NOV / DEC 2012: BY LIANNE M. BERNARDO
Rohan is populated by a fierce and courageous people whose culture is rich and vibrant. Éomer, nephew of King Théoden and brother of Éowyn, reflects the fighting spirit of the Rohirrim. While he’s a brave and skilled warrior on the battlefield, he’s also loyal and caring, values that prepare him for when he becomes king after his uncle’s death.
Éomer is a warrior like his father before him, tall in appearance and proud. He commands his own eored as a Marshall of the Mark over his father’s former jurisdictions in the east, protecting the borders of Rohan and upholding the law of his people. He is hardened for a man in his mid-twenties thanks to experience on the battlefield; as a result he’s always prepared for the worst and doesn’t seem to rely much on hope. On their first meeting, Éomer tells Aragorn and his companions that “(h)ope does not remain” to find Merry and Pippin after his eored intercepted a band of Uruk-hai near their northern borders. Nor does Éomer hope that reinforcements will come to their aid at Pelennor Fields as his remaining forces face a new onslaught of orcs and Easterlings. Aragorn later chides Éomer for forgetting his promise that they’ll see each other again but Éomer admits that “hope oft deceives.” Hardened by the realities of war, Éomer is a man who faces the present problems with whatever forces or resources he has and doesn’t look for help in his tasks.
Yet despite his sternness, Éomer is perceptive of people. He recognises the danger Gríma Wormtongue poses to Rohan. Despite curious circumstances that bring Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli to Rohan and how they passed through Lothlórien, a forbidding place to the Rohirrim, Éomer chooses to help them in their search for Merry and Pippin. He’s also able to tell that there’s more to Aragorn’s story than what he’s told. His stoic judgement enables him to be a valued advisor to his uncle and a good leader.
Éomer’s service and role as a Marshal reflects his faithfulness to the realm. He is briefly imprisoned for making threats toward Gríma out of protection of the king despite of the court’s law. A recovered Théoden later says that he owes Éomer much for his loyalty, and “(a) faithful heart may have a forward tongue.” This devotion also manifests towards the Rohirrim; grieved as he is over Théoden’s death, Éomer quickly musters his forces and leads them onward in his stead. His dedication to lead and help his people continues after the War of the Ring as he works tirelessly to restore the buildings and lands destroyed during the war. He’s named Éomer Éadig, “the Blessed,” for the peace he’s able to secure for his people and the riches that Rohan produces during his reign.
This sense of devotion and earnestness also extends to his friends, which is highlighted in his friendship with Aragorn in the books. They fight side by side at Helm’s Deep, at Pelennor Fields, and before the gates of Mordor. While Aragorn and his allies debate on how to proceed with their final attack against Sauron, Éomer pledges his support because Aragorn is his friend and needs his help. He doesn’t need any other reason for accompanying Aragorn, saying that he has “little knowledge of these deep matters; but I need it not.” Their friendship continues after the War of the Ring as the two kings campaign together against the remnants of Sauron’s forces.
While Éomer is a dedicated warrior of
Rohan, he’s also a caring brother to Éowyn. As a result of losing their parents at such an early age, Éomer is especially protective of his sister. He knows Gríma has his sights on Éowyn and “would have slain him before, forgetting the law of the hall.” While he can’t always be there for her due to his duties, he’s not unaware of her internal suffering; in the House of Healing he admits that he became aware that his sister was “touched by frost” when Aragorn first appeared in Edoras, Rohan’s capital.
Though they do not share very many scenes together in the book, Éomer’s actions show how important Éowyn is to him. When he sees his sister lying amongst the dead at Pelennor Fields, he becomes visibly distraught, “as a man who is pierced in the midst of a cry by an arrow through the heart.” He gives in to grief and fury, charging head-on towards enemy forces and shouting “Ride! Ride to death and the world’s ending!” Éowyn is the only person over the course of the novel who elicits such strong, protective emotions from Éomer. Likewise, he’s the only one who can draw Éowyn out of her despair and the darkness of her illness by calling her name in the House of Healing.
While only a secondary character in The Lord of the Rings, Éomer is a pivotal figure for the people of Rohan. His keen discernment and dedication carries him through the War of the Ring and prepares him for kingship. He’s a good friend and ally, never failing to be there for Aragorn when he needs help. He’s a caring brother who looks out for his sister. Éomer exemplifies the Rohirrim spirit of courage but also its great heart and unwavering loyalty. ■