We all know how Éowyn fulfilled Glorfindel's prophecy that 'not by the hand of man will [the Witch-king] fall' (RK App. A 1051), a prophecy uttered again in slightly different form by the Witch-king himself even in the hour of his reckoning: 'No living man may hinder me' (RK 5.vi.841).
Yesterday I was having a conversation with my friend, +Paul Mitchener (distinguished Maths Lecturer at Sheffield and illustrious writer of RPGs), about Merry's experience on the Barrow-downs, and the sword mentioned in the quote above came up. Paul called it 'the final revenge of Arnor.' That was when it hit me. You see, it's obvious that Éowyn fulfills the prophecy by not being a man. Slightly less obviously, so does Merry, who is no man in a different sense (cf. RK App A 1070). Thus we can already see Tolkien playing with the word 'man' in two different ways. But with the addition of 'living' comes yet another layer of meaning, especially given the great emphasis he places on the timeless sword and its history, both here and when Bombadil gave it to Merry back on the Barrow-downs (FR 1.viii.145-46; cf. RK 5.i.756). Only now the weight is on living where before it was on different meanings of man. The smith who wrought this sword is no living man. Yet across the centuries and from out of the grave -- a grave that lies open now because the Witch-king himself once sent an evil spirit to inhabit it (RK App. A 1041) -- that smith has hindered the greatest of the servants of Sauron.
That's a very cold revenge indeed, and very sharp play on meanings of words.
No irony in Tolkien?