The Hands of a Healer: Houses of Healing Pt. 1, plus new poem by jan-u-wine.
The Houses of Healing scenes are some of my favourites in ROTK, in fact, in the trilogy. They aren't the book scenes, which are some of Tolkien's best, but they're beautifully done. Almost no dialogue is used, yet they convey the sense and feel of Tolkien's scenes powerfully, with a superb sense of mood, thanks to perfectly conceived shots, judicious editing, good acting and a gorgeously evocative score.
Making the caps for this scene, I realised that even though it never made it into the dialogue that "the hands of the king are the hands of a healer", it is stamped into the scene visually. Aragorn's face is seen mostly in glimpses, but his hands are the stars of the scene. The gleaming hands, stark against the dark background, perform their tasks with eloquent simplicity: a bruised, wounded arm is thoughtfully held and turned. A hand rises, a cloth squeezed, water falls like nectar. A brow is wiped, a face cupped and touched as if the hurts under flesh and bone could be drawn from it, soothed from it, and, lo, a breast rises and falls and the eyes of the injured open and rise like birds to the face of the healer. And all the while the music also rises and falls, clear and cool and translucent as water. So simple, so powerful, so well-done.
Happily, jan-u-wine has written a multi-voiced, two-part poem for the Houses of Healing scenes. In them, Jan displays her gifts for enlarging and deepening a scene, bringing the reader within whispering distance from the characters with words, the way a camera brings viewers near with close-ups.
Book scene:The Houses of Healing.
So at last Faramir and Éowyn and Meriadoc were laid in beds in the Houses of Healing; and there they were tended well. (...) But now their art and knowledge were baffled; for there were many sick of a malady that would not be healed; and they called it the Black Shadow, for it came from the Nazgûl. And those who were stricken with it fell slowly into an ever deeper dream, and then passed to silence and a deadly cold, and so died. And it seemed to the tenders of the sick that on the Halfling and on the Lady of Rohan this malady lay heavily. Still at whiles as the morning wore away they would speak, murmuring in their dreams and the watchers listened to all that they said, hoping perhaps to learn something that would help them to understand their hurts. But soon they began to fall down into the darkness, and as the sun turned west a grey shadow crept over their faces. But Faramir burned with a fever that would not abate.
Gandalf went from one to the other full of care, and he was told all that the watchers could hear. And so the day passed, while the great battle outside went on with shifting hopes and strange tidings; and still Gandalf waited and watched and did not go forth; till at last the red sunset filled all the sky, and the light through the windows fell on the grey faces of the sick. Then it seemed to those who stood by that in the glow the faces flushed softly as with health returning, but it was only a mockery of hope.
Than an old wife, Ioreth, the eldest of the women who served that house, looking on the fair face of Faramir, wept, for all the people loved him. And she said: 'Alas! if he should die. Would that there were kings in Gondor, as there were once upon a time, they say! For it is said in old lore: The hands of the king are the hands of a healer. And so the rightful king could ever be known.'
And Gandalf, who stood by, said: 'Men may long remember your words, Ioreth! For there is hope in them. Maybe a king has indeed returned to Gondor....'
Aragorn sends Éomer and Imrahil into the Citadel to ask the Steward permission to come into the City. They learn that Denethor is dead and Faramir dying. Aragorn, cloaked, then enters. Gandalf urges him to come to tend the sick that lie in the Houses of Healing. At the door he sees Pippin, a guard of the Citadel now. Pippin still greets him as "Strider". Inside Aragorn calls for athelas. A few dried leaves are found and he breathes on them, crushes them, and "living freshness" fills the room. He then casts them into bowls of steaming water. Faramir wakes and asks what the king commands. "King!" Ioreth exclaims. "What did I say? The hands of a healer, I said." News of the king returned runs through the City.
But Aragorn came to Éowyn, and he said: 'Here there is a grievous hurt and a heavy blow. The arm that was broken has been tended with due skill, and it will mend in time, if she has the strength to live. It is the shield-arm that is maimed; but the chief evil comes through the sword-arm. In that there now seems no life, although it is unbroken.
'Alas! For she was pitted against a foe beyond the strength of her mind or body.'
Aragorn speaks with Gandalf and Éomer of Éowyn's beauty and valour, unhappy lot and hard fate. He reveals he has perceived her feelings for him.
'Few other griefs amid the ill chances of this world have more bitterness and shame for a man's heart than to behold the love of a lady so fair and brave that cannot be returned.... And yet, Éomer, I say to you that she loves you more truly than me; for you she loves and knows; but in me she loves only a shadow and a thought: a hope of glory and great deeds, and lands far from the fields of Rohan.
'I have, maybe, the power to heal her body, and to recall her from the dark valley. But to what she will awake: hope, or forgetfulness, or despair, I do not know. And if to despair, then she will die, unless other healing comes which I cannot bring. Alas! for her deeds have set her among the queens of great renown.'
Then Aragorn stooped and looked in her face, and it was indeed white as a lily, cold as frost, and hard as graven stone. But he bent and kissed her on the brow, and called her softly, saying:
'Éowyn Éomund's daughter, awake! For your enemy has passed away!'
She did not stir, but now she began to breathe deeply, so that her breast rose and fell beneath the white linen of the sheet. Once more Aragorn bruised two leaves of athelas and cast them into steaming water; and he laved her brow with it, and her right arm lying cold and nerveless on the coverlet.
Then, whether Aragorn had indeed some forgotten power of Westernesse, or whether it was but his words of the Lady Éowyn that wrought on them, as the sweet influence of the herb stole about the chamber it seemed to those who stood by that a keen wind blew through the window, and it bore no scent, but was an air wholly fresh and clean and young, as if it had not before been breathed by any living thing and came new-made from snowy mountains high beneath a dome of stars, or from shores of silver far away washed by seas of foam.
'Awake, Éowyn, Lady of Rohan!' said Aragorn again, and he took her right hand in his and felt it warm with life returning. 'Awake! The shadow is gone and all darkness is washed clean!' Then he laid her hand in Éomer's and stepped away. 'Call her!' he said, and he passed silently from the chamber.
The Houses of Healing
The hands of the king are the hands
of the healer......
Much in need are we of healing,
king-handed or no.
And this maid, this bright-haired
child of horse-masters,
in need most of all.
Like unto the perian, her wounding,
the breaking of her limbs naught
to the breaking of that which is within.
In night they wander.
Only the hands of a king
might reclaim them.
Only the hands of a healer may
back to us. __________________________
Did I not speak to you, sister,
did I not say war
does not abide women?
Before me stays
the grievous proof.
In sorrowful twilight
did I find you,
the golden curtain of your hair
secreted no longer beneath a soldier's
the fair shield of it flowing,
like bright water, upon the still'd breast
of the fallen.
It was a great deed, my sister,
no man should have accomplished.
A brave deed,
as noble and shining
of remembrance as any done
beneath bright sun or cloud-caged moon.
But.... oh, my sister,
*still* you are
breath dim'd mist upon a mirror's
silver'd face, the small curve of your
hand growing cold
within my own.
In lands I cannot see, lands
Beneath the weight of this darkness
I fear you shall,
what purpose shall I have, then, sister,
what road might I ride
if you, too,
O my sister, fair maid of Rohan,
soldier of heart and helm,
Many years have I seen, tethered by time's hard wheel,
many the battle, endured,
caught by hot yellow sun or moon made
No deed has held my heart *thus*,
no fair act,
wrought by fairer hand,
brought me such knowing grief.
Born of grief, this deed,
despair over-throwing a heart
burdened beyond bearing.
But not beyond recall.
What lies within a warrior's heart,
these things I know.
That which lives within *this*
brave heart, the misplaced love
of proud maid,
The pledge of her desire,
I cannot give her.
Only the quiet sweep
of her life, the beat of blood
within veins, the sweet in-and-out
of breath might I restore.
This deed, fair maid,
the soldier that I am,
the King I shall be,
Return to those
of whom you are
Return to find the world renewed.
*the name Éowyn took as a Rider of Rohan, Dernhelm, means "helmet of secrecy" (The Thain's Book)
~ Houses of Healing 2: 'This darkness will not endure', plus new poem by jan-u-wine.