The Travesty of Eowyn

by MerryK with responses

I am one of the few Tolkien fans who can watch the animated movies more than once, and actually prefer some elements of them to PJ's version. While watching the Return of the King, though, I was reminded of something that had always bothered me in Peter Jackson's films.

Despite the fact that she has more screen time, I feel that Eowyn is one of the most damaged characters in the adaptation. Yes, technically, the three major things she does (fall for Aragorn, kill the Witch King, fall for Faramir) are intact, but her character is vastly changed.

In the book, Eowyn is a remarkable character. Not only is she a daughter of kings, with dignity and pride equal to any other of her race, but she is an important member of society. Her leadership qualities are recognized by her people, and she is the first candidate for steward when the men ride off to war. While they are gone, she organizes the evacuation of Edoras, as well as the ordering of the camp in Dunharrow, and makes everything ready for when Theoden should return.

In the movie however, while Arwen is given a part of some worth, Eowyn is stripped of all importance and authority. She becomes merely a woman in the company that ride to Helm's Deep, no more special than Legolas or Gimli. Theoden puts her in charge only for a moment, and out of necessity, and when he comes to Helm's Deep, she does not report to him that all is ready, but instead inquires after the men they have lost like anyone would have done. True, Theoden does nominally leave her in charge when they ride to Minas Tirith, but their whole exchange circles around her emotional distress, rather than the fact that she is one worthy to be given leadership. In the book, Eowyn bemoans the fact that people treat her as merely a woman, but she is at least given important positions. In the movie, she has much more complaint, and yet all her lines on that subject are gone.

And then of course, there is her personality. In the book, she is the frozen lily, proud and cold and strong; in the movie, it's hard to imagine a more softened version. She's warm and friendly, blushingly insecure, and the object of slapstick-ish humor at one point. She appears fickle as well, falling for Aragorn quickly enough, and then melting in Faramir's arms after two lines of his. Yes, I know he's handsome, but it's really too much. In her battle with the Witch King, one of the most awe-inspiring scenes of the book, far from impressing Merry with her fearlessness as she does in the book, she's wide eyed and and panicked, just managing to survive on nearly pure luck (once again stripped of any good lines). Even the animated movie closer to her character from the book in that scene, which is really a telling statement.

I understand that to do her part justice, more screen time would probably be required, but as distance cools my inthusiasm for the films, I often wonder if more could have been done even with so little time.

Response by Holly Baggins:

Very interesting post. I agree with you on most points. I don't really have much to add, but what I have follows.

I have never actually seen the animated movies. I may have to watch them one day. I shied away from them for quite a while because I had not heard good things about them, but lately I've heard a few good things, so maybe I should.

Despite the fact that she has more screen time, I feel that Eowyn is one of the most damaged characters in the adaptation. Yes, technically, the three major things she does (fall for Aragorn, kill the Witch King, fall for Faramir) are intact, but her character is vastly changed.

I wouldn't go so far as to say she is the most damaged. I think I would place her fourth, following Frodo, Faramir, and Aragorn, respectively. But I absolutely agree that her character was not done justice. One particular little thing you hinted at that has always bothered me is the altering of the line "But no living man am I! You look upon a woman," to "I am no man." I don't see where that line needed modernization, and it lost so much in the change.

I understand that to do her part justice, more screen time would probably be required, but as distance cools my inthusiasm for the films, I often wonder if more could have been done even with so little time.

I find that distance has cooled my enthusiasm for the films also. I find more things in them I am unsatisfied with as time goes on. Ah, well.

Response by Strange Elf:

How interesting! I find that I can tolerate things that use to get my goat. I've learned to look away when certain things happen, like the whole 'One who has seen the eye' bit, and the beating of Denethor. To name a few.

I would say I love the movies as much as, if not more, as the time has gone by.

Response by Holly Baggins:

Hmm, maybe that's because I have grown more devoted to the book as time goes on. I dunno. Funny. But I must say, though, that what things in the movies might have had me fuming at one time, only make me sigh and leave me with a sad and rather disappointed feeling now. I'm more used to the big changes, but I'm no happier about them. Really, it's the little things that bug me now. Things I might not have noticed when the movies were still new. I guess I'm getting rather nitpicky. I drive myself crazy with it sometimes, because I wish I could overlook those things like I did when the films first came out! Sometimes I miss the enthusiasm I had about the films then, not to say that I've become less of a fan of LOTR in general; indeed, the opposite is true.

Response by Vison:

Merry K, you are a kindred spirit.  I loathed what PJ did to Eowyn.

Words fail me.

I've been around this place for a long time, and most of my old friends here know that I loathe almost everything PJ did to every one of my beloved LOTR characters. So I will refrain from going on at great length. I agree with you. One moan I must repeat: Why couldn't she have spoken the words in the book? Why? Why? Why?

sorry sorry sorry

I'll be good.  I promise.

Response by Holly Baggins:

I'll second that moan.

Response by Lindorie:

I think that I am more like Strange Elf in that things that used to bug me in the films, I now either ignore or overlook. I, too have become more a fan of the books, but not at the cost of my love for the movies. I am able to separate the two as two pieces of art, both done of the same subject, but by two different artists in two different media. There were several items in all three movies that I didn't particularly like, but I accept them as different visions by different artists. If Claude Monet and Salvadore Dali both stood at easels side by side overlooking the Cathedral of Notre Dame, I might watch and admire both pieces of art that resulted, but I would more likely choose a print of the Monet work to have in my home.

The Peter Jackson films are nothing more than PJ's vision of Tolkien's world. The same with Ralph Bakshi's film, John Howe's and Alan Lee's (along with countless other artists) illustrations, and the fan fiction that many of us dabble at. All are different visions of the same world. It's ok to say that we prefer one to another, but I'm not certain that saying that one is wrong vs right is really kosher.

It is possible for ten people to read Tolkien's three volume work and all may have different impressions of one or more of the characters. Tolkien may have wanted us to see something in a character that just doesn't resonate with some readers, the situation or response the character just doesn't jibe with some reader's own personal ethics, experience, or whatever. Obviously PJ, Fran, and Phillipa saw things differently, whether because of cinematic needs or because they just didn't feel the same way about the characters as the majority of people. They just used a different medium to show their impression of the same world, just like one artist uses collage and another oils. I like both, and will keep them separate in my mind, neither taking away from, but rather complimenting my view of the same subject.

Response by Holly Baggins:

Ah, yes, but would you choose the Monet print over the actual cathedral? I think not. One is the real thing, while the other is only a copy, even though it may be an excellent copy. That is the way it is with the movies. PJ's movies are merely an interpretation of the real thing: Tolkien's book. I love the movies dearly--don't get me wrong, but they are not an entirely accurate portrayal of the original, which is where my loyalty lies.

Reply by MerryK:

I would go so far to say that they are much more faithful to the story than PJ, but PJ had a better grasp on the world of Middle-Earth. For example, in the animated LOTR, Aragorn is exactly how I imagined him, in look, voice and character (though they changed his looks in ROTK). But the landscapes and detail are very childish compared to PJ and not how I imagined them. Beware that you will cringe; just how much depends on who you are.

Response by Varda:

Oh dear... when I said I did not like Jackson's Faramir and Frodo, I did not want to see his films seen TOO negatively. I do believe that, on the whole, Jackson did a fabulously good job.

I think we should be realistic and recognise that we were EXTREMELY lucky to get a director who hired an expert in Elvish, David Salo, to advise on the correct pronunciation of Elvish. Would a Hollywood director have used Elvish subtitles? And have hired the illustrators who had given us a vision of Middle EArth decades before the film, so it *looked* just right? And the care that went into the design of Elvish and Gondorian artefacts? It was the sets that ravished me, even when I had reservations about Pj's handling of the characters.

But let's take a hard look at those characters. Yes, MerryK, why didn't PJ use the book Eowyn's words? But if he left them out, he also left out the worst (for me) episode in the book; where Eowyn KNEELS to Aragorn and begs him not to go.

I almost did not go any further when I read that bit the first time round. Eowyn actually begs Aragorn on her knees. Jackson changed that to the scene where she tries to stop him with halting words, just hinting at her love. It's better than the kneeling thing..

I respect people who love book Eowyn, but she is a dreadful snob, and I hate snobbery. She constantly refers to her high lineage, and how awful it would be to be a peasant (like Sam, maybe?) I perceive her courage, her frustration and her determination, but her snobbery grates. So I turned to the film Eowyn, getting down to feeding the troops, with relief.

And although I don't like the changes Peter Jackson made to Frodo and Faramir, I have to admit he got two fine and wonderful actors to play their parts, and they acted them well. His Frodo is kind and funny, with a quiet wisdom that is only seen at the very end. His Faramir is perceptive and thoughtful and, for a soldier, he has a heart that is easily wounded, just as in the book. The tears in his eyes as he says to Denethor
'If I return, Father, think better of me....' just broke my heart. They are in the book and they are in the film and they are true to BOTH.

Jackson also took liberties with the characters of Aragorn, Boromir and Theoden - with wonderful results! His Aragorn is not to be surpassed, and I make no apologies, better than the book, where Tolkien had great problems getting to grips with this character. Nobody could have bettered Viggo, and no-one ever will.

In the book, Boromir is a low-key character. Tolkien tells us very little about him and gives him few lines until Amon Hen, where he talks to himself, and is under the influence of the Ring anyway. But Peter Jackson fleshes this character out into a generous but impulsive man whose fault was only to 'but slenderly know himself'. He is attractive even when he is making a horse's collar of his life. His death is just one of the best moments on film I have ever seen, and a heartstopping moment even in a cinema full of people who had certainly not read the book. One schoolgirl behind me sobbed;
'Oh he is the same tribe!'

I don't know what she meant, but I understood the tears.

Theoden in the book is a wonderful kind old man; in the film, he is a formidable, canny, wise and humorous leader of a warlike people. You absolutely believe he was once a great warrior, and will be again, before the end.
Jackson wisely takes the battle cry;
'Death' from Eomer in the book and gives it to Theoden in the film, because this Theoden, on his white horse, is henceforth the Theoden most people will see, and I salute the actor and the director for a wonderful impersonation. Even if it is of an different son of Eorl.

And Jackson has the courage to give us Denethor right on, a wise and dangerous leader of the greatest power in Middle Earth, who won't give it up just for the asking. We are almost invited to hate Denethor, but that is Jackson's great truth to the book; Denethor is, as Gandalf tells Pippin, a terrible old man.

Then there is Sam. Jackson gets his Sam right, and the times he batters Gollum fade against the overall picture which is so so so close to Tolkien's. Where he picks up Frodo and carries him, sweating and desperate, that is the ultimate Sam. No style, no swagger, just all heart.

I would love to see another lOTR. I would love to see someone else try the Hobbit. But I am not so separated from my brains as to think this was not a wonderful endeavour, which tackled more than 20 major characters and got them mostly right, a few hearbreakingly wrong, but some correct to beyond our wildest dreams. What, after all, was Haldir in the book? Look at what he was in the film....

Tolkien was a professor of Anglo-Saxon literature. The Saxons believed that all human effort was ultimately doomed, but that we should strive bravely, and treat those who fight with us with generosity and loyalty. If Peter Jackson failed, then it was a magificent failure that brought us wonder and inspiration and, lets not forget it, brought us here to share this fellowship.

Response by Strange Elf:

I like having the original and the copy. Best of both worlds, so to speak.

You know, I sometimes wonder if we really want a true portrayal of the book. I mean, would that not then take somewhat from our joy of reading, to have a visual that is true to the book?

I am so with Lindore on this one. When I first went to see FOTR I mentally cut off from the film right as Arwen rode in to take Frodo to Rivendell. I sat through the rest of the movie admiring Legolas' 'fine eyes' (fine everything), I had made my mind up that the movie was rubbish. It took a lot of persuading from my husband and boys, to go back, leave the book behind, go back and enjoy what PJ had done as a movie. I followed their advice, and I have been able to do that ever since.

I don't really think that anyone can do the book justice, not unless they had unlimited amounts of time,money, and the ability to make several movies and not just three.

Oh dear, I'm sorry MerryK! I have totally run off with my own thoughts here, and ignored your thoughts on Eowyn. Maybe a mod can cut and paste these last few posts into a new post or something.

The rules of filmmaking don't allow for multiple characters being developed as they are in a book, and sadly Eowyn isn't seen as a character to focus too much time on. They could have cut her out completley (*Thinks of the hash job they did on Pride & Prejudice last year*).

And let's not forget that there were many things filmed that ended up on the cutting room floor. PJ didn't always have the last say in matters, those holding the wallet did.

Reponse from MerryK:

Like Holly, I also saw Eowyn's pride as a wall against the world, and, poor girl, did she need it. It obviously didn't work well enough, because, as Gandalf says, Wormtongue's words still wormed into her brain and made her despair. As for the kneeling, well, it bothered me a wee bit, but she was "a maiden young and sad", and saw Aragorn as her last hope, so I didn't think it all unlikely.

There's a paradox in Eowyn, that I like very much. In normal circumstances, she would have been much like she is in the movie, I think, though with perhaps more dignity. We see a lot of vulnerability and softness in her scenes with Faramir in the book, and we see kindness in her treatment of Merry, both before and after her healing. What makes her a well-rounded character, IMHO, is that she did not grow up in normal circumstances. She's starved for love and recognition, told by Wormtongue that she and her country and her family are worthless, and driven to despair by seeing all that she loves go away to a hopeless war. That wall of pride around her is what makes her human, and it's wonderful to see it slowly break down. I didn't have a problem with showing Eowyn's soft side, just that only that side was shown.

It really is hard for me to criticise Peter Jackson, because, like most people, I loved a lot of what he did. Faramir and Aragorn really drove me nuts when I first saw them, but I can watch them now and enjoy them as un-Tolkien creations. Faramir, in fact, I found really sweet and lovable—just not Tolkien's Faramir. And I think we're very lucky that it was as good as it was—I just can't ignore the original work.

Response from Varda:

Two weeks ago I went to Ringcon in Germany, and one of the guests was Miranda Otto.

Now, like you, I did not at first think much of her portrayal of Eowyn. I thought she was too feminine and soft. But Miranda Otto had some astonishingly good points to make about Eowyn, and she had to play her, which always makes you delve into the humanity of a character. Otto copied everything Eowyn said and pasted the words around her walls, so she literally surrounded herself with the character.

Remember there are two books in The Lord of The Rings; there is the almost mythical, heroic tale of the return of the King, Aragorn the healer bringing unity and peace to the land. And there is the more modern, real and gritty psychological thriller of Frodo and Sam and Gollum and their struggle to reach Mt Doom and achieve their task.

Aragorn is described by Tolkien in the language used for Beowulf or the Green Knight; Frodo is modern, one of us, described in plain modern English.

Eowyn falls into both camps; as a 'daughter of kings' she is haughty, noble and proud (snobbish) but as the girl who falls in love with a man she can't have she is, heartbreakingly, one of us.

When Eowyn first sees Aragorn, he has a big flashing neon sign on his head saying 'ESCAPE'.

Think of her plight; she has no equals, no friends except her brother and cousin, and they are away at war. Her rank isolates her.

Then Wormtongue arrives and her uncle turns into a zombie. Too proud to let anyone else do it, she slaves to look after him, all the while being leered at by this oily creep, who is yet the only one who seems to understand her; that she is a caged creature.

She sees her life slipping away without every achieving anything. And in her society, the only way to achieve is as a warrior. Her desire for 'valour and renown' are pathetic; she just wants a life, and if it has to be as a warrior, that will do.

Then Aragorn rides in. It is not that she wants him, she wants to BE him. In the Extended Edition there is a nice little scene where she rebels at being given charge of the women and children and the cooking. She blurts out to Aragorn that his comrades follow him 'because they love you and would not be parted from you' Eowyn saying she loves him too, or is she longing to be loved like he is? It is a fine point! As Aragorn says also in the EE, 'it is a dream and an idea that you love', a dream of what she wants to be. She loves what Aragorn represents, valour, fame, achievement.

Eowyn is a cold person. She takes Merry to war as she sees her own plight echoed in his, but she never speaks to him on the long ride, leaving him lonely and anxious. He never realises till the end who she is; he thinks she is 'Dernhelm'. The closeness of the two in the film is not in the book.

When Eowyn wakes up in the Houses of Healing, she never mentions her dead uncle; she just says 'oh darn, still alive? Never mind, I am sure there is an empty saddle I can fill' She sounds like a very cold fanatic. Merry wakes up and quickly remembers Theoden, and it is the hobbit who mourns his kind lord and has to be comforted by Gandalf.

Eowyn's coldness is remarked on in the book; 'like a morning of pale spring still clinging to winter's chill'

But Eowyn is not cold because she is a cruel or hard person; she is cold because she has in her heart despaired of achieving anything and thereby ever deserving the love of one such as Aragorn. Gandalf tells Aragorn that it was the long, hopeless caring for her uncle that has frozen her hope, and anyone who has been a longtime carer will nod in agreement at that.

Miranda Otto was asked about her scenes with Wormtongue. She said that Eowyn is both repulsed by Grima and also fascinated by someone who is obviously interested in her. Everyone else is more interested in their horse in that society. This is a woman with wonderful beauty, talent and guts, but she has been thwarted and caged, and the result is someone who has almost forgotten how to live, certainly has forgotten how to love, and thinks the only way she can validate her existence is either gaining a King (Aragorn) or dying gloriously.

The only man who can melt this Ice Queen is Faramir, who has a kind heart to melt any snow. He is funny, and gently mocks Eowyn when she says she thinks she doesn't want to wed a king any more.
'That's great news!' he says 'Because I am no king'. He chips away at her iron self-control. They are the most mismatched pair on earth, but Faramir has lost a lot more than she has; his father, brother and the Stewardship of Gondor. We are both wrecked on the beach, he says to her, let us find love, as in the end it is all there is. And when she won't answer him, he pleads, and she gives in. Eowyn is a proud woman, and Faramir throws away all his pride to woo her....and succeeds.

Thanks, MerryK
(and thanks Miranda for a very interesting and perceptive lecture on Eowyn)

Response from MerryK:

Actually, Eowyn's first thought is for her brother, she thought he was killed and is happy he is alive. Her second thought is for Theoden, and she grieves, and then thirdly she remembers Merry and asks Eomer to honor him. It is only after Gandalf hopes she is returned to "health and hope" that she gives hint of her deep despair.

while I totally agree that Faramir is more of a lost cause (which a lot of people don't notice when talking about the pair), I don't think that they are mismatched. In fact, I can't see them marrying anyone else and being happy, which I can see with all the other couples. Faramir needs someone who will love him and understand what he's been through (despair, lack of love, etc.). Eowyn needs someone to love her, understand her, and appreciate her for who she is, not what she can do. Yes, they both have emotional baggage, but it's much the same baggage, so they will be able to understand what the other is going through.

Eowyn is a cold person. She takes Merry to war as she sees her own plight echoed in his, but she never speaks to him on the long ride, leaving him lonely and anxious. He never realises till the end who she is; he thinks she is 'Dernhelm'. The closeness of the two in the film is not in the book.

It's mostly supposition, but I always thought that Eowyn felt a little fond of Merry in the book, from the scene where she gives him the armor, their dinner together, and the fact that she takes him along. Considering that she is riding purposely to death, I thought it must have been something like fondness (or maybe just pity) to get her to notice Merry. That she leaves him alone on the ride is due to the selfishness of despair, IMHO, not that she doesn't value him.

But you definitely hit the nail on how Eowyn sees Aragorn. In the end, it's not so much that she transfers her love from Aragorn to Faramir—as Faramir says, she looks up to him and admires him, and that emotion doesn't change—it's just that she redefines that emotion, and is then able to give her true love to Faramir.

Response by JimboBaggins:

These are all excellent and valid arguements but once I learned that Tom Bombadill wasn't going to be in the movie I had to give license to P.J.'s interpretation and roll with it.  So close on so many scenes and way off on others.
After having read all the great tales on this site and the Scrapbook it's a blur between JRRT's world and the one created by the Ringers. All good and look forward to more to come.

Response from MerryK:

You're right, JBaggins, of course! If we were really purists, we wouldn't be watching it in the first place. It would be easier, in a sense, to flow with PJ's vision if he was farther off the track, if we couldn't recognize our Middle-Earth. It's the fact that he's so close and yet so far that makes it hard to ignore the book and enjoy the ride. But in the end, I can't help enjoying it.

Reponse from Lindorie:

My previous response followed the tangent of book vs movie. With this one I shall address my pet peeve with Eowyn, both in the book and in the movie.

Eowyn was left as regent to care for the people of Rohan in the absence of the king. This is a responsibility that Theoden entrusted her with that is more important than he self-absorbed desire for glory in battle and death. That she should abdicate that responsiblity is, IMHO, absolutely abhorable. As a medievalist, the tenants of chivalry mean a great deal to me. Honor, loyalty, bravery, faith, generosity, and others have a large part in my life and Eowyn really blew it by ditching her responsiblity to go play war with the boys. While I admire her skill as a warrior, I have little respect for her.

Theoden really never expected to come back to Rohan from Gondor. Success in the war against Sauron was highly unlikely. Theoden figured that Eowyn would have to fight as a last resort, along with the remnants of his people. Someone needed to lead these people, and Eowyn was to do so, but she left. I don't recall who she left entrusted with HER job, but it would not have been anyone of much stature and probably not with any sort of leadership skills. Probably it was an older retired soldier, or one of those who had been wounded in the earlier skirmishes. It was none of the Royal family, who might have been instrumental in maintaining morale and order in a last desparate struggle for survival.

Sometimes strength and courage mean taking no for an answer and doing the job you are given because you are needed for it. Eowyn was selfish and glory-seeking. If anything I think that PJ improved her situation in the film because he did not pay much attention to Theoden leaving the people in her care.

I know several knights that have taken on jobs they didn't particularly want because their King has asked it of them. I know that our organization isn't a 'real' kingdom and our 'kings' and 'knights' don't have the kind of responsiblities that a real monarch or peers have, but we do take our roles and jobs seriously. If the crown asks something of you, you do it, if it is physically or financially possible. You have taken an oath of fealty to support the Crown and the Kingdom, and your status as a peer demands certain responsiblities.

It takes more than ability in battle to make a knight. Eowyn sacrificed her honor and a large portion of her loyalty when she rode to Gondor.

Response from MerryK:

I used to think like you, Lindorie, until I noticed that in "The Ride of the Rohirrim", there is an "understanding" between Eowyn and Elfhelm the marshall, which I interpret as he knowing who she is and allowing her to come in secret. Considering that this man is the First Marshall, I do not think he would have let her come if she had left her people shepherdless (a breach of duty). Very likely he chose some Lord of the Mark to take her place (not all of them went to battle; Theoden regretted that they had to leave so quickly, because he could have taken much more troops if he had had another day to muster them).

While I agree that the most honorable thing would have been to do her duty, I wouldn't say that what she did was abhorent. The Rohirrim were very keen on honor and duty, and not only does Elfhelm approve her choice, but Faramir (Mr. Honor himself) does not think ill of her for it, and she is renowned in the Mark ever after. If she had been dishonorable, I am sure that something would have been said.

(As for her loyalty, Tolkien describes Dernhelm with "faithful beyond fear", "loving his lord as a father", and other such approving phrases)

Just my humble opinion, and I have to admit that it's highly biased, because I can't imagine Tolkien allowing someone to gain such renown through a dishonorable act.

Response from Varda:

Thanks for the reply, MerryK, and sorry, I did get that wrong, Eowyn does ask for Theoden on awaking.

But if you read the passage, she says, on hearing that Theoden is dead;
'That is grievous, yet it is good beyond all that I dared hope for in the dark days when it seemed that the House of Eorl was sunk in honour less than any shepherd's cot'

So....she is glad her uncle died gloriously, so her family can keep their high rank and not be confused with some peasant. She is still the hard, cold proud woman she was when she went into battle.

Although Faramir and Eowyn are mismatched, that does not mean they can't be happy. It is indeed hard to see them marrying anyone else, as there is only one eligible woman in the story, and it is Eowyn. That is why poor Eomer ends up reigning alone; not enough females.

I often thought that Tolkien felt he had to marry Faramir and Eowyn off to complete the picture of a happy return to peace and prosperity, with the return of the king, just as Shakespeare marries everyone off at the end of his comedies. Sam marries Rosie and Aragorn marries Arwen, and Faramir marries Eowyn. Then the story runs out of women.

I think we have to remember too that Eowyn is Tolkien's only leading female character, and women in general are not his strong suit. Perhaps some of her inconsistencies are due to the writing. Maybe Tolkien did not mean to make Eowyn sound as if she valued her uncle's honour more than his life....maybe.

Comment from Holly Baggins:

Oh, and Varda, Eomer actually marries Lothiriel, Imrahil's daughter. It's only mentioned in the Appendices, though.

Response from Varda:

I did know that Eomer gets married but it does not happen in the story so it can't be part of Tolkien's celebratory return to a happy and harmonious world with the return of the King.

I don't like to weigh events in the Appendices equally with those in the story, I think that is like trying to add to your answers after you left the Exam Hall. I am quite aware that others don't agree with me, but if you take information added in a footnote, often years after the main story was written, it devalues the main story. You will be reading and thinking 'is this all?'

If you read my post about the singing Rohirrim you will see that I regard how something is written, the language, imagery and metaphors, as just as important as what is written. That makes it literature. To put a footnote on the same level as the crafted and revised text is to really say it is not literature at all which is not the message we want to send out about Tolkien's work.

Tolkien himself made a case for the add-ons, but I think if you follow his advice you actually damage the holistic unity of his book, and lose that mystery that comes when you finish a tale. Something should be left to the *reader's* imagination.

About Eowyn, quite a few film critics noticed the resemblance between her and Theoden and Cordelia and King Lear. There is even the same line, or almost the same line, given to both Lear and Theoden;
'I know your face', at that moment of recognition of his daughter/niece.

When Lear experiences his disastrous casting out, he comes to a realisation that rank and high birth mean nothing;
'a dog's obeyed in office' he says. When Eowyn comes to after her ordeal on the battlefield, the first thing she says shows she is happy that her noble family has had its honour re-instated. Eowyn has failed to learn Lear's lesson.

It is later that Eowyn comes to learn that lesson, from Faramir. He has nothing now in terms of office and influence, but he has the ability to give love, and he offers her that. We all know Aragorn won't let him stay out of work but for now, in the Houses of Healing, he has no power, and by accepting him Eowyn is recognising that there might be something more important in life than a diadem....

Response from Doctor Gamgee:

But if you read the passage, she says, on hearing that Theoden is dead;
'That is grievous, yet it is good beyond all that I dared hope for in the dark days when it seemed that the House of Eorl was sunk in honour less than any shepherd's cot'

So....she is glad her uncle died gloriously, so her family can keep their high rank and not be confused with some peasant. She is still the hard, cold proud woman she was when she went into battle.

That is interesting, V, as when I have read that passage, it always struck me not as someone claiming their family's greatness, but rather one of the few moments where she is actually softer and more human; glad that if Theoden must be dead, at least he died happy in battle of his own free will and as he was when younger, and not at the end of Wormtongue's strings as a puppet king, old and frail.

Eowyn in my mind was never the ice-princess that others believe her to be. She was strong and distant, and hid her feelings well, but that is to be expected of shomeone in her position -- a female royal in a time when women were not encouraged to broadcast their thoughts, especially if they were counter a man's. Under those circumstance, how could she come across as anything but hard?

Response from Vison:

I agree with your reading, Dr. G. Eowyn didn't strike me as rock hard, but ice hard. As in frozen. Ice can melt in real life, but the only melted rock in LOTR was in the Cracks of Doom!

And although PJ got so much right, he got Eowyn terribly wrong. IMHO. However, my "reading" of Eowyn would likely make very poor cinema, so it is likely best as it is.

Part of it is Tolkien's fault, of course . . . .  he didn't deal well with his woman characters, they often seem a kind of mish-mash of high-born lady warrior and Victorian Miss Primly.

Reply from MerryK:

Although Faramir and Eowyn are mismatched, that does not mean they can't be happy. It is indeed hard to see them marrying anyone else, as there is only one eligible woman in the story, and it is Eowyn. That is why poor Eomer ends up reigning alone; not enough females.

While I would agree that there aren’t enough females (though someone once made a good point that each Tolkien female is very special and rememberable, while many of the males are filler), considering that Tolkien planned for Eomer to marry the daughter of Imrahil (or in the original draft, it was Hurin of the Keys’ daughter), he could not have incorporated their union into the story, since Eomer had only just met Imrahil when ROTK ends. Just like he could only show Faramir and Eowyn’s betrothal, not wedding, due to time constraints. It would also have been hard for him to have more female characters, because they were nearly all sent away because of the war, you only see them in peace time, except for Eowyn.

I often thought that Tolkien felt he had to marry Faramir and Eowyn off to complete the picture of a happy return to peace and prosperity, with the return of the king, just as Shakespeare marries everyone off at the end of his comedies. Sam marries Rosie and Aragorn marries Arwen, and Faramir marries Eowyn. Then the story runs out of women.

Ah, I don’t believe he wanted to paint a picture of peace and prosperity. For as much rejoicing there is in the final chapters of ROTK, there is much sadness as well—the parting of Elrond and Arwen, the funeral of Theoden, the fact that it takes months to heal Rohan enough to bring back Theoden to bury, Frodo’s wounds, the Scouring of the Shire, Saruman’s icky end, etc.

I ascribe a different purpose to Tolkien’s pairing of Faramir and Eowyn. I’m not sure why Tolkien wrote Eowyn in the first place—perhaps he found her wandering in from the fields of Rohan, like he found Faramir in Ithilien—but once he had her, she played an important role, even more important than Eomer (who could possibly be left out of a film, as he very nearly was in PJ’s version). He wrote her character very convincingly, too, so readers were not going to accept a one-sentence ending to her storyline.

But not only had she served a role in the plotline, but she served a role in one of his favorite themes: Hope. Here is the very epitome of what his story is about. Since you like looking at how he writes, Varda, I notice he starts off “The Steward and the King”, not with a description of Eowyn’s emotional struggles, but of the despair hanging over all of Gondor. Because it really isn’t about Faramir and Eowyn, it’s about hope and despair (and yes, it really pains me to write that, because I would love for it to be all about them). Here are two people who seemingly have nothing to hope for. Frodo and Sam had each other and their goal, the hope that Sauron would be gone forever if they could just complete their quest. But what do Faramir and Eowyn have? All their loved ones are either dead, or on their way to almost-certain death, and they are unable to help them in any way. Tolkien certainly understood the despair that so easily comes just from feeling that you can do nothing, and Eowyn’s lines on the subject are very poignant because of that understanding.

So what do they do? They endure, they wait, they hope. We’ve seen various characters on their road from despair to hope, whether it’s the heroic road of Theoden, the dramatic and earthshaking road of Frodo and Sam, or the thrilling road of Aragorn and those who follow him on the Paths of the Dead. And it’s all been wonderful and in the best heroic style, but not necessarily the sort of thing readers can relate to. Tolkien does an excellent job, though, of weaving the modern and the mythical nearly seamlessly, and in Faramir and Eowyn he gives us a quieter example. In the darkest hour of Middle-earth, these two find something to live for, something to hope in, and they grow and prosper.

And when it comes to the end, it’s not just that these two have found love, which they could have done at any time, and it wouldn’t be quite so romantic. No, it’s the fact that they’ve passed under the wings of the shadow, and have come forth in health and hope, which makes their story so special. Yes, Tolkien was wrapping up plotlines in them, just as he was wrapping up plotlines by killing off Denethor, but he never did anything without a purpose, and I think that here his purpose was clear. No matter how dark the situation, no matter what your past, there is never a time to give up hope.

Thank you everyone for your welcome and responses...I never thought this would be so controversial.

Response from Varda:

Thanks for your reply, MerryK, and I think our differences are more ones of emphasis, and even timing, than of substance.

I think we have to allow for who Faramir is. If Eowyn is not drawn very clearly, Faramir is drawn very clearly indeed, as you say, Tolkien met him walking in Ithilien, fully imagined.

In Ithilien when he 'takes' Frodo and Sam, Faramir reveals himself to the hobbit as a good but very clever, patient and determined man. He winkles the truth out of the hobbits, despite their efforts to keep them to themselves. Faramir has learned cunning, albeit in a good cause.

This is the same Faramir in the Houses of Healing; he winkles an answer out of Eowyn with the same persistence and intelligence as he did out of Sam and Frodo. Eowyn has only once been treated with understanding before, by Grima. She hates to be pitied. Faramir, with his great perceptiveness, sees this and works around it. He knows not to touch her insecurities. When Eowyn says she has no healing, she shows she does not understand what Faramir is set on doing; winning her. Faramir doesnt' want an a shoulder to cry on, or even to give her one; he wants HER.

I think Tolkien persisted with this rather strange and mismatched romance - after all, Eowyn is a shieldmaiden who wants to go out and kill, and Faramir tells Frodo that he HATES to kill and only does it because he has to - because the only other romance in the story is that of Aragorn and Arwen, which all happens offstage and is tinged with the tragedy of Arwen's sacrifice.

I think Tolkien realised that a romance, as LOTR has been called, needs romance, hence the strange idyll of Eowyn and Faramir.

Faramir is one of Tolkien's 'modern characters', and Eowyn owes much to Tolkien's high heroic style. So the headlines will scream;
''20th century guy wins medieval maiden...!''

Reply from MerryK:

My only comment would be that I don't think Faramir was set on winning Eowyn from their first meeting. I think he was genuine and truthful when he told her his reasons, and only later did he start seeing her as a prospective bride. Not much later, but later. But once he knew that, I'll agree that he managed everything carefully.

Thanks for the debate, Varda!

Response from Rogorn:

I haven't had much time to comment on this, and by the time I have some, almost everything has been said, and quite well.

One fascinating point that could be applied to all of Tolkien's characters, and in fact to any characters that go from written to performed medium in any story, is the wide variety of readings one could make from them in different adaptations. If we look at characters like Hamlet, or Merlin, for example, we can see that through different ways of playing them they can end up saying different things to different audiences at different times. Olivier's Hamlet was stagey (in a good, proper, Shakespearian actor way), Kenneth Branagh was cold and calculating and Mel Gibson's was wild-eyed and full of passion, and this working within the same lines of dialogue, word for word.

Tolkien's creations are only half a century old, as opposed to four or even millennia, but I wonder if now that LOTR is not deemed 'unfilmable' we'll see many different Aragorns, Frodos and Eowyns in the future. We have a few already, and the musical, for example, has added a new side to it. PJ gave his Aragorn a self-doubt that wasn't in the book, for example, and Eowyn a Lady-of-the-Manor touch. Other people might read them differently.

Anyway, I'll just add a couple of quotes from Tolkien himself about Eowyn:

"It is possible to love more than one person (of the other sex) at the same time, but in a different mode and intensity. I do not think that Eowyn's feelings for Aragorn really changed much; and when he was revealed as so lofty a figure, in descent and office, she was able to go on loving and admiring him. He was old, and that is not only a physical quality: when not accompanied by any physical decay age can be alarming or awe-inspiring. Also she was not herself ambitious in the true political sense. 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. (...) Faramir was daunted by his father: not only in the ordinary way of a family with a stern proud father of great force of character, but as a Númenórean before the chief of the one surviving Númenórean state. He was motherless and sisterless (Eowyn was also motherless), and had a 'bossy' brother. He had been accustomed to giving way and not giving his own opinions air, while retaining a power of command among men, such as a man may obtain who is evidently personally courageous and decisive, but also modest, fair-minded and scrupulously just, and very merciful. I think he understood Eowyn very well. Also to be Prince of Ithilien, the greatest noble after Dol Amroth in the revived Númenórean state of Gondor, soon to be of imperial power and prestige, was not a 'market-garden job' as you term it. Until much had been done by the restored King, the Prince of Ithilien would be the resident march-warden of Gondor, in its main eastward outpost – and also would have many duties in rehabilitating the lost territory, and clearing it of outlaws and orc-remnants, not to speak of the dreadful vale of Minas Ithil (Morgul). (...)
(There has been) criticism of the speed of the relationship or 'love' of Faramir and Eowyn. In my experience feelings and decisions ripen very quickly (as measured by mere 'clock-time', which is actually not justly applicable) in periods of great stress, and especially under the expectation of imminent death. And I do not think that persons of high estate and breeding need all the petty fencing and approaches in matters of 'love'. This tale does not deal with a period of 'Courtly Love' and its pretences; but with a culture more primitive (sc. less corrupt) and nobler."