At long last, the Riders of Rohan have reached their goal. Riding through the night, filled with exhaustion and elation they come in sight of the war zone. It is much worse than they may have anticipated. The Orcs have breached the city walls. The levels of Minas Tirith are being overrun by Orcs leaving their casualties dead on the streets of the Citadel. The mayhem continues as the unstopping force of the enemy ravages all in their path. Even the mighty White Wizard has fallen to his knees unable to face his worst fear.
The fell beast with its master astride flies toward its army. The horn of Rohan sounds again, a gathering army of horsemen forms a line on the horizon. In a beautiful symbolism, the Rohirrim form right on the border where the new sunrise meets the dark overcast of Mordor. Light vs. dark, good vs. evil.
Now the sun stays its power and advances to provide the riders with the best chances to bring about good fortunes for the world of Men.
Rank upon rank of able-bodied men form a line and stop to take in the devastation that has welcomed them. Minas Tirith burns. They were aware that the war began but they could never know to what degree of damage it would come to before their arrival. It does seem to be hopeless to even try and defend a city that has already been penetrated and infested with Orcs.
As Éowyn takes it all in, all it stirs up in her is fear. She knew she was getting involved in a war for a good cause and that motivation stayed with her for all their journey from Edoras, through Dunharrow to Minas Tirith. However, to witness the desolation first-hand is to feel the horror of war. As her expression suggests she wasn’t prepared for a sight like this one.
Merry, riding in front of her, mimics the same sensation as Éowyn. He is fearful and in need of protection. Éowyn sensing his need comforts him with an arm around his chest, to give him courage.
What binds them both is the reason for their involvement. They both have people they love somewhere in the midst of all that chaos. They cannot be certain of their fates. For all, they know their lives are lost amongst those who were already slain. If so, their courage will honor the memory of those that gave their lives. However, if these people were by some chance still alive out there, their motivation to find and protect them grows ever impatient.
Even though Aragorn has rejected Éowyn in the most polite and rational way possible, it does not mean that her love for him has been extinguished. He gave her hope of a better tomorrow, he gave her the confidence she lacked to express herself as a warrior she always knew she was. Her sense of self has been restored and enhanced since he entered her life, and no matter the heartbreak she suffered, she remains loyal to him, to herself, for without him her spirit would have withered and eventually died.
Courage for friends
Merry is afraid and concerned about his friend. Pippin has always been someone who needed someone else to take care of him. This is not to say that he wasn’t self-sufficient, no. He was just a bit more careless than Merry. Merry always knew this, which is why they were always inseparable, so that, when in trouble, Merry could help Pippin out of the mess.
Since their separation in Edoras, however, Merry cannot know the growth that Pippin has shown in the midst of a crisis. He acted on his own merits, be they welcome or not. He hasn’t clung to Gandalf’s robe for protection. When he made the decision to join the service of the Steward he did it with honor, he powered through although it may have brought him fear and degradation at times.
No matter what he had achieved until now, Merry is not aware of any of it, and it is his primal instinct to care and protect his friend from harm. So, seeing the war raging before their eyes increases his concern about Pippin and fears that his life may have already been forfeit.
Courage, Merry. Courage for our friends.Éowyn
There isn’t anything more Éowyn can share with Merry at this moment. They are both on equal emotional ground and what they both need is a reminder of the reason why they are there, what their own personal mission is. They have to keep their loved ones in their minds as a reminder of their purpose but also as a crucial motivation for what is to come.
Form ranks, you maggots! Form ranks! Pikes in front, archers behind.Gothmog
As opposed to the Rohan army, the Mordor army is a bit less unmanageable. The way to achieve their obedience and follow through on the orders of their captain is for him to degrade and belittle them. It is nothing they haven’t heard before. It is the only way they know how to obey their general. In their minds, his words are nothing demeaning, just his way of command.
Théoden rides along the front lines of the Rohirrim.
Théoden: “Éomer! Take your Éored down the left side.”
Éomer: “Flank ready.”
Théoden: “Gamling, follow the King’s banner down the center. Grimbold, take your company right, after you pass the wall. Forth, and fear no darkness!”
All of his three lieutenants take their places as their king ordered. The king has organized his riders in the most effective way possible. They will come to the Orcs from the entire length of their line, standing strong with their lieutenants forging a path forward.
Arise! Arise! Riders of Théoden! Spears shall be shaken, shields shall be splintered! A sword-day! A red day, ere the sun rises!Théoden
In his own unique and goosebumps-erecting way, Théoden tells his army exactly what will await them, no sugar-coating and no false hope. This is the day they fight, and although the hope of victory has left their hearts, their will to face their enemy is stronger than any other self-preserving mechanism.
The Riders of Rohan point their spears toward their king in an agreement and unison of the mission before them. Their defenses are in place.
Orcs, on their part, kneel on the ground with their spears placed in front of them in defense.
Safety and comfort
Whatever happens, stay with me. I’ll look after you.Éowyn
Éowyn is aware of the Hobbit’s diminished capacity to fend for himself, so it would be best for him to stay by her side and follow her orders as much as possible. Although he may be small and agile, even that almost invisible quality in a fight against Orcs may not be enough to ensure his safety.
Éowyn’s words give Merry a sense of safety and protection, a feeling he is in desperate need of given the sight his eyes are focused on.
Théoden rides down the line touching his sword to every spear suggesting unity and equality of all of them before the enemy. They all stand for their king as much as their king stands from them. In a battle situation, they are all for one and one for all.
Théoden: “Ride now, ride now, ride! Ride for ruin and the world’s ending! Death!”
Théoden: “Forth Eorlingas!”
Even as I write this, tears stream down my face every possibility of breath. The magnitude and significance of this call to death is just overwhelming. This scene has always stirred the same powerful emotions in me.
To know that the hope of coming out of this charge alive is next to nothing and to extract so much energy and motivation among one’s own army to complete the mission is remarkable. They celebrate their certainty of death and with it all their doubts and reservations about the war they had before they encroached upon the fields of Pelennor vanish.
They know they are giving their all and their last to defend their kind and if death will find them, so be it. There are anger and strong determination within the Rohirrim that let them gallop forward purposefully.
So it begins
As the first exclamation of death leaves Théoden’s lips, Éowyn bows her head in fear and avoidance. It is one thing to be aware of imminent death, but to praise it as something welcoming is a completely different issue. She wasn’t ready to accept death, although she may be staring directly at it. It is a very difficult thing to accept one’s own mortality when it is only a few seconds away from being taken.
However, the courage of facing death, repeated by her comrades is transferred to her and Merry as they shout along with them.
The Rohirrim horns sound the charge and so it begins.
At first, their gallop develops slowly, but within a couple of seconds, it accelerates in speed. And the faster they move and the closer they come to their enemy the more determined they are.
Orc archers shoot down some of the Rohirrim Riders. They fall to the ground amidst the charge of their fellow comrades. But still the cavalry charges on, even more hastily than before.
Losing a couple of their soldiers does not bring down their entire formation, not in the slightest. They are there to do what they can for the race of Men, risking their lives is an already known consequence.
Gorbag: “Fire at will.”
As Théoden rallies his men even further, the Orcs remain baffled by their course of action. Normally, any other army would stand down or retreat after an attack like this. But since this isn’t the case, they find themselves confused as to what to do next. Their leader instructs them to fire at their own free will. It does not bring them much as the cavalry tramples through their lines.
With all their preparation and spear alignment, they could not have counted on the will of the Men to push through whatever defenses they encountered. The Orcs soon start to run from the onslaught of the Men and their horses, fleeing for their lives.
As the Rohirrim move through the Orc ranks, it becomes very clear that these Men cannot be halted. Until the last one of them is dead they will advance.
Meanwhile, the burning ritual of Denethor and Faramir is taking place in the mausoleum. Read on in my next post.