Eowyn, Shieldmaiden of Rohan
Often in the years to come Eowyn would remember the summer of the year
3018, and the lovely month of September when despite all that happened
the skies were clear and the sun shone upon the grasslands and upon the
distant mountain peaks, turning them to gold and purple. Never had
their homeland seemed so fair, yet all in the Mark knew that both there
and beyond their borders great events were unfolding, that it was their
fortune for good or ill to live in times troubled beyond any for an age
past. There were at this time many doom-sayers in many parts of the
land, fear rode the Mark sitting behind every rider.
Just past the middle of September the wizard Gandalf Greyhame came
in haste from afar, and demanded to see the King. He, for some reason
known only to himself, came first in the guise of a beggarman. This was
a thing out an old tale, for sure, thus did heroes of old test the
chivalry of the land, it was said, thus were evil-doers oft exposed.
But what he hoped to accomplish with this ruse, Eowyn never knew.
Gandalf came then and warned
us that sudden war was preparing in Isengard. He said that he himself
had been a prisoner in Orthanc and had hardly escaped, and he begged
for help. But Theoden would not listen to him, and he went away.” The
Lord of the Rings, the Fellowship of The Ring, Book III, Chapter 2, The
Riders of Rohan.
When Gandalf came into the Hall, Theoden did not stand to greet him. He
sat, his hands on his knees, and said naught while the wizard strode
the length of the room and stood before him.
“Westu Theoden hal!” Gandalf said. He went on to tell Theoden of
his captivity in Orthanc, and that he had but narrowly escaped.
“I am here, Theoden king, to beg thy help, and to warn thee of evil to
come!” he said.
Eowyn, standing by, saw that Grima leaned near and said somewhat to
“Thou hast come far, Gandalf,” Theoden said at last, “yet thou hast
come for naught. I will not be drawn into the quarrel between thee and
Gandalf said naught for some space of time. He looked at the king’s
face and at Grima Wormtongue, and Eowyn could see that he struggled to
remain calm. “My lord Theoden,” he said. “This is not a quarrel between
Saruman and me! This is the great war of thy time, come to thy very
doorstep! Hear me!”
Theoden shook his head. “War! I wished only to live at peace in my
own land, and with my neighbours. All hope of that is now gone for we
live betwixt the hammer and the anvil of thy schemes and his! And so I
will hear naught!”
He rose to his feet. “It is the custom of my house to offer any guest
food and drink. Such I offer to thee, and no more.”
Eowyn could plainly see now that Gandalf was angry. His blue eyes
seemed full of fire, and she felt suddenly breathless, as if she stood
on the edge of a high cliff.
“Theoden!” Gandalf thundered. “You must hear me!”
“I am yet King of the Mark, Gandalf Greyhame, and will suffer no one to
command me!” Theoden’s voice was strong, and most like his voice of
Suddenly Gandalf’s shoulders sagged. “I do not wish to command thee,
old friend,” he said. “But to warn thee, and to aid thee to do what
must needs be done to protect thy realm. Hear me, I beg of thee.”
Now did Grima speak. “Thou hast gone from ordering my king about
like a serving man to begging alms from him. Here in the Mark we are
accustomed to plain speaking, so I say to thee, Gandalf Stormcrow, that
thou hast mistaken thy man. Theoden needs naught from thee, neither thy
advice nor thy company.”
“So I see,” Gandalf replied. “Since he chooses to hear thy words
and not mine, it remains only for me to tell thy lord that he will rue
Grima laughed. “So says the trickster Gandalf!”
“I go now to my meat,” Theoden said. “There is a seat for thee at my
table, Gandalf. Wilt thou come?”
“I will not, Theoden,” Gandalf said. He pulled a leathern bag from
within his cloak. “I wilt not trouble thee nor thy household any
further. I have here coin, king of the Mark. What price a horse from
“I do not sell my horses,” Theoden answered, angrily.
It is told in the chronicle: Theoden
said: “Take any horse, only be gone ere tomorrow is old!” September 21:
Gandalf meets Shadowfax, but the horse will not allow him to come near.
He follows Shadowfax far over the fields………….September 22: Gandalf
overtakes Shadowfax……September 23: Gandalf having tamed Shadowfax rides
from Rohan. (The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B)
It was many days before Theoden left off speaking of Gandalf’s
insolence. The loss of the horse Shadowfax was a terrible blow to him,
but truth to tell it was not the loss of the horse so much as the
knowledge that Gandalf had tamed the beast. All the Rohirrim prided
themselves on their horsemanship, and it was hard to bear the certainty
that some intruding sorcerer had beaten the Riders at their own game.
It was this aspect of the matter that Grima son of Galmod kept
before the King’s face. Sorcery must have been involved, for in what
other way could that wizard have stolen one of the Mearas? Such horses
allowed no hand but the King’s and here was Shadowfax gone! Sorcery it
must be. Theoden agreed, and spoke long and bitterly about sorcery and
the evil of such doings.
Yet Eowyn knew, or at any rate strongly suspected, that Grima knew
more of sorcery than he ought. He had been Saruman’s pupil, and so had
she, as she admitted in fairness. No hint of such had Saruman ever
offered to her, no spells, no potions, no secrets. But who knew what
Grima might have learned during his time in Isengard, under Saruman’s
tutelage? And she suspected further that Grima went in secret to
Isengard when he rode from Edoras on his “business”. It was a suspicion
only, and she spoke of it to no one, fearing to make the accusation and
be unable to prove it. She no longer believed that the King would be
sure to take her part against Grima, should it come to that.
When first he had returned from Orthanc to Edoras the King had
asked Grima son of Galmod what he had seen in the Wizard’s vale. Grima
said this and that, but he said little of substance. He admired
Saruman, but had they not all admired Saruman in those days?
Even in her heart Eowyn was loathe to lay any charge of sorcery on
Grima, it smacked of necromancy and evil things of that nature, and
Grima had grown up in the same household she had, clean and open to the
fresh wind off the grasslands. How should a man of the Mark go down
that other road?
But as she argued this out in her own head she could not forget the
change in her uncle. Whenever Grima was gone from Meduseld, her uncle
rallied. When Grima returned, her uncle failed again. Yet how? How?
Spells? Potions? Saruman’s very thoughts coming with the night fogs and
mists? She spent yet more of her time at her uncle’s side, taking on
more and more of his care. Grima smiled, and told her she was a good
niece. She longed to stop his voice, to wipe the smile from his face,
to shut those pale, all-seeing eyes.
There was no one to turn to. Though she did not wholly believe
herself to be surrounded by traitors, she did not care to try the issue
by trusting anyone who had come into her uncle’s household since
Grima’s star had been in the ascendency. Dully, she thought she might,
if she had to, get word to Theoden or Eomer, maybe by the hand of Hama
or Sergeant Frealaf. In the meantime she did what she might.
Whether Grima had aught of evil magic about him, there was no doubt
that he was a persuasive fellow. He had the knack, besides, of seeing
quickly to the heart of any matter, pointing out failures of logic or
reasoning, and then of putting forth his own sharp reading. He was not
often wrong, although Eowyn thought him too apt to put an unpleasant
gloss on what folk said or did. He gave the king much good advice,
especially when it was a matter of petitioners approaching the seat of
the king. Grima knew everyone’s business, and knew moreover many things
that folk would as soon keep quiet. He knew of skeletons in many
closets, and loved to rattle the bones.
He loved, too, to be known as a learned man, but truthfully he was not
learned, he had a knack with figures, and could pen a letter well
enough, but of old lore he knew little. He had once dismissed such
knowledge as useless, as having no bearing on the present. Eowyn, who
loved the songs and tales of her forebears, who joyed in such learning
as came in her way, was of a very different mind. There was much of
beauty and wisdom in old lore, and then, who could ever say for sure
that it would not prove useful besides?
So it was in those days. Now and again Eowyn felt a throb of real
terror, and was ever conscious of being watched. Grima was too clever
to be caught spying on her, but she felt ever and ever and ever that he
beyond her sight. She drew deeply upon herself, finding courage and
will, finding that she could rise each day and walk into her duties
with a firm step and calm face.
The fall faded into Winter. Yule came and went, and little merriment
was there in Meduseld. Eowyn saw to the customary giving of the King’s
Gift to those poor folk who came on the turn of the year, for the king
himself stayed in the Hall, but she could not bring herself to smile
with any true warmth upon those who bowed their thanks. She stood
shivering in her cloak as the line of supplicants wound around the
stairs, thankful that for one cause or another there were not so many
this year as in the past. The folk had prospered somewhat, at least as
far as crops and so forth went. And, sad to say, war was sometimes a
prosperous business, at least in the beginning.