Study Guide

The Return of the King Book 5, Chapter 6

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Book 5, Chapter 6

The Battle of the Pelennor Fields

  • The Lord of the Nazgûl doesn't let this unexpected dawn throw him too much, and soon disappears from the gate to Minas Tirith.
  • Théoden reaches the road to Minas Tirith, where he sees Elfhelm and his men destroying the orcs' missile machines.
  • The Riders of Rohan are all over the Pelennor fields, but they still haven't broken the siege.
  • The chieftain of the Southrons throws himself at Théoden, so Théoden cuts him down and the Southrons scatter. Take that, Sauron.
  • Suddenly, tragically, a black dart flies down from the sky to pierce Théoden's horse, Snowmane.
  • When the horse falls, he lands right on top of Théoden, who finds himself trapped.
  • Oh so that's where the Lord of the Nazgûl disappeared to. He has returned on his winged beast.
  • All of Théoden's men lie killed on the ground near him except for one, Dernhelm.
  • Dernhelm is weeping because "he had loved his lord as his father" (5.6.8) (wink, wink). 
  • Merry is on the ground nearby, feeling sick. He is so frightened that he won't even look up.
  • But Dernhelm? Not so much. He draws his sword and refuses to allow the Nazgûl access to Théoden.
  • The Lord of the Nazgûl tells Dernhelm, "Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!" (5.6.14).
  • Dernhelm laughs and answers that she is not a man: it's Éowyn.
  • Filled with sudden bravery, Merry feels that she can't be allowed to stand against the Nazgûl by herself. 
  • So he crawls up behind the Lord of the Nazgûl, who is so focused on Éowyn that he does not notice. 
  • Éowyn slashes the head off the Lord of the Nazgûl's terrible mount.
  • He stands up, raises his mace, and brings it down on her shield, which shatters. Her arm breaks, too.
  • The Lord of the Nazgûl raises his mace to kill her, but he stumbles, because Merry has stabbed him in the back. Bam.
  • Merry shouts Éowyn's name, and with her last strength, Éowyn stands and drives her sword into the space between the Nazgûl's crown and mantle. 
  • His crown rolls away and a thin cry fills the air, fading slowly. In fact, his voice is "never heard again in that age of this world" (5.6.23). 
  • After that kick butt triumph, Éowyn passes out cold on the battlefield. Well, she's had a long day.
  • Merry meanwhile goes to Théoden who is too badly injured to recover. 
  • Théoden opens his eyes and says farewell to Merry. The poor king doesn't even know that it was his own daughter who killed the Lord of the Nazgûl. 
  • Meanwhile, things aren't going well in the battle. New forces arrive as reinforcements for the Enemy: Southrons and múmakil.
  • Éomer is marshaling the Riders of Rohan, and Imrahil of Dol Amroth has come out of the gates of Minas Tirith once more.
  • Éomer rides over to Théoden, and one of Éomer's knights picks up Théoden's fallen banner.
  • When Théoden sees the banner, he indicates that it should be given to Éomer.
  • Théoden's last words to Éomer are: "Hail, King of the Mark! [...] Ride now to victory! Bid Éowyn farewell!" (5.6.33).
  • Poor, fatherless Éomer weeps and orders that Théoden's body be taken from the field in honor.
  • Then, the new king notices Éowyn lying unconscious, which leaves him even more confused and panicked. 
  • But then he's resolved. He leads the Rohirrim straight at the enemy, shouting, "Death! Ride, ride to ruin and the world's ending!" (5.6.35)
  • Of course no one really notices Merry.
  • He picks up his sword, but it disintegrates in his hand. Ouch.
  • And that, friends, is the end of the weapon he picked up from the Barrow-wights all the way back in The Fellowship of the Ring Book 1, Chapter 8.
  • The knights of Rohan carry Théoden and Éowyn away, and they come back later to bury the king's men fallen beside him.
  • Merry walks alongside the bearers, weeping.
  • Imrahil rides up and asks what they are carrying. Then he notices that Éowyn is still breathing, and could be saved. 
  • So he rides on with Húrin the Tall, Forlong the Fat, and Hirluin the Fair to help Éomer.
  • It's a lucky thing they come to help, because Éomer is having some serious troubles.
  • The mûmakil of the Southrons are freaking out the horses of the Riders of Rohan.
  • And of course, they continue to be hideously outnumbered by the forces of Mordor.
  • Reinforcements are coming for the Southrons from Osgiliath. Things just keep getting worse.
  • A shout goes up from the city that the ships of Umbar are arriving up the Anduin.
  • This seems like the end: how can the city survive even more enemy troops? 
  • Some sound the alarm for retreat, and when Éomer looks to the river, hope dies in his heart.
  • Éomer feels stern and clear-headed: he has decided that he will make a last stand on foot if he has to, as the last King of the Mark. This guy ain't goin' down without a fight.
  • He shouts, "To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:/ Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!" (5.6.55).
  • He laughs as the joy of battle comes upon him again. Hey, at least he's having fun.
  • Then, just when he has resigned himself to a fighting death, the first of the ships sailing up the Anduin unveils its banner. 
  • It is the banner Arwen stitched for Aragorn, with the White Tree of Gondor and the Seven Stars and high crown of Elendil. 
  • The warriors of Mordor freak out as they realize that ships they believed were theirs are actually full of enemies. 
  • Sweet. Aragorn has arrived with Legolas, Gimli, Halbarad, Elladan, Elrohir, the Rangers, and forces from Lebennin, Lamedon, and the fiefs of the south of Gondor all in tow. 
  • Things are looking up for the Good Side. 
  • Aragorn walks in front, carrying Andúril (the Flame of the West, forged from the shards of the Sword that was Broken, Narsil) and wearing the Star of Elendil on his forehead. 
  • Éomer and Aragorn meet in the middle of battle and are glad.
  • They fight long and hard, winning the battle in the end. Come on, could it end in any other way?
  • When Aragorn, Éomer, and Imrahil return to Gondor, they are utterly exhausted but unhurt.
  • The list of the dead is long, though: Forlong the Fat, Duilin and Derufin, Hirluin the Fair, Grimbold, and even Halbarad. 

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