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The Return of the King

The Return of the King

by J.R.R. Tolkien

Warfare Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #7

At last the trumpets rang and the army began to move. Troop by troop, and company by company, they wheeled and went off eastward. And long after they had passed away out of sight down the great road to the Causeway, Merry stood there. The last glint of the morning sword on spear and helm twinkled and was lost, and still he remained with bowed head and heavy heart, feeling friendless and alone. Everyone that he cared for had gone away into the gloom that hung over the distant eastern sky; and little hope at all was left in his heart that he would ever see any of them again.

As if recalled by his mood of despair, the pain in his arm returned, and he felt weak and old, and the sunlight seemed thin. (5.10.5-6)

Tolkien could have described the beauty or strength of the host setting out to Mordor for this last battle at the gates of Barad-dûr. Instead, he chose to view it all from the eyes of mopey, injured Merry. All Merry can think about as he watches the armies march away is that he may never see the people he loves again. This isn't about heroics and glory, folks. Instead, it's about the fear and sorrow of those whom the armies leave behind.

Quote #8

As he gazed at it suddenly Sam understood, almost with a shock, that this stronghold had been built not to keep enemies out of Mordor, but to keep them in. It was indeed one of the works of Gondor long ago, an eastern outpost of the defences of Ithilien, made when, after the Last Alliance, Men of Westernesse kept watch on the evil land of Sauron where his creatures still lurked. But as with Narchost and Carchost, the Towers of the Teeth, so here too the vigilance had failed, and treachery had yielded up the Tower to the Lord of the Ringwraiths, and now for long years it had been held by evil things. Since his return to Mordor, Sauron had found [the Tower of Cirith Ungol] useful; for he had few servants but many slaves of fear, and still its chief purpose as of old was to prevent escape from Mordor. (6.1.16)

Aside from the fact that this passage reminds us of Sauron's great talent for twisting things to his will, we wanted to stop for a second to note that Sauron keeps slaves. We have seen evidence of this before in the chained galley slaves of the Umbar fleet at Pelargir (see Book 5, Chapter 9). And when Sam observes Faramir fighting the Southrons, he wonders if the Southrons are there by choice, "or what lies or threats had led [them] on the long march from [their] home" (The Two Towers 4.4.99). In other words, a lot of the people fighting on Sauron's side may actually be doing so against their will. So the Big Bad is forcing people to do his bidding while Aragorn is letting his guys go (in Book 5, Chapter 10). It seems like we have two very different types of combat leaders on our hands.

Quote #9

The big orc; spear in hand, leapt after him. But the tracker, springing behind a stone, put an arrow in his eye as he ran up, and he fell with a crash. The other ran off across the valley and disappeared.

[…]

"But that is the spirit of Mordor, Sam; and it has spread to every corner of it. Orcs have always behaved like that, or so the tales say, when they are on their own. But you can't get much hope out of it. They hate us far more, altogether and all the time. If those two had seen us, they would have dropped all their quarrel until we were dead." (6.2.78-80)

This squabble between the tracker and the fighter (and the self-destruction of the orcs of the Tower of Cirith Ungol) raises a question for us. If Sauron had won at the end of the The Lord of the Rings (not that he ever would, since Tolkien would never be so bleak), what kind of an empire would he have? How could he establish a victory "so complete that none can foresee the end of it while this world lasts" (5.9.61)? His soldiers kill each other all the time. They have no faith, either in each other or in their "Higher Up" (6.2.64). How can you maintain an empire, even an evil empire, in a state of constant war? This is why we say a victory by Sauron would be impossible according to the terms of The Lord of the Rings: Sauron can conquer, yes, but he cannot build or establish anything after the conquest. His servants will just squabble until they kill each other off.

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