The Return of the King

The Return of the King

by

J. R. R. Tolkien

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Éowyn/Dernhelm Character Analysis

Éowyn is Théoden’s niece and Éomer’s sister, and a shieldmaiden of Rohan. Frustrated by constantly being instructed to stay behind and protect Rohan’s women and children, she disguises herself as a Rider of Rohan called Dernhelm and rides to war at Gondor, taking Merry with her secretly. Her stubborn bravery is integral to Gondor’s victory over Mordor when she defeats the Lord of the Nazgûl, whose inability to be maimed by Men does not protect him from her. Éowyn’s recovery from the Dark Shadow is slowed by the despair she feels at being trapped by the restrictions of womanhood. During her time in the Houses of Healing, she begins to talk to Faramir, whose love and understanding seems to encourage her to find satisfaction in a future other than death in battle. She ultimately decides to marry Faramir and to become a Healer herself, having realized that this gentler vocation could offer her the opportunity to be useful beyond her role on the battlefield.

Éowyn/Dernhelm Quotes in The Return of the King

The The Return of the King quotes below are all either spoken by Éowyn/Dernhelm or refer to Éowyn/Dernhelm. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Hope vs. Despair Theme Icon
).
Book 5, Chapter 2  Quotes

“All your words are but to say: you are a woman, and your part is in the house. But when the men have died in battle and honour, you have leave to be burned in the house, for the men will need it no more. But I am of the House of Eorl and not a serving-woman. I can ride and wield blade, and I do not fear either pain or death.”

“What do you fear, lady?” he asked.

“A cage,” she said. “To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.”

Related Characters: Aragorn/Strider (speaker), Éowyn/Dernhelm (speaker)
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 5, Chapter 6 Quotes

“Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!”

Then Merry heard of all sounds in that hour the strangest. It seemed that Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel. “But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn am I, 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.”

Related Characters: Lord of the Nazgûl (speaker), Éowyn/Dernhelm (speaker), Meriadoc Brandybuck (Merry), Théoden
Page Number: 114
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 5, Chapter 8 Quotes

“Alas! For she was pitted against a foe beyond the strength of her mind or body. And those who will take a weapon to such an enemy must be sterner than steel, if the very shock shall not destroy them. It was an evil doom that set her in this path. For she is a fair maiden, fairest lady of a house of queens. And yet I know not how I should speak of her. When I first looked on her and perceived her unhappiness, it seemed to me that I saw a white flower standing straight and proud, shapely as a lily, and yet knew that it was hard, as if wrought by elf-wrights out of steel. Or was it, maybe, a frost that had turned its sap to ice, and so it stood, bitter-sweet, still fair to see, but stricken, soon to fall and die?”

Related Characters: Aragorn/Strider (speaker), Éowyn/Dernhelm, Lord of the Nazgûl
Related Symbols: The Shadow
Page Number: 145
Explanation and Analysis:

“Do not be afraid,” said Aragorn. “I came in time, and I have called him back. He is weary now, and grieved, and he has taken a hurt like the Lady Éowyn, daring to smite that deadly thing. But these evils can be amended, so strong and gay a spirit is in him. His grief he will not forget; but it will not darken his heart, it will teach him wisdom.”

Related Symbols: The Shadow
Page Number: 148
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 6, Chapter 5 Quotes

Then the heart of Éowyn changed, or else at last she understood it. And suddenly her winter passed, and the sun shone on her.

“I stand in Minas Anor, the Tower of the Sun,” she said; “and behold! the Shadow has departed! I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying. I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren.”

Related Characters: Éowyn/Dernhelm (speaker), Faramir
Related Symbols: The Shadow
Page Number: 262
Explanation and Analysis:
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Éowyn/Dernhelm Character Timeline in The Return of the King

The timeline below shows where the character Éowyn/Dernhelm appears in The Return of the King. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 5, Chapter 2 
Expectation vs. Ability Theme Icon
The Dúnedain riders arrive at Dunharrow the next night. Éowyn greets them. They recount the battle at Helm’s Deep to her over supper. When Éowyn... (full context)
Loyalty, Love, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
At daybreak, the company sets out to ride. Éowyn comes to bid them farewell, and Gimli and Legolas are surprised to see her weeping.... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 3
Hope vs. Despair Theme Icon
Expectation vs. Ability Theme Icon
...reaches a field near the foot of the Dwimorberg—the same mountain Aragorn’s party rode into. Éowyn greets the king and his guard. Merry suspects she has been weeping, though she tells... (full context)
Expectation vs. Ability Theme Icon
Loyalty, Love, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Théoden releases Merry from his service and instructs him to stay behind with Éowyn. Merry is dismayed. All his friends have gone to war; he shouldn’t stay behind. Théoden... (full context)
Hope vs. Despair Theme Icon
War, Greed, and Nature Theme Icon
...on his horse and hide him under his cloak. He asks Merry to call him Dernhelm. (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 5
Expectation vs. Ability Theme Icon
Loyalty, Love, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
War, Greed, and Nature Theme Icon
The Rohirrim ride through the night. Merry rides with Dernhelm, and he notices he has left his place in his designated company in order to... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 6
Power, Wisdom, and Mercy Theme Icon
War, Greed, and Nature Theme Icon
...and rides out from the city immediately. Théoden leads his Riders towards the city with Dernhelm in the leading group. Though outnumbered, they drive off the Haradrim, but out of nowhere... (full context)
Hope vs. Despair Theme Icon
Expectation vs. Ability Theme Icon
Though many of Théoden’s knights have been slain or carried away by their spooked horses, Dernhelm and Merry are alive nearby. When Dernhelm speaks to the Lord of the Nazgûl, ordering... (full context)
Expectation vs. Ability Theme Icon
Merry feels the urge to help Éowyn and crawls towards the Lord of the Nazgûl. The Nazgûl strikes Éowyn and shatters her... (full context)
Loyalty, Love, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
War, Greed, and Nature Theme Icon
...his fathers. He asks to see Éomer before he dies, and to send word to Éowyn, who he believes to be back in Dunharrow. Merry tries to tell Théoden that Éowyn... (full context)
Expectation vs. Ability Theme Icon
Loyalty, Love, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Éomer then recognizes Éowyn’s body. His grief spurs him to rejoin the battle and he rallies his soldiers to... (full context)
Hope vs. Despair Theme Icon
War, Greed, and Nature Theme Icon
...Imrahil rides out to greet the knights and weeps over Théoden’s body, but notices that Éowyn is still, barely, alive. He orders help be brought for her from the city before... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 8
Expectation vs. Ability Theme Icon
Loyalty, Love, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Merry reaches the smoldering city in a haze beside the bodies of Théoden and Éowyn. Suddenly his vision goes dark and he feels as though he’s walking into a tomb.... (full context)
Hope vs. Despair Theme Icon
Faramir, Éowyn, and Merry are laid in the Houses of Healing, where the Healers are unsure how... (full context)
Loyalty, Love, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Gandalf greets them and says that Éowyn is near death, and Faramir, who is the new Steward of Gondor, is sick with... (full context)
Expectation vs. Ability Theme Icon
Loyalty, Love, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...They enter the room where the sick lie. Aragorn tends first to Faramir, then to Éowyn and Merry, and judges that he’ll have to use all his skill and strength to... (full context)
Hope vs. Despair Theme Icon
Expectation vs. Ability Theme Icon
Loyalty, Love, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
When Aragorn sees Éowyn, he describes her sadness as a sickness that began long ago. Éomer says he didn’t... (full context)
Loyalty, Love, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Aragorn knows he can revive Éowyn, but if she wakes into despair she won’t survive. He crushes the herb again and... (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 5
Hope vs. Despair Theme Icon
Expectation vs. Ability Theme Icon
After the departure of Aragorn’s army, those remaining in Minas Tirith are filled with gloom. Éowyn refuses to rest for the amount of time the healers think is required. She rises,... (full context)
Expectation vs. Ability Theme Icon
Faramir is walking in the garden when Éowyn finds him. She explains that she’s not upset with her treatment, but she cannot endure... (full context)
Expectation vs. Ability Theme Icon
Loyalty, Love, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Faramir goes on to tell Éowyn that he’d enjoy her company during his walks in the garden. She isn’t sure what... (full context)
Hope vs. Despair Theme Icon
Loyalty, Love, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
In the morning, Faramir sees Éowyn again. They walk and talk together, seeming to grow stronger in each other’s company. A... (full context)
Hope vs. Despair Theme Icon
Loyalty, Love, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...Gondor until the king’s return to take charge of readying the city. Though Éomer summons Éowyn to join the camp in Ithilien, she doesn’t go, and while she stays in the... (full context)
Hope vs. Despair Theme Icon
Loyalty, Love, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Faramir asks Éowyn why she refused to go to Éomer. He suggests there are two reasons: first, that... (full context)
Loyalty, Love, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Power, Wisdom, and Mercy Theme Icon
...gives Ithilien to Faramir’s command. Éomer returns to Rohan to set things in order, and Éowyn goes with him, telling Faramir she’ll return when they’ve laid Théoden to rest. The Riders... (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 6
Loyalty, Love, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...Her final parting with Elrond is incredibly painful: they will never see each other again. Éowyn gives Merry an ancient horn as a token of his service to Rohan. The group... (full context)