The Siege of Gondor
|The Return of the King chapters|
The Siege of Gondor is the fourth chapter of the fifth book of The Return of the King.
SummaryMinas Tirith, Pippin receives his new uniform and gear as a member of the Tower Guard. He spends a long day serving Lord Denethor, Gandalf, and the Captains of the West. Pippin chats with Beregond at the outer wall of the Citadel amid heavy darkness and a stagnant air. Suddenly, they hear the terrifying shriek of a Black Rider. Beyond the outermost gate, they can see five dark Nazgûl swooping over a small, rapidly approaching group of Men on horseback. The leader of the horsemen sounds his horn; Beregond recognizes the trumpet call of Faramir, Denethor’s son.
The men, thrown from their terrified horses, run for the city gate on foot. Just as a Nazgûl descends on Faramir, Pippin sees what appears to be a brilliant white star in the north—it is Gandalf on his horse, Shadowfax. Gandalf raises his hand and sends a shaft of light shooting upward into one of the Nazgûl. The Nazgûl cries and circles away, the other Ringwraiths following. Gandalf returns to the city with Faramir slumped in the saddle.
Faramir is escorted into Denethor’s chambers, where he is shocked to see Pippin (Faramir has already had a strange encounter with two other Hobbits—Frodo and Sam—in The Two Towers). Gandalf erupts when he learns from Faramir that Frodo and Sam are heading to Mordor by way of Cirith Ungol. Faramir notes that he bid farewell to the Hobbits only two days ago; they could not have reached Cirith Ungol yet. The men surmise that Sauron’s new movement on Gondor is not related to Frodo’s approach to Mordor.
Denethor upbraids Faramir for showing cowardice in defending the outposts. The Steward bitterly remarks that Boromir, his other son, would have brought him a “mighty gift”—meaning the Ring. Gandalf points out that Boromir would have kept the “gift” for himself. The two men argue, and Pippin again senses the strain between them. Denethor opposes sending the Ring with a Hobbit into the hands of Sauron, believing that he himself should have been given the Ring for safekeeping. The gathering disperses. Pippin asks Gandalf why, as Faramir has indicated, Frodo and Sam are traveling with Gollum. Gandalf fears Gollum’s treachery, but notes that perhaps some good may yet come of Gollum’s actions.
The next morning, Denethor sends Faramir to protect the outlying ruins of Osgiliath, where Mordor’s armies are likely to strike first. Faramir dutifully accepts the perilous—possibly suicidal—assignment from his father. News arrives the following morning of a battle for the nearby Pelennor Fields.
The Lord of the Nazgûl, the Black Captain against whom none can stand, leads the armies from Mordor. Gandalf rides off toward Osgiliath to help fight the Black Captain. The wizard returns the next day, leading many wounded men. Faramir remains at Pelennor, trying to hold his men together to execute a safe retreat. Not long after, the armies of Mordor approach Minas Tirith. Thousands of black-clad Men and Orcs stream onto the plains. A small, beleaguered ensemble rides before them—the last of Gondor’s rearguard in retreat. Lord Denethor, clad in armor, sends a small army of horsemen out to protect the retreat. Gandalf rides among them, using his white fire to deter the front lines of the Enemy. The retreating men reach the city safely, but one of the Nazgûl’s poisoned arrows strikes Faramir.
Sauron’s armies besiege the city in a vale of fire, cutting off all roads. They use huge catapults to lob blazing missiles into the first ring of the city. As the forces of Minas Tirith try to put these fires out, they realize to their horror that the Enemy’s missiles are the burning heads of those who have died defending Osgiliath. Stricken with sudden bitterness and grief, Denethor locks himself in the Tower with Faramir, who is now delirious with fever from his arrow wound. Pippin looks on as Denethor weeps, cursing Gandalf and bewailing the end of his lineage as Steward of Gondor. As Denethor is holed up, Gandalf takes over the defense of Minas Tirith. The army of Mordor launches an attack on the outer wall of the city. Denethor instructs the desperate messengers who arrive in his court that everyone in the city should give up and burn in the fires.
Denethor calls for his servants. He has Faramir carried out of the Citadel to the Hall of Kings, where Gondor’s leaders are laid to rest. Denethor places Faramir on a marble table and calls for dry wood and a torch. Pippin warns the servants not to obey Denethor’s orders, as it is clear that the Steward has gone mad. Pippin breaks the rule of the Tower Guard by leaving his post. He sends Beregond up to the Hall of Kings to try to intervene with Denethor, and then the hobbit goes in frantic search of Gandalf.
The armies of Mordor, led by the Lord of the Nazgûl, approach the gate of Minas Tirith with a great battering ram. The servants of the Enemy strike the great iron door three times. On the third strike, the door shatters. The Black Captain enters the first ring of the city, and all flee in terror before him. Pippin watches as Gandalf alone stands before the Black Captain. Gandalf orders the Lord of the Nazgûl to return to Mordor—to nothingness—but the Ringwraith laughs. He throws back his hood to reveal a crown on a headless body. His sword bursts into flame, ready to strike. Suddenly, a cock crows, and a great clamor of horns emanates from the north. The Riders of Rohan have arrived.