The Battle of Pelennor Fields
Today is March 15th, the anniversary of The Battle of Pelennor Fields, which took place on this day in the year T.A. 3019. Today is Battle of Pelennor Fields Day.
Yep, I celebrate the anniversary of a fictional event from a fictional history, and let me tell you why…
The Lord of the Rings is my dad’s favorite book. He read both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings aloud to me for the first time when I was about five, and he read them again many times after that—almost every year, in fact. I estimate that I’ve heard him read them seven or ten times each.
As a kid, I was a tiny feminist without knowing it—I had a slightly older brother and I knewthat whatever he got to do I should be able to do, because I was just as awesome, but I never became a tomboy. I liked pink and fluffy dresses and tea parties and being a girly girl—I just wanted to simultaneously run around in the woods and defeat evil with my wooden sword. And I never felt like that was a problem. This is, of course, a tribute to my parents (who are pretty stellar, in case you hadn’t already guessed), but I think it’s also a tribute to Tolkien and the other stories I was exposed to as a kid. When I was nine years old my heroes were Maid Marian (I’m not sure where the version of Maid Marian in my head came from, but in my imagination she was an active member of the merry band and never sidelined in adventures), Paksenarrion (of Elizabeth Moon’sThe Deed of Paksenarrion, which was not age appropriate and which I read twice anyway), and Eowyn.
That’s not the reason I care so much about the Battle of Pelennor Fields, though—this is just background.
When I was nine, I began to hit puberty. Let me tell you, nine is a ridiculous age for such things. I was regularly mistaken for a sixteen year old, I was a foot taller than anyone else my age, by the time I was ten I needed an underwire bra—you get the idea. It happened suddenly and quickly and it was weird and confusing and extremely alarming. I lost all of my confidence and became shy, reclusive, and awkward. I was also having bad nightmares—my general fear of the dark became terror, and I couldn’t sleep in a room by myself. I began to encounter things that I never had before—the idea that some people thought I couldn’t or shouldn’t do things just because I was a girl, that some people felt that they had the right to dictate how I should behave and what I should believe about myself.
In the midst of all of that, at some point I latched onto Eowyn and her moment on the Pelennor Fields, when she confronts the Witch King. When I was upset I started going to my dad and asking him to read it to me, just that chapter. Just that moment when Eowyn confronts evil and overcomes it, not just as a fighter but as a woman. This ritual, of going both to my dad and to Pelennor for comfort, lasted well into my teens. When I turned sixteen my dad gave me my own copy ofThe Lord of the Rings, the same edition as his, with a note on the chapter
Obviously as a nine year old, and even as a sixteen year old, I didn’t fully process the impact that Tolkien’s writing and the character of Eowyn had on me, but as of yesterday I’m twenty-six, so I’ve had some time to reflect.
I looked to Eowyn as a young woman fundamentally opposed to the idea that anyone had the right to tell me what to do or be or believe.
I looked to Eowyn as a teenager young adult struggling with a depression I didn’t understand (and which went largely unacknowledged and undiagnosed), because here was a character who experienced the same feelings and fought back. Here was also a character who struggled to understand her own needs and desires, who was confused sometimes, who may have made mistakes.
I looked to Eowyn as I tried to figure out how all of the things I felt about being a woman worked, and recognized that I could be a fighter and feminine at the same time (as Eowyn chooses to marry and be a healer—she doesn’t give up who she is, but the battle she needed to fight is over and she’s ready to move on to a new part of her life).
I could go on like this for ages. The point is, I love Eowyn, and I needed her, and I’ve learned from her, and her story is part of who I am.
And that is why I care about the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.