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NF-Lee's Gildor and Frodo

The Hands of a Healer: Houses of Healing Pt. 1, plus new poem by jan-u-wine.

Posted on 2009.09.05 at 16:36
Tags: , , , , ,

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
the hands

of the healer......

Much in need are we
of healing,

king-handed or no.

And this maid,
this bright-haired

of horse-masters,

in need most of all.

Like unto the perian,
her wounding,

the breaking of her limbs

to the breaking
of that which is within.

In night they wander.

Only the hands
of a king

reclaim them.

Only the hands of a healer

bring them

to us.


Did I not speak to you,

did I not say

does not abide

Before me

the grievous

In sorrowful

did I find you,

the golden curtain
of your hair

secreted no longer
beneath a soldier's


the fair shield of it

like bright water,
upon the still'd breast

of the fallen.

It was a great deed,
my sister,

a deed

no man
should have accomplished.

A brave deed,

as noble
and shining

and worthy

of remembrance
as any done

beneath bright sun
or cloud-caged moon.

oh, my sister,

you are

before me,

dim'd mist upon a mirror's

silver'd face,
the small curve of your

growing cold

within my own.

In lands I cannot see,

beyond night,

you wander.

Beneath the weight
of this darkness

I fear you shall,

at last,


Tell me.

Tell me

what purpose shall I have, then,

what road might I ride

if you,

depart away?


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,

caught by hot yellow sun
or moon made


with blood.

No deed has held my heart

no fair act,

wrought by fairer hand,

brought me such
knowing grief.

Born of grief,
this deed,

over-throwing a heart

burdened beyond

But not beyond recall.

What lies within a warrior's heart,

things I know.

That which lives within

brave heart,
the misplaced love

of proud maid,


I know.

The pledge
of her desire,

I cannot give

Only the quiet

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,


to those

of whom
you are


Return to find the world


*the name Éowyn took as a Rider of Rohan, Dernhelm, means "helmet of secrecy" (The Thain's Book)

Next entry:

~ Houses of Healing 2: 'This darkness will not endure', plus new poem by jan-u-wine.

Other links:

~ Entries with jan-u-wine's poems.

~ Main table for all entries

~ Mechtild


shirebound at 2009-09-05 21:52 (UTC) (Link)
but his hands are the stars of the scene. The gleaming hands, stark against the dark background, perform their tasks with eloquent simplicity

Beautifully said.

Ohhh, that poem is exquisite. "Return to find the world renewed." Perfect.
mechtild at 2009-09-05 22:02 (UTC) (Link)
Shirebound, thanks for stopping by! I haven't posted for almost a month, I've been so busy with home and family stuff, but I've been working on the Houses of Healing for even longer, but only bit by bit, there's been so much work to do in real life. It's been the same for jan-u-wine, too. I'm so pleased you enjoyed the post, especially the poem.
primula_baggins at 2009-09-05 23:08 (UTC) (Link)
It's interesting to see this in the screencaps, as always. I hadn't thought much about this scene, it goes by so fast. But it does evoke the feeling of what it must have been like there. I never realized that Eowyn is wearing her chain mail, still. Poor Eomer is so distraught, and must have been very comforted that Aragorn administered to her personally.

I love the later scenes with Eowyn and Faramir in the houses of healing, too. I don't recall if you've done one on that part, yet.

mechtild at 2009-09-06 04:28 (UTC) (Link)
Eowyn and Faramir's scene is the second part of this set. It's almost finished. The caps for it are very lovely, I think. I hope you enjoy it.
(Deleted comment)
mechtild at 2009-09-06 22:11 (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I'm SO pleased you loved the poem, Mews. The second half of it is great, too. It'll be coming up in "HOH Pt. 2" in a day or two, I hope.

Yes, it's a splendid addition to the EE; I so wish it had been in the theatrical.
pearlette at 2009-09-07 11:17 (UTC) (Link)
I had actually FORGOTTEN that this scene was in the RotK:EE.

Shocking, I know, for one who saw the films umpteen times and obsessed about them for so long!

But I really don't like the RotK:EE (I prefer the theatrical version) and therefore have only seen it a couple of times. And I had truly forgotten this was in.

Lovely screencaps, as always. :) And of course it's a lovely scene.

mechtild at 2009-09-07 16:55 (UTC) (Link)
I'm glad you enjoyed looking at the caps, Pearl. Faramir and Eowyn's EE scene is next, which I am sure you will like scrolling through.
illyria_novia at 2009-09-07 12:15 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you for capping this scene, Mechtild. This post made me want to see this part of movie again.

And I wept with Eomer. Jan-u-wine captured his loss and grief beautifully. Thank you, both of you.
mechtild at 2009-09-07 16:56 (UTC) (Link)
Hi, Illyria, thanks for dropping in. It's a beautiful scene. The film could have used more such moments. And I'm so glad you found Jan's poem moving. She wrestled with this one for quite a while.
telstar_gold at 2009-09-07 14:03 (UTC) (Link)
Goodness, I don't think I've ever even noticed this scene before! Thank you (and to Jan-u-wine) for highlighting it so evocatively.
mechtild at 2009-09-07 16:59 (UTC) (Link)
In screen time it's a very short scene, Telstar; it's probably not even thirty seconds. But it's a great thirty seconds. :) From the very first time I saw it I was captivated, and very moved.
frodosweetstuff at 2009-09-08 12:58 (UTC) (Link)
As always, your screencaps are beautiful. I don't think I ever paid much attention to this scene but now I see so many lovely details and yes to the focus on Aragorn's hands!

Thank you!
mechtild at 2009-09-08 13:00 (UTC) (Link)
You are welcome! Sometimes that's the best thing screencap presentations do: slow scenes down so that details come to the fore. :)
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