Return of the King, Book V, Chap. 6-10


India Rangel
Return of the King, Book V, Chap. 6 “The Battle of Pelennor Fields”

1) Théoden chooses to charge into battle, though he seems to know he won’t make it through alive. Why did Tolkien choose Snowmane to be his “master’s bane” rather than choose a more heroic death for the king?

2) How do the words of the film, “I am no man,” and those of the book, “You look upon a woman,” differ?

3) After Éowyn slays the Witchking, Théoden tells Merry that he “shall not see her again, dearer than daughter.”  Why didn’t Tolkien let Théoden and Éomer see her triumph and instead let Éomer believe his sister to be dead?  Why was Merry the only one to see her victory?

 Iliana Hernandez
Return of the King, Book V, Chap. 7 “The Pyre of Denethor”

1) Do you think Gandalf made the right decision in helping Faramir out of burning rather than following the Black Rider to prevent him from killing more? Why or why not?

2) What is the deal with Denethor? What is the cause of his madness and logic for trying to burn Faramir? And what is his logic for setting himself on fire?

Allison Dorantes
Return of the King, Book V, Chap. 8 “The Houses of Healing” 

1) When Gandalf comes to find Merry and Pippin, he talks about how important the hobbits have proven in the midst of battle. Is their presence as important as Gandalf claims? What is Gandalf’s other “charge on [his] hands” that he talks about?

2) This is the second time that Aragorn has called for athelas (or kingsfoil) in healing people grievously wounded. What is the significance of this plant? How does its description affect the way people regard it?

Anna Torres
Return of the King, Book V, Chap. 9 “The Last Debate”

1) What do you make of Gimli and Legolas’ conversation as they enter Minas Tirith? Either about their plans to help the White City rebuild or their judgment concerning the worth and ability of Men?

2) Before he died, Denethor said, “You may triumph on the fields of the Pelennor for a day, but against the Power that has now arisen there is no victory.” What is the significance of Gandalf saying that the council should look for the wisdom in Denethor’s final words?

Andrew Calhoun
Return of the King, Book V, Chap. 10 “The Black Gate Opens”

1) Before battle is met outside the Morannon, an emissary of Sauron rides out to tell Aragorn’s company that Frodo has been captured. Gandalf reacts to this messenger and his offer of “parley” with uncharacteristic rage. Why do you believe Gandalf acts this way? Has the gravity of their situation left him with no other choice but wrath?

2) In this chapter, we see another miraculous last-minute intervention on the part of the Great Eagles. It seems as if the eagles only lend their strength to a conflict if their presence is absolutely necessary. Why is this? Do the eagles owe loyalty or allegiance to anyone but themselves?



28 thoughts on “Return of the King, Book V, Chap. 6-10”

  1. Chapter 8, Q1:
    One of my favorite parts of this book is that, in the end, every member of the fellowship had a purpose (even if it seemed they would be nothing more than “baggage” on the journey). Pippin and Merry prove to be some of the most important warriors in all of Rohan and Gondor: Pippin saves the life of Faramir (who lives “transfer power” to Aragorn upon his return), and Merry aids Eowyn in defeating the Witchking. I think it is also interesting that in dying, Boromir saved his own brother, since Pippin was alive to warn Gandalf of Denethor’s madness.

    Chapter 7, Q2:
    I think Tolkien is trying to show the unrelenting power of despair, if you give into it. Denethor truly believes that there isn’t any hope against Mordor, and sees no logic in waiting for death. This goes back to Tolkien’s idea that in many cases, the strongest power evil can wield is that of fear. Denethor is willing to “order the hour” of his death to escape the coming darkness, which is, while powerful, not yet guaranteed victory.


    1. I really like what you say about Boromir saving Faramir’s life indirectly. It both gives Boromir a more heroic purpose and also creates a bond between two characters that we don’t really get to see together, even though they are so important to each other and to the storyline.


    2. Wow, I hadnt thought of the relationship between Pippin, Boromir, and Faramir coming full circle like that, that is a really interesting point. One problem I have always had with lord of the rings is that because Merry and Pippin seem to have so many similarities, it is difficult to distinguish the significant things that they do. In fact, I have found myself wondering which one is in Minas Tirith and which one is with Eowyn. But thinking about the relationship that the two hobbits develop with the people of Rohan and Gondor is a really creative way to think about it.


  2. Ch 7

    1. I think that he did make the right decision. He knew he could save a life that was being threatened right in front of him, and he would not be able to turn his back on that. Aside from his morals, his wisdom leads him to believe that the death of Faramir would not just be one life lost. His death, and Denethor’s involvement in it would mean many other things, putting saving Faramir at top priority.
    2. Denethor thinks that he has nothing left to live for. Not only was his favorite son taken from him, his kingdom is about to be as well. He thinks that everything is lost, so to him, it only makes sense that Faramir would be next and then his own life. He no longer has hope that Faramir may not actually be taken from him.

    Ch 10

    1. I don’t think that Gandalf only has one option left. I think that he is both taken aback by the news of Frodo and also not willing to give up everything that everyone in the fellowship (and all its allies) has worked hard for to get to this point. He seems to be insulted by the suggestion to throw it all the way, all the sacrifice and hardship.
    2. While I am not sure if the eagles have a spoken/written alliance to a certain race or group, I think that they share similar beliefs about light and evil that the protagonists in the books do- especially with Gandalf. They have come to his aid multiple times, because I think their group sees strength and light in him. Parallely, they see the darkness and evil in Sauran, especially given the eagle’s history and where they come from.


    1. I agree with your thoughts on why Gandalf chose to save Faramir. He knew that if he didn’t intervene, Faramir would surely have died with Denethor. Although he didn’t know that the Witchking would kill Theoden, I think Gandalf had done all he could to save the king from the evil threatening his “soul.” After a slight hesitation, he chose to save the person who couldn’t defend himself over possibly helping those who could.


    2. I agree with everything that you are saying. These are very good points and I can not wait to talk to you about them in class.


    3. I agree with your thoughts on Gandalf choosing to save Faramir. He was in doubt because he knew many lives were at risk from the Witch King but saving Faramir was a guarantee rather than possibly defeating the Witch King. Faramir is a worthy man that needed saving.


  3. Ch. 7
    1) I think Gandalf did the right thing, because even if he stopped the black rider someone else will kill more. So I think that saving a life was good.
    2) I think he is just letting everything get to him which is not a hard thing. Personally I can relate and know that the pressures of the world can sometimes get to you and I think he let those pressures lead him to madness.
    Ch. 10
    1) I think that Gandalf is angry because the thought of bad things happening to good people is angering. I think Gandalf just wants a good break.
    2) I think the eagles represent goodness. And when they are truly needed come to the rescue.


    1. I like your answer on Chapter 7 question 2. It is really good to see that you can relate to things happening in that book.


  4. Chapter 7
    1) I believe that Gandalf did do the right thing when rescuing Faramir from burning rather than following the black rider. He saved an innocent life and I’m sure someone else could’ve stopped the black rider.
    2) Denethor is going insane. He tries to burn Faramir because he feels like he has nothing left. I feel like it was his pent up outrage at Boromir’s death made it seem like “might as well have my other son die too”. In his mind, he has already lost everything; which also explains why he burns himself too.


  5. Chapter 6
    1) I really don’t have a concrete answer for why Snowmane had to become his “master’s bane”. I think what it was meant to do was make the reader feel great tragedy and sadness. Tolkien made a great point in not giving Theoden a hero’s death because it shows that war makes a mess of things and that people you love and care about can die accidentally or mistakenly because of their friend. There are no guarantees when it comes to war, except tragedy.

    3) I was upset when I read the portion of the chapter where Theoden dies without seeing Eowyn and her victory. It robbed her of her great deed in a way, in standing up for her uncle. So my only guess for why Tolkien did that was to emphasis the impact that killing the Witch King had on her body. She was incapacitated and looked to be dead. Her appearing dead served to fuel Eomer’s rage and desire to fight, which could be seen as a good thing perhaps. Instead of worrying if she was okay and trying to take her to the House of Healing in the middle of battle, he was able to focus on fighting.

    Chapter 9
    2) Gandalf is smart in the way he looks for truth in the final words of Denethor. Gandalf knows that the armies at Minas Tirith stand no chance against the power in Mordor. Sauron has a lot more orcs than they have men. But Gandalf doesn’t despair with these words. He knows that Frodo could still be out there making his way to Mount Doom, and if that’s true then it doesn’t matter how many orcs Sauron has. As long as the orcs are not in Frodo and Sam’s way then there is hope.


    1. Theoden’s death is certainly a tragic event in the book. However, it certainly wasn’t unexpected, as the old king seemed ready to sell his life for the good of Middle Earth prior to the battle at the Pelennor. I agree that having Theoden’s downfall come about as a result of his own mount added another level of tragedy to the chapter.


  6. Chapter 6
    2) The two lines give entirely different feelings to the scene. In the film, it acts as a dramatic one-liner that both emphasises Eowyn’s skill as a warrior and to add a social meaning that women are often forgotten about in epic fantasy tales. In the book it is a longer speech where Eowyn fully reveals her identity and lets the Nazgul know who will defeat him. As opposed to a one liner, it feels more prophetic, but the one liner gives a “oh snap!” feeling for the audience in a more prominent way than the book does. Also in the book, it is implied Merry delivers the final blow. This gives Merry a great deed to look back on, but takes away from Eowyn’s moment and gives her less agency. The film gives her more power and competency as she is the one who finishes of the Nazgul.

    Chapter 9
    2) I believe Gandalf wanted people to be warry that the possibility of defeat is still very real. If Gondor gets too cocky due to one victory, everything could be lost. Denethor’s anguish leads to a good lesson that they always must think of every possible outcome of their actions, even the bad.


  7. Chapter 7

    1/ Yes, I think that Gandalf made the right decision to save Faramir from burning because Faramir has never asked for that. He knew that he had the chance to save an innocent life. I think he would have regret it if he didn’t take that opportunity. Moreover, someone else will maybe have the opportunity late to kill the Black Rider.

    2/ I think that Denethor has been overwhelmed with everything happening around him. He can’t really control all the actions he is doing anymore. He knows that only negative things are about to come and he realizes that he rather die than have to fight against the darkness.

    Chapter 10

    1/ I think that Gandalf reacted like that because he is shocked that someone give the option to just “give up”. The entire Fellowship have worked a lot to get to this point. They have gone through several things, they could have died multiple of times, so for Gandalf it is unbelievable to just give up now.

    2/ I can’t really tell if the Eagles are good or inspire more darkness, because they have come several time to help Gandalf when he absolutely needed it. But at the same time they really inspire darkness.


    1. The Eagles are the best example of Tolkien’s idea, and requirement, of eucatastrophe in fairy stories. Their purpose is largely singular, and that is to arrive as a beacon of hope and light when the need of our heroes is most dire. This has been in the case in The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings.


  8. Chater 7
    {{Do you think Gandalf made the right decision in helping Faramir out of burning rather than following the Black Rider to prevent him from killing more? Why or why not?

    2) What is the deal with Denethor? What is the cause of his madness and logic for trying to burn Faramir? And what is his logic for setting himself on fire?}}
    1) Yes, I do because The Black Rider is known to do evil, but Denethor is not. He is stopping an innocent man from doing something terrible to another and to himself. Also, I believe Gandalf knew in the back of his head that the Black Rider was not where he was needed.
    2) Denethor is suffering. He is in despair, which probably leads to suicidal tendancies. I believe Denethor wanted to kill himself, but seeing his boy dead, mixed with the memory of him telling Faramir he wished he was, pushed him over the edge. So as penance and in order for their whole family to be reunited, he went to burn himself.

    Chapter 9
    1) Just as the two count off their kills in battle, I believe this is a way to cope with the darkness. The two speak of improvements that could be made to the city afterwards. I think this is a way of reassuring themselves that tgey all will survive the coming battles.
    2) I believe Denethor meant that, yes you will win the battle, however there is no victory because many people will die and be sacrificed to the cause. Also it can be seen as a warning that there will be much loss in trying to destroy the Ring.


  9. Chapter 7:
    1) I believe Gandalf might the right choice, even if it was a difficult one. There were other captains at hand who could take up the fight against the wraith, but only the wizard could see to Faramir. If he had not, the loyal son of Gondor would have been cruelly put to death on the pyre. Gandalf weighed the risks and outcomes of each choice as always, and chose what seemed right to him.
    2) Denethor has become quite insane by this point in the story. The long years of stewardship have drained him to the point of using one of the corrupted Palantiri. The visions he has received from the treacherous stone have broken his mind. Now he believes there is no hope, so he wishes to die on a pyre to escape the darkness of the world, and he would have taken Faramir with him if it hadn’t been for Beregond, Pippin, and Gandalf.

    Chapter 9:
    1) Both Legolas and Gimli seem to realize that the age of men is coming, and Aragorn will lead in that new era. They also speak about the faults and strengths of humanity. Gimli says that men are fickle of heart, and prone to moral failure, but Legolas replies that their nobility and good deeds will outlast those of any other race on Middle-Earth. Their conversation is quite interesting, as it shows that both of these characters have much foresight into the coming days, but neither truly know just what will happen in the future.
    2) Denethor’s words are actually quite true. While the armies of the west won the day at the Pelennor fields, Sauron still remained as the ultimate power in Mordor, and his remaining strength was still formidable. Aragorn must take a stand against Mordor if Frodo and Sam are to be successful in their quest.


    1. I like what you said about Legolas and Gimli’s conversation because it really emphasizes, like all the races of Middle-Earth, humans are made up of both good and bad characteristics but should not be damned due to the bad ones.


  10. Chapter 7
    1) I think Gandalf made the right decision to save Faramir, because there would have been many negative effects to letting him die and letting Denethor remain in power. Gandalf had to decide very quickly who he wanted to save, and he knew that Faramir’s role in the kingdom was not over, so he knew he had to save Faramir for the good of the kingdom. This goes back to Tolkien’s theme of sacrifice and putting something bigger than yourself before yourself.
    2) Denethor truly believes that he has nothing left to live for. He continues to blame Faramir for Boromir’s death, and he despair is becoming all-consuming. Seeing Faramir also “dead” truly sent him into madness, because he realized that the last thing he had said to his son was that he wished he had died instead of Boromir. Without his family, he didn’t even feel that he deserved to run the kingdom. So as a sort of penance, he set himself on fire and finally gave into grief.
    Chapter 9
    1) I think their conversation is a way to ease the tension and nerves they feel. They seem to come up with coping mechanisms in times of stress or danger, such as when they count off killed enemies. Talk of restoration is just another way for them to take their minds off of the impending battle. They can dream for a little while about how the world might look after that darkness has passed.
    2) Denethor is stating that one battle does not win a war, and even if the end up winning the war against Sauron and Mordor, there will be unspeakable damage to the lands and the people. Gandalf says this to make the council realize that they might be walking into death, and even if they aren’t, rebuilding Middle Earth will be incredibly difficult. However, it is something that has to be done unless they want to succumb to the darkness.


  11. Book V, Chap 6
    1) I’m not totally sure, but it could be Tolkien’s way of saying that one’s greatest strength can also be their down fall. The people of Rohan are known for being skilled horsemen. Having their king killed, due to their biggest strength failing, could be saying that all great things are not as great as they seem. This theme could also be present in Sauron with his ring, in how it’s his greatest creation, yet it also leads to his downfall.
    2) I find little difference in the two lines. The reason I think they are written differently is because the movie, in battle scenes especially, relied heavily on visuals. Dialogue took a back seat while the pictures showed much of the story. Having a short compact line, like “I am no man,” allows the viewer to focus more on the action on screen than the dialogue the character is speaking, which was Peter Jackson’s intention.
    3) Thèoden and Èomer both did not know that Èowyn was at the battle. Having them find her dead, not in triumph, adds to despair that lingered over the battle. If they found her slaying the Witchking the battle would seem much more hopeful and cheery. Finding an unconscious loved one on a battlefield is simply a bad sign and added to the darkness of the battle. I don’t think Tolkien was trying to minimize her heroic deeds by having them go unwatched, we are still given the scene in active dialogue, not summary. I think they went unwatched so the characters still fighting, after Èowyn slayed the Witchking, would feel a new level of hopefulness on the battlefield.
    Book V, Chap 7
    1) Yes, Faramir is a beacon of hope in Gondor. Having him perish would further minimize the morale in Gondor, something that they could not afford.
    2) Denethor has been broken, simply put. By looking into the palantìr for too long Sauron has made him go mad. Sauron has a thing for fire, forging rings in a volcano and all that stuff. By making Denethor burn himself, it is not only completely evil but also a strong indication that Sauron has been meddling behind the scenes.


    1. I agree with your response to CH. 7 question 1, that Faramir was an important figure in Gondor as the captain of the guard, and the steward’s only living son, but I believe that the reason Gandalf chose to go and stop Denethor instead of fighting Angmar was because the circumstances were just so drastically different. Soldier’s facing off against Angmar made the choice to do so, even if it would lead to their death. Faramir, on the other hand, is injured and feverish, and Denethor has decided that this is his time to die.


  12. Chapter 6, Question 2) While some might consider this a matter of simple semantics, the difference in wording during these two similar scenes is very important. “I am no man” is a roundabout way of saying “I am a woman,” as Eowyn did in the book. I found the line “you look upon a woman” to be more empowering for this reason. Eowyn is on the brink of slaying an evil that no one has been able to touch for centuries, and just before doing so, she rubs Angmar’s one mistake in his face. For underestimating women in making it so only a man can kill him, Eowyn made it known quite clearly who had finally defeated him.


  13. Chapter 7, Question 2)
    We see that Denethor’s greed for the throne of Gondor has grown, and he now simply seeks the illusion of control. The palantir in his possession allows him to see the future, but not the whole truth of the future. Because of this, he has given up hope for Gondor’s salvation, and all that of Middle-earth, and this has made him extremely paranoid. He believes Gandalf wants to control all kingdoms of Middle-earth, like some sort of puppet-master, and replace him with Aragorn, who Denethor does not believe is fit to rule. In a desperate bid for control, he wants to decide when he will die, and would rather his son die with him rather than fall victim to Gandalf’s trickery. Once they take Faramir away from him, Denethor takes the only option he believes is left to him, and burns himself alive.


  14. Ch. 9
    1. Gimli and Legolas represent the ancient races that are essentially specialized races. The Dwarves are masters of stone and craftsmanship, in their golden age creating incredibly vast, beautiful, and enchanting citadels and structures, while the Elves are a race of grace, peace, and beauty. Their enchantment comes from their immortal lives, their connections to nature and the earth, and their superior crafts of weaponry and magic. Men are in all ways mediocre when compared to either of them, yet Gimli’s and Legolas’ conversation seems to suggest that the simplicity of men, their features that seem to be their faults, are what in fact may make them ultimately superior to the other races of Middle Earth. This seems like Tolkien’s way of encouraging the people reading that while there may be more talented and naturally gifted people out there, your efforts and your endeavors will persevere beyond you, and your effect on the world will be just as impactful, if not more, than those who intimidate you at the moment.

    2. Denethor’s final words serve as a warning. They have won the battle, but the war is not yet over, and that is harder to win. In fact, the war is now no longer up to them at all. There is nothing that they can do at this point that will defeat Sauron, but wait to see if Frodo and Sam can accomplish their goal. Everything now hinges on the hobbits whom they have lost contact with. Gandalf saying to look for wisdom in Denethor’s words are to help prepare people to accept that everything from this point out is out of their hands. If they lose the war, it is of no fault of their own. If they win, it is still not they who won, but Frodo and Sam who defeated Sauron.


  15. Ch. 10
    1. Gandalf knows that they cannot have actually succeeded in capturing Frodo, but he is still struck with fear in this moment. This is a moment of despair and loss of hope; while the other members of the fellowship recognize the token as Frodo’s and immediately assume the worst, it is not possible for them to have not found the Ring if they had Frodo, therefore there is still some hope for them yet. Gandalf is panicked, but not distraught, therefore he reacts uncharacteristically.

    2. The Great Eagles only appear when all hope seems lost, and there is no other escape. They are the watchers of the world, and only interfere if there is dire need. They have no allegiance or loyalty beyond a friendship to Gandalf and select few other individuals around Middle Earth. They symbolize the eucatastrophe discussed in class: Tolkien will bring us to the brink of despair, only to reel us back with relief of safety and comfort.


    1. Its really interesting how you brought “eucatastrophe” up in your second question because it has been such an important word in this class and is really relatable to your post.


  16. Chapter 7 Question 1
    Although I think Gandalf would have saved more peoples’ lives if he had pursued The Black Rider than save Faramir, I still think he made the right choice considering who Faramir is to them and how distressed Pippin was to save Faramir.

    Chapter 7 Question 2
    Denethor is completely out of his mind. I think he tries to kill Faramir and ultimately kills himself because he sees no future for themselves or Gondor. He is truly overwhelmed by everything going on around him and sees nothing but despair and rather die than live through the dark times.


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