NOV / DEC 2012: BY RACHEL SEXTON
The most popular fandoms in movies, books, and television are highly concentrated in the fantasy or science-fiction genres. A central distinguishing feature of most of these stories is that their setting is an entire created world. One of the most detailed of these, with a vast mythology made up of a full history, geography, and languages, is the world of Middle Earth. Created by J.R.R. Tolkien, Middle Earth was his setting for his children’s novel The Hobbit and his masterpiece The Lord of the Rings. Aside from its scope and depth, Middle Earth feels authentic and real because its characters, whether they’re Elves or Hobbits, experience real emotions we can all relate to. Unrequited love is part of human experience and is present in Middle Earth too. The relationship between Aragorn and Éowyn is characterized by fellow warrior camaraderie and a romance that does not come to fruition, which humanizes the epic story of good versus evil.
Many races inhabit Middle-earth: Elves, Hobbits, Dwarves, and Men, including a nearly extinct subset called the Dúnedain. They are blessed with long life. One of the few remaining is Aragorn. He is the heir to the highest throne of men, a King who will have to claim his rightful reign over Gondor. Aragorn was raised by the Elves for a period of his life. He proves his skill as a tracker and a soldier countless times. He has a romantic connection with the elf maiden Arwen. She’s the daughter of the elf lord who fostered Aragorn and is willing to give up her immortality for him.
He sets out as part of a fellowship with the near-impossible mission to destroy the One Ring, made by the evil Sauron to control all other magical rings gifted to the races of Middle Earth. Sauron was defeated by men and Elves long ago but the Ring wasn’t destroyed due to men’s weakness for power. Aragorn fears this weakness in himself and has forsaken his destiny as King. He must be part of the fight against evil, but he urges Arwen to forget him and go with her people just before the Fellowship departs on it‘s journey.
Éowyn is niece to Théoden, king of the kingdom of Rohan. She lost her father to Orcs and her mother succumbed to grief. Her brother, Éomer, leads Théoden’s armies, and they both live with him. She is trained to be a skilled fighter but fears glory will never enter her grasp because of her gender. Since the One Ring wasn’t destroyed, Sauron wasn’t fully eradicated either, and his presence, through his puppet the corrupt wizard Saruman, has infected the mind of Théoden. This leaves Rohan basically defenseless.
Aragorn and Éowyn meet when part of the Fellowship arrives in Rohan to save Théoden’s mind and by extension, Rohan itself. It’s a small but essential step in the larger struggle against evil, and it brings together these two fighters. They come to respect each other’s skill with a blade and as people. They first converse when she is practicing with a sword, which he sees and discusses with her. He seems to understand her fervent desire to distinguish herself in battle, though she is a woman.
This subplot is as romantic as the book version of The Lord of the Rings gets. The interaction on the page between them, though unrequited, does consist of romantic love on her side. The films make this even more explicit. Different shots show Aragorn and Éowyn looking at each other at various times; they share a long look just before Aragorn rides off to face Orc opponents in a skirmish and she heavily implies her feelings for him before he rides off to recruit special reinforcements for the centerpiece Battle of Pelennor Fields.
The gentle rejection Éowyn receives from Aragorn highlights the realism of this storyline. The actors can be credited with a lot of this, but the writing is succinct and affective. Aragorn simply says, “I cannot give you what you seek,” but continues with “I have wished you happiness since the moment I saw you.” You get the feeling things might have gone differently for them had not an unexpected complication arose. Just before this scene, Aragorn learns that Arwen is weakening and will only be saved if evil is defeated, so he decides to embrace his fate as the King of Gondor. This makes sense to us because, though we truly root for Éowyn in every way, we’ve already been treated to earlier scenes between Aragorn and Arwen. The film writers took nearly all this material from the Appendices Tolkien wrote for Rings which covers their romance. So in this way, the films add even more romance to counteract all the action.
Romantic love, requited and unrequited, is an authentic emotion. Its inclusion through the interaction between Aragorn and Éowyn balances against the tense conflict of good vs. evil in the plot. Lest anyone feel too sorry for Éowyn, that isn’t the end of her story, or her romance! It’s a pleasure of reading and viewing The Lord of the Rings that a warrior’s friendship between a man and woman is explored so well… and they each get romance too! ■
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rachel Sexton is from Ohio and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Arts. She loves her parents and her dog Lily. But what you really need to know is that she has to have acting, film, reading, and dance in her life and her favorite fandoms are Star Wars, Harry Potter, Jane Austen, and Once Upon a Time. Plus, she is most described as quiet and her biggest vice is cupcakes. Oh, and her main hobby is editing fan videos.