Beige pinnacles

Of Duty and Honor

Dawn breaks. The Three Hunters are now deep down the mountain path. The probability of their return is as much a mystery as the fate of Middle-Earth. Éowyn stands on the edge of the encampment staring into the sunrise. Her expression is despondent.

A bleak future

It is as if numbness has taken over her visage. There is nothing more to look forward to, nothing to keep her moving. From her disposition, one could only conclude that she had given up, given up on her plans, on proving herself, on life in general. Her heart is broken. The one thing that had given her hope and renewed her faith in good in the world has proven worthless.

After all the heartbreak she endured as a child and as a grown woman, she has deserved to experience happiness and joy. However, her elation over meeting and feeling for Aragorn had not lasted as long as she might have wanted. He has rejected her romantic advances and left her disappointed and broken. 

What is there left for her to do than to bend to the tradition of all womankind and play a role she loathes? From her expression, one can deduce that this is exactly what her thought process has concluded. She has resigned herself to being a stereotypical woman of Rohan. The will of escaping the cage is starting to fade. She never even got the chance to escape her fate. There was a brief window of opportunity, now it is closed shut. 

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A transfer of power

As she looks over the lower encampment, Théoden approaches her.

Théoden: “I have left instructions. The people are to follow your rule in my stead. Take up my seat in the Golden Hall. Long may you defend Edoras if the battle goes ill.”

Éowyn: “What other duty would you have me do, my lord?”

Théoden speaks of his decision to leave her to rule Edoras in his stead. Éowyn, however, does not even seem to register his presence. She stands as if frozen in despair and misery over her fate. She has already come to the same conclusion as her uncle. It is the reason why she appears to not be moved by his statement. It is as she had feared.

She remains as she was before Aragorn ever touched her heart. 

Obedience

For Éowyn, anything short of entering the war is a duty, something she has to do, without any concern over whether she wants to or not. This is an order from the King, an order that has to be carried out.

As she looks at Théoden, her eyes show sadness and indifference to her uncle’s statement. He states his mind but her demeanor does not change. She remains untouched by the honor given her. He notices her lack of response. As if to increase the significance of this transfer of power, he turns to see her reaction. There is none. 

It is the highest honor a King can bestow on another. This honor always involves a person in whom the King has the highest confidence and trust. It is an honor that would normally be accepted with great humility and privilege. In this instance, however, it is met with disinterest. 

Éowyn is grieving for the men she loves, who may not return from the war. She is being left behind with the women and children and is to endure the anxiousness of an unknown outcome, not unlike her Helm’s Deep orders. Now, however, she doesn’t even try to fight against the orders given, she takes them in stride. As if she awaited just that, something she is already familiar with. 

Soothing heartbreak

Duty? No. I would have you smile again. Not grieve for those whose time has come. You shall live to see these days renewed. No more despair.

Théoden

Théoden sees the grief in her eyes. All he wants is for her to be safe and happy. She will have the highest honor in Rohan and will be regarded with much respect and dignity. Théoden wants her to be alive for days of happiness that may come to be after the darkness has been defeated. 

There is a triangular emotion of grief in Éowyn that touches on her uncle, Aragorn and herself. Everything she had known: herself, her uncle and Aragorn are now facing death. She, on her part, stands to lose her true self. her need for valor and honor. The two men she grieves for are for two completely different reasons, but similar in its devotion nonetheless: Théoden as her father-figure and Aragorn as her love interest. 

At this moment, there is nothing that can ease her pain. Her uncle’s understanding of some of her feelings turns her indifference into an expression of sadness. His hands cradle her face as he leans his forehead against hers. It is a much-needed comfort, and the last comfort she would feel before the war. 

A wounded soul needs time to heal and although a simple comforting touch can help express and process feelings of grief and sadness more directly, it does not alleviate the pain. However, a little understanding and sympathy go a long way in a time of need. 

Oathbreakers

Meanwhile, the Three Hunters are riding along a barren mountain path. The landscape looks damaged as if by acid covered with a thick layer of grey dust. It is lifeless, colorless and menacing. 

Gimli: “What kind of army would linger in such a place?”

Legolas: “One that is cursed.”

Legolas: “Long ago the Men of the Mountain swore an oath to the last king of Gondor, to come to his aid, to fight. But when the time came, when Gondor’s need was dire, they fled, vanishing into the darkness of the mountain. And so Isildur cursed them, never to rest, until they had fulfilled their pledge.”

The Men of the White Mountain, as they were once called, gave an oath to Isildur to come to his aid when need be. When the War of the Last Alliance was fought and the Men summoned, they refused to participate. Their change of heart, and side, came around in the Dark Years when they worshiped Sauron. As they betrayed both Isildur and Sauron by staying out of the war altogether and not wanting to face punishment, they fled and hid in the mountain, never to be seen again.

The prophecy

Who shall call them from the grey twilight? The forgotten people. The heir of him to whom the oath they swore. From the North shall he come. Need shall drive him. He shall pass the door to the Paths of the Dead.

Legolas

Malbeth the Seer, a royal counselor gifted with foresight, made this prophecy a thousand years before the beginning of the War of the Ring. And as we can plainly see, it has come to fruition. 

The Dark Door

The Three Hunters approach the Dark Door hesitantly. The dark entryway suggests danger. Therefore, to approach it with caution is understandable. They do not know what might await them as they come ever closer to it. The skulls that adorn the doorframe make it even more menacing than it already is.

Gimli: “The very warmth of my blood seems stole away.”

Legolas: “‘The way is shut. It was made by those who were dead, and the dead keep it. The way is shut.'”

Gimli’s simple description of the feeling that this place gives him helps us as viewers better understand the feeling of being there. To have a feeling of the blood being drained from oneself is to feel cold and fear. For a Dwarf to feel like this, considering them a mountain-dwelling race, it must mean that the mountain poses a grave threat to him, a danger he has not yet encountered. 

As Legolas interprets the pictogram above the door frame, a gust of wind coupled with ghost-like noise rushes through the door. It appears to confirm that which has been depicted. As if they needed any more reason not to pursue their course. This spooks the horses into fleeing the scene immediately. 

Determination vs. hesitation

Brego!

Aragorn

The company react to their horses fleeing with a move for them to stay. But they have already bolted out of sight. This scares the company even more. They take a few steps back. 

I do not fear death!

Aragorn

Aragorn, however, with a determined and nothing-left-to-lose expression on his face mixed with a feeling of anger moves towards the door and enters the mountain. It is in spite of the fear that his courage mounts. He will not bow to fear quite so lightly. No threat of death can stop him now. Legolas follows Aragorn immediately afterward. Gimli hesitates. 

A mountain-dweller in fear

Well this is something unheard of! An Elf will go underground where a Dwarf dare not! Ah, I’d never hear the end of it!

Gimli

In spite of his hesitation and obvious fear of the unknown, he runs into the mountain but not because of newly discovered courage or want. He follows his friends because of fear of possible mockery that might follow from Legolas and Aragorn. A member of a race whose entire existence revolves around cavernous spaces inside a mountain hesitates to enter? It would hurt his pride and he would lose face if he stayed outside. 

March on Minas Tirith

At the same time, on the fields of Pelennor, a large army of Orcs approach Minas Tirith. They arrive in the numbers beyond reckoning. Tall towers line their front lines. Trolls push these forward to help increase not only their strategy but also their intimidation factor.

The trolls on drums are also a tool that aids the marching of the Orcs as well as produces fear in their enemy. The beat of the drum is similar to that of Isengard. Although flooded and holding no significance to Sauron, the connection between the Two Towers is still recognizable in the beat of the drum. 

As Minas Tirith faces danger, so do the Three Hunters, who find themselves in the most unusual place. Read about it in my next post.

Photo by Will Truettner on Unsplash.

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