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Old 06-01-2004, 04:01 AM   #1
davem
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"A shadow & a thought"

Why does Aragorn claim that what Eowyn loves in him is 'a shadow & a thought'? Why use that term - 'shadow'? Everywhere else 'shadow' is used to imply something evil, something that blocks out the Light, even something that has a kind of 'unlife' - 'In the Land of Mordor where the shadows lie', 'In mordor where the shadows are', etc

What is Aragorn actually saying about the way Eowyn sees him - what is the 'shadow' she sees in him, & why does it attract her? If she desired glory in battle before meeting him, is that what she sees him as offering? And is Aragorn condemning that desire as something evil? Or is he admitting that there is a 'shadow' to be seen in him? I can understand Tolkien's meaning in saying she loves a 'thought' - a fantasy about the heroic 'knight in shining armour' who will ride in & 'take her away from all this', but what does he mean when he has Aragorn say she loves a 'shadow'?
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Old 06-01-2004, 05:06 AM   #2
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I'd say shadow is also 'lack' of light, not the thing blocking it, but the result of it being blocked by something else. May it be so she sees in him things she has lack of herself
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Old 06-01-2004, 07:15 AM   #3
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Boots Something insubstantial

I think in this case that "shadow" means something insubstantial. By that I mean that it lacks true substance (not necessarily meaning unimportant.) With this interpretation the word "shadow" ties closely to the word "thought." Eowyn is in love with her thoughts about Aragorn rather than Aragorn himself, which ultimately is a pretty insubstantial thing to be in love with.

In this sense, being in love with a shadow is something of an "unlife."
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Old 06-01-2004, 08:15 AM   #4
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The Problem I have is that its such a strange term to use, after Tolkien has spent so much effort building up a specific meaning for 'shadow'. With every other occurance of the word we associate it with evil, darkness, specifically with Mordor & its inhabitants. In Gimli's song in Moria we have the words 'The shadow lies upon his tomb, in Moria, in Khazad Dum'. The Balrog is described as 'a shadow & a flame'.

Always 'shadow' seems to have the most negative, evil, connotations, yet here Aragorn simply says 'In me she loves only a shadow & a thought'.

Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I can't shake it - Eowyn loves a shadow in Aragorn - and we know she is seeking a glorious death in battle - why does she love a 'shadow' - why not a 'light' & a thought - & why would Aragorn refer to her feelings in that way, as something dark & absent of light?
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Old 06-01-2004, 08:20 AM   #5
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Than you may be spot on - Shadow of Aragorn is not what Aragorn is, it is 'lack of Aragorn' if there is any. She loves what Aragorn is not, that is, his shadow, and her own thought about this shadow

maybe
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Old 06-01-2004, 09:07 AM   #6
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Boots Onwards!!!

I think that there is something to what HerenIstarion says.

However, just to take an amble down this path to see where it leads…

We can all see that Aragorn was not an evil man, so that aspect can be summarily dismissed. I can’t even really think of any overly negative aspects of his personality that could qualify. The next obvious avenue of inquiry is his destiny.

At that time Aragorn’s future held three possibilities. The first was that he would become king of Gondor after Sauron was defeated. So, a possible shadow here would be Eowyn wanting to become a queen (for whatever that would be worth). While Eowyn might have liked being queen, she was already royalty and just does not strike me as the type to want the ceremonial trappings of…ceremonial trappings (since the other main job of being queen would be to make little princes). I think that can be discarded.

The second possibility was that Sauron would obtain the Ring and mash Aragorn into a nice pasty mulch. This definitely seems to be more along the lines of what Eowyn was thinking. She was consumed by an inordinate desire to be turned into a nice pasty mulch. Under this line of reasoning, what Eowyn desired (more or less) was Aragorn’s death, to which she had attached her own. This is, to say the least, not a very nice kind of love.

The third possibility was that Sauron would be defeated but Aragorn would croak in a glorious scrap. I think this one would appeal to Eowyn the most. Yes, she wanted to die, but I think that she wanted to die gloriously. There is no point to dying gloriously if there are no poets and other such sensitive types to compose glorious odes in your memory. My impression of Eowyn is that she was the forlorn type of hero who wanted to be hacked up in action, have bards compose sagas in her memory, and have everybody get all weepy and sob over said sagas when they were recited.

Well, perhaps that is a little overstated. However, I do think that perhaps the desire for death could be a shadow in the sense of evil. However, I realize that this still makes the problem exist in Eowyn rather than in Aragorn.

Perhaps if there is more to add regarding shadows in Aragorn’s personality, because I must confess I find my reasoning unconvincing.

Of course, that may just be me stubbornly sticking to my first idea.
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Old 06-01-2004, 09:49 AM   #7
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Something occurs: I can't help wondering whether Aragorn is stating there is some 'shadow' in him that Eowyn 'loves', & is saying that she is 'wrong' to love it, or whether he's saying that the 'shadow' she loves is actually the 'ranger' & that its the 'ranger' who is the 'shadow' of Elessar. So he's saying 'what she loves is not me, the heir of Elendil, Elessar, with all the responsibilities that that implies, & which would lead her to feel just as trapped if she married me as if she remained caring for Theoden, but Strider the ranger, who seems to offer freedom & adventure'.

But why would Aragorn refer to the ranger as his 'shadow' - so I'm not sure that works.

But doesn't she say to Faramir after the fall of Barad Dur something about standing 'in Minas Anor, & behold, the 'shadow' has passed' (quoting from memory, so may be wrong) - is that the 'shadow' of Sauron, or the 'shadow' she loves in Aragorn, or are they the same thing on some level?
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Old 06-01-2004, 10:14 AM   #8
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shadow, twilight, and spirit

If Aragorn was stating that Eowyn loved a darkness in him, would not TOlkien have told the story thus? She loved him (according to Faramir) because he was "high and puissant" *** and she desired to be a queen. She loved the power that she saw in him. But I do not think that was what Aragorn referred to.

In his heart, Aragorn always stands in the light of Arwen Evenstar. In a very deep sense, he has done all that he has done, and become all that he has become, for Arwen; Arwen has called him deeper, and higher, than he ever would have gone without her. There is a side of Aragorn that he only shows to Arwen-- we only glimpse the shining lord seen by Arwen's side in Rivendell. Eowyn has never seen him thus, nor can she ever, for he reveals it only to Arwen.

Eowyn cannot see the spiritual man he is in Arwen's sight, fully illumined, but only the physical, temporal man that walks on earth for a short time. Eowyn cannot know, and therefore cannot love, his spirit; Aragorn does not reveal it to Eowyn, only to Arwen.

Hence, she loves the shadow-- the visible man, the result, cast by the light of Arwen.

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Old 06-01-2004, 10:43 AM   #9
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"..but in me she loves only a shadow and a thought'.: a hope of glory and great deeds, and lands far from the fields of Rohan".

Why does he say in me she loves only a shadow & a thought? The more I think about it, the more it seems Aragorn is saying that the 'shadow' Eowyn loves is in him, that she 'loves' something that is really there. And when she later says:

"I stand in Minas Anor, the Tower of the Sun, and behold, the Shadow has departed! "

that she means the shadow she has both loved (in Aragorn) & feared (in Sauron) & sought out (in battle). So her love for Aragorn is, on some level, the same as what she fears & what she desires. She is 'shadowed' - is this what attracts Wormtongue to her? (prob. a speculation too far!). But to what extent does the departure of the Shadow of Sauron correspond to the passing of the love she feels for the 'shadow' Aragorn. The 'shadow' passes in two ways.

Without wanting to get all Jungian, is there some mirroring of the Gandalf/Balrog conflict, (where the Balrog can be seen on one level as Gandalf's 'shadow', & his defeat of it as a 'purification', so that he goes from the Grey to the White) in Aragorn's defeat of Sauron - Aragorn's 'shadow' also passes away, he becomes Elessar, & so, symbolically, the 'shadow' which Eowyn loved in him passes from him, & she is free to love Faramir?

Or is the shadow she loved in Aragorn really her own Shadow, her own darkness & desire for death, which she projected onto him - prob. not, as Aragorn has stated 'in me she loves only a shadow and a thought'.
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Old 06-01-2004, 11:00 AM   #10
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Very interesting/confusing ideas all. Here's my two cents:

Maybe the shadow is kinda like the Ranger part of him that davem was talking about. It was a side that I think Aragorn himself wasn't too fond of, so he would call it a shadow.

And what do you think of in a Ranger: a dark stranger hidden in the corner, shadows drawn about him... The "bad boy", the "rebel". Gals always fall to some extent for the bad boys, like Han Solo (a scruffy-looking nerf-herder), Indy, Bond, Peter Pan (rebel against parents and maturity), Robin Hood (Prince of Thieves).

I think you're on the right track, davem, about why Wormtongue liked Éowyn, because of her shadow. A deep shadow of loneliness and despair, which he thought only he understood and could give comfort for. And of course she was gorgeous.....
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Old 06-01-2004, 11:44 AM   #11
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davem

I think mark12_30 is perhaps on to another aspect of this. However, I believe that the problem may lie in your interpretation of "in." I have always read "in" to refer to Eowyn's own state of being "in (puppy) love" with Aragorn rather than refering to some characteristic "in"side of Aragorn. To me that really clarifies the passage.

Of course, it is probably evident that this is the way I've read it from the tack I've taken in the thread.
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Old 06-01-2004, 12:47 PM   #12
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Thing is, it would have made sense if he'd said, 'In me she loves a light & a thought', but he says she loves a shadow & a thought.

Why would she love a 'shadow'? That's what I find confusing. Its such an odd statement, given, as I said, the way Tolkien has imbued 'shadow' with such negativity. And Tolkien has stated that he chose every word carefully. So, she finds a 'shadow' in Aragorn - whether its really there or not, & its that shadow that she 'loves'.

So what's he saying about her - & how come Aragorn realises that what she sees & loves in him is a 'shadow'? What makes him see her so clearly, & what does he mean by it? Would she have called what she finds in him a 'shadow'? Probably not, but he sees it as that.

The 'shadow' is evil - her desire to die in battle, & he will provide her with the opportunity to achieve that desire. Is that what she loves in him - does she see him as heading inevitably for death? Is she so without hope that he symbolises an escape, the only escape?

And is there something of that shadow about him? Is there something which strikes a chord in her? Does she love him in the sense of wanting to live with him, or does she want to die with him? Is he her way to life, or to death?

Death does hang around Aragorn - literally in the Paths of the Dead. The dead serve him - is this the shadow she loves & recognises?

Is it something Tolkien himself saw in the soldiers around him on the Somme, a false love of death, a desire to kill & be killed. Eowyn's great confrontation is with Death personified, & she doesn't seek to flle it, but to face it, even though the conflict seems hopeless, & death inevitable?
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Old 06-01-2004, 01:05 PM   #13
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I like what Mark 12:30 is getting at, though I can't say I have much to add to her beautiful post.

When I read the "a shadow & a thought" line, I always took it to mean that Eowyn loved an ideal in Aragorn that was not a reality - that she lusted for a great lord to sweep her off her feet, away to love, war & honour. I never considered any of the many connotations that the word 'shadow' might have in Tolkien's works. Aragorn's use of 'shadow' in the given quote was akin, in my mind, to Woolf's "Angel in the House," - the Victorian ideals of the housewife, however positive- or pleasant-sounding, being described as 'phantoms' & 'ghosts' that had to be overcome by the modern woman.

In the Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond", Boromir says:

"...we are hard pressed, and the Sword of Elendil would be a help beyond our hope, if such a thing could indeed return out of the shadows of the past."

This is the only other time that I can recall the word 'shadow' being used without being a reference to Sauron or evil in general. In this case, 'shadows' connotes Boromir's skepticism of the exiled line of Isildur; the statement is indirectly but unambiguously questioning Aragorn's merit as the Heir of Isildur, even challenging Aragorn to prove his worth.

Are these the examples of Boromir's & Aragorn's uses of 'shadow' connected? Not really, except that neither fit Tolkien's 'definition' of the word that davem talked about in his opening post.

I'm pressed for time... Hopefully more later, & less jumbled!

Edit: davem, I started writing this before your last post, & did not read yours before posting mine.
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Old 06-01-2004, 01:20 PM   #14
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i think he means that he reminds eowyn of theodred..... and she is merely hurt by the loss of her cousin so shes trying to fill the void
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Old 06-01-2004, 02:32 PM   #15
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Boots

davem

Quote:
The 'shadow' is evil - her desire to die in battle, & he will provide her with the opportunity to achieve that desire. Is that what she loves in him - does she see him as heading inevitably for death? Is she so without hope that he symbolises an escape, the only escape?
Yes, I think so.

Quote:
And is there something of that shadow about him?
I don’t believe so. I don’t think that Aragorn wanted to die. I believe he wanted to triumph. He was willing to die for the Cause, but I don’t think he wanted death for death’s sake. Eowyn, on the other hand, just wanted spectacular oblivion.

Quote:
Is there something which strikes a chord in her?
Perhaps it is because Aragorn had a cause that he was willing to die for, and death was perhaps the most likely possibility. Maybe Eowyn confused this in her mind with a desire on Aragorn’s part for death. I think death for The Glorious Cause would have struck a cord.

Quote:
Does she love him in the sense of wanting to live with him, or does she want to die with him? Is he her way to life, or to death?
(This thread is starting to get morbid.) Definitely death on both counts. Living just did not seem to be something she thought about very much.

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Death does hang around Aragorn - literally in the Paths of the Dead. The dead serve him - is this the shadow she loves & recognises?
I don’t think so, at least beyond the fact that death hangs around any commander (which probably would have appealed to her in a way).

I would say that the Paths of the Dead were almost incidental to the whole issue, except to Eowyn they were culturally associated with certain death. By taking the Paths of the Dead, Aragorn may have (dare I use the term) “wedded” Eowyn’s concept of him and death more closely together.

Quote:
Is it something Tolkien himself saw in the soldiers around him on the Somme, a false love of death, a desire to kill & be killed. Eowyn's great confrontation is with Death personified, & she doesn't seek to flle it, but to face it, even though the conflict seems hopeless, & death inevitable?
Erm…yes…well, that is rather awkward, at least so far as it relates to his experiences on the Somme.

Relating to Eowyn, I don’t think she saw it so much as a conflict but rather, as you put it earlier, an escape from drudgery and the thatched barn etc.

Morsul the Dark

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i think he means that he reminds eowyn of theodred..... and she is merely hurt by the loss of her cousin so shes trying to fill the void
I doubt it. The love she felt for Theodred and the whatever it was she felt for Aragorn were two different things. She could have actually loved Theodred because she knew him, knew what he stood for, and so forth. With Aragorn, I believe that it was a longing for exotic places, deeds of daring do, almost a general sense of “otherness” (kind of a grass is always greener sort of thing) combined with a desire to have her innards scattered across the landscape in such a glorious fashion that the bards would mournfully sing of it for thousands of generations afterwards. She looked upon this as her escape from the cage of taking care of ailing kings (so boring). She thought of Aragorn as providing an avenue for that.
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Old 06-01-2004, 02:56 PM   #16
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Son of Númenor got here before I did, and I agree with everything that he said. Only a few things of my own to add.

Éowyn loved in Aragorn what she saw in him - not what he was but how she perceived him. She saw him as a high and valiant lord, willing to die for his cause (and a valiant death in battle, I imagine Éowyn thought it would be), which he was, at least part of him, but that was all Éowyn saw him as. She did not see his 'true colors' so to speak. She didn't see the part of him that wasn't a king but the man you see in "Flotsam and Jetsam":
Quote:
He wrapped his grey cloak around him, hiding his mail-shirt, and stretched out his long legs. Then he lay back and sent from his lips a thin stream of smoke.
"Look!" said Pippin. "Strider the Ranger has come back!"
"He has never been away," said Aragorn. "I am Strider and Dúnadan too, and I belong both to Gondor and the North."
So Éowyn sees her ideal of him in Aragorn, hence the "shadow". I never felt that shadow was used in a negative sense, but rather it was like a shadow of Aragorn - like him and part of him but not him.

One other place that I can think of where shadows are not used in a negative way:

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
a light from the shadows shall spring.


Again referring to Aragorn, except here he is the 'light'. But the shadows here aren't referring to evil. I always thought of it like the back corner where nobody ever looks, like in an attic. Virtually no one (in Gondor, etc...) ever thought that a king would come again out of the North - the shadows. So I think that Tolkien is using the word "shadows" in a couple different ways. One for evil, one for forgotten times and places, and a third for an ideal or perception.
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