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.
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.