A tale of adventure, friendship, love, and courage, The Lord of the Rings is a timeless gift. One of my favorite characters is Éowyn. As a shieldmaiden of Rohan (one of the lands in Tolkien’s Middle Earth), she defies her uncle, King Théoden, when he commands she stay in Rohan, and follows the troops into battle against Sauron’s army. As all the others headed into battle, she simply wants to do all she can to help defend her land.
“No man am I!” is one of her most iconic lines from the movies. There’s no doubt it is one of the most cheer-worthy scenes. For those not familiar, this takes place during a battle in front of Minas Tirith (in the land of Gondor) in the last film, Return of the King, when Éowyn takes down not only a Nazgûl (a dark beast with wings), but also the leader of the wraiths, the Witch-King of Angmar.
After giving the King Théoden a death blow, the Witch-King leads his Nazgûl towards the body with the permission to “feast on his flesh.” It is then that Éowyn jumps in front of her beloved kin, threatening to kill them if they touch King Théoden.
After warning her not to come between the Nazgûl and his prey, the creature goes for Éowyn’s arm and sword, but instead she beheads the foul beast. Picking up a small wooden shield, she holds her place defending her uncle while the Witch-King rises up. With his enormous mace, he swings it toward her. Screeching with each miss, he finally succeeds in destroying her shield. All looks lost, as he grabs Éowyn by the neck hissing “You fool….no man can kill me…die now.” But there is hope yet! Merry, her hobbit friend, comes through and stabs the monster’s leg.
As he falls to his knees, Éowyn stands up, takes off her helmet and says the ever famous line “I am no man!” while stabbing him in the face, thus destroying the Dark Servant of Sauron.
While I love the movies dearly, this is one scene that is especially more profound in the book. In the book, no one knows she is in the fight (not even Merry) and we also see more of the darkness she was up against. From the book we read:
‘Begone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion! Leave the dead in peace!’
A cold voice answered: ‘Come not between the Nazgûl and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye.’ (Emphasis mine)
A sword rang as it was drawn. ‘Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may.’
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.’
Éowyn’s character continues to be worthy of admiration and one to look up to in literature. It makes me wonder if the women in Tolkien’s life influenced Éowyn’s role, much like his wife inspired the story of Beren and Lúthien in The Silmarillion. I have a feeling they may have.
After watching/reading scenes like this, I often think of the brave and strong women throughout history and legacies of women who have gone before us. The women who used their lives, gifts, talents, and skills to make the world better. What does it mean to be brave like Éowyn, even when it won’t look like facing and taking down a Witch-King and his Nazgûl?
For women, our legacy can and should be as diverse as those who came before us. When I think of the women I want my nieces and nephew to look up to, admire, and respect, it’s women who served others and were brave in all circumstances (whether they were well known or not).
The Bible never fails at providing examples of women like this. Women like Ruth standing up for herself to go with Naomi – though poor, she was brave and not helpless. Like Deborah who bravely led the men of Israel’s military and served as a judge to Israel. Or Esther, who willingingly walked to what she must have thought her death to do all she could to save her people. Or Rahab, who hid spies of Israel, knowing if all failed, it too meant her death. Like Anna, who suffered greatly at a young age, losing her husband, but didn’t let society dictate how she would spend her days. She chose to worship the Lord through it all, being named a prophetess (and the only one in the New Testament) and was able to witness Simeon bless baby Jesus. Or Lydia, whose work ethic and business skills helped support the early church in Acts.
In 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV), we are reminded that one of our callings in following Christ is that we use our God-given talents. Peter wrote, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
“Whatever gift”…such freedom and encouragement in those words.
Throughout history, there have been endless women who have shown us what being a brave and bold woman of God looks like. To name just a few:
- Mahalia Jackson, who became known as the Queen of Gospel music and a Civil Rights activist
- Fannie Lou Hamer, who fought for Black women and women’s right to vote
- Corrie ten Boom, who courageously defied the Nazis to save Jews and was sent to a concentration camp after being betrayed
- Pandita Ramabai, who dedicated her life to fighting on behalf of millions of childhood widows in India
- Sabina Wurmbrand, who along with her husband founded Voice of the Martyrs to support Christians around the world after experiencing Nazi occupation (and losing several family members to a concentration camp) and communism in her home country
- Phillis Wheatley, who became the first African American published, even while unjustly enslaved in 1773
- Jane Austen, who wasn’t afraid to write when society dictated otherwise, leaving books millions have enjoyed since her death
- Catherine Booth, who started the Salvation Army with her husband
- Dora Yu, who was a medical missionary in China and preacher in the early 20th century
- Fanny Crosby, who was blind and in the 1800s penned thousands of poems and hymns including Blessed Assurance and was also committed to Christian rescue missions
- Josephine Butler, who fought for reform, women’s suffrage, better education for women and fought for the abolition of child prostitution in Victorian England
- Rosa Parks, who sparked a movement by refusing to give up her seat
- Mary McLeod Bethune, who fought for education, starting what would become Bethune-Cookman College, and eventually became the Vice President of the NAACP
- Helen Keller, who became blind and deaf at only 19 months old and went on to graduate from Radcliffe college, wrote an autobiography, and spent her life advocating for those who were differently abled as she was, changing laws and breaking down barriers.
I also think of so many other women who are unknown to history, yet their legacies continue to have ripple effects even today. One of the most important things I have learned from so many women, is that they didn’t let their status define them. They used their gifts and boldly followed what God called them to.
They fought for what was good. They stood up for the vulnerable. They used their talents to bring beauty to the world. They loved deeply. They were a light to the world. As Micah 6:8 guides us:
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.” (NIV)
As you think upon your legacy, I encourage you to pray and seek His wisdom and guidance. And above all, be guided by love:
“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:8-10 (NIV)
Be bold, be brave, and live the life God has called you to. When you, when we all do, the world will be brighter.