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.

The Darkness Shall Be The Light

I have not written this Blog since Easter. My silence began because I was invited to give a series of talks in a church near by that took up all my creative energy at that time. I don’t know if it was the talks that took away the energy, or their subject matter, or something that was going on inside me at that time and since, or a combination of all three, but I have not done much by way of creative work since that time. In the next few weeks I will be leading a couple of days entitled “Our Wounds are Our Teachers”. The title comes from Richard Rohr, an American Franciscan. Much of the most helpful material, to me at least, comes from Bill Plotkin’s “Soulcraft” and especially the chapter, “The Darkness Shall Be The Light”. Perhaps it is a testimony to this new work (both inner and outer) that I am able to write again.

This Blog has been an attempt to read J.R.R Tolkien’s great work, “The Lord of the Rings” as a source of wisdom and to share what I find there. When I last wrote I was standing with Théoden, Gandalf, Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas in the rain outside the Golden Hall of Meduseld in Edoras. The rain was washing away the cloying dust of Théoden’s long imprisonment, both within his own hall and within the darkness of his own soul. His liberators had come to him with a power born of their own dark journeys. Gandalf the Grey, the secret pilgrim, was now clothed in white, his true greatness revealed at last, after his battle with the Balrog of Moria and his journey through death itself. Aragorn, the true King of Gondor and Arnor, as he reveals himself to Eomer and to Hama at Théoden’s door, has passed through his own sense of failure at the breaking of the Fellowship, the death of Boromir and the capture of Merry and Pippin by Orcs. He abandons the Quest of the Ring in order, as he believes at the time, to lay down his life in a hopeless attempt to free the young hobbits. Gimli and Legolas have been his faithful companions in this attempt and together they stand with a power that they have not known before.

For Gandalf, Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas, their Dark Journeys have truly been their light and now they can share this with Théoden and his people who rise from darkness and despair by their aid to go to war with Saruman at Helms Deep. In our imaginations we go with them in that journey to war against the lords of darkness and despair. In our lives it may be that we are better able to stand with others in their dark journeys so that they too can discover that these journeys have been givers of light even as we discover that our own dark journeys are the greatest source of light in our own lives.