[The following is an excerpt from my book, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth, which I offer today as part of my Memorial Day Weekend series, because women struggle and die in war as well, many times in tiny, undeclared wars that we never see or hear about: in their homes, on the street, and at work. You can listen to me read it, below]
“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 I am, 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.” —LOTR: III, The Battle of the Pelennor Fields
The scene between Éowyn and the Captain of the Nazgûl during the epic Battle of the Pelennor, is possibly my favorite moment in all the books that Tolkien wrote.
The lead up to it is gripping. The Ride of the Rohirrim, and the subsequent charge of the horsemen into the fray before the walls of Minas Tirith are in my opinion, some of the best written prose in all of literature. By the time we get to Éowyn’s stand against the Witch King of Angmar the tension is at its highest. And her fierceness is infectious. I never read that section or watch the movie version without the blood boiling in my veins. If a portal were to open up in the wall that would allow me to walk into that battle, I would do it. There’s absolutely no question about that in my mind. What a strong character she is. I fuckin’ LOVE HER!
What’s funny is that many scholars and fans criticize Tolkien for not featuring women more prominently in his works. It’s true that there are comparatively few women mentioned. But those who are, are remarkably strong characters. Does anyone really question that Galadriel could kick some serious ass? I think not. In fact, she’s probably the most powerful Elf in all of Middle Earth. Arwen, in the books at least, comes across as a marginal character, though if you read the appendices you’ll see that she really was a motivating factor in all that Aragorn did.
But of all the women, Éowyn is the strongest, quite frankly, because of her weakness: she’s only human. She has no special powers, no immortality, only her innate grit and drive to be something more than just a shield-maiden. And nothing whatsoever will stay her on her course. In the end, she, and her faithful companion Merry, take down the Witch King HIMSELF! She kills the one servant of Sauron that no man can kill; she kills Fear itself in what is arguably the most dramatic moment in the books. I think it is significant that the embodiment of Fear in The Lord of the Rings is slain by a woman. In fact, only a woman is capable of doing so.
What I don’t want to do here is to make some kind of lame, feminist argument that women have some kind of special girl power they can employ to save the Earth. I’m not sure that’s true. Every person has special gifts, and that includes women. Unfortunately, for the human species, women have been relegated to secondary roles throughout much of our history and are still under-represented in leadership positions even in the so-called, free-world. Tolkien did not forget about them; that’s why he had characters like Galadriel and Éowyn. Suffice it to say that women, whether they be Rohan Princesses, or Hobbit Mamas, are essential to the goal of saving the Earth, and not just in their capacities as mothers and home-makers.
I don’t know a single man on this Earth—myself included—who is as emotionally and mentally strong as the women in my family. My mom, certainly of the Rohan persuasion—though she’s not a fan of the books—would stand up to anyone or anything that threatened her family, and woe be unto them. Much of my strength, and fire, I got from my mother, as well as my ability to see through bullshit. My daughter, Samantha, a huge Tolkien—and Buffy—fan, has never been afraid to speak her mind, especially in the defense of the vulnerable, and against injustice. My girlfriend, Patience, has overcome trials that would kill the average man.
Physical strength has been over emphasized for too long. And the assumption—among some stupid men—that men are naturally more intelligent or logical than women, should be buried and forgotten. The world needs the perspective that women can provide. Personally, I think that most women are far braver than men. Think about it for a minute. Women are on average physically weaker, and always have been. They’ve been living in a man’s world for a very long time, a world that can physically dominate them, but they have resisted that and continue to do so. They stare Fear in the face every day, and keep on going. Situations that we men see as ordinary, they see potential danger, and for good reason. But they don’t stop going. And they keep us in line and moving, too.
Women have for millennia been the caretakers of the family, but they are more than that. Most of the modern Hobbits that I see pushing the ideas in this book are women and girls. They are overwhelmingly the ones in the lead for the organic food movement. They are predominantly the ones working for social justice and human rights of all kinds, not to mention animal rights. But women need to be better represented in politics and business if we expect our civilization to survive. We need more Éowyns leading us into a new world, facing the Sarumans and Ringwraiths and taking them down!
We—those who wish to save the Earth—need brave and noble men and women who will sacrifice their time, even their lives to keep the attention of those who would destroy the Earth, distracted, and to resist those Wraiths, wizards, and orcs on every field of battle, whether that be in the street, on the farm, in court, or in congress. But in the end, the only way we can truly save our planet is to destroy the Ring, to change our minds, to realize that we were not put here to rule but to be a part of our earth. We must, in that way, be more like Hobbits, and less like Humans. It is our Hobbit nature that will save the Earth, or nothing will.