Past TORn Conversation

Original Post:

Menelwyn

10/23/2006

The Funeral of Theodred: "A song shall sing..."

 

The Funeral of Théodred doesn't have any dialogue as such.  We begin with a funeral procession down the hill at Edoras.  Members of the Royal Guard are carrying Théodred's body on a bier; the procession includes Théoden, Gandalf, Aragorn, and Legolas.

How long has it been from the end of the previous scene to the start of this one, in the timeline of the story?

How do Aragorn and Legolas merit a prominent place in the procession?  Have they identified themselves by this time, and if so, what are they indicating of their ranks?  Is Gimli there too, but too short for us to see him?

As they bring Théodred's body to its tomb, Éowyn sings a dirge in Rohirric/Old English.  Courtesy of elvish.org, here's the text in Rohirric and modern English.

Bealocwealm hafadh breone frecan forth onsended
giedd sculon singan gleomenn sorgiende
on Meduselde thaet he ma no waere
his dryhtne dyrest and maega deorest.
Bealo...

An evil death has sent forth the noble warrior
A song shall sing sorrowing minstrels
in Meduseld that he is no more,
to his lord dearest and kinsman most beloved.
An evil death...

The poem was written by David Salo, and the first line is derived from a line in Beowulf.

Bernard Hill tells us that this was originally written to be recited as a poem, but they later decided to have Miranda Otto sing it. 

Poem or song?  Which works better?

Is this something Éowyn made up for the occasion, or is it a standard funeral song in Rohan?  Note that some of the background women appear to be mouthing the words along with her at times.

What, if anything, does this song convey about the culture of Rohan?

This song is one of several places in the movies where characters sing.  Here's at least a partial list of some of the others (I'll probably miss some!): Gandalf and Bilbo each sing a section of "The Road Goes Ever On"; the hobbits in the Green Dragon sing a drinking song; Aragorn sings part of the Lay of Lúthien; the Elves in Lórien sing a lament for Gandalf; Gollum sings a song about fish; Pippin sings his song to Denethor; Aragorn sings Elendil's vow at the coronation. 

What do these songs tell us about the characters who sing them, and the cultures they come from?  How does Éowyn's lament fit in or contrast with these?

On a related note, in talking about this scene, John Howe says that the world of Middle-earth grows because the movie-makers are not explaining it, but just giving hints and clues as to the culture. 

What hints and clues do we get about the culture of Rohan throughout this scene?  What are we able to infer from these clues? 

A couple of details raised in the commentaries that you might want to consider: Théodred's body is carried in by the men, but then passed on to the women, who lay the body in the mound.  The bier Théodred is lying on is made up of spears and shields.  (Ever notice that?)

What do you imagine Tolkien might have thought of this scene?  (Personally, I imagine him kind of getting a geeky thrill out of the Anglo-Saxon elements, the Beowulf reference, and so on.)

Finding Frodo

10/24/2006

Singing

 

I love this scene so much.  Miranda Otto does a fantastic job with that keening chant -- it gives me chills every time.  I do take this as a traditional Rohirric funeral rite.  The other women mouthing the words along with Éowyn's singing is very effective.

Funny -- I never even noticed that Aragorn and Legolas were there.

Elostirion74
10/25/2006
a great scene

 

This is one of those scenes where I don't really care if it's necessary to the plot or Théodred's character or whatever. I love it all the same and the beauty of the song and the words gets to me every time, I prefer it to all the other songs in the movie. I notice from the translation of the song that the Rohirrim cherish deeds of war (the noble warrior) and I did see that Théodred's weapons were laid by his side, which is common in funeral rituals in warrior cultures.

I am glad this was made into a song rather than a poem, although they could have made a case for a poem given that they changed and diversified the visual elements of the scene (cf. Théoden reciting the poem in Helm's Deep). Éowyn's lament is powerful and outspoken, not lofty like the lament of the Elves which is meant to be heard more in the background filmwise.

 

avna

10/25/2006

what films do

 

to me, this gripping speechless scene is an illustration of what films do so well. Are we not there, in the biting wind, on the lonely hillside, with our small community, laying our hope into the grave in the ancient way of our fathers? This could hardly be done in a book.

It also tells us without dialog about Éowyn, her central place in the community, her power, her grief.

This is probably my favorite of all the extended cut additions. It raises the hair on the back of my neck.

weaver

10/25/2006

the voice of grief...

 

I agree with all that avna, Elostirian 74 and FindingFrodo have said so eloquently below. This is a very powerful scene, in terms of expressing the sheer reality of grief, if that makes sense.  The way Éowyn just bursts into that song like that is part of it.  For that's what grief does -- it just comes into your life like that, often without warning, forcing you to stop and give voice to it.

grammaboodawg

10/26/2006

I believe that the Hunters

 

as companions of Gandalf... who has essentially saved Théoden... would have a place of honour not only because of their friendship with Gandalf, but because the defeated Grima's ruffians.

Éowyn's dirge is so perfect for this scene.  Her heart is ripped out, but her honour for her cousin gives her the strength to continue.  Song... definitely song.  What also sells it for me is the woman who is behind her, mouthing the words along with Éowyn...her face wrenched with sorrow and pain.

Yeah... I'd noticed that they carry Théodred on a bier of shields and spears, and it's so stirring to see for the prince/warrior. 

I think Tolkien would have loved these films.  As we all have parts we like or dislike more than other... there's no denying it's a sensitive, dynamic achievement that captures the spirit of Tolkien's Middle-earth.

Darkstone

10/27/2006

Yin-Yang

 

How long has it been from the end of the previous scene to the start of this one, in the timeline of the story?

In Beowulf it takes ten days to prepare a barrow.  But I’ll go with three days.  A day for Theodred’s body to be prepared, a day for the eulogy and wake, so this is the third day.

How do Aragorn and Legolas merit a prominent place in the procession?

You’re known by who shows up at your funeral.  The presence of the chieftain of the Dunedain and the Prince of Mirkwood would give great honor and prestige to the ceremony.  And there’s a nice parallel to the Chief of Men and the King of Elves attending the funeral of Thorin in The Hobbit:

They buried Thorin deep beneath the mountain, and Bard laid the Arkenstone upon his breast.
"There let it lie till the mountain falls!" he said. "May it bring good fortune to all his folk that dwell hereafter!"
Upon his tomb the elvenking then laid Orcrist, the elvish sword that had been taken from Thorin in captivity.

Finally, it sets up the fact that indeed the old alliances are not dead.

Have they identified themselves by this time, and if so, what are they indicating of their ranks?

I would imagine they’ve formally introduced themselves at court by now. 

Is Gimli there too, but too short for us to see him?

Yeah.  If you listen really hard you’ll hear him saying “It is ever so with the things that Men begin: there is a frost in Spring, or a blight in Summer, and they fail of their promise."

Poem or song?

There’s a difference?

Which works better?

Song I guess.

Is this something Eowyn made up for the occasion, or is it a standard funeral song in Rohan?

This is ritual.

What, if anything, does this song convey about the culture of Rohan?

Germanic Frauendiest.

This song is one of several places in the movies where characters sing.  Here's at least a partial list of some of the others (I'll probably miss some!): Gandalf and Bilbo each sing a section of "The Road Goes Ever On"; the hobbits in the Green Dragon sing a drinking song; Aragorn sings part of the Lay of Luthien; the Elves in Lorien sing a lament for Gandalf; Gollum sings a song about fish; Pippin sings his song to Denethor; Aragorn sings Elendil's vow at the coronation.  What do these songs tell us about the characters who sing them, and the cultures they come from?

Well, all these are songs of purpose and identity.  Like the song Disney’s heroines sing in the first 15 minutes of their movies.  “These are my dreams, this is who I am.”   Gandalf and Bilbo are restless wanderers.  M&P are comfort loving homebodies.  Aragorn is fated to a tragic doomed love.  The Elves are virtually consumed by fatalism because of the Long Defeat.  Pippin realizes he cannot go home again.  And Aragorn embraces his Numenorean ancestry.

How does Eowyn's lament fit in or contrast with these?

It is the beginning of the crystallization of her determination to die gloriously.  Theodred has died “An evil death”.  He was taken down by treachery and died alone and in pain in isolation during the bitter watches of the night.  He died in his bower as the walls of death closed in about him, like a hutch to trammel some wild thing in.  This could have been Eowyn’s fate at certain points in the story, whether at the jaws of the wargs on the road to Helm’s Deep, or by the blades of the Uruks in the Glittering Caves, or at the hands of Gothmog and his orcs in the hall of Medueld.  All of these are “evil deaths”.  She comes to feel that the only good death is a quick and glorious one on the battlefield, not one caged up alone in the darkness, helpless, waiting for death to come.

What hints and clues do we get about the culture of Rohan throughout this scene?  What are we able to infer from these clues?

There’s obviously a dualistic hierarchy.  The men are the martial defenders, the women are the spiritual guides.  This is seen in the rituals.  In reality this seems to have been forgotten.  This points to the failing, the crisis of Rohan.  The feminine and masculine aspects of the culture, normally intertwined for greater strength, are fragmented and separate.  Theoden has lost touch with the feminine power, admitting he neglected his niece.  For her part Eowyn has been denied her contact with the masculine power, her status as Shieldmaiden.  As with most societies when the very basis of unity is thwarted bad things happen.  Interestingly, the one person who had it together as far as power was concerned was the sexually ambiguous Grima.

What do you imagine Tolkien might have thought of this scene?

I think he would have been geeked out whenever his beloved languages were spoken on screen.  Those he loved more than his story, his characters, or even his world.  The languages were everything's raison d'etre.

aMagpie

10/27/2006

what they said *points up*

 

I've been working on the upcoming (in early Dec) discussion of the Appendices material: The Music of Middle-earth. For that reason, and because this song is one of my favorite scenes/pieces of music from the movie, I was really interested in the discussion that would get kicked up.

I seem to find it hard to have anything cogent to say sometimes, even if I feel something strongly, until I have other thoughts to work off of. I'm a team player. I need great minds to play with.

I had noticed the other women mouthing the words. But I hadn't thought about them. I think it adds to the emotional impact of the scene in a very subtle way. (which is the best way, sometimes)

I definitely like this as a song more than I would a recitation. I love recitations, but I love singing more so maybe that's why. I was preparing some screen caps from the appendices material of this scene and Miranda is very expressive. I love how she kind of threw herself into the song in such a vulnerable and emotional way. It reminds me of something mentioned in a radio program discussing Ruth McKenzie's experience with the unique vocal styles of women in Finland and Sweden.

‘You have to be willing to be ugly and beautiful to sing this way.’ a Finnish woman told her. ‘You have to be willing to be joyful and full of pain and open your whole self to the sound. You have to willing to be fully human.’

Avna pointed out another factor that was there in my subconscious but never appreciated openly.

Are we not there, in the biting wind, on the lonely hillside, with our small community, laying our hope into the grave in the ancient way of our fathers?

Another movie scene that I can feel in a visceral way is when Éowyn escapes from the Théodred's stifling death bed out the front door of Meduseld. I can feel the change in air from the close, damp, odorous room to the fresh, biting cold of the outdoors. I can feel how this is as close as Éowyn can get to escape - this bite of cold air. She can breathe here. I think that same thing plays out at the funeral. For those of us who experience cold, it can be uncomfortable but sometimes the bite makes you feel alive. It's pain and pleasure at the same time.

If the first few posts articulated what I felt subconsciously, your post, Darkstone, took me to new ground. You remind me of my son. Seeing the same movie I do but in such a different way. He is so fun to watch with. I loved your take on 'evil death' but the true magpie treasure was this:

Well, all these are songs of purpose and identity.  Like the song Disney’s heroines sing in the first 15 minutes of their movies.  “These are my dreams, this is who I am.” 

What a great observation. "Of course! It was there all along... why didn't I see that?"

I do now. ;^)

Thanks, Menelwyn and the rest. I'm going to link to this thread for the Music from Middle-earth discussion it's such a great resource.

weaver

10/28/2006

if I could, I'd mod this whole thread up...

 

..if it were possible, and if I could do it without modding my own comment up in the process...

The combination of thoughts here really hit home to me.  There's a lot power in this scene that's hard to describe, but this thread, collectively, captures a lot of it. Thank you, all!

And thank you Menelwyn for taking this week, too -- you always come through and I appreciate it.

Mae Govannen

10/28/2006

Even a mourning song must express strength,

 

in Rohan.

Éowyn could cry to her heart's content when alone with Théodred 's body just after he died. But here, for the funeral, no tears allowed: her posture, her whole body language (her hands clutching her veil on both sides), her face and eyes, her voice itself, which bursts, clear and unshaking, express the power and intensity of the grief, but not a trace of weakness in the mourner.

The song is meant not so much to express the mourner's pain as to honour the dead - just as, after Helm's Deep, all the Rohirrim shout 'Hail to the victorious dead!' along with Théoden.

In the same way as exemplified here by Éowyn, only after the funeral, and when alone with Gandalf, with no Rohirrim around, will Théoden allow in spite of himself some of his grief as Théodred's father to come out - all the more intense for having been contained impassibly for so long.

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