Morwen and Thengel Character Biography

Morwen of Lossarnach and Thengel, 16th King of Rohan, appear only in Appendix A of Lord of the Rings, where this is written for Thengel (2905-80): "He took no wife until late, but in 2943 he wedded Morwen of Lossarnach in Gondor, though she was seventeen years the younger. She bore him three children in Gondor, of whom Théoden, the second, was his only son. When Fengel died the Rohirrim recalled him, and he returned unwillingly. But he proved a good and wise king; though the speech of Gondor was used in his house, and not all men thought that good. Morwen bore him two more daughters in Rohan; and the last, Théodwyn, was the fairest, though she came late (2963), the child of his age. Her brother loved her dearly."

Under his father Fengel's description this is written: "He [Fengel] was the third son and fourth child of Folcwine. He is not remembered with praise. He was greedy of food and of gold, and at strife with the marshals, and with his children. Thengel, his third child and only son, left Rohan when he came to manhood and lived long in Gondor, and won honour in the service of Turgon."

The only description of Morwen is in reference to Éowyn, her granddaughter: "…but Éowyn was slender and tall, with a grace and pride that came her out of the South from Morwen of Lossarnach, whom the Rohirrim had called Steelsheen."

From such snippets, many interesting aspects about their lives, and thus on others who feature in the War of the Ring (Théoden, Denethor, Aragorn), can be gleaned. Thengel left home when he came of age, presumably around the age of 18, and served under Turgon until the Steward's death in 2953. It is likely that he would have known Ecthelion II, the son of the Steward, since Thengel was still the heir to the throne in Rohan even though he had abandoned his father's court. Ecthelion was 19 years Thengel's senior. Thengel did not marry until he was 35, and when he did, it was to a woman named Morwen from Lossarnach, an area to the southwest of Minas Tirith. It can be conjectured that she came from a family with some rank or nobility, but there is no proof of that. At the age of 48, when Thengel had been living in Gondor for around 30 years, both the Steward of Gondor and his father die in the same year. At this time, marshals must have come to entreat his return to Rohan, which Tolkien says that he does, though against his will. He took the speech of Gondor (Westron, or Common Speech) with him, however, which means that although Théoden did spend most of his life in Rohan, he would have been heavily influenced by Gondor in his household until his parents died.

Morwen was 17 years Thengel's junior. This is striking, but theirs is actually only one of three prominent May-September marriages of note during the end of the Third Age, all of which include the men siring children well past conventional age. The others are Denethor and Finduilas (a 20 year age gap; Denethor is 46 when he marries and has his first child at 48), and Drogo Baggins and Primula Brandybuck (12 year age gap; Drogo is 60 when Frodo is born). Despite his age when he marries, Thengel had five children, the last, Théodwyn, mother to Éowyn and Éomer, was born when Thengel was the ripe age of 58 and Morwen was 41.

"2957-2980: Aragorn undertakes his great journeys and errantries. As Thorongil he serves in disguise both Thengel of Rohan and Ecthelion II of Gondor." His exact dates in Rohan are not known and also uncommented-on, as well as the name he used while there, but since "He was a great leader of men, by land or by sea," it can safely be assumed that he had a position of some rank within the Rohirrim and assisted in the pursuit of orc bands. In the chapter The Riders of Rohan, Aragorn tells Éomer 'I have spoken with Éomund your father, and with Théoden son of Thengel.' Hidden in this one sentence is some very interesting information: Given the years that he would have spent in Rohan prior to being in Gondor, one would think that Aragorn would have spent more time speaking with Thengel himself than Théoden, unless it was because Aragorn was indeed out riding in the same company as Théoden while King Thengel was ruling back in Edoras. That being the case, why does Théoden not recognize Aragorn when he reappears during the War of the Ring? Or if he does, why doesn't he say anything to him that would reveal that they had met before? [or am I missing something?]

Thengel died in 2980 at age 75, when Morwen was 58. Théoden would have become King of Rohan that year at age 32, already a widower for two years and his son, Théodred, two years old, the same age as Boromir. It is striking how Tolkien parallels the birth and death dates of key figures in both Rohan and Gondor from 2950-2980.

Morwen does not have a death date, so conceivably she could have lived long enough to see both the birth of her granddaughter, Éowyn, in 2995 (Morwen would have been 73), who favored her, as well as the untimely death of her youngest daughter, Théodwyn, in 3002. Morwen would have been 93 at that time, and the people of Gondor seem to be long-lived (Ecthelion II was 98 when he died in 2984). If she did live into her 80s, it can be conjectured that she would have had an influence on Théodred since Théoen did not remarry, though it is also likely that his three aunts would also have stepped in to help raise him unless when they married they moved away from Edoras.

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