Culture and sexuality

The Rose in Bloom

5. Keening


The next morning they rose late and pressed hard through the day, and so it was that they came to Edoras and still Éowyn had not spoken of her fears to Faramir. The morning of her wedding dawned bright and fair, and many fair folk were gathered round the tables of Meduseld to break their fast. They had not eaten much when Lothíriel and many other women stood and silently left the hall.

"Where is Lothíriel going?" Faramir wondered.

"She is joining the women for the Keening," Eowyn answered.

"The what?"

"You failed to tell him of this, Éomer?"

"I forgot."

"It is a tradition going back to the dark days when Wulf the Dunlanding sat in Meduseld. He gave a captured maiden to one of his captains as a reward, but the women of Rohan refused to let one of their own be married off against her will. So at the feast before the wedding, they came armed to the Hall and carried her away. Any man who tried to stop them met with a wall of women. They took the maid through the servants' door and hid her in a house, there to wait until nightfall and flight from the city. But the Dunlending groom loved her greatly and wandered throughout the city, weeping and mourning for his lost bride. When he came to the house where the maid was hiding, his grief smote her heart and she loved him. She came out of the house and kissed him, and they were wed at the nooning, instead of in the morning as the tradition had been before. The people of the city were moved by their love, and both the keening of a groom for his lost bride and the nooning marriage rite have been tradition ever since."

"So a troop of women will come carry you off, and I must go looking for you?"


"And what part does Lothíriel play in this?"

"Traditionally it is the bride's mother, or if that is not possible another near kinswoman, who leads the kidnapping. But I have no kinswoman nearer than Lothíriel shall be, and so I asked that she lead them."

Turning to Éomer, Faramir laughingly asked "Why am I suddenly cold with fear?"

"Because the Dunlending fool beat her later that year and she slit his throat in his sleep."

"You were not supposed to tell him that part!" Éowyn huffed.

"I thought he should be forewarned. For that is what the tradition is, is it not? A forewarning to men of any land who would wed a woman of the Mark that though she be woman, her blood is that of Eorl and her people will stand with her and she with them. The Dunlending's bride was none other than Heorthwyn, the shieldmaiden who rode with Frealaf when he slew Wulf."

"Hush, brother! You shall drive him from me!" Éowyn glowered.

Faramir took her hand. "I am more troubled by the thought of Lothíriel carrying you off."

They ate for a few minutes, then Lothíriel marched into the Hall leading nigh unto a hundred armed women, all clothed in black as for mourning. The men stood, but two large women wrestled Faramir back down into his chair. Lothíriel came to Éowyn's side and cast a black cloak over her too. With a fierce fire in her eyes, Lothíriel leaned over the table to plant her fists and glare at Faramir. "You shall not have her against her will! I shall spirit her away and you shall die ere you wed her!" Then drawing her blade, Lothíriel disappeared into the crowd of women and they fled from the Hall.

"I am doomed," Faramir lamented.

"Aye!" Éomer whispered, watching them retreat.

"So what must I do now?"

"Now?" Éomer tore his eyes away from the servants' door and filled his mug at a keg. "Now you keen. I neglected to teach you the traditional lament, hoping to spare you this foolishness, but women will have their way on their wedding days. Any lament will do, I suppose. Éowyn speaks highly of your learning, surely there is some Elvish lay or another you can sing."

Faramir sighed and walked slowly toward the Hall doors. Éowyn was expecting tradition. She was expecting him to pierce her heart with his grief at her loss. Did Éomer truly understand her so little? Any lament, indeed!

The men of Rohan fell in behind him, most with mugs of ale or mead in hand.

"Come back, you fool!" one called.

Another cried "There's still food aplenty and many a lass to be had."

And another, "She's not worth grieving. Come feast with us!"

"You'll not find her before nightfall. She's gone, lad."

Faramir turned to Éomer. "Are they this hostile to all grooms, or is it because I am of Gondor?"

"It is tradition," Éomer answered. "If they were hostile, they would have brought blades instead of ale."

The other men heckled Faramir down the hill to the high street, but Éomer watched him in silent curiosity. He had truly hoped to spare Faramir the Keening, but a part of him had also chafed at Éowyn's praise of Faramir's great knowledge and wisdom. What would the learned prince do now?

Faramir silently passed into the street and began his lament. At first Éomer thought Faramir's keening might actually drive Éowyn to stay indoors. In the Mark, a lament was sung in praise of a warrior's might, a woman's glory, a child's bright though too-short life. The death of one who lived well made all Eorlingas greater for the life that had been. Grief was great, but there was comfort to be had. Though Éomer did not know the High Elven tongue, the melody left him no doubt. This lament of Faramir's held not the fierceness of a warrior's grief. It was night without morning, death without honor, loss without comfort.

Éowyn burst from a house three doors ahead and ran to Faramir's arms, kissing him soundly before them all. Éomer ran to them and heard Éowyn ask, "I know not that lay. Whereof did you sing?"

"My life without you. Darkness inescapable."

Lothíriel and several other women drew nigh. "We tried to hold her back, but she would not be restrained. I can not imagine why she would be so moved, Faramir, when you sing of foundered Numenor on your wedding day! If I were her, I should have barred the door and shuttered the windows."

Faramir laughed. "I am not marrying you. When the man your heart desires comes looking for you on your wedding day, I wager you will come running no matter what he be singing."

"'Tis no matter," she lightly answered, though her gaze rested briefly on Éomer and her cheeks reddened. "When I give my heart away, it shall be in Dol Amroth where we do not so torment the bride's man."

Éomer placed Éowyn's hand in Faramir's and cried "She wishes to wed!" and the hecklers gave a great cheer.

This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

In Challenges

Story Information

Author: Eowyn77

Status: Beta

Completion: Work in Progress

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 08/04/06

Original Post: 07/31/06

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