The Return of the King
The Return of the King Sacrifice Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
"There go three that I love, and the smallest not the least," [Aragorn] said. "He knows not to what end he rides; yet if he knew, he still would go on."
"A little people, but of great worth are the Shire-folk," said Halbarad. "Little do they know of our long labour for the safekeeping of their borders, and yet I grudge it not."
"And now our fates are woven together," said Aragorn. "And yet, alas! here we must part." (5.2.68-70)
See, Halbarad knows what's up: the great thing about the Shire is the innocence and security of its people. But in order to maintain that innocence, they must be protected, which falls to the Rangers. Sure, the Shire has produced a few extraordinary hobbits—Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, and Bilbo—who have been able to shape the course of Middle-earth. But for the most part, they travel off to do so in order that their kinsmen can remain as sheltered back home as ever. In other words, they fight so that the Shire can stay the Shire. Halbarad, too, is glad to suffer for the Shire without their knowledge, since their knowing would spoil their sense of safety.
So Pippin poured out his tale, reaching up and touching Gandalf's knee with trembling hands. "Can't you save Faramir?"
"Maybe I can," said Gandalf; "but if I do, then others will die, I fear. Well, I must come, since no other help can reach him. But evil and sorrow will come of this. Even in the heart of our stronghold the Enemy has power to strike us: for his will it is that is at work." (5.7.8-9)
Even Gandalf, superwizard, can't be in two places at once (although at times we wonder why not). So every military decision that he makes will come at some cost. By not pursuing the Nazgûl here, and deciding instead to save Faramir, Gandalf may have indirectly doomed Théoden to death. That's one tough call we're glad we don't have to make.
"[Faramir] will not wake again," said Denethor. "Battle is vain. Why should we wish to live longer? Why should we not go to death side by side?"
"Authority is not given to you, Steward of Gondor, to order the hour of your death," answered Gandalf. "And only the heathen kings, under the domination of the Dark Power, did thus, slaying themselves in pride and despair, murdering their kin to ease their own death." (5.7.30-1)
Hmm. Shmoop senses some Christian undertones. Do you? For one thing, Gandalf makes reference to "the heathen kings," and "heathen" generally refers to people who do not follow a monotheistic faith system such as Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. While Tolkien doesn't get into God specifically in this passage, Gandalf is setting himself and the people of Gondor apart from the "heathen" and from "the Dark Power." That means the Good side is aligned with some sort of Light Power, like, perhaps, God. He also makes a point to emphasize that it's not up to Denethor, or any mere mortal for that matter, to decide when to end a life. This is a classic Christian argument against suicide: having been given life by the will of God, many Christians believe that it shows the sin of pride to take that life away. Frankly, it seems like Gandalf is trying to persuade Denethor that his current route of self-sacrifice is actually a sin, and not so sacrificing at all.