I traded favorite books in college with a certain young man. Mine was Pride and Prejudice, which he dutifully read and praised. Then he handed me The Lord of the Rings, which I devoured. I wanted to visit just about every location in the story. The Shire seemed idyllic. Gondor was so old and storied. What bookworm wouldn’t want to explore the lore at Rivendell? And Lothlorien sounded like a my perfect home.
And then there was Rohan, the nation of horse people. How could I not latch onto Rohan? Eowyn, the princess, quickly became one of my all time favorite characters. Granted, there are only three female characters of any prominence in the story. However, Eowyn captured my attention far more effectively than either Arwen or Galadriel.
“I do not fear either death or pain.”
“What do you fear, my lady?”
“A cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them, and all chance for valor and good deeds have gone beyond recall or desire.”
“You are a daughter of kings. I do not think that will be your fate.”
To no one’s surprise, Aragorn’s prediction comes true. Eowyn delivers the final blow to the witch king. He taunts her that no man can kill him. She responds with her iconic line “I am no man.” before stabbing him. She fueled every bit of idealism I had.
When the movies began coming out, I lined right up with that same young man, who was my fiance for the first movie, my husband for the second, and the father of my child for the third. While I thoroughly enjoyed them, I felt a bit disappointed at the backdrop for Rohan. Instead of the green fields and rivers I pictured, Rohan was set in arid treeless plains. I remember learning that the filmmakers called on every able-bodied horseman in New Zealand to fill Rohan. Darn my luck, I was in the wrong hemisphere. I had the thought that I should have been Eowyn. I was the right age, I already had the hair and a faithful steed, and my name was so close anyway. Instead, I had to content myself with what the movies had, and I’ll admit, the acting was thoroughly up to snuff.
I hadn’t fully appreciated King Theoden in the books. He stole the show for me in the movies. It helps that he got more than his fair share of great lines.
“What would you have me do? Look at my men. Their courage hangs by a thread. If this is to be our end, then I would have them make such an end as to be worthy of remembrance!”
“No, we cannot [defeat the armies of Mordor]. But we will meet them in battle nonetheless.”
“Ride! Ride! Ride now to ruin and the world’s ending!”
I may or may not have raised my whip in the air and shouted these words while galloping across a field on more than one occasion.
And then there were the beacons. The lighting of the beacons between Gondor and Rohan signaled when one needed help. The scene still gives me chills and was instrumental in getting me through transition during my last labor.
“The beacons are lit! Gondor calls for aid!”
“And Rohan will answer.”
Rohan rides to the battle at Pelennor Fields, the final battle. They know they are most likely riding to their deaths. They know they are outnumbered and outclassed. They believe Gondor will fall even with their addition to the army. And they saddle up and ride anyway. What is their alternative? Their freedom will end whether they fight or not.
There is everything to love about the Lord of the Rings, but the best of all for me is the ultimate triumph of good over evil. There are casualties along the way, and each one is mourned, including King Theoden’s horse who gets his own rhyming epitaph. But in the end, evil is banished, peace is restored, and a new balance comes to Middle Earth.
We are outnumbered.
We are outspent.
We mourn the casualties.
Our list of allies grows thin.
We saddle up and ride anyway.
Our freedoms are threatened whether we show up or not.
The beacons are lit.
We are calling for aid.
Will you answer?