White Lady of Rohan, Shieldmaiden of the Rohirrim, Éowyn is a figure who bears the weight of destiny as much as anyone in Tolkien’s universe. Yet, she is relegated to a minor role in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.
In a story filled with otherworldly races and abhorrent creatures, Éowyn is one of few characters of the race of men and her struggle is arguably more relatable than many. A beautiful, proud noblewoman of Rohirrim stock, she feels trapped caring for her family and homestead while her menfolk ride to battle, death and glory. Any woman who has ever felt constrained by society's expectations can understand her point of view.
Éowyn is a warrior of Rohan and when given the chance she slays one of the foulest beasts in Middle-earth, the Witch-King of Angmar. Yet, Éowyn suffers from a lack of exploration in the movie universe. It's impossible to bring to life the entirety of Tolkien’s sweeping epic; casualties are inevitable. The very fact her status is overlooked and undervalued in the movie script reflects her character's position in the novels.
There is far more to Éowyn than most people are aware. Here are 15 Things You Never Knew About The Lord of the Rings' Éowyn.
17 Éowyn was one of the characters that Tolkien loved the most
JRR Tolkien was a scholar, World War I veteran, and devout Catholic. His female characters sometimes left much to be desired or, in the case of The Hobbit, were non-existent. Éowyn’s nuanced struggle against the constraints of her society is a notable exception and Tolkien was fascinated by the depth of her character.
Interestingly, Tolkien once wrote that, of all characters, Faramir resembles the author most. Faramir’s assessment of war matches the author's, as he said he fought because he loved what he was fighting to protect, not for a love of fighting.
Faramir was a character that had not been planned from the start but organically grew into the story. The fact it is Faramir that ultimately falls in love with Éowyn is a testament to the importance of her character, both to the author and the story.
16 She was orphaned at age 7
Éowyn’s mother was Théodwyn. Sister of King Théoden, she married Éomund, who served as Chief Marshal of the Mark under her brother’s rule. Éomund was a brave but reckless captain. In TA 3002, he rode out to chase down a band of orcs from West Mordor and was slain in battle.
On hearing of her husband’s tragic death, Théodwyn instantly grew ill and soon passed away. Éowyn was just seven years old at the time of their deaths.
King Théoden was fond of his niece and nephew and took Éowyn and Éomer into his care. They were raised beside Théodred, his only son. At the beginning of The Two Towers, Théodred is also slain and both Éowyn and Éomer mourn him keenly.
In this way, Éowyn’s life leading up to her entrance into Tolkien’s main story is already plagued by sorrow and she is something of a tragic figure.
15 She was of Dúnedain and high-Númenórean heritage
Éowyn’s maternal grandmother was Morwen Steelsheen. Morwen was of Dunedain and high-Númenórean heritage and called "Steelsheen" for her beauty and pride.
Known as the Men of the West, the Dúnedain survived the fall of their kingdom Númenór, and migrated to Middle-earth. They were led by Elendil, father of Isildur, High King of Gondor and Arnor. In turn, the Dúnedain were descended from the Númenóreans, the most noble race of men from the First Age. Said to live longer than normal men, they also possessed the beauty and strength of their elevated heritage.
Morwen fell in love with Thengel, who became the sixteenth King of Rohan, and with him had five children. Due to her lineage, Morwen was said to be taller than most men and passed on her impressive beauty to her descendants, including Éowyn.
14 Peter Jackson deleted the scene where she falls in love with Faramir
A deleted scene in Peter Jackson’s trilogy reveals a little more about the relationship between Éowyn and Faramir as they meet while both recovering from injuries sustained in battle.
In the movies, Éowyn’s admiration for Aragorn is much more obvious and unfortunately so little time is put into showing her blossoming relationship with Faramir that it seems like she only turns to him when it is revealed that Aragorn loves Arwen. In the books this is far from the case. Both Éowyn and Faramir have suffered deep loss and they find mutual understanding and admiration in each other.
Faramir is the younger son of Denethor, Steward of Gondor, and spent much of his life in the shadow of his brother Boromir. After the Wars of the Ring, Faramir becomes one of the Chief Captains of Gondor and Aragorn’s trusted counselor.
He and Éowyn marry in 3020 and live peacefully. Faramir eventually dies aged 120 but Éowyn’s date of death is not recorded.
13 She was almost played by Uma Thurman
In Peter Jackson’s trilogy, Éowyn is played by Australian actress, Miranda Otto. She has one of the largest female roles in the movie and certainly has the most combat scenes.
At one stage, Uma Thurman was a leading choice for the part. Of Kill Bill fame, Thurman has made a career out of playing kick-ass female characters. In an interview, she confirmed she was approached to play the role of Éowyn but ended up having to turn it down. She had just given birth to her first child and did not want to have to leave for the year of filming. She revealed that she is in fact a huge Tolkien fan and considers it: “one of the worst decisions ever made.”
Undeniably, Uma Thurman would have made a fierce Éowyn but Miranda Otto is Éowyn for a generation of fans.
12 Her name means "Horse Lover" in Anglo-Saxon
It is well-know that JRR Tolkien used his extensive knowledge of history and language to create the rich and detailed myth of Middle-earth. He also put together entire languages for the peoples who inhabited it. Rohirric was based on Anglo-Saxon and Éowyn’s name roughly translates as "horse lover" or "horse joy." The etymology being: eoh, "warhorse" and wynn, "joy".
Although sometimes referred to as such by fans, Éowyn is not actually a princess. Her titles are extensive and include White Lady of Rohan, Lady of Ithilien, and Lady of Emyn Arnen. She becomes known as the Lady of the Shield-arm in recognition of her defeat of the Witch-King.
Names and titles are hugely important in Tolkien and Éowyn earns all of hers a multitude of times over.
11 Tolkien originally intended Éowyn to marry Aragorn
Originally, based on his notes, Tolkien intended for Éowyn to marry Aragorn. Ultimately, he changed his mind. For Aragorn, he chose Arwen the Elf Maiden and their relationship became a hugely symbolic one for the story. It serves to re-establish the ancient bond between the Men of the West and the Eldar. It also reflects the tale of Luthien and Beren, the most romantic story in all of Middle Earth. Aragorn once described Arwen as like Luthien reborn and he himself as a man like Beren.
Ultimately, Tolkien decided that Éowyn would marry Faramir. He apparently thought Aragorn too “lordly and grim” for a woman like Éowyn. In the end, both relationships are beautiful in their own way and it's difficult to imagine more perfect partnerships for the characters.
10 Her Grandson writes the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen in the Fourth Age
After the events of The Lord of the Rings, Faramir and Éowyn live happily together in Ithilien and have one son, Elboron. Their grandson is named Barahir, after Barahir’s Ring. Barahir’s Ring is an elegant ring forged long before the rings of power and, although possessing no magical power, it has a complex history. An heirloom of the Kings of Númenór it eventually finds its way to Aragorn and he uses it to propose to Arwen.
Éowyn’s Barahir is credited with writing The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen in the Fourth Age after Aragorn’s death. After the War of the Ring, Aragorn and Arwen spend sixty years together living happily. Yet, as a mortal man, Aragorn eventually passes away and Arwen lays down in Cerin Amroth until the world’s end.
In a universe where Tolkien writes many tragic ends for his characters, both couples have remarkably positive endings. It is poetic that Éowyn’s grandson writes the story of Aragorn’s romance.
9 She almost died fighting the Witch-King in the books
The moment when Éowyn defeats the Witch-King, removing her helmet to reveal her true gender and fulfilling the prophecy that no man would defeat him, is truly epic cinema. Surprisingly, the scene is even more heroic in the novels.
It is well-known that the Witch-King of Angmar. A Númenóreans King, he was corrupted by one of the nine Rings of Power given to the Lords of Men and doomed to an unlife of bitterness and violence.
Éowyn knows this too and witnesses the monster mortally wound her uncle, King Théoden, before she faces up to him. In fact, the Witch-King is so evil that in killing him, Éowyn is left near-dead herself. For some reason, this scene is diminished in the movie as she struggles away with only minor physical wounds from her fight.
“I am no man!” is a fantastic line but the full speech would have been all the more impactful: “But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Éomund’s daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him.”
8 Théoden never knows what she did for him
In The Return of the King, Théoden is mortally wounded by the Witch-King and passes away in Éowyn’s arms on the fields of Pelennor. Undeniably this is a moving scene giving closure to the relationship. Yet this does not occur in the books.
The scene plays similarly in Tolkien’s novel, but it is actually Merry who sits with the king as he dies of his injuries rather than Éowyn. Théoden does not see that it is Éowyn who slays the Witch-King and does not know that she rode into battle at all.
Considering the thankless time Éowyn spent caring for her uncle as he was poisoned by Grima Wormtongue, it is even more heart-breaking. Her greatest achievement is missed by the father figure who she cared for in life and fights to avenge.
7 She rides into battle under the alias "Dernhelm"
When Rohan rides out to the Battle of Hornburg, Éowyn is asked to stay behind and look after the people in the king’s absence. Although unhappy, Éowyn remains and keeps everything in perfect order until they return, as her sense of duty outweighs her own desire to fight.
When the call comes to ride out once more against Mordor, she begs to be allowed to fight but is once again refused. This time, Éowyn disguises herself as a man and rides with the army regardless. Merry has also been refused the right to follow his friends to battle and Éowyn takes him with her.
She rides out under the alias Dernhelm, which aptly means "Hidden Protector" in Anglo-Saxon.
6 Saruman promises her to Grima Wormtongue
Although it is not confirmed, it is likely that Grima Wormtongue is promised something by Saruman in exchange for his help. What could be more appealing for the lank-haired villain than the beautiful, proud daughter of Rohan?
Wormtongue is King Théoden’s chief advisor but is revealed to be a spy of the dark wizard. Wormtongue poisons the mind of King Théoden, using his voice to weaken the King and keep Saruman’s influence overpowering him. The clue was in the name, you would have thought.
The idea that Wormtongue has been promised Éowyn as a reward for his services holds up in the movies and the books. In the book he is caught "watching her under his lids and haunting her steps" and in the film he makes very obvious, very clumsy romantic passes at her.
5 Aragorn heals her in the Houses of Healing
After the battle of the fields of Pelennor, Merry, Faramir, and Éowyn are amongst the seriously wounded. They are taken to the Houses of Healing in Minas Tirith but they grow steadily sicker.
A city healer recalls a legend that “The hands of the king are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known.”
Hearing this, Aragorn takes the leaves of a herb that grows in Gondor, seemingly with no healing properties, and stirs them in a bowl of warm water. Faramir awakens to the sweet smell first. Aragorn then tends to Merry and Éowyn and when he touches them they return to consciousness.
A scene depicting this was shot for The Return of the King but only makes it into the Extended Edition. It is sad that Aragorn’s true acceptance of himself as king in peace as well as war was not included in the final cut.
3 An entire Faramir/Éowyn wedding scene was filmed but not included
According to the DVD commentaries, an elaborate wedding scene for Faramir and Éowyn was filmed but did not make the final cut.
Oscar-winning costume designer, Ngila Dickson, designed the costumes for the scene and considers them some of the best in the entire trilogy. However, while the scene is described in the commentary and interviews, it is not even included in the Extended Edition. It is hard to believe that even now there are scenes that we have not seen of Peter Jackson’s trilogy but apparently Jackson intends it to stay that way. There are not even any set photos of the scene made public.
One day, it would give a certain closure to the couple’s film relationship to let the public see the fabled wedding scene.
2 Her personality is different in the film
Bringing Tolkien’s trilogy to the big screen took Peter Jackson eight years and $281 million. Depending on the version, the books have between 1000 and 1500 pages. It is no surprise that certain aspects are left out or diminished to fit into the, already considerable, runtime of the films.
As already explored, Éowyn’s role is unfortunately one of the ones that is lessened. This is often seen as one of the most egregious changes in the movies. In the book, Éowyn is a colder, sadder character. She is relegated to nursemaid while the men ride to battle, leaving her trapped and angry. Yet she has a strong sense of duty and cares deeply for her family. Her personality is divided between these two poles.
In the movies, we only see a more basic, naïve version of Éowyn. More time is spent watching her moon over Aragorn than as the proud warrior torn between her duties. When she rides to battle in disguise, it is epic, but it lacks the groundwork that the novel laid for her story.
Do you have any trivia to add about Éowyn from The Lord of the Rings? Let us know in the comments!