Mark Reads ‘The Return of the King’: Chapter 1

In the first chapter of The Return of the King, Pippin and Gandalf arrive in Minas Tirith, only to meet with the stern and craft Denethor. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Lord of the Rings.


Well, my predictions are just going to be universally wrong, aren’t they?

The arrival at Minas Tirith changes SO MUCH. It’s not only a massive moment for the plot, but Tolkien takes time to give us yet another fully-formed and imagined culture within Middle-earth. I will never stop thinking this is one of the most impressive things I’ve ever read. A WHOLE WORLD INSIDE ANOTHER WORLD. This is some Inception-level genius, I swear. But the opening chapter of The Return of the King really serves to make on key point: war has arrived in Middle-earth.

This is a lengthy chapter, one of the longer ones in a while, and it’s full of details of Gandalf and Pippin’s journey to Minas Tirith on top of the details of the people of Gondor. I really shouldn’t read chapters late at night because they make me tired. The characters always seem to be on the move, and I can feel the exhaustion leaking through the pages. There’s simply no genuine, effective rest for any of these people. But that’s one of many things that contributes to the sense of panic and doom that I got from chapter one. Gandalf feels that they’re already too late in arriving to speak with Denethor, so their stops are brief and unsatisfying. Pippin often takes the opportunity to sleep on the back of Shadowfax when he can. It’s one of those things I’m glad that the book addresses. This is such a physical experience for all the characters, and sleep has to factor into it.

The arrival within the city gates of Minas Tirith gives Tolkien a chance to expand on the physical arrangement of this city. I really adore that so many of you are willing to share either official or fan-created works that help me visualize a lot of the locations in Middle-earth. I don’t have a visual brain, especially when it comes to arranging or imagining things in physical space. I think I have an idea what the great city looks like, as well as Tower of Ecthelion, but it’s never fully-formed in my head. You know how some people feel that movie versions of characters ruin their head-canon? That never really happens to me at all. I have a hard time picturing people and places that are fictional! It’s just something I’ve always had to deal with.

Yet despite this, I understood the awe of this city, especially how it’s built with seven levels with seven different entrances to get inside each level. I WANT TO SEE THIS. I love that it’s set against the backdrop of the mountains. I love the design. But what I most love is how everything feels REALLY FUCKED UP. Gandalf and Pippin are in this place of grandeur, but there’s no time to stop and appreciate anything. They must move on from one moment to the next, keeping in mind that there’s a war brewing. Gandalf’s warning to Pippin heightens the tension, too, because it sets up Denethor in a way to give his meeting a new context. I’d forgotten that this was Boromir’s father, so there was suddenly this new concern I had. Pippin saw Boromir die. THIS IS GOING TO BE SO AWKWARD.

‘It is scarcely wise when bringing the news of the death of his heir to a mighty lord to speak over much of the coming of one who will, if he comes, claim the kingship. Is that enough?’

‘Kingship?’ said Pippin amazed.

‘Yes,’ said Gandalf. ‘If you have walked all these days with closed ears and mind asleep, wake up now!’

ARAGORN IS GOING TO CLAIM KINGSHIP? WHAT THE HOLY FUCK. WHAT THE HELL?!?!?! Oh my god, this book is going to destroy me, isn’t it? OH GOD, ARAGORN!!!!

So, I was right about one thing: this scene would be awkward. It is terribly awkward, especially since at one point, Pippin has to watch Denethor and Gandalf essentially have a mind fight. For real. The king grills Pippin relentlessly about his son’s death. To be fair, I understand his suspicion, so I don’t want to give off the idea that I think he’s an antagonist. I mean, the dude has never even seen a hobbit before, and now a hobbit is telling him how his brave warrior son died and this tiny Halfling survived? Pippin rises to the occasion, though, and speaks brilliantly of Boromir and gives Denethor his sword as a sign of good faith. Clearly, he took Gandalf’s advice and woke up his mind, because it works. Well, actually, he does end up having to swear service to Denethor and Gondor. So, what does that mean? I know he gets lesser passwords and is sort of inducted into the city in a way, and that Denethor can call on him to serve when he needs to. You know, I really hope Pippin doesn’t regret this, and I also hope that Denethor doesn’t take advantage of him. Look, I’m just trying to find ways that Tolkien can break my heart so I can at least attempt to prepare for it.

Could one of those things be the awkward, uncomfortable behavior of Gandalf and Denethor? Do they have some history we don’t know of yet? Reading their argument is like listening to your parents fight from the backseat of the car. You hate it and you wish it would stop, but you’re stuck and can’t go anywhere. Perhaps they’re so snappy with one another because their nerves are frayed. Both characters are well aware of the destruction that looms over the mountain and seems to grow brighter, redder, and closer every single day, and it appears they both have their own ideas on how to deal with it.

I think that’s why I’m so pleased with Pippin’s way of coping with all of this: he wants to find food. Bless. It’s also how he meets the lovely Beregond, a rather pleasant fellow who does something? Well, I’m actually not sure what his exact role is besides being a “plain man” in the Third Company, but, like Pippin, his presence is uplifting. Despite that he, too, knows that war is so close, he never seems jaded or panicked. As he takes Pippin around the grounds, he’s kind, polite, and genuinely interested in this strange hobbit. I like that he just accepts him outright. It certainly helps that he came with Gandalf and swore service to Gondor, but Beregond just seems so genuine in his interactions with Pippin.

There’s a lot of info-dropping for the remainder of this chapter, and it’s very pleasant to read. This whole section has the subtext of Pippin’s loneliness. He just went through a traumatic journey with his best friend, and now he has no idea if he’ll see Merry again, let alone Sam or Frodo. So he approaches a day of hanging out with Beregond by simply enjoying the experience. They visit Shadowfax, by Gandalf’s command; Pippin gets his first full meal in Minas Tirith on a picnic with Beregond; I start wanting to eat meals in this book; George R.R. Martin writes about food a lot, too; goddamn it, I am hungry.

Pippin’s little picnic also helps build this city more in my head, at least in terms of framing where he is and which mountain ranges surround him. It’s so frightening to me that they are so close to Mordor. Beregond puts it very plainly:

‘We seldom name it; but we have dwelt ever in sight of that shadow: sometimes it seems fainter and more distant; sometimes nearer and darker. It is growing and darkening now; and therefore our fear and disquiet grow too.’

What the hell is Sauron preparing? What is the glowing? UGH I NEED TO KNOW. It’s stressing me out! But Tolkien has been deliberating obfuscating this fact from us, hinting at something terrible, but always keeping it out of our grasp. I’m starting to realize that whatever big battle happens in this book is going to be apocalyptic or something. When a “shadow of doom” passes over them, it’s just another sign that this is all incredibly fucked up. I like how Beregond describes it: it’s the “deep breath before the plunge.” It’s the quiet before the cataclysmic storm. OH GOD I AM SO UNPREPARED.

I enjoy that Tolkien doesn’t ignore that Pippin doesn’t really fit into all of this. I’m not just referring to the oncoming war, though that’s a large part of it. Pippin does think that perhaps he’s not really the type of pawn that Gandalf referred to earlier. He’s just left out of everything at this point. Gandalf is off being all wizardly; Beregond leaves him at one point; and while the citizens treat him well, Pippin just doesn’t belong here. He’s entirely by himself the whole time. I think that’s why he takes up the chance to spend time with Beregond’s son, Bergil. Despite that disaster is imminent, the kid is just a good sport, a way for Pippin to put aside his worries and concerns for a few hours.

But he’s not Merry. Merry, where are you?

This is a fascinating chapter to me and a great opening to The Return of the King. It sets the tone for the book and explores Pippin’s character further. But it’s all just a set-up for the last paragraph, isn’t it?

‘You should sleep, in a bed while you still may. At the sunrise I shall take you to the Lord Denethor again. No, when the summons comes, not at sunrise. The Darkness has begun. There will be no dawn.’

You’re kidding me. Why do I feel this is literal? Like, Sauron literally found a way to block out the sun with some sort of “Darkness”?


About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
This entry was posted in The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

293 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Return of the King’: Chapter 1

  1. Alice says:

    * The beacons are lit,Gondor calls for help. It seems that Gandalf and Pippin will arive in the middle of war,so to say. V nqzvg vg,guvf fprar va gur zbivr,vf fb zhpu zber cbjreshyy: gur zhfvp…gur vzntrf…gur flzobyvfz bs ubcr er-vtavgrq. Vzntvar zr fvggvat va gur gurnger arne zl sevraq (jub ogj jnfa'g vagb YBGE yvxr V jnf) naq pelvat zl rlrf bss,juvyr orvat pnershy abg gb or frra. Naq guvf zbivr znqr zr pel n ybg,ohg jr jvyy trg gb gung nabgure gvzr :).

    * And we also get to find out more about the world that Tolkien created,and we finally see The Great Citadel of Men, Minas Tirith. How sad it is that the White Tree of Gondor is now dying,a perfect symbol for a citadel without a king.

    * Sassy Gandalf is back :D!

    * And we also finally meet Denethor, father of Boromir and Faramir.

    * Oh,Pip,you brave brave hobbit!!

    * Gandalf has met his match in sassyness :p.

    * I like Beregond very much :D.

    * I always think that I would be too afraid to live so close to a constant danger like the gondorians do.

    * The art post is going to be loooong,because I have so much beautifull stuff to show ^_^

    <img src=""&gt;
    John Howe – Beacons

    <img src=""width="600"&gt;
    Hildebrandt Bros – Road to Tirith

    <img src=""&gt;
    John Howe – Gandalf Approaches The Guarded City

    <img src=""width="600"&gt;
    Ted Nasmith – Gandalf rides to Minas Tirith

    <img src=""width="600"&gt;
    Ted Nasmith – In haste to the White City

    <img src=""width="600"&gt;
    Ted Nasmith – Minas Tirith at dawn

    <img src=""&gt;
    John Howe – Gandalf before the Walls of Minas Tirith

    <img src=""width="600"&gt;
    Alan Lee sketch of the main gate

    <img src=""width="600"&gt;
    Alan Lee sketch

    <img src=""width="600"&gt;
    Alan Lee – Minas Tirith

    <img src=""width="600"&gt;
    John Howe – Minas Tirith

    <img src=""width="600"&gt;
    John Howe – Walls of Minas Tirith


  2. rabidsamfan says:

    Ah, Pippin! I love him so much in this chapter, because he's just as overwhelmed as I am, but he still knows that food and friendship matter.

    But that last line is so ominous…

  3. julianamoreli says:

    Mark….the book title is Return of the King…what did you expected??? lololol
    It's the most spoilery title ever haha

    It's a nice chapter…but I can't stop thinking, whathell was Pippin thinking when he offered his services…really…Denethor is a twisted man…you don't offer your services to a man like him…

    I was really afraid that he would get into a fight with Bergil…poor Pippin.

    In this chapter we get to see Minas Tirith, wich description kept me confused for a long time….like…I thinking about Petra in Jordania you know…the city that was carved in mountain…but the level stuff didn't formed properly in my head….and when I saw it in the movies I just got AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH…that's beautiful!!!!

    Movie stuff: BZT….JNYGRE OVFUBC…zhpu ybbbbbbbirrrrr…..Znex'f urnq vf tbvat gb rkcybqr!!!

  4. castlewayjay says:

    love Return of the King so much. Please watch the movies on the biggest screen you can, Mark. Gandal and Pippin and Shadowfax entering the city of Minas Tirith will take your breath away.

  5. Alice says:

    ogj…jnfa'g fgngrq sebz gur SBGE gung Qrargube vf n Fgrjneq naq abg n xvat??o.O

    <img src=""width="600"&gt;
    John Howe sketch

    <img src=""width="600"&gt;
    Ted Nasmith – At the Court of the Fountain

    <img src=""width="600"&gt;
    Alan Lee sketch

    <img src=""width="600"&gt;
    Alan Lee

    <img src=""width="600"&gt;
    Alan Lee sketch – Kings of Old

    <img src=""width="600"&gt;
    Alan Lee sketch – Kings of Old

    <img src=""&gt;
    John Howe – Boromir

    <img src=""&gt;
    John Howe – Denethor

    <img src=""&gt;
    John Howe – Gandalf the White

    <img src=""width="600"&gt;
    Alan Lee – Osgiliath

    <img src=""width="600"&gt;
    Alan Lee – Forlong (sketch)

    <img src=""&gt;
    John Howe – Prince Imrahil

  6. Dreamflower says:

    ‘Kingship?’ said Pippin (Mark) amazed.

    ‘Yes,’ said Gandalf. ‘If you have walked all these days with closed ears and mind asleep, wake up now!’

    ARAGORN IS GOING TO CLAIM KINGSHIP? WHAT THE HOLY FUCK. WHAT THE HELL?!?!?! Oh my god, this book is going to destroy me, isn’t it? OH GOD, ARAGORN!!!!


    This chapter is one I always enjoy reading. Pippin's wide-eyed wonder and joy at seeing Minas Tirith for the first time, and then seeing everything through his eyes is delightful. We learn so much about him, such as his exact age (up until now we only know he's the youngest, but now we know he's 28, which for a hobbit is about equal to 17 years old for someone of the Mannish race) and that he has a certain amount of pride. We get to see more of his interactions with Gandalf. I love their relationship– sort of like a grandfather and a grandson.

    Fbzrguvat gung unq rfpncrq zr orsber vf gur uvag gung QRARGUBE ZHFG UNIR ORRA YBBXVAT VA GUR CNYNAGVE NG GUR FNZR GUNG CVCCVA QVQ!

    "Cvccva fng qbja, ohg ur pbhyq abg gnxr uvf rlrf sebz gur byq ybeq. Jnf vg fb, be unq ur bayl vzntvarq vg, gung nf ur fcbxr bs gur Fgbarf n fhqqra tyrnz bs uvf rlr unq tynaprq hcba Cvccva'f snpr?"

    Vg chgf n jubyr arj gjvfg ba uvf dhrfgvbavat bs Cvccva.

    Also, <3<3<3! Beregond and Bergil! I LOVE them so much!

    Fbzrguvat gung unq rfpncrq zr orsber vf gur uvag gung QRARGUBE ZHFG UNIR ORRA YBBXVAT VA GUR CNYNAGVE NG GUR FNZR GUNG CVCCVA QVQ!

    "Cvccva fng qbja, ohg ur pbhyq abg gnxr uvf rlrf sebz gur byq ybeq. Jnf vg fb, be unq ur bayl vzntvarq vg, gung nf ur fcbxr bs gur Fgbarf n fhqqra tyrnz bs uvf rlr unq tynaprq hcba Cvccva'f snpr?"

    Vg chgf n jubyr arj gjvfg ba uvf dhrfgvbavat bs Cvccva.

  7. blossomingpeach says:

    V jnf tbvat gb znxr gur rknpg fnzr pbzzrag ba gur yvtugvat bs gur ornpbaf! Gur svefg gvzr V fnj vg, V fgnegrq pelvat serryl: gur zhfvp, gur pvarzngbtencul–nyy bs vg jnf fb RCVP naq ubcrshy naq gbhpuvat. V fgvyy grne hc gurer.

    Mark asks to see Minas Tirith and his wishes are granted! Thanks for all these images. The Alan Lee Minas Tirith is the cover of my copy of ROTK.

  8. floppus says:

    Guard: Okay, it looks like your papers are in order. Welcome to Minas Tir— hold on a minute, what’s with the dwarf?

    Gandalf: Dwarf? Oh, no, Pippin is a mighty hobbit warrior, here to help defend your city. He’s just exhausted after a long night of orc‐slaying.

    Pippin: What are you talking about? I’m not—

    Gandalf: Shut up, Pippin. [to the guard] He’s a Halfling. Didn’t you hear about Boromir’s riddle?

    Pippin: Oh yeah, Boromir. He was a great guy. Shame about how he got killed by all those Orcs, but man, you should have seen him, it was amazing.

    Gandalf: Shut up, Pippin.

  9. stingingpetals says:

    Hi Mark,

    Just a note, Denethor is the Steward of Gondor, not the king. The office of Steward is hereditary and has been passed down from father to son for at least a thousand years(off the top of my head.) Sort of like a substitute teacher?

    Also, the first exchange between Pippin and Bergil just lights up my life once we get to cold, grey and stoney Minas Tirith. I love Pippin acting so tough and dangerous. 🙂

  10. knut_knut says:

    Not gonna lie, I don’t think this is the most exciting chapter ever, especially after the cliffhanger in TTT. TOLKIEN!! What happened to Sam and Frodo? Tell us now!! But noooooooo, we have to wait.

    Going to rot13 this because of reasons? I don’t have a good one but just in case: PBHYQ ABG FGBC YNHTUVAT ng Znex'f xvatfuvc synvy zbzrag. Vg'f va gur gvgyr!

    I love the rumor floating around Gondor that Pippin is a prince and the hobbits are going to war. Pippin may be the prince…of my heart <3 but I like the contrast between Pippin in the rumor and his loneliness. People think he’s this really grand figure, but more than ever he feels small and lost.


  11. enigmaticagentscully says:

    "You’re kidding me. Why do I feel this is literal? Like, Sauron literally found a way to block out the sun with some sort of “Darkness”?"

    [youtube sRYNYb30nxU youtube]

    …sorry. Just, every time someone capitalises 'Darkness'…

  12. ADB says:

    All I can hear is Howard Shore's magnificent Gondor theme.

  13. BetB says:

    " ‘It is scarcely wise when bringing the news of the death of his heir to a mighty lord to speak over much of the coming of one who will, if he comes, claim the kingship. Is that enough?’

    ‘Kingship?’ said Pippin amazed.

    ‘Yes,’ said Gandalf. ‘If you have walked all these days with closed ears and mind asleep, wake up now!’

    ARAGORN IS GOING TO CLAIM KINGSHIP? WHAT THE HOLY FUCK. WHAT THE HELL?!?!?! Oh my god, this book is going to destroy me, isn’t it? OH GOD, ARAGORN!!!!"

    I just love Mark's reaction to this! I can remember being amazed by this too. Tolkien hides things in plain site but they're buried under huge mounds of info dumping.
    (I hope the GIF works!)

  14. Jenny_M says:

    Movie stuff in rot13: Gur fjrrcvat pvarzngvp fubg bs nyy gur yriryf bs Zvanf Gvevgu nf Tnaqnys naq Cvccva evqr hc gb gur Pvgnqry? NYY ZL PERLF. Vg'f bar bs gur zbfg shpxvat nznmvat fubgf va gur ragver svyz NAQ vg cresrpgyl pncgherf gur jnl V jnagrq Zvanf Gvevgu gb or.

  15. floppus says:

    The Return of the Spoiler-Free Map of Middle-Earth

    Normal / blurred

    In this chapter, Pippin and Gandalf arrive in Minas Tirith – by far the largest city we’ve seen so far, perhaps the largest city in Middle‐earth at this time.

    Lots of new place names in this chapter, as we learn that each of Gondor’s various towns and provinces has sent a few hundred soldiers to help defend the city.

    Meanwhile, as Pippin is exploring Minas Tirith, Frodo and Sam are making their way from Henneth Annûn to the Cross‐Roads.

  16. Skyweir says:

    I have always loved the moment when the Captains lead their forces in the gate to reinforce Minas Tirith. The way it is described, with both hope and yet a shadow of despair as it becomes apparent that they are too few, always got to me.

    Minas Tirith in itself is just awesome of course, and it is the only real city we have yet seen. And yet, as everything in LoTR, it is thinged with sadness. The city is half empty and decaying subtly, and the White Three is dead.

    As for Denethor, I like him here. He is not Theoden, not a kindly old man. He is the lord of the greates nation of Men in middle Earth, from a pure line of Numenorian nobility. Gandalf may be a wizard, but Denethor do not cow-tow to him at all. He is stern, proud and yet subtly less than perhaps he should be, much like the city itself.

    Movie (RoTK) spoiler:
    Urer V guvax gur zbivr snvyf hggreyl. Qrargube vf pbzcyrgryl jebat, ur frrzf ovggre, jrnx naq vafnar. Gung vf abg gur Qrargube bs gur obbx ng nyy, naq vg qrfgeblf bar bs gur zbfg zbfg zrbenoyr punenpgref va gur obbx.

    Tbaqbe vgfrys vf nyfb jebat V srry. Fpnyr vf bs va gur ragver zbivr, ohg arire zber guna urer. Bftvyvngu vf ybpngrq unys n zvyr sebz Zvanf Gvevguf sebag tngr, naq nyy gur Evat bs Enzznf vf whfg pevpryvat fbzr xvaq bs tbys-pbheg? Jurer ner gur infg svryqf bs Tbaqbe naq gurve znal snezf vafvqr gur Evat? Gur pvgl frrzf fznyy, gurve nezl oneryl gurer. Guvf vf gur zvtugvrfg ernyz va nyy bs Zvqqyr Rnegu fnir Fnheba'f, lrg vg frrzf fznyy naq hfryrff va gur zbivr.

    Gur ynpx bs gur srry bs qrpnl naq fbeebj gung fubhyq fhsshfr vg vf nyfb cnycnoyr, ohg gung vf zber n ceboyrz va nyy gur zbivrf. V qba'g guvax gung Wnpxfba ernyyl haqrefgbbbq gung YbGE vf n gentrql va znal jnlf.

  17. Saphling says:

    I'm so glad that this chapter has references to what is happening to Frodo at the same time. It gives a good sense of the timing of all this. Can you imagine, it's only been thirteen days for Pippin – not even two weeks – since Boromir died?

  18. Dreamflower says:

    Yes! You really should. "The Errand Lad" is still a fave of mine!

    What can I bribe your muse with?

  19. PrefectSarah says:

    "You know how some people feel that movie versions of characters ruin their head-canon?"

    Umm… Yes. This is me. I CANNOT watch a movie before I read the book (granted, the books are always better anyway) but I hate my imagination to be spoiled 🙂 It's also a part of the reason why I LOATHE books with movie covers. I find that sooo irritating.

    Also, movie spoiler:
    Bu Tbq, gur yvtugvat bs gur ornpbaf vf bar bs zl snibevgr fprarf va nyy bs gur zbivrf!! Tvirf zr puvyyf rirel gvzr!

  20. You are so much more forgiving of this particular chapter than I was; the outrage I felt when I saw that this book began with Pippin and Gandalf cannot be measured in earthly terms 🙂

    That said, once I finally stopped seething from that cliffhanger, I remember liking this chapter, and I think on the whole the main reason I like it is because of Denethor. He's not really like any character we've met up to this point; he's grief-stricken, he's angry, and he has every right to be, given that his son whom he loved is dead. I've always found it interesting that he reminds Pippin of Aragorn, and perhaps in a way that's not a bad comparison- this probably something of what Aragorn would be like had he lost everything he was seeking and still finding a way to go on.

    I think my favorite part of this chapter is when Pippin swears himself in fealty to the Guard of the City. It feels almost as though Pippin did it to honor Boromir's sacrifice, to prove to Denethor that though his son may have died, it was not to save someone who took no thought for it. And I think it's interesting that Pippin, of all people, feels this way. Compare and contrast this:
    Then Pippin looked the old man in the eye, for pride stirred strangely within him, still stung by the scorn and suspicion in that cold voice. 'Little service, no doubt, will so great a lord of Men think to find in a hobbit, a halfling from the Northern Shire; yet such as it is, I will offer it, in payment of my debt.'
    with the Pippin in The Two Towers who was complaining about being luggage for the orcs. Even from those two weeks or so he's already grown so much, and is willing to commit his life to something in honor and payment for the sacrifice he received from Boromir. And I like that Pippin, who is implied to have been friends with Boromir in particular, is the one to step up to fill the void left by his passing. It gives us a fascinating dynamic, one we haven't really seen in this point in the story- the other bonds we've seen have been the ties of friendship and kinship, and now we get to see the bonds on a sworn duty. And though I can't help but remember Elrond's caution that sworn word can break hearts back in Fellowship, I still find myself fascinated by this- the importance of promises and oaths, things made without contract and no bond other than the oathmaker's honor. It shows a lot about the city, and incidentally I think it explains a lot about Boromir as well. I've always wished he was alive at this point- seeing him in his home would be so fascinating.

  21. ek_johnston says:

    This was the chapter where eight-year-old me realized that Boromir and Pippin have the same rank. It's still funny, every time I think about it.

    Vg nyfb rkcynvaf jul Zreel fgvpxf vg bhg jvgu gur Ebuveevz. Vs gur Gbbxf ner gur uboovg rdhvinyrag bs gur Tbaqbevnaf, guna gur Oenaqlohpxf ner ba cne jvgu Ebuna. Vg'f bar bs gubfr avpr, fbsg gbhpurf gung znxrf Gbyxvra'f fgbevrf fb znfgreshy.

    (V fhccbfr gura lbh pbhyq fnl gung gur Onttvaf ner fvzvyne gb gur snzvyvrf bs Qby Nzebgu? Vg'f abg nf arng, ohg gur vqrn bs orvat eryngrq gb obgu Tbaqbe naq Ebuna, ohg abg gur snzvyl bs urvef ubyqf gehr.)

  22. settledforhistory says:

    Two things I especially enjoyed in this chapter:
    First: Pippin swearing an oath of service to Denethor. I just love it when characters take honor and duty so serious, that it doesn't stop at remembering everyone's father's name and giving them the right formal greeting, but they take time in the middle of the war for a proper burial for a friend, sing old songs to honor them and they repay a life debt even if it means that they go to war in the service of someone they don't even know. These things come so natural to them and it's wonderful that even Gandalf didn't try to stop Pippin, though he doesn't seem to trust Denethor completely.

    The other thing: Pippin exploring Minas Tirith and the friends he makes on the way.
    Beregond seems a nice tour guide and he certainly likes to help the hobbit, but I think a big part of this is Pippin himself. He is just such a likeable person and probably a welcome distraction from the seriousness of the coming war.
    The interaction between him and Bergil is so adorable. I love that Pippin doesn't get angry when being thought a child by both Bergil and his father and that he proves how height can be deceiving.
    Also we learn his age and that he with his 29 years is actually still a teenager. We have a teen in the Fellowship? This is so awesome!

    What I was wondering, given this line:

    The Darkness has begun. There will be no dawn.

    Are Frodo and Sam simply nearer to Mordor and that is why they have experienced all these days without sunlight or does their story in the last chapters of TTT play before this one?

    About all the lovely fanart in the comments:
    Like Mark, I have a very bad visual imagination. I can picture only parts, but never the whole thing, so I can see a gate or fountain, but when it comes to piecing these parts together it just won't work.
    So I'm terribly grateful for all the pictures posted here, because even though I know the animated hobbit movie and have seen trailers of all LotR movies (hard not to when watching HP in cinemas at that time) I have almost no idea how anything looks.
    So thanks so much fellow commentors, I'm so happy be able to picture Middle-earth in all it's beauty.

  23. Darth_Ember says:

    The Darkness has begun. There will be no dawn.

    That line. That line. It's just so simple, but so powerful. It's ominous in a way that doesn't rely upon specific threats of death or such; it is what it is. The Darkness has begun. The light has slipped away, and all the good things are memories; everything that can be concealed within shadow is approaching. It's evil's time; evil has the advantage, and our heroes are standing at one of the few remaining strongholds of good, waiting to weather the storm or be consumed by it – and they don't know which.

    But that just makes them all the braver, to me. They don't know if they'll get through this… but they have to fight. They cannot concede to evil, and they can't just bow their heads and let it sweep over them. Even if the bad guys win… these are the people who will make them pay dearly for it.

    And there's Pippin. One lone hobbit. So out of place. But he's made his gesture, and now he is part of this band of those who'll stand against the coming darkness.

    (Which is also, incidentally, amazing in terms of character development; he has to change. He can't just be the foolhardy inquisitive hobbit who has repeatedly irritated Gandalf with his habit of touching things he shouldn't. Pippin's made a decision he'll have to follow through on in ways that promise to show all-new sides of who he is.)

  24. JustMalyn says:

    I just want to hug Pippin. Is that too much to ask?

  25. Kiryn says:

    Ba guvf ernqguebhtu, V whfg oneryl ernyvmrq gung Qrargube cenpgvpnyyl bhgevtug fgngrf gung ur jvfurq Snenzve unq qvrq vafgrnq bs Obebzve: ur fnvq ur jvfurq gung Snenzve unq tbar gb Eviraqryy vafgrnq, zrnavat gung Snenzve jbhyq unir qvrq vafgrnq. Shpx lbh, Qrargube.

    I do love the contrast between Theoden and Denethor, though.

  26. lexypoo says:

    I hope this isn't spoilery, but the first time I read this chapter, I envisioned Venice sans smelly water. And, like the Harry Potter movies, I think the movie version of these books would've made Tolkien's supernova head canon very proud.

  27. snapsnzips says:

    On ruining head canon:

    The entire reason I watched these movies, and Harry Potter for that matter, is because I knew they would be beautiful renditions of places and people that I loved in my head and that they would add texture to my inner visuals. I watched them also for iconic scenes for the same reason – example from HP, the fight in the Ministry. I wanted to watch what happened because I knew it would add to the emotional impact of re-reading.

    I knew the movies would be, at best, montages of the books I loved and I was ok with that because, in the end, they added beauty to my future reading experience. Actually, a few things in the LotR movies really upset me(Snenzve jnf ARIRE RIVY naq Nentbea arire sryy vagb n evire naq unq n qernz dhrfg!!), but I got over it and learned to focus on the good parts: casting and sets which were stunning.

    So the movies never ruined my own headcanon – they totally enhanced it. It's a good attitude to have when going into movies about really long books that you love.

  28. ZeynepD says:

    Yes, what they said. And the volume.

  29. Lugija says:

    "You know how some people feel that movie versions of characters ruin their head-canon? That never really happens to me at all. I have a hard time picturing people and places that are fictional!"

    My head usually pictures entire thing whenever I read about a new place or character. Name could be enough. When I read a name "Captain Pellaeon", I picture a man with sharp features and a little wide chin. No mustache. Mustaches belong to those army fellows whose names have G or C. Someone named General Creek, for example, would have very long grey mustaches.

    Then when I read forward and find out that Pellaeon actually has mustaches, I tell to book that it's wrong and continue picturing him without mustaches.

    If there are suddenly many new characters introduced, one of them will mess with his/her hair constantly, one will pick his nose, one has an interesting mark on his shirt and so on, until I can recognize them without actually knowing anything about them.

  30. edinburghlook says:

    Well, my predictions are just going to be universally wrong, aren’t they?


  31. Linzy says:

    Is it weird that I find it weird to read non-phonetically-written tengwar? (Banner text)

  32. ABBryant says:

    You’re kidding me. Why do I feel this is literal? Like, Sauron literally found a way to block out the sun with some sort of “Darkness”?

    The night will last forever! Muahahaha!

    Lrf, V qb xabj gung V'z fxvegvat fcbvyre-greevgbel jvgu guvf dhbgr, ohg vg vf jvgubhg pbagrkg.

  33. rubyjoo says:

    When I imagine the city of Minas Tirith, a number of images leap into my mind. Of course, there is the lovely one created for the film, but I also think of Italian hill towns. It's already been said that, if you place a map of Middle-earth on top of Europe, then Minas Tirith would be in Italy. Did Tolkien want us to think of the decaying beauty of the Roman Empire? Certainly, a number of Anglo-Saxon poems talk about the ruined Roman buildings in England and, even after the fall of the Empire, there was still a lot of trading and travelling going on between England and Rome, providing images and stories for an English mythology. San Marino, a tiny republic in the middle of Italy, would provide some good images for Minas Tirith. Look at the fourth picture along here:

    MT also makes me think of the English iron age hill fort of Maiden Castle (700 BC) which is built as a series of rings where the gates at different levels are not aligned in order to make it easier to defend. There would have been wooden "walls" all the way to the top but it is believed that some of it was faced in white limestone which would have created a White City.

    And finally, I think of the Seven Circles of Hell in Dante's Inferno. Well, MT is far from being a hellish place but perhaps its inhabitants can be said to live in Hell because of its proximity to Mordor.

  34. Wheelrider says:

    Shoutout to more wonderful comic relief from Pippin, this time through Beregond:

    'We rise ere the Sun, and take a morsel in the grey light, and go to our duties at the opening hour. But do not despair!’ He laughed again, seeing the dismay in Pippin’s face. ‘Those who have had heavy duty take somewhat to refresh their strength in the mid-morning.'

    Even soldiers of Gondor sometimes get second breakfast.

  35. sixth_queen says:

    Now that Mark has met Denethor, is it allowed to post a cast picture?

  36. VoldieBeth says:

    Minis Tirith is my favorite city!! It's so beautiful and grand!! I absolutely loved how Jackson portrayed it in the movies!

  37. Katarina_H says:

    You have written Bergil? Where? How? This is such a bad time for my computer to be at repairs!

  38. stormwreath says:

    After the Battle of Helm's Deep chapter, I posted a step-by-step breakdown of what happened in the battle, and a lot of people said they liked it. So I'm going to do the same thing for this book… starting with this map. It's been carefully edited not to show spoilers, and I'll re-post it after later chapters if things change and armies start marching to war.

    <img src=""&gt;

    Minas Tirith is built up against the side of the White Mountains, in the bottom left corner of this map. Surrounding it is the Pelennor Fields, a fertile land of farms and small woodlands where the city's food is grown. A defensive wall has recently been built encircling the Pelennor; the scene near the start of the chapter where Gandalf is being questioned by Ingold is as he's passing through a gate in this outer wall. The Pelennor Fields are about twelve miles across, so it would take the average person five hours to cross them on foot. Obviously it takes much less time if you're riding Shadowfax. 🙂

    The road leading south from Minas Tirith leads to the rest of Gondor, and is the route that the 3,000-man reinforcements were marching up in this chapter. There's also a harbour, the Harlond, about three miles from the city on the banks of the River Anduin. Ocean-going ships can sail up the River from the Sea, which is still several hundred miles away off to the south-east. (The Great River is huge, like the Mississippi. This is the same river, incidentally, that the Fellowship sailed down in the first book.)

    Two more roads lead away from Minas Tirith. The one going north heads towards Rohan; this is the route that Gandalf and Pippin arrive by at the start of the chapter. Finally, the road going east heads towards the ruined city of Osgiliath, and beyond that to Ithilien on the other side of the River, and beyond that to Mordor.

    Osgiliath used to be the capital of Gondor, but it was ruined in previous wars with Sauron, and is now deserted by ordinary folk. The enemy occupies the eastern side of the ruined city, but the western side is still under Gondor's control, and soldiers are stationed there to defend it. Boromir used to be in command here until he was sent north to Rivendell.

    Minas Tirith and Minas Morgul (formerly called Minas Ithil) were originally built as sister cities, one either side of Osgiliath. So the fortress of the Nazgûl that Frodo and Sam were sneaking past in the chapters we read recently is just off the right hand side of this map, about 20 miles from the river, roughly the same distance as Minas Tirith.

  39. tzikeh says:

    Mark – now that you've met Denethor, I can do what I've been waiting to do SINCE YOU STARTED READING:

    Heeeeeeeere's DENETHOR!

    <img src=""&gt;

  40. Delta1212 says:

    You’re kidding me. Why do I feel this is literal? Like, Sauron literally found a way to block out the sun with some sort of “Darkness”?

    Fear is for the long night, when the sun hides for chapters, and characters fight and live and die all in darkness. That is the time for fear.

  41. @MeagenImage says:

    True Stories: When I was 15 and reading LotR I shipped myself with Bergil. I was still a magical princess exiled from a land conquered by Mordor thought.

  42. I know what you mean about not being able to visualize characters or settings. Before the movies came out, I pictured Harry Potter characters like their illustrated versions in the books. Until the movie version of Pride and Prejudice came out, I could never figure out which "Ms.Bennet" was being referred to (I mean, there was five of them, you can't call them all the same thing, freakin' 19th century literature*).

    I also tend to look up drawings on deviantart if I have a hard time picturing something and then choose my favorite piece as head canon.

    *I love Pride and Prejudice now. 13 year-old me couldn't handle the brilliance of Jane Austen.

  43. flootzavut says:

    "Look, I’m just trying to find ways that Tolkien can break my heart so I can at least attempt to prepare for it."

    If only it worked that way!

    "Jryy, zl cerqvpgvbaf ner whfg tbvat gb or havirefnyyl jebat, nera’g gurl"

    Vf vg onq gung V nz nzhfrq gung Znex vf abg pbeerpg va cerqvpgvat uvf cerqvpgvba fhpprff, pbafvqrevat ubj fcbbxvyl npphengr fbzr bs uvf cerqvpgvbaf ner? V ybir vg!

    I LOVE Minas Tirith, and it is SO SAD to me that the movie set was just a movie set, because I soooo want to visit that city 🙁

    Pippin is just plain adorable. I'm reminded once more just why I love this character <3

    "The Darkness has begun. There will be no dawn."

    That line is sooooo chilling 😮

    My connection is AWFUL, as far as I can tell this has not posted, but if it appears several times please accept my apologies, folks…

  44. flootzavut says:


    I am seriously so excited for Mark to see these movies, is that weird?

  45. arctic_hare says:

    So, I was going to post a John Howe picture from Realms of Tolkien, of Gandalf and Pippin getting to Minas Tirith, but I was beaten to it. Doesn't matter! I still have art for you all! In lieu of John Howe goodness, I will terrify you with the ROTK cover by the same person that drew that lulzy TTT one that looked like an old romance novel cover or something. ENJOY.

    <img src="; border="0"/>

    Okay… uh… the chapter itself. Bit of a shocker after that cruel as hell cliffhanger, but quite enjoyable. I love me some Pippin and Gandalf, after all, and FINALLY WE'RE IN GONDOR. AND IT IS AWESOME. <3 I've said this before, but I'm like you, Mark, I don't have much of a visual imagination, so I always appreciate movies and artwork for this reason. Very handy for someone like me.

    V ybir ybir ybir jura lbh svanyyl ERNYYL frr Tbaqbe va guvf zbivr, vg'f fb znwrfgvp naq ornhgvshyyl fubg. Cyhf jr trg gb urne gur shyy Tbaqbe gurzr sbe gur svefg gvzr; cerivbhfyl, jr'q bayl urneq n uvag bs vg va SBGE, jura Obebzve nqqerffrq gur Pbhapvy bs Ryebaq naq fcbxr bs uvf ubzr. Abj jr trg gb urne gur jubyr guvat, naq vg qbrf abg qvfnccbvag.

    Also, Sil stuff: Xabjvat gur Juvgr Gerr'f yvarntr tvirf vg fb zhpu zber zrnavat sbe zr jura jr svefg frr vg urer. <3

  46. Tauriel_ says:

    Gaaah, late with posting, I've had a very busy day at work… 🙁

    Tauriel's Linguistic Corner

    Sorry for yet another missed chapter, guys. 🙁 My life has been EXTREMELY busy lately. But I have the missed stuff from the last TTT chapter here, so I hope you don't mind. 🙂


    A Elbereth Gilthoniel
    o menel palan-diriel,
    le nallon sí di’nguruthos!
    A tiro nin, Fanuilos!

    This is a variation on the Elves' chant we've heard in Rivendell back in the chapter "Many Meetings". Here is the translation from Ardalambion:

    "O Elbereth Star-kindler
    from heaven gazing afar,
    to thee I cry now in (lit. beneath) the shadow of death!
    O look towards me, Everwhite!"

    (con'd below)

  47. Tauriel_ says:

    ARAGORN IS GOING TO CLAIM KINGSHIP? WHAT THE HOLY FUCK. WHAT THE HELL?!?!?! Oh my god, this book is going to destroy me, isn’t it? OH GOD, ARAGORN!!!!

    Come on, Mark. Surely with all the clues and hints at how he's the heir of Isildur and Elendil, how he's descended from the bloodline of the kings, how he carries Elendil's sword – and now the book is called "The Return of the King", probably the most spoilery book title in the history of book titles – did you really not put two and two together? 😀

    (Now, I'm not saying if Aragorn is successful in claiming his kingship… 😉 😉 😉 )

  48. divAndRule says:

    Hercule Poirot and LOTR, my two favorite things in the whole world in a single post. You just made my day 🙂

  49. Alice says:

    You guys are so lucky with such great ROTK covers!!My ROTK cover sux because vg'f n fprar sebz SBGE o.O…V zrna yvxr jung gur urpx!!!???Ohg V jbag cbfg vg lrg phm Znex qbrfa'g xabj juvpu punenpgre fheivirf be abg.

  50. Tauriel_ says:

    I'm sorry – what?

  51. AmandaNekesa says:

    Re your rot13 – V pbhyqa'g uryc ohg ynhtu ng gur snpg gung Znex jnf cerqvpgvat gung uvf cerqvpgvbaf jbhyq or fb jebat, jura va snpg, ur jnf nfgbavfuvatyl pybfr be evtug ba gnetrg sbe n ybg bs gurz. Vg'f shaal orpnhfr V guvax ng guvf cbvag, Znex qbrfa'g rira xabj jung gb guvax. Ur'f nffhzvat gung nalguvat ur pbhyq vzntvar jbhyq unccra jbhyqa'g unccra orpnhfr Gbyxvra vf n travhf naq unf pbzcyrgryl qvfbevragrq uvz. Guvf vf tbaan or terng! *rivy teva*

  52. AmandaNekesa says:

    Agreed! Without Howard Shore's score, it would have been a very different feel to the movies.

  53. Max (guest) says:

    Ok guys, I'm not a native English speaker so you must help me here: does English have a word for someone who's smart (and can be pretty insightful at times) but is NEVER clever? Because that's Mark. I mean, and I quote,
    *facekeyboard, while laughing like mad*
    IT'S IN THE FRIGGIN' TITLE!!! And in Bilbo's poem. And in the Council of Elrond. And again at Argonath. And when Aragorn tells Eomer who he is. Probably Galadriel spoke about that (I'm not 100% sure) and certainly other characters in other circumstances did too, and I don't remember.
    Mark ALWAYS miss these painfully obvious things. Like Gollum following the Fellowship or (another obvious thing, not a spoiler for pretty much everybody except Mark ) Gurer'f n tybjvat oruvaq Rcury Qhngu, naq orsber gung rnegudhnxrf fbzr puncgref ntb naq ur'f nyy JGS. Znex, zl orybirq, shaal, snagnfgvp Znex, sbe gur ybir bs Bppnz, vs Sebqb'f bowrpgvir vf n tbqqnzarq IBYPNAB jung pna cbffvoyl pnhfvat gurfr srabzran? (Nyfb gur qnexravat bs gur fxl bire gur rnfgrea Tbaqbe, ohg gung arrqf n ovg zber zntvp gb qb jvgubhg gur Bebqehva rkcybqvat fb abg thrffvat gung znl or fbzrjung erfbanoyr. So do we have a term for dear Mark chronic and fondamental… unpreparadness?

  54. GamgeeFest says:

    Pippin all along in Gondor is :'(. WHY, TOLKIEN?

    <3 to Beregond and Bergil

    Denethor – hm…. I don't know about him yet. *looking at you sideways*

    The beacons are lit!

    Pippin swears fealty. He's the youngest member of the Fellowship, and still considered a boy among his own people, but you can see in that scene with Denethor how much he's grown over the course of the Quest so far. And it hasn't even gotten real yet! All the hugs for Pippin, because he needs them.

  55. Mauve_Avenger says:

    For some reason I thought I'd posted this already, but apparently not. I do a double-take every time I see "Lossarnach," because it's the very first username I ever had (I don't even think I'd read this book yet; I just picked a random place on the map at the front of the last book). We learn from Beregond that Lossarnach is a valley where the civilians of Gondor have been taken for safety, and from his son Bergil that it's full of flowers in the spring. But I think this is the first time I've ever locked onto this detail:

    "Yet the herdsmen and husbandmen that dwelt there were not many, and the most part of the people of Gondor lived in the seven circles of the City, or in the high vales of the mountain-borders, in Lossarnach, or further south in fair Lebennin with its five swift streams. They were reckoned men of Gondor, yet their blood was mingled, and there were short and swarthy folk among them whose sires came more from the forgotten men who housed in the shadow of the hills in the Dark Years ere the coming of the kinds."

    This is the first non-negative use of the word "swarthy," I think? pleasedontbeevilpleasedontbeevilplease

    "Leading the line there came walking a big thick-limbed horse, and on it sat a man of wide shoulders and huge girth, but old and grey-bearded, yet mail-clad and black-helmed and bearing a long heavy spear. Behind [Forlong, Lord of Lossarnach] marched proudly a dusty line of men, well-armed and bearing great battleaxes; grim-faced they were, and shorter and somewhat swarthier than any men that Pippin had yet seen in Gondor."

    Yes! they're (probably) not evil!

  56. Icarus says:

    "Why do I feel this is literal? Like, Sauron literally found a way to block out the sun with some sort of “Darkness”?"

    Because it is Capitalized. Everyone knows that Darkness is a literal Thing.

  57. Icarus says:

    I agree, and there is so much to speak for the movies. But the music, oh.

    This YouTube video has a set shot from the film and no video, though there may be spoilerish video titles to the side. Hark, the theme of Gondor:

  58. notemily says:

    LOL ARAGORN HAS A CLAIM TO KINGSHIP WHAT. I love that Pippin has no idea and Gandalf is like "Where have YOU been for the past two books?" Because this is one of those things that Tolkien pretty much spells out for you OVER AND OVER AGAIN, but if you're not watching for it, you could miss the significance of all the little details we get about Aragorn and his backstory.

    I would have had no idea what Minas Tirith was supposed to look like if I hadn't seen the movies, Mark. I'm not great at visualizing this stuff either.

    Pippin's first thought is FOOD. 😀 I really like Beregond and his son. It's good to see some of the "normal people" who aren't huge players in this war, but just "pawns" like Pippin imagines himself.

    "Few, maybe, of those now sundered will meet again." 🙁

    I love the idea that Pippin would bring "five thousand swords" and that with every Rider from Rohan there would come a hobbit. That would be so awesome.

    Pheriannath is the best word ever.

    The thing is, Pippin kind of IS a Prince of Hobbits? I mean, they don't "do" royalty like the Men do, but he is a Took and the Tooks are a pretty important hobbit family.

    The Lighting of the Beacons is one of my favorite scenes in the movie. I love the idea that there are dudes just waiting on these remote mountaintops for the signal to light the beacons. How often does this happen? Getting to light them is probably THE MOST EXCITING MOMENT OF THEIR LIVES.

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