Eowyn, Shieldmaiden of Rohan
The next day Eowyn arose betimes and donned her riding dress. She put
over all her mail coat and then her sword belt. Thus arrayed she went
into Theoden’s Hall where she met with those folk of Edoras who were to
join with her in ordering the move to Dunharrow.
Though Grima son of Galmod had done much that Eowyn disliked, he had
possessed a talent for organizing this and that. Each district of the
town had its captain or warden, charged with those who dwelt in their
area. The master list was still in Theoden’s office, carefully made out
in Grima’s neat hand. But it was in cypher, and Eowyn did not have the
key! She gazed in disbelief at this evidence of Grima’s character, and
wondered what other surprises might be in store. Still, Eomer had
lately inspected the stores and housing in Dunharrow, and she did not
fear disaster, just annoyance.
The next three days saw Eowyn ride forth to Dunharrow and back several
times. Though the people of Edoras understood the need for this
trouble, it was a trouble and so there were hard words and quarrels
here and there. Often, the sight alone of Eowyn’s slender form, mounted
on her tall mare, was enough to quell unpleasantness. But now and again
there was more to it, and she grew weary of listening to complaints and
arguments. The weather broke, too, and the road was soon a sea of mud
under a driving rain. Broken wheeled carts littered the side of the
road; children wandered off and frantic mothers ran shouting hither and
Once at Dunharrow there were more difficulties. Who was to quarter
where and with whom, who was to order the kitchens, the stables, the
milking sheds? Was there enough fodder for the beasts? Should all dogs
be tethered, or should they be allowed to run loose? That last, at
least, Eowyn quickly settled: the dogs must be tethered, for some had
begun chasing the milk cows, and there were some dead sheep to account
“Sheep?” Eowyn sighed. “Why would anyone bring sheep?”
“Mutton, my lady,” old Lord Aldor said.
Eowyn slumped in the saddle. “Oh, yes,” she said. “Mutton, of course.” Then it entered her head, was there a butcher?
Her own quarters were cramped, much smaller than she was used to. But
Mercia had ridden thither with her, and soon had Eowyn’s things in
order. The girl, besides, had shown herself to be quick and trusty, and
wrote well enough to take notes for Eowyn.
The first night, Eowyn fell exhausted onto her cot and was asleep
before she could feel the strangeness of her surroundings. But she woke
in the predawn darkness and lay quiet for some time, listening. Horses
stamped hooves, dogs barked, children cried out. The guards called one
to the other.
She wondered where Theoden and Eomer were, and what had befallen them.
And now, now that she was alone and quiet and in the darkness, she
allowed herself to say, “Aragorn.”
”A year shall I endure for every day that passes until your return.”
….as she spoke her eyes went to Aragorn…… Chapter 6, The King of the
Golden Hall, The Two Towers.
Again she said that name. “Aragorn, son of Arathorn.” Now, for this
moment, she was content to simply think of him, to recall every least
thing about him that she could bring to mind. His dark hair, his grey
eyes, his firm mouth, the column of his neck. The timbre of his deep
voice, and the way he walked. Had she not longed, once, for the wind
from the North to carry such a one to her? For none of the tall golden
haired men of Rohan had ever stirred her blood as had Aragorn just by
entering the Golden Hall.
He had come in such mighty company, too! An Elf, a Dwarf, and the
Wizard Gandalf. Gandalf’s voice, thundering in the Hall, and Theoden
rising tall and straight from his chair. Her brother Eomer free, ahorse
once again, on the Mark! “Forth, Eorlingas!” had been the cry, and then
she was given her armour and her sword and her office…..and he had been
by, he had seen her thus arrayed……now she exulted in what she had once
despised: her beauty. Ah, she knew she was fair, and she knew that few
garments became her so well as the white gown and the silver mail, no
ornament so suited her as the long sword glittering in her hand.
Her eyes had learned in a heartbeat what she thought fair. A tall man,
dark haired and stern of face. But surely he could smile? Surely that
stern mouth could soften? Not now, no, now was no time for smiling, for
they rode to war. But surely she could not lie here thinking of him and
he not think of her? “Aragorn… she murmured.
Though these days were wearisome and long, and though she was cold and
wet and hungry at the end of each, she could not still the spring of
happiness that bubbled up in her. All the wretched months and years of
caring for Theoden alone, of enduring the presence of Grima son of
Galmod, of being denied her freedom—all gone, all nearly as if they had
never been. Though Theodred’s death was like a bruise on her heart, she
could not be woeful. Those sad dark days, they meant nothing now, or
they had been the coin, maybe, with which she paid for today.
The people were ever glad to see her out and about among them. She
brought order and calm wherever she walked or rode, and her smile
brought smiles in return. Though she had ever been known and loved just
for being a daughter of the House of Eorl, now all learned to love her
for herself. She stinted no effort, found no task beyond her, and saw
quickly to the root of any problem put to her. At times she would lift
a girl-child up to sit before her on her horse. These little girls were
oft too shy to speak, to do more than sit in wide-eyed bliss to be so
singled out, but one said, “When I grow up, lady, I will be such as
“And what is that?” Eowyn asked, smiling.
“Why, fair and rich, my lady! My mamma says that thou art a child of
good fortune,” the little girl replied. “She says that thou art sure to
marry a great lord and live soft for the rest of thy days.”
Now did Eowyn laugh. “Is that what thy mamma says? But, maybe I will
never wed, but will be an old maid, and spend my days knitting, or some
The child shook her head. “No, my lady. For they say, too, that thou
can ride like a warrior, and will get a husband that way, by chasing
him down, if thou canst not catch one any other way.”
Eowyn set this little girl down and rode away laughing. As a daughter
of the royal house her future marriage was of great interest to all in
the Mark, but never before had Eowyn herself seen any jest in it.
It was not that Eowyn forgot, at this time, that the Mark was at war.
But she herself was young and strong, and felt within herself the
certainty that victory was to be theirs. Though she suffered somewhat
of discomfort, no true misery fell in her way just now, and her days
were full of deeds that came easily to her hand. The years she had
endured in silence had strengthened her, for nothing that happened now
happened in dark dreariness, she was not caged nor bound any longer.
Wars are fought by the young. Elders sit and move armies about, forces
beyond reckoning interfere with desired ends. But when those now young
are old, when the Riders who charge shouting down into hordes of the
enemy are bent and slow with age, they will look back at these days as
the best days of their lives. Then were they free and merry. Often
miserable with weariness or cold, always were they bold and brave as
well. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the power to overcome it.
Eowyn like her folk had that bright physical courage, and now that her
bonds were put off, it rose in her like the sun after rain. What had
weighed her down was that imprisonment of sad duty, and the denial of
her true nature. Far down in an abyss had she been, and now she was on
a mountain top, standing in the keen fresh wind, breathing the air of
freedom. A dizzying ride, she thought, imagining herself lifted on the
wings of some mighty bird. From black dark to golden light, and she
gloried in the sunshine.