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Éomer and Éowyn:Theme of the Young Hero and His Initiation


Szeląg, Łukasz

Subject and Keywords:

Tolkien   The Lord of the Rings   Éomer   Éowyn   Beowulf   initiation   young hero   Homer   Achilles   Telemach


The Lord of the Rings: king of Rohan Éomer and his sister Éowyn.Their history is described as a realisation of the theme of theyoung hero and his initiation (consistent with van Gennep’s schemeof ’the rites of passage’). I compare them with examples of this typeof story in the oral epic tale which was most important for Tolkien- Beowulf, and Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, also significant for him,as he wrote in one of his letters. I regard them as a part of greateroral tradition and agree with the theory of oral epic created byM. Parry and A. Lord (Lord 2010), developed by G. Nagy (Nagy 1999)and K. Zielinski (Zielinski 2014). I also use Mieletinski’s view on mythand creating the heroic epic stories (Mieletinski 2009). In the first partof the paper I describe the scheme of the young hero in mentionedepic stories, and its most significant elements:– the hero goes on a journey to kill the monster (or another hero)– he is the only one who can do this, although he never fulfilledan act as great as this – he kills his enemy and achieves the status of a great hero (and,in some cases, king)– his glory becomes eternal.Next I show how Éomer and Éowyn realise this scheme – he becomesthe king - saviour of his people (like Eorl and Frèalaf beforehim), she becomes a real heroine for her people. They both achievenew roles in society. Éomer completes all challenges in his way tobecome king and a great warrior: he makes the right decision whenhe meets Aragorn and his companions (he should arrest or kill them,but he helps them and gives them horses), and performs great deedsin the battles in the Helm’s Deep and the Fields of Pelennor. However,he does not enact a typically heroic great deed. But Éowyn does- she kills the Nazgûl – as the only person who can do it. The themeof the young hero is divided for the two of them and is fully realisedwhen we compare their deeds. Also, Tolkien in describing theirstories (especially in the case of Éowyn) uses methods which are typicalof oral epic – retardations and multiplications of scenes. This twocharacters show us that the roots of Tolkien’s works exist in oral epictradition.


Pracownia Badań nad Tradycją Oralną


Zieliński, Karol. Red.   Torbus, Sławomir. Red.



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ISSN 2449–8181




eng   pol

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Copyright by Łukasz Szeląg