Our librarian, Jennifer S. Ewing, MLIS, MACM, presented a fantastic paper, The Bitter Watches of the Night: From Anne Elliot to Éowyn of Rohan—Crossing Frontiers from the Home front to the Battlefront, at Signum University’s Mythmoot V conference in June of 2018. Ewing’s studies (Jen is pursuing a MA Language and Literature, In Process) led her to a surprising parallelism between J.R.R. Tolkien’s Éowyn of Rohan and Jane Austen’s Anne Elliot. Ewing writes:

Imagine my surprise when I realized that the life of Éowyn of Rohan in The Lord of the Rings bears a surprising parallelism to Anne Elliot of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. The similarities between these two women as they cross the frontier from the home front to the battlefront, including their paternal and sibling relationships, attitudes toward duty, descriptions of their physical appearances, sense of loneliness and motifs of death, choices in husbands, and decisions about their futures proves my point. Even though they reside in two very different genres, by the end of their respective novels, these women become independent and resilient, knowing their own minds.

Ewing is preparing the paper for publication, so we can’t release all of it here. In the coming weeks, in anticipation of a future talk Jennifer will give at the seminary this Fall, we will introduce portions of the paper. Here is your first installment of:

 

The Bitter Watches of the Night:

From Anne Elliot to Éowyn of Rohan—Crossing Frontiers from the Home front to the Battlefront

 

 

Introduction

 

In an interview with Tom Shippey, Claire E. White asks: “Although some critics have alleged that The Lord of the Rings relegates women to the background, I have always seen Tolkien as being rather advanced for his time in his depiction of women. Éowyn, the lady of Rohan who sneaks off to be a warrior certainly is no shrinking violet. . . . What is your opinion on this subject: how did Professor Tolkien feel . . . About Éowyn?” Shippey replies: “I can only point to the scene in ‘The Houses of Healing,’ where there is a careful and sensitive account of what it must have been like for Éowyn, not only trapped at home while the men rode off to war, but trapped with Wormtongue, and watching her uncle fall under his spell” (White). Philippa Boyens, who co-wrote the screenplays for the movies, agrees with Shippey’s assessment: “Tolkien wrote brilliantly for women. . . . You can’t underestimate his understanding of women. As a father of a daughter, he clearly understood the complexity of girls and their needs. He recognized, for example, that Théoden should have been a father to Éowyn” (Fuller).

 

Éowyn of Rohan and Anne Elliot Share Remarkable Similarities

Tolkien’s keen understanding of women’s emotional challenges is on par with that of Jane Austen. Imagine my surprise when I realized that the life of Éowyn of Rohan in The Lord of the Rings bears a surprising parallelism to Anne Elliot of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. The similarities between these two women as they cross the frontier from the home front to the battlefront, including their paternal and sibling relationships, attitudes toward duty, descriptions of their physical appearances, sense of loneliness and motifs of death, choices in husbands, and decisions about their futures proves my point. Even though they reside in two very different genres, by the end of their respective novels, these women become independent and resilient, knowing their own minds.

In Persuasion, Anne Elliot comes to regret her decision not to marry Frederick Wentworth. Years pass and her life is reduced to a never-ending effort of caring for her family. In Anne’s conversation with Captain Harville, she claims that women do not forget as quickly as men do because women remain at home, while men go out into the world to work, and that distraction aids forgetting. Anne explains:

Yes. We certainly do not forget you so soon as you forget us. It is, perhaps, our fate rather than our merit. We cannot help ourselves. We live at home, quiet, confined, and our feelings prey upon us. You are forced on exertion. You have always a profession, pursuits, business of some sort or other, to take you back into the world immediately, and continual occupation and change soon weaken impressions. (Austen 153)

This observation by Anne about a woman’s “feelings prey[ing] upon” her because she is confined at home is echoed in Gandalf’s observation about Éowyn at her bedside in the Houses of Healing:

‘My friend,’ said Gandalf, ‘you had horses, and deeds of arms, and the free fields; but she, born in the body of a maid, had a spirit and courage at least the match of yours. Yet she was doomed to wait upon an old man, whom she loved as a father, and watch him falling into a mean dishonoured dotage; and her part seemed to her more ignoble than that of the staff he leaned on.

 

‘Think you that Wormtongue had poison only for Théoden’s ears?…My lord, if your sister’s love for you, and her will still bent to her duty, had not restrained her lips, you might have heard even such things as these escape them. But who knows what she spoke to the darkness, alone, in the bitter watches of the night, when all her life seemed shrinking, and the walls of her bower closing in about her, a hutch to trammel some wild thing in?’ (Tolkien 867)

What is striking about these two passages are the four parallels, see how: (1) the men have active lives; (2) the use of “fate” and “doomed”; (3) the emphasis on preying feelings; and more specifically (4) home is described as confined or shrinking, the walls are closing in. This comparison shows that the experiences of Anne and Éowyn are very much alike.

 

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Cited Works:

Austen, Jane. Persuasion. Kindle Edition, 2012.

Fuller, Graham. “Tolkien’s Female Trouble: The ‘Lord of the Rings’ Movies Stoke a Debate about the Author’s Outdated Views of Women.” New York Daily News, 15 Dec. 2012, http://www.nydailynews.com/tolkien-female-trouble-lord-rings-movies-stoke-debate-author-outdated-views-women-article-1.496304.

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Lord of the Rings: One Volume. Kindle Edition, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

White, Claire E. “Talking LOTR With Tolkien Expert Professor Thomas Shippey.” The Internet Writing Journal, Mar. 2002, https://www.writerswrite.com/journal/mar02/talking-tolkien-with-thomas-shippey-3021.

 

Put on Kindness

Put on Kindness Article by Margaret Hill, Student at Southern California Seminary   This Blog is a re-post from the Girl Talk Blog Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering  Colossians 3:12...

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