Thursday, 17 January 2013

Eowyn and 'great deeds'

Eowyn is one of my favourite characters in 'The Lord of the Rings'-trilogy. It is not often that female characters are allowed to experience the same kind of heroism that the men are. I recently discussed this with my father. Male characters often have very tragic, yet beautiful, death scenes. Think of the opening scene of 'Saving Private Ryan' which is, in essence, one big, heroic death scene. We are presented with men willingly sacrificing their lives in order to save those of others. This is typically seen as a 'heroic' death because it takes courage and shows a man at his best.

Look at Boromir. Having fallen victim to the Ring, he redeems himself by sacrificing his life to save Merry and Pippin and fighting with honour. I cannot be the only one that tears up at his death. But do we get these kinds of scenes for women? I think directors are hesitant at giving women, or girls, longer death scenes because they feel it might be offensive. Most women die realitively quickly or overly emotional. In action movies it is all rather quick. And this is why I love Eowyn, because she comes very close.
Below I have the first description of Eowyn. 

'Go, Eowyn sister-daughter!' said the old king. 'The time for fear is past.' The woman turned and went slowly into the house. As she passed the doors she turned and looked back. Grave and thoughtful was her glance, as she looked on the king with cool pity in her eyes. Very fair was her face, and her long hair was like a river of gold. Slender and tall she was in her white robe girt with silver; but strong she seemed and stern as steel, a daughter of kings. Thus Aragorn for the first time in the full light of day beheld Eowyn, Lady of Rohan, and thought her fair, fair and cold, like a morning of pale spring that is not yet come to womanhood. And she now was suddenly aware of him: tall heir of kings, wise with many winters, greycloaked. Hiding a power that yet she felt. For a moment still as stone she stood, then turning swiftly she was gone. 'Now, lord,' said Gandalf, 'look out upon your land! Breathe the free air again!' P. 75 - 'The Two Towers'

She is a truly tragic character, the way Homer might have written her. She is calm, composed and strong. She commands attention and demands respect. She is, in many ways, en equal to Aragorn. She is an heir to kings, a leader of the people. But what I love most about Eowyn is her character, and most of all: what she fears. 
And she answered: 'All your words are but to say: you are a woman, and your part is in the house. But when the men have died in battle and honour, you have leave to be burned in the house, for the men will need it no more. But I am of the House of Eorl and not a serving-woman. I can ride and wield blade, and I do not fear either pain or death.' 'What do you fear, lady?' he asked. 'A cage,' she said. 'To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.' P. 29 - 'Return of the King'
Eowyn has pride and valour and, most important of all, desire. What makes the death of Boromir and so many other male characters so tragic is the selflessness in their death and their will to be strong and heroic. Women are often presented as wanting to preserve life and happiness. Eowyn wants to go down in history alongside her uncle and brother, not remain at home and look after the children and animals.

The sentence
'To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.'
is perhaps my favourite line from the entire trilogy because that is my ow fear. I do not want to live my life without the chance to prove myself. It's one of the reasons I couldn't stay at home and not work or do something with my life. I want to see the world and experience life. Perhaps I relate too much to the Anglo-Saxon ancestry of Europe, but excerpts like these just fill me with a kind of longing to a different world. A world in which I could prove myself.

I realize that this post hasn't really been an analysis as much as me rambling on about Eowyn and strange personal feelings, but I hope you sort of enjoyed it. 

1 comment:

  1. This was a lovely post to read on Eowyn! And a very thought-provoking post. I remember loving Eowyn's character from the books and movies (though it's been some time since I read them) but reading this has really made me want to watch the LOTR movies again at least. :)