Login | Register
 
Message Board | Latest Posts | Your Recent Posts | Rules

Thread: Was Éowyn a Deserter?

Is this discussion interesting? Share it on Twitter!

Bottom of Page    Message Board > The Lord of the Rings > Was Éowyn a Deserter?   
Éowyn is seen by many as a respectible role model for many. Personally I believe that she is one of the strongest and most well-develloped characters (ranking next to Gandalf, Aragorn, Frodo, and Samwise). Her role at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields was crucial but there is one doubt that nagged at me from the very beginning.

She was left in charge of the people of Rohan and she deserted them. She was in a position of authority and trust which she betrayed to follow her heart. Was this right? Indeed not. The book never mentions if she left a captain or warden in her stead. Simply put she abandoned her people to seek death and glory on the battlefield.

Her actions were indeed valourous on the field but had she not been successful would she have been seen in a different light? Was Tolkien, coming from a military background, aware that his most active female character was doing something heinous in a warlike culture?

Just my thoughts and hopefully someone can straighten this out for me. Éowyn is my favorite character but this one flaw has been nagging me for quite some time.
that's a very interesting thought, I've actually never seen her that way. you're somehow right, she should have stayed back to support her people. but I guess she thought she could help them more if she went to battle to defend them. and because of aragorn's leaving she didn't care about what might happen to her on the battle field, it was somehow a suicide attempt. of course it was not okay of her to just go without telling anyone to care for the people in her place (I don't think she did so, anybody she would have told would have done anything to make her stay), and I can imagine they felt quite lost and desperate when they noticed that she was gone. she was selfish at that moment letting her people down for her glory or death or anything.
but I guess it was the best for her. if she had stayed behind she'd certainly have been most unhappy and desperate. imagine what would have happened if she hadn't gone to battle - no man would have been able to kill the witch king... and finally she even met faramir and could cure her broken heart. if the whole thing had ended different and she had died somewhere in the battle, she wouldn't have been glorified I guess, but she had an important part in the battle and looking back it's very good that she decided to go, so: all's well that ends well.
that's about how I think about it. it was a really interesting idea, lady_eowyn_of_rohan, and I think your heroine is really one of the deepest characters in the book.
How interesting that this question has rattled around in more minds than mine! I remember years ago when I first read the LOTR books, that I wondered about this very thing. For starters, how did she manage to go undetected amongst the Rohirrim and make it all the way to the battle? You would think a frantic message from Edoras about a missing Lady Eowyn would have reached Eomer during this time. Still, she was destined to be there. As Ithil said, who else could have slayed the witchking? And she wouldn't have likely met Faramir and had her broken heart mended. I too have always loved the character of Eowyn, especially since there are so few strong female characters in the LOTR.
i do not argue that without her the witch king would have survived and who knows what the outcome would have been. but this is an act that is never addressed in the books. just something that always bothered me... most of the characters get what they deserve... it almost seems that her meeting faramir is a reward for her actions.

and its good to know that others have pondered the question...
I guess I should have finished my prior thought better, Lady_eowyn_of_rohan. Sorry. What I meant to conclude was that given the heroic act she performed on the battlefield, no doubt her questionable act of going AWOL from Rohan would have been pardoned. For one thing, she is the sister to the new king, Eomer, so its doubtful he would have hardened his heart against her. Again, she performed a heroic act in battle. And finally, although her decision to leave Rohan was not cleared through the proper channels, she would likely have been seen as a young lady who let her heart rule her head for the moment, rather than seen as a citizen performing treason. Just my thoughts.....
makes sense to me...

kind of like beregond of the citadel guard who abandoned his post to save faramir. in the end his heroic act, though punishable by death, was forgiven by the king and he was appointed to the guard of faramir in ithilien.

works for me...

finally i can put that doubt to rest Smile Smilie
Everyone has faults and flaws and this was Eowyn's. She acted rashly and selfishly, whether intended or not. She *did* desert her duties and her people but they were a tough race and I'm sure they could manage without her. She returned a hero and to a warrior race that is probably important.

Why didn't Tolkien address this lapse in duty? He had set her up a a 'sad' character and she needed sympathy and empathy not retribution. Maybe he left it at that. Let her be happy for a change. Any criticism of her behaviour would have diminished her deeds in battle and may have caused problems between her and Faramir. Maybe, in the eyes of the Rohan she did nothing wrong; she merely followed her impetuous urges. It could have been a different story if she had run off to collect pebbles and flowers...
Quote:
She was left in charge of the people of Rohan and she deserted them. She was in a position of authority and trust which she betrayed to follow her heart. Was this right? Indeed not. The book never mentions if she left a captain or warden in her stead. Simply put she abandoned her people to seek death and glory on the battlefield.

Her actions were indeed valourous on the field but had she not been successful would she have been seen in a different light? Was Tolkien, coming from a military background, aware that his most active female character was doing something heinous in a warlike culture?

Well, you are right she left her duty. But i can’t see why that should be of any importance. If she hadn’t been at Pelennor Fields, then perhaps there wouldn’t been a victory for Gandalf & Co, or perhaps the victory would’ve been flawed by the survival of the Witch-King or the death of Faramir, if Gandalf chose to help Théoden (which he didn’t, he chose to save Faramir).

Not to mention, all the necessary measures of safety were already taken : anyone who didn’t go to Mundburg was evacuated to Helm’s Deep or Dunharrow. There was nothing left to do, but wait for either Théoden to return, or the armies of Mordor to come.

But i think she would’ve ultimately stayed and done her duty, if Aragorn wouldn’t have come to visit her and tell her that he’d take the Paths of the Dead, and hence shatter all her illusions and make her so desperate that she went against her uncle’s orders and sought death. She thought they were all going to die, and instead of dying like a badger being burnt in his burrow, she wanted to die a glorious death.

And JRRT didn't really have a military background at all. He shortly fought at the Somme in 1916, but was soon sent home because of trench fever.

Quote:
It could have been a different story if she had run off to collect pebbles and flowers...

Well, that she did as well, by marrying a man of Gondor and go living with him in Ithilien...

Quote:
For starters, how did she manage to go undetected amongst the Rohirrim and make it all the way to the battle? You would think a frantic message from Edoras about a missing Lady Eowyn would have reached Eomer during this time. Still, she was destined to be there.

It is all very easy really : “Dernhelm” had an easy time, as some generals of Rohan, like Elfhelm, knew that Éowyn was coming with them :

from The ride of the Rohirrim:
Quote:
There seemed to be some understanding between Dernhelm and Elfhelm, the Marshal who commanded the éored in which they were riding. He and all his men ignored Merry and pretended not to hear if he spoke. He might have been just another bag that Dernhelm was carrying. Dernhelm was no comfort: he never spoke to anyone.


So anyway, it's clear that no one in Rohan would cry out against her act of defiance. They all had warriorblood, both the men and the women, and would only regard her as a hero.

And Éomer was so happy after she was saved by Aragorn, that he could never blame his sister for anything - cetainly not after both Aragorn and Gandalf explained to him what drove Éowyn to do what she did.
There is no reason why Eowyn couldn't have drawn aside an old family retainer and given him her instructions that he was to be in charge in her stead while she, the King, and the rest of the Rohirrim rode off to war. As long as she left someone in authority, who wouldn't rat her out, she could safely get away without recrimination.

Sure her uncle and brother would have been bent out of shape when they found out, but it wouldn't have been as though she abandoned her duty, if she had made these preperations, only if she slunk off unbeknownced in the middle of the night.

This plot situation could be fodder for one of our excellent fan-fiction writers to chew upon.
Quote:
And JRRT didn't really have a military background at all. He shortly fought at the Somme in 1916, but was soon sent home because of trench fever.


even a little training is enough. trust me. (i come from a family with a long history of being in the military and i myself am part of the cadet system (which is a para-military youth organization aimed at introducing youngin's to to the forces... by no means the military but you still receive quite a bit of military style training) until i finish school and possible join myself.)

abandoning those you are in charge of is unexcusable and it just strikes me odd that that issue would never have even been mentioned (even in passing maybe).

my possible reasons for this... after having given eowyn and faramir a happy ending... wouldn't it be time to get the hobbits home to find the shire in ruins. perhaps tolkien didn't want to 'linger' in the south?
Hmmmmm. Interesting post. To me she seemed a bit young and fiesty. Now that I think about it, what young one has NOT (at least one time in their life) disobeyed an order and went out and did something other than what they were supposed to be doing.
Very interesting, Eowyn...
There is no doubt that in a way she "abandoned" her people. However, there would be nothing she could do to help them, once Gondor fell and Sauron's armies advanced west.
In the history of Middle Earth many main characters were guided by fate. Even though she said that she went to seek death or glory, the real thing that made her leave her assigned post was Eru's Masterplan.
Eowyn is pictured as a very honourable maiden, and nothing short of Destiny would push her to such actions.
Quote:
abandoning those you are in charge of is unexcusable and it just strikes me odd that that issue would never have even been mentioned (even in passing maybe).

Who says she 'abandoned' her ppl anyway. She had an agreement with Elfhelm, so i'm sure she left someone in Edoras to do her work in her place.

It seems she acted rashly and ran off, but in hindsight this is not the case.
Maybe the reason for her staying behind was her safety, rather than for her to protect her people? Just a thought to add to the stewpot Smile Smilie
Of course it was for her safety. That is what I think, at least. If they expected their people to be attacked, they would have left some of the men behind. She was to stay with the other women and children and old people, and be safe. But she didn't want to be safe, she wanted to fight and do something useful for a change.

Quote:
abandoning those you are in charge of is unexcusable

But delegating responcebility is ok. I don't think she just left without telling anybody. If the kings niece, the closest to a princess there is at this time, tells you that she is going somewhere else, would you really dare to secretly send a messenger to the king to tell on her?
Quote:
But she didn't want to be safe, she wanted to fight and do something useful for a change.

Well, actually this was not the main reason, imo.

I believe if Aragorn had never shown up, she would never have dressed up like Dernhelm and go to the Pelennor Fields. I believe she would have stayed behind. The main reason she went off, is because she thought Aragorn, the man she wanted to use as a stairway to glory, walked right into his death. After that, she saw no more reason to liv and wanted to die on the battlefield.

Quote:
Maybe the reason for her staying behind was her safety, rather than for her to protect her people? Just a thought to add to the stewpot

The thing is, Théoden didn't even consider her when he thought about who should lead Rohan in his absence... only when Hama told him 'we all love Lady Éowyn' he thought about her... Men !!

Anyway, considering how ppl everywhere in Middle-Earth regard women, i wonder where she ever learnt to fight like she did. Highly exceptional. Maybe she learnt it together with Éomer, because Théoden just couldn't say no to his beloved sister's daughter ? It's clear though, that they never realized that she was as courageous and spirited as Éomer was.
Quote:
i wonder where she ever learnt to fight like she did.
I'd say cousin Theodred got a kick out of watching his younger cousins play acting at swords with sticks. As Eomer always got the better of Eowyn in their contests, Theodred decided to teach her the fundamentals, so she could hold her own. With the passage of time, and much practicing with both Theodred and Eomer, she became quite proficient.
Quote:
But delegating responcebility is ok.

of course it's okay. as long as you make sure that there is a responsible individual in charge.

Quote:
Maybe she learnt it together with Éomer, because Théoden just couldn't say no to his beloved sister's daughter ? It's clear though, that they never realized that she was as courageous and spirited as Éomer was.

this would be a typical cousin act if i might say so... what is better to see than your younger (female) cousin kick the snot out of her older brother? it's nice to know that kids are the same here as they are in middle-earth (though this is all speculation of course).

here's my theory though: Éowyn says (in both the books and movies) that "those without swords may still die upon them. the women of this country learned that long ago." she seems to imply that it is for her protection and that she isn't the only women who wields a sword. with all the orc raids and the constant threat from the dunlandings and not to mention the east it would be natural for a noble lady to be able to defend herself.
on that note, in the movies Arwen also wields a sword in FotR. mind you... that's just the movies.
Quote:
here's my theory though: Éowyn says (in both the books and movies) that "those without swords may still die upon them. the women of this country learned that long ago."

I think she only meant with that that Orcs don't spare the women.

I don't remember it exactly, but i thought that in the movies she says something different : something in the like that both men and women are taught to handle a sword (after Aragorn tells her "you know how to handle a sword").

Anyway, it would indeed be logical for every member of a Rohirrim household to learn to handle a sword considering the threat of Isengard, just like they all learn to ride a horse, but the level of expertise Éowyn seemed to have, makes me think that she learnt it by the same teacher(s) of Éomer's, perhaps even by Théoden himself.

Quote:
on that note, in the movies Arwen also wields a sword in FotR. mind you... that's just the movies.

Amen to that ! To me it seems that Elven women have other powers than handling swords... look at Lúthien and Galadriel, for instance. Imho, the same applies to Arwen.

Quote:
As Eomer always got the better of Eowyn in their contests, Theodred decided to teach her the fundamentals, so she could hold her own.

But of course, it could also be that Éomer didn't want to play the stick-game with his sister, because "she was a girl", and Théodred, who felt pity for his young niece, then decided to teach her all he knew about swordfighting and ninjitsu.
Quote:
makes me think that she learnt it by the same teacher(s) of Éomer's, perhaps even by Théoden himself.
perhaps even her father had a part in her teaching. Éomund was a marshal of the mark and it would also be plausible that he taught both his children the basics before he died.
That's not impossible, although Éomer was just 11 and Éowyn just 7 when Éomund was killed by Orcs.
That might depend on how closely to the Rohan people are based on the Norsemen. Éomer could be quite the little warrior at that age. I am sure Tolkien had read about Egil Skallagrimsson, one of the great skalds/poet of that time. He was six years old when he killed his bestfriend with an axe, and his mommy was so proud.
indeed, however old Egil also claimed he started writing poetry at the age of 3

is there any evidence in the books themselves that demonstrate Eowyn having any particular prowess with weapons? apart from the scene in the movie..........grrr

all i can recall her actually doing in terms of weapon skill is taking down the Witch King, and that only after him being viscously stabbed in the back of the knee by a hobbit of exceptional cheekiness. Before that, acording to the text how i remember it ,she just got beaten about abit before that.
In 'The King of the Golden Hall' of The Two Towers the King gave Éowyn "a sword and a fair corslet", and when they were leaving the Golden Hall, Aragorn saw her her standing before the doors;
Quote:
the sword was set upright before her, and her hands were laid on the hilt. She was clad now in mail and shone like silver in the sun.


Later in 'The Passing of the Grey Company' of Return of the King She said to Aragorn just before her "cage" speech,
Quote:
"... I am of the House of Eorl and not some serving-woman. I can ride and wield blade, and I do not fear either pain or death."


That's about all i could find.
thanks Grondy, so there isnt actually any evidence to prove that she had any actual skill at arms?
i mean "wield blade" suggests that she can swing a sword at the least, but doesnt tell us anything more, i mean the hobbits could "wield blade" and yet Eowyn is always made out to be such a brave and admirable "sword-maiden", which i dont think is justified.

im sure there are many who disagree or have evidence to suggest otherwise, and im eager to hear it.
Quote:
thanks Grondy, so there isnt actually any evidence to prove that she had any actual skill at arms? i mean "wield blade" suggests that she can swing a sword at the least, but doesnt tell us anything more, i mean the hobbits could "wield blade" and yet Eowyn is always made out to be such a brave and admirable "sword-maiden", which i dont think is justified.

You're kidding, right ?

Here's what i found :
Quote:
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: maiden of the Rohirrim, child of kings, slender but as a steel-blade, fair but terrible. A swift stroke she dealt, skilled and deadly. The outstretched neck she clove asunder, and the hewn head fell like a stone. Backward she sprang as the huge shape crashed to ruin, vast wings outspread, crumpled on the earth; and with its fall the shadow passed away. A light fell about her, and her hair shone in the sunrise.

That's a bit more than swinging a sword, eh ?
ah, i was thinking it would be you to answer. No i was not kidding, its only i dont have the book to hand right now and could not recall passages such as the one you gave, and thought some of the credit being given to her was unjustified.
indeed, I still feel some people overstate her importance or role, but then, what character doesnt have its fans.

oh and thank you for answering my question.
Tolkien says of Eowyn in his letters...

Quote:
...she was also not really a soldier or 'amazon', but like many brave women was capable of great military gallantry at a crisis.
Not to mention, she was also very intelligent. She was an expert in the theory of general relativity - that's why the Rohirrim called her "Lady of the Schwarzschild Arm".