Éowyn and the Biblical Tradition of a Warrior Woman

  • Dorota Filipczak University of Łódź
Keywords: Tolkien, Éowyn, Bible, Jael, Judith

Abstract

The article discusses the portrayal of Éowyn in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings in the light of the biblical tradition of the warrior woman. The author focuses on the scene in which Éowyn slays the Nazgûl Lord in the battle of the Pelennor Fields with the help of Meriadoc. This event is juxtaposed against the biblical descriptions of female warriors, in particular Jael and Judith. A detailed analysis of passages from the King James Bible and the Douay-Rheims Bible, with which Tolkien was familiar, allows the reader to detect numerous affinities between his vocabulary and imagery, and their biblical antecedents. Filipczak contends that, by defending the body of the dying Théoden, Éowyn defends the whole kingdom; her action can be interpreted in the light of The King’s Two Bodies by Ernst Kantorowicz. Her threat to the Ringraith (“I will smite you if you touch him”) makes use of the verb that can be found in the descriptions of Jael and Judith in the Protestant and Catholic Bibles respectively. Furthermore, Éowyn’s unique position as a mortal woman who achieves the impossible and thus fulfills the prophecy paves the way for a comparison with the Virgin Mary, whose Magnificat contains elements of “a holy-war song” which were suppressed by traditional interpretations. Consequently, the portrayal of Éowyn blends the features of Jael, Judith and Mary with allusions to St. Joan of Arc. Moreover, her act of slaying the Ringraith’s fell beast reinterprets the story of St. George and the dragon. Filipczak argues that Éowyn’s uniqueness is additionally emphasized because she acts out Gandalf’s words from Minas Tirith and sends the Nazgûl Lord into nothingness.

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Author Biography

Dorota Filipczak, University of Łódź

Dorota Filipczak (Dr hab., Prof. UŁ) teaches British and postcolonial literature, as well as translation theory in the Department of British Literature and Culture, University of Łódź. Her monograph on Malcolm Lowry was published in The Malcolm Lowry Review (Wilfrid Laurier University, Ontario, 1998–99). Her publications include Unheroic Heroines: The Portrayal of Women in the Writings of Margaret Laurence (Łódź UP, 2007), “Is Literature Any Help in Liberating Eve and Mary?” in New Topics in Feminist Philosophy of Religion, ed. Pamela Sue Anderson (Springer, 2010); “Gender and Space in ‘The Albanian Virgin’” in Alice Munro: Understanding, Adapting and Teaching, ed. Mirosława Buchholtz (De Gruyter, 2016). With Agata Handley she co-edited Bringing Landscape Home in the Writings of Jane Urquhart (Łódź UP, 2010). She has published six books of poetry, and is a member of the Association of Polish Writers.

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Published
2017-10-16
How to Cite
Filipczak, D. (2017). Éowyn and the Biblical Tradition of a Warrior Woman. Text Matters: A Journal of Literature, Theory and Culture, (7), 405-415. https://doi.org/10.1515/texmat-2017-0022