Éomer Éadig: A character study of Éomer, Third Marshal of the Mark,
and his impact on Rohan and Gondor

Being an audition piece for the School of Lore at I 'ovannas in Glirdain, the Guild of Bards, in Imladris

Éomer Éadig, Third Marshal of the Mark and destined to be its eighteenth king, epitomized the Rohirrim as Aragorn described them: “They are proud and wilful, but they are true-hearted, generous in thought and deed; bold but not cruel; wise but unlearned, writing no books but singing many songs, after the manner of the children of Men before the Dark Years.”

Proud was Éomer’s speech to the Three Hunters; proud his defiance of Saruman when the rest of the party seemed mazed by his Voice; proudly he sang despite the arrival of the Black Ships. Sometimes Éomer displayed the brashness of his father, slain in ambush while recklessly pursuing Orcs to the Emyn Muil near the very spot where Éomer met the Three Hunters. Éomer defied the king’s command in his own pursuit of the Uruk-hai, and he nearly came to blows with the Three Hunters before Aragorn’s diplomacy and Éomer’s wisdom averted conflict. Yet the destruction of the Orcs prevented news of the Quest from reaching Saruman or Sauron, which would have doomed the West. And Éomer certainly proved himself generous in thought and deed, relying on adage and insight to judge Aragorn and loan him horses of his own fallen men: “I do not doubt you, nor the deed my heart would do...in this I place myself, and maybe my very life, in the keeping of your good faith.” He continued to do so for the rest of his life. Furthermore, Éomer set aside his mistrust of Gimli with gracious words, asking not only for Aragorn’s aid but for “Gimli’s axe and the bow of Legolas, if they will pardon my rash words concerning the Lady of the Wood. I spoke only as do all men in my land, and I would gladly learn better.”

Only twice did Éomer’s wilfulness overcome his wisdom, both times out of love for his sister. At the Pelennor Fields he led a heedless charge after discovering Éowyn stricken in battle. Through his designs upon her, Gríma managed to goad Éomer into threatening murder in the king’s hall. Éomer’s arrest nearly proved disastrous for Rohan. “The chief obstacles to an easy conquest of Rohan by Saruman were Théodred and Éomer,” begins one chapter of UT. With Théodred dead, Éomer had to take on the work of two: they had been managing Rohan’s defenses in place of the failing king as Second and Third Marshal respectively, Théodred in the West, and Éomer, holding off Mordor’s raiding-parties as much as he could, in the East.

Éomer had also been sustaining Rohan’s morale. Théodred’s last words were, “Let me lie here— to keep the Fords until Éomer comes!” Erkenbrand of Helm’s Deep sent to Edoras an urgent plea for Éomer along with news of Théodred’s death. Céorl, the battered soldier Théoden’s company met on the way to Helm’s Deep, immediately spoke of Éomer. Only because of him did Rohan still “trust in the house of Éorl” after Théodred's fall. Unfortunately, Gríma was able to twist declarations of loyalty to Éomer to show proof of his ambition. A false charge: Éomer's first deed upon release was to offer his sword in loving service to Théoden.

Once he regained the king’s trust, Éomer worked in tandem with Aragorn as he had with Théodred before. Éomer became Théoden’s mouthpiece, announcing him at Helm’s Dike and challenging the Grey Company; he ordered the defenses of Helm’s Deep and fought side by side with Aragorn in the manner of epic heroes. In Théoden's council of chieftains, Éomer gave the most counsel, and when the Riders en route to Gonder heard an orc-host was moving in the Eastfold, Éomer quickly affirmed the tactics needed to defeat Sauron which outweighed even concern for his own borders. “‘Ride on!’ cried Éomer. ‘Too late to turn aside!’” His military experience, gained by his appointment to Third Marshal at a young age, served both Rohan and Gondor.

Chief credit for the Ride of Rohirrim goes to Théoden, of course, but Éomer’s words to the Three Hunters showed he would have gone even without leave: “We shall not forsake our old alliance with Gondor, and while they fight we shall aid them; so say I and all who hold with me.” Such aid proved critical. Had Rohan not slipped in via the Rammas and pushed back the forces before the gates, Aragorn would have had to fight the whole of the Pelennor, then found the gates and outer walls of the City already taken and held against him. With the Pelennor won, Éomer threw unquestioning support behind Aragorn’s kamikaze assault on Mordor to buy the Ringbearer time. “I have little knowledge of these deep matters; but I need it not. This I know, and it is enough, that as my friend Aragorn succoured me and my people, so I will aid him when he calls.” Behind them Éomer left Elfhelm and most of his Riders to secure Minas Tirith’s northwest flank against the army in Anórien.

At Elessar’s coronation, Éomer walked with him beside Gandalf and the hobbits. This underlined Éomer’s personal and political ties, but also symbolized something atypical of most Rohirrim: Éomer’s openness towards other races, knighting Merry and treating Gimli with regard after their first stormy exchange. Abroad, Elessar and Éomer reaffirmed the Oath of Éorl in ceremony and deed, riding together often against the foes of the West. Back home, Éomer reordered the Mark and instituted a policy borrowed from Gondor, that the King’s Heir might not ride to battle unless he had a brother. Nor was Éowyn the only Rider to marry outside the Mark: Éomer wed Imrahil’s daughter Lorthíriel, following the trend set by their grandfather Thengel in marrying Morwen of Lossarnach. Not only through war, but through love and friendship, Éomer affirmed and strengthened the ties between the Men of the West and the Twilight.

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