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The Pyre of Denethor

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The Pyre of Denethor
Chapter of The Return of the King
EventDenethor burns himself on a pyre.
Date15 March 3019
LocationMinas Tirith
<  The Battle of the Pelennor Fields
The Houses of Healing  >

The Pyre of Denethor is the seventh chapter of the first book in The Return of the King.

[edit] Summary

The narrative returns to the perspective of Pippin. When the Witch-king disappeared from the gate of Minas Tirith,[1] Pippin ran to Gandalf and told him of Denethor's madness and the situation in the tower. Gandalf wished to pursue the Nazgûl but knew he must save Faramir. As they raced to the Citadel, Gandalf lamented the Enemy's ability to bring evil and discord to the inner circle of Minas Tirith. Reaching the door to the House of the Stewards, the two found Denethor’s servants bearing swords and torches, standing before the lone figure of Beregond, who held the door against them. Two servants had already fallen to Beregond's sword. The men cowered at the sight of Gandalf, whose appearance was like a burst of white light.

Denethor threw open the door, drawing his sword, but Gandalf lifted his hand and the sword flew from Denethor’s grip. The wizard decried Denethor’s madness, but the Steward said that Faramir had already burned. Rushing past, Gandalf found Faramir still alive on the funeral pyre. To Denethor's protests and tears, Gandalf lifted Faramir and carried him away with a strength that surprised Pippin. Denethor, the wizard said, did not have the authority to order Faramir's death.

Denethor laughed. Standing proudly, he produced from his cloak a palantír, similar to the Orthanc-stone. He warned that the West was doomed, as he had foreseen the black ships of the Enemy approaching.[2] The Steward condemned Gandalf for bringing a young upstart Ranger to replace him as ruler. Denethor wished that things would remain as they always had been in Minas Tirith. He sprang for Faramir, but Beregond stopped him. Grabbing a torch from a servant, Denethor lit the funeral pyre. He threw himself into the raging fire, clutching the palantír.

Gandalf and Beregond carried Faramir to the Houses of Healing. As they exited, the House of Stewards collapsed in flames, and Denethor's servants ran out. Soon after, they heard a great cry from the battlefield—the sound of Éowyn and Merry’s defeat of the Lord of the Nazgûl. A sense of hope returned as the sun broke through the Darkness. Gandalf discussed Denethor’s palantír with Pippin and Beregond. Gandalf said he had always suspected that the Steward possessed one of the seven seeing-stones. The wizard surmised that Denethor, in his growing distress, had begun to use the stone, and through it he had fallen prey to the lies of Sauron.


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Siege of Gondor"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Battle of the Pelennor Fields"