The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.2469 Monday, 5 January 2004
Date: Sunday, 4 Jan 2004 12:00:27 -0800
Subject: Tolkien and Shakespeare (Again)
Regarding the encounter between Eowyn and the chief Black Rider (The
Witch King of Angmar) during the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, it might
be interesting to compare the two versions -- the one in the new movie
and the one in the book. The movie has been analyzed by certain fans,
who have come up with a transcript of the sequence. It goes something
Witch King (to his steed): Feast off his human flesh.
Eowyn: I will kill you if you touch him.
Witch King: Do not come between the Nazgul and his prey.
The steed moves to attack; Eowyn beheads it. The Witch King strikes her
with his mace.
Witch King: You fool. No man can kill me. Die now.
Merry, sneaking up from behind, stabs the Witch King in the leg.
Eowyn: I am no man!
Eowyn stabs the Witch King in the head. Merry falls senseless. The
Witch King writhes, and his clothes and armor fall to the ground. Eowyn
crawls to Theoden.
Book version, with certain narrative removed, goes:
Dernhelm: Begone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion! Leave the dead in
Witch King: Come not between the Nazgul and his prey. Or he will not
slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of
lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and
thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the lidless eye.
Dernhelm: Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may.
Witch King: Hinder me? Thou fool, no living man may hinder me!
Dernhelm (laughs): But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Eowyn
I am, Eomund's daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin.
Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will
smite you, if you touch him.
The steed attacks, Eowyn beheads it. The Witch King strikes Eowyn's
shield with his mace. Merry stabs the Witch King in the leg with his
Merry: Eowyn! Eowyn!
Eowyn drives her sword between the Witch King's crown and mantle. The
Witch King's clothes and armor fall to the ground.
"A cry went up into the shuddering air, and faded to a shrill wailing,
passing with the wind, a voice bodiless and thin that died, and was
swallowed up and was never heard again in that age of this world."
Well, maybe they thought they improved it.
Also, in "On Fairy Stories" Tolkien stated that he was dissatisfied with
the depiction of the witches in Macbeth, especially in performance,
calling them "poor things of their kind."
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