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The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes
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The way to the Paths of the Dead passes through
Dunharrow, a place of safety where Theoden's people, led
by Eowyn, have taken refuge. When Eowyn learns of
Aragorn's plan, she is fearful and tries to talk him out of it.
When she sees he won't be swayed, she asks to go with
him, but Aragorn refuses. If you read their conversation
closely, you will see that there is a lot being said between
the lines. When Aragorn tells Eowyn that his heart dwells
in Rivendell, he's referring to his love for Arwen. Do you
think Eowyn understands that he loves another? When she
says that the Rangers follow him through the Paths of the
Dead only because they love him and won't be parted from
him, she's declaring her love for Aragorn-she doesn't want
to be parted from him either.



Notice the formal speech used here. Eowyn calls Aragorn
"thee" and Aragorn calls her "lady." The formal words
underscore the fact that they are speaking with great
restraint. By its sharp contrast with what the two are
feeling, the formal speech also heightens the sense of
suppressed emotion boiling beneath the surface.

NOTE: As mentioned earlier, some readers criticize
Tolkien for ignoring women in his work, or for only
idealizing them in such beautiful but unreachable
characters as Arwen and Galadriel. But in Eowyn, Tolkien
presents a woman who is all too human, someone whom
female readers of his book can identify with. She suffers
from unrequited love for Aragorn. She also suffers from the
restricted role women have to play. Eowyn says she fears
nothing but being caged: "To stay behind bars, until use
and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great
deeds is gone beyond recall or desire." Through his
sympathetic portrayal of Eowyn, Tolkien here expresses his
awareness of the needs and desires of women, even though
he may neglect them through most of the book.

Legolas and Gimli travel with Aragorn and the Rangers
through the Paths of the Dead. This area is haunted by the
spirits of men who had broken their oath to fight against
Sauron in the last war. Aragorn calls on the dead to fulfill
their oath now and win peace for themselves. In his ability
to command the dead, Aragorn proves his power and his
claim to the throne, for only Isildur's heir could hold the
dead to their oath. Ironically, here he becomes a king of
sorts: the townspeople flee before him and his company,
calling him the King of the Dead.

King Theoden arrives in Dunharrow soon after Aragorn's
departure. He immediately prepares to ride with his army to
Minas Tirith, to help defend that city against Sauron. Merry
is dejected to learn he'll be left behind. But a young Rider
named Dernhelm helps the hobbit. Earlier in the day Merry
had noticed the warrior looking at him. The hobbit had seen
in Dernhelm's face the hopelessness of someone who
yearns solely for death. Now Dernhelm whispers in his ear,
"Where will wants not, a way opens"- a rephrasing of the
old proverb "Where there's a will, there's a way." Merry
rides to war hidden under Dernhelm's cloak. Remember
Dernhelm's words and desire for death, because they will
have greater significance later.

Meanwhile, in Minas Tirith, Faramir has arrived from
Ithilien and tells his father, Denethor, of the meeting with
Frodo. For the first time Denethor learns of the quest to
destroy the Ring. He thinks the quest is doomed to failure
and is angry with Faramir for not bringing him the Ring.
His other son, Boromir, he says, would have done so. With
angry words, Denethor sends his son to the battlefront,
wishing Faramir had died instead of Boromir.

Later, when Faramir is seriously wounded by the captain of
the ringwraiths, Denethor remorsefully realizes that he also
loves Faramir. The old man falls into despair; with
Faramir's death the line of stewards will end. Believing that
Sauron will triumph, Denethor sees no reason to go on
fighting. He resolves to commit suicide by burning Faramir
and himself on a funeral pyre.

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