Light and shadow

Retreat to Minas Tirith

Madril: “Faramir! We can’t hold them! The city is lost!”

Faramir: “Tell the men to break cover. We ride to Minas Tirith.”

With all their strategizing and preparedness, the garrison at Osgiliath is no match for the wrath of the Orcs. There is no help that can come to them now, and they alone suffer a great loss of their soldiers. To prevent this massacre from expanding, their only option is to retreat. They need to regroup and gather their strengths within the walls of Minas Tirith.

Retreat

Soldier: “Nazgûl! Take cover!”

Faramir: “Pull back! Pull back to Minas Tirith! Retreat! Retreat!”

The fell beasts arrival only confirms their worst-case scenarios, for there is no one that can stand in the way of the Nazgûl attack. As the garrison doesn’t have any aerial defenses themselves, they are sitting ducks, escaping only through sheer luck. They are cornered, and their only option is to flee as fast as their horses can carry them.

It is a gruesome sight, seeing a stronghold of Gondor taken over by the enemy in such an overwhelming manner. It isn’t as if they had any time to drag out this negative outcome, they simply never stood a chance. For all the garrison’s soldiers, the enemy is at an advantage.

There can be no more men produced inside their own lines. Every able-bodied soldier of Gondor has taken to defend his land as best he could. However, the ever-producing gathering forces behind the walls of Mordor represent a threat that no small garrison can withstand.

A gruesome end

An Orc harms Madril, leaving him on the stony floor of Osgiliath to die in agonizing pain. Although there wasn’t much chance of his recovery, not even in the Houses of Healing, to finish him off in a brutal manner is something of a macabre statement.

Madril’s eyes widen as a group of Orcs, led by Gothmog, approach his limp body. There cannot be any type of rescue coming his way and his last breaths are taken while facing his enemy without the possibility of fending for himself. There is no mercy in war. Nevertheless, Madril would have died without Gothmog instilling a lethal wound by spearing his heart.

It is a sad day when even those dying do not have the peace to do die undisturbed. It is a statement of cruelty, of power, of domination.

The end of an age

The age of Men is over. The time of the Orc has come.

Gothmog

With this statement, Gothmog confirms that which all Middle-Earth inhabitants fear – the rise and domination of the enemy across all lands. The soldiers of Gondor have fought valiantly, but against the wrath of power-hungry incorporeal malice, there is a slim chance of survival. It seems final as if all the efforts made by Men – and Hobbits – were futile.

The ease with which the Orcs overrun Osgiliath gives us a sense of the ending not being a happy one, at least not for the race of Men.

Powerful metaphor

The survivors of the attack astride their horses, gallop with haste toward Minas Tirith. The vast fields of Pelennor make them vulnerable for the Nazgûl on their fell beasts to swoop in. As the army’s numbers dwindle and the attack of the fell beasts becomes more terrifying, Gandalf, together with Pippin, rides toward them on Shadowfax, for he is the only one who might help them escape this onslaught.

They move fast towards the still galloping Men, as soon as they are within reach of Gandalf’s powers, white light shines from his staff blinding the fell beasts. This gives the Men a chance to reach the safety of Minas Tirith.

There is a wonderful image that emerges from the screen. The sky above the galloping army of Minas Tirith is covered in black clouds, providing the fell beasts with an unobstructed path toward the city. As Gandalf rides from Minas Tirith, the sky above him is sunny with just a few single white clouds, painting a picture of a beautiful day.

The two opposites collide in the middle of Pelennor Fields, darkness, ash and Nazgûl on one side, and the White City, the White Rider and hope on the other. To make it even more poignant, the fear-inducing composition that accompanies the onslaught of the Nazgûl suddenly melts into a single young male voice and a light, almost Elvish instrumental composition accompanying Gandalf and Pippin.

It is a picture-perfect metaphor describing the current situation facing Middle-Earth.

Foreseen resignation

Faramir: “Mithrandir! They broke our defenses. They’ve taken the bridge and the West bank. Battalions of Orcs are crossing the river.” 

Irolas: “It is as Lord Denethor predicted! Long has he foreseen this doom!”

Gandalf: “Foreseen and done nothing!”

Faramir provides Gandalf with a situation update. Although relevant to their current situation, there is nothing Gandalf can do to influence it. He, and all the other people of Minas Tirith, now have to rely on hope and aid from outside their walls. They have done all they could.

Irolas in his “infinite wisdom” confirms that the Lord and Steward of Minas Tirith had foreseen this turn of events. His observations only depict the supremacy in the intellect of Lord Denethor, but sadly nothing else. Denethor knew in advance that this outcome would plague their city, still, he never did anything to strengthen the city’s defenses, or to call for aid to protect Osgiliath. Not one move came from the White Tower.

It is almost unbelievable to think that Denethor knew what awaited his people and sat still awaiting it. As if he himself had something to gain by conforming to the enemy’s plans. This is not as bad as Saruman siding with the enemy, but bad enough to simply resign, knowing that all the subjects under his reign would be facing death. It is one thing to resign yourself to pain and death, it is quite another to let others face the same fate simply because he wasn’t performing his duties as the keeper of the throne.

If the title and the position are so important, then performing the duties the title brings should be as important as the title itself, otherwise, it is just vanity.

A familiar face

Gandalf: “Faramir? This is not the first Halfling to have crossed your path?”

Faramir: “No.”

Pippin: “You’ve seen Frodo and Sam!”

Gandalf: “Where? When?”

Faramir: “In Ithilien, not two days ago. Gandalf they’re taking the road to the Morgul Vale.”

Gandalf: “And then the pass of Cirith Ungol.”

Pippin: “What does that mean? What’s wrong?”

Gandalf: “Faramir, tell me everything. Tell me all you know.”

As Faramir glances on Gandalf’s passager, an instant of recognition and familiarity covers his face. This race is no longer a stranger to his eyes, for he had seen two of his kind before. He stares long enough for Pippin to feel embarrassed, although without a particular reason.

Pippin does not know why this man has taken such an interest in his presence all of a sudden. It is as if he had seen him somewhere before but cannot place him. Pippin may be feeling embarrassed because of a non-welcoming look in Faramir’s eyes. For all he knew, Faramir would blame him for lighting the beacon of Minas Tirith.

Gandalf’s hope confirmed

Gandalf studies the exchange of looks between Faramir and Pippin, coming to a logical solution. As soon as Faramir confirms Pippin is not the only Halfling he had seen, Pippin faces him with new hope and excitement. The news of his two lost companions brings him the joy he hasn’t felt in a long time. To know that they are still alive somewhere in the Wilderness is enough to brighten his spirits.

Gandalf is as surprised by this information as Pippin is. Frodo and Sam alive is the best news he could have received. Now, he does not have to rely on his heart’s interpretation of his feelings of hope, now he is sure. His dwindling hope of their survival would have been extinguished in a little while if he hadn’t had this confirmation. There is only so long one can hope without substantial evidence.

His elation at this news fades almost immediately, as Faramir explains the road the two Hobbits will be taking. This gives Gandalf cause for concern because unlike Frodo and Sam, he is aware of the danger that awaits them in the tunnel.

Concern and fear

Faramir’s expression during this exchange of vital information is almost terrified. Not only has he just escaped his own death, but now he faces the only wizard who might be able to help him, and his Halfling sidekick, only to bring them information of their friends whose fates lie in the hands of a wretched creature leading them into dangerous territory. His face shows concern, fear, but also guilt.

Knowing what he knows of the Pass of Cirith Ungol and still letting them go without landing a hand is bound to give rise to feelings of guilt. For all their initial animosity, he has grown fond of the two Hobbits and he wishes them well. However, the terror that dwells in the tunnels of Cirith Ungol is not something one would normally let someone one cares about go through.

During their farewell, there was nothing else he could have done. Faramir threatened Gollum in hopes of him taking his threats seriously and giving up any plans or thoughts of harming the Hobbits.

Faramir had to stay in Osgiliath and defend it as best he could. He could not have offered his services to the Hobbits, even if he wanted to. The sacrifice he faced by letting them go was service enough. However, to now find their friends standing in front of him, yearning to hear the good news of Frodo and Sam, only to produce worry and concern about their path cannot be a pleasant feeling.

Although there is nothing more Faramir could have done for the two Hobbits, feelings of fear for their lives and subsequent guilt still permeates his face.

Faramir faces his father’s judging expression in my next post.

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