The Sunday Salon: Éowyn and Faramir

Oh, Valentine’s Day. A friend of mine recently proposed making Valentine’s Day into an adult Halloween—couples must hand out candy to single folk. (I would be so up for that.) Mostly, it exists on my calendar as a day to hand out bizarre Valentines and candy in my eternal struggle to divorce love from romance. But that’s tomorrow. Today, we’re going to look at one of my favorite couples in all of fiction—the shieldmaiden and the wizard’s pupil.

The Shieldmaiden

Éowyn is one of my favorite characters in fiction. She’s sharp, capable, and incredibly dark—a woman who would wither and die if she could not do a great deed; she and her brother are the epitome of Rohirric culture. As much as I like film!Éowyn, she’s a bit too much of a stoic Luke Skywalker to be the grim woman on the page; she’s light and relatable. Incidentally, it took me years to realize that Éowyn’s scene with the dying Theoden mirrored Luke’s scene with the dying Anakin. (Film!Éowyn shall henceforth be called “Éowyn Skywalker”.) In contrast, Éowyn courts death and glory as if they’re two sides of the same coin—if anything, she’s a woman with a heart of lead. She mistakes her hero worship of Aragorn for love, because she sees her own grimness admired in him; she longs to be him, not be with him. Éowyn and Aragorn’s complex relationship is one of my favorite relationships in The Lord of the Rings, but we’re not talking about her relationship with Aragorn today—we’re talking about her relationship with Faramir.

The Wizard’s Pupil

Faramir is very different from Éowyn; while he’s certainly no slouch in the combat department, his father, Denethor, scoffingly calls him “a wizard’s pupil”. (To be fair, Gandalf is a lot of people’s mentors. Comes with the whole Istar thing, I suppose.) He’s good-natured and, while serious, has a light side. One of the defining moments for Éowyn and Faramir for me is when Faramir disarms a bitter Éowyn with a joke; something she needs and that Aragorn could never give her. He’s a genuinely good person, which Tolkien stresses by his refusal of the Ring. In fact, Tolkien considered Faramir to be the character most like him. The dream Faramir relates to Éowyn, of a great wave drowning a country, is actually a recurring dream of Tolkien’s, which took another form in Middle-earth in the downfall of Númenor. The films give Éowyn this dream, but even that ties them closer together. In the Jackson films, Faramir is changed even more than Éowyn is; he is tempted by the Ring and brings Sam and Frodo to Osigiliath. While Jackson did this to stress the corrupting nature of the Ring, I think changing Éowyn makes it necessary to change Faramir—by making her lighter, you must make him darker.

The Prince and The White Lady of Ithilien

They’re a balanced couple who complement each other well; heck, they’ve even got their own respective hobbits. They’re people who have lived through an extremely dark time, including the loss of parental figures who, at the very end, finally appreciate them. (Éowyn is luckier in this department than Faramir, especially Éowyn Skywalker.) They’re both skilled warriors, but that’s not all they are—Faramir loves lore and music, and Éowyn’s love of gardening succeeds her love of bloody deeds. Quite frankly, they deserve each other after being put through hell and back. They don’t try to change one another—they love each other in spite of, or perhaps because of, their faults. Faramir tempers Éowyn’s darkness; Éowyn is a rock for the underappreciated Faramir to lean on and trust in. Originally, Tolkien intended Éowyn to be a match for Aragorn and, later, to even die on the battlefield—even their route to each other in canon was a long one. But in the end, they’re perfect for each other while, importantly, not being created for each other. They’re strong people; they could go on after the War of the Ring without each other, but their lives would be so much poorer for it. That’s a love story to root for.

My week as busy, as usual. I finally finished the 1981 radio play adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, which was… interesting, to say the least. I’ve got about sixty pages of She-Wolves to polish off before I can dig into Who Fears Death, which I’ve been looking forward to for a very, very long time. I also watched Troy and Lost in Austen last night, which are both eligible for Page to Screen and both entertaining in strange ways.

Trisha at eclectic/eccentric is giving away a used ARC of Anastasia’s Secret until an unspecified date. Author Lynn Flewelling is giving away three signed copies of her book Glimpses until tomorrow. Tor/Forge’s Blog is giving away a Halo book and audiobook bundle until Tuesday. Kristen at Fantasy Cafe is giving away a copy of The Skin Map until Wednesday. Deb at Booking Through Thursday is giving away a signed and personalized copy of Learning to Swim until Wednesday. TJ at Dreams and Speculation is giving away a $30 gift certificate to CSN Stores. Celia at Cecelia Bedelia is giving away a book from her best of 2010 list until February 22. The Baen Free Library is full of free downloads, including The Shadow of the Lion and On Basilisk Station. Night Shade Books is offering Butcher Bird and Grey as free downloads at the moment. Vertigo Comics is offering free downloads of the first issue of several series, including Fables, The Unwritten, and Y: The Last Man. (And you will go download The Unwritten.) If I’ve missed your giveaway or freebie, drop me a line!

Who is your favorite romantic couple in fiction?

16 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: Éowyn and Faramir

  1. Nice analysis and a fresh perspective of the relationship. I didn’t know what Eowyn was originally to be Aragorn’s match, but I like her with Faramir better. Some people have criticized her turn from shieldmaiden to gardener queen as Tolkein forcing her back into a traditional female role, but I think it’s clear that her love of heroic deeds comes from desperation and despair, so I never had a problem with it. It seems like a good choice for her, allowing her to see another way and find another purpose.

    Not to mention, I think Faramir would be way more fun than Aragorn at a party.

    • I think it’s pretty clear that most Rohirric women are capable with a sword and a horse; thus, the gardening only replaces her death-seeking ways, not her physical agency. In any case, gardening is a gender-neutral and extremely positive thing in Tolkien; just look at Sam.

      Absolutely.

  2. This is the best case I’ve ever seen for putting the two of them together at the end of the book, which historically I have mightily resented, particularly on Aragorn’s behalf because Arwen is even more boring in the books than she was in the films. I always thought Eowyn would be better with Aragorn, but Faramir was an excellent character at least; Aragorn’s stuck with the dull chick into perpetuity. But this is making me slightly reconsider.

    Care to do the same with Laurie and Amy March?

    • Book!Arwen can be a bit… staid, shall we say, but so is Aragorn. Éowyn and Aragorn are too alike, personally, for them to work as a couple. But at least Tolkien considered it!

      Jo/Laurie forever. (I might be able to work it with the Christian Bale film adaptation, which actually made it work; but in the book? Absolutely not. And people call Éowyn and Faramir pairing the spares. Yeesh.)

  3. I agree. I always thought these two deserved each other. They just fit.

    If you can make the Laurie and Amy March thing work (Little Women is a favorite book of mine and will always be but the ending always disappoints me. They just don’t belong together.) I will vote for you for President!

    • That’s a wonderful way to put it.

      I’ll say this; it works in the 1994 film adaptation—they set it up early and Jo is never attracted to Laurie at all. In the book? Jo and Laurie forever. (You know what? That’s in the public domain. Methinks it’s time to fix that.)

  4. We just watched THE RETURN OF THE KING again yesterday, and you’ve hit one of the areas where I prefer the book to the movie (yes, I’m a heretic re: LotR) – this pairing gets slighted, and it’s one of my favorite parts of the story. Great analysis!

  5. My favorite literary couple (at the moment) is Kvothe and Denna from The Name of the Wind. Kvothe is a musician and something of a fighter at times. In both contexts, Denna inspires the greatest of his achievements. At times, Denna becomes fickle and leaves. Their relationship is special and unique for both of them, but something always pushes them apart again–usually Denna’s fickle nature.

    She can be quite a cruel muse.

  6. “That’s a love story to root for.”

    Yes! Wonderful analysis – it makes me want to read the book again. (I almost wrote “books”, but you have taught me well :P)

  7. Wonderful analysis! I always loved Faramir and Éowyn, but your comments make me root for them even more. They are both such fascinating characters and their coming together in the end always felt right to me. Love this post.

  8. Their chapter in The Return of the King always makes me tear up, especially when he kisses her on the wall before everyone. There’s something so beautiful about their love after all this despair and darkness.

  9. Yes! Faramir is actually my favourite character in the whole book, and I hated what Jackson did to him in the film (plus they gave him fair hair, which was ALL WRONG). He’s lived all his life in Boromir’s shadow, though seemingly quite content to be there, and I just love the way he hungers for his father’s approval after his brother’s death, and the way that he seems so humble about his own capacities. There’s that lovely bit in The Houses of Healing where Eowyn realises that for all his gentleness that he is a man “whom no Rider of the Mark would outmatch in battle”. The reader already knows his quality because of the earlier chapters where he befriends Frodo and Sam and is one of the few people who can force Gollum to tell the truth.

    It’s only on my very recent re-reading of TLOTR that I’ve realised how complex Eowyn’s feelings are for and about Aragorn when they first meet, and why she’s so desperate for the chance to redeem her honour (though I do wonder firstly who was left in charge of the Rohirrim when she sneaked off, and secondly whether Elfhelm knew who ‘Dernhelm’ really was). I think I’ve always just assumed she fell very suddenly for Aragorn – like a crush – and Faramir really understands those feelings in her.

    I think it’s one of Tolkien’s more successful romances. The Aragorn-Arwen thing is difficult to imagine from the book, and it’s almost solely seen from his point of view (except in the Appendices), so of course Arwen will seem dull. He’s also so conscious of his heritage and destiny that he needs someone like Arwen who wouldn’t be impressed by it.

  10. Excellent points on both of these characters; I really enjoyed reading this. Normally I’d comment in more detail, but it’s been years since I’ve read the books or seen the movies, and I’d prefer to have my memory refreshed first.

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