Thursday, March 28, 2013

Viva la Rohan!

I love Rohan.  And it's not just because I love horses. I like that Tolkien creates this people group that's a lot more normal, if you will.  The Rohirrim are typical men - it's not the norm for them to have Númenórean blood, and they're not all descended from kings (I know that's a generalization, but it's how I feel about Gondor and the Elves).  They're fallible - Tolkien reveals weaknesses even in their king (whatever Théoden's malady is - illness or magic).  But they are also intensely courageous, loyal, and good.  

Eorl rides from the middle of nowhere to help this guy that he doesn't even really know.  Théoden rides to the aid of Gondor without any hope of ever returning to his homeland.  And I think the description of Éomer in "The Battles of the Fords of Isen" is a great characterization.  It paints him as a man entirely worthy to be king.  It reveals his humility but also his battle prowess and strength.  Tolkien states that Théodred and Éomer were "the chief obstacles to an easy conquest of Rohan by Saruman" (p. 371) and that their loyalty to the king remained steadfast even in his sickness.  He also adds that "Éomer...was not an ambitious man, and his love and respect for Théodred was only second to his love of his foster-father" (p. 371).  Éomer possessed no designs for the throne.

The bravery of Elfhelm and Grimbold also stood out to me.  Grimbold is so dedicated to Théodred that he stands over his body once he has fallen, willing to fight to the death for his prince.  

Does this fallibility and less noble lineage make the Rohirrim's bravery and courage more poignant in Tolkien's work?  Does this concept apply to other people groups such as the Hobbits?


Lorin said...

I've always tended to like Rohan more than Gondor, and I think you hit on exactly why that is (for me, at least): those with the blood of Númenor are almost expected to be noble and valiant, even if they do have that tendency towards messing up (hence Aragorn's fear of failing like Isildur and others before him), but the people of Rohan are much more normal. I almost feel that they might have gone the route of becoming "wild men" and eventually aiding Sauron, but the fact that they have held onto honor and nobility says a lot about them.

One of the most poignant parts of all of LOTR for me, too, is when the Rohirrim arrive and fight at the Pelennor Fields. I think this largely has to do with them sort of rising above it all and fighting so differently than other nations of Men in LOTR - so bravely and desperately (i.e., yelling "Death!" and such).

Megan said...

Agreed! I love my Denethorians, but the Rohirrim, as a people, are generally far cooler.

Where did I read it that the Gondorians are essentially modeled to be a Greco-Roman/Latinate culture while the Rohirrim are the Anglo-Saxon "barbarians"? Somewhere. Letters? I don't know, but if there was a model for Gondor/Numenorians, they ought to be Roman: cultured, advanced, educated, etc. (thus Numenor = Atlantis)

I think Tolkien inserts his own biases there, because of course he loved his Germanic northern "barbarian" cultures, and Latin culture and literature, I think, didn't impress him. It seems to shine through in his writing that the Gondorians are clearly "better" but the Rohirrim are far "cooler."