An encyclopedia of Middle-earth and Numenor
Miranda Otto as Eowyn
in the New Line film
Eowyn by Alan Lee
Eowyn, the niece of King Theoden of Rohan, was a shieldmaiden of great courage. She spent many years caring for her uncle - who had fallen under Saruman's influence - but she longed to prove herself with deeds of valor. During the War of the Ring, Eowyn rode into battle disguised as a man and confronted Sauron's most dreadful servant, the Witch-king of Angmar.
Eowyn was born in 2995 of the Third Age. Her mother Theodwyn was the sister of King Theoden and her father Eomund was the chief Marshal of the Mark. In 3002, Eomund was slain by Orcs on the eastern marches. Theodwyn fell ill and died soon afterwards.
When they were orphaned, Eowyn was only about 7 years old and her older brother Eomer was about 11 years old. Their uncle Theoden brought them to Meduseld to live with him and his son Theodred. Theoden became like a father to his niece and nephew.
Eowyn grew to be a tall and beautiful woman. She had long blonde hair and grey eyes. Eowyn learned to ride a horse and wield a sword. She was well loved by the people of Rohan for she was strong and fearless, and she had a pride and grace that she inherited from her grandmother, Morwen of Lossarnach.
In 3014, Theoden became ill. He appeared to age prematurely and his judgment became clouded. Unknown to the people of Rohan, Theoden's counsellor Grima was an agent of the Wizard Saruman, who wanted to weaken Rohan. Grima may have administered poisons to hasten the King's decline and he preyed on Theoden's weakness. Grima desired Eowyn and he watched her and followed her. She may even have been promised to Grima by Saruman as a reward for his service.
The duty of caring for Theoden fell to Eowyn. For five years she watched her beloved uncle grow more frail and she felt helpless and useless. Eowyn's concern for Theoden was mingled with frustration at being forced to remain home while Eomer and Theodred defended Rohan's borders against growing threats. Grima used cunning words to heighten her despair, and she began to believe that both she and the royal house of Rohan had lost their honor. Eowyn's demeanor became increasingly cold and remote, as if she were a beautiful flower that was touched by frost.
Theodred was slain at the First Battle of the Fords of Isen on February 25, 3019. It was later learned that Saruman had initiated the battle for the purpose of killing the King's only son and heir.
On March 2, Eowyn was waiting on Theoden in the Golden Hall when Gandalf arrived with Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. Gandalf freed Theoden from Saruman's influence and Theoden rose to go outside and breathe fresh air. Eowyn helped him walk to the door but Theoden told her there was no longer anything to fear and she left her uncle in Gandalf's care.
It was then that Eowyn saw Aragorn clearly for the first time. He appeared kingly to her, full of strength and vitality and power - all the things that she desired - and she believed herself to be in love with him.
Theoden decided to ride to war against Saruman's army and Eowyn brought him a cup of wine and wished him health. When she passed the cup to Aragorn her hands trembled, and Aragorn was troubled for he perceived her feelings yet could not return them.
Hama suggested that Eowyn be left in charge of those who remained behind, for the people loved and admired her. Theoden agreed and he gave her a sword and a corslet. Eowyn arrayed herself in the mail and held her sword before her as she stood alone at the door of Meduseld while the men rode to war.
Eowyn led the people to the refuge of Dunharrow in the valley of Harrowdale in the White Mountains. Some of the people resented having to leave their homes but Eowyn persuaded them and they acquiesced without trouble. She set the camp in order and organized the lodgings and the provisions.
On March 7, Aragorn arrived with the Grey Company and told her of the victory at the Battle of Helm's Deep. Eowyn was pleased to think that Aragorn had come out of his way to bring her this news, but then she learned that he had come to Dunharrow to enter the Dark Door to the Paths of the Dead. Eowyn tried to dissuade him, for it was said that no living man could pass that door and survive. When he would not give in, she begged to be allowed to accompany him. Aragorn refused, pointing out that Eowyn had been charged with governing her people in the King's absence. But Eowyn was resentful that she was once again to be left behind.
"All your words are but to say: you are a woman, and your part is in the house. But when the men have died in battle and honour, you have leave to be burned in the house, for the men will need it no more. But I am of the House of Eorl and not a serving-woman. I can ride and wield blade, and I do not fear either pain or death."The next morning before dawn, Eowyn dressed as a Rider of Rohan and confronted Aragorn as he prepared to depart. She bore a cup of wine which she drank from and then offered to Aragorn. When he bid her farewell, Eowyn wept and fell to her knees and begged him to let her come with him. Aragorn was deeply pained by her despair, and he lifted her to her feet and kissed her hand. Then the Grey Company left, and Eowyn watched them until they were out of sight.
"What do you fear, lady?" he asked.
"A cage," she said. "To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire."
The Return of the King: "The Passing of the Grey Company," p. 58
Theoden and Eomer arrived at Dunharrow the next day. Eowyn greeted them clad as a warrior with a helm and a sword and she informed them that Aragorn had gone. The Hobbit Merry Brandybuck sensed that she had been crying and Theoden could tell that she was deeply grieved. Theoden tried to comfort her by suggesting that Aragorn might be the one foretold in legend who could pass the Dark Door and live.
The Muster of Rohan took place the next morning. Eowyn was to remain behind and Theoden sadly took his leave of his beloved niece at Dunharrow. The King told Merry Brandybuck to stay and serve Eowyn, and Eowyn outfitted Merry with battle gear.
Then Eowyn secretly disguised herself as a man so that she could ride to war with the Rohirrim. She understood Merry's desire to do the same, so she offered to take him with her. Merry did not recognize Eowyn, and she told him to call her Dernhelm. It seemed to Merry that the young Rider had lost all hope and was going to battle in search of death.
Eowyn set Merry before her on her horse Windfola and shielded him from view with her cloak. They rode with Elfhelm's eored. She came to an understanding with Elfhelm about Merry and the Marshal and his Riders ignored the Hobbit's presence. If Elfhelm recognized Dernhelm to be Eowyn, he said nothing about it to the King. Eowyn spoke to no one else in the company.
At dawn on March 15, the Rohirrim rode into battle on the Pelennor Fields. Eowyn left her place in Elfhelm's eored and rode with the King's company, remaining near Theoden through the charge. Suddenly the Witch-king of Angmar, Lord of the Nazgul, descended onto the field mounted on a Fell Beast. Windfola threw Eowyn and Merry in terror. When she saw that Theoden had been crushed under his own horse, Eowyn wept for she had loved him like a father and she confronted the Witch-king.
"Begone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion! Leave the dead in peace!"The Fell Beast shrieked and struck at her, but Eowyn stood her ground and she beheaded the evil creature with one swift and skillful stroke. The Witch-king shattered her shield and her shield-arm with his mace and she fell to her knees. The Witch-king prepared to deliver the death blow, but then Merry pierced the sinew of the his knee with his sword of Westernesse, causing the Witch-king to stumble.
A cold voice answered: "Come not between the Nazgul and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye."
A sword rang as it was drawn. "Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may."
"Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!"
Then Merry heard of all sounds in that hour the strangest. It seemed that Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel. "But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Eowyn I am, Eomund's daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him."
The Return of the King: "The Battle of the Pelennor Fields," p. 116
Eowyn summoned her strength and thrust her sword into the space between his crown and mantle, and the Witch-king was vanquished. His robes fell empty to the ground and his spirit passed away with a shrill wail. Thus it was that Eowyn fulfilled a 1,000-year-old prophecy spoken by the Elf-lord Glorfindel that the Witch-king would not fall by the hand of man.
Eowyn fell to the ground unconscious and when Eomer found her he thought she was dead. Filled with grief, he charged recklessly into the thick of the battle. As she was carried into Minas Tirith, Prince Imrahil realized that she was still alive and she was taken to the Houses of Healing. Her shield-arm was set but her sword-arm remained cold and she did not wake.
Eowyn was gravely ill as a result of her contact with the Lord of the Nazgul. Her sickness was compounded by her unrequited love for Aragorn coupled with the years of frustration and despair she had endured while Grima exerted his influence on Theoden and on herself. Aragorn crushed leaves of athelas in water and bathed Eowyn's brow and sword-arm. Then he told Eomer to hold her hand and call to her, for he said that Eowyn's love for her brother was truer than the love she felt for himself.
Eowyn awoke and rejoiced, for she had dreamed that Eomer had been slain. She was grieved to learn that Theoden had died but said that she was glad that the King had met death with honor in battle. Eowyn asked Eomer to make Merry Brandybuck a Knight of the Riddermark for his valor in defending the King.
Although she was healed in body, Eowyn's mind remained troubled. She was unhappy at remaining behind while Aragorn led the Host of the West to the Black Gate. Eowyn sought out Faramir, the Steward of Gondor, who was also recuperating in the Houses of Healing, and asked to be allowed to follow the army and seek death in battle. Faramir counselled Eowyn to heed advice of the Warden of the Houses of Healing, but he was moved by her grief.
As Faramir spoke, Eowyn perceived that he was as great a warrior as any of the Rohirrim and yet she saw in his eyes a tenderness and gentleness that began to thaw her frozen heart. Faramir invited her to walk with him in the gardens so that she might look eastward toward Mordor. He told her that she was beautiful and that her company would ease his heart in the dark days ahead. Eowyn replied, "Look not to me for healing! I am a shieldmaiden and my hand is ungentle." (RotK, p. 239)
Nevertheless, she accepted his invitation and they walked and sat together each day. Faramir gave Eowyn a blue mantle with silver stars that had belonged to his mother Finduilas. On March 25, they stood at the wall looking toward Mordor. Eowyn was troubled, for she knew that Aragorn would have reached the Black Gate by then, but Faramir saw hope amid the despair and he kissed Eowyn's brow. In the east they saw a great darkness that seemed about to engulf the world, and then the darkness passed and Sauron's realm fell.
And so they stood on the walls of the City of Gondor, and a great wind rose and blew, and their hair, raven and golden, streamed out mingling in the air. And the Shadow departed, and the Sun was unveiled, and light leaped forth; and the waters of Anduin shone like silver, and in all the houses of the City men sang for the joy that welled up in their hearts from what source they could not tell.Eomer sent word asking Eowyn to come to the victory celebrations at the Field of Cormallen, but she did not go and remained troubled. Faramir guessed that she was conflicted between her feelings for Aragorn and for himself. He understood that Eowyn had admired Aragorn because of his greatness and that when Aragorn gave her only understanding and pity in return, she had desired a glorious death in battle. Faramir told Eowyn that though he too had once pitied her, he had come to love her and wished to marry her.
The Return of the King: "The Steward and the King," p. 241
Then Eowyn's heart opened up and the frost that had touched her melted away and she realized that it was Faramir she loved.
"I stand in Minas Anor, the Tower of the Sun, and behold the Shadow has departed! I will be a shieldmaiden 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. No longer do I desire to be a queen."Eowyn chose to remain in the City with Faramir. She attended Aragorn's coronation on May 1 and the next week she and Eomer returned to Rohan, for there was much work to do and Rohan had suffered during the war.
The Return of the King: "The Steward and the King," p. 243
At Theoden's funeral feast in Meduseld on August 10, Eomer announced that Eowyn and Faramir were to wed and Aragorn wished her joy. When the Fellowship departed, Eowyn gave Merry Brandybuck the Horn of the Mark in recognition of his service to Rohan.
Faramir and Eowyn were married in 3020. Faramir had been named Prince of Ithilien and they made their home there in Emyn Arnen, a range of hills within sight of Minas Tirith. While Faramir cleansed Ithilien of evil and evil-doers, Eowyn nurtured Ithilien's gardens and worked to restore the once-rich land to its former beauty. In this effort, a company of Elves from the Woodland Realm led by Legolas were of great help.
Faramir and Eowyn lived together in Ithilien for many years and they had at least one son whom they named Elboron. The date of Eowyn's death is not known. Faramir died in the year 83 of the Fourth Age and he was succeeded by Elboron as the Steward of Gondor and the second Prince of Ithilien.
Marriage of Eomund and Theodwyn.
Birth of Eomer.
Birth of Eowyn.
Death of Eowyn's father Eomund. Soon afterwards, Eowyn's mother Theodwyn also dies.
King Theoden begins to fall under the influence of Saruman's agent Grima Wormtongue. Eowyn assumes the duty of caring for Theoden.
September 20: Gandalf warns King Theoden of the threat from Saruman. After his visit, Rohan begins to be troubled by Orcs and Men in the service of Saruman.
February 25: Theodred is slain at the First Battle of the Fords of Isen.
comes to Meduseld and heals Theoden. Eowyn meets Aragorn. She is left in
charge of leading the people to the refuge at Dunharrow while Theoden and
Eomer ride to battle against Saruman's forces.
March 7: Aragorn arrives at Dunharrow and Eowyn learns that he intends to take the Paths of the Dead. She tries to dissuade him and then asks to accompany him, but he refuses.
March 8: Aragorn parts from Eowyn and embarks on the Paths of the Dead.
March 9: Theoden and Eomer arrive at Dunharrow.
March 10: The Muster of Rohan. Eowyn outfits Merry Brandybuck for war. She disguises herself as a man called Dernhelm offers to take Merry into battle. The Rohirrim leave Dunharrow.
March 15: Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Eowyn vanquishes the Witch-king of Angmar with the help of Merry, and they are both gravely wounded. In the Houses of Healing, Eowyn is revived by Aragorn.
March 20: Eowyn meets Faramir in the Houses of Healing.
March 25:Faramir and Eowyn witness the downfall of Sauron's realm from the walls of Minas Tirith.
May 1: Coronation of Aragorn.
May 8: Eomer and Eowyn return to Rohan to set their land in order.
July 18: Eomer returns to
July 22: The funeral escort of King Theoden leaves Minas Tirith.
August 7: The funeral escort
arrives in Edoras.
August 10: Funeral of King Theoden. King Eomer announces the engagement of his sister Eowyn to Faramir.
August 14: The Fellowship leaves Edoras. Eowyn gives Merry the Horn of the Mark.
Marriage of Faramir and Eowyn.
Death of Faramir.
The name Éowyn is composed of the Old English words eoh meaning "horse" and wyn meaning "joy."
Old English Made Easy
Eowyn was referred to by this honorific as the niece of King Theoden of Rohan.
The Two Towers: "The King of the Golden Hall," p. 119
Theoden called Eowyn sister-daughter because she was the daughter of his sister Theodwyn.
Eowyn went by the name Dernhelm when she rode to battle disguised as a man. The word dern means "secret, hidden" and Dernhelm means "helmet of secrecy."
Faramir called Eowyn this because of her pale beauty.
The Return of the King: "The Steward and the King," p. 241
Eowyn was known as the Lady of the Shield-arm because the Witch-king of Angmar shattered her shield and her arm before she and Merry vanquished him.
Appendix A of The Lord of the Rings: "The House of Eorl," p. 351 (footnote)
Eowyn became Lady of Ithilien on her marriage to Faramir, Prince of Ithilien.
Appendix B of The Lord of the Rings: "The Tale of Years," p. 377
Family Tree of Eowyn
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