“The women of this country learned long ago, those without swords can still die upon them.” —Lady Eowyn, The Two Towers
It felt thematically appropriate to start this blog with Lady Eowyn of Rohan, the original shield maiden. She’s always held a special place for me as far as kick-ass heroines go. The boys are all “Stay home, woman!” but she sneaks out anyway and not only handles herself well in the battle, she vanquishes the Witch King of Angmar—very likely the most powerful bad-dude in all Middle Earth (though Merry definitely deserves credit for the assist).
I have a huge amount of admiration for Peter Jackson’s costuming people in their design for Eowyn’s outfit. It’s absolutely perfect for a woman disguising herself as a man-at-arms. The threadbare green cloak is good—no medieval fantasy adventurer or adventuress should be without a good traveling cloak. It’s nearly as important as a towel is to a galactic hitchhiker. Gloves are a sturdy set of all-purpose leather gloves, effective for riding or swordplay. Shoulder baldric is properly hung for quick access to her broadsword. Accessories all look good.
The armor, however, is where I’m most impressed. The chain mail coat by itself remains the most all-around effective type of metal armor that exists. It’s most effective against slashing attacks, but its flexibility provides a certain amount of cushioning against bludgeoning as well. The only downside to chain mail was that it was less effective against arrows than most other types of metal armor. Thankfully for our lovely heroine, a hard leather jerkin is also standard equipment for the Riders of the Mark. Boiled, hardened leather plating, like in Eowyn’s jerkin, is specifically designed to help deflect arrows, and does a fair job against swords and maces. The segmented leather plates at her waistline have the added benefit of offering her flexible protection for riding or for wide fighting stances.
From a plot and character standpoint, I should also note that armor in general is an effective means of hiding a character’s gender. Outfit-wise, an important part of Eowyn’s goal was to disguise the fact that she’s a woman, and bulky clothing is the first most effective way to hide a woman’s physique, curves, and other distinguishing features. And armor doesn’t get much bulkier than an undershirt, padded arming shirt, chain-mail coat, and leather jerkin. I think Eowyn’s intended androgyny was pretty well assured.