Eowyn, Shieldmaiden of Rohan
………..the Grey Company passed
swiftly over the plain, and on the next day in the afternoon
to Edoras; and there they halted only briefly, ere they
passed up the
valley, and so came to Dunharrow as the darkness fell. The
greeted them and was glad of their coming; for no mightier
men had she
seen than the Dundedain and the fair sons of Elrond; but on
most of all her eyes rested…..
“Lord,” she said, “ if you
must go, then let me ride in your following.”……..
“Your duty is with your
people,” he answered……… “Therefore I say to you, lady: Stay!
For you have no errand to the South.”
“Neither have those others
with thee. They go only because they would not be parted
thee----because they love thee.”………
Then she fell on her knees,
saying, “I beg thee!”………
The Return of the
King, Chapter 2, The Passing of the Grey Company.
Much had Eowyn endured in her life. Strong as the sharp steel
bore at her waist, she stood slender and tall, her shoulders
her head held high. Still, the finest steel will break, if it
often enough. Forth and back, forth and back, and at last the
metal begins to heat and crumble where it is bent.
As the angler plays the fish tempted to the fly, so Eowyn was
fate. Let run, then jerked back to be let run again. Swiftly
slices away in the quick water, seeking the deep pool where it
safe. Then the line is pulled sharp and tight and the hook
cruelly and the fish is pulled fighting back. Again, and
again. At last
it has no more fight left in it, and the triumphant angler
pulls it up,
the silver body shining in the sun. Shining but dead.
She went into her lodging and did off her her mail coat and
She could scarcely bear to touch them. What had such as she to
those things? Was she not a woman, and bound therefore to
fade in the shadows? Not even in her own house, for she had no
Long time she sat, her hands clenched in her lap. Bitter tears
shed, the bitterest of all that had ever spilled from her
in the worst of her misery, she had always had that tiny spark
in some corner of her heart. She had not known until now how
that spark had been, she did not know how bright that light
it was snuffed out!
Bitterest of all was the knowledge, that she could not keep
herself, that the worst pain of this parting to her was that
it was a
parting. Not that Aragorn was taking the Paths of the Dead.
For it might well be that he would be allowed to pass through,
surely born to great things, surely his life was a life that
remembered in song. Fey he seemed, as a man might be who was
his destiny though that certainty was shared by no other.
followed him, his friends, and she would have followed, too.
But it fell out that she was to have no part in that, for he
And he was lost to her, living or dead.
Of all the cruel strokes that could have befallen her, this
hardest. For she had come from the shadows into the light, she
herself imagine that her time had come at last, that her long
apprenticeship in sadness had entitled her to joy.
The folk came to her lodging seeking this and that and she
to send them all away. The girl cast a quick, frightened
Eowyn and withdrew, saying what she was bid.
The day wore on to twilight and word came that Theoden King
was riding hither.
From some deep well of her being Eowyn found the power to rise
again and she girded on her sword and dressed herself as a
rode out to meet Theoden.
Duty she would do, though she be a dead woman walking.
”Hail, Lord of the Mark!” she cried. “My heart is glad at your
returning.” The Return of the King, Chapter 3, The Muster of
Though she spoke of gladness, Eowyn felt none. Yet it was good
Theoden King rode home after mighty deeds, and with him rode
many other great lords. And, though she was heartsore, Eowyn
at the small warrior who rode beside the King on a stout hill
Aragorn had spoken briefly of this, of the Halflings, and the
was more astonishing than the tale.
The King’s lodging was prepared, and Theoden caused a tent to
beside it for the Hobbit Meriadoc Brandybuck, for so he was
Eowyn. She saw that while he was a child in size, he was not a
but a small man. It pleased the king to have this Meriadoc
him at table, and then to seat him with the great ones in the
Eowyn saw Meriadoc’s eyes and that he was ill at ease.
She, with the others, listened to the old tale of Baldor son
Eowyn had ever disliked this tale, for such pigheadedness in
did not seem admirable to her, but only pigheadedness. True it
Men of the Mark kept their vows, but it seemed to her that
be times when it was folly to keep to the strict letter of
promise. Too often was it after a night of deep drinking that
things happened; indeed, Baldor son of Brego had been at least
half-drunk when he swore to take the Paths of the Dead, and
still muddled in his head when he sought the door under
the morning after.
However that might have been, there was no deep drinking this
but a sober and silent meal in Theoden’s pavilion. Though
ever courtly and courteous, he had never been much given to
Guests at his table took their cue from him almost insensibly,
his mood was sombre, as it was this day, no one could be aught
sombre as well.
So it was that they spoke of Aragorn. Eowyn could not keep all
grief and pain from her voice when she spoke of him, and
was not quick at seeing such things, still saw part of it at
attempted to comfort her. She sat in silence, unable to meet
and when someone spoke to Theoden, the moment passed.
had not comforted her, but had awakened resentment, for she
her innermost thoughts were laid bare for all to see, her most
pain held up to common view. Maybe no one had heard, but maybe
had! Was she to be spared nothing? Had she not managed to
herself enough by herself?
Now came the Rider from Mundberg, Hirgon he was called, and he
Red Arrow that summoned the Rohirrim to War before the gates
White City. Even Eowyn, who thought that she had reached the
despair, felt the chill of fear and dread when she saw her
Soon after the King rose from table and bid all there to seek
rest, for on the morrow they were to ride to the Weapontake at
Eowyn lay sleepless on her couch all that night, for her heart
were in such turmoil that she scarce could draw her breath.
that the great days of her time were drawing near, so near
that it was
as though some vast monster lay on the road ahead of her, and
stench of its breath polluted the air she breathed. There was
way to conquer such a vile creature, that way was to ride at
ride hard and fast, shouting defiance and fury! To wait in
while it crept closer was cowardice. Worse, it was cowardly
and whatever Eowyn was, she was not blind. The half-light of
a day of mirk and cloud, and she rose when she heard the camp
life around her.
Eowyn arrayed herself as a warrior once again and called the
Meriadoc to her. “This request only did Aragorn make to
as they passed among the tents, “that you should be armed for
Such gear as could be found was given to him, and he donned
and helm and took the small round shield upon his arm.
She saw again what she had seen the night before, that while
he had a
child’s stature he was not a child, but a man grown, with a
and courage. Indeed, the tale of his deeds was such that any
his size might envy, for the doings of Meriadoc and his
been told to Eowyn, once by Aragorn, and again by those who
Harrowdale with Theoden. She wondered bitterly why her uncle
sure in himself that he had the right to order this Hobytlan
goings and comings. Below that thought was another, that
ordered her goings and comings as well, dismissing her as only
and smiling as one does at a child.
Neither she nor Meriadoc was a child! Why must they obey?
Duty. Duty. Always she had done her duty. And what had it
gained her? This: to be smiled at and then left behind.
Theoden now called her to him. He kissed her forehead and
daughter and embraced her lovingly, but he was saying
did not again ask to ride with the men of the Mark, but only
head and allowed his caress. He stood back from her and
with a question in his eyes. “Sister-daughter,” he said at
last, “I see
that thou dost not weep to part from me. So sternly dost thou
thyself, as a child of our stern people. Yet I would have some
She smiled a twisted smile. “Uncle,” she said. “There is no
left in me. Yet I will kiss thee, and call thee father now at
moment, for surely thou hast been a father to me! “ She
and kissed him, and felt hot tears scald her eyes. Yet part at
what she felt was anger, and it increased rather than
decreased as she
saw the bustle of the camp, and the men eager to ride off to
Eowyn sought out Lord Aldor. “My lord,” she said, “I am here
to beg a boon of thee.”
This old man had known Theoden as a youth. He was hale and
and had arrived at that time of life when he spoke his mind
hesitation. He now regarded Eowyn. “I would do much for thee,
he said. “Speak thy mind.”
“My uncle has bid me stay here, my lord,” she answered him.
cannot! I must go, lord Aldor, and since I must, I pray that
take charge of our folk.”
He said nothing, but looking frowning at her. At last he said,
“I am an
old man, Eowyn Eomundsdattir, and yet never heard such words
of the House of Eorl.”
“Nevertheless, my lord, I will leave this place,” she said.
She sighed. “Dost thou refuse me?”
“Art thou determined, my lady?” he asked.
“I am, my lord.” Now she took one of his hands between hers.
we are old friends, thee and me! It was this hand that
when news was brought of my father’s death.”
“No child have I, lady Eowyn,” he replied. “But ever in my
heart thou hast had a daughter’s place. I cannot deny thee!”
Eowyn put aside her qualms of conscience. It seemed to her
moved by rote, as if some other mind controlled her body. Far
off in a
corner sat little Eowyn, quiet and watchful, and this other
about calmly, arranging to leave her old life and enter upon a
It was easy to put on a warrior’s gear and stride down to the
horse-pens. There was the old man who had been her first
instructor, he had sent Theoden away with a laugh that long
saying, “I will see what metal this lass is shaped from, sire!
not see her aunt Gudrun through her first trials ahorse?”
Now when he saw her he frowned and gestured that she should
leave him. But she stood firm.
“Nay, my lady,” he said, with a curse. “Do not ask me what I
know thou hast come to ask me!”
“Then I will not,” she said, with some bitterness in her
voice. “Do you
look the other way! For I will not be stopped, not by thee nor
He shook his head. “I will speak to the King thine uncle, my
know that he has bid thee bide here and take his place as
amongst the folk! Think thou that I would not as lief disobey
as not? Think thou that I relish being told that I must needs
behind, hiding from the enemy, for Theoden deems me to old to
Yet there was that in his aspect that told her he would not go
King. His anger was not feigned, but he would not betray her.
She went in among the horses and caught a tall gelding with
on his muzzle. He came willingly with her to the stable and
saddled and bridled him. Mounting, she trotted the horse
rows of tents to her own bower.
There, standing forlorn, was the Hobbit Meriadoc. He was
arrayed as a
warrior, but stood disconsolate, watching the turmoil and
uproar of the
camp as men rushed hither and thither, preparing to ride.
Everywhere were women. Some clung to the stirrup of a rider,
aside, stony-faced. Few children ran about, their mothers
to stay away. But Eowyn saw that the womenfolk could not stay
Those who had husbands here, or lovers, had come for the last
look on a
beloved face, a last embrace.
Most were but roughly dressed, having turned out early and run
camp, hair unplaited and uncovered. So were women accustomed
their hair unbound and uncovered, no care taken with their
And Eowyn saw now that these women were already in mourning,
that many of these riders of the Mark would not come riding
For a moment or two her heart wavered and her steely resolve
If it was pain she sought in this riding, she need not go, for
would soon find her again. Her uncle, her brother, all the
riders she knew: how many would fall? How many would be laid
to rest on
the Pellenor fields before the gates of the White City?
And was it pain she sought? Pain coming from without , to
pain in her heart? Was it death she sought? Oh, not death
only! For did
she not bear a bright, sharp sword?
What was left for Eowyn?
She rode in the last ranks from Dunharrow to Edoras, sitting
still as a
stone on the tall horse. It seemed she had no thoughts in her
only a black nothingness.
From dark Dunharrow in the dim morning rode the Rohirrim, and
they drew rein in Edoras as the unseen Sun paused at noon.
Eowyn drew near enough to see and hear what went forth between
and the Hobbit Meriadoc. Her lip curled in contempt to hear
bid this warrior remain while the Men of the Mark rode to war.
her uncle was! And how unseeing his eye, bent only on his own
Never had Eowyn thought, before, that there could be aught
her uncle’s rule. Bold and hardy he was, even in these last
days of his
long life. His folk looked up to him as a fit king, true heir
the Young. And yet she saw, with a sudden burst of this new
Theoden was riding out of the Past and into the Future and he
know it. He saw Death or Glory before him, maybe both, and
come to such an end that songs would afterwards be made.
He did not disregard his folk, even in the midst of her anger
knew that. No, Theoden truly embodied the nature of a King of
and he believed that was sufficient. Though he was brave and
great man in his way, Eowyn saw that maybe that would no
Formerly, it had been. Would it still be so, when this War was
Never had Eowyn been fey, yet something now stirred in her.
The End of
Days approached, the world as she had ever known it was about
It seemed that she knew then why she wished to ride with the
destiny called her, and she could not deny the call. She shook
head, as if to toss this notion aside. But it settled itself
firmly in her heart, and she sighed, and gave way. Her anger
somewhat, and she became calm.
Meriadoc Brandybuck stood and watched the King and his
out. His fair young face was set and drawn, and he gripped the
Eowyn drew near, yet did not face him straight, turning her
away. She leaned close and spoke to him, and then, quick and
was before her on the saddle. She did not speak to him, but
warmth of his sturdy body. Not a child, no, not a child. As he
pulled himself up on Windfola, as her hand had touched his,
another of those compelling certainties: he was meant to be
Riding from Edoras they rode in the gloom of a strange day. No
seemed to rise, it felt airless and close. Sound was muffled,
of iron-shod hoof on stone was dull, the voices of men sank
Eowyn kept herself back, although she knew it unlikely that
Eomer would see her. Would any of the Riders betray her? She
furtively about and saw no one she knew. No one seemed to take
her, even with Meriadoc riding before her. That state of
not last, she knew. It was a long way to Mundberg, and she
bear him before her for the whole way.
“I must tell thee, I am no man,” she said into Merry’s ear,
her voice low. “I am Eowyn.”
He answered calmly, “I guessed you were no man, my lady. And
what other lady could you be?”
He went on, “My lady, I cannot ride before you the whole way
Tirith.” His voice was flat with despair. “I should have done
King bid me and stayed behind.”
Eowyn spoke softly. “We have not yet come so far after all,
Halfling. Shall I set thee down here, that thou mayst return
He laughed grimly. “No. No. I wish to go on. But my Lady, how
are we to manage?”
“I have a plan,” she said, and that was nearly true, for her
seemed to fall into place without any effort. “For now, sit
The baggage train came last, as always, and as the day wore on
drifted farther back in the ranks until at nightfall she was
beside the pack mules. The Riders were to make no real camp,
had to be fed and so did their horses, and in the bustle and
of the moment Eowyn sought out a man a little known to her,
who had the office of Quartermaster.
She kept her eyes downcast somewhat as she spoke to the man
sitting on his saddle and drinking from a pewter mug.
He glanced up. “What do you want?” he said gruffly. “Lost
Then he saw Meriadoc still up on the horse, looking miserably
lady Eowyn. “Oho,” the Quartermaster said. “What have we
“Baggage,” Eowyn said. Drawing a deep breath, she let her hood
The man leapt to his feet, and his mug went flying. “My lady!”
“Hush,” she said softly. “I see that you know me.” She drew
her hood up again and said, “Do not betray me, I beg thee!”
He answered, his voice low. “What madness is this? And is that
Halfing that my lord brought in his train from the Hornburg?”
“It is,” she said. “Quartermaster, do you wish to serve me?”
“My lady,” he said cautiously, “I serve the house of Eorl.”
She smiled ruefully. “So do I,” she said. She met his eyes
know that I am asking a great deal of thee, Quartermaster. But
this Halfling and I wish to come to Mundberg and how we are to
without thy help I do not know!”
He sighed, and looked out into the lowering gloom. “My lady, I
anything for thee! But if my lord the King, or thy brother the
Eomer were to learn of it…..besides, I cannot think it right,
He shook his head. “All know thy bright courage and spirit, my
but this is no place for thee. And the coming battle, my lady,
be a dreadful affair. It will hinder me, and all who ride with
have thee with us! I know that it is not thy wish to put the
any greater peril.”
He could not have spoken more surely to dissuade her. Yet she
be dissuaded. “I give thee my word, Quartermaster, that I will
to be in the forefront of the fray. Yet I must go! There is
calls me, and the call will not be denied.” This was partly
Eowyn knew in her heart that it was also partly a lie, for
sought in this riding was not only to answer this call of
fate. She saw
Mundberg as an end, and could see no farther. In her heart she
that meant her own death, and with the stern aspect of the
she looked at that unflinchingly. There could be naught else
there or anywhere. To go on breathing would not be life, but a
death, and she wished otherwise.
Eowyn’s words worked powerfully on the Quartermaster. He was a
thoughtful man, long experienced in war; he had pondered often
mysteries and the meaning that a man might give to his life.
been ever a Rider, devoted to arms, strong and full of the
had chosen: to serve the house of Eorl and the Mark. Yet there
in him that understood this call, this certainty that
speaking to Eowyn. On this ride to Mundberg he heard that call
knowing it was to be the great battle of his time, and that he
regardless. The end might be death for himself, it might be
for the house of Eorl and ruin for the Mark. So be it. His
clear and his heart was steady.
He saw her before him. At home were no womenfolk of his own.
that other men kept silent about the fear of what might happen
them, should this war end badly. Duty drove them on, and so
their thoughts against worry. Were they hard? Yes, they were
steeled against fear, steeled against what might be. For
they feared naught. Death was as common an end as any other,
had seen comrades meet that end without a whimper. But the
their armour were the ones at home, so they put the ones at
and rode on.
A young man, seemingly, not as tall as some, nor as wide in
shoulders, but straight and of good bearing nonetheless. “What
shall I say ?” he asked, “For I cannot go on saying, my Lady.”
“I am Dernhelm,” she said. So, he would help her. She turned
to Meriadoc. “Come down, Master Meriadoc,” she said.
“There must be a way that Master Meriadoc can travel with
Quartermaster. Surely?” she said, as Merry slid off the tall
He considered, taking the measure of Meriadoc standing before
see that he is girded and armed, my lady. Those are the tokens
House of Eorl.” He spoke to Merry. “Art thou a warrior in
land, Master Halfling? “
Merry shook his head. “I was not trained up for war,” he said.
has come upon me, and I wish to do what I might for the King
Mark.” Then he went on, “And I wish to do what I might for my
Shire, although no one there will ever know. Probably.”
The Quartermaster nodded. “Well spoken, Halfling.” He looked
“I will aid thee and thy friend, Dernhelm. Go thee now to thy
I will see to this one.”
Leading her horse, Eowyn glided away into the shadows. Fires
here and there about the camp. She was hungry, she realized,
and so too
was her mount.....