Nazgûl, the Black Gate, and other fantastic stories from the Lord of the Rings

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,

Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,

Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,

One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne

In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,

One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie. [1]

(PKM Photo)

Rohirric helmet and armour from the The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.


“[He was] the King of Angmar long ago, Sorcerer, Ringwraith,[1] Lord of the Nazgûl, a spear of terror in the hand of Sauron, shadow of despair.” [But]... “If words spoken of old be true, not by the hand of man shall he fall, and hidden from the Wise is the doom that awaits him.”[2]

Mortal Combat with the Nazgûl

          For those of you who have enjoyed the tales from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings tales, the excerpts provided here are but a handful of the incredible storytelling episodes found in his books. I include a few of them here as a reference that I and others like you can read aloud to others who would like to hear these words, and take them to heart. It is my belief that there is more REAL history in the telling of these stories than most will ever imagine. My sense of them is that Tokien relived his experiences in the Great War on the Western front from 1914 to 1918 and folded them into the tales of the Norsemen, and the Crusaders that are much more familiar to those of us who have studied history. Most of us who have served in the military see people like many we came to know in our service overseas, particularly in times of crisis.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3636763)

Painting of Canadians capturing a German First World War 7.7-cm Feldkanone 96 neuer Art (7.7-cm FK 96 n.A.),  entitled "Taking the Guns", ca 1918, by Forunino Matania.

The stories quoted on this web page begin with the final battles between the allied armies of Gondor and Rohan against the dark forces of Sauron. The battle with the Nazgûl is the story of Eowyn and Merry and the fight against the Dragon Rider.  It is a sad story, and a brave one, and though in the long run it ends well, there is much that is lost, as is the case in all wars. We begin with the Muster of the Riders of Rohan (Chapter Four).

           ...Merry looked outside.  The world was darkling.  The very air seemed brown, and all things about were black and grey and shadowless; there was a great stillness.  No shape of cloud could be seen, unless it were far away westward, where the furthest groping fingers of the great gloom still crawled onwards and a little light leaked through them.  Overhead there hung a heavy roof, sombre and featureless, and light seemed rather to be failing than growing.  

           Merry saw many folk standing, looking up and muttering, all their faces were grey and sad, and some were afraid.  With a sinking heart he made his way to the king. Hirgon the rider of Gondor was there before him, and beside him stood another man, like him and dressed alike, but shorter and broader.  As Merry entered he was speaking to the king.

           “It[the darkness] comes from Mordor, lord,” he said.  “It began last night at sunset.  From the hills in the Eastfold of your realm I saw it rise and creep across the sky, and all the night as I rode it came behind eating up the stars.  Now the great cloud hangs over all the land between here and the Mountains of theShadow, and it is deepening.  War has already begun.”[3]

           For a while the king sat silent.  At last he spoke.  “So we come to it in the end,” he said: “the great battle of our time, in which many things shall pass away.  But at least there is no longer need for hiding.  We will ride the straight way and the open road and with all our speed. The muster shall begin at once, and wait for none that tarry.  Have you good store in Minas Tirith?  For if we must ride now in all haste, then we must ride light, with but meal and water enough to last us into battle.”

           “We have very great store long prepared,” answered Hirgon.  “Ride now as light and as swift as you may!”

           “Then call the heralds, Eomer,” said Théoden. “Let the Riders be marshalled!”

           Eomer went out, and presently the trumpets rang in the Hold and were answered by many others form below, but their voices no longer sounded clear and brave as they had seemed to Merry the night before. Dull they seemed and harsh in the heavy air, braying ominously.    

           The king turned to Merry.  “I am going to war, Master Meriadoc,” he said.  “In a little while I shall take the road.  Irelease you from my service, but not from my friendship.  You shall abide here, and if you will, you shall serve the Lady Eowyn, who will govern the folk in my stead.”  

           “But,but, lord,” Merry stammered, “I offered you my sword.  I do not want to be parted from you like this, Théoden King.  And as all my friends have gone to the battle, I should be ashamed to stay behind.”  

           “But we ride on horses tall and swift”, said Théoden; “and great though your heart be, you cannot ride on such beasts.”

           “Then tie me on to the back on one, or let me hang on a stirrup, or something,” said Merry.  “It is a long way to run, but run I shall, if I cannot ride, even if I wear my feet off and arrive weeks too late.”

           Théoden smiled.  “Rather than that I would bear you with me on Snowmane,” he said.  “But at the least you shall ride with me to Edoras and look on Meduseld; for that way I shall go.  So far [your pony] Stybba can bear you: the great race will not begin till we reach the plains.”

           Then Eowyn rose up.  “Come now Meriadoc!” she said.  “I will show you the gear that I have prepared for you.”  This request only did Aragorn make to me,” said Eowyn, as they passed along the tents, “that you should be armed for battle.  I have granted it as I could.  For my heart tells me that you will need such gear ere the end.”

Now she led Merry to a booth among the lodges of the king’s guard; and there an armourer brought out to her a small helm, and a round shield, and other gear.  “No mail have we to fit you”, said Eowyn, “nor any time for the forging of such a hauberk; but here is a stout jerkin of leather, and a belt and a knife.  A sword you have.”

           Merry bowed, and the lady showed him the shield, which was like the shield that had been given to Gimli, and it bore on it the device of the white horse.  “Take all these things,” she said, “and bear them to good fortune!  Fare well now, Master Meriadoc!  Yet maybe we shall meet again, you and I.”

           So it was that amid a gathering gloom the King of the Mark made ready to lead all his Riders on the eastward road.  Hearts were heavy and many quailed in the shadow. But they were a stern people, loyal to their lord, and little weeping or murmuring was heard, even in the camp in the Hold where the exiles from Edoras were housed, women and children and old men. Doom hung over them, but they faced it silently.

           Two swift hours passed, and now the king sat upon his white horse, glimmering in the half-light.  Proud and tall he seemed, though the hair that flowed beneath his high helm was like snow; and many marvelled at him and took heart to see him unbent and unafraid.

           Thereon the wide flats beside the noisy river were marshalled in many companies well nigh five and fifty hundreds of Riders fully armed, and many hundreds of other men with spare horses lightly burdened. A single trumpet sounded.  The king raised his hand, and then silently the host of the Mark began to move.  Foremost went twelve of the king’s household-men, Riders of renown.  Then the king followed with Eomer on his right. He had said farewell to Eowyn above in the Hold, and the memory was grievous; but now he turned his mind to the road that lay ahead.  Behind him Merry rode on Stybba with the errand-riders of Gondor, and behind them again twelve more of the king’s household.  They passed down the long ranks of waiting men with stern and unmoved faces.

But when they had come almost to the end of the line one looked up glancing keenly at the hobbit.  A young man, Merry thought as he returned the glance, less in height and girth than most. He caught the glint of clear grey eyes; and then he shivered, for it came suddenly to him that it was the face of one without hope who goes in search of death.

           On down the grey road they went beside the Snowbourn rushing on its stones; through the hamlets of Underharrow and Upbourn, where many sad faces of women looked out from dark doors; and so without horn or harp or music of men’s voices the great ride into the East began with which the songs of Rohan were busy for many long lives of men thereafter.

From dark Dunharrow in the dim morning

with thane and captain rode Thengel’s son:

to Edoras he came, the ancient halls

of the Mark-wardens mist-enshrouded:

golden timbers were in gloom mantled.

Farewell he bade to his free people,

hearth and high-seat, and the hallowed places,

where long he had feasted ere the light faded.

Forth rode the king, fear behind him,

fate before him.  Fealty kept he;

oaths he had taken, all fulfilled them.

Forth rode Théoden.  Five nights and days

east and onward rode the Eorlingas

through Folde and Fenmarch and the Firienwood,

six thousand spears to Sunlending,

Mundburg the mighty under Mindolluin,

Sea-kings’ city in the South-kingdom

foe-beleaguered, fire-encircled.

Doom drove them on.  Darkness took them,

horse and horseman; hoofbeats afar

sank into silence: so the songs tell us.


            It was indeed in the deepening gloom the king came to Edoras.  There he halted only a short while and strengthened his host by some three score of Riders that came late to the weapon take. Now having eaten he made ready to set out again, and he wished his esquire a kindly farewell.  But Merry begged for the last time not to be parted from him.  

           “This is no journey for steeds such as Stybba, as I have told you,” said Théoden.  “And in such a battle as we think to make on the fields of Gondor what would you do, Master Meriadoc, swordthain though you be, and greater of heart than of stature?”

           “As for that, who can tell?”  Answered Merry.  “But why, lord, did you receive me as swordthain, if not to stay by your side? And I would not have it said of me in song only that I was always left behind!”

           “I received you for your safe-keeping,” answered Théoden; “and also to do as I might bid.  None of my Riders can bear you as burden.  If the battle were before my gates, maybe your deeds would be remembered by the minstrels; but it is a hundred leagues and two to Mundburg where Denethor is lord.  I will say no more.”  

           Merry bowed and went away unhappily, and stared at the line of horsemen.  Already the companies were preparing to start: men were tightening girths, looking to saddles, caressing their horses; some gazed uneasily at the lowering sky. Unnoticed a Rider came up and spoke softly in the hobbit’s ear.  

           “Where will wants not, a way opens, so we say”, he whispered “and so I have found myself”.  Merry looked up and saw that it was the young Rider whom he had noticed in the morning.  “You wish to go whither the Lord of the Mark goes: I see it in your face.”  “I do, ”said Merry.  Then you shall go with me, ”said the Rider.  “I will bear you before me, under my cloak until we are far afield, and this darkness is yet darker.  Such good will should not be denied.  Say no more to any man, but come!”

           “Thank you indeed!” said Merry.  “Thank you, sir, though I do not know your name.” “Do you not?”  Said the Rider softly.  “Then call me Dernhelm.”

           Thus it came to pass that when the king set out, before Dernhelm sat Meriadoc the hobbit, and the great grey steed Windfola made little of the burden; for Dernhelm was less in weight than many men, though lithe and well-knit in frame.

           On into the shadow they rode.  In the willow-thickets where Snowbourn flowed into Entwash, twelve leagues east of Edora, they camped that night.  And then on again through the Folde; and through the Fenmarch, where to their right great oak woods climbed on the skirts of the hills under the shades of dark Halifirien by the borders of Gondor, but away to their left the mists lay on the marshes fed by the mouths of Entwash. And as they rode rumour came of war in the North.  Lone men, riding wild, brought word of foes assailing their east-borders, of orc-hosts marching in the Wold of Rohan.

           “Ride on!  Ride on!” cried Eomer.  “Too late to turn aside.  The fens of Entwash must guard ourflank.  Haste now we need.  Ride on!” And so King Théoden departed from his own realm, and mile by mile thelong road wound away, and the beacon hills marched past: Calenhad, Min-Rimmon,Erelas, Nardol.  But their fires werequenched.  All the lands were grey and still; and ever the shadow deepened before them, and hope waned in every heart.[4]

             As the Riders of the Rohan marched, Gondor came under siege.  Pippin and Gandalf spoke with Denethor.  Pippin [Peregrine] had been assigned to be esquire to Denethor, Lord of Minas Tirith. “Go to the armouries of the Citadel,” he said, “and get you there the livery and gear of the Tower.  It will be ready.  It was commanded yesterday.  Return when you are clad!”

           It was as he said; and Pippin soon found himself arrayed in strange garments, all of black and silver.  He had a small hauberk, its rings forged of steel, maybe, yet black as jet; and a high-crowned helm with small raven-wings on either side, set with a silver star in the centre of the circlet.  Above the mail was a short surcoat of black, but broidered on the breast in silver with the token of the Tree.  His old clothes were folded and put away, but he was permitted to keep the grey cloak of Lorien, though not to wear it when on duty.  He looked now, had he known it, verily Ernili Pheriannath, the Prince of the Halflings, that folk had called him; but he felt uncomfortable.  And the gloom began to weigh on his spirits.

           It was dark and dim all day.  From the sunless dawn until evening the heavy shadow had deepened, and all hearts in the City were oppressed.  Far above a great cloud streamed slowly westward from the Black Land, devouring light, borne upon a wind of war, but below the air was still and breathless, as if all the Valeof Anduin waited for the onset of a ruinous storm.

           It was night again ere news came.  A man rode in haste from the fords, saying that a host had issued from Minas Morgul and was already drawing nigh to Osgiliath; and it had been joined by regiments from the South, Haradrim, cruel and tall. “And we have learned,” said the messenger, “that the Black Captain leads them once again, and the fear of him has passed before him over the River.”

           The next day, though the darkness had reached its full and grew no deeper, it weighed heavier on men’s hearts, and a great dread was on them.  Ill news came soon again.  The passage of Anduin was won by the Enemy.  Faramir was retreating to the wall of the Pelennor, rallying his men to the Causeway Forts; but he was ten times outnumbered.  

           “...It is the Black Captain that defeats us. Few will stand and abide even the rumour of his coming.  His own folk quail at him, and they would slay themselves at his bidding.”

           ...Faraway fires sprang up, across in the dim spaces where the walls of the Pelennor stood.  The watchmen cried aloud, and all men in the City stood to arms.

           ...“They have taken the wall!” men cried. “They are blasting breaches in it. They are coming!”

           ...Denethor laughed bitterly.  “[The Dark Lord] uses others as his weapons... “  The Lord of Barad-dur, the most fell of all his captains is already master of your outer walls,” said Gandalf.  “King of Angmar long ago, Sorcerer, Ringwraith, Lord of the Nazgûl, a spear of terror in the hand of Sauron, shadow of despair.”

           ...“If words spoken of old be true, not by the hand of man shall he fall, and hidden from the Wise is the doom that awaits him.”

           ...“Soon there will be battle on the fields. A sortie must be made.  Let it be of mounted men.  In them lies our brief hope, for in one thing only is the enemy still poorly provided: he has few horsemen.”

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3395270)

This is one of the British tanks used in the advance on Vimy Ridge, France, in July 1917. The German Army did not have many tanks of its own at this time, which is what I felt as I read that passage from the story.

           ...“Another army is come from the Black Gate, crossing from the northeast.”

           ...“The enemy,” men murmured.  “The dike isdown.  Here they come pouring through the breaches!”  Where are our own folk?”

           ...At last, less than a mile from the City, a more ordered mass of men came into view, marching not running, still holding together.  The watchers held their breath.  “Faramir must be there,” they said.  “He can govern man and beast.  He will make it yet.”

An Officer of the Imperial Horse Guards Charging. Jean-Louis André Théodore Géricault.

           ...Out of the gloom behind, a small company of horsemen galloped, all that was left of the rearguard.  Once again they turned at bay, facing the ongoing lines of fire. Then suddenly there was a tumult of fierce cries.  Horsemen of the enemy swept up.  The lines of fire became flowing torrents, file upon file of Orcs bearing flames, and wild Southron men with red banners, shouting with harsh tongues, surging up, overtaking the retreat.  And with a piercing cry out of the dim sky fell the winged shadows, the Nazgûl stooping to the kill.

Charge of the French 4th Hussars at the Battle of Friedland 14 June 1807. Jean-Baptiste Édouard Detaille.

           ...[Just as] the retreat became a rout...a trumpet rang from the Citadel, and Denethor at last released the sortie.  Drawn up within the shadow of the Gate and under the looming walls outside they had waited for his signal:  all the mounted men that were left in the City.  Now they sprang forward formed, quickened to a gallop, and charged with a great shout.  “Amroth for Gondor!” they cried.  “Amroth to Faramir!”

           Like thunder they broke upon the enemy on either flank of the retreat; but one rider outran them all, swift as the wind in the grass:  Shadowfax bore [Gandalf], shining, unveiled once more, a light starting from his upraised hand.

           The Nazgûl screeched and swept away, for their Captain was not yet come to challenge the white fire of his foe.  The hosts of Morgul intent on their prey, taken at unawares in wild career, broke, scattering like sparks in a gale.  The out-companies with a great cheer turned and smote their pursuers.  Hunters became the hunted.  The retreat became an onslaught.  The field was strewn with stricken orcs and men, and a reek arose of torches cast away, sputtering out in swirling smoke.  The cavalry rode on.  But Denethor did not permit them to go far...Though the enemy was checked, and for the moment driven back, great forces were flowing in from the East. Again the trumpet rang, sounding the retreat.  The cavalry of Gondor halted.  Behind their screen the companies re-formed.  Now steadily they came marching back...but had been reduced in numbers by a third.  Faramir was gravely wounded, felled by a deadly dart.  Only the charge of Dol Amruth had saved him from the red Southland swords that would have hewed him as he lay.

           Now at last the City was besieged, enclosed in a ring of foes.

...The last word to come from outside the walls was brought by men flying down the northward road ere the Gate was shut.  They were the remnant of the guard that was kept at that point where the way from Anorien and Rohan ran into the townlands.  Ingold led them...“There is no news of the Rohirrim,” he said... “If they come it [will be too late]...The new host that we had tidings of has come first, from over the River by way of Andros, it is said.  They are strong: a battalion of Orcs of the Eye, and countless companies of Men of a new sort that we have not met before.  Not tall, but broad and grim, bearded like dwarves, wielding great axes.  Out of some savage land in the wide East they come, we deem.  They hold the northward road; and many have passed on into Anorien. The Rohirrim cannot come.”

           The Gate was shut.  All night watchmen on the walls heard the rumour of the enemy that roamed outside, burning field and tree, and hewing any man that they found abroad, living or dead.  The numbers that had already passed over the River could not be guessed in the darkness, but when morning, or its dim shadow, stole over the plain, it was seen that even fear by night had scarcely over-counted them.  The plain was dark with their marching companies, and as far as eyes could strain in the murk there sprouted, like a foul fungus-growth, all about the beleaguered city great camps of tents, black or sombre red.

           Busy as ants hurrying orcs were digging, digging lines of deep trenches in a huge ring, just out of bowshot from the walls; and as the trenches were made each was filled with fire, though how it was kindled or fed, by art or devilry, none could see.  All day the labour went forward, while the men of Minas Tirith looked on, unable to hinder it.  And as each length of trench was completed, they could see great wains approaching; and soon yet more companies of the enemy were swiftly setting up, each behind the cover of a trench, great engines for the casting of missiles.  There were none upon the City walls large enough to reach so far or to stay the work.

           ...As soon as the great catapults were set...missiles were thrown marvellously high...thudding within the first circle of the City...many bursting into flame as they came toppling down.  Far worse, the enemy began flinging into the City the heads of those who had fallen at Osgiliath, or on the Ramas, or in the fields.

(Engraving by P. Newark)

Medieval Castle under siege.

...Yet another weapon, swifter that hunger, the Lord of the Dark Tower had: dread and despair.

           The Nazgûl came again, and as their Dark Lord now grew and put forth his strength, so their voices, which uttered only his will and his malice, were filled with evil and horror.  Ever they circled above the City, like vultures that expect their fill of doomed men’s flesh.  Out of sight and shot they flew, and yet were ever present, and their deadly voices rent the air.  

           ...Slowly they passed out of a dim day of ears into the darkness of a desperate night.  Fires now raged unchecked in the first circle of the City, and the garrison upon the outer wall was already in many places cut off from retreat.  But the faithful who remained there at their posts were few; most had fled beyond the second gate.

           Far behind the battle the River had been swiftly bridged, and all day more force and gear of war had poured across.  Now at last in the middle of the night the assault was loosed.  The vanguard passed through the trenches of fire by many devious paths that had been left between them.  On they came, reckless of their loss as they approached the wall.  But indeed there were too few now left there to do them great damage, though the light of the fires showed up many a mark for archers of such skill as Gondor once had boasted. Then perceiving that the valour of the City was already beaten down, the hidden Captain put forth his strength. Slowly the great siege-towers built in Osgiliath rolled forward through the dark.  The first circle of the city lay burning.

Note: Siege towers came into use early in the wars, enabling attackers to fight on the same level as their opponents.  Many of the larger ones were equipped with one of the missile throwing devices described in the preceding paragraphs, and most of them had drawbridges so that the soldiers manning them would have easy access to the ramparts and battlements.  Some of them were mounted on great wheels of solid oak, consisted of several stories, and rose to a height of 150.’  The largest siege tower recorded was one Richard I had constructed tall enough to overlook the walls of Acre in 1191.       

 Ever since the middle of the night the great assault had gone on.  The drums rolled.  To the north and to the south company upon company of the enemy pressed to the walls. There came great beasts, like moving houses in the red and fitful light, the mumakil of the Harad dragging through the lanes amid the fires huge towers and engines.  Yet their Captain cared no greatly what they did or how many might be slain: their purpose was only to test the strength of the defence and to keep the men of Gondor busy in many places.  It was against the Gate that he would throw his heaviest weight.  Very strong it might be, wrought of steel andiron, and guarded with towers and bastions of indomitable stone, yet it was the key, the weakest point in all that high and impenetrable wall.

           The drums rolled louder.  Fires leaped up.  Great engines crawled across the field; and in the midst was a huge ram, great as a forest-tree, a hundred feetin length, swinging on mighty chains. Long had it been forging in the dark smithies of Mordor, and its hideous head, founded of black steel, was shaped in the likeness of a ravening wolf; on it spells of ruin lay.  Grond they named it, in memory of the Hammer of the Underworld of old.  Great beasts drew it, orcs surrounded it, and behind walked mountain-trolls to wield it.

Grond, Beren, LOTR Amino illustration.

           But about the Gate resistance still was stout, and there the knights of Dol Amroth and the hardiest of the garrison stood at bay. Shot and dart fell thick; siege-towers crashed or blazed suddenly like torches.  All before the walls on either side of the gate the ground was choked with wreck and with bodies of the slain; yet still driven as by a madness more and more came up.

           Grond crawled on.  Upon its housing no fire would catch; and though now and again some great beast that hauled it would go mad and spread stamping ruin among the orcs innumerable that guarded it, their bodies were cast aside from its path and others took their place.

           Grond crawled on.  The drums rolled wildly.  Over the hills of slain a hideous shape appeared: a horseman, tall, hooded, cloaked in black.  Slowly, trampling the fallen, he rode forth, heeding no longer any dart.  He halted and held up a long pale sword.  And as he did so a great fear fell on all, defender and foe alike; and the hands of men drooped to their sides, and no bow sang. For a moment all was still.

           The drums rolled and rattled.  With a vast rush Grond was hurled forward by huge hands. It reached the Gate.  Its wung.  A deep boom rumbled through theCity like thunder running in the clouds. But the doors of iron and posts of steel withstood the stroke.

           Then the Black Captain rose in his stirrups and cried aloud in a dreadful voice, speaking in some forgotten tongue words of power and terror to rend both heartand stone.

           Thrice he cried.  Thrice the great ram boomed.  And suddenly upon the last stroke the Gate of Gondor broke.  As if stricken by some blasting spell it burst asunder: there was a flash of searing lightning, and the doors tumbled in riven fragments to the ground.

           In rode the Lord of the Nazgûl.  A great black shape against the fires beyond he loomed up, grown to a vast menace of despair.  In rode the Lord of the Nazgûl, under the archway that no enemy ever yet had passed, and all fled before his face.

Saint George and the Dragon, wood carving by Bernt Notke in Stockholm's Storkyrkan (1470s).

           All save one.  There waiting, silent and still in the space before the Gate, sat Gandalf upon Shadowfax:  Shadowfax who alone among the free horses of the earth endured the terror, unmoving, steadfast as a graven image in Rath Dinen.

           “You cannot enter here,” said Gandalf, and the huge shadow halted.  “Go back to the abyss prepared for you!  Go Back! Fall into the nothingness that awaits you and your Master.  Go!”

John Howe's illustration of the Witch-king's flying steed.

           The Black Rider flung back his hood, and behold! He had a kingly crown; and yet no head was visible was it set.  The red fires shone between it and the mantled shoulders vast and dark.  From a mouth unseen there came a deadly laughter.

           “Old fool!” he said.  “Old fool!  This is my hour.  Do you not know Death when you see it?  Die now and curse in vain!”  And with that he lifted high his sword and flames ran down the blade.

           Gandalf did not move.  And in that very moment, away behind in some courtyard of the City, a cock crowed.  Shrill and clear he crowed, caring nothing of wizardry or war, welcoming only the morning that in the sky far above the shadows of death was coming with the dawn.

           And as if in answer there came from far away another note.  Horns, horns, horns.  In dark Mindolluin’s sides they dimly echoed.  Great horns of the North wildly blowing.  Rohan had come at last.[5]

           King Théoden and his army had marched through the night.  On either side of the road the host of Rohanwas moving silently.  Far away and almost straight ahead there was a red glow under the black sky and the sides of the great mountains loomed dark against it.

           The king rode in the midst of the leading company, his household men about him.  Elfhelm’s eored came next; and now Merry noticed that Dernhelm had left his place and in the darkness was moving steadily forward, until at last he was riding just in rear of the king’s guard.  There came a check.  Merry heard voices in front speaking softly.  Out-riders had come back who had ventured forward almost to the wall. They came to the King.

           “There are great fires, lord,” said one.  “The City is all set about with flame, and the field is full of foes.  But all seem drawn off to the assault.  As well as we could guess, there are few left upon the outwall, and they are heedless, busy in destruction.”

           Before the ride Théoden and Eomer had been approached by a Wild Man who brought them news.  “We look out from the hills,” said the Wild Man.  “We climb big mountain and look down.  Stone-city is shut.  Fire burns there outside; now inside too.  You wish to come there?  Then you must be quick.  But Gorgun and men out of far-away,” he waved a short gnarled arm eastward, “sit on horse-road.  Very many, more than Horse-men.”  ... “And our scouts say that they have cast trenches and stakes across the road.  We cannot sweep them away in a sudden onset,” said Théoden.     ... “Let Ghan-buri-Ghan...lead you by road where no pits are, no Gorgun walk, only Wild Men and beasts...road is forgotten, but not by Wild Men...A light came in his eyes.  “Wind is changing!” he cried...and with that he and his fellows vanished in the gloom.

           Eomer sent out scouts to spy upon the road... “With the outwall down, now we can sweep through.”...Soon Elfhelm returned having found two dead scouts, one of whom was Hirgon... “Alas!” said Théoden. “Then Denethor has heard no news of our riding”... “No delay.”  

           “Do you remember the Wild Man’s words, Lord?” said another.  “I live upon the open Wold in days of peace; Widfara is my name, and to me also the air brings messages.  Already the wind is turning.  There comes a breath out of the South; there is a sea-tang in it, faint though it be. The morning will bring new things. Above the reek it will be dawn when you pass the wall.”

           “If you speak truly, Widfara, then may you live beyond this day in years of blessedness!” said Théoden.  He turned to the men of his household who were near, and he spoke now in a clear voice so that many also of the riders of the first eored heard him:

           “Now is the hour come, Riders of the Mark, sons of Eorl!  Foes and fire are before you, and your homes far behind.  Yet, though you fight upon an alien field, the glory that you reap there shall be your own forever.  Oaths ye have taken:  now fulfil them all, to lord and land and league of friendship!”

           Men clashed spear upon shield.

           “Eomer my son!  You lead the first eored,” said Théoden; “and it shall go behind the king’s banner in the centre.  Elfhelm, lead your company to the right when we pass the wall.  And Grimbold shall lead his towards the left.  Let the other companies behind follow these three that lead, as they have a chance.  Strike wherever the enemy gathers.  Other plans we cannot make, for we know not yet how things stand upon the field. Forth now, and fear no darkness!”

           The leading company rode off as swiftly as they could, for it was still deep dark, whatever change Widfara might forebode. Merry was riding behind Dernhelm, clutching with the left hand while with the other he tried to loosen his sword in it: in such a battle what would you do, Meriadoc?  “Just this,” he thought: “encumber a rider, and hope at best to stay in my seat and not be pounded to death by galloping hoofs!”

           It was no more than a league to where the out-walls had stood.  They soon reached them; too soon for Merry.  Wild cries broke out, and there was some clash of arms, but it was brief. The orcs busy about the walls were few and amazed, and they were quickly slain or driven off.  Before the ruin of the north-gate in the Rammas the king halted again.  The first eored drew up behind him and about him on either side.  Dernhelm kept close to the king, though Elfhelm’s company was away on the right.  Grimbold’s men turned aside and passed round to a great gap in the wall further eastward.

           Merry peered from behind Dernhelm’s back.  Faraway, maybe ten miles or more, there was a great burning, but between it and the Riders lines of fire blazed in a vast crescent, at the nearest point less than a league distant.  He could make out little more on the dark plain, and yet he neither saw any hope of morning, nor felt any wind, changed or unchanged.

           Now silently the host of Rohan moved forward into the field of Gondor, pouring in slowly but steadily, like the rising tide through breaches in a dike that menhave thought secure.  But the mind and will of the Black Captain were bent wholly on the falling city, and as yet no tidings came to him warning that his designs held any flaw.

           After awhile the king led his men away somewhat eastward, to come between the fires of the siege and the outer fields.  Still they were unchallenged, and still Théoden gave no signal.  At last he halted once again.  The City was now nearer.  A smell of burning was in the air and a very shadow of death.  The horses wereuneasy.  But the king sat upon Snowmane, motionless, gazing upon the agony of Minas Tirith, as if stricken suddenly by anguish, or by dread.  He seemed to shrink down, cowed by age.  Merry himself felt as if a great weight of horror and doubt had settled on him.  His heart beat slowly.  Time seemed poised in uncertainty.  They were too late!  Too late was worse than never!  Perhaps Théoden would quail, bow his old head, turn, and slink away to hide in the hills.

           ...Then suddenly Merry felt it at last, beyond a doubt: a change.  Wind was in his face!  Light was glimmering.  Far, far away, in the South the clouds could be dimly seen as remote grey shapes, rolling up, drifting: morning lay beyond them.

           But at that same moment there was a flash, as if lightning had sprung from the earth beneath the City.  For a searing second it stood dazzling far off in black and white, its topmost tower like a glittering needle; and then as the darkness closed again there came a rolling over the fields a great boom.

           At that sound the bent shape of the king sprang erect.  Tall and proud he seemed again; and rising in his stirrups he cried in a loud voice, more clear than any there had ever heard a mortal man achieve before:

Arise, arise, Riders of Théoden!

Fell deeds awake: fire and slaughter!

spear shall be shaken, shield be splintered,

a sword-day, a red day, ere the sun rises!

Ride now, ride now! Ride to Gondor!


           With that he seized a great horn from Guthlaf his banner-bearer, and he blew such a blast upon it that it burst asunder.  And straight away all the horns in the host were lifted up in music, and the blowing of the horns of Rohan in that hour was like a storm upon the plain and as thunder in mountains.

Ride now, ride now!  Ride to Gondor!

           Suddenly the king cried to Snowmane and the horse sprang away.  Behind him his banner blew in the wind, white horse upon a field of green, but he outpaced it.  After him thundered the knights of his house, but he was ever before them.  Eomer rode there, the white horsetail on his helm floating in his speed, and the front of the first eored roared like a breaker foaming to the shore, but Théoden could not be overtaken.  Fey he seemed, or the battle-fury of his fathers ran like a new fire in his veins, and he was borne up on Snowmane like a god of old, even as Orme the Great in the battle of the Valar when the world was young.  His golden shield was uncovered, and lo! it shone like an image of the Sun, and the grass flamed into green about the white feet of his steed.  For morning came, morning and a wind from the sea; and darkness was removed, and the hosts of wrath rode over them.  And then all the host of Rohan burst intosong, and they sang as they slew, for the joy of battle was on them, and the sound of their singing that was fair and terrible came even to the City.[6]

           But it was no orc-chieftain or brigand that led the assault upon Gondor.  The darkness was breaking too soon, before the date that his Master had set for it: fortune had betrayed him for the moment, and the world had turned against him; victory was slipping from his grasp even as he stretched out his hand to seize it.  But his arm was long.  He was still in command, wielding great powers.  King, Ringwraith, Lord of the Nazgûl, he had many weapons.  He left the Gate and vanished.

           Théoden King of the Mark had reached the road from the Gate to the River, and he turned towards the City that was now less than a mile distant.  He slackened his speed a little, seeking new foes, and his knights came about him, and Dernhelm was with them.  Ahead nearer the walls Elfhelm’s men wereamong the siege-engines, hewing, slaying, driving their foes into the fire-pits.  Well nigh all the northern half of the Pelennor was overrun, and there camps were blazing, orcs were flying towards the River like herds before the hunters, and the Rohirrim went hither and thither at their will.  But they had not yet overthrown the siege, nor won the Gate.  Many foes stood before it, and on the further half of the plain were other hosts still unfought.  Southward beyond the road lay the main force of the Haradrim, and there their horsemen were gathered about the standard of their chieftain.  And he looked out, and in the growing light he saw the banner of the king, and that it was far a head of the battle with few men about it. Then he was filled with a red wrath and shouted aloud, and displaying his standard, black serpent upon scarlet, he came against the white horse and the green with great press of men; and the drawing of scimitars of the Southrons was like a glitter of stars.

           Then Théoden was aware of him, and would not wait for his onset, but crying to Snowmane he charged headlong to greet him. great was the clash of their meeting. But the white fury of the Northmen burned the hotter, and more skilled was their knighthood with long spears and bitter.  Fewer were they but they clove through the Southrons like a fire-bolt in a forest. Right through the press drove Théoden Thengel’s son, and his spear was shivered as he threw down their chieftain. Out swept his sword, and he spurred to the standard, hewed staff and bearer; and the black serpent foundered. Then all that was left unslain of their cavalry turned and fled faraway.

           But lo! suddenly in the midst of the glory of the king his golden shield was dimmed.  The new morning was blotted from the sky.  Dark fell about him.  Horses reared and screamed.  Men cast from the saddle lay grovelling on the ground.

           “To me! To me!” cried Théoden.  “Up Eorlingas!  Fear no darkness!”  But Snowmane wild with terror stood up on high, fighting with the air, and then with a scream he crashed upon his side: a great black dart had pierced him.  The king fell beneath him.

           The great shadow descended like a falling cloud. And behold! it was a winged creature: if bird, then greater than all other birds, and it was naked, and neither quill nor feather did it bear, and its vast pinions were as webs of hide between horned fingers; and it stank.  A creature of an older world maybe it was, whose kind, lingering in forgotten mountains cold beneath the Moon, outstayed their day, and in hideous eyrie bred this last untimely brood, apt to evil.  And the Dark Lord took it, and nursed it with fell meats, until it grew beyond the measure of all other things that fly; and he gave it to his servant to be his steed.  Down, down it came, and then, folding its fingered webs, it gave a croaking cry, and settled upon the body of Snowmane, digging in its claws, stooping its long naked neck.

           Upon it sat a shape, black-mantled, huge and threatening.  A crown of steel he bore, but between rim and robe naught was there to see, save only a deadly gleam of eyes: the Lord of the Nazgûl.  To the air he had returned, summoning his steed ere the darkness failed, and now he was come again, bringing ruin, turning hope to despair, and victory to death. A great black mace he wielded.

           But Théoden was not utterly forsaken.  The knights of his house lay slain about him, or else mastered by the madness of their steeds were borne far away.  Yet one stood there still: Dernhelm the young, faithful beyond fear, and he wept, for he had loved his lord as a father. Right through the charge Merry had been borne unharmed behind him, until the Shadow came; and then Windfola had thrown them in his terror, and now ran wild upon the plain.  Merry crawled on all fours like a dazed beast, and such horror was on him that he was blind and sick.

           “King’sman! King’s man!” his heart cried within him. “You must stay by him.  As a father you shall be to me, you said.” But his will made no answer, and his body shook.  He dared not open his eyes or look up.

           Then out of the blackness in his mind he thought that he heard Dernhelm speaking; yet now the voice seemed strange, recalling some other voice that he had known.

           “Begone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion!  Leave the dead in peace!”

           A cold voice answered: “Come not between the Nazgûl and his prey!  Or he will not slay thee in thy turn.  He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye.”

           A sword rang as it was drawn.  “Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may.”

           “Hinder me?  Thou fool.  No living man may hinder me!”

           Then Merry heard of all sounds in that the hour the strangest.  It seemed that Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel. “But no living man am I!  You look upon a woman.  Eowyn I am, Eomund’s daughter.  You stand between me and my lord and kin.  Begone, if you be not deathless!  For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him.”

           The winged creature screamed at her, but the Ringwraith made no answer, and was silent, as if in sudden doubt.  Very amazement for a moment conquered Merry’s fear.  He opened his eyes and the blackness was lifted from them.  There some paces from him sat the great beast, and all seemed dark about it, and above it loomed the Nazgûl Lord like a shadow of despair.  A little to the left facing them stood she whom he had called Dernhelm.  But the helm of her secrecy had fallen from her, and her bright hair, released from its bonds, gleamed with pale gold upon her shoulders.  Her eyes grey as the sea were hard and fell, and yet tears were on her cheek.  A sword was in her hand, and she raised her shield against the horror of her enemy’s eyes.

           Eowyn it was, and Dernhelm also.  For into Merry’s mind flashed the memory of the face that he saw at the riding from Dunharrow; the face of one that goes seeking death, having no hope.  Pity filled his heart and great wonder, and suddenly the slow-kindled courage of his race awoke.  He clenched his hand.  She should not die alone, unaided.

           The face of their enemy was not turned towards him, but still he hardly dared to move, dreading lest the deadly eyes should fall on him.  Slowly, slowly he began to crawl aside; but the Black Captain, in doubt and malice intent upon the woman before him, heeded him no more than a worm in the mud.

           Suddenly the great beast beat its hideous wings, and the wind of them was foul.  Again it leaped into the air, then swiftly fell down upon Eowyn, shrieking, striking with beak and claw.

Craig J. Spearing illustration.

           Still she did not blench: maiden of the Rohirrim, child of kings, slender but as a steel-blade, fair yet terrible.  A swift stroke she dealt, skilled and deadly. The outstretched neck she clove asunder, and the hewn head fell like a stone.  Backward she sprang as the huge shape crashed to ruin, vast wings outspread, crumpled on the earth; and with its fall the shadow passed away.  A light fell about her, and her hair shone in the sunrise.

           Out of the wreck rose the Black Rider, tall and threatening, towering above her.  With a cry of hatred that stung the very ears like venom he let fall his mace. Her shield was shivered in many places, and her arm was broken; she stumbled to her knees.  He bent over her like a cloud, and his eyes glittered; he raised his mace to kill.

           But suddenly he too stumbled forward with a cry of bitter pain, and his stroke went wide, driving into the ground.  Merry’s sword had stabbed him from behind, shearing through the black mantle, and passing up beneath the hauberk had pierced the sinew behind his mighty knee.

           “Eowyn! Eowyn!” cried Merry.  Then tottering, struggling up, with her last strength she drove her sword between crown and mantle, as the great shoulders bowed before her.  The sword broke sparkling into many shards.  The crown rolled away with a clang.  Eowyn fell forward upon her fallen foe.  But lo!  The mantle and hauberk were empty.  Shapeless they lay now on the ground, torn and tumbled; and a cry went up into the shuddering air, and faded to a shrill wailing, passing with the wind, a voice bodiless and thin that died, and was swallowed up, and was never heard again in that age of this world.

           [In the City of Minas Tirith]...they heard a great cry that went up from the field before the gate and rising shrill and piercing into the sky passed, and died away on the wind.  So terrible was the cry that for a moment all stood still, and yet when it had passed, suddenly their hearts were lifted up in such a hope as they had not known since the darkness came out of the East; and it seemed to them that the light grew clear and the sun broke through the clouds.

           And there stood Meriadoc the hobbit in the midst of the slain, blinking like an owl in the daylight, for tears blinded him; and through a mist he looked on Eowyn’s fair head, as she lay and did not move; and he looked on the face of the king, fallen in the midst of his glory.  For Snowmane in his agony had rolled away from him again; yet he was the bane of his master.

           Then Merry stooped and lifted his hand to kiss it, and lo!  Théoden opened his eyes, and they were clear, and he spoke in a quiet voice though laboured.

           “Farewell, Master Holbytla!” he said.  “My body is broken.  I go to my fathers.  And even in their mighty company I shall not now be ashamed.  I felled the black serpent.  A grim morn, and a glad day, and a golden sunset.

           Merry could not speak, but wept anew.  “Forgive me, lord,” he said at last, “if I broke your command, and yet have done no more in your service than to weep at our parting.”

           The old king smiled.  “Grieve not!  It is forgiven.  Great heart will not be denied.  Live now in blessedness; and when you sit in peace with your pipe, think of me!...”

           ...Eomer rode up in haste, and with him came the knights of the household that still lived and had mastered their horses. They looked in wonder at the carcase of the fell beast that lay there; and their steeds would not go near.  But Eomer leaped from the saddle, and grief and dismay fell upon him as he came to the king’s side and stood there in silence.

           Gandalf’s face was grave and sad...and he beheld with the sight that was given to him all that had befallen; and when Eomer rode out from the forefront of his battle and stood beside those who lay upon the field, he sighed and cast his cloak about him again, and went from the walls.

    Then one of the knights took the king’s banner from the hand of Guthlaf the banner-bearer who lay dead, and he lifted it up.  Slowly Théoden opened his eyes.  Seeing the banner he made a sign that it should be given to Eomer.

           “Hail, King of the Mark!  He said.  “Ride now to victory!  Bid Eowyn farewell!”  And so he died, and knew not that Eowyn lay near him.  And those who stood by wept, crying: “Théoden King! Théoden King!

           But Eomer said to them:

 Mourn not overmuch!  Mighty was the fallen, meet was his ending.  When his mound is raised, women then shall weep.  War now calls us!

             ...and [Eomer] looked at the slain, recalling their names.  Then suddenly he beheld his sister Eowyn as she lay, and he knew her... “Eowyn, Eowyn,” he cried at last.  “Eowyn, how came you here?  ...Death take us all!”

           ...Death!  Ride, ride to ruin and the world’s ending.  Death they cried with one voice loud and terrible, and gathering speed like a great tide their battle swept about their fallen king and passed, roaring away southwards.

           ...And still Meriadoc the hobbit stood there blinking through his tears, and no one spoke to him, indeed none seemed to heed him. He brushed away the tears, and stooped to pick up the green shield that Eowyn had given him, and he slung it at his back.  Then he looked for his sword that he had let fall; for even as he struck his blow his arm was numbed, and now he could only use his left hand.  And behold! There lay his weapon, but the blade was smoking like a dry branch that has been thrust in a fire; and as he watched it, it writhed and withered and was consumed.

           So passed the sword of the Barrow-downs, work of Westerness.  But glad would he have been to know its fate who wrought it slowly long ago in the North-kingdom when the Dunedain were young, and chief among their foes was the dread realm of Angmar and its sorcerer king.  No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will.

           Men now raised the king, laying cloaks upon spear-truncheons they made shift to bear him away towards the City; and others lifted Eowyn gently up and bore her after him.  But the men of the king’s household they could not yet bring from the field; for seven of the king’s knights had fallen there, and Deorwine their chief was among them.  So they laid them apart from their foes and the fell beast and set spears about them. And afterwards when all was over they returned and made a fire there and burned the carcase of the beast; but for Snowmane they dug a grave and set up a stone upon which was carved in the tongues of Gondor and the Mark:

 Faithful servant

yet master’s bane,

Lightfoot’s foal,

swift Snowmane.

             Slowly and sadly Merry walked beside the bearers, and he gave no more heed to the battle.  He was weary and full of pain, and his limbs trembled as with a chill. A great rain came out of the Sea, and it seemed that all things wept for Théoden and Eowyn, quenching the fires in the City with grey tears...Through a mist he saw...Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth [ride] up and draw rein before them... “have even the women of the Rohirrim come to war in our need?”...The prince seeing her beauty, though her face was pale and cold, touched her hand as he bent to look more closely on her. “Men of Rohan!” he cried... “she is hurt...but I deem that she yet lives.”

           A mist was in Merry’s eyes of tears and weariness when they drew near the ruined gate of Minas Tirith.  He gave little heed to the wreck and slaughter that lay about all.  Fire and smoke and stench was in the air; for many engines had been burned or cast into the fire-pits, and many of the slain also, while here and there lay many carcases of the great Southron monsters, half-burned, or broken by stone-cast, or shot through the eyes by the valiant archers of Morthond...the ascent seemed agelong...and he was walking in a darkness; and he thought: “This is a tunnel leading into a tomb; and there we shall stay forever.”  But suddenly into his dream there fell a living voice.

           “Well Merry!  Thank goodness I have found you!”  He looked up and the mist before his eyes cleared a little.  There was Pippin!  ... “are you hurt, or wounded?”  

“No,” said Merry.  “Well no, I don’t think so.  But I can’t use my right arm, Pippin, not since I stabbed him.  And my sword burned all away like a piece of wood.”  He let Merry sink gently down...the right hand felt icy to the touch.  ...It was not long before Gandalf himself came in search of them... “He should have been borne in honour into this city,” he said.  “He has well repaid my trust; for if Elrond had not yielded to me, neither of you would have set out; and then far more grievous would the evils of this day have been.”  ...So at last Faramir and Eowyn and Meriadoc were laid in beds in the Houses of Healing; and there they were tended well.

           ...And now the fighting waxed furious on the fields of the Pelennor; and the din of arms rose upon high, with the crying of men and the neighing of horses.  Horns were blown and trumpets were braying, and the mumakil were bellowing as they were goaded to war.  Under the south walls of the City the footmen of Gondor now drove against the legions of Morgul that were still gathered there in strength.  But the horsemen rode eastward to the succour of Eomer: Hurin the Tall, Warden of the Keys, and the Lord of Lossarnach, and Hirluin of the Green Hills, and Prince Imrahil the fair with his knights all about him.

           Not too soon came their aid to the Rohirrim; for fortune had turned against Eomer, and his fury had betrayed him.  The great wrath of his onset had utterly overthrown the front of his enemies, and great wedges of his Riders had passed clear through the ranks of the Southrons, discomfiting their horsemen and riding their footmen to ruin.  But wherever the mumakil came there the horses would not go, but blenched and swerved away; and the great monsters were unfought, and stood like towers of defence, and the Haradrim rallied about them.  And if the Rohirrim at their onset were thrice outnumbered by the Haradrim alone, soon their case became worse; for new strength came now streaming to the field out of Osgiliath.  There they had been mustered for the sack of the City and the rape of Gondor, waiting on the call of their Captain.  He now was destroyed; but Gothmog the lieutenant of Morgul had flung them into the fray; Easterlings with axes, and Variags of Khand, Southrons in scarlet, and out of Far Harad black men like half-trolls with white eyes and red tongues. Some now hastened up behind the Rohirrim, others held westward to hold off the forces of Gondor and prevent their joining with Rohan.

           It was even as the day thus began to turn against Gondor and their hope wavered that a new cry went up in the City, it being then mid-morning, and a great wind blowing, and the rain flying north, and the sun shining.  In that clear air watchmen on the walls saw afar a new sight of fear, and their last hope left them.

           For Anduin, from the bend at the Harlond, so flowed that from the City men could look down it lengthwise for some leagues, and the far-sighted could see any ships that approached.  And looking thither they cried in dismay; for black against the glittering stream they beheld a fleet borne up on the wind: dromunds, and ships of great draught with many oars, and with black sails bellying in the breeze.

           “The Corsairs of Umbar!” men shouted.  “The Corsairs of Umbar!  Look!  The Corsairs of Umbar are coming!  So Belfalas is taken, and the Ethir, and the Lebennin is gone.  The Corsairs are upon us!  It is the last stroke of doom!”

           And some without order, for none could be found to command them in the City, ran to the bells and tolled the alarm; and some blew the trumpets sounding the retreat.  “Back to the walls!” they cried.  “Back to the walls!  Come back to the City before all are overwhelmed!”  But the wind that sped the ships blew all their clamour away.

           The Rohirrim indeed had no need of news or alarm. All too well they could see for themselves the black sails.  For Eomer was now scarcely a mile from the Harlond, and a great press of his first foes was between him and the haven there, while new foes came swirling behind, cutting him off from the Prince.  Now he looked to the River, and hope died in his heart, and the wind that he had blessed he now called accursed.  But the hosts of Mordor were enheartened, and filled with a new lust and fury they came yelling to the onset.

           Stern now was Eomer’s mood, and his mind clear again. He let blow the horns to rally all men to his banner that could come thither; for he thought to make a great shield-wall at the last, and stand, and fight there on foot till all fell, and do deeds of song on the fields of Pelennor, though no man should be left in the West to remember the last King of the Mark.  So he rode to a green hillock and there set his banner, and the White Horse ran rippling in the wind.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day’s rising, I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing. To hope’s end I rode and to heart’s breaking:Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!

           These staves he spoke, yet he laughed as he said them.  For once more lust of battle was on him; and he was still unscathed, and he was young, and he was king: the lord of a fell people.  And lo!  Even as he laughed at despair he looked out again on the black ships, and he lifted up his spear to defy them.

           And then wonder took him, and a great joy, and he cast his sword up in the sunlight and sang as he caught it.  And all eyes followed his gaze, and behold! Upon the foremost ship a great standard broke, and the wind displayed it as she turned towards the Harlond.  There flowered a White Tree, and that was for Gondor; but Seven Stars were about it, and a high crown above it, the signs of Elendil that no lord had borne for years beyond count.  And the stars flamed in the sunlight, for they were wrought of gems by Arwen daughter of Elrond; and the crown was bright in the morning, for it was wrought of mithril and gold.

           Thus came Aragorn son of Arathorn, Elassar, Isildur’s heir, out of the paths of the Dead, borne upon a wind from the Sea to the kingdom of Gondor; and the mirth of the Rohirrim was a torrent of laughter and a flashing of swords, and the joy and wonder of the City was a music of trumpets and a ringing of bells.  But the hosts of Mordor were seized with bewilderment, and a great wizardry it seemed to them that their own ships should be filled with their foes; and a black dread fell on them, knowing that the tides of fate had turned against them and their doom was at hand.

           East rode the knights of Dol Amroth driving the enemy before them: troll-men and Variags and orcs that hated the sunlight. South strode Eomer and men fled before his face, and they were caught between the hammer and the anvil.  For now men leaped from the ships to the quays of the Harlond and swept north like a storm.  There came Legolas, and Gimli wielding his axe, and Halbarad with the standard, and Elladan and Elrohir with stars on their brow, and the dour-handed Dunedain, Rangers of the North, leading a great valour of the folk of Lebennin and Lamedon and the fiefs of the South.  But before all went Aragorn with the Flame of the West, Anduril like a new fire kindled, Narsil re-forged as deadly as of old; and upon his brow was the Star of Elendil.

           And so at length Eomer and Aragorn met in the midst of the battle, and they leaned on their swords and looked on one another and were glad.

           “Thus we meet again, though all the hosts of Mordor lay between us,” said Aragorn.  “Did I not say so at the Hornburg?”

           “So you spoke,” said Eomer, “but hope oft deceives, and I knew not then that you were a man foresighted.  Yet twice blessed is help unlooked for, and never was a meeting of friends more joyful.”  And they clasped hand in hand.  “Nor indeed more timely,” said Eomer.  “You come none too soon, my friend.  Much loss and sorrow has befallen us.”

           “Then let us avenge it, ere we speak of it!” said Aragorn, and they rode back to the battle together.

           Hard fighting and long labour they had still; for the Southrons were bold men and grim, and fierce in despair, and the Easterlings were strong and war-hardened and asked for no quarter.  And so in this place and that, by burned homestead or barn, upon hillock or mound, under the wall or on field, still they gathered and rallied and fought until the day wore away.

           Then the Sun went at last behind Mindolluin and filled all the sky with a great burning, so that the hills and the mountains were dyed as with blood; fire glowed in the River, and the grass of the Pelennor lay red in the nightfall.  And in that hour the great Battle of the field of Gondor was over; and not one living foe was left within the circuit of the Rammas.  All were slain save those who fled to die, or to drown in the red foam of the River.  Few ever came eastward to Morgul or Mordor; and to the land of the Haradrim came only a tale from far off: a rumour of the wrath and terror of Gondor.

           Aragorn and Eomer and Imrahil rode back towards the Gate of the City, and they were now weary beyond joy or sorrow.  These three were unscathed, for such was their fortune and the skill and might of their arms, and few indeed had dared to abide them or look on their faces in the hour of their wrath.  But many others were hurt or maimed or dead upon the field. The axes hewed Forlong as he fought alone and unhorsed; and both Duilinof Morthond and his brother were trampled to death when they assailed the mumakil, leading their bowmen close to shoot at the eyes of the monsters.  Neither Hirluin the fair would return to Pinnath Gelin, nor Grimbold to Grimslade, nor Halbarad to the Northlands, dour-handed Ranger.  No few had fallen, renowned or nameless, captain or soldier; for it was a great battle and the full count of it no tale has told.  So long afterward a maker in Rohan said in his song of the Mounds of Mundburg:

We heard of the horns in the hills ringing,

the swords shining in the South-kingdom.

Steeds went striding to the Stoningland

as wind in the morning.  War was kindled.

There Théoden fell, Thengling mighty,

to his golden halls and green pastures

in the Northern fields never returning,

high lord of the host.  Harding and Guthlaf,

Dunhere and Deorwine, doughty Grimbold,

Herefara and Herubrand, Horn and Fastred,

fought and fell there in a far country:

in the Mounds of Mundburg under mould they lie

with their league-fellows, lords of Gondor.

Neither Hirluin the Fair to the hills by thesea,

nor Forlong the old to the flowering vales

ever, to Arnach, to his own country

returned in triumph; nor the tall bowmen,

Derufin and Duilin, to their dark waters,

meres of Morthond under mountain-shadows.

Death in the morning and at day’s ending

lords took and lowly.  Long now they sleep

under grass in Gondor by the Great River.

Grey now as tears, gleaming silver,

red then it rolled, roaring water:

foam dyed with blood flamed at sunset;

as beacons mountains burned at evening;

red fell the dew in Rammas Echor.

           Not long after the battle of Gondor in which Merry fought had ended, it came time for Pippin to stand with Strider against the forces of darkness.  Frodo and Sam were still trying to bring the ring to the fires of Mordor to destroy it.  If the ring was not destroyed, then all would be lost and the battles of Strider’s armies would have been in vain.  A plan was drawn up and implemented for a final battle to draw the eye of Sauron away from Frodo and Sam, although there was little perceived chance of a successful outcome.  Strider and the assembled remaining forces they had gathered marched towards the Black Gate against terrible odds and dark foes.

Landscape of Mt Cook, Hooker Valley, New Zealand painted by Hokitika artist Brent Trolle.

The Black Gate - Peregrine battles the troll-chief[1]

           Gimli the dwarf and Legolas the elf had ridden with Aragorn (whom Merry and Pippin know as Strider) enroute to the battle.  A shadow host followed them...”And lo!  In the darkness of Mordor my hope rose, ”Legolas said.  “For in that gloom the Shadow Host seemed to grow stronger and more terrible to look upon.  Some I saw riding, some striding with the same great speed.  Silent they were, but there was a gleam in their eyes.  In the uplands of Lamedon they overtook our horses, and swept round us, and would have passed us by if Aragorn had not forbidden them.

           At his command they fell back.  “Even the shades of Men are obedient to his will,” I thought.  “They may serve his needs yet!”...defenders and foes alike ran from the battle...Only Angbor, Lord of Lamedon, had the heart to abide us; and Aragorn bade him gather his folk and come behind, if they dared when the Grey Host had passed.

           “At Pelargir the Heir of Isildur will have need of you,” he said.  Thus we crossed over Gilrain driving the allies of Mordor in rout before us...

           “We came at last upon the battle in earnest” Gimli said...but the Haradrim...turned at bay, and they were fierce in despair...Aragorn called on the Grey Host...[which] came up like a grey tide, sweeping all away before it...none could withstand them...all the black fleet fell into Aragorn’s hands.

           Aragorn had the trumpets blown, and the Shadow Host withdrew to the shore...

Aragorn called to them,  “you’re oath is fulfilled.  Go back and trouble not the valleys ever again!  Depart and be at rest!”

           “And thereupon the King of the Dead stood out before the host and broke his spear and cast it down...he turned away; and swiftly the whole grey host drew off and vanished like a mist...

           “Oft hope is born, when all is forlorn.”  ...“Minas Tirith is burning”, Aragorn said... “fresh wind from the sea”, ... “and so it was that we came in the third hour of the morning with a fair wind and the Sun unveiled”, Gimli said, “and we unfurled the great standard in battle.  It was a great day and a great hour, whatever may come after.”

           ...“Hardly has our strength sufficed to beat off the first great assault.  The next will be greater”, Gandalf said.

           “Other evils there are that may come; for Sauron is himself but a servant or emissary.  Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till.  What weather they shall have is not ours torule.

           ...“His Nazgûl are still abroad…we must push Sauron to his last throw...we must march out to meet him at once.”

           Aragorn spoke, “As I have begun, so will I go on”...[He was joined by] Elrohir from the North, Eomer of the Rohirrim, and Imrahil of Gondor...there is an army still unfought upon our northern flank...Aragorn said “I judge that we could lead out seven thousands of horse and foot, and yet leave the City in better defence than it was when the assault began.”

...Aragorn drew Anduril and held it up glittering in the sun.  “You shall not be sheathed again until the last battle is fought,” he said.

           As the Riders of the Rohan marched, Gondor came under siege.  Pippin and Gandalf spoke with Denethor.  Pippin [Peregrine] was assigned to be esquire to Denethor, Lord of Minas Tirith.

“Go to the armouries of the Citadel,” he said, “and get you there the livery and gear of the Tower.  It will be ready.  It was commanded yesterday.  Return when you are clad!”

           It was as he said; and Pippin soon found himself arrayed in strange garments, all of black and silver.  He had a small hauberk, its rings forged of steel, maybe, yet black as jet; and a high-crowned helm with small raven-wings on either side, set with a silver star in the centre of the circlet.  Above the mail was a short surcoat of black, but broidered on the breast in silver with the token of the Tree.  His old clothes were folded and put away, but he was permitted to keep the grey cloak of Lorien, though not to wear it when on duty.  He looked now, had he known it, verily Ernili Pheriannath, the Prince of the Halflings, that folk had called him; but he felt uncomfortable.  And the gloom began to weigh on his spirits.

           It was dark and dim all day.  From the sunless dawn until evening the heavy shadow had deepened, and all hearts in the City were oppressed.  Far above a great cloud streamed slowly westward from the Black Land, devouring light, borne upona wind of war, but below the air was still and breathless, as if all the Valeof Anduin waited for the onset of a ruinous storm.

           Legolas and Gimli were to ride again together in the company of Aragorn and Gandalf, who went in the van with the Dunedain and the sons of Elrond.  But Merry to his shame was not to go with them.

           “You are not fit for such a journey,” said Aragorn. “But do not be ashamed.  If you do no more in this war, you have already earned great honour.  Peregrine shall go and represent the Shirefolk; and do not grudge him his chance of peril, for though he has done as well as his fortune allowed him, he has yet to match your deed.  But in truth all now are in danger.  Though it may be our part to find a bitter end before the gate of Mordor, if we do so, then you will come also to a last stand, either here or wherever the black tide overtakes you.  Farewell!”

           And so despondently Merry now stood and watched the mustering of the army...In that same company Pippin was also to go, as a soldier of Gondor.  Merry could see him not far off, a small but upright figure among the tall men of Minas Tirith.[7]

           ...the first Orc and Easterling ambush was scouted out and destroyed...but from that evening onward the Nazgûl came and followed every move of the army.  They still flew high and out of sight of all save Legolas, and yet their presence could be felt, as a deepening of shadow and a dimming of the sun; and though the Ringwraiths did not yet stoop low upon their foes and were silent, uttering no cry, the dread of them could not be shaken off.

           ...since many men had been left at the crossroads, it was with less than six thousands that the Captains of the West came at last to challenge the Black Gate and the might of Mordor.

(IWM Photo, MH 6547)

German Heinkel He 111 bomber swarm during the Battle of Britain in 1940.

           ...And as they stood they saw all the Nazgûl gathered together, hovering above the Towers of the Teeth like vultures; and they knew that they were watched...

           ...When all was ordered, the captains rode forth towards the Black Gate with a great guard of horsemen and the banner and heralds and trumpeters.  There was Gandalf as chief herald, and Aragorn with the sons of Elrond, and Eomer of the Rohan, and Imrahil; and Legolas and Gimli and Peregrin were bidden to go also, so that all the enemies of Mordor should have a witness.

           They came within cry of the Morannon, and unfurled the banner and blew upon their trumpets; and the heralds stood out and sent their voices up over the battlement of Mordor.

           ...the silence was broken suddenly.  There came a long rolling of great drums like thunder in the mountains, and then a braying of horns that shook the very stones and stunned men’s ears.  And thereupon the middle door of the Black Gate was thrown open with a great clang, and out of it there came an embassy from the Dark Tower.

           At its head there rode a tall and evil shape, mounted upon a black horse, if horse it was; for it was huge and hideous, and its face was a frightful mask, more like a skull than a living head, and in the sockets of its eyes and in its nostrils there burned a flame.  The rider was robed all in black, and black was his lofty helm; yet this was no Ringwraith but a living man.  The Lieutenant of the Tower of Barad-dur he was, and his name is remembered in no tale; for he himself had forgotten it, and he said: “I am the Mouth of Sauron.”  ...and he was more cruel than any orc.

           He it was that now rode out, and with him came only a small company of black-harnessed soldiery, and a single banner, black but bearing on it in red the Evil Eye.  He mocked Aragorn...Aragorn said naught in answer, but he took the other’s eye and held it, and for a moment they strove thus; but soon, though Aragorn did not stir nor move hand to weapon, the other  quailed and gave back as if menaced with a blow.

           ...before Gandalf’s upraised hand the foul Messenger recoiled... “Get you gone, for your embassy is over and death is near you.”...He gave a great cry, and turned,l eaped upon his steed, and with his company galloped madly back to Cirith Gorgor. But as they went...Sauron sprang his trap.

           Drums rolled and fires leaped up.  The great doors of the Black Gate swung back wide. Out of it streamed a great host as swiftly as swirling waters when a sluice is lifted.

           The Captains mounted again and rode back, and from the host of Mordor there went up a jeering yell.  Dust rose smothering the air, as from nearby there marched up an army of Easterlings that had waited for the signal in the shadows of Ered Lithui beyond the further Tower.  Down from the hills on either side of the Morannon poured Orcs innumerable.  The men of the West were trapped, and soon, all about the grey mounds where they stood, forces ten times more than ten times their match would ring them in a sea of enemies.  Sauron had taken the proffered bait in jaws of steel.

           Little time was left to Aragorn for the ordering of his battle.  Upon the one hill he stood with Gandalf, and there fair and desperate was raised the banner of the Tree and Stars.  Upon the other hill hard by stood the banners of Rohan and Dol Amroth, White Horse and Silver Swan.  And about each hill a ring was made facing all ways, bristling with spear and sword. But in the front towards Mordor where the first bitter assault would come there stood the sons of Elrond on the left with the Dunedain about them, and on the right the Prince Imrahil with the men of Dol Amroth tall and fair, and picked men of the Tower of Guard.

           The wind blew, and the trumpets sang, and arrows whined; but the sun now climbing towards the South was veiled in the reeks of Mordor, and through a threatening haze it gleamed, remote, a sullen red, as if it were the ending of the day, or the end maybe of all the world of light. And out of the gathering murk the Nazgûl came with their cold voice scrying out words of death; and then all hope was quenched.

           Pippin had bowed crushed with horror...but he had mastered himself, and now he stood beside Beregond in the front rank of Gondor with Imrahil’s men.  For it seemed best to him to die soon and leave the bitter story of his life, since all was in ruin.

           ...the first assault crushed into them.  The orcs hindered by the mires that lay before the hills halted and poured their arrows into the defending ranks.  But through them there came striding up, roaring like beasts, a great company of hill-trolls out of Gorgoroth.  Taller and broader than Men they were, and they were clad only in close-fitting mesh of horny scales, or maybe that was their hideous hide; but they bore round bucklers huge and black and wielded heavy hammers in their knotted hands.  Reckless they sprang into the pools and waded across, bellowing as they came.  Like a storm they broke upon the line of the men of Gondor, and beat upon helm and head, and arm and shield, as smiths hewing the hot bending iron.  At Pippin’s side Beregond was stunned and overborne, and he fell; and the great troll-chief that smote him down bent over him, reaching out a clutching claw; for these fell creatures would bite the throats of those that they threw down.

           Then Pippin stabbed upwards, and the written blade of Westernesse pierced through the hide and went deep into the vitals of the troll, and his black blood came gushing out.  He toppled forward and came crashing down like a falling rock, burying those beneath him.  Blackness and stench and crushing pain came upon Pippin, and his mind fell away into a great darkness.

           “So it ends as I guessed it would,” his thought said, even as it fluttered away; and it laughed a little within him ere it fled, almost gay it seemed to be casting off at last all doubt and care and fear.  And then even as it winged away into forgetfulness it heard voices...and his thought fled far away and his eyes saw no more.

(Artemy Voikhansky Photo)

Booted Sea Eagle in flight.

           ...Then came Gwaihir the Windlord, and Landroval his brother, greatest of all the Eagles of the North...behind them in long swift lines came all their vassals from the northern mountains, speeding on a gathering wind.  Straight down upon the Nazgûl they bore...but the Nazgûl turned and fled...and now looking in the eyes of their enemies they saw a deadly light and were afraid...

           During the battle, Sam, Frodo and Gollum had been following a climbing path up to Mount Doom.  Sam had turned to fight Gollum off Frodo.  “Down, down!” Frodo gasped, clutching his hand to his breast, so that beneath the cover of his leather shirt he clasped the Ring.  “Down you creeping thing, and out of my path! Your time is at an end.  You cannot betray me or slay me now!”... “Begone and trouble me no more!  If you touch me ever again, you shall be cast yourself into the Fire of Doom.”

           The crouching shape backed away, terror in its blinking eyes, and yet at the same time insatiable desire.  Sam stepped forward, brandishing his sword.  “Quick, Master!” he gasped.  “Go on! Go on! No time to lose.  I’ll deal with him.  Go on!

           Frodo looked at him as if at one far away. “Yes, I must go on,” he said. “Farewell, Sam!  This is the end at last.  On Mount Doom doom shall fall.  Farewell!”  He turned and went on, walking slowly but erect, up the climbing path.

           Sam confronted Gollum...and drove him off. Sam gave no more heed to him...but not far below, Gollum turned again, and then with a wild light of madness glaring in his eyes he came, swiftly but warily, creeping on behind, a slinking shadow among the stones.

           The path climbed a shadow followed him. He entered a long cave or tunnel that bored into the Mountain’s smoking cone.  At first he could see nothing.  In his great need he drew out once more the phial of Galadriel, but it was pale and cold in his trembling hand and threw no light into that stifling dark.  He was come to the heart of the realm of Sauron and the forges of his ancient might, greatest in Middle-earth; all other powers were here subdued.  Fearfully he took a few uncertain steps in the dark, and then all at once there came a flash of red that leapt upward, and smote the high black roof, [lighting the cave].  Only a short way ahead its floor and the walls on either side were cloven by a great fissure, out of which the red glare came, now leaping up, now dying down into darkness; and all the while far below there was a rumour and a trouble as of great engines throbbing and labouring.

           The light sprang up again, and there on the brink of the chasm, at the very Crack of Doom, stood Frodo, black against the glare, tense, erect, but still as if he had been turned to stone.

           “Master!” cried Sam.

           Then Frodo stirred and spoke with a clear voice, indeed with a voice clearer and more powerful than Sam had ever heard him use, and it rose above the throb and turmoil of Mount Doom, ringing in the roof and walls.

           “I have come,” he said.  “But I do not choose now to do what I came to do.  I will not do this deed.  The Ring is mine!”  And suddenly, as he set it on his finger, he vanished from Sam’s sight. Sam gasped, but he had no chance to cry out, for at that moment many things happened.

           Something struck Sam violently in the back, his legs were knocked from under him and he was flung aside, striking his head against the stony floor, as a dark shape sprang over him.  He lay still and for a moment all went black.

           And far away, as Frodo put on the Ring and claimed it for his own, even in Sammath Naur the very heart of his realm, the Power in Barad-dur was shaken, and the Tower trembled from its foundations to its proud bitter crown.  The Dark Lord was suddenly aware of him, and his Eye piercing all shadows looked across the plain to the door that he had made; and the magnitude of his own folly was revealed to him in a blinding flash, and all the devices of his enemies were at last laid bare.  Then his wrath blazed in consuming flame, but his fear rose like a vast black smoke to choke him.  For he knew his deadly peril and the thread upon which his doom now hung.

           From all his policies and webs of fear and treachery, from all his stratagems and wars his mind shook free; and throughout his realm a tremor ran, his slaves quailed, and his armies halted, and his captains suddenly steerless, bereft of will, wavered and despaired.  For they were forgotten.  The whole mind and purpose of the Power that wielded them was now bent with overwhelming force upon the Mountain.  At his summons, wheeling with a rending cry, in a last desperate race there flew, faster than the winds, the Nazgûl, the Ringwraiths, and with a storm of wings they hurtled southwards to Mount Doom.

           Sam got up.  He was dazed, and blood streaming from his head dripped in his eyes. He groped forward, and then he saw a strange and terrible thing.  Gollum on the edge of the abyss was fighting like a mad thing with an unseen foe.  To and fro he swayed, now so near the brink that he almost tumbled in, now dragging back, falling to the ground, rising, and falling again.  And all the while he hissed but spoke no words.

           The fires below awoke in anger, the red ligh t blazed, and all the cavern was filled with a great glare and heat.  Suddenly Sam saw Gollum’s long hands draw upwards to his mouth; his white fangs gleamed, and then snapped as they bit.  Frodo gave a cry, and there he was, fallen upon his knees at the chasm’s edge.  But Gollum, dancing like a mad thing, held aloft the ring, a finger still thrust within its circle.  It shone now as if verily it was wrought of living fire.

           “Precious, precious, precious!”  Gollum cried.  “My Precious! O my Precious!”  And with that, even as his eyes were lifted up to gloat on his prize, he stepped too far, toppled, wavered for a moment on the brink, and then with a shriek he fell. Out of the depths came his last wail Precious, and he was gone.

           There was a roar and a great confusion of noise. Fires leaped up and licked the roof. The throbbing grew to a great tumult, and the Mountain shook.  Sam ran to Frodo and picked him up and carried him out to the door.  And thereupon the dark threshold of the Sammath Naur, high above the plains of Mordor, such wonder and terror came on him that he stood still forgetting all else, and gazed as one turned to stone.

           A brief vision he had of swirling cloud, and in the midst of it towers and battlements, tall as hills, founded upon a mighty mountain-throne above immeasurable pits; great courts and dungeons, eyeless prisons sheer as cliffs, and gaping gates of steel and adamant: and then all passed.  Towers fell and mountains slid; walls crumbled and melted, crashing down; vast spires of smoke and spouting steams went billowing up, up, until they toppled like an overwhelming wave, and its wild crest curled and came foaming down upon the land.  And then at last over the miles between there came a rumble, rising to a deafening crash and roar; the earth shook, the plain heaved and cracked, and Orodruin reeled. Fire belched from its riven summit. The skies burst into thunder seared with lightning.  Down like lashing whips fell a torrent of black rain.  And into the heart of the storm, with a cry that pierced all other sounds, tearing the clouds asunder, the Nazgûl came, shooting like flaming bolts, as caught in the fiery ruin of hill and sky they crackled, withered, and went out.

           Well, this is the end, Sam Gamgee,” Frodo you remember Gandalf’s words: Even Gollum may have something to yet to do? But for him, Sam, I could not have destroyed the Ring.  The Quest would have been in vain, even at the bitter end.  So let us forgive him!  For the Quest is achieved, and now all is over.  I am glad you are here with me.  Here at the end of all things, Sam.”

           On the fields of Cormallen and all about the hills the hosts of Mordor had raged,[but at the moment of the Ring’s destruction, everything changed].

           ...Then all the Captains of the West cried aloud, for their hearts were filled with anew hope in the midst of darkness.  Out from the beleaguered hills knights of Gondor, Riders of Rohan, Dunedain of the North, close-serried companies, drove against their wavering foes, piercing the press with the thrust of bitter spears. But Gandalf lifted up his arms and called once more in a clear voice.

           “Stand Men of the West!  Stand and wait!  This is the hour of doom.”  And even as he spoke the earth rocked beneath their feet.  Then rising swiftly up, far above the Towers of the Black Gate, high above the mountains, a vast soaring darkness sprang into the sky, flickering with fire.  The earth groaned and quaked.  The Towers of the Teeth swayed, tottered, and fell down; the mighty rampart crumbled; the Black Gate was hurled in ruin; and from far away, now a dim, now a growing, now a mounting to the clouds, there came a drumming rumble, a roar, a long echoing roll of ruinous noise.

           “The realm of Sauron is ended!” said Gandalf. The Ring-bearer has fulfilled his Quest.”  And as the Captains gazed south to the Land of Mordor, it seemed to them that, black against the pall of cloud, there rose a huge shape of shadow, impenetrable, lightning-crowned, filling all the sky.  Enormous it reared above the world, and stretched out towards them a vast threatening hand, terrible but impotent: for even as it leaned over them, a great wind took it, and it was all blown away, and passed; and then a hush fell.

           The Captains bowed their heads; and when they looked up again, behold! their enemies were flying and the power of Mordor was scattering like dust in the wind.

           Not long afterwards, Gandalf flew in on the wings of Gwaihir, and rescue came to Frodo and Sam, but that is another long tale. Suffice it to sum up the story as Gimli tells Pippin how he found his body under the troll after the battle.

           “...but you too Pippin”, said Gimli.  Nor shall I forget finding you on the hill of the last battle.  But for Gimli the Dwarf you would have been lost then.  But at least I know now the look of a hobbit’s foot, though it be all that can be seen under a heap of bodies.  And when I heaved that great carcase off you, I made sure you were dead. I could have torn out my beard. And it is only a day yet since you were first up and abroad again.  To bed now you go.  And so shall I.    

           ...Aragorn brought healing herbs and helped Faramir, Eowyn and Meriadoc to get well.  When Eowyn awoke, she asked, “And what of the king’s esquire, the Halfling?  Eomer, you shall make him a knight of the Riddermark, for he is valiant!”

           [Merry]is weary now, and grieved, and he has taken a hurt like the Lady Eowyn, daring to smite that deadly thing.  But these veils can be amended, so strong and gay a spirit is in him.  His grief he will not forget, but it will not darken his heart, it will teach him wisdom.”

           The Lady Eowyn healed and went in search of a task to do.  The Warden looked at her.  Tall she stood there, her eyes bright in her white face, her hand clenched as she turned and gazed out of his window... “is there no deed to do?” she said.  “Where can I find the Lord Faramir?”

...He looked at her, and being a man whom pity deeply stirred, it seemed to him that her loveliness amid her grief would pierce his heart.  And she looked at him and saw the grave tenderness in his eyes, and yet knew, for she was bred among men of war, that here was one whom no Rider of the Mark would outmatch in battle.  

           “What do you wish?”  he said again.  “If it lies in my power, I will do it.”

...her heart faltered, and for the first time she doubted herself...She did not answer, but as he looked ather it seemed to him that something in her softened, as though a bitter frost were yielding at the first faint presage of Spring...

“My window does not look Eastward.”  Her voice was now that of a maiden young and sad.  Faramir smiled...

“That can be amended...and here you will find me, walking and waiting, and also looking east.  It would ease my care, if you would speak tome, or walk at whiles with me.”

           Then she raised her head and looked at him in the eyes again; and a colour came in her pale face.  “How should I ease your care, my lord?” she said.  “And I do not desire the speech of living men.”

           “Would you have my plain answer?” he said.

           “I would.”

           “Then Eowyn of Rohan, I say to you that you are beautiful...”

“Alas not me, lord!” she said, and she did him a courtesy and walked back to the house.  But Faramir for a long while walked alone in the garden, and his glance now strayed rather to the house than to the eastward walls.

           Faramir was told that “the Halfling that is with us could tell him more of the Lady Eowyn,” and so he sent for Merry.  They talked long together...and Faramir learned much of Eowyn of Rohan.  He saw her in the morning as she stood upon the walls; and she was clad all in white, and gleamed in the sun.  And he called to her, and she came down, and they walked on the grass or sat under a green tree together, now in silence, now in speech.  And each day after they did likewise... and grew daily in strength.

           ...and it seemed to them as they stood upon the wall that the wind died, and the light failed, and the Sun was bleared, and all sounds in the City or in the lands about were hushed: neither wind, nor voice, nor bird-call, nor rustle of leaf, nor their own breath could be heard: the very beating of their hearts was stilled.  Time halted.

           And as they stood so, their hands met and clasped, though they did not know it...and suddenly she drew close to him...

“Eowyn, Eowyn, White Lady of Rohan, in this hour I do not believe that any darkness will endure!”  And he stooped and kissed her brow...

           ...And the Shadow departed, and the Sun was unveiled, and light leaped forth; and the waters of Anduin shone like silver, and in all the houses of the City men sang for the joy that welled up in their hearts from what source they could not tell.


Sing now, ye people of the Tower of Anor,

for the Realm of Sauron is ended for ever,

and the Dark Tower is thrown down.

Sing and rejoice, ye people of the Tower ofGuard,

for your watch hath not been in vain,

and the Black Gate is broken,

and your King hath passed through,

and he is victorious.

Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,

for your King shall come again,

and he shall dwell among you

all the days of your life.

And the Tree that was withered shall berenewed,

and he shall plant it in the high places,

and the City shall be blessed.

Sing all ye people!


...And Eowyn looked at Faramir long and steadily; and Faramir said...”I love you”...then the heart of Eowyn changed, or else at last she understood it. And suddenly her winter passed, and the sun shone on her...and he took her in his arms and kissed her under the sunlit sky, and he cared not that they stood high upon the walls in the sight of many.

           ...Aragorn the King Elassar wedded Arwen Undomiel in the City of the Kings upon the day of Midsummer, and the tale of their long waiting and labours was come to fulfilment...

           Queen Arwen gave Frodo the Ringbearer the gift of a place in the Havens...and she took a white gem like a star that lay upon her breast hanging upon a silver chain, and she set the chain about Frodo’s neck.  

“When memory of the fear and darkness troubles you,” she said, “this will bring you aid.”

           Merry, being Theoden’s esquire rode upon his funeral wain and kept the arms of the king...and Eomer became King of the Mark.

...Eomer arose and said, “Faramir, Steward of Gondor, and Prince of Ithilien, asks that Eowyn Lady of Rohan should be his wife, and she grants it full willing.  Therefore they shall be troth plighted before you all.”

           And Faramir and Eowyn stood forth and set hand in hand; and all there drank to them and were glad.  

“Thus,” said Eomer, “is the friendship of the Mark and of Gondor bound with a new bond, and the more do I rejoice.”

           Eowyn and Eomer came to say goodbye to Merry, and Eomer said: “Kings of old would have laden you with gifts that a wain could not bear for your deeds upon the fields of Mundburg; and yet you will take naught, you say, but the arms that were given to you.  This I suffer, for indeed I have no gift that is worthy; but my sister begs you to receive this small thing, as a memorial of Dernhelm and of the horns of the Mark at the coming of the morning.”

           Then Eowyn gave to Merry an ancient horn, small but cunningly wrought all of fair silver with a baldric of green; and wrights had engraven upon it swift horsemen riding in a line that wound about it from the tip to the mouth; and there were set runes of great virtue.

           “This is an heirloom of our house,” said Eowyn. “It was made by the Dwarves, and came from the hoard of Scatha the Worm.  Eorl the Young brought it from the North.  He that blows it at need shall set fear in the hearts of his enemies and joy in the hearts of his friends, and they shall hear him and come to him.”

           Then Merry took the horn, for it could not be refused, and he kissed Eowyn’s hand; and they embraced him, and so they parted for that time.  Aragorn gave Pippin leave to return home, but kept him in the King’s service.

           Then Legolas repaid his promise to Gimli and went with him to the Glittering Caves; and when they returned he was silent, and would say only that Gimli alone could find fit words to speak of them.

           ...and so they went home.

    [2]Condensed from J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1954/55 edition of The Return of the King, being the Third Part of the Lord of the Rings, Methuen Publications, Toronto, 1977. This extract concerns the battle fought against the Nazgûl by Eowyn of the Rohirrim and Meriadoc.

    [3] J.R.R.Tolkien, The Return of the King, p.75.

    [4] Ibid.,p. 74-78

    [5] Ibid.,p. 90-103.

    [6] Ibid.,p. 110-113.

    [7] Ibid.,p. 159.

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