Written in the 1950s and adapted into movies in the early 2000s, The Lord of the Rings has had a long-lasting impact on the media and the world. With Peter Jackson’s film trilogy recently celebrating its twenty-first anniversary, it is important to look back on how the Halflings’ journey across Middle-earth has touched all of us.
Personally, this series has a special place in my heart as it is high-quality, well developed, and eternally moving. Among all the characters, I particularly relate to the growth of Éowyn, a royal and a shieldmaiden of the kingdom Rohan.
Mostly presented through the perspective of love, Éowyn’s character arc differentiates true love from infatuation. When we first meet her, she is, for lack of a better word, lost: Her cousin has just died at war and her uncle, cast under a spell, fails to recognize her.
Things change when Éowyn meets Aragorn, a handsome warrior and heir to a throne. During Aragorn’s brief stay in Rohan, she falls in love with him for his kindness, leadership, and way of making her feel acknowledged and appreciated. Sadly, in love with someone else, Aragorn has been treating her no differently from others—he only pities her due to her plight.
But Éowyn is in love with the symbol of hope that Aragorn represents for her. That’s why she feels she has nothing to live for when he leaves on a deadly quest, seeking the Oathbreakers. With grief driving her to secretly join the army, she intends to die on the battlefield.
That’s a little dramatic, but as someone who cries over everything, I get it. Sometimes it is easier to love someone without reciprocation than not to love at all. However, Éowyn’s love is unhealthy for her: She depends on it like it’s a crutch and its absence leads her to take extreme measures.
Against her wishes, however, Éowyn survives on the battlefield, even managing to slay the Witch-king, a villainous commander. While recovering under the care of healers, she meets Faramir, a male co-patient with an equally tragic story—he has spent most of his life seeking his father’s love, but to no avail: His father even tries to kill him at one point, for crying out loud.
Unlike a good ol’ cheesy rom-com we all love, here we have the two meeting at their lowest points: Éowyn has just survived her attempt to leave the world of the living and Faramir has just escaped from being cremated alive. Éowyn and Faramir connect over their experiences of trauma, unrequited love, and memories from the battlefield and see each other as equals. Faramir understands Éowyn and spares her no pity—he admires her and loves her for who she is: a fearless, strong warrior. This helps her realize she deserves to be loved in return (as we all do)—she is worth the love that Aragorn has never given her.
It was heartwarming to see such a healthy portrayal of love and healing in The Lord of the Rings. Éowyn’s story arc showed me that not everyone’s love journey is the one we often see (where people always get what they want). But that is what makes life more fulfilling: If important things like love were easy to get, we wouldn’t truly realize how important they are.
While not many of us killed a dark lord’s commander, we can likely all relate to carrying deep wounds that arise out of loving someone. The best anyone can do to cope is to heal. But with everything that can happen to us, moving on from someone who doesn’t love us can be difficult.
Still, holding onto the past leaves no space for new sprouts and because of this, we can be our own worst enemies, holding ourselves hostage. Our past gives us hindsight and helps us learn, not hold us back from the future.
So, if you are reluctant to believe in love because of your past experiences, I encourage you to give yourself the opportunity to hope and embrace new beginnings, the way Éowyn and Faramir put their burdens behind them and accept each other, allowing something new to grow. This is something I struggle with, too, but it is worthwhile.