“I am no man.” On a list of the best moments from Peter Jackson’s Oscar-winning The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, that line ranks right up near the top. It comes when Éowyn (Miranda Otto) reveals her identity to the Witch-king, who can’t be killed by a man.
Guess what? She’s not a man, but she does have deadly aim with her sword. Pow!
To celebrate today’s 15th anniversary of the landmark, trilogy-capping fantasy adventure, Polygon spoke to franchise co-writer Philippa Boyens about what has become one of most iconic scenes in the film, with one of its most quotable lines to boot.
“It’s one of the great lines,” Boyens said, adding jokingly that “[Fran Walsh and I] were female screenwriters who had to write for all these male characters, and then we finally get this woman to write for, and she has to pretend to be a man.”
Which, of course, is how Éowyn gets onto the battlefield in the first place. After her uncle, Théoden, tells her she can’t join the fight because she’s a woman, she poses as a man and goes into the battle anyway — where she finds herself uniquely qualified to slay one of LOTR’s most fearsome foes.
Boyens feels the Éowyn line resonates because it’s written to be authentic and powerful for everyone, no matter their gender.
“If you set out to write a ‘strong female character,’ quote unquote, [audiences are] going to smell it a mile off,” Boyens said. “And they do smell it a mile off. It’s always presumptuous, I think, that people believe — and it’s not just that they believe this for women, it’s also that they believe it for young men — that they cannot relate to a story where the main character is not the same sex as them. Of course they can.”
To read more of Boyens’ thoughts, head over to Polygon.