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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
The White Lady of Rohan: Éowyn's Characterization Essay

Laineth
Rivendell

May 29 2014, 1:05am

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The White Lady of Rohan: Éowyn's Characterization Essay Can't Post

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(This post was edited by Ataahua on Jan 23, 6:45pm)


Laineth
Rivendell

May 29 2014, 1:11am

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But Aragorn came to Éowyn, and he said: “Here there is a grievous hurt and a heavy blow. The arm that was broken has been tended with due skill, and it will mend in time, if she has the strength to live. It is the shield-arm that is maimed; but the chief evil comes through the sword-arm. In that there now seems no life, although it is unbroken.

Alas! For she was pitted against a foe beyond the strength of her mind or body. And those who will take a weapon to such an enemy must be sterner than steel, if the very shock shall not destroy them. It was an evil doom that set her in his path. For she is a fair maiden, fairest lady of a house of queens. And yet I know not how I should speak of her. When I first looked on her and perceived her unhappiness, it seemed to me that I saw a white flower standing straight and proud, shapely as a lily, and yet knew that it was hard, as if wrought by elf-wrights out of steel. Or was it, maybe, a frost that had turn 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?”


Lots to go over here.

Éowyn's sword-arm being hurt is not 'because taking up the sword was her most serious offense against her conventional female role' or that 'she is nearly destroyed by the darkness that is brought upon her by her audacity in striking a male foe so obviously superior to her.'

Nor is Aragorn 'referring to the implied inherent physical and mental inferiority of a woman' when he says the Witch-king was more powerful than her.

There is nothing in the text to support the arm statement. Her battle with the Witch-king is filled with her triumph. She will later be called “Lady of the Shield-arm,” and has clearly gained honor from all.

The second sentence in the second paragraph makes it clear that Aragorn is not demeaning Éowyn, but instead saying that she is “sterner than steel”, as she was not destroyed by the shock. Only Gandalf, a Maia, is said to be the Witch-king's equal, and we never know for sure.

I would like to point out that all the men of Gondor and Rohan fled from the Witch-king, several times. Faramir and Merry lie close to death because of the Black Breath as well. That does not make them weak, instead it shows that Tolkien is in no way slighting Éowyn here. The Witch-king is beyond any mortal. And yet she has the strength to kill him anyway. The only sexism here is from 'feminists' who refuse to let go of their resentment.

Aragorn says that she is beautiful, beautiful and regal, like a queen. That is not an insult, as a daughter of queens is just as strong as a daughter of kings; he's not retracting his earlier statement. Aragorn saw her mask of strength, and he also saw Éowyn's true state of loneliness and sorrow.

Malady means “any unwholesome or desperate condition.” Aragorn is saying that Éowyn's state of sorrow and loneliness began years before, that something has been wrong for a while.


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“I marvel that you should ask me, lord,” he answered. “For I hold you blameless in this matter, as in all else; yet I knew not that Éowyn, my sister, was touched by any frost, until she first looked on you. Care and dread she had, and shared with me, in the days of Wormtounge and the king's bewitchment; and she tended the king in growing fear. But that did not bring her to this pass!”


Like we saw earlier, Éomer loves Éowyn, but he does not understand her. He still dismisses her reality.


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“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 a 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 dishonored dotage; and her part seemed to her more ignoble than that of the staff he leaned on.

Think you that Wormtounge had poison only for Théoden's ears? 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 Wormtounge at home wrapped their meaning in terms more cunning. My lord, if your sister's love for you, and her will still bent to her duty, had not restrained her lips, you might have heard even such things as these escape them. But who knows what she spoke to the darkness, alone, in the bitter watches of the night, when all her life seemed shrinking, and the walls of her bower closing in about her, a hutch to trammel some wild thing in?”


Gandalf comes out and states what I've been saying. Éowyn was held back from battle because she's female, while she was being taught that all worth and pride comes from the battlefield.

'dishonored dotage', 'ignoble'. Éowyn saw what was happening to her uncle, his decline into a powerless and feeble state. It pained her greatly, both because she loved him and because he lost all honor. Éowyn didn't think her part was worth anything, that is was dishonorable to wait on Théoden instead of being out in battle like her brother and cousin.

Wormtounge preyed on her inner feelings of worthlessness. Not only did he stalk and harass Éowyn, he emotionally abused her. He told her that she was worth nothing, that her family dismissed her out of scorn for her ignoble role. That honor, glory, and worth were beyond her.

Éowyn's love for her uncle and her brother kept her going, kept her doing her duty and staying silent. But it festered and grew in her, the resentment and despair, until she reached her breaking point. Until she could not take it any more.


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Then Éomer was silent, and looked on his sister, as if pondering anew all the days of their past life together.


Éomer clearly did not mean to dismiss his sister, he just never truly understood what she was going through. What he was given as a male was so different from what she was given.


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But Aragorn said: “I saw also what you saw, Éomer. Few other griefs amid the ill chances of this world have more bitterness and shame for a man's heart than to behold the love of a lady so fair and brave that cannot be returned. Sorrow and pity have followed me ever since I left her desperate in Dunharrow and rode to the Paths of the Dead; and no fear upon that way was so present as the fear for what might befall her. And yet, Éomer, I say to you that she loves you more truly than me; for you she loves and knows; but in me she loves only a shadow and a thought: a hope of glory and great deeds, and lands far from the fields of Rohan.


Éowyn didn't long to die because her crush rejected her. Éowyn longed to die because she was at the end of her rope when Aragorn waltzed in, and she idealized him as her last chance of ever escaping her torment. It wasn't his personal rejection of her as a woman, but his (in her view) saying that as a woman her place was to die an ignoble death in the house.

Now, we know that was not at all what Aragorn said. But Éowyn, precious Éowyn, has been indoctrinated with the mindset that all worth and pride comes from the battlefield for her entire life. Her family subconsciously and unknowingly did it, and Wormtounge preyed upon it, driving her to despair.

We learn Aragorn's feelings here, as well. He genuinely cares about her. He has been afraid for her, and felt sorrow and compassion for her. He loves her, he's just not in love with her.

One last point: Aragorn, Éomer, and Gandalf do not 'define her rebellion as her own personal problem as they place the burden on her instead of accepting that her actions might have been a reaction to the patriarchy they imposed on her; by doing so they are not forced to look at their own actions.' They realize all of the nuances of Éowyn's situation, and that the big-bad-evil Patriarchy is not the end-all, be-all.


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I have, maybe, the power to heal her body, and to recall her from the dark valley. But to what she will awake: hope, or forgetfulness, or despair, I do not know. And if to despair, then she will die, unless other healing comes which I cannot bring. Alas! for her deeds have set her among the queens of great renown.”


'Her deeds have set her among the queens of great renown.' Here is the proof of what I said, that associating her with queens is not a retraction of her strength.

It's crucial that while Aragorn can heal her body, he cannot truly heal her. Just like he could not truly free her.


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Then Aragorn stooped and looked in her face, and it was indeed white as a lily, cold as frost, and hard as graven stone. But he bent and kissed her on the brow, and called her softly, saying:

“Éowyn Éomund's daughter, awake! For your enemy has passed away!”

She did not stir, but now she began again to breathe deeply, so that her breast rose and fell beneath the white linen of the sheet. Once more Aragorn bruised two leaves of athelas and cast them into steaming water; and he laved her brow with it, and her right arm lying cold and nerveless on the coverlet.

Then, whether Aragorn had indeed some forgotten power of Westernesse, or whether it was but his words of the Lady Éowyn that wrought on them, as the sweet influence of the herb stole about the chamber it seemed to those who stood by that a keen wind blew through the window, and it bore no scent, but was an air wholly fresh and clean and young, as if it had not before been breathed by any living thing and came new-made from snowy mountains high beneath a dome of stars, or from shores of silver far away washed by seas of foam.

“Awake, Éowyn, Lady of Rohan!” said Aragorn again, and he took her right hand in his and felt it warm with life returning. “Awake! The shadow is gone and all darkness is washed clean!” Then he laid her hand in Éomer's and stepped away. “Call her!” he said, and he passed silently from the chamber.

“Éowyn, Éowyn!” cried Éowyn amid his tears. But he 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?”


Aragorn leaves. He heals her body most of the way, but Éomer is the one to call her back. It's a poignant reminder that Aragorn is not the answer to Éowyn's problems.


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”Not long, my sister,” said Éomer. “But think no more on it!”

“I am strangely weary,” she said. “I must rest a little. But tell me, what of the Lord of the Mark? Alas! Do not tell me that that was a dream; for I know that it was not. He is dead as he foresaw.”

“He is dead,” said Éomer, “but he bade me say farewell to Éowyn, dearer than daughter. He lies now in great honor in the Citadel of Gondor.”

“That is grievous,” she said. “And yet it is good beyond all that I dared hope in the dark days, when it seemed that the House of Eorl was sunk in honor less than any shepherd's cot. And what of the king's esquire, the Halfling? Éomer, you shall make him a knight of the Riddermark, for he is valiant!”


We're back to the honor and glory. Théoden dying in battle with honor was more than Éowyn hoped, when he was powerless and feeble. And Éowyn's thoughts are not of herself, but of the ones she loves. Merry's honor is more important to her than herself.


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”He lies nearby in this House, and I will go to him,” said Gandalf. “Éomer shall stay here for a while. But do not speak yet of war or woe, until you are made whole again. Great gladness is it to see you wake again to health and hope, so valiant a lady!”

“To health?” said Éowyn. “It may be so. At least while there is an empty saddle of some fallen Rider that I can fill, and there are deeds to do. But to hope? I do not know.”


Gandalf praises Éowyn and mentions the honor and renown she has gotten. However, this does not make her happy. Éowyn expected to die, she wanted to die. And now she's alive. 'I'll live while there's a war and I can fight, but I have no hope for afterwards.' Her despair is still there.


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“The Lady Éowyn,” said Aragorn, “will wish soon to rise and depart; but she should not be permitted to do so, if you can in any way restrain her, until at least ten days be passed.”


Book 6, Chapter 5: The Steward and the King

When the Captains were but two days gone, the Lady Éowyn bade the women who tended her to bring her raiment, and she would not be gainsaid, but rose; and when they had clothed her and set her arm in a sling of linen, she went to the Warden of the Houses of Healing.

“Sir,” she said, “I am in great unrest, and I cannot lie longer in sloth.”

“Lady,” he answered, “you are not yet healed, and I was commanded to tend you with especial care. You should not have risen from your bed for seven days yet, or so I was bidden. I beg you to go back.”

“I am healed,” she said, “healed at least in body, save my left arm only, and that is at ease. But I shall sicken anew, if there is naught that I can do. Are there no tidings of war? The women can tell me nothing.”

“There are no tidings,” said the Warden, “save that the Lords have ridden to Morgul Vale; and men say that the new captain out of the North is their chief. A great lord is that, and a healer; and it is a thing passing strange to me that the healing hand should also wield the sword. It is not thus in Gondor now, though once it was so, if old tales be true. But for long years we healers have only sought to patch the rents made by the men of swords. Though we should still have enough to do without them: the world is full enough of hurts and mischances without wars to multiply them.”


Sloth means “aversion to work or exertion; laziness;.” Éowyn refuses to stay in bed, and confronts the Warden. She is determined to be set free, and believes that taking the time to heal is dishonorable.

The women can tell her no tidings, because there are no tidings. It is not that 'the war lies outside the the interest and comprehension of the conventionally feminine human nurses who serve as healers.' I am sure they are just as anxious for news. Also, we have no idea what those women are like, so we cannot know how 'feminine' they are.


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“It needs but one foe to breed a war, not two, Master Warden,” answered Éowyn. “And those who have not swords can still die upon them. Would you have the folk of Gondor gather you herbs only, when the Dark Lord gathers armies? And it is not always good to be healed in body. Nor is it always evil to die in battle, even in bitter pain. Were I permitted, in this dark hour I would choose the latter.”


Éowyn is right about how war is bred. Her despair also has not abated, she believes that dying an honorable death is the only way to be free of her torment. Her inner torment is so painful she would choose the intense physical pain of death in battle.


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The Warden looked at her. Tall she stood there, her eyes bright in her white face, her hand clenched as she turned and gazed out of his window that opened to the East. He sighed and shook his head. After a pause she turned to him again.


More imagery. Éowyn's hands are clenched again, showing her resentment and despair. Her face is pale, her proud and inflexible mask is back on. Her eyes are bright as she looks to the East; it's her only hope left. She had reached her breaking point, and was unwillingly pulled back from death. She cannot take any more, still past her breaking point.


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“It there no deed to do?” she said. “Who commands in this City?”

“I do not rightly know,” he answered. “Such things are not my care. There is a marshal over the Riders of Rohan; and the Lord Húrin, I am told, commands the men of Gondor. But the Lord Faramir is by right the Steward of the City.”

“Where can I find him?”

“In this house, lady. He was sorely hurt, but is now set again on the way to health. But I do not know -”

“Will you not bring me to him? Then you will know.”


Éowyn, not liking the answer of the Warden, demands to see the Steward. She is determined to be set free to find death in battle. It is a final act of desperation, she doesn't have the emotional strength to continue fighting anymore.


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The Lord Faramir was walking alone in the garden of the Houses of Healing, and the sunlight warmed him, and he felt life run new in his veins; but his heart was heavy, and he looked out over the walls eastward. And coming, the Warden spoke his name, and he turned and saw the Lady Éowyn of Rohan; and he was moved with pity, for he saw that she was hurt, and his clear sight perceived her sorrow and unrest.


Remember, the word pity is used like the word compassion. Faramir is depressed by his father's and brother's deaths, focusing on the march to the Black Gate that went without him. Then he sees Éowyn, and has compassion for her deep hurt and unrest.


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“My lord,” said the Warden, “here is the Lady Éowyn of Rohan. She rode with the king and was sorely hurt, and dwells now in my keeping. But she is not content, and she wishes to speak to the Steward of the City.”

“Do not misunderstand him, lord,” said Éowyn. “It is not lack of care that grieves me. No houses could be fairer, for those who desire to be healed. But I cannot lie in sloth, idle, caged. I looked for death in battle. But I have not died, and battle still goes on.”


'I have no desire to be healed. I cannot lie in laziness, doing nothing, being caged. I wanted an honorable death, and that was taken from me. As long as battle goes on, I still have the chance for an honorable death.'


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At a sign from Faramir, the Warden bowed and departed. “What would you have me do, lady?” said Faramir. “I also am a prisoner of the healers.” He looked at her, and being a man whom pity deeply stirred, it seemed to him that her loveliness amid her grief would pierce his heart. And she looked at him and saw the grave tenderness in his eyes, and yet knew, for she was bred among men of war, that here was one whom no Rider of the Mark would outmatch in battle.


Being a tender and compassionate man, the fact that Éowyn's beauty is surrounded by her grief touches Faramir deeply. Tender means “characterized by or expressing gentle emotions; loving.”

Éowyn looks at Faramir, and sees the gentleness in his eyes. She did not expect it, despite it she can see he is a great warrior, for she “was bred among men of war.”

This confirms my earlier point about how she was raised in a warrior household with a warrior mindset.


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“What do you wish?” he said again. “If it lies in my power, I will do it.”

“I would have you command this Warden, and bid him let me go,” she said; but though her words were still proud, her heart faltered, and for the first time she doubted herself. She guessed that this tall man, both stern and gentle, might think her merely wayward, like a child that has not the firmness of mind to go on with a dull task to the end.


Éowyn has been wearing her mask (for the only time before this that the word pride is used is when Legolas and Gimli see her weep and think of her “stern and proud” mask), believing that it, that being uncompromising and inflexible is the only way to get worth and be accepted. And yet here is a man, both a great warrior and kind and gentle. He is an anomaly to all she has been taught.

For the first time, Éowyn doubts what she knows. She has been so sure that being stern and cold, insisting on battle, would be the only way she could ever gain worth. Faramir's gentleness makes her question that, and she is scared Faramir will dismiss her as a wayward child, instead of hearing and acknowledging her. She is scared, and vulnerable. She has gone past her breaking point and cannot hide from her true emotions any longer.

There is no 'condescension' in Faramir's eyes, he does not think himself above her, nor does he see her as a wayward child. Éowyn is afraid that he will think that, but it's not what he thinks. He has only tenderness and compassion for her, seeing how gravely hurt she is.


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“I myself am in the Warden's keeping,” answered Faramir. “Nor have I yet taken up my authority in the City. But had I done so, I should still listen to his counsel, and should not cross his will in matters of his craft, unless in some great need.”

“But I do not desire healing,” she said. “I wish to ride to war like my brother Éomer, or better like Théoden the king, for he died and has both honor and peace.”


Éowyn is open and frank. She wants to die, and finally have peace.


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“It is too late, lady, to follow the Captains, even if you had the strength,” said Faramir. “But death in battle may come to us all yet, willing or unwilling. You will be better prepared to face it in your own manner, if while there is still time you do as the Healer commanded. You and I, we must endure with patience the hours of waiting.”

She did not answer, but as he looked at her it seemed to him that something in her softened, as though a bitter frost were yielding at the first faint passage of spring. A tear sprang in her eye and fell down her cheek, like a glistening rain-drop. Her proud head drooped a little. Then quietly, more as if speaking to herself than to him: “But my window does not look eastward.” Her voice was now that of a maiden young and sad.


Faramir is frank and honest, it is too late to follow the Captains. Like Aragorn, he mentions that battle could very easily come to her where she is. The best thing to do would be to listen to the healers.

Éowyn's mask is falling, she doesn't have the ability to keep it up anymore. She lets her true emotions show; her head drooping, a little crying, and speaks the root of her desire. She wants to look eastward, she wants to know if something changes, if the hopes of the free peoples succeed.

Faramir does not cause this, she does not answer him and 'speaks to herself'. It is an inner change where she lets her mask go. She is young, and she is sad.


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Faramir smiled, though his heart was filled with pity. “Your window does not look eastward?” he said. “That can be amended. In this I will command the Warden. If you will stay in this house in our care, lady, and take your rest, then you shall walk in this garden in the sun, as you will; and you shall look east, whither all our hopes have gone. And here you will find me, walking and waiting, and also looking east. It would ease my care, if you would speak to me, or walk at whiles with me.”


Faramir is still filled with compassion for her, and gives her the freedom to move about the Houses as she will.


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Then she raised her head and looked him in the eyes again; and a color came in her pale face. “How should I ease your care, my lord?” she said. “And I do not desire the speech of living men.”


'How can I ease your burden? I don't want to talk, or interact, or live.' Color comes into her face, interaction with another human being starts to heal her, even if she doesn't want it.


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“Would you have my plain answer?” he said.

“I would.”

“Then, Éowyn of Rohan, I say to you that you are beautiful. In the valleys of our hills there are flowers fair and bright, and maidens fairer still; but neither flower nor lady have I seen till now in Gondor so lovely, and so sorrowful. It may be that only a few days are left ere darkness falls upon our world, and when it comes I hope to face it steadily; but it would ease my heart, if while the Sun yet shines, I could see you still. For you and I have both passed under the wings of the Shadow, and the same hand drew us back.”


'You are beautiful, Éowyn. I hope to be strong when the Shadow comes, but until then being with you would comfort me, because we both have come back from being under the Shadow.'


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“Alas, not me, lord!” she said. “Shadow lies on me still. Look not to me for healing! I am a shieldmaiden and my hand is ungentle. But I thank you for this at least, that I need not keep to my chamber. I will walk abroad by the grace of the Steward of the City.” And she did him a courtesy and walked back to the house. But Faramir for a long while walked alone in the garden, and his glance now strayed rather to the house than to the house than to the eastward walls.


Éowyn says, “my hand is ungentle.” We are back to the inherent conflict in her, and the (supposed) anomaly of Faramir. Éowyn believes that you can only be worthy and succeed by being unrelenting and harsh. Nevertheless, she is polite when excusing herself.

Faramir is fascinated and moved by Éowyn, and he focuses on her instead of their possible doom.


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When he returned to his chamber he called for the Warden, and heard all that he could tell of the Lady of Rohan.

“But I doubt not, lord,” said the Warden, “that you would learn more from the Halfling that is with us; for he was in the riding of the king, and with the Lady at the end, they say.”

And so Merry was sent to Faramir, and while that day lasted they talked long together, and Faramir learned much, more even than Merry put into words; and he thought that he understood now something of the grief and unrest of Éowyn of Rohan. And in the fair evening Faramir and Merry walked in the garden, but she did not come.


Being exceptionally insightful, Faramir learns about Éowyn's problems. He does not know it all, but he can see some. He probably learns of her lack of self-esteem, her crush on Aragorn, and (obviously) her wish to die. Struck by the weight of his father's and brother's deaths, here is someone he can help. His compassion probably turns to deep respect, and sadness for her sorrow. That's the kind, loving person Faramir is.


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But in the morning, as Faramir came from the Houses, he saw her, as she stood upon the walls; and she was clad all in white, and gleamed in the sun. And he called to her, and she came down, and they walked on the grass or sat under a green tree together, now in silence, now in speech. And each day after they did likewise. And the Warden looking from his window was glad in heart, for he was a healer, and his care was lightened; and certain it was that, heavy as was the dread and foreboding of those days upon the hearts of men, still these two of his charges prospered and grew daily in strength.


Faramir is perfectly content getting to know Éowyn. They spend a lot of time together, and the other's companionship and acceptance starts to heal both of them.


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And so the fifth day came since the Lady Éowyn went first to Faramir; and they stood now together once more upon the walls of the City and looked out. No tidings had yet come, and all hearts were darkened. The weather, too, was bright no longer. It was cold. A wind that had sprung up in the night was blowing now keenly from the North, and it was rising; but the lands about looked grey and drear.

They were clad in warm raiment and heavy cloaks, and over all the Lady Éowyn wore a great blue mantle of the color of deep summer-night, and it was set with silver stars about hem and throat. Faramir had sent for this robe and had wrapped it about her; and he thought that she looked fair and queenly indeed as she stood there at his side. The mantle was wrought for his mother, Finduilas of Amroth, who died untimely, and was to him but a memory of loveliness in far days and of his first grief; and her robe seemed to him raiment fitting for the beauty and sadness of Éowyn.


Faramir has fallen for Éowyn, and gives her his mother's mantle. He still sees her sorrow.


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But she now shivered beneath the starry mantle, and she looked northward, above the grey hither lands, into the eye of the cold wind where far away the sky was hard and clear.

“What do you look for, Éowyn?” said Faramir.

“Does not the Black Gate lie yonder?” said she. “And must he not now be come thither? It is seven days since he rode away.”


Éowyn, although she has started to heal, is focused on the Black Gate and Aragorn's departure.


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“Seven days,” said Faramir. “But think not ill of me, if I say to you: they have brought me both a joy and a pain that I never thought to know. Joy to see you; but pain, because now the fear and doubt of this evil time are grown dark indeed. Éowyn, I would not have this world end now, or lose so soon what I have found.”


'Do not think badly of me for saying I feel both a pain and joy I never thought to know. Joy for being in love with and knowing you, and pain because the world might be at its end and I might lose you.'


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“Lose what you have found, lord?” she answered; but she looked at him gravely and her eyes were kind. “I know not what in these days you have found that you could lose. But come, my friend, let us not speak of it! Let us not speak at all! I stand upon some dreadful brink, and it is utterly dark in the abyss before my feet, but whether there is any light behind me I cannot tell. For I cannot turn yet. I wait for some stroke of doom.”


Éowyn's eyes are kind, and she calls Faramir a friend. She cares for him, and subconsciously she has fallen for him.

The light represents life, and the darkness the death she sought. She still cannot see a future for herself.


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“Yes, we wait for the stroke of doom,” said Faramir. And they said no more; and it seemed to them as they stood upon the wall that the wind died, and the light failed, and the Sun was bleared, and all sounds in the City or in the lands about were hushed: neither wind, nor voice, nor bird-call, nor rustle of leaf, nor their own breath could be heard; the very beating of their hearts was stilled. Time halted.

And as they stood so, their hands met and clasped, though they did not know it. And still they waited for they knew not what. Then presently it seemed to them that above the ridges of the distant mountains another vast mountain of darkness rose, towering up like a wave that should engulf the world, and about it lightnings flickered; and then a tremor ran through the earth, and they felt the walls of the City quiver. A sound like a sigh went up from all the lands about them; and their hearts beat suddenly again.

“It reminds me of Númenor,” said Faramir, and wondered to hear himself speak.

“Of Númenor?” said Éowyn.

“Yes,” said Faramir, “of the land of Westernesse that foundered, of the great dark wave climbing over the green lands and above the hills, and coming on, darkness unescapable. I often dream of it.”

“Then you think that the Darkness is coming?” said Éowyn. “Darkness Unescapable?” And suddenly she drew close to him.

“No,” said Faramir, looking into her face. “It was but a picture in the mind. I do not know what is happening. The reason of my waking mind tells me that great evil has befallen and we stand at the end of days. But my heart says nay; and all my limbs are light, and a hope and joy are come to me that no reason can deny. Éowyn, Éowyn, White Lady of Rohan, in this hour I do not believe that any darkness will endure!” And he stooped and kissed her brow.


They don't know their holding hands, it's a natural and subconscious move. Éowyn moves closer to Faramir, letting herself seek comfort. In his joy, Faramir gives her an affectionate kiss on the head.


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And so they stood on the walls of the City of Gondor, and a great wind rose and blew, and their hair, raven and golden, streamed out mingling in the air. And the Shadow departed, and the Sun was unveiled, and light leaped forth; and the waters of Anduin sone like silver, and in all the houses of the City men sang for the joy that welled up in their hearts from what source they could not tell.

[cut]

Merry was summoned and rode away with the wains that took store of goods to Osgiliath and thence by ship to Cair Andros; but Faramir did not go, for now being healed he took upon him his authority and the Stewardship, although it was only for a little while, and his duty was to prepare for the one who should replace him.

And Éowyn did not go, though her brother sent word begging her to come to the field of Cormallen. And Faramir wondered at this, but he saw her seldom, being busy with many matters; and she dwelt still in the Houses of Healing and walked alone in the garden, and her face grew pale again, and it seemed that in all the City she only was ailing and sorrowful. And the Warden of the Houses was troubled, and he spoke to Faramir.


Éowyn got better when spending time with Faramir, but she still has not worked through her great internal conflict of worth. She believed it could only come from the battlefield, but then she met Faramir, who is an anomaly to all she was taught. He noticed her, accepted her, and treated her with respect and kindness. And then he suddenly disappeared and stopped spending time with her. Her insecurities and her fears of worthlessness have come back with a vengeance.


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Then Faramir came and sought her, and once more they stood on the walls together; and he said to her: “Éowyn, why do you tarry here, and do not go to the rejoicing in 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 Aragorn, 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. Éowyn, do you not love me, or will you not?”


Unsure about whether Éowyn loves him or not, Faramir goes to her when he learns she is not well. She can either break his heart, or give him joy. Faramir has picked up on the great internal conflict in Éowyn; Aragorn as the symbol of all she was taught and Faramir as the symbol of true happiness.


Quote
“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, Éowyn!”


Faramir says what Aragorn has said, and what I have said. Éowyn saw marrying Aragorn as a way for her to escape the torment she lived in, not because she loved him for himself. Faramir does not quite yet grasp the depth of Éowyn's anguish, but he has the general idea; it was not so much as a desire to have nothing than it was she could not see a way out.


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And Éowyn looked at Faramir long and steadily; and Faramir said: “Do not scorn pity that is the gift of a gentle heart, Éowyn! 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 sorrowless, without fear or any lack, were you the blissful Queen of Gondor, still I would love you. Éowyn, do you not love me?”


Éowyn looks, truly looks, at Faramir.

'Do not view compassion and kindness as inferior! But I do not offer you my compassion, I offer you my love. I have never felt for anyone like I do you. Do you love me?'


Quote
Then the heart of Éowyn 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 queen,” she said.


This is probably the most crucial part in Éowyn's story. It is not that her heart changes, but that she finally understands and accepts herself.

This is also the part where the greatest misunderstandings and resentment from 'feminists' comes in. They say that Tolkien is showing that 'the oppressed woman is a threat, she is unnatural and uncomfortable, and she must end up back in her proper place', that this is a 'regression', that 'she yields to repressive love.'

That is so much not true, it's not even funny. It is also one of the biggest issues with modern feminism.

A large amount of the 'feminists' (and mainstream feminism) I've run into rage war on femininity, which actually only enforces oppression. Saying that there should be only one type of woman is the complete opposite of true feminism. Especially when that ideal type is a masculine woman (which seems to be the common idea today).

Women (including myself) frequently get told we're not really feminists if we like makeup, dresses, skirts, cooking, staying at home, etc. That the Patriarchy brainwashed us into liking those things. War is raged, calling romantic love “the pivot of oppression”, that love “compounds painful feelings of dissatisfaction and low self-esteem.”

This is sexism, plain and simple. By saying femininity is unnatural and bad, we are saying that to be feminine and a woman is wrong. We are saying women can only be accepted if they act masculine. We don't blink at the sight of a woman in jeans and a t-shirt, but a man in a dress is ridiculed and mocked. It really says something that in the past it was okay to be a stay-at-home mom and not to be a stay-at-home dad, and now it's not okay for either of them to stay at home.

In an ideal world, the gender binary wouldn't exist. The gender binary is inherently oppressive and harmful to everyone. Getting rid of the gender binary is the end goal. However, we are not there yet. Not only do we still put people in the gender binary, we continue to enforce masculinity as the ideal while damning femininity.

True, unconditional, healthy love is the very basis of our being. It is the most powerful force in the world. Love is infinite, you never run out of it. It strengthens you. Love is not like hatred or revenge, where the only way to fuel it is to give up happiness and peace. Love fuels itself. The proof? Studies show that love gives you more energy, is good for your heart, and overall makes you healthier, as does physical affection (here, here, here, and here). Love and physical affection are crucial to our brain development (here, here, and here).

You're probably wondering what all this has to do with Tolkien, and Éowyn.

Regression means “relapse to a less perfect or developed state.” 'Feminist' M.J. Kramer refers to Éowyn as 'the warrior and the wimp.' Wimp means “a weak and cowardly or unadventurous person.” They dismiss Éowyn becoming a healer as 'a traditional woman's job'.

As Leanna Madill says, “Although others may read her resolve not to be a Rider nor practice typical masculine characteristics as a backward step for Eowyn, I would argue that it is only a step back if we, as readers, do not value healing, loving, and nurturing, traditionally feminine qualities.”

Insulting and damning Éowyn for her words here is sexism, plain and simple. It's also part of a fundamental misunderstanding of Lord of the Rings. Why? Because Tolkien values and honors the feminine above the masculine. We see three of his central themes play out in this passage.

One of the most moving Tolkien essays I've ever read is “Tolkien's Females and the Defining of Power.” Basically, it shows how traditional masculine and worldly power of force is weaker than spiritual strength and love. We see this play out again and again, particularly with Aragorn, Faramir, and Gandalf vs Denethor, Boromir, and Saruman. We especially see it with Galadriel, and her renunciation of the Ring.

Remember what Aragorn said earlier? He does not fight for pleasure. And it is not skill on the battlefield that shows him to be the rightful king and makes his people side with him. For “the hands of the king are the hands of a healer.” We see, like with the case of Beregond, how merciful Aragorn is as well. These are the things that make his people love him.

Similarly, Faramir says, “War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend: the city of the Men of Númenor; and I would have her loved for her memory, her ancientry, her beauty, and her present wisdom.” It is Faramir's mercy that makes him let Frodo and Sam go, thus saving the Quest.

Pride vs humility is another central theme, as is fertility vs barrenness. We see this shown clearly through the Hobbits, who Tolkien shows to be the ideal state of living. The Hobbits are extremely humble, family-oriented, and take pleasure in nature and the simple things of life. The Shire is lush and fertile, while Mordor is a “barren wasteland.”

Now, let's go through what Éowyn says here.

I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying.

Vie means “compete eagerly with someone in order to do or achieve something.” Only means “solely or exclusively.” 'I will not be a warrior, competing with those who have won glory. I will take joy in songs of life as well as death.'

Éowyn was taught growing up that the masculine, worldly power was the only way to gain worth. That there was nothing more important in the world, then death and destruction. She has raged a war within herself to try and gain that worth. Having killed the Witch-king and meeting Faramir have shown her otherwise. Killing didn't make her happier or any more healed than before. Éowyn's charge is like Frodo's taking on the quest, it was done out of love, not pride. Her selflessness and compassion for Merry is what saved her life. Éowyn finally realizes that these are the things that truly matter.

I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren. No longer do I desire to be queen.

Éowyn has moved from a desire for power and domination to a humble desire to serve and give back to the world while celebrating life. Her understanding of true power deepens through her renunciation of worldly power.

She will heal instead of kill. Remember how greatly important healing is; the elven Rings, Sam's healing of the Shire, and the healing skills of Aragorn, Elrond, Elladan, Elrohir, and Glorfindel all play crucial roles in the text.


Quote
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.”


It is clear that Faramir loves Éowyn as his equal. He will not tell her what to do, or order her about; he will let her shine, and will accept her unconditionally, like he has.


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


Éowyn is not saying that she is tamed, she's asking Faramir if he would be able to put up with the talk. Her lack of self-esteem shines through a little, as she essentially asks Faramir if he truly wants her, and all that she comes with.


Quote
“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 Éowyn of Rohan, and now she is healed.”


Faramir would. He wants her, and no one else.

“[cut] the light that shone about them” shows a picture of spiritual triumph, triumph that comes from embracing love and humility.


Quote
And the Warden said: “Then I release her from my charge and bid her farewell, and may she suffer never hurt nor sickness again. I commend her to the care of the Steward of the City, until her brother returns.”

But Éowyn said: “Yet now that I have leave to depart, I would remain. For this House has become to me of all dwellings the most blessed.” And she remained there until King Éomer came.


I personally love this. The Warden tries to send Éowyn from his charge, to Faramir's. However, Éowyn's not playing. She doesn't want to go sit in the Citadel, and wait for Éomer. Instead, she says she's staying, and probably starts working with the healers on her training. Éowyn certainly isn't the type to sit idle, after all.

Faramir, on the other hand, is perfectly fine with whatever Éowyn wants to do.


Quote
And Éowyn said to Faramir: “Now I must go back to my own land and look on it once again, and help my brother in his labor; but when one whom I long loved as father is laid at last to rest, I will return.”


Éowyn once again tells us of her love for Théoden, and promises Faramir she will return to him.



Quote
Book 6, Chapter 6: Many Partings

And when the time came that in the custom of the Mark they should drink to the memory of the Kings, Éowyn Lady of Rohan came forth, golden as the sun and white as snow, and she bore a filled cup to Éomer.

[cut]

At the last when the feast drew to an end Éomer arose and said: “Now this is the funeral feast of Théoden the King; but I will speak ere we go of tidings of joy, for he would not grudge that I should do so, since he was ever a father to Éowyn my sister. Hear then all my guests, fair folk of many realms, such as have never before been gathered in this hall! Faramir, Steward of Gondor, and Prince of Ithilien, asks that Éowyn Lady of Rohan should be his wife, and she grants it full willing. Therefore they shall be trothplighted before you all.”


Éomer is clear that it is Éowyn who has made this decision, with him supporting her.


Quote
And Faramir and Éowyn stood forth and set hand in hand; and all there drank to them and were glad. “Thus,” said Éomer, “is the friendship of the Mark and of Gondor bound with a new bond, and the more do I rejoice.”

“No niggard are you, Éomer,” said Aragorn, “to give thus to Gondor the fairest thing in your realm!”

Then Éowyn looked in the eyes of Aragorn, and she said: “Wish me joy, my liege-lord and healer!”

And he answered: “I have wished thee joy ever since first I saw thee. It heals my heart to see thee now in bliss.”


Aragorn makes a joke, and Éowyn asks him to wish her joy. Aragorn uses the intimate and affectionate 'thee' for the first time with Éowyn. Again, he loves her, he's just not in love with her.


Quote
At the last before the guest set out Éomer and Éowyn came to Merry, and they said: “Farewell now, Meriadoc of the Shire and Holdwine of the Mark! Ride to good fortune, and ride back soon to our welcome!”

And Éomer said: “Kings of old would have laden you with gifts that a wain could not bear for your deeds upon the fields of Mundburg; and yet you will take naught, you say, but the arms that were given to you. This I suffer, for indeed I have no gift that is worthy; but my sister begs you to receive this small thing, as a memorial of Dernhelm and of the horns of the Mark at the coming of the morning.”

Then Éowyn gave to Merry an ancient horn, small but cunningly wrought all of fair silver with a baldric of green; and wrights had engraven upon it swift horsemen riding in a line that wound about it from the tip to the mouth; and there were set runes of great virtue.

“This is an heirloom of our house,” said Éowyn. “It was made by the Dwarves, and came from the hoard of Scatha the Worm. Eorl the Young brought it from the North. He that blows it at need shall set fear in the hearts of his enemies and joy in the hearts of his friends, and they shall hear him and come to him.”

Then Merry took the horn, for it could not be refused, and he kissed Éowyn's hand; and they embraced him, and so they parted for that time.


The horn was Éowyn's idea, to honor her comrade and friend. It shows how highly she thinks of him.

~*~

So, here we are. I hope this has helped you see and understand better the amazing character of Éowyn. Long may she have joy.


nandorin elf
Bree


May 29 2014, 5:25pm

Post #3 of 15 (156 views)
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Bravo [In reply to] Can't Post

Well said! It's posts like this that make me wish for an upvote feature. Your analysis was spot on IMO. I get irritated when I hear criticism that Tolkien was being sexist when he wrote Eowyn's story. As you said Tolkien's heroes do not love war for the sake of war; they accept it as necessary to defend their homes. I love your comment about Aragorn being recognized as the rightful king by his ability to heal. I always saw making Eowyn a healer as confirming her heroic status. Like Sam, she will work to heal the harm that Sauron did. There is nothing weak about their choices. Eowyn was not freed because she accepted a "traditional female role", but because she saw that she didn't have to be a great warrior to be a great person. Which is one of the themes of LOTR.


CuriousG
Valinor


May 29 2014, 8:57pm

Post #4 of 15 (147 views)
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Such an unprecedented act of sharing. Thank you! [In reply to] Can't Post

I'll echo Nandorin in finding it irritating that Eowyn is somehow reduced by becoming a healer instead of an Amazon. So much of LOTR is about healing: Frodo never gets it, great men like Elrond and Aragorn are good at it, Denethor needed it, Theoden receives it from Gandalf, and all of Middle-earth needs to heal from Sauron's malice. I'm not saying healing is the only thing going on, but it's a very important strand of the story. Eowyn is great because she is part of it.

And a woman really ought to be able to choose what she wants (I say this as a man). If she wants to give up fighting and grow a garden, that's her choice, and that should be respected. If she chose to do something not traditionally manly like beating people up, it doesn't mean the Patriarchy has conquered her.

What I like about Eowyn is that she's an admixture of hero and underdog. Underdog because of the role she's been forced into (nursemaid to Theoden, stuck at home unlike her brother), and hero for killing the Witch-king and starting a new life with Faramir. (And underdog in that fight with the Wiki too.)

She's not like Galadriel, who always seemed on top. She had a tougher path to navigate, and she pulled it off.

Thanks again for the illuminating and thoughtful essay.


EomundDaughter
Lorien

May 29 2014, 9:03pm

Post #5 of 15 (143 views)
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WOW....thank you Laineth! [In reply to] Can't Post

this was wonderful !!


Meneldor
Tol Eressea


May 30 2014, 12:21am

Post #6 of 15 (124 views)
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Mods WAY up! // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep.


cats16
Tol Eressea


May 30 2014, 12:30am

Post #7 of 15 (132 views)
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*bookmarking* this for later :) // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Na Vedui
Rohan


Jun 3 2014, 1:58am

Post #8 of 15 (110 views)
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Excellent essay [In reply to] Can't Post

- & I liked your thoughtful Arwen essay too.
Eowyn's trouble is that she is not, initially, radical *enough*. Yes, she wants to fight alongside Aragorn rather than darn his socks etc., but she is still thinking in terms of a hero riding in and taking her out of her situation in the traditional damsel-in-distress manner, to say nothing of having thoroughly internalised the values of her male-warrior-dominated society.
Instead, Aragorn's rejection of her advances pushes her into action on her own initiative; she becomes the hero of her own tale instead of the heroine of his. But unbeknown to her, she has ridden into a different tale altogether - the Tale of Eowyn and Faramir, an altogether more "egalitarian" affair in which hero and heroine move towards each other in a mirrored trajectory, through battle and despair. Both are younger siblings and somewhat undervalued (Eowyn for her sex, Faramir in comparison with Boromir). In fairy-tale style, each helps a Hobbit and is rewarded with a Hobbit's help at the moment of crisis (Merry, and Frodo/Pippin). The moment of crisis itself is actually a "gender-bender" (as Faenoriel put it one time), with Faramir laid out unconscious about to be burned alive (traditional passive female role), while Eowyn slays the Witch-King out on the battlefield.
Thus, when they meet in the Houses of Healing, they meet not as warrior and follower (as Aragorn and Eowyn would have been), but as independent and proven battle-veterans, and both having had experiences of activity and passivity. Eowyn makes her decision from this position of experience (& of success according to the values of Rohan - there is nothing of "sour grapes" about her choice). And you are quite right, her decision is not a retreat into a passive "femininity" but an informed and deliberate choice of priorities which aligns her with the down-to-earth sanity of the Hobbits, the more "advanced" outlook of Gondor as expressed by Faramir, and with all Middle-earth's healers. Now she is truly radical - she has looked critically at her own culture and realised that fine though is its devotion to courage in battle, that is not the only possible measure of value . It is a necessary virtue in troubled Middle-earth (Tolkien was no pacifist) but not one to pursue for its own sake above all else.


DaughterofLaketown
Gondor


Jun 3 2014, 10:15pm

Post #9 of 15 (88 views)
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And this is why I love them as a couple. [In reply to] Can't Post

The moment of crisis itself is actually a "gender-bender" (as Faenoriel put it one time), with Faramir laid out unconscious about to be burned alive (traditional passive female role), while Eowyn slays the Witch-King out on the battlefield.

Quote

It's much more interesting to me to see gender stereotypes challenged than a traditional romance.


Laineth
Rivendell

Jun 12 2014, 6:59pm

Post #10 of 15 (59 views)
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Thank you! :) [In reply to] Can't Post

I totally agree, Eowyn really did reach hero status. The 'sexist' claims really bug me too!


Laineth
Rivendell

Jun 12 2014, 7:02pm

Post #11 of 15 (57 views)
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Thank you! :) [In reply to] Can't Post

I totally agree. To me, the whole point of feminism and equalty is for people to be who they are without being forced into an 'acceptable' role.

I never really thought of Eowyn as an underdog, but you're right! Smile


Laineth
Rivendell

Jun 12 2014, 7:03pm

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Thank you so much! [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Laineth
Rivendell

Jun 12 2014, 7:03pm

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Thanks so much! [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Laineth
Rivendell

Jun 12 2014, 7:03pm

Post #14 of 15 (58 views)
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Thank you! :) [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Laineth
Rivendell

Jun 12 2014, 7:11pm

Post #15 of 15 (83 views)
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Aww, thanks! [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you so much! Tolkien writes such great characters, so seeing Arwen and Eowyn be so misunderstood always bothers me.

You're so right, I never thought about how she and Faramir had switched roles - I love it! I totally agree with everything you've said.

 
 

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