Study Guide

The Return of the King Book 5, Chapter 8

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Book 5, Chapter 8

The Houses of Healing

  • Meanwhile, Merry arrives in Minas Tirith with tears in his eyes. The men of Rohan are carrying Théoden and Éowyn.
  • They have laid Éowyn on soft pillows, and they have covered Théoden with a golden cloth.
  • Suddenly, out of the dark, Merry hears a familiar voice: "Well, Merry! Thank goodness I have found you!" (5.8.5).
  • It's Pippin. Aw. Together again at last. 
  • Pippin informs Merry that Éowyn and Théoden have been taken into the Citadel.
  • Merry tells Pippin that ever since he stabbed the Nazgûl, he has not been able to use his right arm.
  • Hmm. Sounds like a case for the Houses of Healing. So Pippin brings Merry to the main road of the Citadel.
  • As Pippin struggles to support Merry uphill, Bergil comes running by, running errands for the Healers. 
  • Pippin asks Bergil to go to the Houses of Healing for help for Merry. Then he waits with his cousin, letting Merry lay his head in his lap. 
  • Finally, Gandalf himself comes out to find Merry, and he and Pippin take him to the Houses of Healing, where the hobbit joins Faramir and Éowyn. 
  • Even though the Healers of Gondor are wise, they are struggling with all three patients, because they're all suffering under the Black Shadow, which keeps them from getting better.
  • Gandalf does his best to watch over all of them, but they still seem to be struggling.
  • An old healer woman, Ioreth, looks at Faramir and says, "Would that there were kings in Gondor, as there were once upon a time, they say! For it is said in the old lore: The hands of the king are the hands of a healer. And so the rightful king could ever be known" (5.8.24).
  • Hey… now here's an idea. Gandalf asks if Ioreth has heard that the king may have come back to Gondor.
  • But Ioreth has been too busy to pay any attention.
  • Suddenly, Gandalf runs out of the Houses of Healing. We think we have a good idea of where he's headed. 
  • Meanwhile, Aragorn, Éomer, and Imrahil approach the City gates as the sun is setting.
  • Aragorn doesn't want to cause trouble in the City by splitting the allegiance of the Guards between the new king (himself) and the old Steward (Denethor), so he won't make his claim to the throne until the war with Mordor is over. 
  • Imrahil agrees that it's probably not a good idea for Aragorn to declare himself to Denethor yet.
  • So Aragorn has his tents pitched in the fields of Pelennor, where he will await Denethor to come and meet him.
  • Imrahil and Éomer go into the city to find Denethor. Instead, they find Théoden laid out in the throne room. 
  • The guards inform them that "the Steward of Gondor" (note that he doesn't say which one) is in the Houses of Healing.
  • Éomer does not understand why his sister, Éowyn, is not lying alongside Théoden's body.
  • Imrahil tells Éomer his sister is still alive, which thrills Éomer, although he's a little nervous.
  • He heads out of the throne room with Imrahil, and the two of them find Gandalf walking with someone in a grey cloak. 
  • Gandalf catches Éomer and Imrahil up on the whole Denethor-consumed-by-flames thing, as well as Éowyn's current struggles against the Black Shadow.
  • Now that there is no ruler of the City, Imrahil suggests that Aragorn come in.
  • But Aragorn says Imrahil should rule Gondor until Faramir wakes up, so he can officially turn over the throne.
  • Oh, and Gandalf will have the final say over everything as long as the war continues.
  • They all agree. 
  • But before they handle the whole transfer of power business, they'll have to get Faramir and the other two better.
  • So Aragorn comes into the City in secret to see if his kingly, healing hands can help the people suffering under the Black Shadow. 
  • When he treats Faramir, Éowyn, and Merry, Aragorn calls for athelas, a.k.a. kingsfoil—the same stuff that he uses on Frodo's Morgul-knife wound in The Fellowship of the Ring Book 1, Chapter 12
  • Ioreth totally dismisses the idea, but she does mention that it grows in the woods nearby, so she goes off to find some.
  • Aragorn turns to Faramir and sees that his strength is nearly spent, even though his wound is healing.
  • Imrahil confirms that the arrow that injured Faramir probably came from the Nazgûl flying overhead, since his fever and sickness have been persistent ever since. 
  • The herb-master of the Houses of Healing comes in to say that they have no kingsfoil here, but some elderly people still use it in the City.
  • Well, go find it then, says an impatient Gandalf.
  • Aragorn places his hand on Faramir's forehead and calls him back. His face grows pale with exhaustion.
  • Bergil comes running in with six leaves of kingsfoil. 
  • When Aragorn places two leaves in a basin with hot water, the fragrance seems to refresh him.
  • And then Faramir stirs and opens his eyes.
  • The minute he sees Aragorn, he says: "My lord, you called me. I come. What does the king command?" (5.8.73). Now there's a smooth transition of power.
  • Aragorn tells him to rest a bit and then be ready.
  • Beregond and Bergil stay behind with Faramir.
  • Then Aragorn turns to Éowyn.
  • But he feels a bit awkward calling her back when they have this whole odd, unrequited love thing between them.
  • He points out that she loves Éomer more truly than she loves Aragorn; Éomer she knows, whereas Aragorn represents "a hope of glory and great deeds" (5.8.83). 
  • Aragorn calls her name and tells her to awake, and suddenly she seems to breathe more deeply.
  • He crushes two more leaves of athelas in steaming water and washes her forehead and right arm (the sword arm with which she killed the Lord of the Nazgûl). 
  • Aragorn tells her to awaken, and then Éomer joins in.
  • When Aragorn leaves the room, Éomer and Éowyn talk once more. Éomer has to break the sad news of Théoden's death. 
  • Of course Éowyn is sorry to hear it, but at least he died in honor.
  • She also tells Éomer he must make Merry a knight of the Riddermark, since Merry has been so brave.
  • Gandalf volunteers to go to Merry, and he and Pippin find Aragorn already standing at Merry's bedside. 
  • He'll be fine, Aragorn assures Pippin. Merry has a strong spirit. We'll say.
  • In a classic moment, Merry wakes up suddenly and announces, "I am hungry. What is the time?" (5.8.100). 
  • Merry wants to eat and then have a smoke—you know, usual hobbit stuff.
  • Knowing he's in good hands, Aragorn and Gandalf go off to have a chat while Pippin stays behind with Merry.
  • Aragorn and Gandalf develop a plan for their patients with the Warden of the Houses of Healing:
  • Éowyn will want to leave the Houses of Healing soon, but she shouldn't be allowed to.
  • Faramir will have to be told something about the death of his father, but not the full story of Denethor's craziness, at least until he is fully healed.
  • Merry will be okay to get up tomorrow.
  • After dinner, Aragorn leaves the Houses of Healing to tend to all of the assembled people who have been touched by the Black Shadow. And boy are there a lot. 
  • Elladan and Elrohir join him in his healing.
  • And the news goes out from the Houses of Healing that "The King is come again indeed" (5.8.119). 
  • At dawn, Aragorn slips away to sleep at last.
  • When he wakes, the banner of Dol Amroth flutters from the Tower.
  • Meanwhile, the people of Minas Tirith wonder if the king's return is just a dream. 

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