The composite nature of the character of Éowyn suggests that Tolkien drew his sources of inspiration from several periods, languages, and cultures. A study of Éowyn's portrait as drawn by Tolkien reveals the surprising appearance of a tightly-interwoven cluster of well-known amatory motifs (topoi) worded in the "sermo amatorius" that Greek and Latin poetry created, codified, and then transferred ... [Show full abstract] to Medieval and Renaissance poetry. Although Éowyn's immediate literary lineage is undeniably and predominantly Northern, it will be the purpose of this paper to demonstrate the existence of a strong admixture of Greek and Latin citations in the shaping of her figure. Tolkien started to study Latin and Greek at age eleven, at King Edward's School in Birmingham, the backbone of whose curriculum was formed by both Classical languages. The education he received in Classics was extensive, thorough, and intense; as a result of his proficiency in and command of both Greek and Latin, he was awarded an Open Classical Exhibition at Exeter College, Oxford. Furthermore, Ancient Greek was precisely the language that awakened Tolkien's appetite for devising invented tongues as an adolescent (Carpenter 36). Therefore, Tolkien's Classical education was far from being sketchy or superficial, and it would be surprising if none of it were ever apparent in his subsequent writings. While it is true that Tolkien formally abandoned reading for Classics in 1913 and changed focus to English (Carpenter 63), he never truly left Greek and Latin literature behind. As time passed, without abandoning his love of Old English, Gothic, and Old Norse, he returned to the Classical languages. Throughout his letters he continued to dispel notions that his only sources of inspiration were Northern ones and to make assurances about the influence of Classical literature on his work.
At least four amatory motifs Classical in origin and highly popular in Medieval and Renaissance literature may be clearly discerned in Tolkien's description of Éowyn: (1) florida-puella, or (The Beloved Seen as a Flower); (2) ἔρως γλυκύπικρος, bittersweet love; (3) dura puella, or flinty girl; (4) hiemps amoris, or the winter of love, together with Ver Erat, or spring as the season of love.
As the following discussion will make frequent use of the same Tolkien passages in the analysis of the four selected topoi, it will be necessary to quote all the relevant material in full in section one.
On describing Éowyn for the first time in Théoden's court, the narrator records Aragorn's impression and assessment of her bearing, her behavior, and her character: "Grave and thoughtful was her glance, and she looked on the king with cool pity . . . strong she seemed and stern as steel . . . fair and cold, like a morning of pale spring that is not yet come to womanhood" (TT, III, vi, 119).
A fortnight passes. Aragorn finds Éowyn lying, near death, in the Houses of Healing, crushed by her shattering confrontation wih the Lord of the Nazgûl. He is full of grief for the near-despair that, according to his insight, has been preying on Éowyn's mind for a time:
"When I first looked on her and perceived her unhappiness, it seemed to me that I saw a white flower standing straight and proud, shapely as a lily, and yet knew that it was hard, as if wrought by elf-wrights out of steel. Or was it, maybe, a frost that had turned its sap to ice, and so it stood, bitter-sweet, still fair to see, but stricken, soon to fall and die?"
Aragorn does all he can for Éowyn, fully aware that the healing of her mind and soul, as opposed to the cure of her ailing body, is beyond his medical skills. Her destined healer, Faramir, notices that Éowyn's coldness is starting to subside, and that her loveliness surpasses that of all the flowers and the women in Gondor:
As he looked at her it seemed to him that something in her softened, as though a bitter frost were yielding at the first faint presage of spring. . . . "In the valleys of our hills there are flowers fair and...