The Return of the King
How we cite our quotes:
But now their art and knowledge [of medicine] were baffled; for there were many sick of a malady that would not be healed; and they called it the Black Shadow, for it came from the Nazgûl. And those who were stricken with it fell slowly into an ever deeper dream, and then passed to silence and a deadly cold, and so died. And it seemed to the tenders of the sick that on the Halfling and on the Lady of Rohan this malady lay heavily. […] But Faramir burned with a fever that would not abate. (5.8.22)
We don't want to imply that Tolkien had this in mind when he wrote The Lord of the Rings (in fact, he couldn't have, if you think about when he started the books), but doesn't the Black Shadow remind you a bit of the radiation left over from nuclear weapons: even though a person can't see it, and even though a person may look uninjured, it can still kill a person long after a nuclear bomb exploded. The presence of the Black Shadow means that fighting the Nazgûl demands a sacrifice: even if you don't get injured and survive the fight with your life, you may still die afterwards from this cold, wasting sickness. Even if it means life and health, though, we don't think that either Faramir or Éowyn could have chosen not to fight the Ringwraiths. They are heroes, and that's how heroes roll.
"Look!" [Legolas] cried. "Gulls! They are flying far inland. A wonder they are to me and a trouble to my heart. […] The Sea! Alas! I have not yet beheld it. But deep in the hearts of all my kindred lies the sea-longing, which it is perilous to stir. Alas! for the gulls. No peace shall I have again under beech or under elm."
"Say not so!" said Gimli. "There are countless things still to see in Middle-earth, and great works to do. But if all the fair folk take to the Havens, it will be a duller world for those who are doomed to stay." (5.9.19-20)
Legolas's sudden sea-longing foreshadows the exceptionally bittersweet ending of The Lord of the Rings. See, that's the problem: in order to be without the massive dangers of Sauron, we also have to be without the equally massive awesomeness of the elves and wizards. Their goodness seems only to provoke the development of equal, opposite evil. So all the awesome folks like Legolas and Gandalf have to sail into the West so that Middle-earth can be safer.
Legolas paused and sighed and, turning his eyes southward softly he sang:
Silver flow the streams from Celos to Erui
In the green fields of Lebennin!
Tall grows the grass there. In the wind from the Sea
The white lilies sway.
And the golden bells are shaken of mallos and alfirin
In the green fields of Lebennin,
In the wind from the Sea!
"Green are those fields in the songs of my people; but they were dark then, grey wastes in the blackness before us. And over the wide land, trampling unheeded the grass and the flowers, we hunted our foes through a day and a night, until we came at the bitter end to the Great River at last." (5.9.34-5)
One of the huge drawbacks of being an elf is that you remember everything. And since Tolkien generally seems to contend that things are always better in the past, the elves are always, well, glum. They remember how things were, which always makes how things are seem like a plain old disaster. When Legolas recalls what these green fields of Lebennin once looked like, how can he not be totally bummed that they're now hideous—thanks to war. For more on Tolkien's nostalgia for the past, check out our section on "Setting" in the The Fellowship of the Ring learning guide.