In The Two Towers, Éowyn, a daughter of the House of Eorl and the niece of King Théoden, is introduced in Meduseld, the king's hall at Edoras. She was the daughter of Théodwyn (sister to Théoden) and Éomund, and the sister of Éomer. When she was only seven years old, her father was killed fighting Orcs and her mother died of grief. Éowyn and Éomer were raised in her uncle's household as if they were his own children.
Tolkien writes that she longed to win renown in battle—more so because she was royal—but being female, her duties were reckoned to be at Edoras. When Théoden's mind was poisoned by his adviser Gríma Wormtongue, Éowyn was obliged to care for her uncle, and his deterioration pained her deeply. To make matters worse, she was constantly harassed by Gríma, who lusted after her. However, when Gandalf arrived, he freed Théoden from Wormtongue's influence.
Éowyn fell in love with Aragorn, but it soon became clear that he could not return her love (though he did not mention his betrothal to Arwen, except by indirect allusion), and would not allow her to join him in going to war. As Aragorn pointed out, her duty was with her people; she had to shoulder the responsibility of ruling Rohan in Théoden's stead when the war-host of Rohan went to war. Aragorn also said her duties were no less valiant. Likening her situation to a "cage", Éowyn said she feared
"...[t]o stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire."
In Return of the King, she disguised herself as a man and under the alias of Dernhelm, travelled with the Riders of Rohan to the Battle of the Pelennor Fields outside the White City of Minas Tirith in Gondor, carrying with her Merry Brandybuck, who had also been ordered to remain behind, on her horse Windfola.
During the battle of the Pelennor Fields, she confronted the Witch-king of Angmar, Lord of the Nazgûl, after Théoden was injured. The Witch-king threatened to "bear [her] away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where [her] flesh shall be devoured, and [her] shriveled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye." The Witch-king further boasted that "[n]o living man may hinder me," referring to the 1,000-year-old prophecy by the Elf-lord Glorfindel, foretelling that the Witch-king would not fall "by the hand of man". Éowyn then removed her helmet and declared:
"But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Éomund’s daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him."
The Witch-king attacked Éowyn with his steed, but she slew it with her sword. He then shattered her shield and broke her shield-arm with his mace, but was distracted by Merry, who stabbed him behind the knee with a sword enchanted with spells against him. Éowyn seized the opportunity to strike the Witch-king with a killing thrust "between crown and mantle". Then as her sword shattered, his withering form collapsed and he vanished with a final cry of anguish.
Éowyn soon passed out from the pain in her arm, and was believed dead until Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth realized she still lived. Éowyn was brought to the Houses of Healing, hovering near death from the effects of having struck the Witch-king. There Éowyn met Faramir, with whom she soon fell in love. Her outlook on life also changed:
"Then the heart of Éowyn changed, or else at last she understood it... ...'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.'"
After the demise of Sauron, Éowyn and Faramir married and settled in Ithilien, of which Faramir was made the ruling Prince by King Elessar (the name with which Aragorn ascended the throne of the Reunited Kingdom). Faramir and Éowyn had at least one son (Elboron), and their grandson was Barahir, who wrote The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen in the Fourth Age.
Éowyn is described to be very beautiful; she was tall, slim, pale, and graceful, with long golden hair and grey eyes. In temperament she was idealistic, spirited, brave and high-minded, but very lonely, having sacrificed her own happiness for years to care for her sick uncle and meet the responsibilities of a shield-maiden.
Names and titles
In Old English (the language Tolkien used to represent his invented language of Rohirric), the word eoh (or eh) means "war-horse, charger" while wyn means "delight, pleasure" (in addition, some sample text within Bosworth and Toller translates wyn as "joy, joyous"). Therefore, even though no such word appears in the lexicon of Old English, the name Éowyn can be taken to mean "delightful charger".
The first syllable of Éowyn sounds like "eh-oh," with the "oh" just barely pronounced. As in Scandinavian or Finnish, the y in the second syllable is the same sound as the German letter ü or the French u.
Tolkien maintained Éowyn was not the character's actual name. Her real name in Rohirric is not given, but it, as well as Éomer and Éomund, would have started with the element Lô- or Loh-, meaning "horse", which he represented with Old English Eoh-.
Although she never carried the title of princess, she was a niece to one King of Rohan and sister to another, as well as the wife of a Gondorian prince.
Éowyn's titles included the (White) Lady of Rohan, Lady of Ithilien and Lady of Emyn Arnen. She was also known as the Lady of the Shield-arm in recognition of her triumph over the Witch-king.
Concept and creation
Originally, Tolkien intended for Éowyn to marry Aragorn. Later, however, he decided against it because Aragorn was "too old and lordly and grim." He considered making Éowyn the twin sister of Éomund, and having her die "to avenge or save Théoden". He also considered having Aragorn truly love Éowyn and regret never marrying after her death.
At one point Tolkien described Éowyn as "a stern Amazon woman". Later he wrote: "Though not a 'dry nurse' in temper, she was also not really a soldier or 'Amazon', but like many brave women was capable of great military gallantry at a crisis." (Here he alludes to Éowyn's statement to Aragorn: "But am I not of the House of Eorl, a shieldmaiden and not a dry-nurse?")
Portrayal in adaptations
In Peter Jackson's films The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), Éowyn is played by Miranda Otto. (The role was first offered to Iben Hjejle, who turned it down because she did not like the idea of being away from Denmark; Uma Thurman was slated for the role at one point.)
In the original novel and Jackson's adaptation, it is implied that Saruman promised her to Gríma as payment for his services as a spy. In one scene, while mourning for her dead cousin, she is subjected to Gríma's obnoxious affections, which she spurns. She sings the dirge at Théodred's funeral. In the extended edition of The Two Towers, Éowyn is shown discovering, to her astonishment, that Aragorn is a long-lived Dúnadan. In the original theatrical release of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Éowyn plays a much larger role in the Battle of Pelennor Fields than in the book, where the only fighting mentioned is her conflict with the Witch-king and also Gothmog. She also replaces Merry as the person to sit with Théoden as he dies. In the Extended Edition of the film, she is portrayed as being near death following her fight with the Witch-King; her brother finds her and screams in anguish because he fears that she is dead. She is later seen being healed by Aragorn, and meeting Faramir in the Houses of Healing.
In the scene before the climactic battle, it is implied that Éowyn will be made heir to Théoden's throne (in the book, Éomer becomes King of Rohan), though it is never fully stated. It seems that Théoden's instructions are that she should take the throne if none of the Rohirrim army return from the battle, including her brother, which is actually the arrangement Théoden makes in the book.
While she disguises herself in the film to ride into battle, she never takes on the name "Dernhelm". In the Extended Edition, Théoden notices her dispatching several Orcs, but it is not clear if he realizes that she is his niece. The production team stated that while in a book it was easy to disguise Éowyn's identity, in the medium of cinema the audience could visually tell that it was her, and it would have strained the credibility of the scenes to try to make it a secret.
Her final appearance occurs at Aragorn's coronation, where she is shown standing next to Faramir. The Extended Edition restores a scene in which she falls in love with Faramir at the Houses of Healing, though even this version never states that they eventually marry. According to the DVD commentaries, an entire set-piece Faramir/Éowyn wedding scene was actually filmed, which Oscar-winning costume designer Ngila Dickson states features what she feels are the best costumes she produced for the entire film trilogy. While this scene has been described in the DVD commentaries and other interviews, it was ultimately cut and not even included in the Extended Edition, nor have any photos of the scene ever been made public.
Notes and references
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954), The Two Towers, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), "The King of the Golden Hall", ISBN 0-395-08254-4
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), "The Houses of Healing", ISBN 0-395-08256-0
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), The Passing of the Grey Company, ISBN 0-395-08256-0
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), "The Battle of the Pelennor Fields", ISBN 0-395-08256-0
- "Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall." Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), Appendices, ISBN 0-395-08256-0
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), The Steward and the King, ISBN 0-395-08256-0
- Eoh: war-horse, Bosworth, Joseph, D.D., F.R.S. & Toller, T. Northcote, M.A. (1898, 1921). An Anglo-Saxon dictionary, based on the manuscript collections of the late Joseph Bosworth. Oxford University Press. p. 253. Google Book Search. Retrieved on April 3, 2009.
- Wyn(n): delight, Bosworth, Joseph, D.D., F.R.S. & Toller, T. Northcote, M.A (1898, 1921). An Anglo-Saxon dictionary, based on the manuscript collections of Joseph Bosworth. Oxford University Press. p. 1285. Google Book Search. Retrieved on April 3, 2009.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1996), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Peoples of Middle-earth, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 0-395-82760-4
- Fauskanger, Helge. "Various Mannish Tongues - the sadness of Mortal Men?". Ardalambion (Tolkien scholarship).
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1989), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Treason of Isengard, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 0-395-51562-9
- Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, #244, ISBN 0-395-31555-7
- Adler, Shawn (17 April 2008). "'Lord of the Rings' What If: Uma Thurman As Eowyn?". MTV Movies Blog. Retrieved 23 December 2010.