Éowyn by Aervir
Who is Éowyn in the film?
She is the niece of King Théoden, a shieldmaiden of Rohan, who gradually falls in love with Aragorn while he stays at Edoras and then leaves with the Rohirrim for Helm’s Deep.
Who is Éowyn in the book?
Éowyn is the niece of King Théoden and sister to Éomer, a noble lady from the house of Eorl, who begins to show a certain interest in Aragorn during his brief visit to Edoras.
Changes made in The Two Towers:
“The only criticism that annoyed me was that it [i.e. The Lord of the Rings] ‘contained no religion’ (and ‘no Women’, but that does not matter, and is not true anyway).” (J.R.R. Tolkien, Letters, No. 165)
Some of the changes in the long and difficult transition process from page to screen suggest that the representation of women in The Lord of the Rings is an issue on which Peter Jackson as well as his two writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens do not agree with the Professor himself: The female characters of the motion picture trilogy tend to get more screen time than their written counterparts’ activities which are explicitly mentioned in the novel would actually warrant. Éowyn in The Two Towers is certainly no exception to this rule – just like Arwen’s part in The Fellowship of the Ring, her role in the second film has been considerably expanded, especially as far as her relationship with Aragorn is concerned. So, not only do the heroines of The Lord of the Rings receive more attention, but the aspect of romantic love is made much more explicit, too. Another obvious reason for the expansion of Éowyn’s part would probably be the fact that the screenwriters have decided to show several events that, in the book, are told in retrospective: Éomer’s banishment, Théodred’s death and funeral, Grima’s treason and his harassment of the king’s niece. This storyline serves to introduce the audience to the “home of the horse lords” and the ruling family of this country, thus including a character sketch of the White Lady of Rohan. The very first things we learn about her in the screen adaptation, when she herself has barely spoken a word, are indeed her relation to the ailing king of Rohan and – a very important aspect – Grima’s desire for her:
Éomer: How long is it since Saruman bought you? What was the promised price, Grima? When all the men are dead, you would take your share of the treasure? Too long have you watched my sister, too long have you haunted her steps.
(The Two Towers – Special Extended Edition, The Banishment of Éomer)
In Tolkien’s novel, a similar speech is featured in Gandalf’s dialogue after the wizard has succeeded in curing the king and sending the traitor Wormtongue away, whereas the film version chooses to depict Éowyn’s predicament instead of only narrating it.
But the “Beast’s” attempt to seduce the “Beauty”, which immediately precedes the arrival of the Three Hunters and the White Wizard at Meduseld, does not simply present the stereotyped “damsel in distress”: Instead, it may be considered a crucial, even indispensible scene because (despite all the changes in the plot) its portrayal of Èowyn stays true to her personality, to the very essence of her being, to her restlessness, coldness, and despair.
Éowyn: Leave me alone, snake!
Grima: Oh, but you are alone. Who knows what you’ve spoken to the darkness in bitter watches of the night. When all your life seems to shrink, the walls of your bower closing in about you. A hutch to trammel some wild thing. So fair. So cold. Like a morning of pale spring still clinging to winter’s chill.
(TTT – SEE, The King of the Golden Hall)
Grima’s words in the movie turn the narrator’s commentary (originally from Aragorn’s [!] point of view: “[He] thought her fair, fair and cold, like a morning in pale spring that is not yet come to womanhood.” [The Two Towers, II.3.6, The King of the Golden Hall]) and Gandalf’s later assessment of Éowyn (see The Return of the King, III.5.8) into a villain’s probing analysis of her character; while he speaks, one can even see her leaning into his intimate touch: This subtle gesture helps to convey a sense of loneliness as well as a craving for understanding and companionship. Not until some moments later does she succeed in breaking Wormtongue’s spell and then tries to literally escape. Nevertheless, she may run out of the room in order to flee her pursuer, but she cannot really leave, for she is still bound to her home − trapped at Meduseld.
The sight of Miranda Otto as Éowyn standing alone in front of the Golden Hall, looking out, over the fields of the Mark, for some kind of relief belongs to the most evocative images in Peter Jackson’s trilogy and virtually mirrors Tolkien’s description of the White Lady of Rohan: “Grave and thoughtful was her glance […]. 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 […].” (II.3.6). But it also seems to be based on a few other sentences in the book that describe the departure of the Riders and their new allies from Edoras (an event which is replaced by the evacuation of the whole city in the movie): “With a rush like the sudden onset of a great wind the last host of Rohan rode thundering into the West. Far over the plain Éowyn could see the glitter of their spears, as she stood still, alone before the doors of the great house.” (II.3.6) This hint at a certain feeling of loneliness after Aragorn’s arrival at Edoras, Grima’s banishment Théoden’s recovery and his curt dismissal of Éowyn (“ Go, sister-daughter. […] The time for fear is past.” [II.3.6]), however, is missing from the screen adaptation altogether, even if her part is expanded in the rest of the film.
Peter Jackson’s The Two Towers shows far more interaction between Éowyn and other characters than the book, first between her and Theóden, her foster father, and − a little later − between her and the visitors, particularly Aragorn: When Gandalf releases Théoden from Saruman’s spell, she has to be forcibly restrained from running to her king while she watches his transformation with tears in her eyes, which emphasizes her reaction as a loving niece and caretaker ( a responsibilty that the Éowyn of Tolkien’s novel, however, apparently regards with contempt as fitting for a “dry-nurse” [cf. The Return of the King, III.5.2]). The following scenes present two other roles of great importance for the Lady of Meduseld: First, she is one of the mourning women at Theódred’s funeral, singing the dirge for her dead cousin and thus passing on the memories of his heroic deeds in battle (TTT – SEE, Théodred’s Funeral), though it is usually a male minstrel who is entrusted with this duty in the Rohirric society of the book (cf. The Return of the King, III.6.6). Second, the fact that she both looks after the fugitive children from the Westfold and is present when the king discusses the outbreak of war at the borders of the Mark (TTT – SEE, The Decision of the King) offers us a glimpse of Éowyn as the female head of the royal household in a pseudo-early medieval society: This facet of her character might make up for the film-makers’ decision to drop her appointment as regent during the absence of the king. (After all, it would make no sense in the movie to let her rule Edoras in Théoden’s stead, like she does in the novel, because Peter Jackson makes her accompany the host and the inhabitants of Edoras to their refuge at Helm’s Deep.)
As soon as the decision to empty the city has been made, the focus of Éowyn’s characterization onscreen shifts to her feelings for Aragorn, whereas her interest in him is only alluded to in the book: “And she […] was suddenly aware of him: tall heir of kings, wise with many winters, greycloaked, hiding a power that yet she felt. […] As she stood before Aragorn she paused suddenly and looked upon him, and her eyes were shining. And he looked down upon her fair face and smiled; but as he took the cup, his hand met hers, and he knew that she trembled at the touch. […] ‘A year shall I endure for every day that passes until your return.’ But as she spoke her eyes went to Aragorn, who stood nearby.” (The Two Towers, II.3.6) While the Lady’s ritualistic offer of the stirrup-cup to the departing captains has been moved to the return of the troops in the third installment, additional conversations between the Ranger from the North and Théoden’s niece (like their short talk in the stables, TTT – SEE, Brego) are supposed to flesh out the relationship between the two characters and to depict a more gradual development of Èowyn’s emotions instead of making her fall in love at first sight.
During the preparations for the evacuation, the young woman’s unrest and prickliness are allowed to dominate both dialogue and interaction for the last time before her personality becomes much softer in the ensuing course of events: Not only does she take up a weapon while gathering her belongings, but Miranda Otto also manages to display an interesting mixture of aggressiveness and insecurity when Éowyn crosses swords with Aragorn and utters the embittered words:
Éowyn: The women of this country learned long ago that those without swords can still die upon them. I fear neither death nor pain.
Aragorn: What do you fear, my lady?
Éowyn: A cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them. And all chance of valor has gone beyond recall or desire.
Aragorn: You are a daughter of kings, a shieldmaiden of Rohan. I do not think that would be your fate.
(TTT – SEE, A Daughter of Kings)
Showing the two speakers engage in swordplay leads up to the dialogue cited above in a very natural manner and is also an easy way of expressing physical attraction, of making clear what a woman from a culture of warriors must feel for a man like Aragorn. On the other hand, the impact of her words, which are quoted almost verbatim from the third volume of The Lord of the Rings, is somewhat lessened by taking them out of their respective context (Warning! Spoilers for The Return of the King.): In the novel, Éowyn speaks the sentences, “And those without swords can still die upon them. […] And it is not always […] evil to die in battle, even in bitter pain. Were I permitted, in this dark hour, I would choose [so].”, after she has actually fought on the Field of the Pelennor, miraculously survived and still wishes to persuade her warden to let her go to war again so that she may find an heroic end (The Return of the King, III.6.5). What could be interpreted as grim determination and mere pragmatism, considering the situation in the movie, should, according to the original text, rather be considered suicidal longings and abject despair. The next two sentences are also part of a much longer conversation, the talk between Éowyn and Aragorn at Dunharrow before the latter leaves for the Paths of the Dead (cf. The Return of the King, III.5.2). This conversation has been broken down into various bits and pieces that show up in the dialogue here and there, but it is the original version in the book that permits Éowyn to get rid of all her pent-up emotions and frustrations at once:
‘I am weary of skulking in the hills, and wish to face peril and battle.’ ‘Your duty is with your people,’ he answered. ‘Too often have I heard of duty,’ she cried. ‘But am I not of the House of Eorl, a shieldmaiden and not a dry-nurse? I have waited on faltering feet long enough. Since they falter no longer, may I not now spend my life as I will?’ ‘Few may do that without honour,’ he answered. ‘But as for you, lady: did you not accept the charge to govern the people until their lord’s return? […]’ ‘Shall I always be chosen?’ she said bitterly. ‘Shall I always be left behind when the Riders depart, to mind the house while they win renown, and find food and beds when they return?’ ‘A time may come soon,’ said he, ‘when none will return. Then there will be need of valour without renown, for none shall remember the deeds that are done in the last defence of your homes. Yet the deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised.’ 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 [a] 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.’ (The Return of the King, The Passing of the Grey Company, III.5.2)
(End of spoiler warning.)
As one can see by taking a closer look at this lengthy quote, Aragorn’s onscreen reaction to Éowyn’s complaint is also quite different from his rather stern behaviour towards her in the novel: He compliments her on her swordsmanship, points out her special status as both a noblewoman and a shieldmaiden − two arguments put forward by Éowyn herself in the book − and seems to make her a promise of freedom (“I do not think that would be your fate.”) instead of rejecting her and leaving her behind.
Small wonder then that Éowyn begins to fall in love with Aragorn, and for the rest of the movie, she functions mainly as a potential substitute for Arwen, who finally sets out for the Havens on Elrond’s insistence. The aloof and brittle White Lady of Rohan, whom Tolkien mostly compares to such cold or hard things as frost, snow, ice, or steel, is suddenly transformed into a much more friendly young woman, recovering from the hardships of her life: She obviously enjoys the company of Gimli and Aragorn and receives nothing but understanding from her uncle, who informs Aragorn about the difficult childhood and youth of his niece (the information on Éowyn’s family background is taken from The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A.II):
(The refugees from Edoras are making their way to Helm’s Deep. Gimli, riding a horse, is talking to Éowyn.)
Gimli: It’s true, you don’t see many dwarf women. In fact, they are so alike in voice and appearance, that they’re often mistaken for dwarf men.
(Éowyn smiles and turns back to look at Aragorn.)
Aragorn: (whispering and gesturing) It’s the beards.
(A large smile spreads over Éowyn’s face.)
Gimli: And this in turn has given rise to the belief that there are no dwarf women. And that dwarves just spring out of holes in the ground. (Éowyn and Gimli laugh) Which is of course ridiculous.
Gimli: It’s all right. It’s all right. Nobody panic. It was deliberate. It was deliberate.
Théoden: I have not seen my niece smile in a long time. She was a girl when they brought back her father dead. Cut down by orcs. She watched her mother succumb to grief. And she was left alone to tend her king in growing fear. Doomed to wait upon an old man who should loved her as a father.
<Èowyn again turns to smile at Aragorn.>
(TTT – SEE, Dwarf Women)
Éowyn as portrayed in the film is not only a warmer and happier person, but she often acts in a somewhat girlish manner – for example, when she tries to get closer to Aragorn by offering him some home-made stew (it is probably puristic nit-picking to complain about her lack of cooking skills in this scene, but one could in fact assume that the woman responsible for running the hall of Meduseld should be able to come up with a decent meal, shieldmaiden or no) and asking him questions about his earlier life, or when she wants to find out whether he is already spoken for (TTT – SEE, One of the Dúnedain, The Evenstar). Even her wish to fight with the Riders against the attacking Wargs – instead of leading her people to Helm’s Deep – seems to arise out of a spirit of resilience and youthful stubbornness rather than loss of hope (TTT – SEE, The Wolves of Isengard). However, she does yield to Théoden’s orders, and – in contrast to the novel – she is thus present at Helm’s Deep during the climatic battle against Saruman’s army. Admittedly, the filmmakers do show us a few of the responsibilities that Éowyn’s position entails, like leading the refugees to safety or managing the provisions in the fortress, but, once again, they mainly concentrate on her desire for Aragorn, on her grief at his supposed death, her joy at his unexpected return, and her dismay at Legolas’s handing him the Evenstar pendant, the symbol of his ties to another woman (TTT – SEE, Helm’s Deep, Aragorn’s Return). Considering this context, her insistence on staying at Aragorn’s side during the imminent fight – another abridged extract from their talk at Dunharrow – sounds very much like the simple plea of a woman who wants to defend her loved ones.
Éowyn: Aragorn! I’m to be sent with the woman into the caves!
Aragorn: That is an honourable charge.
Éowyn: To mind the children, to find food and bedding when the men return. What renown is there in that?
Aragorn: My lady, a time will come for valour without renown. Who then will your people look to in the last defence?
Éowyn: Let me stand at your side!
Aragorn: It is not in my power to command it.
Éowyn: You do not command the others to stay! They fight beside you because they would not be parted from you. Because they love you.
(TTT – SEE, The Glittering Caves)
Although the movie dialogue cited above still conveys the shield-maiden’s initial idea of a relationship as being the comrade in arms of the warrior she desires, it is indeed telling that her bitter lines, ‘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.’, are missing from the film. All in all, the talk is not as rife with bleakness and despair as the corresponding passage in the book and thus reflects the whole change that Éowyn’s character has undergone in the screenplay.
Conclusion: Even though Peter Jackson and his screenwriters apparently wanted to attach greater importance to Éowyn as one of the heroines in The Lord of the Rings by giving her more scenes than in the novel, they also emphasized the kinder, softer, emotional side of her personality. In this way, they created a character who should be easier to identify with and perhaps even more likely to appeal to the countless teenaged girls and young women flocking to the movie theatres all over the world.
- 3.01.*b. The Burning of the Westfold by Figwit
- 3.06. The King of the Golden Hall by atalante_star
- 3.06.*a. The Journey to Helm's Deep by Figwit
- 3.07. The Battle of Helms Deep by atalante_star
- Aragorn in TTT by Figwit
- Ã‰omer in TTT by elenluin
- GrÃma Wormtongue by atalante_star
- ThÃ©oden in TTT by atalante_star
Our Character Gallery has a separate section devoted to Ã‰owyn.
It also has the screencaps of the theatrical version, as well as the extended edition.
A transcript of 'The Lord Of the Rings: The Two Towers' can be found in our Film Fun & Facts section.
A summary of 'The Lord Of the Rings: The Two Towers' can be found in Elrond's Library.
You can also check out some pictures of Miranda Otto in our Cast & Crew Gallery or read a short biography in our Film, Fun & Facts section.
Some articles that are related to Ã‰owyn of Rohan:
- Our Middle-earth Section articles about Ã‰owyn of Rohan, The History of the Rohirrim, ThÃ©oden son of Thengel and a Family Tree of The Kings of the Mark.
- Under Literature Studies you can find an article about Rohan culture and Eorl's Hymn by Figwit.
Forum threads related to Ã‰owyn & Miranda Otto:
- The Movie Forum has threads about The Portrayal of Women in the Movies, Ã‰owyn - books vs. movies, Ã‰owyn and Aragorn's romantic relationship, Arwen vs. Ã‰owyn and your Favourite Female Character.
- In the Books Forum thereâ€™s a thread about Women in Middle-earth and Ã‰owyn and other popular shieldmaidens.
- The Casting Forum has a thread about Miranda Otto as Ã‰owyn and one asking you to choose between Arwen and Ã‰owyn.
Take a look at how some artists saw Ã‰owyn in The Two Towers:
- Ã‰owyn before Meduseld by Michael Kaluta
- Ã‰owyn, Gandalf and ThÃ©oden by Micchelucci
- Ã‰owyn and ThÃ©oden by Montanini
- Ã‰owyn by Anke Eismann
- Ã‰owyn Left Behind by Maija PietikÃ¤inen
Looking for something more creative - you may find it here: