Study Guide

The Return of the King Book 5, Chapter 5

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Book 5, Chapter 5

The Ride of the Rohirrim

  • Let's jump back in time a bit, shall we? 
  • Merry lies on the ground resting, surrounded by Rohirrim. They are camped in the pine-woods of the Drúadan Forest in East Anórien.
  • Merry is completely tuckered out, but he can't sleep, because he feels lonely and useless.
  • They are less than a day away from Minas Tirith, and scouts have told the Riders that there is a huge camp of enemy troops holding the road ahead of them.
  • Elfhelm comes tripping over Merry back to their company of Riders.
  • He has news: the Wild Men of the Woods, the Woses who live in Drúadan Forest, have come to offer their service to Théoden. 
  • Unable to stand being left out anymore, Merry walks towards a lantern lighting Théoden and Éomer.
  • There, he sees a squat, stumpy fellow wearing only grass around his waist talking to the King.
  • He reminds Merry of the Púkel-men of Dunharrow. 
  • This man is Ghân-buri-Ghân, the headman of the Wild Men of the Woods.
  • Bearing the news that Minas Tirith is burning, inside and out, he also tells them that the road to the City is already covered in orcs.
  • He wants to show Théoden secret, long-forgotten paths to Minas Tirith, and he also offers to fight alongside the Riders of Rohan.
  • In exchange, Théoden must swear to leave the Wild Men alone in their forests after the war, to which Théoden readily agrees. 
  • Eavesdropping Merry slips away, feeling dread for Pippin, who he knows is somewhere in the wreck of the city. 
  • Each company of Riders gets a wild woodman to guide them. Théoden's guide? Ghân-buri-Ghân, of course. 
  • After a time, Ghân calls a halt to speak to his hunters, who have arrived to tell them that the orcs have knocked down the walls of Rammas.
  • Éomer, for one, thinks this is actually good news. It means one less obstacle to the Riders of Rohan.
  • Because of their strength, the orcs are not watching the roads properly, and they all think someone else is keeping guard. 
  • Éomer exclaims that the darkness itself is providing cover for their men. Lucky break.
  • Ghân-buri-Ghân notices that the wind is changing and he and his hunters rush off.
  • Enter Elfhelm, who has come to tell Théoden that they have found the bodies of the messengers from Denethor (Hirgon and one other). 
  • So Hirgon never reached Gondor, and Denethor has no idea that the Rohirrim are coming to help him. All the more reason to get their butts into gear.
  • Luckily, the Riders are fast approaching the Pelennor Felds.
  • The king's company is in the lead, with Elfhelm's éored (cavalry company) right behind him.
  • Merry notices that Dernhelm has ridden up until he has caught up with the king's company. 
  • The scouts tell Théoden that the City has been set on fire and the field is full of enemies. The Rohirrim has its work cut out for itself.
  • But another man, Widfara, tells Théoden that he has noticed, like Ghân-buri-Ghân, that the wind has changed. He believes "The morning will bring new things" (5.5.52). Hey, that sounds promising.
  • Théoden gives his people a rousing speech to fulfill their oaths "to lord and land and league of friendship!" (5.5.54). 
  • Then he sends Grimbold's company to the left, Elfhelm to the right, and Théoden rides straight forward.
  • Off they ride into the darkness. Here goes nothin'.
  • Merry is still clinging to Dernhelm on the back of his horse, while trying to draw his sword.
  • The warriors of Rohan move silently in the fields of Pelennor. 
  • The Lord of the Nazgûl is so focused on the gates of Gondor that he hasn't even noticed they are there. 
  • At last, it comes: the wind is in Merry's face and, far to the South, there are glimmerings of light as the cloud starts to break. Hey, what happened to there being no dawn?
  • There is a crack of lightning that illuminates the city with a boom.
  • Théoden stands and shouts, "Arise, arise, Riders of Théoden!/ Fell deeds awake: fire and slaughter!/ spear shall be shaken, shield be splintered,/ a sword-day, a red day, ere the sun rises!/ Ride now, ride now! Ride to Gondor!" (5.5.64).
  • He blasts on his horn, and all of his men pick up their horns and do the same. Let's do this.
  • Théoden rides into battle so fast that no one can overtake him. He seems possessed with "the battle-fury of his fathers" (5.5.66).
  • The soldiers of Mordor wail in terror as the Riders of Rohan burst into song, because they are so filled with the joy of battle. 

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