The Ride Before the Fall

The Rohirrim are advancing towards Minas Tirith to aid the army against a common enemy. They take brief breaks along the way so as to arrive at Minas Tirith with as much strength as possible. They have taken a break near a lake. Éomer rides in to report to the King of the situation at their destination.

Time running out

Éomer: “The scouts report Minas Tirith is surrounded. The lower levels in flames. Everywhere legions of the enemy advance.”

Théoden: “Time is against us.”

The news of the enemy’s advance on the Citadel has him hurrying the Rohirrim to prepare to ride out again. Time has run out. Gondor is under attack. It is a struggle between the men (and a woman) resting for a while to ensure the best possible defense, and riding as hard as their horses can take them in order to reach Minas Tirith in time, while there is still something to defend. 

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The truth about Merry

Éowyn: “Take heart Merry. It will soon be over.”

Merry: “My lady, you are fair and brave and have much to live for, and many who love you. I know it is too late to turn aside. I know there is not much point now in hoping. If I were a knight of Rohan capable of great deeds… but I’m not. I’m a Hobbit. And I know I can’t save Middle-Earth. I just want to help my friends. Frodo. Sam. Pippin. More than anything… I wish I could see them again.”

Éowyn gives Merry a fresh perspective of the battle ahead, which guarantees an end to it all. She is aware of the fact that no matter how or who prevails in the oncoming war, it will end soon enough. That in itself is a comfort. This too shall pass. 

Merry confronts his truth. He admires Lady Éowyn for her bravery and her unyielding will to participate in the war, no matter the outcome. Merry understands the lack of hope that is spreading fast through all the lands of Middle-Earth as the enemy gathers ever more strength.

More than anything he would like to be a great knight, a real warrior who could easily stand against this malicious foe and do what is necessary to save his people. However, he is only a Hobbit, and although brave at heart, he understands that the reach of his arm is insufficient to do any kind of damage to the enemy.

The course of the future

Nevertheless, he is a person willing to risk his own life to do as much as he can for those he loves, for his friends. He may be small in stature but as Lady Galadriel once said, “even the smallest person can change the course of the future”. And as significant as this phrase is for Frodo, it applies to Merry as well.

It applies to all equally, for every person’s decision sets them on a different course than the one before the decision was made. Everyone is interconnected, and however unbelievable, everyone influences everyone else. 

Éowyn listens to Merry’s truth with understanding and compassion, for she may be feeling the same way. Their histories may be different but the cause of their joining the battle is the same. And she, more than anyone, can comprehend his want and pain in this situation.

Riding out

The horn of Rohan blows. 

Éomer: “Prepare to move out!”

Theoden: “Make haste! We ride through the night.”

There is now nothing that can halt their troop before they reach Minas Tirith. Not even the night can stop them. For all their exhaustion and tiredness, they know the need of the people in Minas Tirith is greater than their own suffering, which motivates them to push forward. Someone always has it worse than we think we have it, and since their mission is that of aid, there is no time to waste, for they are already suffering losses. 

Éowyn and Merry don their helmets.

Éowyn: “To battle.”

Merry: “To battle.”

With determination, Éowyn and Merry clothe themselves in confidence and prepare to face the cruelest of gatherings they have ever encountered. 

Meanwhile in Minas Tirith…

The wolf shaped battering ram seems to have his own cheering squad. The Orcs cheer his existence in the hopes of bringing down the gate. Apart from its huge body, inside its mouth, a fire burns, so that once it enters the gates of Minas Tirith, whatever wood or flammable material may stand in its way will be annihilated.

Trolls, being the strongest of the army and definitely the tallest, pull back the ram and slam it into the gate. 

Gandalf, still in charge of operations, rallies the soldiers to defend the gate of the city. 

Back to the gate! Hurry!


The procession

In fear and anguish, Pippin looks down from the walls of the courtyard at the battle. He is moved into action as he witnesses Denethor marching across the courtyard with guards carrying Faramir’s litter. 

I am Steward of the House of Anárion. Thus have I walked. And thus now will I sleep. Gondor is lost. There is no hope for Men.


Symbolically, as Denethor passes the White Tree, a flower that has bloomed in spite of the tree being dead presents new hope, a hope of which Denethor is unaware. He simply marches on almost blindly, disinterested in the mayhem that is happening now inside the walls of his city. So much for his rule.

Now that his men need him the most, he has given up, not caring about his people or the fate of the realm. His sons are lost, therefore there is no one to take his place. The title he held for all his time, is now worthless, only words on paper, nothing more. He could have made a change and rallied against in spite of their not being any hope left. He could have done it in the name of his sons, his people, his beloved title, but no, he chose cowardice and withdrawal. So much for his own false image of himself. 

Down the Silent Street to death

As the procession travels the Silent Street, Pippin follows almost inconspicuously. The procession stops before the doors of the mausoleum. Denethor looks down at the battle. 

Why do the fools fly? Better to die sooner than late. For die we must.


Denethor finds the men still dying to defend Minas Tirith somewhat comical. His facial expression turns almost into a grin. He considers them fools for even trying. They should all have followed his example and die at their own accord, rather than be killed in vain. 

To be one’s own master of the time of death is one thing, but to forfeit early simply because it does not make sense to even try and defend one’s own is ludicrous. Even as Denethor utters his words, his face shows signs of instability. His thought process functions on a level that could not be considered normal, not even in times of war when all is permitted.

For comparison’s sake

Théoden, also struck by grief, rallied as much as he could for his people, bringing them into the welcoming arms of Helm’s Deep in the hope that the enemy would not be able to breach the fortress. When he was proven wrong he lost all hope for an instant, until Aragorn boosted his confidence once again and rallied him to ride and meet the Uruk-hai.

Now, he is on his way with the Rohirrim to help the army of Gondor. It may have taken him a bit of time, but he turned his misery over the loss of his son into motivation to do as much as he could for his people, to die in glory. 

Denethor on the other hand never even tried. After Boromir’s death, he abruptly crashed into a deep depression and grief, which in itself is not surprising given the event. However, it also tells us of himself as a character. Denethor never seemed to be that much of a hands-on ruler. He deployed Boromir to grant his wish and sat still in his hall waiting for him to bring the mighty gift. Denethor was just a figurehead, someone to wear the title of Lord and Steward, nothing more.

After Faramir’s return in a half-dead state, his anger and rage turned into a complete abdication not only of the throne but of his life and that of Faramir as well, without providing his son any kind of medical help. He took it at face value and thus decided on their fates. 

Two rules, same fates, different reactions. 

Like the kings of old

No tomb for Denethor and Faramir. No long, slow sleep of death embalmed. We shall burn like the heathen kings of old! Bring wood and oil!


What Denethor refers to with the burning of him and his son as the heathen kings, relates to the times before the ships from Númenor, that brought Elendil and subsequently all his heirs ever reached Middle-Earth. With this custom, he retreats to a time where there was no other possible heir to his throne, a time when, had it not happened at all, Aragorn would not be a threat to his pride. Therefore, he opts to present himself as the only other heir in the light of a realm that once was, before the Númenorian “invasion”. 

The gate is breached

It only takes Grond four tries to break down the gate to the city. The soldiers of Gondor waiting on the other side of the walls are all but prepared for what is to come. As they stand and wait their eyes express fear and despair of the unknown. The only “general” they now have that can boost their confidence in this hour of trouble is Gandalf. 

Steady! Steady! You are soldiers of Gondor! No matter what comes through that gate, you will stand your ground!


But not even the White Wizard himself can save them from the onslaught that awaits them. As the gate breaks, heavily armed and armored trolls pass through them. Gandalf’s face tells us of the fear he feels over this new development, particularly the trolls he knows the army cannot stand against. Nevertheless, he gives the order

Volley! Fire!


We continue with Frodo’s journey. Read on in my next post.

Photo by Nacho Frontela on Pixabay

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