Sunday, April 10, 2011

SGPS: Joy McMurray's Of Eowyn, Dragons, and Healing



It’s one of my favorite parts of the story . . .

Then the heart of Eowyn changed, or else at last she understood it. And suddenly her winter passed, and the sun shone on her. “I stand in Minas Anor, the Tower of the Sun,” she said; “and behold! The Shadow has departed! I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying. I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren.”

Isn’t that beautiful? In this moment Eowyn, a princess in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, finally finds her healing after desperately searching for it in many places. Her story reminds me where to find healing when it is hard to come by.

Eowyn is not a typical princess—she is beautiful, yes, but also stern and sad. Her country and family are falling apart, she’s tormented by a creep who lusts after her, and her efforts to help her people are stifled by a foolish king and the limitations on women’s roles in her society. She feels trapped, alone, and desperate, and her self-worth deteriorates. (Perhaps some of this sounds familiar?) Or, as Tolkien puts it, “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, I think, knew something about mental anguish.

Eowyn tries a variety of approaches to break out of her cages and her despair. First she attempts to attach herself to a brave, noble, and busy man (who, sadly, is not available), but that does not heal her. She fulfills her duty and leads her people to safety, away from an invading army, but that does not heal her. Next she breaks through the prescribed gender roles, donning the gear of a warrior and riding to battle. In an explosion of courage and love, Eowyn protects her imperfect king, standing alone against a dragon and the nightmare that rides it, when all others are overcome with fear. But even beating the men at their own game and gaining fame and honor do not bring relief for Eowyn. A good king heals her battle wounds, but not her heart-wounds. Finally, a great evil is defeated and the world is set right in many ways, but still Eowyn is ice and steel, bitter and alone.

What finally makes a difference is Eowyn’s choice to stop fighting against the cages she has already broken and decide, “I will be a healer.” From that moment, her own healing begins in earnest. It allows her to give and receive love more fully, and it allows her to truly look beyond herself, which she had been trying to do all along, and to build rather than tear down.

Whether you love Tolkien’s brand of fantasy or not, I think there is truth in Eowyn’s experience. Somehow, in healing others, we ourselves really do find healing. Time is a great healer, but so is turning outward. This lesson has been taught in many ways through the history of the world, but for some reason I prefer to learn it through Eowyn’s story.

So, I think of her when I am most desperate for help and healing. I think of her in the moments when I am pushed to the absolute outer reaches of what I can handle. One of my dragons to slay came when I was near crazy after my second child was born. I loved her so much, but the lack of sleep and lack of control had me mentally losing it all the same. So, with thoughts of Eowyn, I tried to be a healer. I deliberately would look around me each day to see someone with a need, and I would try to help heal that need. And it worked. My own healing was quickened, and there were more moments I could see above the fog. If I look around me for others with dragons and cages to fight (and we all have them), then my own dragon’s fire loses its heat.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Joy is a mother of two and wife to Joey. She's a devoted mother, thinker and writer. She's also fantastic, you can even ask her mom. Thanks to Joy and daughter Clara for the use of the previously posted puff-ball dress.

26 comments:

Belle said...

I love the Lord of the Rings trilogy and I enjoyed what you wrote here. I'm sorry you had such a sad time after your baby was born, but how wonderful that you looked for someone to help and got better. Beautiful!

Michelle said...

That was beautiful!! What a way to think of how to heal ourselves and make ourselves better. Thank you for the reminder.

On a personal note, Joy is awesome! We went to the same high school and were in the same ward for a few years. She truly is what her name means.

The Harrison Crew said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I had a little bit of a breakdown last night...have been struggling since my daughter was born. Thanks for the reminder to be a healer even when I feel like I'm in need of healing. I know that through service & love towards others that I can find the solace & balm I currently need. This post truly was an answer to prayer. Thank you so much.

Andrea said...

Oh, how I needed this today. Thank you from the bottom of my tired, struggling heart. I know I shall be back to read this again many times as I work to move toward choosing my healing energy. Thank you.

Robyn said...

Joy, you're awesome.
Love, your old roomie. (go Apt. 23!)

Sue O said...

I love Tolkein and I love this, thank you. Too much wisdom of the world teaches us to be selfish, when I know that happiness is to be found in reaching out, hard as it is sometimes.

Mandi said...

This is beautiful. Thank you so much for this.

John said...

Joy and Joey- of Quad 2, back in the day! I was your upstairs neighbor! Good to see that you guys are doing well. How lucky to live by C Jane! We miss you, check on my blog and keep in touch with us!

By the way, great post. In healing others we start to heal ourselves. Motherhood (taking care of others) has taught me SO many lessons about my self.

peterfam said...

Whoops, that last comment about quad 2 was me, Alisha Peterson. Our blog is phillypetersons.blogspot.com. I was signed in as my husband...

Dre + Drew - Midwest Living - Iowa City said...

Just what I needed for a Sunday read. I love Tolkien and have not read this. I am now going to read it Beautiful and inspiring. Thanks!!!

Vesuvius At Home said...

This is excellent food for thought. Thank you!

Rena said...

Joy you ARE fantastic! I still remember you (yep, Quad 2 at Wymount) and the amazing example you were. I had no idea you were such a fabulous writer, too! We wish we lived closer to you!

Maren T. said...

This is my favorite thing I have ever read on this blog. Thanks for this insight.

Seshat said...

Love it! First, I love literature and Eowyn is one of my favorite Tolkien characters. I may very well use this example in a Sunday school class : ) Second, I appreciate someone being open about problems like this. I, too, have had problems following the birth of children. It is always nice to find a kindred spirit.

Bri!!! said...

Oh my Joy, this was beautiful! Thank you!

Becky said...

Joy this was the perfect message for me today, and it was even more enjoyable knowing that it came from you! You are so intelligent, thoughtful, and wise. And not only that, but you are a bright shining example for me! I couldn't ask for a better sister. I love you so much! You truly are such an incredible writer. Boy am I luckily to have you around!

Beth said...

Joy, My favorite line of the post was the last line... I enjoyed your insights and wisdom!

Doulabug said...

What a lovely surprise to see you featured on C. Jane! Joy, this is a beautiful piece of writing.

I miss you! Sending hugs and love....

Clare said...

Love this! And it is so true! Thank you for the beautifully written piece!

Mary said...

I grew up reading Tolkien, and have always loved the story of Eowyn. As I got older, I remember coming to the realization one day that Tolien had really gone out on a limb in writing the Eowyn character and her storyline. After all, it was back in the 1930s, and few male authors gave their female characters much depth back in that time frame. Heck, many still don't. I was impressed by his ability and willingness to actually go out on such a limb.

But he did, and here is Eowyn, perfectly flawed and formidable, defeating the odds stacked against her before finally settling into her own skin. Even after all these decades, she is a character worth admiring.

Anonymous said...

This was so beautifully written. Thank you!

Nachelle said...

I loved this! I had a hard time after the birth of my 2nd child, which coincided with my husband getting a calling that required him to be gone a lot, and I wish I would have realized what you did.

Also, my 2nd daughter is named Eowyn, and reading this made me love her name even more.

Reynolds Family said...

JOY! I was more than excited to see you here on CJane today - you're famous! :) We lived across from you in Quad 2, and I always thought you were amazing. Thank you for this essay - it was insightful and beautifully written, and full of truth.

Shannon said...

This post reminded me of Gordon B. Hinckley - "forget yourself and go to work." Thank you for sharing it.

Kait said...

That was fantastic. I feel like there are rare examples of virtuous women in literature or movies, but Eowyn is an exception (not that they haven't existed or don't exist, just that they're not presented very often.)

I've found this to be true in my own life. It's easier to forget myself and go to work if I'm focusing on uplifting others or doing what I can to help them.

amanda said...

Joy IS a healer, her whole family lives like that. I love that you had her guestpost; I needed Joy's words and the reminder of what true healing looks/feels like. Thank you (x2).


PS- Joy's younger sister is one of my most cherished childhood friends. Just sayin :)...