Éowyn and Faramir Declare Their Love as Éowyn Understands her Heart at Last

Éowyn receives her brother’s invitation to join the triumph at the Field of Cormallen after the fall of Sauron but she does not go. Once more the Warden of the Houses of Healing becomes anxious about her unhappiness and bids Faramir take time from his duties as Steward of Gondor to speak with her.

Faramir is a man of wise insight and he has learned much from the day he spent with Merry and so he says to her plainly:

“You do not go because only your brother called for you, and to look on the Lord Aragorn, Elendil’s heir, in his triumph would now bring you no joy. Or because I do not go, and you desire still to be near me. And maybe for both these reasons, and you yourself cannot choose between them. Éowyn, do you not love me, or will you not?”

In March 1941 Tolkien wrote a remarkable letter to his son, Michael, on the subject of marriage and relations between men and women. It is remarkable partly because it displays a closeness between father and son that is sadly very rare. Also because of its depth of insight. I think that most men on reading this letter would would wish they had enjoyed this closeness with their own father or that they could achieve it with their sons. Richard Rohr describes the general poverty of relations between fathers and sons as “The Father Wound”. Faramir has known this wound deeply but Tolkien, who never knew his own father shows that it need not be passed on to the next generation .

In the letter Tolkien writes about the Western romantic idea of courtly love in which a great lady would enjoy the devotion and admiration of young men, often expressed through poetry or deeds that would prove their love. A physical expression of the love was considered unacceptable although the two great Arthurian love stories of Guinevere and Lancelot and of Tristan and Isolde show that such relationships could move disastrously from the idealised form to the physical form. In his letter Tolkien also notes that to idealise a woman, to grant her some kind of divinity, does her no good at all. Tolkien describes this as “false and at best make believe. The woman is another fallen human being with a soul in peril.”

I refer to this, partly because I believe it to be Éowyn’s temptation. She desired the adoration of the greatest knight of his age and, with it, the adoration of all men and women. I also wonder if Faramir was tempted to idealise Éowyn. “Were you the blissful Queen of Gondor, still I would love you.” Perhaps not, perhaps Faramir simply feels that he has to declare his love with as much passion as he can to make Éowyn see it. Thankfully for his own sake he never has to know what it would be like to love the Queen of Gondor without hope! Éowyn sees reality at last or, as Tolkien puts it so beautifully, “the heart of Éowyn changed, or else at last she understood it”.

It is only possible to love flesh and blood although such love always points us beyond itself towards divine love which we glimpse in the temptation to idealise. Tolkien puts this powerfully in his letter. Every marriage, in a certain sense he writes, is a mistake. We could all find “more suitable mates”. It is possible to spend a whole lifetime either looking for the perfect mate or saying, “if only”. And we will never know. Even the best of marriages requires self-denial, perseverance and forgiveness. They require the decision to say the greatest, Yes, to reality, to the real person in front of us. I know that it has become popular to create our own wedding vows, as if by doing so we give the wedding ceremony more authenticity, but I become more deeply impressed by the vows of the old English Sarum Rite which is over five hundred years old and in which each person promises to “love and to cherish” for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death us do part”. Both Éowyn and Faramir have to renounce some kind of idealised form of romantic love and commit themselves to the real person in front of them.

A Personal Reflection on Logres and The Matter of Britain by Stephen Winter

This week’s post on the series on The Inklings and King Arthur is by me. It is an attempt to link the wisdom of the Inklings, the Matter of Britain and the current state of my country and of Europe. I would love to engage in conversation with anyone who wants to discuss this so please read and comment.
You may notice a reference to a poet, priest and scholar who refers to Jesus as “Our True Strider”. This is in fact, Malcolm Guite, who contributed the wonderful concluding essay to the book, The Inklings and King Arthur. Glad to make that correction!

A Pilgrim in Narnia

Having sent out the call for papers, it is delightful to be more a ‘receiving’ than a ‘commissioning editor’, discovering what serendipities Providence supplies. We began last week with Suzanne Bray’s illuminating study of ‘Post-Inklings’ Arthurian fiction of as recently as twenty years ago – in the context of an argument around a century older, and the contributions to it of the first Inkling Arthurian novelist, Charles Williams. Now, Stephen Winter complements this by taking us back to the last Arthurian novel by an Inkling, C.S. Lewis’s The Hideous Strength, to show how one of its most striking features addresses our contemporary situation even more forcefully than it did Lewis’s own, when he wrote it seventy-four years ago. Join us, to contemplate “our haunting”.

David Llewellyn Dodds, Guest Editor


It may feel, for the inhabitants of the British Isles, that recent years have been particularly unsettled. The referendum…

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The Eagles of Manwë Praise the Faithfulness of the People of Minas Tirith.

Last week I promised to continue the love story of Faramir and Éowyn but I ask you to permit me to make you wait one week more before we return to it. Last week we thought about the great wave that seemed to threaten the end of all things and yet brought a joy that was both entirely unlooked for and which brought tears to those who were pierced by it. Now all the people in the city learn what has brought such joy for,

“Before the Sun had fallen far from the noon out of the East there came a great Eagle flying, and he brought tidings beyond hope from the Lords of the West, crying:

Sing now, ye people of the Tower of Anor, for the Realm of Sauron is ended for ever, and the Dark Tower is thrown down.”

I hope that discerning readers will have noticed that Tolkien is careful about the use of capital letters for nouns in his work. In an earlier post on this blog we saw it in his use of the word, Pity, and so here Tolkien uses it to draw our attention to the importance of the noun that is capitalised. In the sentence that I quoted above there are four nouns that receive a capital letter, a sign that this is a sentence of particular importance, but the one that I want to focus on is the word, Eagle.

This is no ordinary Eagle. For one thing the Eagle sings in human speech and comes to Minas Tirith as the herald of the free peoples of Middle-earth. For another this Eagle was one of those who came to the climactic battle before the Black Gate. This Eagle is a descendant of those that Manwë, the lord of the Valar, sent to Middle-earth in the First Age to be his messengers. Their task was to keep watch on Morgoth, who was Sauron’s lord, and to do this they built their eyries on the peak of Thangorodrim itself, the very mountain beneath which Morgoth built his fortress of Angband.

They have kept their watch faithfully through long ages and from time to time, at crucial moments, they have intervened directly in the affairs of the free peoples. They carried Beren and Lúthien from Angband, the party of Thorin’s dwarves from the trees in which they were trapped by orcs and wargs, Gandalf from the Tower of Orthanc when he was held captive by Saruman and later carried him from the mountain top after the great battle with the Balrog and finally they attacked the Nazgûl at the Battle of the Black Gate.

It is thus no coincidence that it is an Eagle of Manwë that is the herald of the fall of Sauron. The faithfulness of the Eagles speaks to the faithfulness of Minas Tirith.

Sing and rejoice, ye people of the Tower of Guard, for your watch hath not been in vain.”

Just as the armies of the West were drawn into the story of Frodo and Sam at the Field of Cormallen so that it became their story too so all who have remained in the city as the host went to battle are brought into the story of the faithful vigil of the ages. The boys who play with Bergil, son of Beregond of the Guard of the Tower, the women who Ioreth of the Houses of Healing tells of the first coming of the king to his city, all become part of the story of the faithful watch.

The 16th century English theologian, Richard Hooker, once wrote, “How are the people to know they are faithful unless their captains tell them?” Faithfulness will lie at the very heart of the civilisation that is born with the downfall of Sauron and the return of the King and the story of faithfulness with which the new age begins will dignify every man, woman and child to whom the captains tell it. It is this act of giving dignity to the people that is one of the central tasks of the captain whether a parent, teacher, chief executive, president or king. Any who fail in this task are not true captains.

  

The Argument Continues: Late 20th Century Christian and Pagan Depictions of Arthur and the Grail by Suzanne Bray

Dear friends,
In coming weeks I intend to reblog this series of short essays, edited by David Llewellyn Dodds, and appearing originally on Brenton Dickieson’s wonderful site, A Pilgrim in Narnia. My own copy of “The Inklings and King Arthur” arrived yesterday and my hope is that my readers will enjoy both this series of celebratory essays and will also want to buy the book. One of the essays will be by me and I also hope to include a review of The Inklings and King Arthur later on at the conclusion of the series.
If you read my comment on this excellent essay by Suzanne Bray then you will note my belief that a careful study of The Inklings is not just a matter of literary interest for people “who like that kind of thing” but is essential. We are now significantly nearer to the possibility of the kind of world that C.S Lewis described prophetically in “That Hideous Strength” than we were when he wrote it. Soon we will all have to choose sides, Logres or Britain, St Anne’s or the N.I.C.E, Aslan or Jadis, Christmas and Springtime or an eternal winter.
Please look out for these essays on Fridays on my site or find the originals on Brenton Dickieson’s earlier in the week.
Under the Mercy,
Stephen Winter

A Pilgrim in Narnia

I’m pleased to offer the first of our guest bloggers in the Inklings and Arthur series celebrating the links between the Oxford Inklings and the Matter of Britain. This series is in concert with the new collection, The Inklings and King Arthur, edited by Sørina Higgins. The book has topped a number of Amazon sales lists and the kindle version was released this week. This series will include some of the authors of the collection, including Suzanne Bray, Professor of British Literature and Civilisation at Lille Catholic University in the north of France. She has written extensively in French and English about C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, Dorothy L. Sayers and other 20th-century Anglican authors.

David Llewellyn Dodds, Guest Editor


In my article for The Inklings and King Arthur , I point out that Charles Williams ’s presentation of the Holy Grail, both in his Arthurian poetry and in the…

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Faramir Gazes at the Overwhelming Wave and Thinks of Númenor as He Takes Éowyn in his Arms.

The moment when the Ring goes to the Fire and the reign of Sauron is ended is told in three separate places in The Lord of the Rings and from three different perspectives. The first is at Orodruin itself as Sam carries Frodo from the Cracks of Doom and sees a brief vision of Sauron’s overwhelming power before “all passed… Towers fell and mountains slid; walls crumbled and melted, crashing down; vast spires of smoke and spouting steams went billowing up, up, until they toppled like an overwhelming wave, and its wild crest curled and came foaming down the land”. The second telling is at the Black Gate of Mordor as the embattled host of the West stand at bay against their enemies and Gandalf cries out, “‘The realm of Sauron is ended!.. The Ring-bearer has fulfilled his Quest.’ And as the Captains gazed south to the Land of Mordor, it seemed to them that, black against the pall of cloud, there rose a huge shape of shadow, impenetrable, lightning crowned, filling all the sky. Enormous it reared above the world, and stretched out towards them a vast threatening hand, terrible but impotent: for even as it leaned over them, a great wind took it, and it was all blown away, and passed; and then a hush fell.”

The third and last telling takes place in the gardens of the Houses Houses of Healing as a young man and a woman stand, hand in hand (although they do not know it) as they gaze northward towards the Morannon as all the earth holds its breath and “Time halted”.

“Then presently it seemed to them that above the ridges of the distant mountains another vast mountain of darkness rose, towering up like a wave that should engulf the world, and about it lightnings flickered; and then a tremor ran through the earth, and they felt the walls of the City quiver. A sound like a sigh went up from all the lands about them; and their hearts beat suúddenly again.”

At last Faramir speaks.

“It reminds me of Númenor,” he says, and he tells Éowyn of his dream of the great wave that rises above the fields and the hills to drown it and a “darkness unescapable”. Éowyn draws closer to him. Is the Darkness Unescapable coming? But no, Faramir’s limbs are light and he feels a hope and a joy that no reason can deny. And then he kisses Éowyn upon the brow.

Tolkien too had a recurring dream of an overwhelming wave that he associated with the fall of Atlantis and of Númenor. In his legendarium Tolkien tells of the great hubris of the king of Númenor, Ar-Pharazôn, who was seduced by Sauron to defy the Valar and make an assault upon the Undying Lands. Because of this attempt to break the  bounds of human mortality Eru, the One, intervenes and destroys Númenor with a great wave, saving only Elendil, the Elf-friend, his family and followers.

Tolkien and his wonderful creation, Faramir, both dream about the catastrophe and Faramir carries the sorrow of the failure of his great ancestors and the gradual decline of Gondor in his heart. He longs for the restoration of his people and yet fears their destruction. The sudden and terrifying appearance of the great wave above him tells him that the end has come and yet his heart says, no! His heart is pierced with hope and joy!

This is the eucatastrophe, a word coined by Tolkien himself and one that runs counter both to the hubris of our own times and to our own fear of catastrophe. Tolkien said that eucatastrophe is “the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears”. He said that this was the highest function of a fairy-story, something that he declared The Lord of the Rings to be and which was in no sense meant to be a disparagement of his work. The happy turn for Tolkien was never meant to reduce his readers to the kind of children who cannot bear unhappiness and must forever remain in an enchanted world in which no harm can come. Just as with Julian of Norwich’s great declaration that “All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well” the eucatastrophe, the sudden and entirely unexpected surprise of joy can only come to those who have stared the darkness straight in the face.

No wonder Faramir kisses Éowyn at this moment; and no wonder Éowyn allows him to do so. But more on that next week.

Faramir and Éowyn Begin to Fall in Love and the Healing That This Brings.

When we fall in love it is good to have a friend to confide in. Faramir has never met Merry before but all his encounters with hobbits have been good ones and so he spends a whole day talking with him about Éowyn. Such a day will not have been a hardship to him but rather a delight. As Merry tells him the story of his ride with Éowyn to the Pelennor Fields the beautiful and mysterious woman that Faramir has just met in the Houses of Healing will take firmer shape in his imagination and when he learns of the moment when she stood between the Lord of the Nazgûl and Théoden’s broken body he will have been awed by her courage but not overawed for he would have done the same thing had he stood there in her place. And let us just mention Merry here also for in telling his story to one as wise and as gentle as Faramir he will have found a wholeness within himself in place of the confusion and sorrow of battle that is a great gift. True listening, as Merry finds in Faramir in this day is something that we rarely meet.

So it is in the days that follow when Éowyn and Faramir meet together and talk long as they walk or sit in the garden that the burden of sorrow that they both carry begins to be lifted from both of them. For Faramir this is his hope; for Éowyn a surprise.

It is the Warden of the house who notices this for being one who takes pleasure in all healing he perceives it when he sees it.

But what kind of healing is this? Is it merely the easing of private pain before the inevitable falling of night? If that is so then there is little difference between the comfort that Éowyn and Faramir give to each other than the stories that we hear of Death Camp guards comforting crying children as they escorted them to their murder in the gas chambers. Of course neither Faramir nor Éowyn wish to do one another harm as the guards did in carrying out their orders but the comfort in both cases would be merely an easing of pain before the same inexorable end.

I would argue that something quite different happens as Faramir and Éowyn talk together. All true encounters with goodness are healing because they connect us with a reality that is deeper than whether we emerge from something in triumph or failure, even than whether we live or die. In encountering true goodness we realise that we have met something that transcends such things and in falling in love we sense that this transcendence is profoundly personal. Goodness, Truth and Beauty are not simply ‘out there’ to be admired but lie within, both within the one who loves and in the beloved, centre to centre, subject to subject. When this happens we may not stop to reflect on it, unless such reflection is our normal practice, but we most certainly feel it. The feeling of wholeness and glorious aliveness that we experience when we fall in love is for most of us the most profound thing that we shall ever know.

Of course many will mistake the experience of falling in love with that to which the experience points, the union that lies beyond all things. Mistaking this they will seek the experience over and over again looking for something that is somehow more true, hoping that the next time they fall in love it will be ‘the real thing’. And some will believe that it is the sexual experience that is so glorious a part of the experience of falling in love that is the best reality that they can know and so will pursue the best of this that they can find. I do not think that this will be Éowyn and Faramir’s experience. Even now in the Houses of Healing they know the healing power of falling in love but I believe that they will continue the difficult yet wonderful journey towards true union that marriage gives us. That is, of course, when they realise that this is what they both really want!

Image by Anke Eismann from anke.edoras-art.de

 

The Launch of The Inklings and King Arthur

Dear friends,
Here at the beginning of a new year a book has been published of considerable importance. A year in the he court of King Arthur was shaped by the great feasts of the liturgical year, Christmas, Easter and Pentecost among the highest of them. At such times the court would not sit to eat until a sign from heaven had been granted to them that they could do so. In the middle years of the 20th century the Inklings showed us that the miraculous pervades the very nature of things in our day just as it did for Camelot. Could I then encourage you in the midst of the Christmas feast (Twelfth Night is on Friday January 5th and followed by the Feast of the Epiphany on Saturday) to expect the wondrous in this dark time of the year (northern hemisphere!). Read this post from Brenton Dickieson and buy the book. It will deepen the way in which you read The Inklings and it will make the world strange again but more wonderful yet.

A Pilgrim in Narnia

Today is the day that The Inklings and King Arthur is available now on Amazon and other bookseller lists. In 2013, a previously-unpublished work by J.R.R. Tolkien appeared: The Fall of Arthur, his only explicitly Arthurian writing.  The publication of this poem highlighted the many connections between “The Matter of Britain” and not only Tolkien’s legendarium but the work of all the Inklings. While most of Inklings Arthuriana was incomplete, obscure, or unpublished, we have to regard this legend as one of the critical connective tissues of the Oxford Inklings.

Perceiving the link, literary scholar Sørina Higgins invited an examination of the theological, literary, historical, and linguistic implications of the Arthurian writings of all the major Inklings: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Owen Barfield. The result was The Inklings and King Arthur: J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, C.S. Lewis, & Owen Barfield on the Matter…

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