“Far over the plain Eowyn saw the glitter of their spears, as she stood still, alone before the doors of the silent house.” – The Two Towers
A friend is currently reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time. We’ve been talking about them as he goes through them and it’s made me delve into them again, skimming favorite passages. Eowyn and Faramir have always been some of my most-loved characters in these stories (which is why I have a hard time swallowing the last two films in the trilogy) and I’ve been especially scouring for passages about them. This one struck me afresh when I read it. At this point, there hasn’t really been given a full introduction to Eowyn. While the reader may know who she is, it’s not ’til the last book that her character becomes fully fleshed out.
Still, this one sentence summarizes so very well her lot and her state at this point in the story. Standing Alone… That is Eowyn to the core.
So I’d been mulling over this for quite a while, admiring Tolkien’s genius with that sentence and loving Eowyn even more, when we watched Twelfth Night over Thanksgiving break. My favorite speech in the entire play comes in Act 2, Scene 4. Here, Viola is forced to recount the bleakness of her life and future because of her love for Orsino, masking it as a tale about her sister. It’s a powerful scene… Viola realizing the true despair of her situation, but not really in a position to grieve for herself. Her sadness must be borne alone. Part of her speech about her “sister”:
“She sat like patience on a monument,
Smiling at grief. Was not this love indeed?…”
Orsino asks, But died thy sister of her love, boy?”
Viola can only answer: “I am all the daughters of my father’s house,
And all the brothers too – and yet I know not.”
Patience on a monument. That’s Eowyn as she stands alone before the silent house. And when Viola describes herself as smiling at grief, she is echoing Eowyn’s statement that she fears neither death or pain.
I love that. It’s almost a conversation between centuries and two fictional characters, but it’s a powerful conversation.
It must also be mentioned that I love how both of their stories had happy endings. By the end of it all, they were no longer forced to smile at grief… their hearts were at peace and they could smile at joyous things.