Study Guide

The Return of the King Book 5, Chapter 10

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Book 5, Chapter 10

The Black Gate Opens

  • Two days later, this army of roughly 6,500 is assembled on the fields of Pelennor.
  • The orcs and Easterlings attacking from Anórien have been held back by the Rohirrim, so everything is ready for the final battle.
  • Legolas, Gimli, Aragorn, Gandalf, Elladan, Elrohir, and the Rangers are all riding together.
  • Sadly, Merry cannot go because he is still not well enough. But hey, at least Pippin is going to represent the Shirefolk.
  • Hopefully Pippin will get his chance to shine, as Merry already has against the Lord of the Nazgûl.
  • Merry and Bergil both stand watching the armies march out.
  • Beregond is leading the Men of the City against Mordor, and Pippin is going with him.
  • Merry wonders if he shall ever see any of them again, and Bergil leads Merry back to the Houses of Healing. 
  • The army reaches Osgiliath at noon, and workers and craftsmen struggle to repair all of the bridges and ferries that the Enemy left destroyed, so that everyone can cross the river.
  • The horsemen reach the Cross-roads by sunset (for a description of this place, check out our The Two Towers Book 4, Chapter 7). 
  • Aragorn orders his trumpeters to blow a fanfare, and his heralds announce: "The Lords of Gondor have returned and all this land that is theirs they take back" (5.10.11).
  • Imrahil has suggested that they should attack Minas Morgul first (which is on the road to the right if they are facing the road to the Morannon, the Black Gate).
  • But Gandalf thinks that's a bad idea. See, if the Ring-bearer has gone through Cirith Ungol, they don't want to draw Sauron's attention to that area.
  • Instead, when the main force reaches the Cross-roads on foot the next day, they'll leave a strong guard on the Cross-roads.
  • Aragorn and Gandalf ride out ahead to Morgul Vale, where they see that Minas Morgul looks emptied out (since that's where the first attack on Minas Tirith came from). 
  • They break down the bridge from Minas Morgul to the Cross-roads and set fire to the rotten fields nearby. 
  • Then they return to the Cross-roads.
  • On the third day out from Minas Tirith, they march north to the Morannon. They still have a hundred miles ahead of them to travel.
  • Periodically, the heralds shout out, "The Lords of Gondor [or The King Elessar] are come! Let all leave this land or yield them up!" (5.10.16).
  • But no one responds to their challenge.
  • There is an ambush by orcs and Easterlings, but they repel it quickly. The Lords of Gondor are not to be messed with.
  • Aragorn, though, is sure the weakness of the attacks is supposed to lull them into a false sense of security. 
  • On the fourth day, they reach the desolation in front of the pass of Cirith Gorgor.
  • Some of the people in the army are so terrified by this sight that they cannot go on. 
  • Aragorn pities them, and offers them a choice with some honor: they can return to Cair Andros and take it back for Gondor, if they can.
  • Some of them feel new strength at Aragorn's offer and go on, but some do turn back.
  • For the most part, they all keep going slowly forward, expecting to be attacked at any time. 
  • On the fifth day of the march from Morgul Vale, they make their last camp.
  • They hear wolves howling and observe "things half-seen that walked and prowled all about them" (5.10.23). 
  • When morning comes, the land seems empty once more.
  • They approach Morannon from the northwest, which is what Frodo and Sam (and Gollum) did all the way back in The Two Towers Book 4, Chapter 3
  • The Black Gate is closed, and they can't see anyone around. This can't be good. 
  • It is now totally obvious that they could never pull down those gates with their minimal strength. 
  • Plus, they know that behind the Black Gate sits a horde of evil things.
  • The Nazgûl gather together, waiting on the towers on either side of the Gate (the Towers of the Teeth). 
  • There is nothing left to do but play out their part in this huge game of wits.
  • So Aragorn sends forward his armies to the Black Gate. Gandalf acts as herald, with Aragorn, Elladan, Elrohir, Éomer, Imrahil, Legolas, and Gimli in the front lines. This way, all of the enemies of Mordor get to stand on the front line.
  • They fly Aragorn's banner and shout for the Lord of the Black Land to come out.
  • There is a horrible roll of drums, and then the Black Gate opens.
  • Out comes an embassy led by a huge man dressed all in black, with a black helmet. He's the Mouth of Sauron, and he is not a nice guy.
  • He starts out mocking Aragorn for his pathetically small army.
  • But when Aragorn catches his eye, the Mouth of Sauron loses the staring contest. Ha.
  • He bleats, "I am a herald and ambassador, and may not be assailed!" (5.10.33).
  • When the Mouth of Sauron sees Gandalf, he gets excited because Sauron has ordered that Gandalf be shown special tokens, just for him.
  • These tokens are: (1) Frodo's coat of mithril mail, (2) a grey cloak with a Lothlórien brooch, and (3) Sam's short sword.
  • Pippin jumps forward with a cry of grief. 
  • When Mouth of Sauron spots Pippin, he jeers, "So you have yet another of these imps with you!" (5.10.38). Who you callin' an imp?
  • He thinks that Gandalf is using hobbits as spies.
  • Then he tells them that that the creature who wore these things is still alive. Sauron will torture him "for years, as long and slow as our arts in the Great Tower can contrive" (5.10.41). 
  • If Gandalf doesn't want this to happen to someone dear to him, he will have to withdraw with all the forces of Gondor to beyond the River Anduin and swear never to attack "Sauron the Great" (5.10.43). Oh, and he'll have to promise that Sauron gets all land east of the River Anduin forever. The lands west of the Anduin will become tributary states to Sauron.
  • They will help to rebuild Isengard, where a lieutenant of Sauron's (not Saruman) will live. 
  • Gandalf says these are pretty hefty demands. He won't even consider it unless the prisoner is brought out.
  • The Mouth of Sauron brags that Sauron will give nothing. All Sauron does is make demands.
  • That's when Gandalf throws back his cloak and shows himself in all his shining white glory.
  • He takes all of Frodo's things in memory of Frodo, but he rejects Sauron's offers (as we knew he would). 
  • The Mouth of Sauron looks furious, but when he sees the faces of Gandalf and his companions, he jumps on his horse and flees in fear. Not so tough now, are ya, buddy?
  • By the time he reaches the Morannon, trumpets have blasted a prearranged signal, and the attack from Mordor comes at last.
  • Not only do orcs pour out of the Morannon, but they also come from the hills on either side of the Morannon, leaving Aragorn's forces totally surrounded. All they can do is stand and fight.
  • And then the Nazgûl fly down, and there is—let's face it—no hope.
  • Pippin feels utter horror and despair when Gandalf rejects the Mouth of Sauron's offer, but he draws his sword anyway. All that's left is for him to do his best.
  • A huge line of hill-trolls from Gorgoroth come bearing down.
  • One of them stuns Beregond and leans over to tear out his throat with its teeth. 
  • But Pippin ain't having that. He stabs upward and kills the troll before any harm can come to Beregond. 
  • Unfortunately some harm comes to Pip: the troll's body comes crashing down on him, and he's sure that this is the end.
  • Then he hears a distant voice shouting, "The Eagles are coming! The Eagles are coming!" (5.10.60).
  • He thinks it must be Bilbo for a moment (since this is precisely what Bilbo shouts in The Hobbit Chapter 17). 
  • But then Pippin muses, "But no! That came in his tale, long long ago. This is my tale, and it is ended now. Goodbye!" (5.10.61).
  • Then he promptly passes out. And scene.

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