Lessons from Éowyn

Éowyn is a courageous warrior, and one of the key figures in the battle of Minas Tirith. Her triumph lies in slaying the king of the Nazgûl and his fell beast. Despite harboring an unrequited love for Aragorn, she finds happiness with another man, Faramir of Gondor. She has a relentless determination for glory and hopes to end her life in battle. Éowyn is a woman equal to the title “daughter of kings.”

Determination and perseverance.

Éowyn represents our desire for greatness. Her world reveres women but does not see them as warriors. Éowyn is a warrior, a bold, strong young woman, beautiful in her own right but hungering for battle. She also feels deep despair, a trait shared by Faramir, her eventual husband. Their ability to heal one another binds them together in an unbreakable bond. This golden-haired Maiden of Rohan doesn’t want to get left behind in life. She longs to fight.

I believe there’s a desire to fight in us all. Maybe not to wield a sword in battle, but to stand for something. To prove ourselves as strong and worthy of respect. Éowyn wants to prove herself. She craves adventure and the respect of others. She needs to fight for the cause. She has a distinct sense of patriotism. She knows if we have nothing to fight for, our life has no meaning. As Christians, we fight for the kingdom of God. We fight by taking up the Sword of the Spirit and slaying the fell beast in his lair.

When others told her no, Éowyn often obeyed. She did as her uncle asked and lead the women and children to Helm’s Deep. She remained in the caverns as Aragorn requested. But when she knew it was her time to fight, nothing stopped her from putting on armor and riding into battle. Here she met her greatest struggle and achieved her greatest triumph, a legacy that will live on for generations. She knew when she had to act. She was not irrational and did not risk her life ahead of time. She waited for her opportunity and took it. Through perseverance, she achieved her goal and nearly lost her life in the undertaking. She waited for the opportune moment.

The reason she held back, though she knew it not herself, was because she had to slay the king of the Nazgûl. No man can kill him. But she is no man. Had she fought earlier, she might have died… but Fate had a greater purpose in mind for her, and helped her to wait.

Our hearts all hunger for a purpose and it is there for a reason. When the time comes for us to act, we must have prepared for it and prove willing, eager, and determined. If you know a task has fallen to you, do it. Courage is not the absence of fear; it is persevering despite it.

Giving in to despair.

Though Éowyn desires glory on a battlefield, her decision to go to war has a dark side. Like Faramir, she hopes to ride to her death. Her world has crumbled. She feels a sense of defeat and loss. The man she loves cannot return her affection, but this is only a small part of her inward struggle. Éowyn has lost her hope. “Do not trust to hope,” her brother advises Aragorn, “for it has forsaken these lands.” Théoden also believes they are riding to their death. He tells Éowyn she will rule in his place. She doesn’t want them to die without her… she wants to be a martyr for Rohan.

Deep depression makes Éowyn a realistic character. We all have dark moments when hope abandons us, and the world seems to be against us. But it never abandons us.

Rohan has long lived in darkness. Ever since Wormtongue corrupted the king, the people have been without joy, repressed, and believing in their eventual death. Their enemies grew stronger while they wakened. The common people reflect the mood and hope or despair of their leadership. The despair began in the Golden Hall, spread to Éowyn and Éomer because they felt powerless, and crept into their people. They gave up hope. When you do that, you have nothing left to live for.

There is always some good in the world. Something worth fighting for. Sam knows this. Arwen knows this. Gandalf knows this. Éowyn doesn’t. She sees nothing beyond her own realm of influence, the darkness crowding into her mind. She wants to die in a final blaze of glory, to show the world the women of Rohan were worth something. We should never give up. We should live life, not forsake it. Our wounds are never so deep they cannot heal. Éowyn rode on a suicide mission, but survived. It was not her time to die. Aragorn saved her. Faramir mended her broken heart. This is Éowyn’s greatest flaw, but also her greatest strength… the desire for death gave her endless courage.

Overcoming infatuation.

One of Éowyn’s defining characteristics is her love for Aragorn. It stems out of respect for him as a warrior and hero, and an initial attraction to him as a man. One cannot blame her, since he is handsome, strong-willed and courageous… all the things she admires. He has a sense of mystery about him. Knowing he loves another, Éowyn never pursues their relationship beyond a humble confession. She loves him from afar. It is a hopeless love, because we know all Arwen has sacrificed, and Aragorn must endure. Their story has a happy ending, which leaves our poor lady of Rohan without hope. 

Since she is a virtuous woman, Éowyn does not take advantage of Arwen’s absence. She does not offer herself to a man bound to another. She’s able to discern true love from attraction when she meets Faramir. She does not impulsively switch her affections, but realizes he is the one. He makes her heart sing… and loves her in return.

If someone does not love you in the way you want, it isn’t meant to be. Maybe it is the right person, but not the right timing. We can never know what the future holds, but we only hurt ourselves by pining after someone we cannot have.

A daughter of kings.

The legacy of the shield maiden begins with her noble birth. She comes from a long line of kings, which gives her pride. It is important to feel pride in our spiritual heritage, for we are here for a reason. God knows us before we draw our first breath. Éowyn’s purpose is greatness… to slay one of the immortal nine. She senses it, that she ought to be on a battlefield, but cannot see her future. Aragorn tells her to hold strong—for she is a daughter of kings.

As are we all, for who is higher than the King of all Kings?

Whatever your background, whatever shameful secrets your family hides, whatever you are afraid of or ashamed of, means nothing in God’s eyes. You can hold your head high in the knowledge you are a daughter or son of the one true King.

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