This story had its genesis in a number of different places, and I cannot now say honestly which one came first. I do not even recall whether it was the now closed Film Trilogy Challenge at HASA that first piqued my interest (so many things to choose from), or if it was their Challenge titled The Blind, the Deaf, the Crippled. I suspect it was the latter that really set me to thinking about the potential for a story about a deaf Rohirric character. In a culture that places such value on its oral tradition, one that is so noted for its songs, any character who lacks the ability to communicate verbally would be at a grave disadvantage.
Regardless of order of inspiration, however, the following sources played a part in the gestation and birth of A Song of Silence.
In Gary Russell’s, The Art of The Two Towers, in the chapter titled Edoras, there is a page that is captioned The Golden Hall - Tapestry designs (page 69), on which Alan Lee is quoted:
“…The design is based on Tolkien’s evocative description of a mounted warrior crossing a foaming ford. The tapestries in the finished film are just part of the background texture, though I was pleased to see one of them being rolled up as the residents prepared to leave the city.” [citing the scene from The Two Towers DVD that is titled “A Daughter of Kings”]This would seem to contradict what Tolkien wrote in The King of the Golden Hall
'...Meanwhile your people that are left, the women and the children and the old, should fly to the refuges that you have in the mountains. Were they not prepared against just such an evil day as this? Let them take provision, but delay not, nor burden themselves with treasures, great or small.* It is their lives that are at stake.' [Gandalf, speaking to Théoden] *emphasis mineThis edict is echoed in the movie dialog when, in the TTT DVD scene titled “The King’s Decision,” Háma is heard saying, “By order of the king, the city must empty…do not burden yourselves with treasures. Take only what provisions you need.”
LotR: TTT: Book Three: Chapter VI - The King of the Golden Hall)
In the movie (RotK) Théoden’s tent in the Hold at Dunharrow is seen to be hung with many woven cloths; in RotK-the book it is described thus:
“In the inner part of the pavilion was a small space, curtained off with broidered hangings, and strewn with skins; and there at a small table sat Théoden with Éomer and Éowyn,…Merry stood beside the king’s stool…While the existence of “broidered hangings” in Théoden’s tent might seem to explain the removal of one or more of the woven cloths that hung in Meduseld, there may be another explanation; it is possible that Dúnhere, Lord of Harrowdale, provided both the tents and their furnishings. Gandalf’s words re: “the refuges that you have in the mountains. Were they not prepared against just such an evil day as this?” could be taken to mean that the tents and their furnishings, as well as other needed provisions, were stored at either Harrowdale or Dunharrow. In that case, Gandalf’s words that they not burden themselves with treasures (echoed in Háma’s voice in the movie) might seem to preclude the removal of the tapestries that hung in the Golden Hall.
(LotR: RotK: Book Five: Chapter III – The Muster of Rohan)
Historically, it is known that “[kings] and nobles took tapestries with them when they traveled to create attractive and familiar surroundings, and sometimes hung them in their tents on the battlefield.” (Source: World Book Encyclopedia – article titled Tapestry). Yet, given his words in TTT-the book, Théoden, as he prepared to ride to the aid of Erkenbrand at the Fords of Isen (eventually to take refuge at Helm’s Deep) is not likely to have been thinking of creating attractive or familiar surroundings for himself, nor did he seem to be considering the likelihood that he would ever come to Dunharrow:
’…I myself go to war, to fall in the front of the battle, if it must be. Thus shall I sleep better.’Nor do I believe that at this point Éowyn was overly concerned with comfort.
Thus my belief that the removal of the tapestries in the movie runs counter to Tolkien’s intent – or at least, counter to the orders given (and which are clearly stated by Háma in the movie).
For the description of the tapesty I have deferred to the master himself, quoting a portion of Tolkien’s own evocative description:
…Many woven cloths were hung upon the walls, and over their wide spaces marched figures of ancient legend, some dim with years, some darkling in the shade. But upon one form the sunlight fell: a young man upon a white horse. He was blowing a great horn, and his yellow hair was flying in the wind. The horse's head was lifted, and its nostrils were wide and red as it neighed, smelling battle afar. Foaming water, green and white, rushed and curled about its knees.The idea that the original had been damaged during the brief reign of the usurper Wulf was derived from the account of Helm Hammerhand in LotR: RotK: Appendix A: Part II - The House of Eorl, as well as the phrase in the previous quote that some [were] dim with years. Fengel’s neglect of the tapestry, which so angers Morwen in my story, is based on the negative description of his character in the appendix:
'Behold Eorl the Young!' said Aragorn. 'Thus he rode out of the North to the Battle of the Field of Celebrant.'
(LotR: TTT: Book Three: Chapter VI - The King of the Golden Hall)
…He [Fengel] is not remembered with praise. He was greedy of food and gold, and at strife with his marshals, and with his children…Other passages from which I drew inspiration for this story include:
’…Send the heralds forth! Let them summon all who dwell nigh! Every man and strong lad able to bear arms, all who have horses, let them be ready in the saddle ere the second hour from noon!’ [Théoden to Wormtongue]For the earlier departure of the narrator’s husband, I relied on information relating to Théodred, Elfhelm and Erkenbrand, which is found in Unfinished Tales - The Battles of the Fords of Isen:
(LotR: TTT: Book Three: Chapter VI - The King of the Golden Hall)
Already they heard below them in the town the heralds crying and the war-horns blowing. For the king was to ride forth as soon as the men of the town and those dwelling near could be armed and assembled.
At the gate they found a great host of men, old and young, all ready in the saddle. More than a thousand were there mustered. Their spears were like a springing wood.
Far over the plain Éowyn saw the glitter of their spears, as she stood still, alone before the doors of the silent house.
'...It was a weary road for the people to take, torn suddenly from their homes. There were hard words, for it is long since war has driven us from the green fields; but there have been no evil deeds...' [Éowyn to Théoden]
(LotR: RotK; Book Five: Chapter III – The Muster of Rohan)
…As he [Grimbold] came to his side Théodred fell, hewn down by a great Orc-man. Grimbold slew him and stood over the body of Théodred,…and there he would himself soon have died, but for the coming of Elfhelm.As usual, I know a lot more about my Original Characters than what is revealed in the story, details such as when (and where) each character was born, when couples married and had children, how they met, etc. I know who it was who brought Déorwyn to Morwen's attention, and aided Morwen in devising the sign language with which to communicate with the deaf child.
Elfhelm had been riding in haste along the horse-road from Edoras, leading four companies in answer to Théodred’s summons; he was expecting battle, but not yet for some days...
(Unfinished Tales: Part Three – The Third Age: Chapter V - The Battles of the Fords of Isen)
...[The] Riders and other armed men of the garrison of Edoras were governed by an officer of the rank of marshal (in the years 3012-19 this was Elfhelm)...As far as fighting was concerned, when the war with Saruman began Théodred without orders assumed general command. He summoned a muster of Edoras, and drew away a large part of its Riders, under Elfhelm, to strengthen the Muster of Westfold and help it to resist the invasion.
(Unfinished Tales: The Battles of the Fords of Isen: Appendix (i))
After the fall of Théodred command in the West-mark (again without orders from Edoras) was assumed by Erkenbrand, Lord of Deeping-coomb and of much other land in Westfold. He had in youth been, as most lords, an officer in the King's Riders, but he was so no longer. He was, however, the chief lord in the West-mark, and since its people were in peril it was his right and duty to gather all those among them able to bear arms to resist invasion. He thus took command also of the Riders of the Western Muster; but Elfhelm remained in independent command of the Riders of the Muster of Edoras that Théodred had summoned to his assistance.
But many of those details are not vital to this particular telling, so I have kept them to myself. Someday I may be inspired to relate some of these bits of background in another tale. But not today. :)
Finally, the decision to make the tapestry depicting Eorl the Young's ride from the North the focal point of Déorwyn’s story owes somewhat to an incident that occurred during the early years of the United States. In August of the year 1814, with the young United States again at war with Great Britain, British troops under the command of General Robert Ross defeated American forces at Bladensburg, Maryland, and were advancing on the capital, Washington, D.C. The President, James Madison, was off scouting the countryside, and attempting in vain to rally the scattered and demoralized troops.
Meanwhile his wife, Dolly Payne Madison, had remained in the city, awaiting news from her husband. When word came that the British were at the outskirts of the city, she finally fled.
Some apocryphal accounts have credited her with saving the original signed copy of the Declaration of Independence (one source simply states that she saved “important papers and valuables”). Other accounts have described how Dolly refused to leave the White House [then simply referred to as the “President’s House”] without the Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington.(1) According to a letter that Dolly wrote to her sister, the frame had to be broken so that the portrait could be removed.
The salient point is that, with the exception of some portable valuables that Dolly had sent off to the “Bank of Maryland”, the only item of furnishing from the early years of the White House that survived was the portrait of George Washington. All else was destroyed when the British set fire to the White House.
Hence, I like to think of this as my OFC’s – and Éowyn’s – Dolly Madison moment. :)
(1) This replica of the "Lansdowne" portrait was painted in 1797 by Gilbert Stuart and has been in the White House collection since 1800. Location: The East Room. This is the painting that First Lady Dolly Madison saved from the burning White House in 1814. The 1796 Stuart original is at the National Portrait Gallery.