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Aragorn could heal Éowyn with Athelas, but he could not heal Frodo of a similar wound. Why not? Both wounds resulted from a Black Rider.

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But Eowyn was not pierced by the sword of the Nazgul (specifically the Witch-King of Angmar, the most powerful of the Nine) with a piece of the blade working towards her heart, about to make her a wraith!

Though Frodo and Eowyn faced the same opponent, Eowyn's only injury was from a blow to her shield-arm and the Black Breath, which Aragorn found fairly easy to treat in most Men with athelas. Frodo, on the other hand, was pierced directly by the Nazgul's blade, and the piece of the blade which was left in his body was unable to be removed by Aragorn.

The injuries done by the Witch-King were therefore completely different in scope between Frodo and Eowyn. Because Aragorn could not remove the shard of the Nazgul's blade from Frodo's body, his injury would have certainly caused his death if not for the healing skills of Elrond. Eowyn's injury boiled down to a broken arm and the Black Breath, which Aragorn normally found easy to heal, except that Eowyn resisted healing since she had lost her will to live.

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    Éowyn had direct contact with the Witch King. She stuck her sword in his head. This happened in both the book and the movie. – jacen.garriss May 12 '13 at 15:40
  • You are of course correct, and I've edited my answer to fix it. I wonder if that's when she "contracted" the Black Breath, when her sword touched him. Because Merry definitely took hurt when his blade pierced the Witch King's knee. – Kim Rudolph May 12 '13 at 15:49
  • Maybe this should be another question: Why could Aragorn not remove the knife tip? – jacen.garriss May 12 '13 at 15:54
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    @jacen.garriss Because he was not a surgeon? :P – Andres F. May 12 '13 at 16:14
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    @jacen.garriss - seriously, RTFB. Aragorn explains it in FotR Book 1 Chapter 12 while describing Athelas to the Hobbits: "It has great virtues, but over such a wound as this its healing powers may be small." – user8719 May 12 '13 at 17:49
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They were different wounds. Frodo had been stabbed by a Morgul Blade, a splinter had broken off and was making it's way to his heart. Eowyn's wound was nothing like this - her arm was broken by a mace and she was suffering from a dose of Black Breath. So you're very wrong to say "he could not heal Frodo of a similar wound" because it wasn't even a similar wound to begin with.

"Both wounds resulted from a Black Rider" is a very limited way of looking at it. It's quite clear in the books that the chief problem with Frodo's wound was the Morgul Blade splinter, and so Aragorn could not heal it.

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    An additional factor was that Aragorn wasn't King when he tried to heal Frodo. So his healing would have been better when he took up his leadership. – Oldcat Nov 1 '13 at 23:14

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