I know I don't pipe up as often as I used to, and that I can never, ever be as thought-provoking and eloquent in my musings as dear (((Varda))), but after reading 'The Lord of the Rings: Weapons and Warfare' by Chris Smith, I feel the need to express my feelings.
First off: let me tell you that this is a wonderful read, and a book I feel every LOTR fan should have. It has gorgeous pictures, and the writer really knows what he is talking about. Also: it reads like an illustrated history book, rather than just another film-book. It is magnificent.
Although Mr. Smith seems to have done his homework thoroughly, there was something he kept writing that keeps irking me to no end:
"During the Witch-King's attack, Merry wounded him twice. This small but brave act was a crucial distraction, allowing Dernhelm to slay the Witch-King, greatest of Sauron's servants."
- W&W page 45, 'Hobbits'
"In striking the killing blow, Éowyn..."
- W&W page 110, 'Éowyn'
"The Witch-King [...] was himself slain by Théoden's niece, Éowyn."
- W&W page 168, 'Nazgûl: The Witch-King'
"... which was enough for Merry to plunge his sword not once but twice into the leg of the Witch-King. While he was fatally distracted, Éowyn delivered the killing blow..."
- W&W page 186, 'The Battle of the Pelennor Fields'
There is no doubt that Mr. Smith has studied Tolkien's works thoroughly, which is why it amazed me how he seems to have overlooked this essential paragraph:
"So passed the sword of the Barrow-downs, work of Westernesse. But glad would he have been to know its fate who wrought it slowly long ago in the North-kingdom when the Dúnedain were young, and chief among their foes was the dread realm of Angmar and its sorcerer king. No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will."
- The Return of the King, Book V, Chapter VI: 'The Battle of the Pelennor Fields'
From the moment I first read this passage, I have felt that it was really Merry, not Éowyn, who "delivered the killing blow", as Mr. Smith puts it. It is clear that Merry's sword was forged for such a purpose, for, as Aragorn says in FOTR, the Hobbits' swords are special, "works of Westernesse, wound about with spells for the bane of Mordor". Indeed, Tolkien says so himself: "no other blade".
Yet generally, and since the films especially, Merry is seen as Éowyn's Little Helper, while she is portrayed as the real hero. Merry's deed is completely overshadowed by Éowyn's I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar moment (complete with releasing her Chi in a karate cry). In ROTK, when you blink during the whole battle, you have the risk of not seeing him do it at all.
And what for? Does Merry not qualify for a hero? Is he not brave, loyal, intelligent? He fits the prophecy as well (if not better) as Éowyn does. He, too, is no man. He carries a sword that was made for the undoing of Angmar. Why is he so carelessly swept under the rug by Smith, Jackson, and most of the rest of the world?
Because he is. Just look at Mr. Smith's words, calling Merry's greatest moment "a small deed" and a "distraction". In the film you hardly notice he is there. Surely PJ has been reading the same book as I have?
In this book, Merry is far more than just a "distraction", and his deed is most certainly never described as "small". Gandalf himself praises him with the highest praise one could ever expect to get out of a wizard: "He has well repaid my trust; for if Elrond had not yielded to me, neither of you would have set out; and then far more grievous would the evils of this day have been."
Aragorn tells him before he sets out: "If you do no more in this war, you have already earned great honour. Peregrin shall go and represent the Shire-folk[...] though he has done as well as his fortune allowed him, he has yet to match your deed."
And Pippin, at the end of all things, looks at his sword and wishes "I could smite that foul Messenger with it, then almost I should draw level with old Merry."
Aragorn, and even Pippin himself, admits that Pip can never match up to what Merry has achieved. And I love the youngest Hobbit nearly as much as his older cousin, but it is true. And yet in the film, of the two, Pip gets the lion's share of the screentime, gets his moment of glory, and what does Merry get? A two-second cameo in what became Éowyn's big scene, and most of his other big scenes cut out completely.
You all know my feelings concerning the treatment of Merry's character in the ROTK film, so I will not bore you with that again. But this just had to be said, in defense of the character I love so much.
"He should have been borne with honour into this City..."
- Gandalf, The Return of the King
Thanks for listening, all...