The Meeting of Éowyn and Faramir. Defences Begin to Come Down.

Why would we want to be unhappy, to choose thoughts of darkness, even to seek out death? Why would we choose to build defences against the light, using all our strength to try to keep it out? There are some, like Sauron, who have chosen the dark, believing that the light is some small, temporary and fragile thing that must ultimately fail against the overwhelming power that is darkness. Sauron has made his choice and it is fixed for ever. Happily this is not the path that Éowyn has taken. She has not said the great “Yes!” of her life to the dark.

But her soul is in danger. The years of hopeless misery in the halls of Théoden as he became a shrivelled figure dominated by the whispering of Wormtongue have left their mark upon her. At least in part she regards herself as a woman from “a thatched barn where brigands drink in the reek, and their brats roll on the floor among their dogs”. Briefly a door opened into her inner darkness and the glorious light that is Aragorn shone into her heart. She allowed herself to believe that he would take her away from her unhappiness to a place of glory. She would become a queen, adored by the world and untouched by her past.

And then her fragile dream was snatched away. Aragorn chose the Paths of the Dead as he was destined to do and he rejected her love, even refusing to take her with him as the shieldmaiden that she believed herself to be. Since that moment she has sought death in battle believing that this is the only escape for her from dishonour and misery. She will not risk to hope for herself again. The pain of rejection feels too great. She cannot ride with the host to battle with Mordor as she did before and so she is condemned to wait, longing for the safe return of her brother whom she loves but refusing to hope for herself again. The danger for her soul is that the darkness that she believes to be her fate might yet become a choice. She might become embittered, vengeful and cruel or she might take the road of despair just as Denethor did.

And then she meets Faramir in The Houses of Healing and everything begins to be transformed within her. Her first words are proud but “her heart faltered, and for the first time she doubted herself. She guessed that this tall man, both stern and gentle, might think her merely wayward, like a child that has not the firmness of mind to go on with a dull task to the end.”

This sternness and gentleness so wonderfully combined in one man she has met before in Aragorn and as with Aragorn she knows that Faramir is a mighty warrior, tested in battle. Of course she does not wish to appear like a little girl before him but her defences remain firm against hope. Then Faramir does something that Aragorn could never do.

“Éowyn of Rohan, I say to you that you are beautiful. In the valleys of our hills there are flowers fair and bright, and maidens fairer still; but neither flower nor lady have I seen till now have I seen in Gondor so lovely, and so sorrowful.”

Éowyn still resists, speaking of herself as a shieldmaiden and ungentle, but her defences are a little weaker. She is not yet ready to take the risk that any who fall in love must take; the risk of hurt and rejection. And she does not yet want to take the risk that lies beyond that fear, that to fall in love means to give yourself away into the hands of another, not just when all seems fair but in times of sorrow and anger too. The old English marriage service speaks of having and holding “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish”. Éowyn is still far from being ready to make that choice but at the very least she has ceased to walk away from its possibility. Faramir has called her back towards the light.

Image by Anke Eissmann


7 thoughts on “The Meeting of Éowyn and Faramir. Defences Begin to Come Down.

  1. A very nice essay! This description got me thinking down a new channel: with all that she’s been through, and the way it took place, Éowyn would not have just stood by while Faramir cleaned up the dens of Orcs etc. in Ithilien. Her experience would have been valuable to the men sent to turn Morgul Vale back into a place where people could live and things could grow.
    “And there make a garden” sounded so innocent and subservient, until I thought about the toxic waste she was going to start with. Sécateurs in her left hand, sword in her right, she would never have been mistaken for an ordinary gardener. And maybe I won’t grumble so much about the groundhogs rampaging through my tomato vines next summer.

    • Many thanks and a Happy New Year! I like the thought of Éowyn and Faramir working together in Ithilien in the manner you suggest. The Holy Spirit both includes and transcends all that we have been. I have never seen groundhogs around here but got very excited watching a wren scampering about earlier today 😊

  2. Happy New Year, Stephen!
    That’s such a beautiful essay! Éowyn is such a wonderful character, having so many aspects to her personality. Faramir is an ideal companion for her: from the very start he sees the very essence of her soul, as if he can look inside her heart. And his words which you have quoted show how deeply he understood her.

    • Great to receive your first comment of 2018, Olga!
      The writer of the 14th century mystical text, The Cloud of Unknowing, wrote that you cannot grasp and hold the divine through knowledge but only through love. As Faramir gazes into Éowyn’s heart he is able to see so clearly because he does so with love. Compare that to the voracious Wormtongue who desired her so that he could use her for his pleasure. And she knew it!

  3. Love this post! Just more reasons to love Faramir and the healing he brings to Eowyn, the spring thaw after her winter. Love also in your next one that he spent so much time with Merry. *hugs him*

    Namarie, God bless, Anne Marie 🙂

    • It remains a wonder to me that a man can be a source of healing to a woman. I reflect on this in my reply to Brenton Dickieson’s comment on “Faramir and Éowyn begin to Fall in Love…” and I shared memories of my first date with my wife there which are still precious to me over 25 years later. I know at a profound level in what way Éowyn heals Faramir. I wonder if we have read so much lately of the way that some men use their power in order to abuse women. This, sadly, is not new. I am glad that this kind of behaviour is being revealed for the evil that it is. But I hope that women are not frightened from taking the risk of opening their hearts to good men. That would be a great sadness.
      On Faramir and Merry, I have a warm memory of a friend taking me out for a meal at a restaurant and getting me to tell him the story of how I began to fall in love with my wife. It was so good to tell the story. Again I can imagine the pleasure that this gave to Faramir. The day must have felt far too brief for both of them!

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