Mark Reads ‘The Return of the King’: Chapter 6

In the sixth chapter of The Return of the King, I can barely process what I just read. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Lord of the Rings.


My dad watched a lot of war movies when I was growing. Some of them I liked a great deal, like Saving Private Ryan or The Thin Red Line. But I can’t recall the names of many of the other ones. A lot of them were in black and white, and most were indecipherable to me. I couldn’t understand what was going on, and they held no interest in me. Plus, they were always so depressing. It was especially hard to wander into the living room and see my dad watching a movie and knowing that there was either a part of him that missed that or feared it. He would just sit in his recliner with a Pepsi and a cigarette, and he wouldn’t talk for hours. I think it’s part of the reason why I never found myself drawn to any sort of movie that dealt with warfare, even if that movie wasn’t based on real events. I never much cared for action or fantasy stories that utilized long battle scenes.

Part of the reason I am enjoying doing Mark Reads and Mark Watches is that I’m able to examine and engage with a lot of these things I’ve clung to for many years. Why should I avoid battle scenes or war movies? Why should I maintain that The Lord of the Rings is a boring nerd fantasy if I’ve never even read it? Why can’t I find new ways to enjoy (or criticize) the things I am reading or watching? As anxious as I was to find out what would happen to the siege of Gondor, I also worried that I wouldn’t find the epic battle to be… well, all that epic.

I am so happy to be proved wrong.

While the sheer weight of detail, action, and scope is certainly a big reason why I enjoyed “The Battle of the Pelennor Fields,” it’s the emotional plot twists that really made me fall in love with what Tolkien had written here. This is a story about people and how they react to the oppressive violence that the Dark Lord threatens them with, and Tolkien never forgets that this is about the characters. There is a lot of violence here, and I’m interested to see how the last film deals with this. There are broken arms, a lot of beheadings, stabbings, eating and tearing of corpses, and tramplings. I don’t think I want a bloody movie or anything, but the book paints this increasingly grisly and brutal portrait of war on the Pelennor fields.

The Nazgûl finally play a critical part of the narrative instead of just being a sometimes-distant threat. The Lord of the Nazgûl seeks out Théoden, and his confrontation with the King of the Mark is just downright horrifying. I’m fascinated (and creeped out) by the idea that the Dark Lord bred so many creatures just for war. I can’t even visualize the winged beast that the Nazgûl ride, so I just imagine that they look like jet black pterodactyls of some sort. Anyway, the start of a long decline in good things happening is right here, when Shadowmane is felled by a poison dart. How does one man fight a thing like a Nazgûl?

Merry and Dernhelm both are thrown from their horses and are within feet of the King as the Nazgûl descends down on the man. IT’S JUST SO TERRIFYING, OKAY? Especially the idea that Merry refuses to look up at what’s above him. He can feel the Black Rider there and he doesn’t dare to give it a glance. Dernhelm, however, has this sudden and confusing bout of confidence, directly challenging the spirit. Well, Dernhelm’s dead, I thought. He’ll be killed instantly. But why the hell was this young soldier so determined to protect the King?


‘Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!’

Then Merry heard of all sounds in that hour the strangest. It seemed that Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel. ‘But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Éomund’s daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin.’







For into Merry’s mind flashed the memory of the face that he saw riding from Dunharrow: the face of one that goes seeking death, having no hope. Pity filled his heart and great wonder, and suddenly the slow-kindled courage of his race awoke.

I admit to tearing the fuck up reading this. I was in absolute awe of this plot twist, and the selfless nature of what Éowyn was doing just overwhelmed me. This will forever be one of the best moments in the entirety of The Lord of the Rings, along with the one that follows: she beheads the winged creature that the Nazgûl rides on.


Unfortunately, this is immediately followed up with Éowyn facing the Nazgûl’s mace, which shatters both her shield and her arm. And then I am impressed by this book again when Merry, in a bitter rage, STABS THE NAZGÛL BEHIND HIS KNEE. It allows Éowyn to get one last perfect stab that destroys her sword and the Black Rider. She did it. They did it. I can’t fucking believe it.

But Merry is left between two bodies: Éowyn’s and Théoden’s, and the first significant deaths are upon us. Ugh, I just held back tears as Théoden bid goodbye to Merry, asking for his son and then Éowyn, not knowing that SHE IS RIGHT FUCKING THERE OH MY GOD. 

Slowly Théoden opened his eyes. Seeing the banner he made a sign that it should be given to Éomer.

‘Hail, King of the Mark!’ he said. ‘Ride now to victory! Bid Éowyn farewell!” And so he died, and knew not that Éowyn lay near him.

Oh, just fuck you, J.R.R. Tolkien. This is too much. Fuck this. Oh my god, this is so tragic it hurts to read. WHY. WHYYYYYY.

When Éomer sees his sister near his father, he loses it, and rushes off in a fury to destroy. Everyone, again, leaves Merry by himself. Something about that was so sad to me, that this little hobbit was left to fend for himself amidst the most chaotic moment of his life. All he has is the very shield that Éowyn gave him, as the sword of the Barrow-downs basically disintegrates after touching the body of the Nazgûl. So much of what’s here is about destruction. There are a lot of deaths in these paragraphs, and they even bury Shadowmane. The land is destroyed, these people hearts are obliterated, and the threat of their own deaths is still present all around them. However, when the Prince of Dol Amroth rides up, he determines that ÉOWYN IS NOT DEAD SHE IS JUST UNCONSCIOUS BECAUSE LOL SHE HAS A BROKEN ARM. Did no one think to check the body???

But that small hope is extinguished because this is The Lord of the Rings and joy cannot last longer than a chapter. The tide of the battle turns against the heroes, who are disorganized and distracted by the grim experiences they’ve gone through, but everyone loses all hope when off in the distance, a group of black-sailed ships are approaching. The enemy has more forces arriving, and soon the characters left fighting for Gondor will be surrounded.

I’ll be honest. It’s at this point I just believed that every character, save for perhaps Merry, was going to die. It was an issue of numbers. They were overwhelmed and losing their own men, so how could they possibly fight off a whole new group of Orcs and beasts and creatures? I mean, how depressing is it that Éomer calls for this remaining men in the hopes of creating a human shield, “though no man should be left in the West to remember the last King of the Mark”? He’s been King for maybe an hour. No one will ever know! That’s so fucked up to me.

So it genuinely caught me by surprise when the tiny bit of sunlight reveals markings on all the ships that designates them as FROM GONDOR. IT’S ARAGORN. WHAT THE FUCK. WHAT THE FUCK!!!!! HOW DID HE GET SHIPS. Oh my god, the Oathbreakers helped him steal the enemy ships. Oh my god, Legolas and Gimli are alive and THIS IS THE BEST TWIST I COULD EVER ASK FOR. WHERE THE HELL IS MERRY???

I can’t believe that, despite the many deaths, the siege of Gondor is thwarted. It is shocking to me in the best way imaginable because Tolkien had me convinced this could not end in any way but utter destruction. I did not believe this could go well. Oh fuck, they are all so close to a reunion. LET MERRY AND PIPPIN BE REUNITED IN THE NEXT CHAPTER, PLEASE.

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.

362 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Return of the King’: Chapter 6

  1. Becky_J_ says:

    HOLY GOD THIS CHAPTER. Soooo many things happen! I don't even…. HOW DID YOUR BRAIN NOT EXPLODE MARK. Okay. The only way I can handle this is in lists.

    *The things that made me jump up and down at my kitchen table at 1am*
    1. EOWYN. EOWYN. EOWYN. That's all I'm going to say here, because she's getting her own post.
    2. MERRY. BLESS YOU FOREVER, BEAUTIFUL, SWEET MERRY. I firmly believe that had anyone else but Eowyn and Merry attempted this, with any other blade or any other courageous heart, they would have failed.
    3. "No living man may hinder me." "But no living man I am! You look upon a woman." THEKJLKDAJT;HEKLJLKCHGKEHEDFJKTEJHLJALJLKLKCJTHJOEJKLFD
    4. We think Eowyn is dead and then NO SHE IS STILL ALIVE. For now, of course… but still alive nonetheless!!
    5. Just when you think all hope is lost…. ARAGORN AND GIMLI AND LEGOLAS AND THE RANGERS AND OMIGOD CAN'T HANDLE. The heir of Isildur has returned at last, to drive away the darkness from his rightful kingdom!!!

    *The things that made me cry all the tears at 1am at my kitchen table*
    1. THEODEN. He was so brave and loyal and fatherly and courageous, and I loved him.
    2. Merry crying and apologizing to Theoden for not obeying him…. he was truly like a father to Merry.
    3. Theoden dying without knowing that Eowyn was within a couple of feet of him…. ugh. Ungiven goodbyes and 'I love you's" can never be made up.
    4. Eomer sees Theoden dead, and then Eowyn too, and thinks that his entire family has been destroyed, without knowing the truth.
    5. The tomb of Snowmane. Although it is such a beautiful image to picture a grave of grass, lovely and alive, next to the barren grave of the Wraith-steed.

    Like I said, there is a ton that happens in this chapter, and only in a little more than ten pages, too. But I think that Tolkien's real crowning moment in this chapter is not any of the battle scenes, nor the victory of Eowyn, nor the arrival of Aragorn….. it is this passage, towards the end:

    "These three were unscathed, for such was their fortune and the skill and might of their arms, and few indeed had dared to abide them or look on their faces in the hour of their wrath. But many others were hurt or maimed or dead upon the field. The axes hewed Forlong as he fought alone and unhorsed; and both Duilin of Morthond and his brother were trampled to death when they assailed the mumakil, leading their bowmen close to shoot at the eyes of the monsters. Neither Nirluin the fair would return to Pinnath Gelin, nor Grimbold to Grimslade, nor Balbarad to the Northlands, dour-handed Ranger. No few had fallen, renowned or nameless, captian or soldier; for it was a great battle and the full count of it no tale has told."

    I think here is where, more than maybe any other place thus far, Tolkien so explicitly states the waste of war, that which he had known intimately. It doesn't matter if you are a king or a messenger, a boy or an old man, an enthusiastic warrior or a terrified bystander… war will claim you all. Tolkien, I think, adds this as an homage to all those who die unrecognized, whose names are never told, those who have no one to miss them when they're gone; for their names should be sung right alongside the names of the Kings, and Tolkien is giving them this small moment.

  2. Neet says:

    This is where eight or nine year old me, reading for the first time, gave up. I’d been permanently traumatised by Old Man Willow and Shelob, I’d survived the deaths of Gandalf and Boromir, I probably could have managed my fear of the Witch King and the death of Theoden. Sure, the books were leaving me an emotional wreck, but I was pushing through. Then Tolkien killed Snowmane. Deaths of humans? Fine. Death of one innocent horse for no reason other than to absolutely horrify me? That’s it, I couldn’t cope.

    Except that within a couple of months, the agony of an unfinished book (I had never abandoned a book like that before) overwhelmed the agony contained within said book and I returned and finished it. I read the Silmarillion not that long after, so I must have been reasonably recovered, but it’s left a long lasting mark.

  3. julianamoreli says:

    'But no living man am I! You
    look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Éomund's daughter. You stand between me and
    my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will
    smite you, if you touch him.'



    Eowyn is the bravest soldier in Rohan!!! She stood by her king when no one would!!!

    And Merry! So brave!!! The bravest luggage in the whole middle-earth!!!

    I love this chapter!!! This battle is amazing! The descriptions are amazing! Tolkien did a great job!

  4. Becky_J_ says:


    <img src="; width="400">
    By: Ellaine

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    Sorry, boys, please step aside…. you see, the King of the Wraiths, the terrifying creature that makes the most brave men quail in their boots and run the other way, is destined to be destroyed by a Hobbit and by a woman.

  5. LadyViridis says:

    All I have to say about this chapter is FUCK YEAH EOWYN. Okay, okay, it is terribly sad that Theoden dies, he was awesome. But Eowyn's badass last stand always seems to overshadow the tragedy in my mind. "I will kill you if you touch him." And of course we can't forget Merry's bravery as well, and the incredible serendipity that led him to have a blade specifically made to kill the king of Angmar (who later became the Witch King) on him.

    Have some fanart spam! These are all from a challenge done on the Art Order blog. I'm linking my favorites below, but you can see all the entries here

    <img src=""&gt;

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    <img src=""&gt;

  6. knut_knut says:

    <img src=""&gt;
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    Bhg bs gur jerpx ebfr gur Oynpx Evqre, gnyy naq guerngravat, gbjrevat nobir ure– guvf cneg va gur zbivr jnf FB NZNMVAT NAQ CRESRPG. Naq V ybir gur ovg va gur RR nobhg znxvat gur Jvgpu-Xvat'f znpr xD
    -RIP Theoden and Snowmane 🙁 Bar bs gur punatrf V ernyyl, ernyyl yvxrq va gur zbivrf jnf gung Gurbqra fcbxr jvgu Rbjla orsber ur qvrq.
    – I am jealous of Arwen’s ability to sew magic standards.

  7. flootzavut says:

    The ROT13 flailing in anticipation of this chapter has been immense 😀

    Did your head explode? Are you still reeling??

  8. Jenny_M says:


    Naq pna V whfg fnl gung gur zbivr unaqyrq guvf NZNMVATYL JRYY? "V nz ab zna" VAQRRQ.

  9. enigmaticagentscully says:

    BWAHAHAHAHA we were all waiting for you to get to this chapter Mark.

    The thing is, it is so obvious in hindsight that Durnhelm is Eowyn that it didn't even occur to me that you wouldn't get it straight off. EOWYN IS THE BEST AND EVERYONE ELSE CAN JUST GO HOME.
    Seriously, though, what a BADASS fucking moment.

    Naq rira orggre va gur svyz!


  10. blossomingpeach says:

    Ahhhh! We made it to this chapter! Another one of our rot13 subjects can now come out in the light! I've been refreshing all morning, such was my level of excitement for this review to come up. And it did not disappoint!

    1. Theoden. "I go to my fathers. And even in their mighty company I shall not now be ashamed." ALL THE CREYS.
    2. Eowyn…she just…it hit me again this morning how incredibly brave she is. I was thinking how in the past few chapters all men and beasts have been fleeing the Witch-King in fear. But no, for bravery and for love of Theoden, she stands her ground, and STABS HIM TO DEATH after he breaks her arm. When "Dernhelm" reveals his true identity, best reveal ever, right?
    3. MERRY! Eowyn and Merry are the best fighting duo ever. The two most unexpected heroes in this world of Middle Earth kill the…creature?…that no man can kill.
    4. Eomer charging to yells of "DEATH! DEATH!" after finding his sister fallen on the battlefield gets me every time. I'm so glad Imrahil notices Eowyn's alive! Speaking of Eomer, I LOVE the moment when he sees the black ships coming, thinks there's more bad guys approaching, and laughs. He's so awesome, y'all.

    In short: much cheering and weeping from this chapter. It's an emotional rollercoaster!

  11. TheFormerAstronomer says:

    This review is the most beautiful thing in the history of beautiful things <3 <3 <3

  12. rabidsamfan says:

    Eowyn! Like you, I never suspected a thing, and it was ABSOLUTELY GLORIOUS when she stood up against the Witch King, even though I was already crying for Theoden. And then Merry, finding the courage to stab the Witch King behind the knee and turn the fight in her favor.

    Aragorn showing up didn't make me nearly as happy. (I think my reaction to that was more along the lines of "ABOUT TIME YOU SHOWED UP!")

    Oh, this chapter…

  13. hick says:

    @Mark: Théoden is not Eomers and Eowyns father. He's their uncle.

  14. MaggieCat says:

    It seemed that Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel. 'But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Éomund’s daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you if you touch him.'

    Best. LotR. Quote. Ever.

    I was about 9 or 10 when I read Macbeth for the first time. The nice thing about that is that it means I got to read Shakespeare's plays before pop culture osmosis lead to knowing all of the endings. The downside is that sometimes that means I was left expecting/hoping for something awesome to happen that failed to do so. Like say, something implied by Be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to scorn/ The power of man, for none of woman born / Shall harm Macbeth. Obviously this is the sign for a heel face turn for Lady Mac, right? Give the fascinating, smart, ambitious, cut-throat woman something active to do and have her atone a little bit for her part in the regicide? Run along guys, clearly killing the increasingly evil usurping king is woman's work.

    But nooooooo, apparently a cesarean section counts as not being 'of woman born'. * It was the first time I can remember feeling robbed by a book I was reading deciding to tie up a potentially awesome plot thread in a way that goes past blah all the way to negative awesome.

    All of which is my way of saying that TOLKIEN UNDERSTANDS MY PAIN.

    The Witch-King cannot fall by the hand of man. The hands of a woman of the race of Men and a male Hobbit are slightly more troublesome. You know, THE PEOPLE YOU TOLD TO STAY HOME. And YAY Teamwork! From people who are often overlooked and underestimated and weren't even supposed to be at the fight! Éowyn and Merry, righting wrongs that bugged the hell out of me for more than a decade. Love!

    Also, you can just go and drop your male/human default into the Mines of Moria because clearly it is useless. 🙂

    the face of one that goes seeking death, having no hope.'


    * I know Macduff himself points out the ambiguity of the statement at the relevant point, and it is still my favorite of the tragedies. That doesn't fix a little girl's broken hopes.

  15. Dreamflower says:

    I always forget that Theoden starts off the battle by killing the leader of the Southrons.

    The Witch-king swoops in and we finally get a full description of his "fell beast". It does sound a little bit like a description of a pterodactyl, at least as they were thought of about the time JRRT was writing.

    And now comes the moment many of us have been eagerly awaiting. We are given Merry's POV here in a much more intimate way than ever before as he is felled by the same terror the others have been. Only Dernhelm still stands– and now we get the big reveal: Dernhelm is Eowyn!!! (Oh Mark, you had NO CLUE how much of the rot.13'ing the last few days have been about this scene and how you would re-act!!!)

    And for an instant the W-k is in doubt. No wonder– this is not a scenario he has envisioned.

    And now we learn how brave and gallant our Merry is. And how determined Eowyn is. She kills the fell beast, and then even with her shield arm broken, still stands in defiance of the Nazgul. And Merry, brave and clever, sneaks up and strikes the essential blow: he stabs the W-k with his barrow-blade, which breaks the spells keeping the W-k as a wraith, and makes him solid enough that Eowyn can strike the decisive blow.

    Merry gets his moment with the dying Theoden, and I just tear up every time I read this part. I especially love his benedicition: "Live now in blessedness and when you sit in peace with your pipe, think of me!" *sniffle*

    Movie stuff: V haqrefgnaq jul Rbjla tbg guvf cneg va gur zbivr, naq vg vf whfg nf rzbgvbany naq rssrpgvir. Vg jnf fb ornhgvshyyl npgrq, naq Rbjla qrfreirq gur punapr gb fnl snerjryy gb ure hapyr. Ohg V jbaqre ubj vg jbhyq unir orra vs gurl unq sbyybjrq gur obbx urer, gbb. V guvax vg jbhyq nyfb unir orra n jbaqreshy fprar.

    There are often discussions as to who actually killed the W-k, whether it was Eowyn or Merry, but of course it truly was the both of them– it HAD to be Merry who struck first; if the spell had not been broken, then Eowyn's blow would not have been effective. And now we learn of the origins of his blade, though Tom Bombadil had spoken of those blades long ago when the hobbits had scarcely begun their journey. It may put a bit of flesh on Merry's odd dream about "the men of Carn Dum". Had the previous owner of that blade been slain in battle with Angmar's forces without having a chance to strike a blow? And now it finally achieves the reason it had been forged.

    It's Imrahil who lets the Rohirrim know that Eowyn is alive as they bear her "body" into the City. V erzrzore jura V jnf n svefg gvzr ernqre jbaqrevat vs creuncf Vzenuvy jbhyq snyy va ybir jvgu ure. Ng gur gvzr vg arire bppheerq gb zr vg jbhyq or uvf arcurj jub jbhyq qb fb! Vg whfg frrzrq xvaq bs ybtvpny gb zr gung Vzenuvy'f erirnyvat gung fur yvirq jnf xvaq bs yvxr Cevapr Punezvat xvffvat Fabj Juvgr. Sbetvir zr. V jnf bayl 15, naq guvf jnf zl irel svefg snagnfl. Ohg V nz tynq V jnf jebat. Rbjla naq Snenzve jnf n jbaqreshy svg.

    I always forget how much more of the battle there is yet to go. Eomer and the Rohirrim fight deeper and deeper into the enemy. And then the ships come. I DID remember who was in those ships, and was so excited when they arrived– especially when the standard unfurls and then the reinforcements pile out! Whoo-hoo!

    More movie-stuff: Juvyr vg vf abg n znwbe orrs pbzcnerq gb bgure orrsf, gur gvzvat bs gur fuvcf neevivat jvgu gur Qrnq Nezl va gur zbivrf nyjnlf obguref zr, naq znxrf zr haqrefgnaq jul WEEG nibvqrq guvf va gur obbx. Gurbqra'f qrnq naq Zreel naq Rbjla ner ubeevoyl jbhaqrq naq gurer ner uhaqerqf bs qrnq ba gur onggyrsvryq– naq gura urer pbzrf gur "fpehoovat ohooyrf" nf fbzr unir pnyyrq gurz, naq gurl whfg vzzrqvngryl chg na raq gb guvf ubeevoyr onggyr. Gb zr vg abg bayl fznpxf bs qrhf rk znpuvan (sne zber guna gur Rntyrf) naq engure purncraf gur fnpevsvprf bs gubfr jub unir whfg qvrq.

    And still the fighting goes on. It goes on and on all day (something else that it took me a long time to quite understand) and there are more horrible losses. Halbarad!!! *sniff* I was so sad about Halbarad, even though he was only briefly in the story– clearly he had been a close friend to Aragorn, and I had looked forward to getting to know him better!

    On a lighter note: One of the first fanfics I read was this one

    No Living Man by Elana

    It rather puts into perspective the prophecy about the Witch-king of Angmar!

  16. LadyViridis says:

    (Reposted; I THINK I got the images resized properly.)

    All I have to say about this chapter is FUCK YEAH EOWYN. Okay, okay, it is terribly sad that Theoden dies, he was awesome. But Eowyn's badass last stand always seems to overshadow the tragedy in my mind. "I will kill you if you touch him." And of course we can't forget Merry's bravery as well, and the incredible serendipity that led him to have a blade specifically made to kill the king of Angmar (who later became the Witch King) on him.

    Have some fanart spam! These are all from a challenge done on the Art Order blog. I'm linking my favorites below, but you can see all the entries here

    <img src=""&gt;

    <img src=""&gt;

    <img src=""&gt;

    <img src=""&gt;

    <img src=""&gt;


  17. Ryan Lohner says:

    "There are broken arms, a lot of beheadings, stabbings, eating and tearing of corpses, and tramplings. I don’t think I want a bloody movie or anything, but the book paints this increasingly grisly and brutal portrait of war on the Pelennor fields."

    Well, Peter Jackson is the guy who coined the term "splatterpunk." Just check out Braindead, quite possibly the goriest movie ever made, to see what he's capable of in this area.

    In the tour in New York, I met Mark afterwards to get my editor's copy of Mark Reads Sorceror's Stone. And after a quite surprising great big hug where I pretty much turned into dead weight, we had this exchange (he'd already mentioned that he had finished Book 5):

    "I can't wait for the Eowyn reveal."
    "I didn't see it coming at all!" (shakes fist at the heavens) "DERNHELM!!!!"

  18. flootzavut says:

    "This will forever be one of the best moments in the entirety of The Lord of the Rings"

    You speak truth, sir. You speak truth.

    Favourite quotes from this passage:


    "She should not die, so fair, so desperate! At least she should not die alone, unaided… Still she did not blench: maiden of the Rohirrim, child of kings, slender but as a steel-blade, fair yet terrible. A swift stroke she dealt, skilled and deadly."

    I love these descriptions of Eowyn, and also that Merry is stirred into courage and action by her bravery. SO MOVING.

    Also Theoden regretting that he will not get to smoke and chat with Merry <3 and this:

    "Farewell, Master Holbytla… My body is broken. I go to my fathers. And even in their mighty company I shall not now be ashamed."

    Excuse me, I think I have something in my eye…


  19. enigmaticagentscully says:

    In other news, I mentioned in passing to my dad today that Walter Bishop from Fringe is played by the same guy who plays Denethor in the movies, and the look of dawning realisation on his face was something wonderful to behold. I just completely blew his mind without meaning to.

    I swear, he's a massive Fringe fan but he's watched the first three seasons without making that connection.

  20. Trey says:

    Finally, this chapter! I mean, it's only ONE OF THE BEST THINGS EVER. Like, I wanna give this chapter a big hug even though it totally screwed with my emotions and DESTROYED MY SOUL as a fifth grader.

  21. flootzavut says:



    Jryy abg ARKG puncgre… 😀

  22. Amir says:


    One small correction: Théoden is not the father of Éomer and Éowyn . He is their uncle.

  23. Ryan Lohner says:

    We've already seen one instance of Tolkien "improving" on Machbeth with the Ents' attack on Isengard, and here's another one. As a kid, he was fully expecting the "no man of woman born" prophecy to mean Macbeth would be killed by a woman, and thought the "untimely ripped" twist was cheating.

    And note just how thoroughly he covers his bases here: Eowyn is from the race of Men, but not a man. Merry is a man, but not from the race of Men. And the sword that makes it possible was made by someone who was both a Man and a man, but is now a barrow wight.

  24. Darth_Ember says:

    To: Witch-King
    From: Council of Vague Prophecies
    RE: Your invulnerability

    Dear sir,
    We regret to inform you that prophecies are non-refundable. You are of course an important customer and we value your patronage. However, fine print on all Vague Prophecies (TM) expressly stipulates that should a loophole be found, all warranties are null and void.
    We hope we may be of service to you again, should you resume corporeal existence at any time in the future. Until this eventuality, we are,
    The Council of Vague Prophecies.
    ("Knowing the unknowable… for you!")

    Also, Eowyn is an awesome badass. That is all.<3

  25. Katie says:

    One of the best things about this book: Tolkien’s constant spoilage. When you re-read LOTR, you will notice that the “no man alive can kill him” thing gets mentioned so often, that you absolutely should expect there to be a female warrior heroine just for that. But you don’t.

  26. Aga says:

    The moment when Eowyn reveals herself and defeats the Lord of the Nazgul is my favourite moment in any book. EVER. Hands down.

  27. castlewayjay says:

    not much time so just listing what I love about this great great chapter
    -Tolkien never forgets the imipoortance of the characters to the story. and he creates such great characters
    -Tolkien's level of detail – I love the fact that Merry's wound did so much damage to the Witch-King because it was one given to him by Bombadil from that barrow
    -Tolkien's language! never is his use of language more powerful, almost Shakespearean
    -so glad Mark was not spoiled for the Eowayn surprise!
    -Adore how the Witch-King's arrogance basically does him in. He really believes that prophecy that no man can kill him. didn't think it through though.
    -Eowyn & Eomer are Theoden's niece & nephew, but he was like a father to them. And to Merry. For a little while.
    -Love Eomer and Aragorn's friendship.
    -always wondered if Eowyn left someone behind in her place, since her duty was to lead Rohan in her brother & Uncle's absence. or was she so overcome with grief & despair that she gave no thought to it.
    -See Tolkien can write wonderful female characters. I think he just saw his story as a male war/quest story and wrote it that way.

  28. Cassie5squared says:

    Oh my gawd, Mark, I think this is the first time I've been quite this excited to see your reaction to something I already knew. Ever since your reaction to the introduction of Dernhelm, I've been bouncing in my seat and laughing madly to friends who also read this. 😀

    Your reaction to the big reveal and subsequent badassness has left me squeeing with glee. It is such a beautiful thing to see you loving these books. I wish they didn't have to end, so your unpreparedness could fill us all with all the glee forever.

  29. BetB says:

    Eowyn and Merry! They are the heroes of the morning. Aragorn is the hero of the afternoon! Many brave deeds were done on the field of battle. These people dared because they loved their land, friends and lives. They had to try and stop the evil usurper or all would be lost.

    I think that is why soldiers do what they do. They love their fellow soldiers and their life at home. Hopefully their lords will not throw them into a useless conflict without hope.

    The feelings I have here are probably the same as a real war generates. I swell with pride with the bravery shown. I cry tears of joy at the hope that springs from nowhere. I'm torn with grief and sadness for the people who died defending what they love. I'm horrified at the wanton slaughter and raw gore of war.

    This is the genius of Tolkien. Who else could let me feel all these things with the written word. This is why I'm addicted to these books. I can't count the number of times I've read them because every time, I feel all these feelings that are real and intense.

  30. atheistsisters says:

    I'm sure you can imagine how much we've been looking forward to this chapter, Mark! And I must say, the review is very satisfying.

    I love this chapter so much. I've read it three times in the last few days. That line about Theoden's spear shivering on impact stands out to me because I've watched jousting and it takes a lot of force to shatter a lance like that.

    Eowyn. No matter how many times I read the tale, THAT PART just…. I can't even… And poor Eomer finding her like that!

    Merry is so freaking brave and doing all that for people he has known for a few days! Goodbye, Theoden. Goodbye, Snowmane. 🙁

    This chapter causes way too many emotions. And I am again impressed by Tolkien and his language. Such inspired writing. Even just the phrase Corsairs of Umbar, it has a really nice ring to it, not to mention all the battle language.

  31. This chapter is my favorite moment in the entire series. There are many spectacular pieces, beautiful passages, and wonderful character moments, but nothing in this books gives me the same joy as "But no living man am I!"

    The cruel irony that Theoden dies without knowing she's there just breaks my heart, as does Eomer's wild assault afterwards. It may seem somewhat amusing that no one thought to check if she was actually dead, but I can understand why, in the rush of the battle, he would assume she had died after he saw her lying there. And his sweeping charge into the enemy's ranks- while all the riders shout "Death"- is a chilling image. They no longer have that rush of wild joy that we saw in the previous chapter, but their will has only been strengthened by everything that's occurred.

    And then they meet up with Aragorn, and everything is happy! Well, sort of. They're still in the middle of the battlefield and Minas Tirith is still under siege and quite a few people have died. But at least there's hope that they won't all be crushed and killed right away.

    Since I can't be bothered to think about anything other than Eowyn and her and Merry's beautiful deed at the moment (she was my Mulan, I actually read these books before I saw that movie), you get some… fanart! So these aren't official, but they're still pretty good. I really hope I can get the embedding right…

    By Deuxmanice
    Battle of the Pelennor Fields

    By Ostrander
    Eowyn vs. The Nazgul

    and my personal favorite, by deligaris
    Eowyn and the Nazgul
    Edit: Apparently, I cannot. Just have the links, then.

  32. Ryan Lohner says:

    Nf zhpu nf V ybir gur zbivrf, V'z ernyyl qvfnccbvagrq gung gurl qvqa'g vapyhqr Nejra'f onaare orvat hasheyrq, nf vg jbhyq pyrneyl jbex terng bafperra.

  33. Alice says:

    * The rohirrims are so brave!*teary eyed*
    * Oh,noes…Theoden!!The Witch King,riding this bird-dragon-beast thingy is about to kill him and then…EOWYN!!!!!YEAH! Now you know why we love her so much, she's such a BAMF!And Merry – you sweet brave hobbit!This whole scenes are so magnificent for the bravery and the loyalty described here,the sad farewell of Theoden,the way Eomer loses it(zna va gur RR vf gung fprar cbjreshyy,be jung!?)…and no these are not tears,my eyes are just itching.
    * The Corsairs of Umbar.C'mon,Tolkien,have pity on my poor heart,how much do you think it can take?!
    * It's ARAGORN!!Or should I say now Elessar?:D And Arwen's gift is the flag of the king!Now,that's an entrance.
    * Victory!!!But it's a sad victory.Forlong is dead.Halbarad is dead.THEODEN!!! :'( :'(
    * gur bayl guvat gung cvffrf zr sebz gur zbivrf,vf gung Nentbea fubhyq unir orra qerffrq yvxr ur jnf sbe gur onggyr ng gur Oynpx Tngrf,naq abg yvxr n enatre :p

    <img src=""width="600"&gt;
    Alan Lee – The Battle of the Pellenor Fields

    <img src=""width="600"&gt;
    Alan Lee sketch – Harradrims vs Rohirrims I

    <img src=""width="600"&gt;
    Alan Lee sketch – Harradrims vs Rohirrims II

    <img src=""&gt;
    John Howe – Flying Nazguls above Minas Tirith

    <img src=""width="600"&gt;
    Alan Lee sketch – The blow falls ( notice Osgilliath in the distance and miniature Minas Tirith ^_^)

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

    <img src=""width="600"&gt;
    John Howe – Theoden's Bane

    <img src=""width="600"&gt;
    Roger Garland – Witchking

    <img src=""&gt;
    John Howe – Witch-King Come not between the Nazgul and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shriveled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye.

    <img src=""&gt;
    John Howe – Eowyn But no living man am I!

    <img src=""width="600"&gt;
    David Wyatt – Eowyn and the Nazgul

    <img src=""width="600"&gt;
    Angus McPriders

    <img src=""width="600"&gt;
    Michael Kaluta

    <img src=""width="600"&gt;
    Alan Lee sketch – Eowyn and the Nazgul


  34. Depths_of_Sea says:

    So on a scale from 1 to HOLY CRAP, Mark, how unprepared would you say you were for this chapter?

  35. ‘Hail, King of the Mark!’
    Wait, I thought Hagrid was King of the You.

  36. Opal says:

    May I repeat my rot13 comment in reaction to your question if there were "no women Rohirrim? Like, seriously, not one warrior or rider who is a woman?" form chapter 6 in The Two Towers:

    "No really, there won't be any female Rohirrim warriors in the whole book. And if, perchance, there should happen to be one, she won't to anything important in the battle. At all. Just saying. "

  37. Hans says:

    "And the wonder took him, and a great joy; and he cast his sword up in the sunlight and sang as he caught it. And all eyes followed his gaze, and behold! upon the foremost ship a great standard broke, and the wind displayed it as she turned towards the Harlond. There flowered a White Tree, and that was for Gondor; but Seven Stars were about it, and a high crown above it, the signs of Elendil that no lord had borne for years beyond count. And the stars flamed in the sunlight, for they were wrought of gems by Arwen daughter of Elrond; and the crown was bright in the morning, for it was wrought of mithril and gold.
    Thus came Aragorn son of Arathorn, Elessar, Islildur's heir, out of the Paths of the Dead .."

    It's amazing! It's the Return of the King.

  38. msw188 says:

    Like everyone else, I remember being absolutely FLOORED by the Eowyn reveal. Switching to the point of view of Merry, cowering with eyes shut, is brilliant. We also get pure wrath on the part of Eomer that we really haven't seen from anyone. First his madness at seeing his sister dead (as he thinks) on the battlefield. The moment of absolute silence while his mind tries to digest this is amazing. Then later, when all hope is lost (as he thinks), "Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!" He's just like FUCK IT, it's time to kill and be killed, let's do this shit. The interesting thing is that Tolkien does not praise this kind of action, but he recognizes it as brave, or perhaps 'bold', and is quick to point out that the men of the enemy are the same (we don't know about the orcs). When they see that the tides of battle may have turned against them, they basically say and do the exact same thing.

    Also, "Shadowmane" HAHAHA that's awesome. I've tried to hesitate from 'correcting' Mark ever since I began to realize how kind of silly it is, but this one is just too amazing. It's like the PERFECT mix of Shadowfax and Snowmane, and we can only imagine how badass that horse would be, RIGHT???

    Oh, one last thing. "There they had been mustered for the sack of the city and the rape of Gondor…" When I read this for the first time, this line seemed so casually thrown in that I figured it couldn't mean what I thought it meant. OOPS. Fuck. War is a terrible, terrible thing.

  39. Mairead says:

    Yes, Thedoen is the uncle of Eomer and Eowyn, but they were brought up in his house after the deaths of their parents, and looked upon him as a father.

    They were his sister's children at that, which seems to have been a particularly close relationship according to the Anglo-Saxon poems on which Tolkien based his Lords of the Mark.

    The death of Theoden bears more than a passing resemblance to the death of Beowulf, fighting a dragon with no one at his side but one young kinsman :

    And now the youth
    was to enter the line of battle with his lord,
    his first time to be tested as a fighter.
    His spirit did not break and the ancestral blade
    would keep its edge, as the dragon discovered
    as soon as they came together in the combat.

    "As God is my witness,
    I would rather my body were robed in the same
    burning blaze as my gold-giver's body
    than go back home bearing arms.
    That is unthinkable, unless we have first
    slain the foe and defended the life
    of the prince of the Weather-Geats. I well know
    the things he has done for us deserve better.
    Should he alone be left exposed
    to fall in battle? We must bond together,
    shield and helmet, mail-shirt and sword."

  40. Sarah TX says:

    This is one of my favorite chapters in the whole series, mostly because of the courage of Theoden and Eowyn, and the utter despare of Eomer when he discovers their bodies.

    Movie stuff: Senaxyl, gur Onggyr bs Cryyrabe Svryqf vf gur bar punatr gung V pnaabg fgbznpu va gur zbivrf. V jbhyq or unccl sbe fbzrbar gb pbaivapr zr gung V'z jebat, ohg V qvfyvxr gur Qrhf rk Tubfgf. V qvfyvxr gur snpg gung gur "evqr gb ehva" fcrrpu jnf tvira ol Gurbqra ng gur ortvaavat bs gur onggyr, engure guna ol Rbzre jura gur tbvat frrzrq zbfg qver. V qb ybbbir ubj gurl svyzrq Rbjla naq Zreel'f svtug jvgu gur Anfthy, gubhtu.

  41. castlewayjay says:

    This chapter is so full of wonder I can't resist the temptation to post again: Mark states "the Oathbreakers helped him [Aragorn] steal the enemy ships. Oh my god, " – When I first read this so long ago, it was really confusing. but now I just revel in it.

  42. guest_age says:

    Every time I get to this part, I do little victory arms because EOWYN EOWYN EOWYN. Bad ass? OR BADDEST OF ASSES?

    And then Theoden dies and I get sad because I really love Theoden.

  43. Ryan Lohner says:

    Movie stuff: Yrtbynf trgf nyy gur nggragvba sbe uvf fubjl xvyyvat bs na Byvcunhag, ohg V cersre Rbzre gnxvat qbja GJB jvgu n fvatyr jryy-nvzrq fcrne. Ur gbgnyyl cynaarq gung.

    Gur zbfg grnewrexvat zbzrag va nyy gur zbivrf sbe zr vf jura Rbzre frrf uvf fvfgre nccneragyl qrnq, naq guebjf qbja rirelguvat ur'f pneelvat nf ur ehaf gb ure naq ubyqf ure, fpernzvat jvgu enj tevrs. Znwbe xhqbf gb Xney Heona, jub guebjf nofbyhgryl rirelguvat ur unf vagb gur zbzrag.

  44. Katarina_H says:

    Movie stuff: V erzrzore orsber gur zbivr jnf bhg (be orsber gur RR jnf bhg? Jryy, rvgure bar), bar bs zl bayvar sevraqf jnf ybbxvat ng fperrapncf bs Rbzre zbheavat uvf fvfgre naq jrag, "Unat ba, fbzrguvat'f bss nobhg guvf onpxtebhaq. Gur natyr xrrcf punatvat. BZT ur'f EBPXVAT. Gung'f NJRFBZR." (Cnencuenfrq.)

    V fgvyy guvax bs gung rnpu gvzr V frr be ernq guvf fprar.

  45. stormwreath says:

    Remember what Gandalf said about the Lord of the Nazgûl two chapters ago:
    "And if words spoken of old be true, not by the hand of man shall he fall"

    Tolkien was trolling you. 🙂 And trolling the Witch-King himself, of course, because it's clear he also knew about that prophecy, and it's what gave him confidence. But:

    (EOWYN: LOL no I'm not a man, I'm a woman!]

    "But the Ringwraith made no answer, and was silent, as if in sudden doubt."

    He's just realised the person he's fighting might actually be able to kill him this time, and he doesn't like it.

    Other things I noticed in this chapter:

    1. Éomer reciting a poem saying that crying over Théoden's death is something for the women to do… while he's crying himself.

    2. The Rohirrim joining in with Éomer's "fey mood" and charging away southward with a cry of "Death!". I mean, it's not like their sisters have apparently been killed too – but their King has been, so they're also fey.

    3. "Théoden King. He is dead. But Éomer King now rides in the battle." This smooth constitutional transition from one government to its successor with no protest or dispute is the sign of a stable, well-functioning state. 🙂

    4. Imrahil uses the word "leeches" to mean "doctors". That really threw me on first reading. Also, apparently there are no combat medics among the Rohirrim…

    5. Merry's sword burned away after stabbing the Witch-King, but notice this as well: "Even as he struck his blow his arm was numbed, and now he could only use his left hand". Uh oh.

    6. Nobody has ever confirmed whether 'Gothmog the lieutenant of Morgul' who takes over after the W-K's death was another Nazgûl or something else entirely. Gur zbivr znxrf uvz na Bep; V'z abg ragveryl pbaivaprq zlfrys.

    7. "For once more lust of battle was on him; and he was still unscathed, and he was young, and he was king; the lord of a fell people." It's good to be the king, Even if, as in this case, it means getting horribly slaughtered.

    8. "Red fell the dew in Rammas Echor".
    We don't know how large Sauron's army was, but in the Atlas of Middle Earth Karen Fonstad estimates that the battle involved at least 45,000 from Mordor and 12,000 from Gondor and Rohan. Sauron's forces were completely destroyed. So there are now over 40,000 dead bodies lying in a 12-mile radius of the Gate of Minas Tirith.

    9. Aragorn, Éomer and Imrahil feel no sense of triumph after the battle, nor any sorrow, Just utter, numb exhaustion. That detail feels very much like it comes from Tolkien's own experience.

  46. stormwreath says:

    Here's my military history corner, to match Tauriel's linguistics corner. 🙂 Images are behind the 'Replies' tab, as before.

  47. Marie the Bookwyrm says:

    "I can’t even visualize the winged beast that the Nazgûl ride, so I just imagine that they look like jet black pterodactyls of some sort. "
    This is pretty much how I've thought of them since I first read LOTR. 🙂 Now let me flail a bit:

    The death of Theoden! Augghhh!
    Merry gets to say goodbye to him. *holds back the tears*
    Dernhelm confronts the Nazgul. *gasp*
    "But no man am I." FUCK YEAH, EOWYN!!!!!
    Eowyn kills the flying monster! *fist pump*
    Nazgul breaks Eowyn's shield and arm!! Noooooooo!
    Merry strikes from behind! FUCK YEAH, MERRY!!!
    '…and a cry went up into the shuddering air, and faded to a shrill wailing, passing with the wind, a voice bodiless and thin that died, and was swallowed up, and was never heard again in that age of this world.' *swoons at Tolkien's writing*

  48. lexypoo says:

    The book and the movie make me weep at this point — it's so remarkable, so epic, and so wonderful it makes me proud to be a woman, Y'ALL!

    V nofbyhgryl ybirq gur oruvaq gur fprarf sbbgntr naq Wnpxfba vafvfgvat gung gur Jvgpu Xvat'f znpr or OVTTRE, gura ur tbrf, Hu, pna lbh znxr vg ovttre?

    V oryvrir gur npgbe gung cynlf Hehx, gur Jvgpu Xvat, naq Tbguzbt va EbGX..vf nyy cynlrq ol Ynjerapr Znxbner. Gur cbbe zna jnf whfg jvryqvat guvf tvnag, zbafgre znpr juvyr va shyy pbfghzr juvyr Zvenaqn Bggb whfg fpnzcrerq nebhaq gveryrffyl. Vg whfg tbrf gb fubj ubj zhpu JBEX gurfr npgbef qvq…

    Gur raqvat bs gur rkgraqrq rqvgvba oruvaq gur fprarf sbbgntr nyjnlf znxrf zr pel orpnhfr gur pnfg naq perj obaq jvgu rnpu bgure fb ornhgvshyyl — gurl rira obaq jvgu gurve ubefrf. Vg frevbhfyl envfrf ab qbhog va zl zvaq gung Ybeq bs gur Evatf qrfreirq rirel qebc bs erpbtavgvba vg erprvirq. Haoryvrinoyr.

  49. Tul says:

    EOWYN !! MERRY !!

    Eowyn is so amazing here. Nearly every single other person flee before a Nazgul, because they create that fear in you, but she stays, and she LAUGHS AT HIM. She LAUGHS AT THE F***ING WITCH-KING OF ANGMAR, LORD OF THE RING-WRAITHS !!! That's so brave!!!
    There's also her tears, her despair, her love for Theoden…That scene is amazing on so many level! Oh Tolkien how can you create all those emotions within me!

    And Merry!! He is often forgotten (by characters and readers alike) but his part is just as important! It was his stroke with the magical blade of the Barrow-downs that permitted the WK to be destructible at all!
    Hey, how he grew up from the simple hobbit of the Shire he was at the start of this book! Remember the first time he got near a Nazgul, and just fainted? Here he stands his own, and we see how he manages to gather his courage against that super-scary horror thing, in order to help the girl that stands alone and desperate before the WK. It's such a selfless act, and perhaps one even more brave coming from Merry than from Eowyn, because he is still so much attached to life, and he has never been trained to fight/known war and the price of defiance before leaving the safety of the Shire.

    Also, let's not forget when Tolkien wrote this! Ubj znal njrfbzr srznyr jrer tvira gur terngrfg xvyy bs gur obbx orsber uvz?
    (That scene in its great epic beauty inspired a great many artists, you can check at The ArtOrder if you are interested!)

    Theoden's death never had much of an impact on me (I liked him well enough, but wasn't really very attached emotionally to him), but Merry's sorrow really touched me, and his being forgotten by everyone after what he's done, and having to stagger alone behind them made me really sad for him…like, no, it's too much…

    Another big awesome moment of this chapter was of course when Eomer's discovery of his sister's body, and his resulting grief, rage and battle-lust. What a speech, boy!
    The last paragraph on the price of war, followed by the song, was also one of the highlights of the chapter for me, with its great sadness and sens of loss.

    All in all, a truly great chapter! This is my FAVORITE BATTLE in all Literature ok? (Gubhtu V nyfb yvxr gur Aveanrgu Neabrqvnq!)

  50. redheadedgirl says:

    Relevant to our interests: LotR characters or Ikea product?

  51. Atrus says:

    Semantics, killing Witch-kings since the Third Age!

    If I remember correctly this was one of the two things that Tolkien wanted to 'fix' from Macbeth because he believed they were a total cop-out in a play with witches and prophecies and magic*. (Macbeth spoilers follow!)
    The first was the marching forest, which were just men wielding branches; his solution were, obviously, the Ent and the Huorns.
    The second was the prophecy about being killed by 'a man not born of woman', and I think we pretty much all agree that being delivered via Caesarean does not count, not even as semantics. So he made the prophecy of the Witch-king, which he then proceeds to break not one but THREE TIMES, by having him killed by two people (1), a woman (2) and a hobbit (3), because he's just that hardcore.

    * of course he knew Shakespeare was limited by being in a theatre with a low budget and shoddy special effects, but it was a matter of principle

  52. lexypoo says:

    I think we need a happy image in this highly emotional chapter….LORD OF THE RINGS PEZ DISPENSERS WHAAAAT (it's been a long time since I've embedded an image):

    <img src=""&gt;

  53. rubyjoo says:

    We get our first mention of the Corsairs in this chapter and, as usual, I'm trying to work out how these would fit in with an English mythology and why Tolkien would use them.

    The Corsairs were pirates who operated out of North Africa from the 9th century until the 19th. They make you think about the Somalian pirates who are causing us all so much trouble at the moment. The Somalian pirates attack shipping in an ever increasing circle off the Horn of Africa, take hostages and ask for large ransoms. But the Corsairs thought really BIG, attacking shipping throughout the Mediterranean, but also travelling as far north as Iceland and even as far west as the States. By the early 1800s, America was coughing up large sums in ransoms and I believe that the American navy was formed because of these depredations.

    However, the big difference between the Somalis and the Corsairs is that the main business of the Corsairs was slavery. They not only attacked ships but raided all the coasts of Europe in their search for white slaves. The men would finish up as galley slaves and the women found themselves sold to the harems of North Africa and the Middle East.

    The coastal villages of England were raided for slaves by the Irish and the Vikings for hundreds of years. Even St Patrick, (4th c AD) a Romano-Briton, was taken from the British mainland by Irish raiders and, after escaping, went back to Ireland to convert them. But the Corsairs were an even bigger trial, sometimes capturing and enslaving whole villages on England's south coast. This is how they became a feared part of early English history and would obviously make interesting characters/villains.

    But can you imagine how terrifying they were? A group of pirates that had run amok for more than a THOUSAND YEARS!

  54. JustMalyn says:




  55. threerings13 says:

    One of the best chapters of the entire book. I was actually really anxious that Mark was going to suspect Dernhelm was Eowyn because in hindsight it's really, really obvious. (Dernhelm is lighter and smaller than the others, he never speaks, he stays close to Theoden, etc.) But it's one of those reveals that is totally surprising the first time you read it, but when you go back there are clues all over the place.

    When I get to the "No man can kill me" part, I always think of Macbeth. I know that Tolkien was recreating the Birnam wood comes to Dunsinane thing with the trees at Helm's Deep, but I always think of the other part of that prophecy here: that Macbeth cannot be killed by any man born of woman. I've always been really disappointed that he's killed by a man born by Caesarian section instead of the more obvious and awesome possibility: a woman. So I think Tolkien was fixing that "mistake" of Shakespeare as well.

  56. Wheelrider says:

    This will be one of those days the comments section gets huge! The culmination of so much cyphered anticipation…

    I'm so glad Mark didn't have a clue! I didn't either, on first read. SO FUCKING AWESOME. I'd had to read Macbeth in school not long before and had also felt cheated.

    So, the Witch King… there's been so much buildup since the very earliest chapters of this book for how awful the Nazgul are, and especially their leader. It's gotta tough to live up to this hype. But he does it. How fucking terrifying is this encounter? "I will bear thee away beyond all darkness…"

    Thus Eowyn and Merry are all the more BADASS.

  57. Ryan Lohner says:

    In the commentary, Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens talk about how they see Shelob as Tolkien's commentary on older women: she's a bit overweight, she has hairy legs, and she has more trouble fitting into certain things than she used to. It's hard to tell how serious they're being.

  58. atalantapendrag says:

    THANK GOD I HAVE INTERNET AGAIN in time to see you explode over this. It's the most beautiful thing. Is it ok to say I love you a little?

  59. rubyjoo says:

    I think that one of the most realistic parts of this chapter is the way the battle just goes on and on. It doesn't finish neatly on some triumphant note but drags on in a "cleaning up" process. Their opponents are shown to be brave men – even heroic and glamorous, if that's the right word to use: "and the drawing of the scimitars of the Southrons was like a glitter of stars". They make last stands and fight to the death, just like any heroic Anglo-Saxon war-band would do in the old poems: "for the Southrons were bold men and grim, and fierce in despair; and the Easterlings were strong and war-hardened and asked for no quarter." They won't yield and so they die. None return to their own lands to recite the story of the battle. And isn't that what most concerns many of our heroes – that none will survive to tell the story of how they went down fighting? I found this quite upsetting. It's a cruel thought and one of the reasons why, I'm sure, that Tolkien only touches lightly on the other side: all our support needs to be with Gondor, but we paused for a moment to think about the opposition, as I'm sure that Tolkien did during WWI.

    Tolkien doesn't dwell on horrific details of thousands of dead bodies but uses the image of a red sunset to fill us with horror: "Then the Sun went at last behind Mindolluin and filled all the sky with a great burning, so that the hills and the mountains were dyed as with blood; fire glowed in the River, and the grass of the Pelennor lay red in the nightfall. And in that hour the great Battle of the field of Gondor was over; and not one living foe was left within the circuit of the Rammas." This reminds me of the way that people used images of fields of red poppies in WWI, almost as if they couldn't bring themselves to recount the real stories of fields of blood.

  60. settledforhistory says:

    Oh god, I'm so full of feelings! This so great and sad and just wow!
    I can't believe Theoden is gone and he died because his horse fell on him, that is so terrible and way too soon.
    And Aragorn and the rest of the Fellowship are back to save the day that is so awesome.
    There are two things however that make this my favourite chapter so far:
    And she is not dead yet! Can I hope that the only woman in this war does not die in her first battle? Please?
    The other thing:
    Gandalf couldn't do it, Faramir coudn't either, no "no man alive can kill him", but
    This is so wonderful and perfect! I think we can forgive Tolkien now, for not writing about talking ponies, because we have A WOMAN AND A HOBBIT WHO FIGHT A NAZGUL AND WIN!
    I am so happy now, please Tolkien, don't take this away from me with the next chapter!
    So scared, but also so excited!

  61. threerings13 says:

    Yeah, my disappointment must have been because I read LOTR before Macbeth, too. I really felt ROBBED by Shakespeare.

  62. feminerdist says:


    Then Merry heard of all sounds in that hour the strangest. It seemed that Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel. ‘But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Éomund’s daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin.’

    This might be my favorite passage in all of literature. Nothing can accurately describe my sheer glee and excitement when I read the Eowyn reveal. I almost threw the book across the room, stood up, and started shouting "HOLY FUCK YES!!!" This woman is so goddamn fierce it kills me. She actually LAUGHS IN THE FACE OF DEATH INCARNATE AND THEN BEHEADS A GODDAMN MONSTER AND, WITH MERRY'S HELP, KILLS A GODDAMN RINGWRAITH.

    You cannot get more epic than that. Good holy god.

    Movie stuff: V nqzvg, V nz fgvyy fyvtugyl qvfnccbvagrq ol gur zbivr'f cbegenlny bs guvf fprar. V jnagrq guvf gb or jbeq sbe shpxvat jbeq sebz gur obbx. Be ng yrnfg pybfr gb vg. V jnagrq gb urne gung qrfcrengr ynhtu fur tvirf gung npghnyyl pnhfrf gur Evatjenvgu gb qbhog uvf vzzbegnyvgl. Vafgrnq, fur fgvyy xvyyf uvz, naq qba'g trg zr jebat, V fgvyy jnf yvxr "LRF!" va gur zbivr gurngre, ohg gur vzcnpg vf fyvtugyl yrffrarq va gur genafyngvba.

  63. elyce says:

    Oh god, this chapter. The last time I read it, I cried through, like, the entire thing. All because of Eowyn and how totally BAMF she is!


    My God, I love Eowyn, almost more than any other female character in any other book (Hermione's right up there too). And you've been going along complaining about the lack of women in the book and BAM! Eowyn shows up and proves everyone wrong!

    And btws, Theodin isn't Eomer's father, he's his uncle.

  64. Wheelrider says:

    (somehow got cut off from comment above, I think?)

    But at the same time it's still so sad. Theoden finally shakes off the shackles of Wormtongue/Saruman, and gets one last glorious moment before he dies. And Eowyn also gets to finally use her skill as a warrior, but also seemingly gets her death wish. There's no glory in all this without death.

  65. Anonymous says:

    Also, Dernhelm is Anglo-Saxon for "secret helmet." Most of Tolkien's colleagues would have known something was up by that point, but most people wouldn't. The Professor was just trolling us for a private laugh–and most people never realize.
    My reaction to this when I first read it was like my reaction to Molly Weasley against Bellatrix Lestrange. "HOLY FRICKIN' CRAP THIS IS AWESOME!!!!!"

  66. arctic_hare says:


    Setting aside the all-caps, yes, this is my favorite chapter in all of LOTR, purely because of Eowyn's feat of sheer badassery. It's one of the things that stuck with me the most, her crowning moment of awesome, and one of my most highly anticipated scenes in the movies when they were coming out. As I've said before, female warriors being badass is my favorite thing ever in fiction, so this should be no surprise. I love her speech to the Lord of the Nazgul. I love that she struck the killing blow after Merry breaks the spell (oh, Merry, ILU too for so many reasons, perhaps the greatest being that you had your own role to play in this amazing moment). I love that she and Merry both hindered him because the prophecy about the Witch-King allowed for a woman and a hobbit to destroy him. I love her, period. <3

    All the tears for Theoden. :'( And FUCK YES to the return of Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas!

    Movie stuff: V'ir fnvq guvf orsber, ohg V cersre Gurbqra'f qrngu fprar va gur svyzf orpnhfr ur trgf gb fnl tbbqolr gb Rbjla, naq vg'f fb ornhgvshy naq fnq. V ybir ubj vg zveebef gur fprar va Gjb Gbjref jurer ur njnxraf sebz Fnehzna'f pbageby. V nyjnlf pel jura V jngpu vg.

    V nyfb ybir gur ybbx ba Oreaneq Uvyy'f snpr jura ur frrf gur Ybeq bs gur Anmthy pbzvat ng uvz. Vg'f gur cresrpg "nj, SHPX" rkcerffvba.

    Sil stuff/speculation: Crefbanyyl, V'z bs gur bcvavba gung gur fgrrq bs gur Jvgpu-Xvat vf n qrfpraqnag bs bar bs gur znal, znal ubeebef gung Zbetbgu xrcg naq oerq sbe jne ntnvafg Oryrevnaq. Fnheba, anghenyyl, orvat uvf freinag, jbhyq unir xabja nobhg gurve rkvfgrapr, naq fb jbhyq'ir fbhtug bhg nal erznvavat barf gb freir nf gur Anmthy'f arj fgrrqf. GUNG'F ZL GURBEL NAQ V'Z FGVPXVAT GB VG.

  67. jne says:

    I love this chapter. Mark, your review, showing how your your childhood was touched by your father's war makes the battles even more poignant. For me, this chapter soars when Merry overcomes his fear because he can't bear to see Eowyn die. Eowyn protecting her uncle who has named himself father to her her and to Eomer is so RIGHT. Take that Witch King!

  68. sudden_eyes says:


    A great opening to the conversation.

    I'm with others who have commented – this is my favorite moment in LOTR. It just is. I was a nerdy bespectacled little girl with no friends when I read it, and … just, thank you, Eowyn. Thank you, J. R. R. Tolkien.

  69. platoapproved says:

    This chapter gives me TOO MANY FEELINGS, and everyone else has said it better than I could, so instead I'll just leave this here.

    <img src=""&gt;

  70. tardis_stowaway says:

    And now we get to why Eowyn is tied with Samwise Gamgee for Most Epic BAMF in Middle Earth.

    I love Eowyn and Merry's co-slaying of the Witch-king and his steed SO FUCKING MUCH. One of the things I love most about Eowyn is that she succeeds despite her despair. Indeed, in a way its her hopelessness that makes her powerful. One of the Nazgul's chief powers is the ability to instill fear and despair in the hearts of its foes. Eowyn is used to living with despair, so she is able to stand against the Nazgul when all others crumpled at the extinguishing of hope.

    When I'm struggling with depression, stories where characters triumph because they have hope often just feel like they're rubbing in how broken I am, saying I can never succeed without a positive attitude that I can't seem to conjure. Eowyn is a model for how one can essentially give up on a good outcome but keep going anyway because it's the right thing to do. Maybe hope will come later, but in the mean time holding fast to what I value is enough.

  71. cjeffery7 says:

    reading this chapter totally made me cry. and then i remembered the movie version, and i cried some more, duh. if you don't love the movies mark, i will be utterly shocked.

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  73. rubyjoo says:

    AT LAST, Eomer decides to go off and form a shield wall, LOL! That is the ONLY way that the Anglo-Saxons fought because they were foot-soldiers. One line of warrior shields pressed against an enemy line of shields and you tried to stab each other through the cracks.Tolkien complicated the matter by putting the Rohirrim on horses. If you want to read a good set of exciting novels about the Anglo-Saxons then I must recommend Bernard Cornwell's series The Saxon Chronicles (the first book is called The Last Kingdom). By the end, I was so immersed, that I reckon that even I could have put up a good show fighting in a shield wall (and I'm a woman, LOL)! Here's a link to a blogger who, while discussing the coming Hobbit film, has put up two links to an audiobook reading of Lords of the North, the third book in the series.

    I just love it, BTW, when Eomer throws up his sword and catches it after seeing Aragorn's standard on the Corsair ship. And then how they fight their way towards each other, lean on their swords and grasp each other by the hand. I also love it that Tolkien takes his time to point out that Aragorn, Eomer and Imrahil are unscathed "through FORTUNE and the skill and might of their arms." You always need a bit of luck to win.

  74. fantasy_fan says:

    Remember back in the Chapter 2 review?

    MERRY: Well, I feel useless right now. I suppose I’ll just stand here with my sword.

    LEGOLAS: You’re not useless! You’re just not useful right now.

    MERRY: Wow, I feel so much better.

    Merry is not useless any more! And Mark, you are better at this than you think!

  75. stormwreath says:

    It's even worse than that: the name in question is not only a movie-only character, but the name of a furniture manufacturer who supplies IKEA exclusively with its products…

  76. ChloeKEvil says:

    How much do I love this chapter? I love this chapter the most. I remember reading this as a nine-year-old girl and going 'MY IDOL'. Even my brothers admitted that Eowyn was the best! She's been a role model ever since- standing up to something that even the strongest men can't and beating the shit out of it… with help, of course. But everyone gets a little help from their friends. 🙂

    I agree with a lot of other people that these chapters have some of Tolkien's strongest writing so far. He just keeps getting better- and you can tell that this is subject matter that he is all too familliar. This pall of grief and loss hangs like smoke above the Pelennor.

    Also the poem that ends this chapter is one of my favourites out of the whole series- which may be my weakness for Anglo-Saxon poetry speaking because this is a really excellent example of that style, those alliterated lines and strong rhythm… I would love to see this in Old English. Maybe I'll make a stab at translating it myself.

  77. blossomingpeach says:

    A late-in-the-day extra thought:

    Fvta #587 gung Snenzve naq Rbjla ner Znqr Sbe Rnpu Bgure:

    1. Snenzve fgnaqf uvf tebhaq va sebag bs gur Oynpx Evqref jura uvf zra unir sybja va srne.
    2. Rbjla fgnaqf ure tebhaq va sebag bs gur Jvgpu-Xvat jura nyy bs Gurbqra'f zra unir sybja va srne.

    Jung V ybir nobhg gurve ebznapr vf gung V arire fnj vg pbzvat, lrg jura gurl sryy va ybir vg frrzrq fb cresrpg V sryg V fubhyq unir thrffrq vg ybat ntb. V ernyyl srry gurl ner irel jryy-zngpurq rdhnyf. V org gurl unir bar njrfbzr zneevntr.

  78. eyelessgame says:

    Way back in 1974, when the first supplement to Dungeons & Dragons came out and they introduced both "hobbits" (halflings, in later editions) and "thieves" (rogues, in later editions) – and hobbits, unsuited for any of the other classes, were allowed to progress to high levels as thieves – it was stated that when striking from behind, thieves did double, treble, or even quadruple damage. And for forty years, through a dozen or more editions and side-editions of Dungeons and Dragons, halflings have always made the best rogues, and rogues have always done extra damage when striking from behind.

    Meriadoc Brandybuck is the reason for this rule.

  79. Andrew says:

    Éowyn confirmed for UTTER BADASS STATUS.

    I admit that when I read the books I totally saw it coming (it was one of the very few things I successfully predicted – I was always a semantics puzzle geek, so every reference to the fact that no [b]man[/b] could kill the Nazgul caught my attention immediately), but even expecting it didn't take away from the impact of that moment. It's just a breathtaking moment because all along the Nazgul had seemed so utterly impenetrable. The fact that it was a woman whose desire to fight had been rebuffed by the male-dominated culture made it even that much more awesome.

    And let's not forget Merry too! That's a great moment for him after all the fear and helplessness he's felt all along in the company of these men of war. As you've talked about a great deal, Mark, these characters show real – and monumental – growth over the course of the journey.

  80. eyelessgame says:

    I love how the backstories come together – the Lord of the Nazgul is the Witch-King of Angmar… the evil kingdom that fought Aragorn's ancestors near where the Shire/Bree/Barrow-downs are today — and Merry's sword (dagger) was forged by those who fought him. And the prophecy was mentioned (twice, I think? Once at the Council of Elrond, and again by someone two chapters ago at the Siege of Gondor) that not by the hand of man shall he fall (which, to be honest, in a world with ents and dwarves and elves and giant spiders and trolls and oliphants and dragons and balrogs and wizards, means somewhat less than it would mean in, for example, this world. Still, the way in which the prophecy is fulfilled is pretty damn satisfying.)

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  82. rlanto says:

    From here out in both the movies and the books, I cry all the tears in the world. Albeit, I have the easy ability to flow tears unwillingly. Still, ALL the tears in the world.

    As an aside, growing up, I wanted to be Eowyn.

    After having recently heard this part of the book from my mother, I am told I had this exchange with my 4th grade teacher:

    Teacher: Renee, what do you want to be when you grow up?
    Renee: A Shield-maiden, like Eowyn, but I'll ride Shadowmane's heirs, not my brother.
    Teacher: Um, a shield-maiden?
    Renee: Yes, I will be brave and fight.
    Teacher: So, you want to be a soldier?
    Renee: No, a SHIELD-MAIDEN, like Eowyn. *looks annoyed*
    *Teacher moves on*

  83. Cakemage says:

    FUCK YES EOWYN IS MY QUEEN. She's like a Middle Earth Xena, and an inspiration to tomboyish equestriennes everywhere.

  84. T.J. says:

    When I first read this as 12 year old girl I wanted to be Eowyn. There really haven't been many women in the series so far and I loved the characters but I didn't identify with them an awful lot. But when Eowyn pulled off her "I AM NO MAN!" line and killed the witch-king she cemented herself as the biggest girl power badass ever in my mind and I wanted to be like her. I think I relate to the characters more now as an adult and I can see how desperate she was and what drove her to go to battle but THAT REVEAL still gets me EVERY TIME. I seriously couldn't wait for you to get to this part Mark since you were so unprepared and unspoiled. Of course, YOU WILL NEVER EVER BE PREPARED FOR TOLKIEN but you had no clue and it was great since I didn't either until then.

  85. @eruvadhril says:

    Eowyn? Is FUCKING METAL. She is more metal than the Witch King of fuckin' Angmar, and I don't even know how that's possible.

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  87. stefb4 says:

    This chapter. This chapter.

  88. rabidsamfan says:

    If it's the same one I got wrong, I wouldn't have spelled it that way anyway. I'd have used an "i" instead of an "e" for the movie character. *shrug* I thought it must be an Ikea thing. (I've never actually been in an Ikea store…)

  89. I remember reading LotR for the first time when I was thirteen, and getting to Eowyn's big moment. AND HOW MUCH I LOVE HER FOR IT. This series gets so much flak for being a sausage-fest, and I have to keep pointing out "Yeah, but Eowyn's the one who TAKES DOWN THE FUCKING WITCH-KING!" Frevbhfyl, pbzcnerq gb jung unccraf va gur pyvznk, vg'f n ybg zber onqnff guna jung Nentbea rire qbrf.

    Eowyn is my favorite fantasy heroine of ever, and no one can ever change my mind on that.

  90. teaspooncapacity says:

    Eowyn and Merry: FUCKING BAMFs. That is all.

  91. hazelwillow says:

    Eowyn's reveal fills me with gladness I can't espress. It's not just gladness. It's RELIEF. It's like the assuaging of a pain I didn't know I had, or the fulfilling of a wish I didn't know I'd wished. I love it so much.

    That's what comes of interrnalizing the lack of women in stories like this, without even realizing you have. And then something like this happens, and it's like someone you'd never expect suddenly saying "I understand. And actually, you ARE important. I believe you are." And you believe that they incredibly DO understand, and that the lie you unconsciously believed about your own lack of power was just that, a lie. it's that sort of relief, not even on the level of conscious thought.

    I once had a (male) friend dismiss Eowyn's victory to me by saying "she only won because she was a woman." Meaning that the Witch King "could not have been killed by a man," so she only managed to do it because of "a loop hole in his invincibility". But no. That is mixing up cause and effect. A prophesy says what WILL happen in the future, not what *could* or *could not* have happened. It doesn't create the boundary of what is and is not possible, it simply reflects the particular future which will take place. The prophesy said the Witch King "will not fall by the hand of man", and it was the Witch King's own arrogance as to not even *consider* the hand of woman which made him think himself invincible. He was never invincible. Eowyn and Merry, both, are underestimated by their world, and even the language of the world itself reflects that ("man" standing in for "everybody"). So Eowyn's response to the Witch King is not pointing out a loop hole in his invincibility, but pointing out his own arrogant foolishness as to think himself invincible based on a prophesy like that. He underestimates her and Merry by never having considered them before, and that is his mistake, to think himself invincible, but they win under their own steam.

    The assumption behind my friend's claim was that Eowyn could not have been a powerful enough warrior to kill something as mighty as the Nazgul under her own power. This made me angry, because it was as though my friend had erased the affirming truth that Eowyn had proved, and was instead repeating the assumptions behind the Witch King's own mistake, which are the same assumptions that I had picked up, the assumptions which are unconsciously propagated by lack of women in stories like these.

  92. Thea says:

    I have one simple question: What does the Elvish on the lower right hand corner of your banner mean? Does it say "You are not prepared"? I'm guessing here… If it does, how did you get it translated? Link me? 😀

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