The Matter of Eowyn: Heroine or Deserter?

Thoughts

1. Thoughts

   
   
   
How could I not notice my sister was so close to her end? I knew she suffered in the court of Wormtongue, but she never spoke to me, nor any of us of the burden. Why? I am not sparing with my temper, and I would accept that as an explanation of why she would not speak to me of her desire for death. Théoden was deep in the mire of Saurman’s making, but Théodred had both his wits and temper controlled.

Ever since we were first brought to the Golden Hall, she would go to Théodred with any and every complaint, from our insistence she at least learn to ride a lady’s saddle, to the worries of the townsfolk. Why did she not go to him with the news of Wormtongue’s lies and advances? Had I made any move at that time to put an end to Gríma’s machinations, then I would have seen the insides of the dungeons that much faster.

Théodred, however, could have done something, would have done something. He would not stand idly by while his little sister was poisoned. We had loved him as a brother since the day we had been brought before him and Théoden, seventeen years ago, grubby from our long ride and mourning our mother. Théoden had always been our king above our uncle, but we, she, adopted Théodred as a brother, despite the 15 years separating our ages.

Yet she said nothing, and so my brother could do nothing. Perhaps he was as blind as I to her suffering. She always could hide herself behind a smokescreen and do her duties. In Theoden’s low, she acted as queen. While Théodred and Éomer slew orcs, Éowyn treated with Gondor, that our people would not starve to death. How could she not see that what she did was noble? The people of Edoras had little love for our war parties, as we took their sons to die at the hands of Isengard, but would never find an ill word for the White Lady, who cared for them as a mother, the one remaining member of the house of Eorl who would not abandon them.

Yet that is what she did. She left our people to whatever cruel fate awaited them to seek honour on the battlefield. I no longer believe such honour exists. There is no glory in slaughter. I will fight, I will always fight, because I love my people and will protect them from harm as best I can, but I do not fight for honour. Too many friends have fallen ignobly, screaming, begging for an end to the torment, for me to think of battle as glorious.

But it was not so long ago that I thought battle was magnificent. Théoden thought like that, always was the loudest when we sang the songs of war. Neither he nor Théodred ever doubted the battlefield, so why do I?

What was it about the Battle of the Pelennor Fields that removed the glory of war from my mind? I have seen slaughter before. We took massive casualties, but we have taken worse percentages before, if not worse numbers. We took on the host of Mordor with seven thousand men. That there are any survivors is a miracle!

Is that where my doubt stems from? That we were so few against so many? I do not doubt that I was mad as I lead my men to the Pelennor, mad with grief for my king and kin. Hope died in my heart as I saw the black sails and there were but two paths available to me. To weep our misfortune and yield where we stood, or to fight, and to fight unto the last man.

I have yet to surrender.

There was no glory, no honour. It was an evil thing that had to be done in order to cleanse the land, to stop the spread of poison, like a gangrenous limb should be removed to stop the toxin killing the whole body.

Still I doubt myself, whether my actions were the right ones, whether there could be another way. We fought and followed the path Théoden set for us. Now he lies in Rath Dínen, and I do not know where to look. Three months ago I was the disgraced sister-son, then heir, then king? I am not yet learned of this role, still looking to Théoden, my fallen king.

How can I ask my men to trust me when I sent them to war, when I do not trust my own judgement? Will I ever be looking for a higher power to guide my steps? What a poor king I will be.

Éowyn was never happy, as I was, to do the bidding of others. I should have known she would not be happy with the role we had decreed to her, to watch our hearth while we defended the gate.

In that time we fought against Isengard, Théodred and I protected our people from orc swords, while Éowyn protected them from starvation, from exposure, from the thousand things that will kill a man besides swordplay. She thought this ignoble. I had to have hope that we would succeed, and that when we succeeded against all odds, against the two towers, we would have a home to return to, that we would not sacrifice so many of our people in order to let the rest starve to death.

All our hopes rested on her, that there would be a home to return to, after we had waged war. All our hopes rested on her while the pusillanimous worm wrecked our land, spied on our defences, reporting the movements of our riders to Orthanc, paying particular care to the movements of Théodred and I. We were sent against what were reported to be small bands that seemed to grow massively since the scouts had seen them last. Why should Wormtongue go to the effort to kill us, when it could be done so much more effectively and believably by Orcs or Uruk-Hai? And by sending us out against these parties, Éowyn was left alone in the Golden Hall. She was, is, a shield maiden, and so had no handmaidens or guards to dissuade the attentions of the snake in our midst. She was deemed strong enough to deal with most everything the hall could throw at her.

Had Wormtongue been stupid enough to try anything where she could react, she would have cut him down, without pause, like a hot knife through butter. We had trained her well with sword, and she had skill with most weapons. I have seen her wield an axe on the sparring courts, a truly terrifying sight. So had Wormtongue assaulted her with words or hands anywhere she would have a witness, where she would have been within her rights to extract revenge, he would not have been able to stand before her. But Wormtongue was not stupid, for all that he was a craven coward.

Master Meriadoc, with whom she finally found a confidant, has told me how he would catch her when she was alone, whisper poisonous words into her ears, while his hands roamed her body, and so break down the pillar of our hopes, to the point where my sister, once so strong and fearless, desired death and did not find shame in her abandonment of our people when she rode to seek it.

Damn you, ‘Dred. Why did you fall? Why could we not find a healer who knew the Orcish poison you were stabbed with? I’m torn in two and you would know the best way to order my head. I’ve relied on your judgement since I was 10 years old. Eowyn abandoned our people, but without her desertion, all life would be under the sway of Sauron. What do I do ‘Dred? How should I think? You and Éowyn always did my thinking for me. I could never master my father’s temper, while Éowyn could channel it and use it for the most effect, and you were older and wiser than the pair of us, with the experience to know when to strike. But I am casting about in the storm, not knowing where to turn, nor which is the best road. I will be the headblind King, bereft of the advice of the pair of you, for our sister will marry into Gondor. You would like Faramir, ‘Dred. He’s a scholar, but I promise not to hold that against him. Yes, I do still resent you making me work at my lettering and all those stupid forms of address and other bits of ridiculousness you forced me to learn. It was wise and I see the benefit of it, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. I still prefer to sing my history, rather than lock it in a bit of dusty old parchment.

She seems so happy, at peace, dancing in Faramir’s arms. Does she not doubt her actions? Is she not torn as I am? I’ve not seen her so joyful for so many years. She’s no longer the Ice Maiden that she was in Gríma’s court. She’s alive again, when I never knew that she had died inside, until she was found amongst the remains of the wraith.

Do I honour her for saving the life of all, for doing something that no other would be able to do? Punish her for abandoning our people, leaving them bereft of a leader and rudderless after the horror of Helm’s Deep? I cannot go back to Rohan without an answer to this.

The Valar saw fit to take away Théodred, and so I cannot have his advice. Perhaps I should seek out my sister. Perhaps she can advise me one last time.

This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

   
   
   

In Challenges

Story Information

Author: kerosene

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Rating: General

Last Updated: 04/08/03

Original Post: 03/02/03

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