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The Return of the King

The Return of the King

by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Return of the King Book 6, Chapter 4 Summary

The Field of Cormallen

  • And now back to Aragorn and Company.
  • Gandalf and Aragorn stand stern as the storm of Mordor's troops breaks open their forces.
  • Gandalf looks north at the sky, and shouts, "The Eagles are coming!" (6.4.2).
  • The soldiers of Aragorn's army pick up the cry, while the troops of Mordor wonder what this means. 
  • Then, the battle for Middle-earth takes to the air, as the eagles fly against the Nazgûl.
  • But no sooner does the dogfight begin in earnest than the Nazgûl turn tail and flee, called back by Sauron to Mount Doom. 
  • The troops of Mordor hesitate fearfully, sensing Sauron's doubt in that moment. What are they supposed to do?
  • Gandalf lifts his arms and tells the armies of Aragorn to wait: "This is the hour of doom" (6.4.6). 
  • The earth shakes and darkness covers everything.
  • The Black Gate crashes and the Towers of the Teeth fall.
  • There is a rumble, and then Gandalf announces, "The realm of Sauron is ended! [...] The Ring-bearer has fulfilled his quest" (6.4.8). Bam.
  • A great Shadow seems to cover Mordor, but a wind blows the Shadow away.
  • The Captains of Aragorn's army bow their heads, and when they look up, they see their enemies fleeing.
  • Some of the proudest (and most foolish) of the men enslaved by Sauron decide to make a last stand. On the other hand, some of them beg desperately for mercy. 
  • Others just run away.
  • Victory is sweet, sure, but Gandalf has other business on his mind. He calls for Gwaihir the Windlord, chief of the eagles. 
  • Gwaihir, his brother Landroval, and his vassal Meneldor, all fly with Gandalf to Mount Doom in search of Frodo and Sam.
  • Sam leads a somewhat reluctant Frodo out of the Sammath Naur.
  • Frodo believes that they are on the verge of death anyway, but if Sam wants to go, Frodo will go with him. 
  • As they leave the Sammath Naur, an explosion breaks away half the mountain side.
  • They stand on an island of ash surrounded by lava.
  • Gwaihir spots Sam and Frodo from a distance: "forlorn, hand in hand upon a little hill" (6.4.23).
  • They both pass out cold just as Gwaihir reaches them. They totally did not see this rescue coming. 
  • Suddenly, we flash to Sam waking up in a bed underneath waving green tree branches.
  • He recognizes the scent of Ithilien, and thinks for a moment that he has been dreaming.
  • He looks around sees Frodo lying next to him.
  • When Sam sees Frodo's injured hand with the third finger missing, he realizes that it wasn't a dream. That. Just. Happened.
  • Gandalf appears, telling Sam that he is in Ithilien with the King.
  • Sam is utterly stunned to see both Gandalf and himself still alive: "Is everything sad going to come untrue? What's happened to the world?" (6.4.29).
  • "A great Shadow has departed" (6.4.30), Gandalf tells him, and then he laughs for joy.
  • Sam leaps out of bed feeling joyful and happy.
  • The hullabaloo wakes Frodo, who says he feels better, too—in fact, he woke up this morning, but he fell asleep waiting for Sam.
  • It is April 8th, according to the Shire calendar.
  • But wait a minute. Who's this King that Gandalf mentioned, Sam wants to know. 
  • Gandalf, who's having too much fun, decides to be coy and just says, "The King of Gondor and Lord of the Western Lands" (6.4.37).
  • Oh, and Gandalf has also rescued the gifts of Lady Galadriel, which Sam was carrying when he was found on the side of Mount Doom.
  • So Frodo receives Galadriel's jewel once more, while Sam gets to keep his box full of garden earth from Lothlórien (see The Fellowship of the Ring Book 2, Chapter 8).
  • Frodo and Sam dress and eat, and then Gandalf leads them down to a wide field, where a bunch of soldiers raise their swords and sing songs of honor: "The Ring-bearers, praise them with great praise!" (6.4.43). 
  • They approach an area with three thrones. On the right is the banner of Rohan, on the left is the banner of Dol Amroth, and in the middle is the huge standard of the Kings of Gondor: the white tree, the crown, and the seven stars.
  • Sam suddenly realizes that the man sitting on this middle throne is none other than Strider. 
  • To Sam's utter confusion, Aragorn comes down off his seat, bows to the hobbits, and then places them on his throne. 
  • He shouts, "Praise them with great praise!" (6.4.48), and the whole field erupts in cheers. What a welcome.
  • A minstrel appears and asks permission to sing the song of Frodo of the Nine Fingers and the Ring of Doom (6.4.50).
  • Sam is so totally and completely happy that he bursts into tears. All of his wishes have come true. It doesn't get much better than that. 
  • As the celebrations wind down, Frodo and Sam are escorted to a tent, where Gandalf appears with Frodo's stolen mithril-coat, sword, and Lothlórien cloak.
  • Sam insists that Frodo take Sting back and wear it to the evening feast.
  • During the feast, Sam and Frodo sit at the high table with Éomer, Imrahil, Legolas, Gimli, and the chief captains of their forces.
  • They are waited on by two squires, one in the uniform of the Guards of Minas Tirith and the other dressed like a soldier of Rohan.
  • It's Merry and Pippin!
  • Sam sees at once that they have both grown taller.
  • Merry and Pippin promise to talk to Sam and Frodo later, after they've finished their serving duties.
  • Following the feast, Sam and Frodo sit under a tree and chat with Gandalf, Merry, Pippin, Legolas, and Gimli.
  • They get the scoop on everything that has been happening to their companions since they left the fellowship at the Rauros Falls.
  • It turns out that it is thanks to the Ent-draughts Merry and Pippin drank with Treebeard in the Forest of Fangorn (see The Two Towers Book 3, Chapter 4) that they are now both three inches taller than they should be. Oh so that explains it.
  • Eventually, Gandalf sends Frodo and Sam to bed. And Gimli reminds Pippin that he is also still recovering.
  • Gimli only found Pippin at all, lying as he was under the corpse of that hill-troll, because he saw Pippin's hobbit-foot sticking out. Isn't that lucky?
  • Outdoorsy Legolas will rest by walking through Ithilien.
  • He hopes that some of his people in Mirkwood will move here for a time, to bless the land. 
  • But the River Anduin leads to the Sea, which keeps calling Legolas.
  • They spend many days camped on this Field of Cormallen, which is near Henneth Annûn and the island of Cair Andros, in the River Anduin.
  • Frodo and Sam wander along the places they saw in Ithilien on their quest.
  • (Sam wants to catch another glimpse of an oliphaunt.)
  • In the last week of May, they sail from Cair Andros to Osgiliath.
  • From Osgiliath, they reach the fields of Pelennor, where they see the white towers of Minas Tirith standing under the mountain Mindolluin.
  • They camp on the Pelennor Fields and wait for sunrise, so that Aragorn can enter his city with the dawn.

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