My Scattered Thoughts on Eowyn and Femininity

3:41 PM

 


Greetings from the cave! 

I have been wanting to do this post for a while. Matter of fact, I think I have started this post a couple of times (it always gets deleted though...). 

Normally, I like to ruminate on these kinds of posts for a while and refine my arguments. But since I'm running so close on my time to submit it to the 9th Tolkien Blog Party, I decided to be spontaneous and just go for it. So this post is going to be a rather scattered collection of thoughts on Eowyn and femininity, of which I hope you all will forgive me.   


via GIPHY

When we meet Eowyn, she's a single woman who is unhappy with her state of life. She doesn't understand the power of her femininity, nor, frankly, the use of it. Doesn't that sound like many young women of today? 

Instead, she is given the lie by her culture that being a warrior is, somehow, better. This appeals to her inner vanity - as the books say, she delights in the glories of war. She longs to make a name for herself and do heroic deeds - like so many young men do - but have no idea of the sacrifices required. 

When she's told to stay behind and rule the kingdom of Rohan in her uncle Theoden's stead, she's upset. She believes she should be out there with the men, putting her life on the line as they do. How many young women are deluded into thinking that the career - to make a difference - is the ultimate goal in our society? 

What Eowyn misses - and what I believe King Theoden recognizes - is that her presence really was needed in Rohan. The people needed a strong leader to keep them together. Eowyn was such a person. If there had been an attack on Rohan while the men were away, I'm sure that Eowyn would have had the presence of mind to repel it. It really reminds me of the wives who were left behind to run the businesses and factories of the nations as the men went to war - without them, there would have been nothing left for the men to come back to nor to keep them and the nation going. Everything would literally stop (incidentally, this is why I'm against women being drafted into the military). 

Anyway, Eowyn has this dream of going to war - the definition of ultimate in the warrior nation she is a part of. The ironic thing is that in order to achieve this goal, Eowyn cross-dresses as a man. In other words, making herself more masculine. 

Now, Tolkien could have had Eowyn miserably fail and be discovered and sent back to Rohan in disgrace. But...he doesn't. Now, I'm not going to cover how Eowyn had a role in the prophecy against the Witch-King, or how she compares with Joan of Arc, or anything like that. Although that IS a fascinating topic to get into, it paints a much more nuanced picture of femininity and it requires a lot of...well, ruminating. 

But the fact that Eowyn could survive in that time of environment and stress is kind of striking. What would most of us do? Probably panic and freeze, I know I would. Instead, Eowyn proved that she could fight, and did it quite well. I mean, no one else was able to slay that Fell Beast by themselves like she did. She did have some assistance from Merry to kill the Witch-King, which some have pointed out is a reminder that women are not as powerful as men (which is ultimately true). 

What was the cost though? 

Eowyn is very badly wounded and almost dies. We then see her at the Houses of Healing, where she meets Faramir, and...she eventually lays down her arms to embrace her femininity with renewed devotion. 

There has been some consensus among literary analysts that Tolkien used Eowyn as a sort of criticism against modern feminism. And I can totally see that. But he did it in such a way that greatly respected women, and their vocational choices - even if Tolkien ultimately leads up to marriage. 

In a way, Eowyn is the characterization of the post-modern woman's journey to femininity. We grow up in this culture that is greatly affected by feminism (Witch King), we get restless and want to build, we get taken down by the stress of the world, and we find healing in tradition and love, thus regaining peace with ourselves. 



via GIPHY

One of the reasons that Eowyn appeals to me is because I see a similar arc in my own personal life. As a young woman, I did want a family and a husband. But, I believed I would find it in college, and the college education would just be a backup. When I discovered that the boys on my college campus were not the marrying type, I bought into the lie that I needed to establish a career, and the lie that I needed to rid myself of my debt before I could marry. I was not happy doing this, but felt I needed to. 

Fast forward a few years. A failed round of grad school and bad jobs have left me miserable. 2020 saw me with two relationships that fizzled out. One of them I believe was an Aragorn figure - one that I admired very much, but "let me down easy" as it were. I had to recognize that his path was not with me, like Eowyn had to with Aragon (though minus the drama of another girl). I didn't like that, and it took a bit to get over. Of course, I know now that it would never work out between us for varying reasons but there is still that sentiment, you know? 

And like Eowyn, I fear a cage. I very much fear a cage. 

I don't think I've gotten to the point where I have defeated the Witch-King yet. I don't even know what my Witch-King is, if there even is one for my story. But I do hope that I at least get Eowyn's eventual happy ending. 

So, I'd love to continue to ruminate on this! What are your thoughts about Eowyn's journey to femininity? Do you agree, disagree? Tell me in the comments below! 

Scribbingly yours, 

Catherine

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8 comments

  1. Ha! Funny you should choose to write on this topic! I actually wrote an article for my friend's cultural magazine on exactly the same topic! - Eowyn as Tolkein's response to Feminism. I'd love to know what you think!! https://www.romanticusjournal.com/articles/eowyn-a-noble-example-of-love

    It's annoying when modern internet culture hyjack her as a 'feminist icon' *gags* when she's anything but what they think she is.
    Tolkein described her as "Not really an Amazon but, like many women, capable of great military gallantry at a crisis" which I think is a very good description.
    TBH, based on personal experience, I could see myself doing the same sort of thing if I thought this was the last great stand at the world's ending and my father and were going too.
    I'd love if we could compare our article ideas!!

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    Replies
    1. It's also interesting to note that Lucy and Jill in the Narnia series also engage in battle in defence of Narnia (military crises) but in a way suited to girls - always as archers, never hand to hand, and only when the situation is dire. They certainly are not 'regulars' or army recruits. I have no objection to everyone of every age and sex wading in when the situation is serious and defensive, but I do not like anyone (male or female) to be in an army where faceless beurocrats deploy the young to be blown up on the far side of the globe in a battle that is nothing to do with them.

      Delete
  2. P.S. Don't worry. 'What's for you won't pass you' as my mother says, if you're honestly trying to be a saint

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ugh my comments keep on not publishing.
    Anyway I love what this post says about Eowyn!! My thoughts exactly! You are really good at writing on these sorts of things:-)
    It really irritates me how Eowyn is used as a feminist icon. I love the ending scene with her and Faramir so
    much. It is beautiful. "'I stand in Minas Anor, the Tower of the Sun,' she said; 'and behold! the Shadow has departed! I will be a sheildmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying. I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren.' And again she looked at Faramir. 'No longer do I desire to be a queen,' she said.
    Then Faramir laughed merrily. 'That is well,' he said; 'for I am not a king. Yet I will wed with the White Lady of Rohan, if it be her will. And if she will, then let us cross the River and in happier days let us dwell in fair Ithilien and there make a garden. All things will grow with joy there, if the White Lady comes.” B.e.a.u.t.i.f.u.l.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wonderful post, Catherine! I think Tolkien did an excellent job balancing femininity in Eowyn, and I think you did a wonderful job expressing that, as well! Her going into battle and defeating the witch-king, glorious as it was, comes with a cost. I hadn't thought of that before. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ack Catherine I love this so! Fantastic thoughts. Very much agree. I especially like how Eowyn's sadness in the beginning of her story contrasts with her joy as Faramir's bride.

    (And I'm sure there's a Faramir out there for you somewhere, m'dear.)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I've always loved Eowyn's story. I love how feminine she is, but also fierce.
    I fear a cage too.

    ReplyDelete

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