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Article: "Ioreth" by Eonwe-(Valar)
Article: "Ioreth" by Ioreth-(V)


by Eonwe-(Valar)
June 24, 2003

    Ioreth was the eldest of the women at the Houses of Healing of Gondor.

Reference: Return of the King Book 5 of the LotR


by Ioreth-(V)
October 5, 2012
Written for the 15th Anniversary of the Valar Guild

Ioreth was born in Imloth Melui. The story mentions she had a sister who still lived in Imloth Melui, which was perhaps fifteen leagues from Minas Tirith. We don't know when she came to the city or when she started serving in the healing ward. We can assume that she followed the same route as many as they journeyed across the unknown miles from a distant land. I'm going to say that she probably traveled with her husband to Minas Tirith, In my mind the reason they traveled was that he was in the service of the country and the capitol had become his duty station. When we meet her in the book she is described as an "old" woman. No mention of husband or children is given. Again my imagination flies to another common occurrence of a martial culture. Her husband, because he was a soldier of some sort, may have been killed in the service. Perhaps the reason no children are mentioned is because they are old and grown, maybe moved from the area. Perhaps there were not any because he got killed when they were young, or they were simply childless.  In my imagination Ioreth likely found her way to the healing ward because that is where they took her wounded husband. Once he was gone her habit of coming to help care for those within had become ingrained. Because there was nowhere else to be she stayed and learned the healers' ways (not unlike Éowyn did)

A healer in the early times had few tools for their use against a large arsenal of troubles. Their tools included cleansing the wounds, using cold and heat, bleeding or leeching (remember, they called Gandalf a "leecher" in reference to his healing skills). Perhaps the greatest tool they had was an in-depth knowledge of herbs and probably minerals. That was the arsenal of healing: literally hundreds of herbs and other gifts of the earth. Because of the many choices, some would be used frequently and with good success. Others would fade into the background, finally being recalled when someone read or remembered one of the verses from the old time. Such was the gift of Ioreth. Undoubtedly she had read or heard many of the traditions, perhaps as she sat at home at night. She seemed to be interested in ancient tradition and maybe, just maybe, she was looking for a king. Tolkien mentions the imaginary herb "kingsfoil" from the beginning of the trilogy, always in conjunction with Aragorn, and always as he brings someone back from the edge of death.

    Then an old wife, Ioreth, the eldest of the women who served in 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; or have you not heard the strange tidings that have come to the City?’
    ‘I have been too busy with this and that to heed all the crying and shouting,’ she answered. "All I hope is that those murdering devils do not come to this House and trouble the sick."

(Tolkien, J.R.R. (2012-02-15). The Lord of the Rings: One Volume (pp. 860-861). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition) (Return of the King, "The Houses of Healing")

In this paragraph taken from the book you see mention of Ioreth the first time. In her distress she recites a verse she had probably thought about all day as she cared for the wounded and dying. Perhaps she had learned it in the years she had lived in Minas Tirith, but maybe she had even learned it at her birth home, Imloth Melui, and all these years later, under the stress of being unable to help Faramir the son of the chief steward (not that rank was the sole cause of Ioreth or anyone else's affection) She spoke what was probably a snippet of the verse - maybe that was all she recalled - within earshot of the man who knew more than anyone else the meshing of the gears in the current age. Gandalf had walked away from the battlefield - where he had intended to stay as fight as long as needed - to go to the aid of Faramir, Éowyn, and Merry. This one act, to disobey his instincts to "the needs of a few at the cost of the many" put him in a position to hear the muttering of an old lady as she did everything she knew to save those we had come to know and love.

A few pages later we read that for all the training a master healer has, sometimes he doesn't believe or understand the simple and traditional. What a contrast his is to the attitude of Ioreth. In her work she shows the simple patience that all is possible and all is right in the hands of the king. The herb-master would use only what he knew, no matter how dire the situation. He was not willing to present the effort - even if it was the king who asked.

    'It is but a doggrel, I fear, garbled in the memory of old wives. Its meaning I leave to your judgement, if indeed it has any. But old folk still use an infusion of the herb for headaches.’
    ‘Then in the name of the king, go and find some old man of less lore and more wisdom who keeps some in his house!’ cried Gandalf.

(Tolkien, J.R.R. (2012-02-15). The Lord of the Rings: One Volume (pp. 865-866). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.)

Ioreth witnesses her faith on the wings of six tiny leaves of the precious kingsfoil brought by Bergil. Now she knows the verse held in her heart for who knows how many years is true.

    ‘Well now! Who would have believed it?’ said Ioreth to a woman that stood beside her. ‘The weed is better than I thought. It reminds me of the roses of Imloth Melui when I was a lass, and no king could ask for better.’
    Suddenly Faramir stirred, and he opened his eyes, and he looked on Aragorn who bent over him; and a light of knowledge and love was kindled in his eyes, and he spoke softly. ‘My lord, you called me. I come. What does the king command?
    ‘Walk no more in the shadows, but awake!’ said Aragorn. ‘You are weary. Rest a while, and take food, and be ready when I return.’
    ‘I will, lord,’ said Faramir. ‘For who would lie idle when the king has returned?’
    ‘Farewell then for a while!’ said Aragorn. ‘I must go to others who need me.’ And he left the chamber with Gandalf and Imrahil; but Beregond and his son remained behind, unable to contain their joy. As he followed Gandalf and shut the door Pippin heard Ioreth exclaim:
    ‘King! Did you hear that? What did I say? The hands of a healer, I said.’ And soon the word had gone out from the House that the king was indeed come among them, and after war he brought healing; and the news ran through the City.

(Tolkien, J.R.R. (2012-02-15). The Lord of the Rings: One Volume (pp. 865-866). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.)

After we learn to know Ioreth through her kindness and efficiency, we get to see another side. This time we see that she can brag and expand things that she had witnessed and heard. No, I don't think she divulges anything she is trusted to keep in confidence, but everything else is subject to a spin as it goes around the course. JRRT includes her cousin who has traveled from Imloth Melui. As they watch the happenings that have not been in hundreds of years, Ioreth fills her cousin in on just what really happened in the world that she calls home. I think Ioreth must be the shortest mentioned character of any role, but she serves to remind us of how real people might react when the 'King has come'

    ‘Nay, cousin! they are not boys,’ said Ioreth to her kinswoman from Imloth Melui, who stood beside her. ‘Those are Periain, out of the far country of the Halflings, where they are princes of great fame, it is said. I should know, for I had one to tend in the Houses. They are small, but they are valiant. Why, cousin, one of them went with only his esquire into the Black Country and fought with the Dark Lord all by himself, and set fire to his Tower, if you can believe it. At least that is the tale in the City. That will be the one that walks with our Elfstone. They are dear friends, I hear. Now he is a marvel, the Lord Elfstone: not too soft in his speech, mind you, but he has a golden heart, as the saying is; and he has the healing hands. “The hands of the king are the hands of a healer”, I said; and that was how it was all discovered. And Mithrandir, he said to me: “Ioreth, men will long remember your words”, and—’
    But Ioreth was not permitted to continue the instruction of her kinswoman from the country, for a single trumpet rang, and a dead silence followed. Then forth from the Gate went Faramir with Húrin of the Keys, and no others, save that behind them walked four men in the high helms and armour of the Citadel, and they bore a great casket of black lebethron bound with silver.
    Faramir met Aragorn in the midst of those there assembled, and he knelt, and said: ‘The last Steward of Gondor begs leave to surrender his office.’ And he held out a white rod; but Aragorn took the rod and gave it back, saying: ‘That office is not ended, and it shall be thine and thy heirs’ as long as my line shall last. Do now thy office!’
    Then Faramir stood up and spoke in a clear voice: ‘Men of Gondor, hear now the Steward of this Realm! Behold! one has come to claim the kingship again at last. Here is Aragorn son of Arathorn, chieftain of the Dúnedain of Arnor, Captain of the Host of the West, bearer of the Star of the North, wielder of the Sword Reforged, victorious in battle, whose hands bring healing, the Elfstone, Elessar of the line of Valandil, Isildur’s son, Elendil’s son of Númenor. Shall he be king and enter into the City and dwell there?’
    And all the host and all the people cried yea with one voice.
    And Ioreth said to her kinswoman: ‘This is just a ceremony such as we have in the City, cousin; for he has already entered, as I was telling you; and he said to me—’ And then again she was obliged to silence, for Faramir spoke again.

(Tolkien, J.R.R. (2012-02-15). The Lord of the Rings: One Volume (pp. 966-967). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.) (The Return of the King, "The Steward and the King")

Ioreth leaves my imagination bounding with pictures and words that I’m not sure that JRRT would have approved but they arrive anyway. She is stubborn and compassionate, talkative to a fault and likes to tell stories (that’s a polite way to say she embellishes the truth) In spite of that she is honest. She has seen life through clear eyes for more than a lifetime. Most of all she will stay by your side and do anything to see it through.

I think that in a role play her character traits would be chattiness, loyalty, and honesty. She’d also speak up and say what she thought. You could tell her a secret or send her on an errand and know it would be done. Don’t listen too closely when she retells something that has happened in her life: it will be like the fishing story of the one that got away. In all, there would be a certain toughness that will last.