Tolkien Geek

Blogging J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" and other aimless pursuits.


ROTK: Bk 6, Ch 5

The Steward And The King
"'Now come the days of the King, and may they be blessed while the thrones of the Valar endur!'"
At this point in the story, Tolkien could very easily have written: "And so, with Sauron destroyed and peace spreading throughout the land, the remaining members of the Fellowship went back to their regular lives and they all lived happily ever after." No one would have blamed him considering all the work he had put into this epic. But there were many loose ends to wrap up - so many loose ends that it took five whole chapters to do it. The rest of Return of the King is focused on what they used to teach you in English Lit was "the resolution phase" of the narrative. So we continue, chapter by chapter, as the scope of the story winds itself back down to the point of view of the Shire, right where we started. It's almost as if the reader, having been taken on a wild ride, now needs to "decompress" as he moves away from the bigger picture of Middle-earth.

First off we have two very important characters to deal with who are convalescing at the Houses of Healing. Chronologically, Tolkien goes back in time about a week or so to Minas Tirith which lay in doubt and dread over the fate of the army of the West that marched out of its gate a few days earlier. Eowyn was recovering quickly save for her frozen arm and her aching heart. She yearns to join the host heading for Mordor but the Warden of the Houses of Healing insists that she must return to her bed. Eowyn does not care to wait around like a victim and declares that "those who have not swords can still die upon them". She demands to see whomever is in command of the City. That would be the new Steward, Lord Faramir, who is also recovering from wounds there at the House.

The Warden brings Eowyn to Faramir and the sight of the Lady of Rohan pierces his heart. She begs Faramir to allow her to leave. But Faramir holds to the counsel of the Warden that she must remain but she can at least be free to walk throughout the City and he ensures that her quarters are changed so that she has a window that faces east. Eowyn, like Faramir, is drawn to gaze in the direction of Mordor in anticipation of either a victorious army or a great calamity. Faramir asks Eowyn if she would stay with him for a while and help ease his care. She asks how she would do this.
"Then, Eowyn of Rohan, I say to you that you are beautiful. In the valleys of our hills there are flowers fair and bright, and maidens fairer still; but neither flower nor lady have I seen till now in Gondor so lovely, and so sorrowful. It may be that only a few days are left ere darkness falls upon our world, and when it comes I hope to face it steadily; but it would ease my heart, if while the Sun yet shines, I could see you still."
Eowyn was non-committal at his request, but she walked with him back to the House of Healing. Faramir sought out information about Eowyn and the Warden suggested he speak with Merry, who was brought to him. The more he learned about Eowyn, the deeper the love he felt for her. The next morning, he saw her standing upon the walls, clad in white and gleaming in the sun. They walked together, sometimes in silence and sometimes speaking. By the fifth day since their first meeting, Eowyn came to him and they looked out upon the City together. Soon, their hands met and clasped, "though they did not know it".

As time passed without word from the host, Faramir became more pessimistic about their fate. Then suddenly on the morning of March 25th, a vast darkness rose about the mountains with lightning flickering above it; "a tremor ran through the earth, and they felt the walls of the City quiver." Faramir tells Eowyn that while his head tells him a great evil has befallen, his heart tells him otherwise. The shadow departed and the light of the sun came through. From the east, a great Eagle flew in to bring the news that the Dark Tower was thrown down.

A party was organized to sail up the Anduin from Osgiliath to Cair Andros to meet the returning Captains. Merry was sent to join them. But even though Eomer sent for Eowyn, she refused to go. Faramir asks her if it is because it was not Aragorn who sent for her or because she didn't want to leave him. She tells him that "she wished to be loved by another" but "I desire no man's pity." Faramir tells her not to scorn the pity of Aragorn which was a "gift of a gentle heart." But he also tells her that he does not feel pity for her. He loves her and he asks for her hand in marriage. Eowyn comes to the realization that she loves Faramir, too.
"'Then must I leave my own people, man of Gondor?' she said. 'And would you have your proud folk say of you: "There goes a lord who tamed a wild shieldmaiden of the North! Was there no woman of the race of Numenor to choose?"'

'I would,' said Faramir. And he took her in his arms and kissed her under the sunlit sky, and he cared not that they stood high upon the walls in the sight of many. And many indeed saw them and the light that shone about them as they came down from the walls and went hand in hand to the Houses of Healing.

And to the Warden of the Houses Faramir said: 'Here is the Lady Eowyn of Rohan, and now she is healed.'"
Back when Aragorn tended her physical wounds before he left for battle, he told Eomer that he could heal her body, but if she woke to despair then she would die "unless other healing comes which I cannot bring." And it was her love for Faramir that wholly cured her.

At some point in 1963, Tolkien received a letter from a fan who was very critical of the way he had written the Eowyn/Faramir love story. The letter is not available but based on Tolkien's response it seems to have focused on the speed with which they fell in love, especially considering Eowyn's love for Aragorn. The reader also seemed to think that the whole "courtship" was too rushed and that it seemed unrealistic. Tolkien's defense was that Eowyn's feelings for Aragorn and Faramir were very different:
"It is possible to love more than one person (of the other sex) at the same time, but in a different mode and intensity. I do not think that Eowyn's feelings for Aragorn really changed much; and when he was revealed as so lofty a figure, in descent and office, she was able to go on loving and admiring him." (Letter No. 244)
And as to the "speed" of the relationship, he writes:
"In my experience feelings and decisions ripen very quickly (as measured by mere 'clock-time', which is actually not justly applicable) in periods of great stress, and especially under the expectation of imminent death. And I do not think that persons of high estate and breeding need all the petty fencing and approaches in matters of 'love'. This tale does not deal with a period of 'Courtly Love' and its pretences; but with a culture more primitive (sc. less corrupt) and nobler." (Letter No. 244)
It's too bad that more of this love story wasn't presented in the film version of Return of the King - I don't think that even the Extended Edition gave it the attention it deserved. I think readers are able to relate better to this couple than the Numenorean-Elven pairing of Aragorn and Arwen.

Aragorn finally arrives at the gates of the City. Faramir meets him and as the last Steward, "begs leave to surrender his office." Aragorn insists that the office will remain with him and his heirs. Faramir asks the crowd for their permission to let Aragorn enter as King and they all shout out a hearty unamimous "yea". The Steward presents the crown of Earnur to Aragorn but the new King in waiting insists that Frodo bear the crown to Gandalf, who should place it on his head for the wizard has "been the mover of all that has been accomplished." And thus, the reign of King Elessar began.

He designated Faramir as Prince of Ithilien, with Beregond serving as Faramir's personal Guard. Minas Morgul, however, was to be destroyed. The Prince would dwell in the Emyn Arnen, the hills that lay between the Ephel Duath and the Anduin that marked the border between north and south Ithilien. He reaffirmed the close ties between Gondor and Rohan as he gave leave to Eomer and Eowyn. The Lady was to journey back to Edoras to assist her brother in the rebuilding of Rohan and the laying to rest of Theoden, after which she planned to return and wed Faramir.

But one problem of Gondor remained. Aragorn was concerned for the future line of Kings and whether or not it would be renewed. Gandalf led him up Mount Mindolluin and they followed an ancient path to a high hallow that overlooked the City. Gandalf directed him to look in the direction where it was most barren and cold.
"Then Aragorn turned, and there was a stony slope behind him running down the skirts of the snow; and as he looked he was aware that alone there in the waste a growing thing stood. And he climbed to it, and saw that out of the very edge of the snow there sprang a sapling tree no more than three foot high. Already it had put forth young leaves long and shapely, dark above and silver beneath, and upon its slender crown it bore one small cluster of flowers whose white petals shone like the sunlit snow."

Here was a remnant of the White Tree that now lay dead in the courtyard of the Tower in Minas Tirith. It's lineage could be traced all the way back to Telperion, one of the Trees of Valinor. It's presence was likely the result of a seedling that of the White Tree that was planted long ago and had lain dormant for many generations. Aragorn took this as the sign of the renewal of the Numenorean Kingdom. The old, dead tree was dug up with reverence and the new sapling was planted in its place. Soon afterward, Elrond arrived at Minas Tirith with Arwen and he presented to Aragorn the Sceptre of Annuminas, which was the heirloom of Elendil who ruled both Kingdoms from Arnor.

Annuminas had been the capital of Arnor and the Sceptre that Elendil bore was one that he had brought with him in his escape from the destruction of Numenor. When the Kingdom of Arnor was divided it passed to the King of Arthedain until the year 1974 of the Third Age, when it was handed down to the Chieftains of the Dunedain. Elrond kept it in Rivendell until the day came when the rightful King would take up the throne and reunite the Numenorean Kingdoms in exile.

On Midsummer's Eve (the day between the end of June and the beginning of July), Aragorn and Arwen wed and the fruit of their long and tortured courtship had finally come to fulfillment.

[Chronology: March 20th through 1 Lithe 3019 T.A.]

Next: Many Partings

(revised 11/7/06)


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