Campsite at night

Gathering at Dunharrow

The call for help has been answered. Warriors of neighboring lands have come to support Gondor in their hour of need. There is much to be done and many who have awaited King Theóden’s arrival at the encampment. The Rohirrim, led by its King, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli at the forefront, survey the summoned army at Dunharrow.

Théoden: “Grimbold, how many?”

Grimbold: “I bring five hundred men from the Westfold, my Lord.”

Gamling: “We have three hundred more from Fenmarch, Théoden King.”

Théoden: “Where are the riders from Snowbourn?”

Gamling: “None have come, my Lord.”

Although the need for able-bodied men rises by the minute, there are those who dare not join King Theóden in his quest for war.

Hope dwindles

Théoden: “Six thousand spears. Less than half of what I’d hoped for.”

Aragorn: “Six thousand will not be enough to break the lines of Mordor.”

Théoden: “More will come.”

Aragorn: “Every hour lost hastens Gondor’s defeat. We have till dawn. Then we must ride.”

As Aragorn and Théoden look over the men gathered from their smaller and higher encampment, their hope dwindles. Aragorn is certain their numbers are too few to face the armies of Mordor, with good reason, for as their armies gather, so do those of Sauron. With every hour that passes, Sauron’s military strength is gaining in numbers. There is no telling what numbers await them in Gondor.

However, Théoden is hopeful, almost certain that more soldiers will be arriving at Dunharrow. The time for arrivals though is almost gone. There is no more time left to waste, for the longer they wait the more certain Gondor’s defeat becomes.

A great leader of Men

Aragorn is impatient to move on and ride to war. He has not only claimed his sense of belonging but is also eager to keep the promise he made to Boromir, to not let the White City fall. Although nervous and afraid of what may befall them, his own fate is of no consequence to him. His mission is to save Gondor, whatever it may take.

Aragorn’s focused attention at the oncoming war and the urgency of his participation is seen in his facial expression. He talks with Théoden but answers him by looking at the gathering men beneath him. That is all he cares about, the mission, the strength of the men and the accomplishment of his goals.

Théoden looks to Aragorn with authority, giving him free rein over the decision of his own army and all the others. Aragorn’s concerns and fears provide him with a single-track mind, a problem-solving thought process in which he clearly sees the next steps that need to be taken. Without a word of dispute, and with only a nod, Théoden leaves the decision-making and subsequently the fate of his men in the able hands of Aragorn.

If it were up to Théoden, he might have taken more time to gather as many men as possible, waiting for their arrival at Dunharrow, all the while being stagnant and in wait, while Gondor burned. He believes in Aragorn and has seen first-hand how this man operates under extreme pressure and immediate destruction. Aragorn has proven himself a great leader in Théoden’s eyes, one who is able to lead his men into war.

The Dimholt

Legolas: “The horses are restless, and the men are quiet.”

Éomer: “They grow nervous in the shadow of the mountain.”

Gimli: “That road there, where does that lead?”

Legolas: “It is the road to the Dimholt; the door under the mountain.”

Éomer: “None who venture there ever return. That mountain is evil.”

There is a noticeable tension surrounding their small encampment. Although further away from any possible attacks, the mountain gives off a feeling of danger lurking. A small opening in the mountain would be their only way out if they needed an escape.

However, only looking upon it brews fear in their bones. The legends do not help ease the men’s nervousness. Even the horses feel the nervous energy that emanates from the mountain. To follow the road is to never return, with that piece of advice, the men take to leaving the path free and move further away. 

The King of the Dead

Aragorn looks upon the path that leads through the mountain, there is something holding his gaze tightly. Not even the rears of the horses or the warnings of the men break his concentration. There is almost a voice upon the wind that comes through the break in the mountain as if he were summoned.

As he focuses his eyes, there appears a shadowy figure in its green hue. It isn’t a person per se, but rather a ghostly skeletal apparition. Its hands are merely bones, as is its face. It is not alive, nor is it dead. However, the crown on its head bewilders. Aragorn’s eyes widen in terror and fear. There is something to this accursed mountain. Something that engages him, something that only he can see and experience, something that summons only him. 

Gimli finally breaks his concentration.

Aragorn, let’s find some food.

Gimli

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Merry prepares

Meanwhile in Éowyn’s tent…

Éowyn: “There. A true esquire of Rohan.”

Merry: “I’m ready!”

Dressed in the garments of Rohan, fulfilling his position as the esquire, Merry seems excited. He feels ready to take on whatever may come his way. He is eager to begin his fight. However, his skill as a warrior is questionable, as he demonstrates by drawing his sword and pointing it toward Éowyn. Merry amuses Éowyn with his impatience. 

Merry: “Sorry. It isn’t all that dangerous. It’s not even sharp.”

Éowyn: “Well that’s no good. You won’t kill many Orcs with a blunt blade. Come on! To the smithy, go!”

Although he may not be skilled with a blade or have any experience as a warrior, his enthusiasm is supported by Éowyn herself. She knows how willing his heart is, so she makes sure that he is as ready as he can be for the battle ahead. He takes his position seriously, his practice swings are proof.

Encouragement and dissuasion

Gamling and Éomer sit just outside Éowyn’s tent, enjoying some well-deserved food. As they hear Éowyn’s encouragement and Merry following her advice, Éomer takes a stab at their overall optimism.

Éomer: “You should not encourage him.”

Éowyn: “You should not doubt him.”

Éomer: “I do not doubt his heart, just the reach of his arm.”

This is a classic jab of a full-grown person to a small-sized person. Éomer is convinced that Merry will not be able to fend for himself, much less help them defeat the enemy. The will of Merry’s heart is not his concern but rather his ability as a warrior, which he does not see. It is understandable that he should doubt a Hobbit.

It is a race he is not that familiar with, other than the ones he met recently, and they haven’t proven themselves to be of any use to the army. And how can they be? They are physically unable to fight as hard or as fierce as the Men. Their stature does not exactly scream warrior. 

The way Éomer answers Éowyn can be interpreted as mocking. The reach of a Hobbit’s arm is doubtful in a fight, objectively. However, in this particular situation, with him presenting himself as superior, he makes Merry seem insignificant. Gamling laughing at his repartee does not help the situation. 

Personal implication

Why should Merry be left behind? He has as much cause go to war as you! Why can he not fight for those he loves?

Éowyn

Éowyn immediately defends her little friend. She does not stand for anyone’s mocking. There is no reason for them to belittle Merry just because of his stature, for he too is a part of their world and has as much reason to defend his own as they do. However, much more than stand for the rights of her friend, Éowyn’s reasoning defends her own as well. 

She poses her last rhetorical question without ever glancing at Éomer, she looks into the distance. Her eyes become teary as she thinks of her own right to fight for the one she loves. She interprets Éomer’s mockery of Merry as an implication that applies to her too.

The fact that she took Éomer’s mockery so personally, implies that she wasn’t only talking about Merry in the first place. They are one and the same in her eyes and in the eyes of the Men. She is a woman, whose place isn’t on a battlefield but in a home, surrounded by other women and their children awaiting the return of the Men. Merry cannot enter a war because of his stature and inability to fend for himself. They are to be left behind in the comfort and safety of Edoras. 

A preconceived role

Too long has Éowyn dealt with a role she should fill. Too long has she followed the orders of her uncle in a role which she performed halfheartedly. It angers her that she has never been given the chance to be who she knows she can be, a true shieldmaiden of Rohan. The need to protect her, on part of Théoden is understandable, given the life that she has had. But, she has only grown stronger as the years passed, gathering her will and inner strength eagerly waiting for her chance at valor. 

She has never been a one-sided character, never a stereotypical woman. However, the Men never gave her the benefit of the doubt. Their misguided knowledge of her character has caused her emotional pain. They held her back for such a long time now, that her need to prove herself has only grown stronger. 

Éowyn’s distant look and fading voice at her last question provide Éomer with the true motivation behind her defense. He knows his sister well. He realizes her defense of Merry was really a defense of her rights. As she turns to leave, Éomer addresses her concerns.

The reality of war

You know as little of war as that Hobbit. When the fear takes him, and the blood and the screams and the horror of battle take hold, do you think he would stand and fight? He would flee, and he would be right to do so. War is the province of men, Éowyn.

Éomer

As Éomer faces his sister with the realities of war, her eyes express spite. She wants to hold her own right to face battle and looks at her brother stubbornly, wanting to prove her strength. Éowyn tries not to let Éomer’s words sway her determination – she is tough, she can handle it. However, a strike of fear flashes across her face. It could be seen that she didn’t think of the war in the same terms as Éomer just described. She only thought about the reason to enter a battle, not what it would be like once she entered. 

The blood, the screams and the horror of battle are the gruesome facts of war everyone fears, with every right. Courage and a will to fight may not last long enough for her or anyone else to defend themselves. When fear takes over, it is either fight or flight, and, rationally, there is no way of telling how a person is going to react in a given moment. For her to feel fear is healthy because it gives her another perspective on her want of honor.

Éomer’s last remark, however, leaves her with a bitter taste in her mouth. The segregation of women in a situation of war. Whilst it is true that men’s thinking is more factual than that of women, it does not imply that women are therefore weaker. They may be abler at compartmentalizing their emotions, as that is the way they are raised. They may even be able to ignore or completely suppress their feelings, so as to make them more focused on the job at hand.

Women, being more in touch with their sensitive side, can in their own way acknowledge their emotions and work through them more effectively. In other words, she can use her fear to fuel her courage. 

Éomer leaves her with a stubborn resolve of her already thought out plan.

While Éowyn muses over her plan to join the Men in battle, a cloaked rider approaches the encampment. Read on in my next post.

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