Eowyn: Character Analysis

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Duiel 11/May/2006 at 08:05 AM
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Every once in a while I see Eowyn’s delicately round character mentioned on a forum (usually the ones discussing women) and I thought, since she seems to have a pretty complex character shown to us in the book, I’d like to try to put together a solid picture, and have a discussion here about its different assets, such as her motives and expectations.
Aredhriel 11/May/2006 at 09:54 AM
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Eowyn has always been one of my favorite characters in the LOTR trilogy just because she seemed to stand out in comparison to so many of the other female characters in his stories. She was brave, courageous, and yet she was still utterly feminine--vulnerable and emotional at times as well. And of course, she was destined to play a role in the War of the Ring as she helped to defeat the Witch King of Angmar during the battle at Pelennor Fields. My favorite quotation on Eowyn (though I can’t provide it b/c I don’t have my books right now ) is when Gandalf is talking to Eomer while she is under the black breath in the houses of healing and he tells him that Eowyn had a spirit at least the match of his own, explaining that that is why she felt a need to be of more use than to just sit at home while the fighting was going on.

Then of course when she meets and falls in love with Faramir (also another favorite character of mine!)

Laielinwen 11/May/2006 at 10:30 AM
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I think Eowyn is Tolkien’s most well rounded and well written female character. While I don’t find her very feminine and see her as more of a tomboy type I also see her as a great beauty in her own right and able to lead as well as any man. I love her courage and her tenacity. She is both outspoken and a wonderful thinker/ponderer/plotter! She is willful and has a heart of gold. She has such love for her own that she is selfless and courageous and willing to sacrifice her own life for them. She is also empathetic as we see in her taking Merry along with her. There are many qualities that Tolkien gave her. I could sense so well her attraction to Aragorn and then feel her love for Faramir though it was different. She is a great character.
Ghostlore 19/May/2006 at 07:44 PM
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Eowyn in my mind, represents all that women are denied, and all that they are capable of. Is it any coincidence that it is woman, the life-giver that is able to defeat death? In a male dominated power structure, here is a female capable of doing what no man can, and with style. Though, I will stop there, don’t want to whisper anything that might be construed as metaphor..!
halfir 19/May/2006 at 08:52 PM
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Duiel: I suggest you look in on the thread Tolkien and Women in the Tolkien the Man Forum where the character of Eowyn has been under fairly detailed scrutiny recently :

http://www.lotrplaza.com/forum/display_topic_threads.asp?ForumID=49&TopicID=198323&PagePosition=1&PagePostPosition=1

ghostlore: Nor anything that might be considered feminist heresy?X( As to her defeating death- by which I presume you mean the demise of the Witch-king I was under the impression that Merry had a part to play in that too!X( And the Witch-king could not finally ’die’ until the One had been destroyed.

Sermela Calalen 19/May/2006 at 10:28 PM
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Personally Eowyn is one of my least favorite characters *ducks from the boos and rotten fruit being thrown at her* I just can’t get past her abandoning her people. She was given an incredibly honorable job, not usually given to women, to guard the people back home. She was to rule until the king returned. Yet she leaves and instead does what she desired to do. I find it selfish, rebellious, and hard to praise. I guess it comes down to does the end justify the means? Had things gone south and the Rohirrim defeated their is no indication that there was anyone to lead the people of Rohan. They were left defenseless. Now I do accept the feelings that she felt, the denial, futility, and everything else. Most though would be branded a traitor who did what she did though and I can see no justification for her disobeying her king. 
halfir 20/May/2006 at 01:59 AM
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Sermela Calalaen:You might be surprised at how much support your view shares. I suggest that you too look in on Tolkien and Women:

http://www.lotrplaza.com/forum/display_topic_threads.asp?ForumID=49&TopicID=198323&PagePosition=1&PagePostPosition=1X(

Gerontian 20/May/2006 at 07:12 AM
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Eowyn’s impulsivity and failure to show the kind of judgement and insight that Sermela faults her for strike me as evidence one thing.  She is young.  She is in love for the first time, and has felt trapped for much of her youth in a seemingly hopeless situation.  Her lack of a mature response has always felt congruent to me because while she is valiant, brave and loyal, she is not quite mature enough to see how the kingdom’s needs outweigh her own. I do not think her behavior is a characterlogical flaw, but merely a sign of her youth.

Ghostlore 20/May/2006 at 07:51 AM
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Gerontian - In some regards the inability to "see how the kingdom’s needs outweigh her own" could be interpreted as a universal flaw commonly afflicting all rulers, and borrows more from the id/ego than from age. It could very well be that Eowyn’s disobeying Theoden was a selfish act.

Sermela Calalen - Perhaps she judged the course of action intended for her as imprudent, especially coming from a liege who was for so long out of the loop. With the fate of all good folk hanging in the balance, it may be that she saw the futility in standing alone against the invaders of Mordor should the armies of good failed. (which you do mention, just building on that) If this were the case we could view it as an act of great courage to directly disobey Theoden’s will, and act in immediate defense of her people, instead of waiting for death. We should also note that she chose to engage the Witch King, (and as halfir reminds me Merry was there too!) this echoes her great courage.

Obedience is a dual edged sword. As is the burden of leadership. By asking her to stay behind and watch over her people, she is locked into a position of responsibility that forces her to excercise her personal judgement. While the request was honorable, it was also unrealistic. What type of leader better serves her people? One who follows any course of action put upon her, regardless of whether or not she disagrees with it, because it is her duty, or a thing of honor? Or a leader who weighs her options, and makes her own decision, because she feels deep down that is truely the road that need be traveled? I cannot answer this question. I do know, though, that for her to be appointed to the task, Theoden had great faith in her, and he must have known subconsciously that she would do what was right.

 

mighty ent man 20/May/2006 at 08:49 AM
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For me the best bits of Eowyn’s character come out when Men are involved!! Her interaction with Aragorn reveals a great deal to us about her and so does her amazing dialogue with Faramir in the Houses of Healing. We see her as a deeply troubled woman, who has never found someone who truly loves her. She lost her mother and father wehave to remember and looks upon Theoden as her father. She shares a love with her brother I think, and we see little evidence of her having any female companions. She does not love Aragorn, she wants to, she admires him. When she finds love she is reluctant to be open to it at first but then when she gives in she enjoys that feeling.

Sermela - What an interesting point of view to take on Eowyn. I agree that it was selfish and wrong to do. She was left to lead and look after her people and her people did look up to her and depend on her. I do not think your view at all harsh.

Gerontian - I do not think Eowyn was in love with Aragorn as this point in the story, so you cannot use this an excuse for her running away. But I agree with the rest of what you say in that she was young and thought that her people could cope on their own, which I think they clearly did. She did not want to leave Theoden to die alone, for she thought they would.

 

Duiel 20/May/2006 at 10:35 AM
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Well, I am definitely impressed by your responses so far

Mighty ent man, I think you brought up a really interesting point about her being a troubled woman in need of love, and I have to say that I agree.

Although she wants to and has to act as a man to gain recognition (though it is because she is a woman that she actually gains it), I believe that she is an ultimately very feminine character. And luckily she has far too many layers to fit exactly into stereotypes.
Boromir88 20/May/2006 at 11:24 AM
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I just like how Eowyn changes as the book goes on.

When she thinks she loves Aragorn it is because she thinks he can give her what she wants.  Eowyn doesn’t want to stay back at home and "watch over things."  She wants to be out there on the battlefield, fighting (sounds kind of like Boromir, and gets me wondering what would happen if those two met ).  Anyway, with Aragorn, it’s a feeling a desire that she wants.  She thinks that Aragorn can give her what she wants.  Which is to be out there fighting, out there on the battlefield and she believes Aragorn has the power and authority to do this.  She doesn’t want to stay behind and be locked in a "cage" as she would tell you.  And she thinks that Aragorn is the guy that can bring her to the battlefield where she can win praise.

The change occurs when she meets Faramir.  And it’s funny because of the different person that Faramir is.  After all this is over, while Aragorn and Eomer go about killing the rest of the Orcs, its the Steward’s job to stay behind and govern until the King comes back.  It’s just interesting to see the change from wanting a person who she thought could give her glory on the battlefield.  To someone stays back at home and governs while the King is away fighting.

Sermela Calalen 20/May/2006 at 05:41 PM
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Halfir- Thank you i’ll definitely take a look

Gerontian- Ok I will bend a little and allow some of her selfishness to be attributed to youth, but youth is a reason and not a valid excuse. I bend only because I see in her actions throughout the books an adolescent rebellion and insecurity. Though she is 24 in the time of the war of the ring and I think by then you shouldn’t act like a 15 year old anymore, still I will offer a little grace. As Ghostlore said though that thought process isn’t always because of youth and we have no proof to the contrary as there is neither repentance nor consequence. 

Ghostlore- Yes obedience is dangerous, yet conditional obedience is often more so. Growing up in America I had to do a lot of study to try and understand a kingdom mentality. I was raised with the phrases "my rights" and "individual ownership" and knew little else. Because of the fact that I am a Bible student I was faced with learning about the "kingdom of God" and so I chose to study authority. I have been doing my best to learn unconditional obedience, save only when it violates your own conscience (as in I won’t lie, kill, or steal for anyone). Now for Eowyn’s situation I highly doubt her conscience drove her to disobey. She herself paints the picture of someone who desired above all else glory. Also had it not been for glory she surely would have set up a faithful steward in her place. Now the other question is what about him having been deceived for so long? Does that give her the right to overrule? Or how about the fact that she just plain disagreed? Theoden seemed very much in his right mind when he left her in charge (unless you count the fact he left a selfish child to rule as one possible reason for her actions is) and so I see no defense in that statement. Even though she was technically "ruling" Rohan does not mean she can deny her king. She like Denethor was made a steward  only to become queen if both Theoden and Eomer died. Disagreement now (my favorite) is ludicrous. How often have you disagreed with a leader over you? How about with one of your parents over you? If we disagree with a leader how strong must the disagreement be before justifying disobedience? A child sneaking out of the house after dark because they hate their curfew. An employee throwing out a company policy because to them they see no point. A criminal stealing because they disagree that it shouldn’t be theirs. The child gets killed, the company goes under, and a hardworking family loses the things they have worked hard to earn. Where does one draw the line?

As for who can serve her people better? I would leave a place before putting myself under the authority of someone who is he or she refusing to be under someone else’s authority. She is young as Gerontian pointed out and the idea that she would know better than the king (and he is not the only one who agreed) on whether the people needed to be governed or left alone is foolishness. I am 20 years old and don’t pretend to know how to run our government. At that point I think the wise thing to do would be to obey. I know things looked hopeless, and I feel for her there. Just because she is one of my least favorite doesn’t mean I don’t like her it just means I really like everyone else. Theoden I am sure did trust her, the question is did she betray that trust?
Gerontian 20/May/2006 at 06:21 PM
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Ghostlore, a point to consider is that if Eowyn was a selfish individual by nature, we would have seen evidence of this in her behavior prior to her running off in disquise.  Also, selfish individuals rarely evoke feelings of love and loyalty from those around them they way that Eowyn did. Aragorn sees the quality in her, Faramir falls in love with her, and ultimately, she with him. Nothing in her history suggests a prior penchant for selfish or egotisical behavior. I think she would have run away far sooner if that had been the case. 

Sermela, I did not mean to excuse Eowyn’s behavior, only interpret it based on my observation.  As you know, emotional maturity takes time to develope, and some twenty year olds are more advanced in this area than their older peers. In any case, mine is only a speculation based on my observation of her in the story.  I ask myself the question, "What drives her to behave like this," and the answers I arrive at are youth, hopelessly unrequited love, all mounted on top of years of feeling hopeless and helpless.  I, too, like Eowyn.  I doubt she thought of her own behavior as a betrayal of trust, but rather, that eveyone elses behavior towards her was unjust, did not consider her feelings about her value as a woman and a fighter.  Just guesses on my part.

Duiel 21/May/2006 at 01:01 AM
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"Your duty is with your people," he answered.

"Too often have I heard of duty," she cried....

"...did you not accept the charge to govern the people until their lord’s return?..."

"Shall I always be chosen?" she said bitterly. "Shall I always be left behind when the Riders depart, to mind the house while they win renown, and find food and beds when they return?"

"A time may come soon," said he, "when none will return. Then there will be need of valour without renown, for none shall remember the deeds that are done in the last defense of your homes. Yet the deeds will not be less valient because they are unpraised."

And she answered: "All your words are but to say: you are a woman, and your part is in the house. But when the men have died in battle and honour, you have leave to be burned in the house, for the men will need it no more. But I am of the House of Eorl and not a serving-woman. I can ride and wield blade, and I do not fear either pain or death."

"What do you fear lady?" he asked.

"A cage," she said. "To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire."

(RotK, The Passing of the Grey Company)


I think she simply feels caged. I have felt it for sure, so I can kind of understand her. She is tired of duty and she is tired of doing what others tell her to do. Yes, selfish indeed (and no, Gerontian, it does not necessarily mean that she is always selfish, but acting selfishly at this occasion). And she is rebelling against the king, against the society which has imprisoned her.

Personally, I see it as a good thing, but that is personal, and comes highly from my own background. I suppose you could see it either way though.

In a way, the situation reminds me of Nora’s situation in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House:

HELMER: But this is monstrous! Can you neglect your most sacred duties?

NORA: What do you call my most sacred duties?

HELMER: Do I have to tell you? Your duties towards your husband, and your children.

NORA: I have another duty which is equally sacred.

HELMER: You have not. What on earth could that be?

NORA: My duty towards myself.



Nora, like Éowyn, neglects her family (as Éowyn neglects her people), to break free of "duty" towards others and duty in society and to fulfill her duty to herself.
halfir 21/May/2006 at 03:10 AM
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Duiel: My duty towards myself.

Via your Ibsen quote you raise a very interesting point of debate regarding  Eowyn which perhaps I- a somewhat harsh critic of her actions- have not considered sufficiently. Alternatively one might  argue that Nora’s comment refelcts a more modern approach to concepts of duty than those that would obtain in Eowyn’s time. But I am delighted you raised the issue which I certainly need to think about.X(

geordie 21/May/2006 at 04:00 AM
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As I said in the ’Tolkien and Women’ thread, though I have a lot of time for Eowyn, I am of the opinion that her leaving her post in time of war was wrong. Whatever the outcome. Her motive - to seek a glorious death in battle - was selfish, as opposed to Theoden’s selfless, self-sacrificing motive, which was [whatever happened to him personally] to lead his men; to carry the battle to the enemy, rather than to sit and await annihilation in the hills. [this policy being based on Gandalf’s advice].

Eowyn was thinking of herself; to seek an end to her misery by seeking her own personal glory, at the expense of those who depended on her.

[cf. my post on the similarities between Eowyn/Merry and Beorhthelm/Beorhtwold in the Anglo-Saxon poem The Battle of Maldon, discussed by Tolkien in one of his essays].

On the other hand, look at the quotes, and also Gandalf’s remarks to Eomer in the Houses of Healing, and now imagine what the effect would be if Eowyn had not survived the fight with the Witch-King. Well, my impression of Eowyn’s character would be different!

But she did survive, and was faced with the choice of staying as she was - defiant, looking for fights with everyone and anyone; whether it be the women of the Houses of Healing; or the Warden, or Faramir - or of growing up, and setting aside her puppy-love for Aragorn, which could never be.

I also think that for a while at least, she shared that most unjust feeling of self-hate commonly felt by soldiers who survived, while seeing others die: that is, guilt.

In my view [which is changing and developing in light of discussions on this Plaza, Eowyn’s character was in danger of becoming ’unknown, and unknowing’ - that is, we might not have had insight into her actions, and she herself may not have understood them, if Tolkien had been less of an author!

But as it is, we have here a fully-rounded character, explained to us very subtly, by Tolkien using a literary method which does not get much attention - the mediaeval method of ’interlace’, where a part of the plot, or in this case ’character analysis’ is carried out in a lace-like thread, wound through the warp and weft of the greater story. So we hear of Eowyn’s character through the words of the narrator; and through her talk with Theoden and Aragorn; and also through Gandalf’s talk with Eomer in the Houses of Healing.

As for Ibsen’s Nora - [what a hobbit-like name!] She would not have got far at my old Secondary Modern School with an attitude like that! ’My duty to myself’, indeed! We had the virtue of duty and service drummed into us every morning in this prayer at assembly, and it never done us any harm!
O yes.

’To give, and not to count the cost
To fight, and not to heed the wounds,
To toil, and not to seek for rest
To labour, and not to ask for any reward,
Save that of knowing that we do Thy will’.


Yes, we too were told of our rights as English people; and also of the men and women whose sacrifices made those right possible. And we were also taught the idea of our responsibilities - to our families; our school, and our country. It’s funny; I don’t think I’ve thought of it that way, till now.


mighty ent man 21/May/2006 at 05:42 AM
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Duiel - Although she wants to and has to act as a man to gain recognition (though it is because she is a woman that she actually gains it) - What do you mean by this? Are you referring to the Prophecy?

 An excellent observation that she was doing a duty to herself. However should the duty to your people or to yourself take priority?

Boromir88 - When she thinks she loves Aragorn - Ah it is refreshing to see someone else who thinks the same as me! She does not love Aragorn, well she does, she is just not IN love with him. There is a huge difference between the two.

Sermela - I think that Theoden would not view it as a betrayal of his trust. Had he lived he would have been angry at her for leaving and coming into danger and risk, but he would have understood her reasons for doing so. She did not want to watch all that she loved go off to battle and be at home and be able to do nothing about it. She wanted to protect Theoden, her father figure. I know she did disobey her orders and committed an irresponsible act. I am not saying she did not do this, but in times of war people are driven to do silly things!

Gerontian - I also do not think she was selfish. She cared for others a great deal, she was slightly selfish in that she did act on behalf of her own feelings but many a time she acted out of love and caring for other people.

 

Duiel 21/May/2006 at 06:33 AM
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Why I never said that her performing her duty to herself rather than her people was right or wrong. I think that is up to personal judgement, and a little bit of both, and certainly debatable.

And mighty ent man, I agree with you as well (concerning Éowyn’s feelings towards Aragorn). And what I meant by my quote which you mentioned was indeed referring to the Prophecy.
mighty ent man 21/May/2006 at 06:56 AM
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Duiel - I just wanted to make sure that you realise that it is not strictly speaking because she is a woman that he dies. The Witcking could have been killed by a Man, he just was not destined to have been so. It was physically possibly for him to die at the hand of a man though.
halfir 21/May/2006 at 02:55 PM
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geordie: ’My duty to myself’, indeed!

Your observations on duty are-as ever- very perceptive.X( My own comment:

Nora’s comment reflects a more modern approach to concepts of duty than those that would obtain in Eowyn’s time.

was effectively a microcosm of the expanded point you made on the subject.Yet I do think Duiel’s quote does give further food for thought on the complex character of Eowyn-which -as you rightly observe- is as much described through the comments of others- the entrelacement or medieval  literary device of interlace that Tolkien uses- as of herself.

Sermela Calalen 21/May/2006 at 11:14 PM
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Gerontian- I am sure you were not trying to excuse her and you are right people mature at different speeds. Which is why I do not necessarily like the idea of someone inheriting authority (though there have been amazing kings in history who began their rule as children). I beleive the greatest rulers of all time showed thier greatest traits to be humility and selflessness.

Duiel- Yes she does feel caged and I think we all have at some point in our lives. I broke out a cage you could say to do what I do today, but I broke out not through disobedience or force I put my own dreams on hold until my parents came around and saw my passion as I did everything they allowed me too to push my cage door open. I made a decision that rather than look out for myself I would look out for the cares of my family and that is what ultimately opened the door for me. I know that is not always the case, but in Eowyn’s all evidence it would have been, even if it was not in time for the war.

To do what I do has placed me in a role of leadership over some thirty people directly (about 20 7-9 year olds and 10 teenage girls) and over 1700 people indirectly. To do this I have sacrificed much of my "personal life" meeting with these high school girls and helping them deal with problems large and small (often giving up an hour of my time only to have them not come) and taking hours out of my week to plan games, lessons, and set up sound for our children’s ministry. There is very little glory or honor and yes it can be frusterating, yet I have no desire to stop or "to look out for myself" because it honestly doesn’t matter. I love those girls both kids and teens with my whole heart, as if they were my own. Just as a good mother would guard her kids against every deanger so I guard them. Yes I have my time off occasionally and yes I do have a life apart from them (mainly here) but I disagree with a need to focus on oneself above the needs of others. I have leaders who have been there for me at 3 am and I intend to be that leader. Perhaps I ask too much, but I would hope at least that much from someone chosen to rule over a nation.

geordie- I too see the fullfillment of her character in the end of the books and I must say she becomes someone quite respectable and that is why I still like her character.

 

mighty ent man 22/May/2006 at 03:01 AM
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Sermela - However can you not excuse what Eowyn did on the context of which it happened in. It was a time of War, her father (he basically was) and brother were both riding off to a battle in which they had little hope of winning. She had the night before watched Aragorn go off into the Paths of the Dead, into what she must have thought would be certain death. She was probably in a depressed mood. And then once again, she is left to look after her people. Now I agree, she should have taken this task more seriously and if I was one of those people she was left to look after I would be annoyed at her running off. Many people probably wanted to seek councel in her, but she was gone. But I think we have to see why she ran away. She wanted to protect Theoden, she feared death coming to get her, she wanted to meet death herself in her own way. She wanted to be near her brother and father when she died. And if she did indeed believe she was going to die is it not fair for her to chose how she dies?
Ragnelle 22/May/2006 at 08:32 AM
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"Andyat I know not how to speak of her. When I first looked on her and perceived her unhappiness, it semed to me that I saw a white flower standing straight and proud, shapely as a lilly, and yet knew it was hard, as if wrought by elf-wrights out of steel. Or was it, maybe, a frost that had turned its sap to ice, and so it stood, bitter-sweet, still fair to see, but stricken, soon to fall and die? Her malady begins far back before this day. does it not, Éomer?" RotK,  The Houses of Healing

Both Aragorn’s words here, and Gandalf’s a little later in the same chapter, draws a picture of someone that struggles with more than youthfull egoism.

I find it too easy to say that Eowyn should have staid and done her duty, and with that judge her. She has done her duty, despise her feelings, for a long time. This has made her ill, so much that Aragorn is not sure if she will live even though he may call her back. And in this the comparison to Nora is quite to the point; in neglecting her duty towards herself, she is unable to to her duty toward her people.

Nora at the end of the play, can no stay. If she had, she would have destroied not only herself, but her husband and children as well.

Eowyn is desperate after Aragorn takes the Paths of the Dead. "Shall I allways be chosen?" It does not matter that it was an honourable charge, she did not want it. It was too much what she had done for so long, and the cage she thought was opening, snapped shut. Would she, in this desperation, really be a good leader for her people?

I can’t free myself from the thought that Theoden was not very wise in choosing Eowyn to stay and lead. That she was chosen when they left to fight Saruman, is one thing; the people asked for her and this was also a time of hope as well as pressing danger. But afterwards? Why does he take Eomer, his heir, with him and do not leave him in charge? I am not sure if this was something that came about after Eomer was king, but it is said in UT that "in war the Council was unwilling that an old King should send his Heir to battle beyond the realm, unless he had at least one other son." UT, The Battles of the Fords of Isen, App i

In this situation both King and Heir went, and neither had sons. And whom do they leave to care for the people? One touched by frost, desperate to escape her cage. Would this be someone likely to be able to care well for a whole people, even if she had stayed? That does not seem likely to me, but neither Theoden nor Eomer seems to see this.

And what would Eowyn become if she had stayed? Would she have been healed? Would her character have been fullfilled - to borrow Sermela’s expression? She needed Faramir, not because of her meeting with the Witch-king, but because she was ill long before that. She needed to be healed, and staying at home would not have healed her. Un-healed she is unable to do what she is charged with.

I may be putting a lot into Tolkien’s text here, but the description of Eowyn given by Gandalf and Aragorn in the Houses of Healing indicate strongly that something in her has been damaged by Wormtounge and the whole situation in Theoden’s house before his healing by Gandalf. And I have seen the result in RL of someone staying too long to do her duty to others. And she was not in an abusive situation, just one that was wrong for her. But she had made promises, and so she stayed until seg became ill. Five years later she is still not able to work. She did no good to her ex-husband or her children by staying. Duty indeed!

I also see a gender-issue her. Not that I think Tolkien made any kind of feminist statement with Eowyn, but would she have been in her situation had she been a man?

"’My friend,’ said Gandalf, ’you had horses, and deeds of arms, and the free fields; but she, born in the body of a maid, had spirit and courage at least the match of yours. Yet she was doomed to wait upon an old man, whom she loved as a father, and watch him falling into a mean dishonoured dotage; and her part seemed to her more ignoble than that of the staff he leaned on.’" RotK, The Houses of Healing

Why was she doomed to do this? Because she was a she. Eomer had an escape because he was a man, she did not, because she was a woman. Had Eomer been left to rule, he would probably not have liked it, but I think he would have stayed. Why? Because he has had an outlet and though frustrated at the situation, he still had action to chanell the frustration into. He could direct it outwards, and thus he was not damaged the way Eowyn was. She could only direct her frustration inwards - because she strived to do her duty.

"Dotard! What is the house of Eorl but a thatched barn where brigands drink in the reek, and their brats roll on the floor among their dogs?  Have you not heard those words before? Saruman spoke them, the teacher of Wormtounge. Though I do not doubt that Wormtongue at home wrapped their meaning in terms more cunning. My lord, if your sister’s love for you, and her will still bent on her duty, had not restained her lips, you might have heard even such things as these escape them." Ibid. my emphasis

Perhaps if she had not restained herself, she might have escaped some damage. Had she been able to lead men in fights like a man, she might not have despeared. As it was, she became ill.

Sermela Calalen 22/May/2006 at 03:25 PM
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Mighty ent man- The context in which it happened is the exact reason I condemn her. If she had just been some girl then it would have mattered less. The fact that she was in fact the ruler of her people takes away her rights to make decisions based on her emotions or circumstance. Was Theoden wrong to leave her in charge? Yes, in her state of mind he was and if he had not and she had gone I would have said little, but he did and she abandoned her people. This isn’t just a few people who may have wanted to ask someone a "Dear Abby" type of question this was the rulership of an entire people, and entire country. Look at the chaos in America because some people question the President’s motives, imagine if he just up and disappeared on us. And this would not even be as bad as it would be if it was a kingdom time. As we have VP’s and advisors and a whole list of people to follow. Leaders do not have that privelege. It may seem harsh, but a leader gives up their right to put themselves first. It is not fair, but it is truth. She did not have the right to decide how she died.

Ragnelle- Yes she was sick. She should never have been left in charge, thus some blame falls on Theoden. But not for her choices. She chose to disobey and abandon her people plain and simple.

mighty ent man 23/May/2006 at 03:28 AM
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Ragnelle - Excellent first observation there, that it is more than youthful desire taking hold of her. Aragorn I think knows bets out of all the characters that she was a troubled woman. And I think the time of War and hardship only served to make things worse for her.

Would she, in this desperation, really be a good leader for her people? - I think this is an excellent point to make too. I do not think she would have been the best leader in this time if she stayed behind. I get the impression she could have easily fallen into depression. For she would not know what was happening to all that she loved.

I think what you are hinting at is that is was a poor choice to pick Eowyn, one which was destined not to work. This is a good line to take on the matter, but I think the conflict here is with duty to accept a task given to you or to follow your true feelings. To obey or disobey. I think that if staying was going to do more harm to her than leaving then in this time she made the right decision for herself. Although the nagging thought of leaving her whole race of people behind is still there!

I also really like your idea of her being a woman was detrimental to herself. I agree with this, she was a woman and therefore not permitted to fight and let out her feelings in this way when this is what she desired to do. This led to her slowly becoming depressed and caged.

Sermela - I believe she should have the right and did have the right. Her father, without consulting with her laid this heavy burden upon her. He told her she had to do this without even considering anyone else. She was placed in a situation which she dreaded and hated. I know she did not do well to leave her people, but when you take into account all Ragnelle said in the above post you see the context matters incredibly. She was not a person to lead.

 

 

Ragnelle 23/May/2006 at 08:00 AM
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mighty ent man: Thank you for those comments. Yes, I see what you mean; there is the conflict between her acsepting the task given and following her feelings. I think that conflict is present in most choises we make, and it is not allways easy to know which duty is more inportaint in all situations.

However, I am not sure that Eowyn’s ’betrayal’ of her people is quite that. LotR is of course our main text, but in UT Tolkien makes a comment that makes me wonder what Eowyn was suppose to do, exatly. In a note to the appendix of The Battles of the Frods of Isen, he writes:

"Grimbold was a lesser marshal of the Riders of West-mark in Théodred’s command, and was given this position [the function of Thitd Mashal - my comment], as a man of valour in both the battles at the Frods, because Eikenbrand was an older man, and the King felt the need of one with dignity and authority to leave behind in command of such forces as could be speared for the defence of Rhoan." UT, The Battles of the Fords of Isen, appendix i

This is Tolkien’s own note, not Christopher Tolkien’s. So it seems, if we give any authority to the UT text, that Eowyn does not leave the Eorlingas defensless. In fact it seems as if she is not given autority to command the defence. What is left for her? Find food and shelter, and comfort those left, perhaps. Importaint enough, but enough to say that she abandoned her people?

Semela: I find your dissmissal to easy. Life is not easy, neither are the world in Tolkien’s work.

mighty ent man 23/May/2006 at 01:02 PM
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Ragnelle - and it is not allways easy to know which duty is more inportaint in all situations. - This is where Sermela’s view comes in. She is perfectly right to view Eowyn in bad way for I do think in this situation her duty should perhaps have been to her people as she was appointed to look after them and lead them. However I excuse her for her personal situation was one which had been building for some time and this was the final straw.

I also think that Sermela did dismiss you reasons far too simply, it is not a simple matter of disobedience.

stevem1 24/May/2006 at 01:04 AM
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I think mighty ent man makes a good point: Aragorn’s ’indulgence’ or sympathy for her is based on his perception that she is ’troubled’.

Yes, she is selfish in the way that young people are - and she is young, and inexperienced. She does abandon her duties and follow her feelings. But she is troubled. She is, most of the time, in an emotional state - acting on emotions. She has a lot of history - adoption, fall into apathy of her Father and King etc and is not coping very well with the situation. It is easy to sympathise with her and hard to judge her - at least for me. At the same time, she is tough and strong-willed, but able to be swayed by reason, I think. She is a good person, but simply swept up into the chaotic maelstrom of the war.
mighty ent man 24/May/2006 at 02:24 AM
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stevem - Your last sentence is an important one for me personally. I think the fact that this is a time of War makes the situation all the worse. Let me see if I can look at this though the use of a good example. Lets say that this same situation had happened but not in War. Lets say Theoden and all of his Men, including Eomer had to ride off to Gondor to meet Denethor for a meeting or something! And Eowyn was left to guard her people for the time they were gone. Now she would have wanted to go no doubt, but she would have stayed I think because the desperation of War was not present. It is this desperation that in part drives her onwards to leave her people, she fears she will loose those that she loves.
Duiel 24/May/2006 at 03:27 AM
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Wow...let me say that you have made some wonderful analyses recently and I am impressed by your discussion. Ragnelle, that was a great point you made. Éowyn had been caged so long, and served others so long, that she had grown ill. Stevem, you made a good point as well. I must say that I agree.

But I am brewing full of questions about Éowyn, and it does not stop at what it meant when she left her people. For one, why does she seek death?
mighty ent man 25/May/2006 at 10:31 AM
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Duiel - I am not so sure as that she does truly want to die. Yes she seemed depressed and troubled in mind but I do not think she wanted to die. She wanted to find happiness I think. But I think she often sunk into despair and at times made out like she wanted to die. If you think she wanted to die then I think much of what is said above points to why she would want to die. She was as many have said a troubled person and had little happiness in Middle Earth.
halfir 25/May/2006 at 07:38 PM
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mighty ent man: Her father, without consulting with her laid this heavy burden upon her. He told her she had to do this without even considering anyone else.

Firstly, Theoden was her uncle, not her father, and it is clear why he should have chosen her- she was the representative of the royal house, which would have had enormous significance to the people. (cf. my posts and geordie’s in:

 http://www.lotrplaza.com/forum/display_topic_threads.asp?ForumID=49&TopicID=198323&PagePosition=1&PagePostPosition=1

Flame Fried Ent 25/May/2006 at 08:18 PM
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Mighty Ent Man--to follow up with halfir’s post, the Rohirrim basically tell Theoden, when he asks who should stay to rule them, that Eowyn is one of their top choices, in part because she IS of the House of Eorl, and since she is a woman, and therefore "not supposed to to riding off to war", she will not be missed in the battle.  Turns out that she *would* have been missed...but she was the popular choice to stay behind as well.
geordie 26/May/2006 at 12:42 AM
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I am not so sure as that she does truly want to die. Yes she seemed depressed and troubled in mind but I do not think she wanted to die.

As I mentioned in the other thread [refd. by halfir above] Eowyn’s story is told throughout TT and RK, in an ’interlace’. We know that death in battle was her aim. She said so.

’I looked for death in battle. But I have not died, and the battle still goes on’.
[RK; The Steward and the King]

And Tolkien tells us the same thing, in Merry’s first sight of Dernhelm - He [Merry] caught the glint of clear grey eyes; and then he shivered, for it came suddenly to him that it was the face of one without hope who goes in search of death.
[RK; The Muster of Rohan]

At the LotR 50th anniversary conference, held in Birmingham last year, there was a Q&A sesion with Priscilla Tolkien. Miss Tolkien was asked whether her father had based Eowyn on her; or at least, had written Eowyn in to the story in order to please her. Miss Tolkien replied no, she did’nt think that either was the case! In her opinion, her father simply wanted to include the theme of a woman dressing as a man - as in some of Shakespeare’s plays. An interesting insight, no?

Suppose a man had been left behind at Edoras? Would he be getting the same ’oh, he had problems; what was he supposed to do?’ type of treatment? As is well known, Tolkien was an infantry officer in WWI. He knew as well as any the idea of a chain of command; of duty, and that leaving the place where you’ve been put in time of war is a serious thing. But he convinces us that in this case, the end justified the means. Pity and mercy at work in his book, again.

That reminds me - the ’Munby’ letter gets mentioned quite a bit on these fora, as one member or other asks the same question - ’were there any orc-women?’ [the answer, given in this unpublished letter is, there must have been].

But there is something else quoted in the Sotheby catalogue from which that quote is taken: Tolkien says that the book is ’about death, Pity and sacrifice’. Three themes summed up in the story within a story; tha tale of Eowyn and her beloved uncle, of one seeking death in battle and who was spared by Pity; and one who, far from leading a ’suicidal mission’ as I’ve seen it described, fulfilled his oaths and ended in glory.

mighty ent man 26/May/2006 at 02:57 AM
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halfir - It was a time of War, her father (he basically was)  - This is my quote from an earlier post in this thread, I am perfectly aware that he was her Uncle but her was like a Father to her, she saw him as her father and he saw her as his daughter. I placed basically was as I know that genetically he is not, but he took her into his family as his daughter essentially.

geordie - Yes you have shown me well there in those first two quotes that she seeked death in the battle. However I think deep down inside her there was a part of her that secretly did not want to die, she wanted to live if only to find happiness. Yes she did want to die, but not all of her wanted to die. I think deep down she was hoping to find love or find something to pull her out of her miserable life.

 

halfir 26/May/2006 at 03:09 AM
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mighty ent man: I have been a close follower of this thread and have read all the posts- but that does not mean I remember every word and relook at all posts when I read one which appears mistaken to me. However, I accept that you do indeed refer to Theoden as a ’father figure’ to Eowyn in earlier posts. I looked through them to confirm that fact! However, many readers simply look at the last post in a thread , so I suggest for the avoidance of doubt and for the sake of clarity you always qualify Theoden’s relationship with Eowyn as you did earlier.X(
mighty ent man 26/May/2006 at 05:34 AM
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halfir - Well for the sake of typing quicker and for the ease of reading my posts I decided to mention a few times that he was basically her father. Then in later posts I did as you say neglect to always refer to him as her Uncle. The reason I also said he was her Father is that he is. He is her father figure, him leaving is the equivalent of our father leaving. I used it to try to express to people how she would be feeling. I did not mean to say you did not read the thread, just that I wanted to show you that I was aware that he is not genetically her father, but he is basically her father. What is more important, genes or love?
Duiel 26/May/2006 at 08:00 AM
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Quote: Originally posted by mighty ent man on Friday, May 26, 2006

halfir - It was a time of War, her father (he basically was)  - This is my quote from an earlier post in this thread, I am perfectly aware that he was her Uncle but her was like a Father to her, she saw him as her father and he saw her as his daughter. I placed basically was as I know that genetically he is not, but he took her into his family as his daughter essentially.


I suppose this is basically like saying that Bilbo is Frodo’s uncle?

geordie 26/May/2006 at 11:07 AM
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I suppose this is basically like saying that Bilbo is Frodo’s uncle?

Not really. Bilbo was Frodo’s cousin, as well as being his adoptive father. I can’t remember Frodo and Bilbo being refered to as uncle and nephew. Or am I wrong?


What is more important, genes or love?

In Tolkien’s world; genes. But love is important, too. In the case of the children of Theodwyn and their mother’s brother, there was no conflict between family and love.
mighty ent man 27/May/2006 at 04:36 AM
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geordie - Why are genes more important? I would say that Theoden is Eowyns father. At what age did Eowyn come into the care of Theoden? I understand that you say in Tolkiens world, thus making some sort of distinction but why?

halfir 27/May/2006 at 06:11 AM
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mighty ent man: I suspect that what geordie is referring to is the concept of ’bloodline’. Today, given the pathetic fallacy that all are equal when demonstrably that is not the case, the concept of ’bloodline’ as a determinant characteristic in kingship is something that many find quite unaccceptable. Be that as it may, it is irrelevant to impose that  modern approach upon the attitude of earlier historic periods, however erroneous as a genetic reality,  that concept of bloodline may have been.

The concept of the ’blood royal’ is ingrained in untold earlier histories and literatures and played a significant part in RL history. Given the mythic nature of the ME world such a concept would have been highly relevant to the way it approached its view of royalty. Indeed, the whole of ME history is peppered with references to royal lines stretching back in time. Indeed, Denethor’s rejection of Aragorn , as Pelendur’s before him of Arvedui, is related to concepts of the ’blood royal’,and lineage is a fundamental aspect in Tolkien’s fantasy literature.

mighty ent man 27/May/2006 at 06:21 AM
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halfir - Yes I know that the bloodline concept is important in terms of who suceeds the throne and in terms of lineage. I see that present in Tolkien and this shows that it is important to him and important in his world. However I maintain that a basic human thing of love is important and that Theoden can be called Eowyns father. I know he himself calls her sister-daughter I think which indicates that he has not fully taken her in to be his daughter.
Mugwort 27/May/2006 at 07:30 AM
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geordie wrote: I can’t remember Frodo and Bilbo being refered to as uncle and nephew. Or am I wrong?

Yes, sort of.

How much or how little he revealed to no one, not even to Frodo his favourite ’nephew’. [Prologue]

For it is, of course, also the birthday of my heir and nephew, Frodo. [Bilbo himself in A Long-expected Party]

it looked remarkably like the young nephew of Bilbo who used to go tramping with his uncle in the Shire [Many Meetings]
geordie 28/May/2006 at 01:31 AM
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Mugwort - thanks for those. I don’t know where my mind is lately!
Menelvir 28/May/2006 at 06:54 AM
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Quote: Originally posted by mighty ent man on Saturday, May 27, 2006
halfir - I know he himself calls her sister-daughter I think which indicates that he has not fully taken her in to be his daughter.

Hmm... I always thought he called her ’sister-daughter’ because Eowyn is, literally, his sister’s daughter, or niece. Pardon me if I’m wrong. It seems ages since I had the time to sit down and read the books... >_<

Duiel 28/May/2006 at 08:46 AM
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Menelvir, yes, that is the term they used for "niece." I suppose you could take it in a technical manner, or like Halfir in a more implicit one, although I really don’t know. But Gandalf says, in RotK, that Eowyn loved Theoden as a father.

It turns out that Miranda Otto has played Nora from A Doll’s House before for the Sydney Theatre Company, though I think after she did the Lord of the Rings. I find it interesting though, since I am the first person I have seen to connect the 2 characters, but they are in very similar situations.
mighty ent man 28/May/2006 at 12:39 PM
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Menelvir - Hmm... I always thought he called her ’sister-daughter’ because Eowyn is, literally, his sister’s daughter, or niece. - Yes this is why he calls her this, but what I meant in the reference that he has not taken her in yet fully as his daughter is that he obviously is not calling her his daughter. Now maybe he is just following technical terms by doing this but does feel like her father but I found it an interesting observation to make.

 

Bearamir 30/May/2006 at 11:45 AM
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Duiel:  This thread has great Ad Lore potential. With your premission, I’d like to move it to Ad Lore to see if we can get it to develop into the kind of discussion it has the potential of becoming.  Will this be acceptable to you?

NOTE:  For everyone else who may wish to contribute:  a small reminder is in order:  once this thread moves to Ad Lore, there will be some expectations as to the quality of the posts.  So, moving forward, please remember that Ad Lore is for the in depth discussion of topics pertaining to the Lord of the Rings, and try to avoid extraneous chat.   From this point on, I *will* be deleting posts that do no serve to advance the topic, or add materially to the discussion.

Best of Luck (and congratulations once again).

Duiel 02/Jun/2006 at 09:04 AM
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Quote: Originally posted by mighty ent man on Friday, May 26, 2006

geordie - Yes you have shown me well there in those first two quotes that she seeked death in the battle. However I think deep down inside her there was a part of her that secretly did not want to die, she wanted to live if only to find happiness. Yes she did want to die, but not all of her wanted to die. I think deep down she was hoping to find love or find something to pull her out of her miserable life.

 




You make a very good point, and I suppose I agree; deep down she did not want death...maybe. But if she did not want death, then she did not know it. It seems that what she really wanted was escape, and death was an easy way out of the life she was tired of. Aragorn, her previous hope of escape had left, probably to die. But when she met Faramir, and thus came the promise of love and respect and consideration of her as an individual with needs (which her family did not do), she found what she was looking for, and escape from her misery, though I don’t think she knew until that moment that she was looking for it at all.
Nenuphar 02/Jun/2006 at 02:00 PM
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Duiel, you asked why we think Eowyn sought death. I think her reasons were listed in some of the earlier posts about why she left her charge. She had lived for years in a painful, difficult situation where she had no room for escape. To repeat Ragnelle’s quote from earlier:

"’My friend,’ said Gandalf, ’you had horses, and deeds of arms, and the free fields; but she, born in the body of a maid, had spirit and courage at least the match of yours. Yet she was doomed to wait upon an old man, whom she loved as a father, and watch him falling into a mean dishonoured dotage; and her part seemed to her more ignoble than that of the staff he leaned on.’" RotK, The Houses of Healing

Eowyn had the skills and strength to do many of the things her brother Eomer did; furthermore, she enjoyed them and longed for them. Yet because she was a girl she was denied this possibility. Instead she had to watch someone she loved and admired come under the control of Wormtongue and Saruman, with nothing she could do to change it. As was mentioned earlier, her thoughts were also poisoned by Wormtongue, and who knows what bitterness filled her heart?

Finally it seemed like things were changing. The power of Saruman over Theoden was broken, her brother Eomer was no longer punished, and all was good. Yet her own situation barely changed. It was a great honor for Theoden to put her in charge of the Rohirrim (I’ve always seen that as a sign of his great respect for her, even if it also shows a certain amount of blindness on his part to what was going on inside her head; member of the royal family or no, I don’t think he would have entrusted the country to her had he thought she was going to completely botch things up), but it still denied her the thing she most eagerly desired; the chance to use all of the talents and strengths that she recognized in herself (I do not say all those that she had, and they are perhaps not even those that were strongest in her, but they are those that she most appreciated and wanted to use). Once again she was facing that cage that she most feared, and after months or years of despair, it must have seemed the last crushing blow.

Add to this of course the fact that Aragorn had refused her. Now, I agree with some of the other posters who said that she didn’t really love him. I would say that she loved the ideal that he represented, and then when he happened to be attractive and such it was easy for her to get confused on that area. Whatever the truth, however, I think she believed she loved him, and it was hard for her when she refused him. He had also been another possible ticket out of the cage she felt closing in around her.

And (as I say from my ancient perspective of 27 years), she was still only 23. It’s hard to be at the point when you should be starting your adult life to feel nothing more than a cage closing in around you (which may not have been the objective reality, but I think was definitely what she was experiencing subjectively).

All in all, I think it makes sense that she was (at least in some ways) longing for death.
mighty ent man 03/Jun/2006 at 02:33 AM
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Duiel - Exactly, I think Eowyn was a very confused young woman who was not sure what she wanted. She seemed to me a little lost in life, she had the love for Theoden and Eomer but she did not seem to have a solid place in life. She was drifting. Then Aragorn entered her life and she admired him and saw what she wanted, a man to win glory and to sweep her off her feet. When she realised it was not to be so she sunk again into despair and felt she would like to die in battle. But I think deep down she would rather not die, she would rather have the love of someone like Faramir.

Nenuphar - There is a quote somewhere in the books I believe, from someone like Gimili, where he says that everyone who meets Aragorn grows to love him for he is such a kind man. Thus I think Eowyn thought that she loved him, in her situation she would have looked for any way out and she saw Aragorn as one. But she did not truly love him as she did later do with Faramir.

 

Nenuphar 03/Jun/2006 at 03:04 AM
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Many people have talked about the fact that Eowyn deserted the responsibility that Theoden, her king, specifically charged her with. They have also mentioned the potentially grave consequences that this could have brought about for the Rohirrim had they been attacked and forced to defend themselves while leaderless. All of these things are true, and this is something that has often disturbed me about Eowyn. Thinking about this, and why she did what she did, made me think of how her situation compared to that of Frodo. Both of them went through a time of great difficulty, and both ultimately broke at the end rather than carrying out the charges they had been given.

Both she and Frodo went through a long period of trial, being pushed to the limits of what they could handle. Both of them were tested in many ways – Frodo through his quest, and Eowyn through watching things fall apart in her kingdom – and both become worn-out through this testing. Furthermore, both of their minds were slowly being poisoned; Frodo through the Ring and Eowyn through Wormtongue’s words. Finally, each reached the point where he or she could no longer continue with his or her duty. Eowyn ran away from her responsibility as leader of her people. Frodo chose to claim the Ring for himself rather than choosing to destroy it. While grace and Eru worked it out so that things ultimately turned out well in both situations (Eowyn was in the right place at the right time to help kill the Witch King, and Gollum stole the Ring and destroyed both it and himself), the consequences for each individual’s actions were potentially disastrous. Frodo in particular could have brought about the ruin of all Middle-earth.

I can already imagine that some people will be thinking that Frodo’s situation was much more difficult than Eowyn’s, and there is some truth to that. Certainly, he was physically, emotionally, and spiritually weakened from the months of travelling, and particularly the grueling journey through Mordor. Carrying the Ring is a burden unlike any other, and especially while travelling through the land of its maker, who was searching for it. In Mt. Doom, when he finally chose to claim the Ring, he was in Mt. Doom, the place on Middle-earth where evil had the most power and good the least. Tolkien wrote in one of his letters that Frodo may have been the only one in Middle-earth of his day that could have done even as much as he did. Truly, Eowyn did not face these challenges, and in that way her struggle would seem less.

Yet I would point out that Frodo had several strengths that Eowyn did not. One is the simple fact that while the Ring was a harder burden, he had also been struggling with it less time (I know he had it for 17 years before he set out on his quest, but as far as I could tell it wasn’t a serious burden during that time). His main times of difficulty were from September of one year to March of the next. Eowyn, on the other hand, had been dealing with her problems for years, constantly shutting her mouth, constantly trying to shove down who she was and what her dreams were. The acumulated weight would have been heavy.

Another main difference is that Frodo had support, while Eowyn had none. From the beginning, Merry, Pippin, and Sam chose to come with Frodo on his journey. Later he had those of the Fellowship, not to mention Imladris and Lothlorien elves, Faramir, and so on. At the very end he still had Sam. Never did Frodo carry his quest alone. Eowyn, on the other hand, had no one to help support her. While Theoden and Eomer both loved her, both of them were too blind to see what she was going through. It took Aragorn and Gandalf, comparative strangers, to point this out to them. The quote that for me symbolizes best her situation comes from “The King of the Golden Hall” (The Two Towers), right after everyone else has left for war and she has been left to govern the Rohirrim: “Far over the plain Eowyn saw the glitter of their spears, as she stood still, alone before the doors of the silent house.” Too often this was her situation; alone in a silent house, left behind by her brother as he went off to do what she longed for (the same “horses, and deeds of arms, and the free fields” Gandalf mentioned to Eomer later).

Related to this is that Frodo had reserves of strength that Eowyn had no access to. He had spent 50 years living in the Shire, enjoying a peaceful life with those he loved and doing the things he loved. While some in his community thought him (and Bilbo) odd or less than respectable, in general the other hobbits held them in esteem. He eventually chose to sacrifice this for the greater good, but at least he had something he could hold onto from the past. Eowyn, on the other hand, had an uncertain and difficult position. Her adopted father figure was in an increasingly bad position, she spent her time doing things she disliked (being a nursemaid of sorts for Theoden) while sacrificing what she loved, and those that cared about her had no idea what was going on with her. In this case, being a woman made things much harder. For example, if Ragnelle’s quote from earlier (about the king not usually taking the heir with him) is true, for example, she would have been the one going to war while Eomer stayed home to care for their people. While her position is probably not so bleak as she would have painted it, the important part for understanding where she was includes looking at things as she would have seen them.

Finally, Frodo could draw strength from the very nature of his quest. While the knowledge of its importance was a burden, it also helped him to keep going. Should he want to stop, he could remember that the fate of all Middle-earth rested on his shoulders. Eowyn, on the other hand, had no such source of strength. As Ragnelle quoted earlier, “her part seemed to her more ignoble than that of the staff [Theoden] leaned on.” In her eyes she was throwing away her hopes and dreams to follow a duty that she despised.

Because of all of this, I think it normal and understandable that Eowyn “cracked”, and was no longer able to play the role she had been assigned. Just as Frodo went to the end of his endurance, and no more, Eowyn held out as long as she could, and no more. And just as most readers have grace for Frodo’s fall in Mt. Doom, even if we are disappointed in him, I think we need to have grace for Eowyn as well. No matter how wrong and irresponsible she was to leave her people, I think that we are expecting more of her than is fair to ask (even if, as Sermela pointed out, she had more responsibility and less freedom to think of herself because of her royal position). Recognize that she did as much as she could, and have mercy on her (as indeed those around her chose to do in ROTK).
mighty ent man 03/Jun/2006 at 03:43 AM
Ent Elder of Fangorn Points: 6964 Posts: 6236 Joined: 04/Nov/2003

Nenuphar - Thinking about this, and why she did what she did, made me think of how her situation compared to that of Frodo. Both of them went through a time of great difficulty, and both ultimately broke at the end rather than carrying out the charges they had been given. - Whilst this is a good comparison I do not think it is fair to compare the two together for they are two different situations. Frodo we know could never have thrown the Ring in because at that final moment the Rings power would overwhelm anyone who had it. Thus he had no choice in the matter. Eowyn did have a choice, she could have stayed and done her duty to her people, ignored duty to herself yes, but she had that choice that Frodo did not have.

Frodo chose to claim the Ring for himself rather than choosing to destroy it.  - Again see my comments above, he did not chose it for himself. He had no choice in the matter. I do agree that Eowyn had been under years of pressure and years of despair. This links in with what I said about her being lost and in a kind of rut in life. But that does not mean she could not have stayed if she had really tried.

You do paint an excellent picture of Eowyn. You show it well how she had few people to talk to. Which is I believe is a crucial thing in life. People need friends I think, if you do not then it worsens any situation you are in.

Because of all of this, I think it normal and understandable that Eowyn “cracked”,  - I agree with you, this why I am not as harsh on her as Sermela is. Yes if you study the bare facts she did abandon the duty laid on her by Theoden. But when you really look at what she did it makes sense and we have to afford her some leniancy. Also I do not think Theoden would have been harsh on her had he survived.

 Excellent post!

Nenuphar 03/Jun/2006 at 04:17 AM
Guardian of Imladris Points: 4435 Posts: 1966 Joined: 13/Aug/2005
MEM: I’m excited that someone has responded already (especially since this gives me an excuse not to work on my financial reports a little longer! Not that I need much of an excuse).

I understand what you’re saying about Frodo, but I disagree to a certain extent. It’s true that we already know that the Ring would overwhelm him, that it was stronger than him, and that he would not be capable of defeating it. On the other hand, it was still his choice. What do I mean? The Ring was strong, but it couldn’t force him to do something (i.e. overwhelm his will so that he was a mere puppet); it would only coerce him as hard as it could. Thus, while the conclusion was pretty much foregone, he still bears responsibility for his decision (which guilt I think weighs on him later, even though no one accuses him of having done wrong). Had someone else been able to hop into their stealth jet and speed into Mordor without Sauron seeing them, pop over to where Frodo was, and then take the Ring from him, that person might have been able to throw it in, because the Ring couldn’t control him/her; it could only use its coersion (sp?), which would have been significantly weaker had it not been working on that person for months beforehand. Does that make sense? Even though I agree that Frodo’s position was much less impossible than Eowyn’s, and realistically there was no chance of him throwing the Ring in the fire, it was still his choice.

I agree with you that Theoden wouldn’t have been harsh on her had he lived. I see that in the reactions of those who were in a position to judge her, including Eomer, Gandalf, and Aragorn (who was the one who sent the guard from Minas Tirith to live with Faramir for disobeying orders). None of them chose to, and I think it was because of the same reason they didn’t judge Frodo.

Thanks; I’m glad we can debate together again!
Duiel 03/Jun/2006 at 05:59 AM
Fletcher of Lothlorien Points: 1507 Posts: 596 Joined: 30/Apr/2004
Nenuphar, thank you for joining this discussion and it seems you have made some very good points; also thank you again mighty ent man for building on that.

As for Frodo having or not having a choice on Mount Doom, I think we should look at the nature of the Ring. This is another topic entirely, and debateabale as well, so it might be best not to go too far into it on this thread, but it seems that it has something of its own will. It a) wants to survive and b) wants to get back to Sauron. We can see that "it loses" Isildur, then "it finds" Deagol in the Gladden Fields and then after Gollum has been in a cave for many years "it finds" Bilbo as a means of escape, knowing that if it stayed on Gollum he would never come out again. Do you think, then, that it was using its last means of survival by claiming Frodo? How powerful was it at this moment? Was there choice involved?

Whether or not one can make this arguement, I think it is still interesting to compare/contrast Éowyn’s story to Frodo’s, as Nenuphar has done.
mighty ent man 17/Jun/2006 at 09:27 AM
Ent Elder of Fangorn Points: 6964 Posts: 6236 Joined: 04/Nov/2003

Nenuphar - I have to disagree on that! I do not think he had any choice in the matter, I think he had had the Ring for so long and he was physically weak and mentally weak. He had no clear mind and in this final moment the Rings power would have been the greatest it had ever been. It rose up and conquered him in a way that he could never chose to throw it in. All choice was removed from Frodos mind at this instant. He had chose to destroy the Ring when he set out and quite blatantly held to this choice as he travelled all the way to Sammath Naur. He chose to destroy it but physically could not. No one else could have done it. Frodo did chose to destroy the Ring. In this final moment however it was taken from him by the Ring.

Eowyn had a clear choice in the matter, she was physically fine and mentally ok. Although we have shown she was worn down by years of being trapped she was mentally in the frame of mind to be able to make choices. We see this as she chose to leave. I do not think it is entirely fair to compare the two. It is good to do so as it exposes new ways of looking at things but we always have to keep in mind the huge differences between the two situations.

halfir 17/Jun/2006 at 06:28 PM
Emeritus Points: 46547 Posts: 43664 Joined: 10/Mar/2002

Mighty ent man: I totally agree that a comparison  between Frodo and Eowyn ’s ’choices’ is not a helpful one as it most certainly does not compare apples with apples.

Nenuphar wrote: The Ring was strong, but it couldn’t force him to do something (i.e. overwhelm his will so that he was a mere puppet);

This is certainly not Tolkien’s view:

’I do not think that Frodo’s was a moral failure. At the last moment the pressure of the Ring would have reached its maximum-impossible,  I should have said, for anyone to resist, certainly after long possession, months of increasing torment, and when starved and exhausted. Frodo had done what he could and spent himself completely (as an instrument of Providence) and had produced a situation in which the object of his quest could be achieved. His humility (with which he began)  and his sufferings were justly rewarded by the highest honour; and his exercise of patience and mercy towards Gollum gained him Mercy; his failure was redressed.’ {Letter # 246 =- my emphasis and underline}

(Indeed in  Tolkien: Author of the Century Professor Shippey advances the idea that when Frodo speaks the words:

’I do not choose now  to do what I came to do’

that it is the Ring ’speaking’ - not Frodo.)

And in the same letter, in commenting on the possibility of Gandalf using the One to defeat Sauron, Tolkien writes these ominous words:

’But the Ring and all its works would have endured. It would have been the master in the end.’{my emphasis}

mighty ent man 18/Jun/2006 at 02:57 PM
Ent Elder of Fangorn Points: 6964 Posts: 6236 Joined: 04/Nov/2003

halfir - as it most certainly does not compare apples with apples. - More like apples with oranges! They have a similar shape but are quite the different color and are made up differently inside!  

Thanks for finally bringing in that quote, it is the one I keep on referring to but I am lazy and have not as yet got round to buying Tolkien’s letters. I will do soon so that I myself can have access to all these quotes that I reference to. That is the quote I had in mind when saying to Nenuphar that indeed no one would have been able to resist the Ring. Thus Frodo had no choice, Eowyn of course did.

You see with Frodo he chose to throw it in when he accepted the quest. And he stuck to this decision right through to the end. I bet deep down inside the depths of Frodo’s mind there was a place where he still chose to destroy it. It is just that (as your quote shows) that when in that final situation the Ring overwhelms that thought and pushes it so deep down into Frodo’s mind that he cannot act upon that choice.

Eowyn however we see is mentally unstable to some extent but not devoid of any choice. She could have stayed at home had she set her will and mind to do so. But she did not, she rashly took off in search of battle and to see those she loved die.

 

Lindir89 29/Jun/2006 at 09:03 AM
Gardener of Lothlorien Points: 164 Posts: 25 Joined: 20/Apr/2006

when i was first reading through other peoples’ posts, i was going to write about how I didn’t really mind Eowyn that much, she didnt’ annoy me even though she disobeyed Theoden’s orders.  For me, she represents a classic brooding youth, and brings a theme to the books that really isn’t represented elsewhere.  The hobbits are content with their lives, but most human teens are not exactly content with what they have.  As a teenager myself I can relate to what Eowyn feels, especially when she talks about how she fears the cage.

I have lots of ambitions now and one of my greatest fears is that as I get older, realism will overtake them, like I see it overtaking many other peoples’.  Therefore I can somewhat overlook her faults, and in some ways, the faults make her a more believable and more realistic character.

Then i started thinking about Eowyn’s wanting to ride into battle and die and it reminded me more than a little bit of Romeo and Juliet.  Because they both somewhat foolishly fall in love and then they think it is all over and kill themselves.  They are both so caught up in whatever happens, in their youthful passion, and for them it is easy to be pessimistic and not see that there coudl be a future besides the future with the other person.  Eowyn reminded me of this because of her relationship with Aragorn, and her pessimistic views that she’ll never be able to fight, and her only chance for fame is through death.

It’s a rather big stretch, and I don’t think i elaborated on it to quite the extent that I wanted to, but for some reason she strongly reminded me of Romeo and Juliet.  If someone wants to further support me or completely rip my argument apart, I think both have very strong grounds.

Catalina of Ara 06/Jul/2006 at 04:48 PM
Apprentice of Minas Tirith Points: 336 Posts: 203 Joined: 14/Jun/2006
Eowyn is probably by far my most favored LOTR character out of them all for many a reasons but only a few that i will name due to lengthiness and etc. You see, Eowyn to me is a woman who thinks that she knows exactly what the meaning of her life is and what it will entale, but as the books and even the movie expressed it lightly, she doesn’t have all of the answers that she thought that she did. She says that all she fears is a cage but i’m sure that we all can agree that that isn’t true because everyone is afraid of more than just a cage and i know that she really didn’t want to ride into battle die.

One thing (i know that the movies aren’t exactly accurately portraying the books but the movie expressed this greatly [i think]) ... In the third movie when the orcs are attacking Minas Tirith and the Rohirrim come and save the day and Theoden gets crushed by his horse, then Eowyn kills the witch king .... Yea (hopefully you guys know what i am talking about, lol) ... well, anyway ... She is basically crawling away from that gross orc guy with the one eye and it literally showed a sense of fear on her face and you could immediately tell that they were trying to portray that in all honesty, she only wants to live a life that she knows doesn’t exist. let me expand upon that ...

My belief is that Eowyn is afraid of the cage that she is in. You can tell from the first time you see her in both the books and the movies, that she does not like the fact that women are seen as a "lower status" than men and that she wants to do more than just sit around at home and knit all day. I htink that when she refers to the cage she is talking about the predicament that she finds herself in almost every day. Anyway, I think that that kind of depth to her makes me think that she is the coolest person in ME ...
Arvellas 06/Jul/2006 at 07:00 PM
Warrior of Imladris Points: 5462 Posts: 3016 Joined: 16/May/2006

Eowyn is a rather complicated and puzzling character to me, and one that I am quite a bit like sometimes.  When we first see her in the books, she does not strike me as being extremely young.  That is, she is a young woman, but definitely an adult.  But as time goes by, I see a certain immaturity and recklessness to her that makes me think that she is not so emotionally mature as she likes to think she is.  Though she may no longer technically be a teenager, she is still in that teenage phase of finding herself.  She thinks she knows what she wants to be and to believe in, but she has not yet found the strength to truly rise to that and say "This is who I am."

Though she is very smart and talented as a fighter, I think that Eowyn feels insecure deep down, causing her to want to rebell, to make her own decisions, and be what no one thought she could be, what no one would let her be, just to prove she could.  She wants to be the fearless warrior, the mountain that cannot be conquered, and she does her best to believe that that is who she is, but I really think that she is emotionally lost.  That could be the reason that she is so drawn to Aragorn.  Not only is he someone who does not "talk down to her," but he is the masculine version of what she wants to be, and she latches onto that.  I think it is Faramir’s getting through to her that signals Eowyn beginning to "grow up."  He shows her what she really needs, and she finally has someone who can help her be the best that she can be.

Nenuphar 16/Jul/2006 at 10:36 PM
Guardian of Imladris Points: 4435 Posts: 1966 Joined: 13/Aug/2005

Sorry to have taken so long to respond; I’ve been insanely busy (and am currently off on vacation, but had a few moments of spare time that I really ought to be using to sleep; oh well....).

In response to Halfir’s comments on Frodo no longer having a choice, I still think he did. As he quoted, Frodo said, "I do not choose now to do what I came to do." (emphasis mine) Even if his will was highly overwhelmed, I still think it was his choice. That’s one of the parts of the book that has long been the most challenging for me, actually: having to look at the hero of the book (well, I think he’s the hero, anyway) and watch him choose not to fulfill his quest. I always want to think, "Why did he do that?" And then I’m reminded of my own human frailty, and the fact that I would almost certainly have chosen the same thing. Had he been completely controlled by the Ring, and incapable of making his own decisions (which situation I’ve seen in other fantasy novels), it wouldn’t have been nearly so powerful.

Be that as it may, I know that’s a bit of a tangent. I guess my main point was that just as we extend grace to Frodo, we should also extend grace to Eowyn. True, she wasn’t in such an impossible situation as Frodo; however, I was trying to compare their situations to show that she was also in a situation where she had been pushed beyond what she could endure, and that was why she made some of the choices that she did. Their situations were different, but that was my main comparison.

Did that clarify my point, or just sound like I was repeating myself?

Dwarf5 06/Aug/2006 at 11:51 AM
Delver of Erebor Points: 225 Posts: 6 Joined: 23/Jul/2006
i fell that eowyn should have stayed with her people in rohan rather then to go out to war. the directly disobeyed her king. but one again i must look at it from both sides and remind myself that it couldnt have happend any other way. i mean if she had not disobeyed then the lord of the nazgul would not had been destoryed...or would he would gandolf have destoryed him or would he had destoryed gandolf. and if he did destory gandolf then frodo and sam would have died after the ring was destroyed. so i think that the events that happend, happend in the way that they were supos to.