I’ve loved the Lord of The Rings movies and books ever since I was young, but it’s a series that doesn’t contain a lot of female characters, which always frustrated me. I loved fantasy stories, and I knew that girls could be just as exciting and powerful heroes as boys! Thankfully, Lord of the Rings did give me one of my absolutely favorite characters of all time: the shieldmaiden Eowyn.
In the Lord of the Rings story, Eowyn is a noblewoman and the niece of the King of Rohan. As a lady of the court, she is expected not to fight in battle like the men do, but she feels trapped in the confines of what is expected of women in her society. She wants to protect her family and do valiant deeds. When her uncle refuses to let her ride into battle, she disguises herself as a man and rides out to fight anyway.
When the evil, powerful Witch-King attacks her uncle, Eowyn stands and challenges him. When he taunts her by saying that no living man can kill him, she pulls off her helmet, revealing her long hair, and declares that she is no man, but a woman. This isn’t something to be ashamed of, or something to hide from, and does not make her any less of a warrior. In fact, it’s the very thing that makes her able to slay the evil witch king, and it is her greatest power in that moment.
It was such a wonderful moment for me as a young girl, to watch Eowyn declare herself openly, defiantly, and triumphantly as a woman in armor. I liked a lot of “boy things” growing up, including playing outside, getting dirty, and fantasy and adventure stories. Of course, these things can be “girl things” too, but sometimes people assume that they can’t be both, and it could feel limiting at times. Eowyn was a wonderful example, not only as a fictional character in a story, but also within her own universe: here was a girl who could do all those “boy” things, and it did not make her any less of a girl. I particularly liked how she wore beautiful dresses in the films as well as her battle armor, showing a larger range of what being a woman could look like. I didn’t have to be limited by one type of interest, or by what others expected a girl like me should like. And more importantly, I could be proud of being a girl. If Eowyn could do it, so could I!
-Gabrielle Van Amburg
Girl Museum Inc.