Tolkien Reading Day–My Favorite Scene

Today, March 25th is the day the Tolkien Society has deemed Tolkien Reading Day. Tolkien fans around the world get together and read his works aloud or they sit and read them alone. However it’s done, it is a day to appreciate Tolkien by reading his works. As I’ve blogged several times about Tolkien, I thought I’d share one of my favorite scenes from The Lord of the Rings. It is the scene in which Eowyn, disguised as the warrior Dernhelm, fights the Nazgul Lord after the Nazgul fatally injures her uncle, King Theodon of the Rohirrim.

Of course, what I love about this scene is that it shows that you don’t have to be mighty in strength and power to defeat a foe. A woman and a small hobbit (a halfling) destroy one of the most dangerous of all the enemies.

This is told from the point of view of Merry, one of the hobbits, and is found in The Return of the King. Merry does not know that Dernhelm is really Eowyn.

“Then out of the blackness in his mind he thought that he heard Dernhelm speaking; yet now the voice seemed strange, recalling some other voice that he had known.

‘Begone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion! Leave the dead in peace!’

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 not be deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him.’

The winged creature screamed at her, but the Ringwraith made no answer, and was silent, as if in sudden doubt. Very amazement for a moment conquered Merry’s fear. He opened his eyes and the blackness was lifted from them. There some paces from him sat the great beast, and all seemed dark about it, and above it loomed the Nazgul Lord like a shadow of despair. A little to the left facing them stood she whom he had called Dernhelm. But the helm of her secrecy had fallen from her, and her bright hair, released from its bonds, gleamed with pale gold upon her shoulders. Her eyes trey as the sea were hard and fell, and yet tears were on her cheeck. A sword was in her hand, and she raised her shield against the horror of her enemy’s eyes.

Eowyn it was, and Dernhelm also. For into Merry’s mind flashed the memory of the face that he saw at the riding from Dunharrow: the face of one that goes seeking death, having no hope. Pity filled his heart and great wonder, and suddenly the slow-kindled courage of his race awoke. He clenched his hand. She should not die, so fair, so desperate! At least she should not die alone, unaided.

The face of their enemy was not turned towards him, but still he hardly dared to move, dreading lest the deadly eyes should fall on him. Slowly, slowly he began to crawl aside; but the Black Captain, in doubt and malice intent upon the woman before him, heeded him no more than a worm in the mud.

Suddenly the great beast beat its hideous wings, and the wind of them was foul. Again it leaped into the air, and then swiftly fell down upon Eowyn, shrieking, striking with beak and claw.

Still she did not blench: maiden of the Rohirrim, child of kings, slender but as a steel-blade, fair yet terrible. A swift stroke she dealt, skilled and deadly. The outstretched neck she clove asunder, and the hewn head fell like a stone. Backward she sprang as the huge shape crashed to ruin, vast wings outspread, crumpled on the earth; and with its fall the shadow passed away. A light fell about her, and her hair shone in the sunrise.

Out of the wreck rose the Black Rider, tall and threatening, towering above her. With a cry of hatred that stung the very ears like venom he let fall his mace. Her shield was shivered in many pieces, and her arm was broken; she stumbled to her knees. He bent over her like a cloud, and his eyes glittered; he raised his mace to kill.

But suddenly he too stumbled forward with a cry of bitter pain, and his stroke went wide, driving into the ground. Merry’s sword had stabbed him from behind, shearing through the black mantle, and passing up beneath the hauberk had pierced the sinew behind his mighty knee.

‘Eowyn! Eowyn! cried Merry. Then tottering, struggling up, with her last strength she drove her sword between crown and mantle, as the great shoulders bowed before her. The sword broke sparkling into many shards. The crown rolled away with a clang. Eowyn fell forward upon her fallen foe. But lo! the mantle and hauberk were empty. Shapeless they lay now on the ground, torn and tumbled; and a cry went up into the shuddering air, and faded to a shrill wailing, passing with the wind, a voice bodiless and thin that died, and was swallowed up and was never heard again in that age of this world.”

2 thoughts on “Tolkien Reading Day–My Favorite Scene”

  1. Those who snipe at JRRT because he doesn’t have many women in his stories aren’t paying attention. What he doesn’t have are irrelevant, ornamental women. Every female character from the formidable Aunt Lobelia to Shelob is every bit as essential to the story as the men. I love Eowyn. If I could be any character in the trilogy, she’s the one I would pick. She has it all, including Faramir. What more could a woman want?

    I have many passages I love; passages that linger in my memory, but my favorite passage—the passage that is the essence of the book—comes late in the trilogy. Sam and Frodo are exhausted at the edge of the Plain of Gorgoroth. They are hungry and thirsty. Hope is gone. All that is left is to struggle on. Sam is keeping watch over the sleeping Frodo in the midst of the horror that is Mordor.

    ‘Sam struggled with his own weariness, and he took Frodo’s hand; and there he sat silent till deep night fell. Then at last, to keep himself awake, he crawled from the hiding-place and looked out. The land seemed full of creaking and cracking and sly noises, but there was no sound of voice or of foot. Far above the Ephel Duath in the West the night-sky was still dim and pale. There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. His song in the Tower had been defiance rather than hope; for then he was thinking of himself. Now, for a moment, his own fate, and even his master’s, ceased to trouble him. He crawled back into the brambles and laid himself by Frodo’s side, and putting away all fear he cast himself into a deep and untroubled sleep.’

    I get teary every time I read that passage, and it reminds me why I love these books, so. Must be time to read them again. I’m with those who hold that Sam is the true hero of the story.

    1. kimberlysbarton

      That is a beautiful scene. I remember it well. Sams actions and words often make me teary; he’s such a wonderful character. Every time I read those books, I come away with something else, and I think that’s the mark of good fiction.

      And I agree about the women! People who gripe about his “lack” of women are just looking at quantity and not quality.

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