The Houses of Healing
|The Return of the King chapters|
The Houses of Healing is the eighth chapter of the fifth book in The Return of the King.
Crying and in pain, Merry accompanies the procession carrying Théoden and Éowyn into the city. As Merry ascends the city roads, he runs into Pippin, who is startled and glad, and notices that Merry is stumbling badly. Merry’s arm has gone completely numb after he stabbed the Nazgûl. Pippin escorts Merry to the Houses of Healing.
After the battle, Aragorn furls his banner and orders his men to prepare tents outside the city. He refuses to claim his throne until the war with Mordor is decided, for good or ill. Aragorn plans to wait outside the gate until the Lord of Minas Tirith bids him to enter. Aragorn, learning of Denethor’s fate, assigns Imrahil to act as the interim leader of Gondor. Aragorn, Éomer, and Imrahil secretly agree, though, that Gandalf is their true leader for the remainder of the war against Mordor.
At Gandalf’s request, Aragorn enters the city in the guise of a Ranger. The wounded, including Merry, Faramir, and Éowyn, grow steadily sicker from the poison of the Enemy’s weapons. One of the city’s nurses recalls a legend of Gondor, which says, “The hands of the king are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known.” Only Aragorn can save those wounded by the Enemy.
Aragorn crushes the leaves of the Athelas plant, a seemingly useless herb that grows in Gondor, and stirs them in a bowl of warm water. The sweet scent of the herb awakens Faramir from his fever. Faramir immediately affirms Aragorn as his superior and king. Aragorn then tends to Éowyn and Merry, who both return to consciousness when Aragorn touches and kisses them. All through the night, Aragorn heals the wounded of the city. Rumors fly throughout the city that the King of Gondor now walks again, bringing healing in his hands. As foretold at Aragorn’s birth, the people call him Elfstone, or Elessar, after the green gem that he wears around his neck, which Galadriel gave to him earlier.