The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Summary and Analysis of Book 5, Chapters 6-10

Chapter 6: The Battle of the Pelennor Fields

The plans of the Lord of the Nazgul are temporarily interrupted. The new light is unexpected. Theoden battles the Southrons and his forces do very well. The Black Rider returns on his winged steed and slays Theoden and his horse, Snowmane. But when the Black rider's winged steed tries to devour Theoden and Snowmane, Dernhelm reveals herself to be Eowyn and she attacks the Lord of the Nazgul, killing his winged horse. Merry stabs the Rider from behind and the Rider dies, though not before seriously wounding Eowyn. She is perceived to be dead though she is only wounded. Theoden is mourned and Eomer is crowned king. When more enemy troops surround Eomer, Aragorn emerges out of the Paths of the Dead, borne upon the sea-wind. The symbol of a white tree with seven stars can be seen in the distance. The forces of Mordor see a great wizardry in the fact that their own ships were filled with their enemies. Aragorn and Eomer meet and then destroy the enemy, though many of their own men die.


Victory comes at a high price as many soldiers‹most notably, Theoden, die. The disguise of Eowyn is one of the unexpected twists in the plot. We can also see a parallel between Eowyn and Merry, who were both intent upon endangering themselves to assist in the cause. The image of the white tree with seven stars is also a hastening of the prophecy. Of course, there is still much more to be done even though the battle as been conclusive. The forces of good must be reunited and the next chapters will show the warriors' efforts to immediately regroup.

Chapter 7: The Pyre of Denethor

Gandalf must leave his present position to find the Lord Denethor and put an end to his attempts to burn himself on the pyre. He sees Denethor has gone mad and this madness has caused a division among Denethor's servants. Gandalf removes Faramir from the pyre and argues with Denethor about the injustice and cowardice of his actions. Denethor reveals a palantir that he has had in his possession for quite some time. He also says that he only sees doom and despair ahead. Denethor believes that Gandalf intends to take his throne or perhaps give it to Aragorn and the line of Isildur. Denethor is under the sway of the Enemy and eventually, he burns himself on the pyre alone. Gandalf then reprimands those servants who were willing to follow Denethor to is death and he urges them to be less blind in obedience. Faramir is taken to the Houses of Healing and Gandalf hurries on to assist the warriors who remain outside the city gates.


The palantir reappears in this chapter as a symbol of deception and Denethor's broken will power. The future that Denethor has seen is a potential future but in allowing himself to fall under Sauron's sway, Denethor becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. This chapter foreshadows the Houses of Healing, where Faramir is going to be taken, along with some of the other wounded characters. There is a great contrast between Faramir and Denethor and we find that they have opposite fates: Denethor burns himself alive; Faramir is rescued and healed. Both the wounded Faramir and the despondent Denethor display signs of weakness however, that allow for the juxtaposition of their royal line and that of Aragorn. Denethor's concerns about the future of his royal house are not wholly unfounded.

Chapter 8: The Houses of Healing

Merry arrives at the city, Minas Tirith and he is wounded and weak. Eowyn is also wounded but she has struggled to stay alive. Merry is reunited with Pippin and a message is sent through Bergil, to alert Gandalf. Faramir, Eowyn and Merry are set to rest in beds in the Houses of Healing and at this point, an old phrase becomes very important: "The hands of a king are the hands of a healer." A small crowd awaits the arrival of Aragorn, Eomer and Imrahil; they come flying the banners of kings and it is not long before they arrive at the Houses of Healing. Ioreth is a wise woman of Gondor who has been tending to the injured warriors and she assists Aragorn, who has become both a king and a healer. He receives the names Elessar, the Elfstone and Envinyatar, the Renewer. Aragorn needs "athelas" which is also called kingsfoil and this plant is found in the forest. With the athelas, Aragorn is able to heal the three injured warriors, though Eowyn's injury is stubborn. At this point, the people say "The King is come again indeed." After the healing, Aragorn leaves the city and it seems as if his appearance has been a long-awaited dream.


The major efforts in characterization focus upon Aragorn, who comes into his own as both a king and a healer. He receives new names: Elessar and Envinyatar, which establish his link to the earlier forces of good. The Houses of Healing are a parallel to the Houses of Elrond which appeared in the first part of the trilogy; what we find again is that the ability to heal and give comfort is one of the traits of true nobility. The song motif is developed in this chapter along unsurprising lines: Aragorn has been heavily foreshadowed and the lyrics of the song prophecy about the healing that he brings to the city. The simile that describes Aragorn's appearance as dream-like makes Minas Tirith seem like a dream city. Though there is no question that the events have actually occurred, there is a lack of resolution and a possibility of further developments. The athelas, or kingfoil, becomes a symbol of Aragorn's destiny, which was unknown to others. Finally, the tone of the chapter is largely triumphant and hopeful. Aragorn is very tired at the end of Chapter 8, but it seems that fate is on his side.

Chapter 9: The Last Debate

Legolas and Gimli want to see Merry and Pippin and so they enter Minas Tirith; they are the marvel of the crowd and they are treated as heroes. Imrahil leads them to the Houses of Healing and after this, Imrahil and Eomer leave to meet Aragorn and Gandalf. The four friends are finally reunited and they share the stories of all that has happened in the time that has passed. In particular, they discuss the Paths of the Dead and the Darkness of Mordor.

Meanwhile, the captains debate the next course of action. Gandalf, Aragorn, Eomer, and Imrahil ponder the words of the steward of Gondor: "You may triumph on the fields of the Pelennor for a day, but against the Power that has now arisen there is no victory." Gandalf says that they cannot win by arms, but if the Ring is destroyed then Sauron will lose his power. They decide to lead a charge against Sauron, presenting themselves as a decoy, in the hopes that he will remain distracted from his true threat long enough for Frodo and Sam to finish their mission.


In the scenes that discuss the battle strategy, the themes of knowledge and fear both come to the fore. Sauron has expressed fear, interpreting his enemies' actions as evidence that they are using the Ring. It is ironic that Sauron will eventually be destroyed by an act of deception, but this is intended to add to the suspense of the dramatic events. The fear of Sauron and his forces can again be contrasted with the bravery of the captains, buoyed by the recent victories. The plot of this chapter is more encompassing than the previous ones: We have been reminded of the Ring, and of the fates of Frodo and Sam. The narrative structure will soon focus upon that expedition. Finally, one of the important arguments of this chapter is that Sauron must be destroyed so that the New Age will not have to deal with this same old problem; this is an idea that can certainly be applied to modern politics and Tolkien's social context.

Chapter 10: The Black Gate Opens

Two days later, the armies are at Pelennor and Merry must remain while Legolas, Gimli and Pippin depart for war. The once defaced statue of the King has been restored and this is a sign of good things to come. The troops avoid Minas Morgul because Frodo went in that direction and they do not want to draw attention to his trail. There is only desolate land ahead and it is troubling. A group of orcs and easterlings mount an attack, but their ambush fails. Aragorn feels sorry for his men and so he allows some of them to leave and go to Cair Andros to defend the position. There are less than 6000 troops with Aragorn when he arrives at the Black Gate. There is no sign of the enemy.

A messenger is sent from the Dark Tower: the Lieutenant of the Tower of Barad-Dur. He reveals Frodo's clothes and Sam's sword and Pippin cries in grief. This is foolish because now the messenger knows that these belonged to an one of Gandalf's allies. Gandalf commands Pippin to be silent. The messenger offers to return the prisoners in exchange for the retreat of the armies. Gandalf declines the offer but he takes the clothes and the sword. An army suddenly pours out of the Black Gate and the men of the west appear trapped. Pippin is knocked down by a troll and his mind turns to thoughts of eagles and Bilbo, before he loses consciousness altogether.


The tone of this chapter is far more grim and foreboding than the previous chapter. There is a great deal of deception in this exchange, as Sauron's forces do have Sam and Frodo's belongings but only because Sam and Frodo discarded them while traveling. The foreshadowed conclusion of Sam and Frodo's journey comes in Book 6. The restoration of the royal statue, earlier in the chapter, is a symbol of hope and future progress‹though this image is undone by the more negative second half of the chapter. In the end, it should be clear that Sauron does not have the Ring because he has not used it; the scene now shifts to the Ring and the bearers who must destroy the Ring in the cracks of Mount Doom.