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100 sci fi women #31: Eowyn of the House of Eorl

Eowyn of the House of Eorl   Lord of the Rings (both book and film)

Eowyn is exactly the type of determined, strong, brave, independent and compassionate woman that we like around here. She can fulfil a traditional female role in caring for her uncle, the much reduced King Theoden, however when told to stay at home when the men were going into battle she chafed against the restrictions placed on women. In a culture which valued the way of the sword, Eowyn recognised that one could never be an equal member unless one proved oneself with the sword, and she knew that she truly was an equal member. Eowyn also faces the unwanted attentions of Grima, but again was not willing to bed to a partnership with him because she should.  Ok, so she has a big girly crush on Aragorn, but let’s face it, with charisma like that, who amongst us could really have resisted? Eowyn is willing to hide her identity, to march into unknown dangers with her fellow Riders of Rohan, and because of her bravery saves her King and slays the Nazgul. In healing she her compassion helps to heal others and she comes to love Faramir, who has also been injured in both body and soul.  Eowyn is the best of the Tolkein women, brave and unwilling to accept conventions and strictures thrust upon her by men and the patriarchal society in which she has been raised.

10 responses to “100 sci fi women #31: Eowyn of the House of Eorl

  1. Witch King: You fool. No man can kill me. Die now.

    Eowyn: I am no man. [she thrusts her sword into the Witch King’s helm and twists; he shrieks and implodes]

  2. Zoe

    I have a friend named after her!

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  4. Heidi ⋅

    I have to take issue with this assessment of Eowyn’s basic character. Her uncle’s body and mind were twisted visibly and poisoned to an early dotage by Wormtongue, but the Lady of Rohan was twisted and poisoned as well, though not as obviously. She is often referred to as “cold”, “like a steel flower, lovely to look upon, but hard and frozen,” and those who see it pity her. Yes, she’s an amazing heroine and role model for today’s woman, but Tolkein did not write the playful, lighthearted Eowyn of the movie…that woman has no trace of the poisonous lust for power and glory that made the Eowyn of the book despair to the point of death and so desert her post and ride into battle. Pride and courage she certainly had, but compassion she did not learn until she met Faramir in the Houses of Healing.

    • Eowyn ⋅

      Great point. My name is Eowyn (not Éowyn, fortunately or unfortunately), and I’m probably a little hard on the character for that reason—but she most definitely has significant faults. Also, I believe it was Merry who dealt the killing blow to the Nazgul. “No man am I—you look upon a woman” was a great try! But that wasn’t it in the end. She was still courageous. 🙂

      • In the book, Meriadoc crippled the Nazgûl, who fell to his knees so that Éowyn could kill him with a sword-thrust to his face. I *think* that was one of the things the movie did not eff up.

        Éowyn is a type, rare but significant in the literatures which Tolkien was imitating. I think he paid more allegiance to his mythos than to any of the characters in it.

  5. Great article on Eowyn by the way and keep it up.

  6. Eowyn is one of my favoritist characters of all time. Great post!

  7. “A sword rang as it was drawn. ‘Do what you will; but I shall hinder it, if I may.’
    ‘Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!’
    Then Merry heard of all sounds in that hour the strangest. It seemed that Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel. ‘But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Éomund’s daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him.’…
    Very amazement for a moment conquered Merry’s fear. He opened his eyes and the blackness was lifted from them. A little to the left facing them stood she whom he had called Dernhelm. But the helm of her secrecy had fallen from her, and her bright hair, released from its bonds, gleamed with pale gold upon her shoulders. Her eyes grey as the sea were hard and fell, and yet tears were on her cheek. A sword was in her hand, and she raised her shield against the horror of her enemy’s eyes….
    Suddenly the great beast beat its hideous wings, and the wind of them was foul. Again it leaped into the air, and then swiftly fell down upon Éowyn, shrieking, striking with beak and claw.
    Still she did not blench: a maiden of the Rohirrim, child of kings, slender but as a steel-blade, fair yet terrible. A swift stroke she dealt, skilled and deadly. The outstretched neck she clove asunder, and the hewn head fell like a stone…”

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