Was Éowyn a Deserter?

lady_eowyn_of_rohan
Posts: 25

Was Éowyn a Deserter?

Post#1 » Tue Jun 21, 2005 8:31 pm

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.

ithil
Posts: 1427

Was Éowyn a Deserter?

Post#2 » Tue Jun 21, 2005 11:30 pm

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.

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terrijayne
Posts: 432

Was Éowyn a Deserter?

Post#3 » Wed Jun 22, 2005 8:08 am

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.

lady_eowyn_of_rohan
Posts: 25

Was Éowyn a Deserter?

Post#4 » Wed Jun 22, 2005 9:25 am

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...

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terrijayne
Posts: 432

Was Éowyn a Deserter?

Post#5 » Wed Jun 22, 2005 11:05 am

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.....

lady_eowyn_of_rohan
Posts: 25

Was Éowyn a Deserter?

Post#6 » Wed Jun 22, 2005 1:18 pm

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 :)

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Vee
Posts: 2711

Was Éowyn a Deserter?

Post#7 » Wed Jun 22, 2005 1:22 pm

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...

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miruvor
Posts: 849

Was Éowyn a Deserter?

Post#8 » Wed Jun 22, 2005 3:01 pm

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.

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...

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:
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.

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grondmaster
Posts: 25451

Was Éowyn a Deserter?

Post#9 » Wed Jun 22, 2005 4:48 pm

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.
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lady_eowyn_of_rohan
Posts: 25

Was Éowyn a Deserter?

Post#10 » Wed Jun 22, 2005 6:23 pm

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?

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