, Éomer  and Theodred know they must ride out to Gondor to stop the invading forces. Éowyn, a shieldmaiden with the heart of a soldier, desires to go but her uncle and brother forbid it. She is instead left as ruler of Edoras in their stead, on the suggestion of Háma, who knows that the White Lady of Rohan is much beloved by the people.

After a last desperate plea with Aragorn to allow permission for her to ride to battle with the soldiers is denied, she disguises herself as a man (Dernhelm) and rides with the men to Gondor, and fights upon the Battle of Pelennor Fields. When she witnesses her uncle struck down by the Witch King of Angmar, she stands bravely between them, knowing her life may very well be forfeit with this action. In one of easily the most badass moments of the book and of any fantasy story of all time, she courageously declares:

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No living man am I! You look upon a woman! Éowyn I am, Éomund’s daughter. Begone if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him!

She then strikes the head from his beast, and through a distraction from Merry and his magical blade, she is able to thrust her blade clear through the Witch King’s helm, killing him and fulfilling Glorfindel’s ancient prophecy that the Witch King could be killed “not by the hand of a man.”

Of course, this action is not without some consequence…her arm is broken and she is struck by the elusive Black Death, and her near lifeless form on the fields of Pelennor leads to an incredibly touching scenes in the book where Éomer first throws himself at her seemingly dead boy and then, when learning she is alive, proceeds to stay by her side until she is again well.

Éowyn, Éowyn!’ imagescried Éomer amid his tears. But she opened her eyes and said: “Éomer! What joy is this? For they said that you were slain. Nay, but that was only the dark voices in my dream. How long have I been dreaming?” “Not long my sister,” said Éomer, “but think no more on it!

While convalescing in the House of Healing, she meets Faramir, the current Steward of Gondor, and eventually they fall in love. Although little attention is given to their courtship, the interactions between the two give us one of the only genuinely innocent and romantic moments of the book.

Then Faramir came and sought her, and once more they stood on the walls together; and he said to her: ‘Eowyn, why do you tarry here, and do not go to the rejoicing in Cormallen beyond Cair Andros, where your brother awaits you?’

And she said: ‘Do you not know?’

But he answered: ‘Two reasons there may be, but which is true, I do not know.’

And she said: ‘I do not wish to play at riddles. Speak plainer!’

‘Then if you will have it so, lady,’ he said: ‘You do not go, because only your brother called for you, and to look on the Lord AragFaramir-and-Eowyn-faramir-and-eowyn-14073229-960-404orn, Elendil’s heir, in his triumph would now bring you no joy. Or because I do not go, and you desire still to be near me. And maybe for both these reasons, and you yourself cannot choose between them. Eowyn, do you not love me, or will you not?’

‘I wished to be loved by another,’ she answered. ‘But I desire no man’s pity.’

‘That I know,’ he said. ‘You desired to have the love of the Lord Aragorn. Because he was high and puissant, and you wished to have renown and glory and to be lifted far above the mean things that crawl on the earth. And as a great captain may to a young soldier he seemed to you admirable. For so he is, a lord among men, the greatest that now is. But when he gave you only understanding and pity, then you desired to have nothing, unless a brave death in battle. Look at me, Eowyn!’

And Eowyn looked at Faramir long and steadily; and Faramir said: ‘Do not scorn pity that is the gift of a gentle heart, Eowyn! But I do not offer you my pity. For you are a lady high and valiant and have yourself won renown that shall not be forgotten; and you are a lady beautiful, I deem, beyond even the words of the Elven-tongue to tell. And I love you. Once I pitied your sorrow. But now, were you sorrowleowyn_and_faramir_by_celebi01-d4ymj1pess, without fear or any lack, were you the blissful Queen of Gondor, still I would love you. Eowyn, do you not love me?’

Then the heart of Eowyn changed, or else at last she understood it. And suddenly her winter passed, and the sun shone on her.

‘I stand in Minas Anor, the Tower of the SUn,’ she said; ‘and behold! the Shadow has departed! I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying. I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren.’ And again she looked at Faramir. ‘No longer do I desire to be a queen,’ she said.

Then Faramir laughed merrily. ‘That is well,’ he said; ‘for I am not a king. Yet I will wed with the White Lady of Rohan, if it be her will. And if she will, then let us cross the River and in happier days let us dwell in fair Ithilien and there make a garden. All things will grow with joy there, if the White Lady comes.’

‘Then must I leave my own people, man of Gondor?’ she said. ‘And would you have you proud folk say to you: “There goes a lord who tamed a wild shieldmaiden of the North! Was there no woman of the race of Numenor to choose?” ‘

‘I would,’ said Faramir. And he took her in his arms and kissed her under the sunlit sky, and he cared not that they stood high upon the walls in the sight of many. And many indeed saw them and the light that shone about them as they came down from the walls and went hand in hand to the Houses of Healing.

And to the Warden of the Houses Faramir said: ‘Here is the Lady Eowyn of Rohan, and now she is healed.’

Éomer, on the death of his uncle, is crowned the eighteenth King of Rohan. Due to the friendship and kinship he developed with Aragorn along the way, Éomer renews the Oath of Eorl, swearing partnership and loyalty to the kingdoms of Gondor ever after.

Éowyn marries Faramir, and Aragorn titles Faramir as the Prince of Ithilien as an honorary Steward of Gondor. While there is little said of their life after retiring there (except the birth of a son), I like to think they lived happily ever after.

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Of course no good fandom would be complete without cosplay. I dressed as a shieldmaiden of Rohan, a costume based off of one of Éowyn’s, for the premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. My fangirl runs deep!

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21 thoughts on “E is for Éowyn and Éomer

  1. Amazing article, really enjoyed reliving some of my favourite LotR moments! Éowyn and Éomer are two of my favourite characters too (although arguably picking favourite a LotR character to me would be like picking a favourite child to some!). Love it that you dressed as Éowyn for the Hobbit premiere. I’ve got the Simplicity dress pattern for Éowyn and Arwen, though I’ve never got around to making either. One day!

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! I definitely know what you mean about picking a favorite…I think it would be easier and quicker to pick the ones I didn’t like.

      And if you ever get an itch to make one of the patterns and sell it, let me know!

  2. One of the greatest criticisms of Tolkien has been his lack of female characters and particularly strong women. But that moment in the battle is truly the badass moment, as you say, and pulled off with the requisite epicness in the movie. (It’s faintly reminiscent of Macbeth, which had also helped inspire the idea of a forest marching on a castle; even if JRRT despised what Shakespeare had made of elves in AMSND). Éowyn was always far more compelling than Arwen to me, anyway. Great article!

    1. Completely agree. It’s a fair criticism that Tolkien did not create MANY strong females, but the ones he did create (Eowyn, Luthien, Galadriel, Morwen) were some of the best of the best in fantasy. I get the vibe from his writing that he believes we live in a man’s world, but that women play absolutely critical roles.

      Arwen is such a complicated subject, if only because she became such a topic for (really angry fangirl) debate when Jackson beefed up her role for the movies. Obviously, we all know that she had a very small role in the book (in fact, he wrote her in as an afterthought), but the weight of her role IS in fact important. She was the only daughter of Elrond, granddaughter of Galadriel, a descendant of Luthien, the Evenstar of her people. Although she is given such a little voice in the books, we can ascertain, purely from assumptions given to her position with her people, that she must have been important. The weight of her choice, to stay with Aragorn and forsake her immortality, takes tremendous courage and spirit. I almost wish we could have heard more from her directly, so we could validate it.

      1. I know most of the Arwen backstory is in the endnotes after Return of the King, which is where I assume most of the material that “augments” the Hobbit movie comes from. But the brass tacks were that the movies needed a love story. It’s a topic for further discourse in the future!

  3. Such a great post! I love that you didn’t focus on the main (obvious) characters in the book. LOTR has so many brilliant stories and characters’ arcs, it’be a shame to forget about the secondary ones 🙂 By the way, I’m really enjoying your A-Z challenge posts!

    1. Thanks! I’ve always found that the secondary LotR characters were the ones that kept the story going…without the Rohirrim, Gondor would have fallen..without Elrond, the Fellowship never would have gotten off the ground…without Tom Bombadil, Merry would not have wielded the enchanted blade that cripples the Witch King long enough for Eowyn to strike the death blow.

      And re: A to Z posts, glad to hear you’r enjoying them. I’ve had quite a bit of fun choosing them and piecing them together 🙂

  4. Man, I need to read that book again. The films are my ABSOLUTE favourite. No films will ever compare! (except the Muppet’s Christmas Carol, which is joint top of my list :D) One of my fav parts of Return of the King is when Eowyn grabs Merry as the Rohirrim ride to Gondor. Freakin’ epic. And when she kills the witch king… aw, just *amazing*. ‘I am no man.’ Boom! Take that, Nazgul!

    Tough choice though, to pick my favourite female out of Galadriel, Eowyn and Arwen… I’d probably pick Arwen, just because I swoon when she and Aragorn talk elf 😉

    1. I agree, the replay value of those movies is endless. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve seen them, and I often have them playing in the background when I’m doing other things. In fact, I always load up the soundtrack for international flights because it soothes me to sleep!

      I think the only reason I wouldn’t pick Arwen is that most of her scenes are artificial (not from the book) in the movie, and in the book we are given so brief a glimpse into her personal character. We know she is a descendant of Luthien, daughter and granddaughter of two of the most respected Elves in Middle Earth, and her marriage to Aragorn reunites the houses of Earendil and Elwing. All of those things should make her very interesting. But Tolkien treats her like an afterthought, so we get none of the badassery from her that we could get if he had given her some page time.

      Galadriel to me is awesome simply because of why she is even in middle earth! Third generation Eldar, rebelled against the Valar, and living in exile in Middle Earth for centuries. Her refusal of the ring, and return to purity is what finally allows her an invite back to the Undying Lands. I would love to read a series of books about Galadriel’s adventures!

  5. When I read the books, and I came to the chapters where Aragorn and Eowyn met. I was absolutely taken over by her and thought that she and Aragorn will marry … no thoughts about Arwen, which was not so present in the books anyway (if I remember right).

    1. Originally, Tolkien DID intend for them to marry. Arwenw as an afterthought (presumably because he liked the idea of reuniting the houses of Elrond and Elros), and he had to go back and grandfather her in. Her biggest section is in the appendices.

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