Mark Reads ‘The Return of the King’: Chapter 3

In the third chapter of The Return of the King, Merry faces the oncoming horrors of war. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Lord of the Rings.


My father was in Vietnam. For years, he wanted me to sign up with the military, to either be in the Army or the Marines. It’s one of the few things we clashed on, almost violently at times, because it wasn’t something I believed was a moral choice. I had seen the effects on Vietnam on my father. Whenever he told stories about the jungles of that place, he tried to make himself sound like he was telling proud tales of courage and valor, but a lot of the time, his eyes would glass over and he’d zone out when talking about being shot at and taking a bullet. He’d try to tell me about the sacrifice some of his friends made over there, and then he’d get all quiet and forlorn for a few hours, opting to go sit in his recliner in the living room and watch old westerns on television.

As underdeveloped and ignorant as my opinions on war were when I was a teenager, something bothered me about watching my father’s PTSD come to life. He was sprayed with Agent Orange while in Vietnam, and his doctor’s believe that’s what gave him cancer and Alzheimers when he turned 50. But it can never really be proved definitively, and I don’t know that I’d feel any closure if I knew why he passed so early. What I did know is that every time my dad tried to tell me about what it was like to fight in a war, it would scare me. I’d see him disengage from everyone around him, and it frightened me.

I have friends who did tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, and they wake up in the middle of the night believing that they’re in the midst of a siege. Some of them crave the violence and the vigilance. Some of them have perpetual night terrors. All of them were inexplicably changed by the experience in ways I’ll never truly understand myself.

The brilliance of this chapter is the set-up to war. Tolkien is not sugarcoating this. He is building an environment of fear, terror, and uncertainty in remarkably subtle ways. I think the darkness that arrives is the most obvious thing in the story at this point, but it’s a meant as a harbinger of what’s to come. What I love is how he uses Merry’s sense of loneliness and purpose to bring his own experience with war into the story. I think even smaller moments like this are meant to overwhelm us with what’s about to happen:

He loved mountains, or he had loved the thought of them marching on the edge of stories brought from far away; but now he was borne down by the insupportable weight of Middle-Earth. He longed to shut out the immensity in a quiet room by a fire.

The journey this hobbit has been on is so ridiculously complex and exhausting that he desires the simplest of pleasures. It’s something multiple characters have expressed, too, and I think it’s a way of reminding us that some of them might never get the chance to do it again. It’s more apparent than ever that so much is happening all at once, too; we know now what possibly triggered the end of dawn. (Aragorn’s use of the Orthanc.) But as the war arrives, we’re acutely aware that these characters are spread out everywhere. What if some of them die and the others don’t ever find out? AH, THIS IS JUST TOO MUCH TO THINK ABOUT.

Let’s focus on other details, like the fact that there are SO MANY MEN IN DUNHARROW. Like, FUCK. It is impossible to deny that there is a war coming. You can see it in all of the people, too. There’s a reason Éowyn is so upset. There’s very little outright joy in this chapter as well. Everyone has the fear of the loss of Aragorn and the oncoming battle on their minds. The loss of hope that Éomer feels about Aragorn is palpable. He knows how much harder this will be without him. But what can they do? This is about having to make increasingly difficult choices. No one is going to follow the man into the Paths of the Dead. They’re going to deal with their own lives and their own crises as they see fit. They just have to assume that Aragorn can’t be a part of it all.

There’s another twist to this all when a man from Minas Tirith (is this Faramir, or do these Men all look similar or something???) arrives with the Red Arrow. Which is a thing. I don’t know what it is or what it does, but it’s of significance because it Théoden instantly knows that he is needed by the men of Gondor. (No, for real, I can’t seem to find anything else here that explains what this token of war means?) Whomever this stranger is assures the King of the Mark that Minas Tirith will fall (and soon) without his help. Unfortunately, it’ll take the six thousand riders that Théoden is leading a week to arrive in Gondor, and that’s at best. How on earth is Minas Tirith going to hold for a week?

Still, it’s honorable of Théoden anyway to agree to go. It’s a tough situation, but he admits that he’s known for a while that war is coming. Why ignore it any longer? I think it’s practical, personally. I mean, they all awake the next “morning” to discover that the blackness from Mordor has reached them. Seriously, have any of you ever been in one of those horrific black thunderstorms that just creep up out of nowhere? Living in Southern California, we always had to worry about particularly bad brush fires. This blackness reminds me of the smoke in Los Angeles during the Station Fire of 2009. This is what we all saw for days: a pyrocumulus cloud

FUCKED UP, RIGHT? So I’m imagining this darkness as that, but a million times worse.

So where does Merry fit in with all this? I fucking adore the parallel stories that Tolkien tells between Merry and Pippin. Both are far from home, about to be thrust into a horrific war, and feel lonely and useless in the process. Unlike Pippin, who has an assigned duty, Théoden actually orders Merry to stay behind. It’s not until some young man (who we later learn is named Dernhelm) helps out that Merry is able to come along. But before that moment happens, we have my favorite sentence in the whole chapter, where Merry happens to look directly at Dernhelm:

He caught the glint of clear grey eyes; and then he shivered, for it came suddenly to him that it was the face of one without hope who goes in search of death.

Can you imagine how hard this was to write if you were a father who not only lived through a war, but saw your sons go off to fight in another one? What’s so striking about how this book is turning out is that while we very clearly know that the main characters are the “good” guys, there are all these hints that war isn’t as glamorous or courageous as it’s meant to be. This one sentence made me stop and acknowledge that I am probably going to have to deal with a whole lot of death, that Tolkien isn’t going to magically save all of his characters and have everything be neat and tidy. He’s already shown this not to be the case, but it’s only going to get worse, isn’t it? IT IS. I KNOW IT.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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234 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Return of the King’: Chapter 3

  1. Becky_J_ says:

    The way is shut.
    It was made by those who are Dead,
    And the Dead keep it,
    Until the time comes.
    The way is shut.


  2. Becky_J_ says:

    First things first. Mark, I know your tour for now is called Intensity in Ten Cities (which, yes, is GREAT) but that will only work for these first ten!! Therefore, I propose that the rest of the Mark Does Stuff tour is called "The Gathering of the Mark" and we are the "Host of the Mark" after the phrases in this chapter. Because anything to do with Rohan is just so AWESOME. And fitting.

    Anyways….. this chapter…. I really quite love it. The image in my mind of the host of Rohan gathering for what seems like the last charge is really quite beautiful. Especially the picture of Theoden sitting tall and proud on his horse, in the gathering dark of the coming war, his snowy hair sitting on his shoulders, ready to lead his people to glory or death. I love it. I would follow him to war too.

    But ALL THE SADNESS for Merry being left behind YET AGAIN. "I received you for your safe-keeping," answered Theoden; "and also to do as I might bid. None of my Riders can bear you as burden."
    <img src=""&gt;
    YOU ARE NOT HELPING MERRY FEEL BETTER, THEODEN. He already thinks he is a burden, and then you go outright and say it!! Poor, poor Merry. Everyone is leaving him! I'LL NEVER LEAVE YOU MERRY. And don't listen to them, you are NOT a burden!!! But it's okay, because the mystery rider picks him up and takes him with them. At least SOMEONE cares!!!

    Ohg rirelguvat vf bxnl orpnhfr RBJLA.

    "N lbhat zna, Zreel gubhtug nf ur erghearq gur tynapr, yrff va urvtug naq tvegu guna zbfg. Ur pnhtug gur tyvag bs pyrne terl rlrf; naq gura ur fuvirerq, sbe vg pnzr fhqqrayl gb uvz gung vg jnf gur snpr bs bar jvgubhg ubcr jub tbrf va frnepu bs qrngu. "

    V… V qba'g rira unir jbeqf sbe guvf. Ba bar unaq, vg'f fb greevoyl njrfbzr orpnhfr fur vf svanyyl qbvat jung fur unf nyjnlf jnagrq…. ohg ba gur bgure, vg'f fb greevoyl njshy orpnhfr fur jnagf gb qvr. Ohg, bar guvat V pna fnl, GUNAX TBBQARFF fur vf gurer gb gnxr Zreel jvgu ure. V ernyyl pbhyqa'g unaqyr vg vs ur npghnyyl tbg yrsg oruvaq ntnva. V JBHYQ OR FB QRCERFFRQ.

    • blossomingpeach says:

      Naq vs fur unqa'g gnxra Zreel, gur Jvgpu-Xvat zvtug unir tbggra gur orggre bs ure! Ur jnf whfg nf vzcbegnag 🙂

      • Becky_J_ says:

        Gbgnyyl! V nyjnlf sbetrg gung, naq gura V nz nyjnlf fb sernxvat rkpvgrq ntnva jura vg unccraf. YBIR LBH SBERIRE, ZREEL. Gurl ernyyl znxr n terng grnz, npghnyyl, Zreel naq Rbjla. Gurl ner sebz fhpu qvssrerag jnyxf bs yvsr, naq lrg unir fb zhpu va pbzzba.

        • blossomingpeach says:

          Nj, V ybir gurfr crbcyr.

        • Dreamflower says:

          YBY! V graq gb sbetrg nobhg Rbjla, naq guvax bs Zreel nf gur fynlre. V fhccbfr gung'f zl uboovg-pragevp ovnf fubjvat. Ohg gehgushyyl obgu jrer rffragvny gb gur gnfx: Vs Zreel unq abg jvryqrq gur oneebj-oynqr, Rbjla'f oybj jbhyq unir unq ab rssrpg. Naq V guvax rira oernxvat gur fcryy, n xarr vawhel jbhyq abg unir xvyyrq gur J-x.

          Jung'f vagrerfgvat vf ubj sne onpx WEEG sberfunqbjf Zreel'f ebyr: jr trg gur svefg uvag nf sne onpx nf gur rapbhagre jvgu gur oneebj-jvtug (fvapr pyrneyl gur "zra bs Pnea Qhz" unq orra fynva ol Natzne) naq uvf svefg rapbhagre jvgu gur Oynpx Oerngu va Oerr.

          • sixth_queen says:

            V ybir Gbyxvra'f fgngrzrag gung ur jebgr YbgE naq gura ynetryl erjebgr vg onpxjneqf. V thrff gung'f jura ur chg va nyy gubfr ybat sberfunqbjvatf.

    • flootzavut says:

      Rbjla vf vafcvevat naq qrcerffvat nyy ng gur fnzr gvzr.

      V whfg ernq Gung Puncgre naq gur qrfpevcgvba Gbyxvra tvirf bs ure vf fb cresrpg:

      "Fgvyy fur qvq abg oyrapu: znvqra bs gur Ebuveevz, puvyq bs xvatf, fyraqre ohg nf n fgrry-oynqr, snve lrg greevoyr. N fjvsg fgebxr fur qrnyg, fxvyyrq naq qrnqyl."

      V zrna… jbj.

      In other news, this is a huge YES vote for the Gathering of the Mark and the Host of the Mark, that's fabulous.

      • Gung qrfpevcgvba nyjnlf tvirf zr puvyyf. V nyfb whfg ernyvmrq gung "N fjvsg fgebxr fur qrnyg, fxvyyrq naq qrnqyl." vf onfvpnyyl na nyyvgrengvir irefr yvar–V ybir ubj ur farnxf uvagf bs Byq Ratyvfu cbrgel vagb gur frpgvbaf nobhg gur Ebuveevz.

        • flootzavut says:

          I know, right? Sneaky. I love it <3

        • sudden_eyes says:

          Yep, right out of Orbjhys – purpx bhg gur Frnzhf Urnarl genafyngvba (naq Urnarl'f jbaqreshy vagebqhpgvba, gnyxvat nobhg gur irefr sbezf).

          (Qb V arrq gb ebg13 guvf? Orggre fnsr guna fbeel!)

      • rlanto says:

        We need shirts that say Host of the Mark. I would own one in the blink of an eye.

    • atheistsisters says:

      The Gathering of the Mark? That is SUCH a great idea!

    • sudden_eyes says:

      To paraphrase something Mark said about the "Reichenbach Fall" episode of "Sherlock":


    • sirintegra42 says:

      Rbjla qvfthvfvat urefrys nf n zna nyjnlf erzvaqf zr bs gur fprar va Yvsr bs Oevna jvgu gur orneqrq jbzra :). Pbhyq lbh vzntvar gung va gur svyz? Onununun. Vg'q or yvxr gubfr srznyr evqref gurl tbg gb jrne snxr orneqf sbe gur Ebuveevz. Vg whfg frrzf fb boivbhf gung vg'f ure jura lbh ernq vg ntnva, nygubhtu gur svefg gvzr vg qbrf frrz yvxr vg pbhyq or lrg nabgure bar bs gubfr vapvqragny punenpgref Gbyxvra jevgrf jub nccrne sebz abjurer.

  3. blossomingpeach says:

    At first I was happy that Merry wouldn't be left behind, because he so desperately wanted to come. But…Merry? Merry? Please be safe, okay? We've all been worried for you.

    I've read this before and I'm still scared of everything! I don't think there's any way to be prepared for this book.

    Thlf, V jnf erserfuvat zlfrys ba gur arkg svir be fb puncgref naq V NZ FB RKPVGR. V jnf trggvat gerzoyl naq grnel whfg va nagvpvcngvba. Fgnegvat gbzbeebj vg'f NYY TRGGVAT ERNY. Jryy, rira zber erny.

    • rubyjoo says:

      Sorry, blossoming peach, but fnqyl, guvatf jba'g or trggvat erny hagvy Zbaqnl. Qeng!! V'ir arire orra va n cbfvgvba jurer V'ir jnagrq gur jrrxraq gb cnff fb dhvpxyl, YBY!

  4. Jenny_M says:

    I'll just put everything I need to say in rot13 (sorry, Mark!):

    V pna'g oryvrir ur qvqa'g cvpx hc ba Qreauryz. BZT LBH THLF GUVF ERIRNY VF TBVAT GB OR FB RCVP.

    • Rheinman says:

      V qvqa'g pngpu vg ba zl svefg ernq rvgure. V jnf whfg fb unccl fbzrbar unq orsevraqrq Zreel. Ng gur gvzr, V gubhtug gung Qreauryz jnf na haqrentr obl jub jnf qrgrezvarq gb svtug, ohg jnf nyfb fpnerq naq ybaryl naq pbhyq hfr n sevraq jub nyfb jnfa'g fhccbfrq gb or gurer. Rys uryz frrzrq gb or va ba gur frperg, fb V svtherq ur xarj gur obl.

      • feminerdist says:

        Me too. I had the exact same thoughts.

      • T.J. says:

        That's what I thought too. Silly of me, really, thinking I was Prepared for anything in these books.

      • knut_knut says:

        Gung'f jung V gubhtug gbb gur svefg gvzr V ernq vg, ohg ba erernqf vg frrzf fb boivbhf! Gbyxvra zragvbaf Rbjla'f tenl rlrf naq gura Qreauryz'f tenl rlrf NAQ GURL NER GUR FNZR. Ohg gung'f xvaq bs n jrveq qrgnvy gb erzrzore ba lbhe svefg ernq, naq orpnhfr gur fgbel vf fb znyr-pragevp vg arire pebffrq zl zvaq gung Qreauryz pbhyq or Rbjla

        • ARITHMANCER says:

          V qvq trg vg. Naq sbe ernfbaf V guvax gur zbivrf qb n tbbq wbo jvgu. Jub jbhyq haqrefgnaq Zreel naq jnag gb uryc uvz? Fur qbrf orpnhfr fur vf va gur fnzr cbfvgvba.

        • Icarus says:

          "naq orpnhfr gur fgbel vf fb znyr-pragevp vg arire pebffrq zl zvaq gung Qreauryz pbhyq or Rbjla"

          V guvax gung'f jul Znex qvqa'g pngpu vg. Ur jnf fhecevfrq Rbjla jnf chg va punetr ng nyy. Ur'f arire tbvat gb rkcrpg fur'q wbva gur onggyr.

      • Icarus says:

        That's what I assumed too. It's so common, and maybe he lost his father in the battle of Helm's Deep.

    • flootzavut says:


      • rubyjoo says:

        Qb lbh guvax gung Znex vf whfg CERGRAQVAT abg gb trg vg fb nf abg gb fcbvy gur fhecevfr sbe nal bgure arjovrf jub zvtug or ernqvat vg?

        • flootzavut says:

          V ernyyl ubcr ur trahvaryl qbrfa'g unir n pyhr… ur'f hfhnyyl orra cerggl ubarfg nobhg guvatf! Naq V guvax ur'f fnvq va inevbhf cynprf gung ur nyjnlf whfg ernqf bar puncgre? naq nyjnlf gevrf gb or nf ubarfg nf cbffvoyr.

          V zrna, gurer unir orra gvzrf jura V'ir jbaqrerq (fhpu nf gur "V jvfu gurer jnf n jnl Tnaqnys pbhyq zntvpnyyl pbzr onpx"…

          V whfg ubcr gung vs (nf V guvax/ubcr) ur unf ab vqrn, ur fgnlf hafcbvyrq, orpnhfr uvf ernpgvba jvyy or fbbbbb rcvp…

    • Katarina_H says:

      V rkcrpgrq uvz gb cvpx vg hc gbb! Gurer ner fb znal uvagf nobhg Qreauryz'f fyvtug ohvyq naq tevz qrgrezvangvba naq fb ba, cyhf gur Fjrrg Cbyyl Byvire gebcr vf cerggl zhpu n tvira va nal nqiragher fgbel. Ohg nf crbcyr unir cbvagrq bhg ercrngrqyl, Gbyxvra sberfunqbjf fhpu n ybg bs guvatf vg'f fbzrgvzrf uneq gb gryy jung'f orvat sberfunqbjrq ol jung.

      • Greel Cengpurgg'f 'Zbafgebhf Ertvzrag' jbhyq or n tbbq vaqvpngvba bs gur vasyhrapr bs guvf puncgre

        • Katarina_H says:

          Jryy, lrf naq ab. Gbyxvra unq fbzr vasyhrapr, fher, ohg gur gebcr jnf cerinyrag jnl orsber uvz. Guvax bs Wnpx/Wbnaan va Gur Oynpx Neebj, be nyy gubfr Funxrfcrner urebvarf, be Zhyna! Be Fjrrg Cbyyl Byvire urefrys, sbe gung znggre.

        • vivelabagatel says:

          V jbhyqa'g fnl fb – gurl'er obgu qenjvat ba n ybat genqvgvba bs Fjrrg Cbyyl Byvire fgbevrf. V pna ernyyl frr nal bs gur ZE jbzra, va nyy gurve qvssrerag zbgvirf, nf gung fvzvyne gb Rbjla (rkprcg va njrfbzrarff), jub vf svtugvat sbe tybel naq qrngu. Gubhtu V fhccbfr obgu fgbevrf qb rknzvar phygheny pbaqvgvbavat naq jung unccraf jura lbh'er n jbzra va n fbpvrgl jurer qbvat jne vf gur bayl guvat gung vf inyhrq, naq bayl zra pna cresbez vg.

    • Peg says:

      V pna'g oryvrir ur qvq, rvgure. V cvpxrq vg hc vafgnagyl jura V ernq vg.

    • sudden_eyes says:

      V'z unccl sbe uvz gung ur qvqa'g – orpnhfr ur trgf gb or hacercnerq sbe – V'zzn gvc zl unaq urer – zl NOFBYHGR SNIBEVGR fprar va gur jubyr gevybtl.

      V gbb jnf hacercnerq jura V svefg ernq gur obbxf ng 11 be 12. Va ergebfcrpg vg frrzf cerggl boivbhf – ohg Gurbqra qvq whfg unaq Rbjla na njshyyl fbyrza qhgl, gb qrsraq Rqbenf, bar fur jbhyqa'g ghea ure onpx ba yvtugyl.

    • @redbeardjim says:

      Vg'f bar bs gubfr guvatf gung'f fb zhpu rnfvre gb chyy bss va n obbx (jurer lbh pna gnxr gur jbzna, cybc n uryz naq znvy ba ure, naq unaqjnir vg nf "n lbhat fyraqre zna") guna va n zbivr, jurer vg'f tbvat gb or cerggl vzzrqvngryl boivbhf gung vg'f gur FNZR CREFBA. Bar bs gur guvatf V *qvqa'g* zvaq gurz punatvat va gur zbivr.

      • notemily says:

        Lrnu. Zvenaqn Bggb'f srngherf ner fb qryvpngr gung V qba'g guvax gurl pbhyq unir qbar n terng wbo znxvat ure ybbx yvxr n lbhat zna, rvgure, jvgubhg n ybg bs znxrhc. Vg znxrf frafr va gur zbivr gung Zreel vzzrqvngryl erpbtavmrf ure.

    • Icarus says:

      Va nyy snvearff, V qvqa'g cvpx hc ba Qreauryz rvgure zl svefg ernq. V gbb pnaabg jnvg sbe gur rcvp-arff bs guvf erirny. Gurer ner ab bgure pyhrf gb tvir ure njnl orgjrra abj naq gur onggyr jvgu gur Jvgpu Xvat bs Natzne. Zreel qbrfa'g tvir Qreauryz zhpu gubhtug, rkprcg gb abgr gung gurer frrzrq gb or fbzr xvaq bs haqrefgnaqvat orgjrra Qreauryz naq Rysuryz, gur yrnqre.

  5. Opal says:

    May I remark that the stone Aragorn looked into is not called Orthanc but the tower where they “found” it is? Therefore, it would be more correct to refer to it as the “palantír of Orthanc” because not even Aragorn is able to carry a huge tower with him. 😉

    • Rheinman says:

      That would be a badass example of double wielding: Anduril in one hand and Orthanc in the other. 😀

      • flootzavut says:

        I think if anyone COULD do that, it would be Aragorn 😀

        • ZeynepD says:


          • flootzavut says:

            And how can we be sure? Because of this:

            <img src="; border="0" alt="Photobucket">

            … totally gratuitous Viggo shot… you're welcome 😀

            • ZeynepD says:

              Once again, Fact, referring to the caption.

              Cool story sis time, rot13 since it's got to do with movie impressions: V jnf fgnlvat njnl sebz nal naq nyy ivfhny fcbvyref va gur zbaguf yrnqvat hc gb gur eryrnfr bs Erghea bs gur Xvat. Fb bar qnl V'z va n ehfu naq V tb gb gnyx gb n ynozngr naq ur'f njnl sebz uvf pbzchgre, fb V teno n cbfg-vg naq fpevooyr n abgr gb uvz naq yrna va gb fgvpx ba uvf zbavgbe senzr naq frr uvf onpxtebhaq cvpgher—naq V whfg sebmr gurer yvxr n enoovg va urnqyvtugf jura V ernyvmrq jung V jnf ybbxvat ng. Vg jnf gung cbfgre jvgu Nentbea evqvat gbjneqf gur pnzren, va gur shyy Tbaqbe trghc, Naqhevy va unaq. V fjrne V zhfg unir whfg fgbbq gurer genafsvkrq sbe n shyy zvahgr.

              V fcrag n ybat, ybat gvzr va 2003 tbvat "Vf vg Qrprzore lrg?"

            • Alice says:

              THANK YOUUUUU!!!! ^_^

              Exactly,biatch pls xD

  6. rabidsamfan says:

    This is one of the chapters that makes me want to hug all the characters and wrap them in blankets or something. But most especially Merry.

    The Rohirrim are going off to war, and you know that some of them still have injuries from the battle of Helm's Deep, and that we've already lost people like Hama, so it's probably his son, far too young, who is going to stand up and go this time. Or his father, far too old.

    And yet they go.

  7. Saphling says:

    This chapter does a wonderful job of ramping up the tension – Pippin is experiencing the deep breath before the plunge, whereas Merry is being carried along by the flurry of preparation for a war from which many of the soldiers expect not to come back. Everyone tries to keep him out of it, as though expecting him to break if he ever really saw war. It's a lot like how Theoden seeks to keep Eowyn out of it, as well. Theoden tries to keep Merry from the Shire and Eowyn (being a woman) of Rohan safe from the horrors of war out of a desire to preserve them, in a way. It's almost a kind of affection, like the Dunadain talking about preserving the Shire and its people from the dangers outside its borders. Those experienced in war seemingly can see beauty and fragility in those people and places not touched by war, and wish to save them from having to.

    I seriously hope I'm making sense,. There isn't enough caffeine in the world, this morning.

    • Saphling says:

      Also! The darkness sent out from Mordor always made me think of days when we have bad thunderstorms. Not the tornado kind, which are their own kind of awful, but we occasionally get day-long thunderstorms where there literally isn't enough light to see out windows, and the streetlights never turn off. The sun might as well not have risen those days, because we can't tell if it did or not.

    • stormwreath says:

      a war from which many of the soldiers expect not to come back.

      Va gur puncgre 'Gur Ynfg Qrongr' Ébzre zragvbaf gung bhg bs gur 6,000 Ebuveevz jub ebqr bss gb jne n jrrx rneyvre, yrff guna 4,000 bs gurz ner yrsg.

    • Dreamflower says:

      You put it very sensibly, and I think you are absolutely right. I'm quite sure that keeping Merry safe was exactly why he accepted responsibility for him in the first place. I can imagine the old king eagerly drinking in the tales of this far land of the Shire never touched by war and horror, and hoping to preserve that for Merry.

      • PewPewPew says:

        oh my god I love Theoden but that line of logic is SO. CONDESCENDING. IT. HURTS.

        Keep all the widdle womens and the teeny weeny hobbitses safe! THEY ARE SO INNOCENT. WE WILL DO THE BIG BAD MANS WORK OF TRAGEDY TO PRESERVE THEMMMMMM.

        I mean, barfity barf barf. And I love this book, and I love Theoden, and I don't want to invalidate his feelings (naturally, we all want to protect our loved ones) but still SERIOUSLY.

        Free the caged bird and whatnot!

        • Dreamflower says:

          Of course it is condescending. He's in a position of power to enforce his protectiveness. Plus, he's been there, done that, and he knows how horrid it is. So he does what he thinks is best. Good intentions, which are the paving stones to you-know-where.

          But it's what we all do when it comes to those we love to a certain extent. But most of us are not kings, and some of us can be persuaded by logic if not by emotion. And there has to come some point in time when we know when to let go.

          Theoden, OTOH, does not have the luxury of time, nor the inclination to give over his power (which after all he only recently regained).

        • rabidsamfan says:

          It's condescending in some ways, but I think that Theoden (and the other warriors) want to feel as if their dying will preserve something good, so that it won't be tainted by war and killing. It's a bit blindered, since the war has already touched Merry and Eowyn, but its understandable.

  8. Leah-san says:

    V qvqa'g cvpx hc ba Qreauryz ng svefg gbb.

    I read this book when I was eight, and nowadays I'm much more frightened by this chapter. When I'm rereading this, I always feel creeped out. You know something bad is going to happen, but you don't know what exactly.

  9. flootzavut says:

    Chapters like this make me love Merry. He wants to help, he wants to do his bit, but he does also really just want to be back home by his fire. He's such a hobbit, and I think that might be one of the best compliments I could ever pay anyone <3

    V qba'g guvax Znex vf tbaan pbcr ng nyy jryy jvgu Gurbqra'f qrngu, naq ur jvyy SYVC BHG ng gur Qreauryz erirny…

    Oh and that photo is so scary but also kind of awe inspiring, in a scary way…

  10. edinburghlook says:

    Gur Jvgpu-Xvat! AB ZNA ZNL FYNL UVZ. Ohg Rbjla naq Zreel nera'g zra. N jbzna naq n uboovg jvyy fynl gur ovttrfg onqqrfg Evat-jenvgu bs gurz NYY.

    Gura Zreel urneq bs nyy fbhaqf va gung ubhe gur fgenatrfg. Vg frrzrq gung Qreauryz ynhturq…. 'Ohg ab yvivat zna nz V! Lbh ybbx hcba n jbzna. Ébjla V nz, Ébzhaq'f qnhtugre. Lbh fgnaq orgjrra zr naq zl ybeq naq xva. Ortbar, vs lbh or abg qrnguyrff! Sbe yvivat be qnex haqrnq, V jvyy fzvgr lbh, vs lbh gbhpu uvz.'

    Bu ZNEX. Fb ornhgvshyyl tybevbhfyl hacercnerq!

    Ahem. Montreal is beautiful at this time of year, is it not?

    • Jenny_M says:

      Haha oh God just reading your rot13 got me tearing up at my desk. No spoilers because I'm not saying if they're happy tears or sad tears, but I think it's safe to say they are EPIC tears.

    • flootzavut says:

      <3 <3 <3

      V dhbgrq guvf ryfrjurer, ohg V YBIR vg:

      "Fgvyy fur qvq abg oyrapu: znvqra bs gur Ebuveevz, puvyq bs xvatf, fyraqre ohg nf n fgrry-oynqr, snve lrg greevoyr. N fjvsg fgebxr fur qrnyg, fxvyyrq naq qrnqyl."

    • BetB says:

      Gung ebg13 vf zl nofbyhgr snibevgr yvar sebz gur jubyr Gbyxvra gernfher gebir! Vg arire snvyf gb nssrpg zr. Rbjla sberire! Qba'g pbzr orgjrra n jbzna naq ure ybirq barf!

      I just noticed the last word of the rot13 there is barf! I'll have to keep that in all my rot13.

    • Deimos says:

      Jvgpu Xvat SHPX LRNU!

      Rbjla & Zreel if Jvgpu Xvat = cebonoyl bar bs zl snibevgr zbzragf va gur ragver gevybtl <3

    • Ubersmaug says:

      V PNAABG JNVG sbe Znex gb trg gb Rbjla naq Zreel'f gevhzcu. Rbjla'f fcrrpu vf unaqf-qbja zl snibevgr cneg bs gur jubyr gevybtl. V grne hc rirel gvzr, naq gura V ernq vg ntnva. Ab zna pna xvyy zr! V'z abg n zna, nffung!! V sevttvat YBIR gung. Vg'f fb cer-srzvavfg bs Gbyxvra, lbh xabj? Naq V qba'g xabj nobhg gur erfg bs lbh, ohg V arire fnj vg pbzvat. Arire. Fbzrbar ryfr cbfgrq jung V gubhtug, juvpu jnf gung Qreauryz jnf n lbhat xvq jub jnfa'g fhccbfrq gb tb, naq jub gbbx cvgl ba Zreel nf n xvaqerq fcvevg be fbzrguvat.

  11. castlewayjay says:

    It seemed to me that the Arrow was just a pre-arranged signal that Minas Tirith. was in dire need and asking Rohan's aid (darn pre-industrial life with no phones or internet)

    Parallel Pippin/Merry Denethor/Theoden stories = brilliant storytelling by Tolkien

    V'z fb tynq Znex qvqa'g cvpx hc ba Qreauryz/Rbjla. jvyy znxr ure terng jvgpu-xvat gnxrqbja rira terngre. ubcr ur jba'g or qvfnccbvagrq gung gur znva punenpgref fheivir. Bs pbhefr, Sebqb vf veergervinoyl oebxra naq gurl pbzr ubzr gb n enintrq fuver. naq gur fgbel vf zber nobhg ubj gur punenpgref npg naq ernpg guna jub fheivirf naq jub qbrfa'g. fb ur'yy cebo or bx jvgu vg. V qvqa'g guvax vg yrffrarq gur tenivgnf.

    • rubyjoo says:

      I agree about the arrow, castlewayjay. And the messenger isn't Faramir but a man of Gondor who has the same look about him as Faramir – perhaps one of those same messengers that galloped past Gandalf and Pippin as they approached Minas Tirith. This makes me think about The Black Spot, used as a message in Treasure Island, or even The Black Arrow, also by Robert Louis Stevenson, which is about a "fellowship" of the black arrow where the arrow carries some meaning and significance. Vagrerfgvatyl, gur urebvar va guvf fgbel nyfb qvfthvfrf urefrys nf n lbhat zna.

    • ZeynepD says:

      Lrf, gur neebj vf va n jnl gur “Hetrag, zbfg hetrag, rkgerzryl hetrag, guvf vfa’g n qevyy, guvf vfa’g n wbxr, ol Ryorergu’f unve guvf bar vf erny” fvtany sebz Tbaqbe gb Ebuna, naq cebonoyl n ybat-rfgnoyvfurq bar.

      • flootzavut says:

        I love your elucidation of the message, that is fantastic 😀

        • ZeynepD says:

          I'm glad you love it—it's not original to me, though.

          Lois McMaster Bujold. She is one of the very few authors that I cannot recommend highly enough. Sadly, that particular phrase comes up in one of the very latest books in her Vorkosigan series, and those really benefit from being read in chronological order, but that just means there's a nice long road to it…

          (Start from _Cordelia's Honor_, which is an omnibus of _Shards of Honor_ and _Barrayar_. In a pinch it's also possible to start from _Warrior's Apprentice_, which is in the omnibus _Young Miles_, as the Cordelia books are sort of a prologue. If you buy the hardback of the book _Cryoburn_, which is the latest one out, it comes with a CD with no-DRM eBook copies of all of the series, except a turning point book called _Memory_, which is totally worth buying separately. And I should not gush any more about her or the Vorkosigan series here because it's off-topic, but seriously, cannot recommend highly enough.)

          • ARITHMANCER says:


            V jbhyq nqq ba-gbcvpnyyl, gung nzbat bgure guvatf gur frevrf nqqerffrf gur fnzr fbegf bs gurzrf envfrq ol Rbjla'f punenpgre va YbgE. Jneevbe fbpvrgvrf naq gurve qrsvpvgf, naq jung vg vf yvxr gb or n jbzna yvivat va bar.

          • glyneth says:

            I still want Mark to read Bujold, but I think he's considered it too long.

            I cannot WAIT for Ivan, You Idiot's book! <3 <3 <3

        • Robin says:

          If I rember correctly, 500 years before the events the books Gondor was in a war and they were losing.
          So they sent messengers to thier allies in the north,the last messenger tghey sent out found a person who was killed by a orc arrow. So he took the arrow and showed it to Eorl, ,lord of the Éothéod, who then rides to Gondor with 6 thousand riders. in reward for thier help Gondor gives the Éothéod land to call thiier own. Which the Éothéod names Riddermark

      • ARITHMANCER says:


        Do you know I have never yet met a fellow Bujold fan on the Internet? (Clearly I have been lurking in the wrong places…) Isn't she awesome?!

    • sudden_eyes says:

      Jung nobhg gur ornpbaf? Gung pbashfrf zr.

      • ARITHMANCER says:

        V guvax va gur obbxf, gur ornpbaf ner yvg gb fvtany bgure nernf bs Tbaqbe gb pbzr gb nvq Zvanf Gvevgu – yvxr Cevapr Vzenuvy, naq gubfr bgure tebhcf gung Cvccva naq Oretvy jngpurq neevir. Naq gur Erq Neebj vf gb fhzzba Ebuna'f uryc.

        Va gur zbivr, gurl fvzcyvsl ol abg zragvbavat nal Tbaqbe ervasbeprzragf, naq znxr gur ornpbaf n jnl gb fvtany Ebuna. (Naq, vapvqragnyyl, perngr bar bs gur zbfg oerngugnxvat frdhraprf bs gur frevrf!)

        • sudden_eyes says:

          Thank you!

          • Tilly says:

            N qrgnvy V arire abgvprq orsber guvf ernq vf gung gurer ner npghnyyl *gjb* yvarf bs ornpbaf – gur bar V xarj nobhg, tbvat abegu bs gur zbhagnvaf vagb Ebuna, naq nabgure tbvat fbhgu gb Qby Nzebgu. Jbj! Ohg Ebuna vf qrsvavgryl trggvat fbzr ornpba npgvba nf jryy nf gur Erq Neebj. Gur fvghngvba vf whfg gung qver gung Tbaqbe vf qbhoyvat hc ba gur fhzzbaf, whfg va pnfr.

          • fantasy_fan says:

            Cyhf, gur ornpbaf fgergpu bire n ybat nern bs ynaq jvgu crbcyr yvivat va znal nernf. Gur Erq Neebj vf frag gb Gurbqra ng Rqbenf, n crefbany nccrny fb gb fcrnx, ohg gur ornpbaf pbhyq nyreg znal zber nybat gur jnl gb cercner sbe n zhfgre.

  12. knut_knut says:

    Guvf bar fragrapr znqr zr fgbc naq npxabjyrqtr gung V nz cebonoyl tbvat gb unir gb qrny jvgu n jubyr ybg bs qrngu, gung Gbyxvra vfa’g tbvat gb zntvpnyyl fnir nyy bs uvf punenpgref naq unir rirelguvat or arng naq gvql


    I think this is the first chapter where I realized that war is here and shit is getting real. There’s not a whole lot of action going on, but Tolkien manages to make it so tense that by the end of the chapter I was sitting at the edge of my seat. I don’t really have much else to say other than IF PIPPIN DIES, I WILL BLAME YOU, MARK OSHIRO. Yes, because your predictions and presidential nominations are that powerful.

  13. Ryan Lohner says:

    Movie stuff: Jura gur chevfgf pbzcynva nobhg guvatf yvxr Snenzve naq gur ryirf ng Uryz'f Qrrc, V pna qrsvavgryl frr gurve cbvag, rira vs V qvfnterr jvgu vg. Ohg frevbhfyl, qvq gurfr thlf ernyyl jnag gb zbivr gb cergraq jr pbhyqa'g gryy vg jnf Zvenaqn Bggb haqre gung uryzrg? Vs abguvat ryfr, vg jbhyq pregnvayl znxr Zreel ybbx cerggl qnea fghcvq.

    • Jenny_M says:

      Evtug? Gung ynql'f snpr vf abguvat vs abg GBGNYYL QVFGVAPGVIR.

    • stormwreath says:

      V nterr. Va yvgrengher, vg'f n pbairagvba gung n jbzna pna ovaq hc ure unve naq chg ba zra'f pybguvat, naq abobql pna gryy fur'f abg n zna. Ohg ba n zbivr fperra? Abg fb zhpu.

      V'z nyfb n yvggyr qhovbhf gung Zreel pbhyq evqr ba n ubefr fvggvat va sebag bs Qreauryz sbe svir qnlf naq avtugf naq arire fhfcrpg n guvat…

    • flootzavut says:


      V zrna, Zvenaqn vf arire tbvat gb ybbx yvxr nalbar rkprcg Zvenaqn, ohg ab znggre jub jnf va gung evbyr, gur frpbaq fur fcbxr… V nyjnlf guvax vg'f n gval ovg bs n fgergpu va gur obbx gung Zreel jbhyqa'g ernyvfr: lbh npprcg vg, vg'f whfg n pbairagvba, n gebcr, ohg nf fbba nf lbh guvax nobhg vg, lbh tb "BX, Zreel, va n ovg bs n qernz sbe 5 qnlf jrer jr??" YBY. Ohg gb qb vg ba fperra… ur'q whfg ybbx fghcvq. Naq V xabj fbzr crbcyr tb, bu, jryy gurl fubhyq unir pubfra fbzrbar ryfr gb cynl ure gura, ohg VZB 1) fur jnf fbbbb snagnfgvp, V pna'g vzntvar nalbar ryfr orvat fb cresrpg va gur ebyr, naq 2) trg gur yrnfg srzvavar ybbxvat jbzna lbh yvxr gb or Rbjla, Zreel vf fgvyy abg tbvat gb ybbx gbb oevtug gb abg erpbtavfr ure. Vg'f abg rira "qbrf ur ernyvfr vg'f abg n zna", vg'f nyfb, QBRF UR ABG WHFG FVZCYL ERPBTAVFR GUVF JBZNA ORPNHFR UR, YVXR, XABJF URE?!?

      Vg jbexf, ba cncre. Vg jbhyq abg, VZB, jbex ba fperra. Vg rira jbexf orggre ba fgntr guna ba fperra: V'ir frra Gjrygu Avtug ba fgntr naq vg qbrf onfvpnyyl jbex, gubhtu vg fgvyy erdhverf n jvyyvat fhfcrafvba bs qvforyvrs. Rirel fvatyr gvzr V'ir frra n ZBIVR irefvba bs vg, vg'f whfg rzoneenffvat/ynhtunoyr gung ab bar abgvprf Ivbyn vf n JBZNA, be gung nalbar pbhyq zvfgnxr ure oebgure sbe ure. Vg whfg znxrf gur fheebhaqvat punenpgref ybbx guvpx.

      Hz, V'ir xvaq bs tbg ybfg va ebg13 urer! ohg V pbzcyrgryl nterr.

      • rabidsamfan says:

        Erzrzore gung jura Zreel vf zrrgvat "Qreauryz" vg unf tbggra qnex naq vf fgnlvat gung jnl. Nyfb gung nf n uboovg, ur graqf gb frr nyy gur Ebuveevz ybbxvat n ybg nyvxr, whfg nf ur frrf gur Tbaqbevnaf nf ybbxvat irel nyvxr. Naq V rkcrpg gung punvaznvy naq nezbe znxr n ovt qvssrerapr gb gur funcr bs gur evqre fvggvat oruvaq uvz nybat gur evqr.

        Nyfb, V'ir tbg sevraqf jub pna genafsbez gurzfryirf nznmvatyl rssrpgviryl sebz "srznyr" gb "znyr" va erny yvsr, fb V pna frr guvf jbexvat.

        • obsidianj says:

          V unir irel onq rlr-fvtug. Jura V qba'g unir zl tynffrf ba, V erpbtavmr crbcyr ol gur jnl gurl zbir naq fcrnx. Vs vg jbhyq or whfg n srj ubhef va gur qnex, vg zvtug jbex jvgu nyy gur nezbe. Ohg vg vf svir qnlf! Rbjla jbhyq unir gb qvfthvfr ure ibvpr naq zbirzragf sbe gung ybat, juvpu V guvax vf n ovg haoryvrinoyr.

          • rabidsamfan says:

            Fur qbrfa'g fcrnx, erzrzore? Naq Zreel qbrfa'g xabj ure irel jryy. Vg gnxrf gvzr gb xabj ubj fbzrbar zbirf, naq rirelbar zbirf qvssreragyl va oerrpurf guna fxvegf. Fhfcraq lbhe qvforyvrs! (Vg'f zber sha gung jnl.)

    • Alice says:

      Bu,zna,gurl pbzcynva nobhg gur Ryirf ng Uryz'f Qrrc?V xabj vg'f abg va gur obbx ohg vg'f oybbql oevyyvnag!!!V zrna,gurfr thlf jrer bapr nyyvrf,unq n irel fgebat obaq jvgu rnpu bgure,gurl qvrq naq sbhtug gbtrgure…V jvyy abg oryvrir gung gur ynfg gvzr gur Ryirf urycrq gur Zra jnf ng Qntbeynq.Vg jnf gurve terngrfg ynfg nyyvnapr fher,ohg qb abg rkcrpg zr gb oryvrir gung gurl pbhyq fvg naq jngpu vqyl ol nf gurve pbzenqrf qvrq juvyr gurl qvq abguvat gb uryc gurz.(Naq V fnl pbzenqrf,rira vs grpuavpnyyl gurve svefg nyyvrf qvrq ybat ntb,ohg gurve xva fheivirq,naq Ryirf unir n tbbq zrzbel naq n fgebat frafr bs ubabe,naq guvf xvaq bs obaqf,nyyvnaprf ubj qb lbh jvfu gb pnyy gurz,qbrf abg fgbc ng bar trarengvba).Gung'f ng yrnfg ubj V frr vg.

      • rabidsamfan says:

        Zl pbzcynvag nobhg gur Ryirf ng Uryz'f Qrrc vf gung univat fubja hc gurl cebprrq gb inavfu bhg bs gur fgbel nsgre gur onggyr. Fheryl zber ryirf guna Yrtbynf jbhyq unir fheivirq! Vg'f yvxr Ryebaq gheavat hc gb tvir Nentbea gur Fjbeq. Ur'f n jneevbe nf jryy nf n urnyre, jul qbrfa'g ur fgnl jvgu rvgure Nentbea be Gurbqra naq tb gur erfg bs gur jnl gb gur jne?

        Ohg V'yy tenag vg jnf n terng fprar ng Uryz'f Qrrc.

  14. JustMalyn says:

    I feel so awful for Tolkien. I've tried to imagine what fighting in a war would be like, and I just can't do it. And then seeing his sons fight, knowing exactly what they were going though…! All the creys.

    And on a lighter note: Bu zl tbfu Rbjla njrfbzrarff vf pbzvat hc! V YBIR LBH NAQ LBHE FURRE ONQNFFREL, QREAURYZ.

    • MrsGillianO says:

      Bear in mind that when his sons were fighting he was living in a country that was regularly being bombed; civilians were by no means safe. I suspect that sense that anyone can die owes something to the very dark days he was writing this in.

      • JustMalyn says:

        That's true too. Oh gosh, this just brought me back to reading The Book Thief. That was from the German side of the war, but still civilians being bombed. :'(

  15. Tauriel_ says:

    (Aragorn’s use of the Orthanc.)

    Psst, Mark, "Orthanc" is the name of the tower where Saruman lives. 🙂 You mean to say "Aragorn's use of the Stone of Orthanc", or the "palantír of Orthanc". 🙂

    • seumasofur says:

      "'Scuse me while I shoulder Orthanc guys. It's going to be tricky getting this through the Paths of the Dead."

  16. Dreamflower says:

    Can you imagine how hard this was to write if you were a father who not only lived through a war, but saw your sons go off to fight in another one?

    *nods* His exact situation at that time.

    Znex qbrfa'g frrz gb unir nal vqrn bs Qreauryz'f gehr vqragvgl. Abj, V unq n uhapu zl svefg gvzr guebhtu, ohg V jnfa'g pregnva.

    Ubj znal bs lbh: (n)unq ab pyhr? (o)fhfcrpgrq jub vg zvtug or? be (p) jnf snveyl pregnva bs jub Qreauryz npghnyyl jnf?

    Also one of my favorite LotR quotes: "Where will wants not a way opens."

    • blossomingpeach says:

      Fbzrjurer orgjrra o naq p? V guvax?

    • snapsnzips says:

      V jnf 14 naq pyhryrff jura V svefg ernq guvf, naq pbzcyrgryl fubpxrq ng gur erirny. Rbjla'f gnyr vf bar bs zl snibevgr guernqf ba n er-ernq orpnhfr vg'f nyy fb irel fnq. V hfhnyyl fgneg yrnxvat grnef evtug nobhg abj naq qba'g fgbc hagvy nsgre n pbzcyrgr oernxqbja ng gur Onggyr bs gur Cryraabe.

      V'z nyfb n fhpxre sbe gur Va gur Ubhfr bs Urnyvat puncgre.

    • BetB says:


      V jnf lbhat naq pyhryrff.

      • Diddle de dum says:

        Gung jnf zr, gbb! Gubhtu V guvax vs V'q ernq gur obbx sbe gur svefg gvzr abj V jbhyqa'g unir qbar nal orggre. Gbyxvra qebcf va whfg rabhtu arj punenpgref ng unaql zbzragf gung Qreauryz qbrfa'g frrz gbb bqq ng nyy.

    • valmarkont says:

      Fbzrubj gur dhbgr "Jurer jvyy jnagf abg n jnl bcraf." oevatf nabgure gb zvaq:

      Jurer gurer'f n juvc, gurer'f n jnl!

    • Wheelrider says:

      One of my favorite quotes too… I love how Tolkien creates history even for things like nursery rhymes and common sayings that we have in modern times. This is the "older" form of "Where there's a will, there's a way."

      Ab pyhr ng guvf cbvag, nygubhtu V guvax V qvq yngre…

    • fantasy_fan says:

      Abg n pyhr. V jnf fb gnxra hc jvgu gur cnpr bs gur npgvba gung V arire ersyrpgrq ba gur boivbhf (va uvaqfvtug) sberfunqbjvat. Gur guevyy ng gur erirny jnf urneg-fgbccvat.

    • sudden_eyes says:

      (n)unq ab pyhr – jnf lbhat!

    • Laurelluin says:

      I had no clue. None whatsoever.

    • Nan says:

      P! V tbg vg fgenvtug njnl, juvpu vf snfpvangvat pbafvqrevat ubj zhpu V zvffrq sebz gur erfg bs gur fgbel ba zl svefg ernqguebhtu… V qba'g rira guvax V haqrefgbbq gung Furybo jnf n fcvqre!

    • You Are Not Alone says:

      I remember being a c)

    • Tilly says:

      V unq ab vqrn. Gur erirny jnf NZNMVAT.

      Naq gura n lrne yngre jura V gbbx zl svefg Byq Ratyvfu pynff (cerggl zhpu nf n qverpg erfhyg bs YbgE snaavfuarff) V qvfpbirerq gung "Qreauryz" zrnaf "frperg uryz". Jryy qhu, BS PBHEFR VG QBRF. Yvathvfgvp gebyyrel SGJ! xD

    • Alice says:

      p,sebz gur fgneg;vg jnf gur jnl Zreel fnj Qreauryz jura ur svefg fnj "uvz",gung naq gur snpg gung va gur ynfg 2 puncgref Rbjla xrcg fnlvat fur jnagf gb tb gb jne.Naq jura Qreauryz nccrnerq V jnf nyy yvxr "H tb tvey!!!" :p

    • rabidsamfan says:

      V qvqa'g pngpu ba hagvy gur erirny, ohg V sbetvir zlfrys orpnhfr vg jnf nobhg sbhe va gur zbeavat, naq V jnf ernqvat ng n shevbhf pyvc — sne gbb snfg gb or qbvat zber guna fjnyybj gur fgbel jubyr. Guvaxvat nobhg vg nyy pnzr yngre.

  17. Jenny_M says:

    Hehe you are so excited you had to say it twice!

  18. msw188 says:

    This chapter always feels tough to read to me. The previous two chapters, while similar in function (setting up the various characters physically and emotionally for the oncoming war), are punctuated by either levity (Pippin) or sass (Gandalf) or emotional purging (Eowyn) or some sort of muted action (the journey to Erech). Here, though, everything is just so depressing. Even when the riders are blowing their horns, they just sound awful instead of awesome. And then when they set out, they do so SILENTLY. At least when Pippin watches the men coming in to Minas Tirith, some of them are singing.

    NOTHING, though, is more depressing than the passage Mark has already highlighted. The sheer idea that one could go into battle without hoping for victory is depressing enough. But this isn't that. This isn't the lack of hope. This person is portrayed as HAVING a hope, or at least a purpose: this person HOPES TO DIE. It breaks one's heart to wonder how often Tolkien saw this exact look on people during his time in the Great War.

    It also makes one wonder if Tolkien introduced this new character specifically to address this. I mean, okay, he's getting Merry to Minas Tirith, but was it necessary to have a character with this characterizations perform this task, in terms of the plot? It doesn't seem like it. Tolkien does introduce minor characters as simple tools of the plot (does anyone really expect to hear from Glorfindel again at this point?) or as opportunities to make statements on war (the nameless dead soldier Sam sees in Ithilien), and here Dernhelm seems to be both, not to mention the most heartbreaking.

    Bs pbhefr, gubfr bs hf jub xabj jurer guvf vf tbvat qba'g ernyyl unir gvzr gb qrongr guvf cbvag nal shegure, orpnhfr jr ner nyy OYVAQRQ OL GRNEF XABJVAT GUNG GUBFR YVARF NER QRFPEVOVAT FBZRBAR JR XABJ JUB JNF ONFVPNYYL WHFG ERWRPGRQ OL GUR CREFBA FUR YBIRF.

    • flootzavut says:


      Vg'f ernyyl uneq gb gnyx nobhg gung jvybhg evfxvat fcbvyvat, V fnyhgr lbhe pbzzrag pbzcyrgryl orpnhfr vg znantrf gb qb whfg gung.

      Naq. Bu. Rbjla. NYY ZL PERLF NTNVA.

    • icy says:

      I have never thought about Dernhelm that way before–having a hope for death; I always clued in to his despair. This is a really interesting insight, though it makes him even more of a tragic character.

    • stormwreath says:

      There's an interesting parallel between Merry and Pippin here.

      In Gondor, you have Denethor, who's cold and stern and domineering and doom-laden – but Pippin also gets to know Beregond, who's an ordinary soldier in Gondor's army. And Beregond is much more down-to-earth and kind-hearted and human.

      Merry, on the other hand, swears allegiance to Théoden, who's warm and kind-hearted and human – the opposite of Denethor. But he also gets to know Dernhelm, an ordinary soldier in Rohan's army; and Dernhelm is cold and remote (if only out of fear, perhaps) and doom-laden. The opposite of Beregond.

      Nyfb gur bccbfvgr *frk* gb Orertbaq, ohg jr qba'g xabj gung lrg. 🙂

    • sudden_eyes says:

      Erwrpgrq ol gur zna fur ybirf ohg nyfb, naq V guvax guvf vf rdhnyyl vzcbegnag, sbeovqqra gb chefhr gur "punapr bs qbvat terng qrrqf." Abg gb or pntrq. (Cre Nentbea'f pbairefngvba jvgu Rbzre va gur Ubhfrf bs Urnyvat.)

  19. stormwreath says:

    Pictures of the ash cloud from the volcanic eruption in Iceland a couple of years ago. This is how I imagine the Darkness of Sauron to look:

    <img src="×402.jpg"&gt;

    <img src="×394.jpg"&gt;

    <img src="×384.jpg"&gt;

    "Over the land there lies a long shadow,
    westward reaching wings of darkness.
    The Tower trembles; to the tombs of kings
    doom approaches. The Dead awaken."

  20. This chapter is- I'm not sure tense is quite the right word because there seems to be such an unspoken consensus that this entire expedition is going to end in disaster- "without hope in search of death" seems to apply to far more than just Dernhelm here. From the way Theoden is acting towards Merry, I actually think his decision for Merry to stay behind stems from a desire to keep him safe as much it does practicality, and the harsh reality is that this war is not going to leave many of them alive. I don't remember very much about my impressions when I read this book for the first time, but one thing I recall very clearly is Hirgon's assertion that if the Rohirrim came in a week, they would interrupt the orcs feasting in the ruins of Minas Tirith, and how much that frightened me. It might seem melodramatic now, and to a certain extent, it is. But it also highlights the reality of the fact that Gondor is simply not ready to face an assault of the kind that Mordor's launching and the fact that Rohan is really really far away and somehow has to get many thousands of men to the city in a short span of time.

    Once again in this chapter, we see Tolkien using setting and legend to good effect in setting the mood. The fact that they're camped right on the beginning of the Paths of the Dead is rather too aptly symbolic, as Theoden points out: "For there may more roads than one that could bear that name." Not to mention that they're camped near the top of a mountain- and are about to take the plunge down into the war and the darkness that's coming. I think of Beregond's assessment: "It is but the deep breath before the plunge." Not just for Gondor, it seems, but for Rohan and in many other places. So many characters have faced this kind of abyss, mostly in the form of key decisions or desperate battles, and yet every single time the tension that they feel before that kind of decision is captured and made unique to the moment.
    In the legends told, this uncertainty is only reinforced. In Middle-Earth, legends are powerful things that can bode either great good or great evil, and I think the anecdote told about "The way is shut" is far too vague for comfort. If the time referenced has come, then fantastic, but if it hasn't, Aragorn and Co. are screwed. The fact that this particular incident in Rohan's history is told now is all the more unsettling when it's considered that this time and war could be everything the Rohirrim desire, since they do value war and those who fight it, but it could wipe them out in the process and may destroy them all. There's no way to know for sure, unless it is the right time, and even if it's not, they still have to go and face the darkness.

    • Dreamflower says:

      I think you describe it all very well.

      This is where we most clearly see Tolkien's break from the historic sources he drew from and his bringing up his own experiences with war. All those epic Anglo-Saxon poems glamorize war and the glory of fighting. But JRRT himself knew war was nothing of the sort. We probably see in this chapter how the actual fighters of those battles felt, rather than how the bards wanted to portray it.

      He manages to still portray the heroism of these people without making it seem like they are doing something glorious. They are doing something necessary and putting their lives at risk to protect others. But except for those who might be too young to know any better it's not for any sort of glory.

      And unless they beat the odds, there won't be any bards to put a glossy spin on it.

  21. Darth_Ember says:

    It's powerful, the Rohirrim riding to Gondor's aid – they've just weathered one battle, at Helm's Deep, and now they're going to another, because it has to be done.

    On a lighter note, I wonder what off-the-wall speculations Mark must be cooking up about all the rot13. :p

    …You know, I am a bit disappointed. Something about the chapter made me start writing a poem about the Rohirrim riding forth… and then I realised I couldn't finish it yet to post it, because it'd be spoilery. (Since the ending must deal with what they're riding into.) Ah well. Maybe I'll post it once it's no longer a spoiler. 🙂

  22. stormwreath says:

    one thing I recall very clearly is Hirgon's assertion that if the Rohirrim came in a week, they would interrupt the orcs feasting in the ruins of Minas Tirith, and how much that frightened me.

    Ur'f npghnyyl evtug. Gur Ebuveevz neevir whfg va gur avpx bs gvzr, nf gur Ybeq bs gur Anmtûy unf nyernql oebxra qbja gur tngr – naq gur wbhearl gbbx gurz SVIR qnlf, abg gur frira cerqvpgrq. Gurl geniryyrq yvtug jvgubhg nal sbbq be jngre sbe n erghea wbhearl, naq gur Qeûrqnva fubjrq gurz n fubegphg nf jryy – naq fgvyy gurl bayl whfg tbg gurer va gvzr qrfcvgr orvat gjb qnlf rneyl.

  23. Carol says:

    The errand rider is Hirgon, a man of Gondor. I think that to Merry's eyes (and Frodo's earlier), the men of Gondor all look alike (except for differences in height and build) because they all have dark hair, pale skin, and grey eyes (as do most of the Elves though that isn't as clear in LOTR as in the Silmarillion). The men of Rohan, in contrast, are all blond and wear their long hair in braids. But in Tolkien's defense, it's hard to describe people using traits other than coloring and build unless they have distinctive features like scars or big noses or cleft chins. Or beards–I picture the men of Gondor and Rohan (like the Elves) as beardless for some reason. At any rate, the only characters in LOTR that I can recall whose beards are mentioned are the Wizards and the Dwarves. Oh, and Theoden, but he's in his tired old man role at the time.)

    • icy says:

      I think this also is about how when we are not paying close attention, people really do look a lot alike. And we can't really pay that close attention to everyone we meet! I remember watching Band of Brothers through the first time and realizing that if you give everyone the same haircut and uniform it can be difficult to distinguish people until you really get to know them. I watch BOB again with a group of friends and they had he same experience… "wait, who's that again? Oh yeah!"

  24. rubyjoo says:

    Thank you for sharing those details about your father and his war experiences, Mark. Whenever I asked my own father to tell me about WWII, he would come out with some funny, stiff-upper lip stories that would make us laugh. But I know that he always jumped when a car back-fired and I think that he finally exorcised his experiences by writing it all down. When he was in his eighties, I took him to see the beautiful American cemetery for the war dead in Cambridge. We're all English, but he sat on a bench and the tears just streamed down his face as he looked out at the endless rows of crosses marking the graves. Most of them were 18. He said it brought it all back.

  25. castlewayjay says:

    I forgot to say – thank you, Mark, for sharing so much about your father. Anyone who has known someone who was in war probably has a similar story, but I appreciate you sharing yours very much.

    Once again, it annoys me that some people still think LOTR is just a silly kid's fairy-tale type book. It's not, esp since it often inspires responses such as yours.

  26. Hailey says:


    *takes a breath* Anxiety it WORSE than fear… and this chapet always just makes me soooo anxious!

    • Ho hum says:

      So, so right. Allow me to join you.


  27. Katie says:

    So this is what I've always thought the "weird" line of Theoden's from last chapter meant: he will only be a father for Merry for a little while, because he already knows he fully intends to leave Merry behind in Dunharrow. What he doesn't know is that it's impossible to leave a hobbit behind. He should have asked Merry how well that plan worked for Frodo…Or Elrond…

  28. astaroth says:

    Hey Mark, I’ve noticed you referring to the stone as “the Orthanc” for the last couple of days. Orthanc is the tower where Saruman lives, the stone is actually called “the Palantír of Orthanc”. Small deal, I know, but it’s been bugging me.

  29. Wheelrider says:

    Mark, you hit on one of the passages that has stuck with me since first read, twenty-odd years ago (aside from the bits that are moving in more obvious ways) — another one of those landscape-as-a-character descriptions:

    "He loved mountains, or he had loved the thought of them marching on the edge of stories brought from far away; but now he was borne down by the insupportable weight of Middle-Earth. He longed to shut out the immensity in a quiet room by a fire."

    That and the phrase from a little bit before: "dim gulfs of shadowy air." I don't know why, but I've always remembered that. It's so evocative.

  30. icy says:

    There is fantastic book called War is the Force that Gives us Meaning by Chris Hedges I recommend to everyone.

    From the Library Journal review: "This moving book examines the continuing appeal of war to the human psyche. Veteran New York Times correspondent Hedges argues that, to many people, war provides a purpose for living; it seems to allow the individual to rise above regular life and perhaps participate in a noble cause. Having identified this myth, Hedges then explodes it by showing the brutality of modern war, using examples taken from his own experiences as a war correspondent in Latin America, the Middle East, and the Balkans. These examples highlight the devastating effects of war on life, community, and culture and its corruption of business and government. Hedges is not a pacifist, acknowledging that people need to battle evil, but he thoughtfully cautions us against accepting the accompanying myths of war."

    Tolkien does this here, too; he makes sure we know the human cost even though there is no doubt for his characters that they must.

    And that description of Dernhelm breaks my heart. Such despair. It reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite shows: "Fear accompanies the possibility of death, calm heralds its certainty."

    • castlewayjay says:

      I have read a couple of books by Hedges – he is a very good writer. He also writes a column for a website, Truthdig. I do not always agree with him, but he is a very interesting writer.

  31. stormwreath says:

    I mentioned this above in a ROT-13 comment, but I think it deserves to be posted separately, since it's not a spoiler:

    In this chapter Théoden says, "We must ride light, with but meal and water enough to last us into battle."

    In other words, the vast army of 6,000 men is only taking enough food and water to last them the journey to Minas Tirith. If they get there and the city is surrounded by the enemy, or they're defeated in battle and have to retreat – then they'll have nothing left to eat and drink.

    And then there's this bit from the end of the chapter:

    "Lone men riding wild brought word of foes assailing their east-borders, of orc-hosts marching in the Wold of Rohan. "'Ride on! Ride on! cried Éomer. 'Too late now to turn aside. The Fens of Entwash must guard our flank. Haste now we need. Ride on!'"

    So as the army of Rohan is leaving for Gondor, more orcs are invading their homeland behind them. But they can't stop to fight them, they have to keep on going.

    Worse still, they might possibly be surrounded, with these new armies behind them and Sauron's main army in front of them. Éomer is saying that there's a marshland between them and these new orc hosts, and he's hoping that it would take the orcs so long to cross the swamp that they won't be able to attack the Rohirrim before they reach Gondor.

    Just in case things didn't seem tense enough already. 🙂

    • castlewayjay says:

      I noticed this on re-reading the chapter too. No escaping the war for Rohan. V qba'g gur svyzf znqr vg pyrne rabhtu gung gurer jnf jne ba znal sebagf va Zvqqyr Rnegu, ohg gung'f bx.

    • bugeye says:

      Also in the last chapter with Aragon and the Grey company, Legolas and Gimli's conversation: "Now why did not we wish for some of our own kinfolk Legolas." . . . ."They have no need to ride to war; war already marches on their own lands.

      This is a real World War

      • castlewayjay says:

        good catch. I wish this book had been called "The War of the Ring" (as Tolkien wished, I think) rather than "Return of the King"

        • WelshPirate says:

          Yeah, I always thought "The War of the Ring" was a more fitting title, and also cooler sounding. Damn publishers.

  32. Rheinman says:

    "He loved mountains, or he had loved the thought of them marching on the edge of stories brought from far away; but now he was borne down by the insupportable weight of Middle-Earth. He longed to shut out the immensity in a quiet room by a fire."

    I can relate to this. Mountains sound great in theory, especially if you live in a place without them. But if you stay near them or have been climbing through them (like Merry) their sheer presence and the fact that they are constantly blocking part of the freaking sky can be very unsettling.

    • grinmankey says:

      That's interesting. I noted that quote on the most recent re-read also, mainly because I had talked to somebody recently that had a similar experience. I live in Utah where we are surrounded by mountains. I look out of my front door and not 10 miles to the East are the steep faces of the Wasatch Mountains. To the west (probably 15 miles or so) are the Oquirrh Mountains. I've lived in Montana, Colorado and El Paso, TX. I spent a few years in Germany. I've been near mountains my whole life. I am completely at home near mountains.

      The person I spoke to was from Chicago and was in Utah visiting. They had never been to the Mountain West before and was intimidated by the mountains and found their looming presence to be oppressive. They couldn't wait to leave. I was baffled because I had the opposite experience when I visited Chicago. The flat landscape almost gave me a sense of agoraphobia. It was TOO open. I found the large skyscrapers in the city to be oppressive and intimidating. This person felt completely at home in a large metropolis cityscape.

  33. Juliana Moreli says:

    Wow Mark!

    Your father history is really powerful. I live in a peaceful country and it's difficult for us to assimilate what a war can do with the citizens that are part of it. By reading descriptions like yours, I see how we overlook the repercusion that an event like that has on a person's life. We only think: You'll go to war, you'll do your duty and then you'll go back to your family. But the nightmares and constant alert state and fear will never leave you. Things in a war cannot be unseen and forgeted, is not like a stroll in the park.

    That's why this chapter is so powerful to me. This characters had just finished a battle and they are running to another. They didn't even had time to see their beloveds or to prepare psychologically. And Merry, having spent his entire life on a peaceful country, does not assimilate what a war really is. It's not a easy task…it will not be fast…and it will leave marks on you for the rest of your life.
    But I think that is Merry's innocence that gives him courage. Ignorance is a blessing sometimes.

    Also: BZT…Znex'f oenva jvyy zryg jura ur ernyvmrf jub Qreauryz vf.

    "Guvf bar fragrapr znqr zr fgbc naq npxabjyrqtr gung V nz cebonoyl tbvat gb unir gb qrny jvgu n jubyr ybg bs qrngu, gung Gbyxvra vfa’g tbvat gb zntvpnyyl fnir nyy bs uvf punenpgref naq unir rirelguvat or arng naq gvql."

    Anu…whfg Gurbqra(fnq fnq fnq)…gur erfg vf bx!

    • Dreamflower says:

      Naq Unyonenq. *favss*

      Naq n ohapu bs crbcyr va gung ybat yvfg bs gur qrnq gung vf va gur cbrz nsgre gur Cryraabe.

    • Laurelluin says:

      Gbyxvra qbrf zntvpnyyl fnir uvf punenpgref (Zreel, Rbjla, naq Snenzve) ohg ng yrnfg vg cebirf gur cybg cbvag bs Nentbea orvat gur evtugshy urve gb gur guebar. "Gur unaqf bs gur Xvat ner gur unaqf bs n Urnyre."

  34. elyce says:

    Wow. I'm mostly surprised your dad even talked about Vietnam. My dad wouldn't say a word until I was sixteen, and even now, he still won't talk about it.

    On that note, dear god, Mark, you are utterly unprepared. I can't even.

    • fantasy_fan says:

      My uncles do not talk about Vietnam either, although I believe one of them still has nightmares about it.. And my father, who was a medic in the army just after WWII ended, would not speak of his experiences, even though he was nowhere near a front line.

    • rabidsamfan says:

      My father seldom talked about WW2, and when he did he generally managed to turn whatever story it was into a joke. He was in Nagasaki three days after the bomb and when he told the story he focused on the microscope they found. They didn't get a geiger counter for weeks afterwards and the thing was so "hot" they had to bury it. He was captured, along with his unit, on a mission to the occupied Philippines too, although I only ever heard that story once. (He escaped, but he was the only one who did. ("And on the strength of that, they made me an officer!" he finished with his usual flair, going on to talk about learning tennis from a big name pro in Australia.) My mother discounts that story because she only ever heard him tell it when he was drunk, but he was sober when he told it to me.

      • elyce says:

        People in WWII are more likely to talk about it for a couple reasons. One, it was a longer time ago, and two, the nature of the war and fighting was different. When I was in high school, my history teacher ran a state-funded project to interview veterans, and we had a lot of WWII vets come into class to share their stories, but almost no Vietnam vets. It just depends on the person, and in this case, the war.

  35. Juliana Moreli says:

    Here is the link of a news talking about the screening of the trilogy in Boston!
    Mark, if it's possible for you to go, you totally should!
    The link is spoiler free! But the rest of the site is not..sooooo….I'll just paste it here too:

    Exciting things are happening for Lord of the Rings fans in Boston! The Coolidge Corner Theatre‘s annual ‘Coolidge Award’ is being given to Viggo Mortensen. This means that Aragorn himself will be in town on Monday 5th March to accept his award! The Coolidge Corner Theatre will be showing several of Mortensen’s movies in the run up to March 5th, as well as hosting an all day LotR trilogy marathon screening on Sunday 4th March. On Monday 5th there will be a lunchtime movie screening with a Q&A with Mortensen, followed later by an ‘Evening with Viggo Mortensen’ event.

    TORn will of course be present and will bring you a report of all these exciting happenings. One of the more elusive cast members, any chance to see Aragorn in the flesh, and to hear Viggo Mortensen answer the questions of his fans, is a treat indeed. Full details can be found at Coolidge Corner’s website. The movies and dates are as follows:

    Tues 28 Feb, 7pm – A History of Violence
    Wed 29 Feb, 7pm – A Walk on the Moon
    Thurs 1 Mar, 7pm – The Road
    Sun 4 Mar, starting at 11am – LotR trilogy screening
    Mon 5 Mar, starting at 12noon – a day of events with Viggo Mortensen

    Alas, the evening events on Monday 5th are sold out, but at time of writing there are still tickets for the lunchtime movie and Q&A, and for the LotR screening on Sunday 4th. AND we’re delighted to have two pairs of comp tickets for this LotR marathon screening to give away, courtesy of the Coolidge Corner Theatre! To enter, fill in this form and answer a simple question, the answer to which can be found on the Coolidge Corner’s website. Names of winners will be chosen at random from all correct entries received by Friday 24th February.

    And of course, watch TORn’s homepage for a full report of all the events with the one and only Strider!

    • rabidsamfan says:

      *bangs head on desk* It would be March 4th, which is the one day on the calendar that I cannot possibly go, as I already have tickets to see the Gold Dust Orphans that night and will be gaming in the morning…

    • Kiryn says:

      I am so, so, so freaking jealous. There's no possible way that I can attend. FML.

    • flootzavut says:

      I has envies of Bostonites…

    • Alice says:

      I wish I could be there too.But there's an entire Ocean and lots of money for travel I don't have for me to get there. :p But hey,whoever is lucky enough to be there,have lots of fun!

      • julianamoreli says:

        Alice, same here…unfortunelly in Brazil we never get to have these screenings…at least this year the "The Lord of The rings in Concert" will come to Brazil, and then we will have a chance to see Fellowship of the Ring at a theater!!!

        If I knew enough people that liked the movies, I would try to rent a cinema room just to play the trilogy…

        • Alice says:

          Neither in Romania.I have a tiny hope that maybe when the Hobbit comes,the cinema in my city will play the trilogy again,as a reminder. I mean they did it for that " …" Breaking Dawn movie , so why not? 🙂

  36. Appachu says:

    This blackness reminds me of the smoke in Los Angeles during the Station Fire of 2009. This is what we all saw for days: a pyrocumulus cloud….So I’m imagining this darkness as that, but a million times worse.

    I actually kind of do this too! I grew up in San Diego, and we had really bad ones in 2003 and 2007 that came really close to my neighborhood (and I got lucky both times, but several of my friends lost their houses in the 2007 one) and both times, the sky actually turned orange because there was so much smoke in the air – as in, you could actually stare straight at the sun for extended periods of time because so much of it was blocked out. And that's what this part always reminds me of, only much much worse because Tolkien.

  37. arctic_hare says:

    For me, the heart of this chapter is Merry, and what effect all this tense and gloomy and oppressively depressing atmosphere has on him. Now we see what Theoden meant by that "for a short time" comment last chapter, and it cracks my heart in two. For it comes right after Merry is reflecting on how he's been separated from everybody else and repeating to himself over and over before he falls asleep that he won't be left behind again. Oh, Merry. :'( He gets to go along after all thanks to Dernhelm, but it won't stop me worrying over him, because they're all going into what seems like a hopeless battle and some (like Dernhelm) mean not to return. MARK YOUR PREDICTIONS BETTER NOT KILL ANY OF MY HOBBITS!

    Movie stuff: Guvf vf n punatr V ernyyl nccebir bs, fhecevfr fhecevfr. V ybir gur obaq gurl qrirybc orgjrra Rbjla naq Zreel, vg cynlf hc gur guvatf gurl unir va pbzzba naq vg'f fhpu n fjrrg zbzrag jura fur fjrrcf uvz hc bagb ure ubefr. Nf jryy, vg'q or fgergpuvat zl fhfcrafvba bs qvforyvrs vs gurl jnagrq obgu hf naq Zreel gb abg ernyvmr jub fur vf. Gung whfg qbrfa'g jbex ba svyz, naq V bsgra svaq vg haoryvrinoyr va obbxf gbb. Gurer ernyyl jnfa'g nal jnl gb trg nebhaq gung, naq gur vqrn bs pnfgvat nalbar ryfr ohg Zvenaqn Bggb znxrf zr tb "BU URYY AB!" orpnhfr V ybir ure nf Rbjla fb zhpu. Nf jryy, vg znxrf nyy gurve fprarf nsgrejneqf fb zhpu zber gbhpuvat.

    Nf jryy, gur fprar jurer Zreel vf orttvat Gurbqra abg gb yrnir uvz oruvaq vf rira zber jerapuvat orpnhfr QBZ'F SNPR. Bu, zl qrne uboovgf.

    NYFB LNL ZNEX QVQA'G PNGPU BA GUNG QREAURYZ VF RBJLA. Gung jvyy znxr gur erirny fb zhpu zber jbaqreshy. Bu tbq, zl ybir sbe gung zbzrag vf fb qrrc naq rcvp naq raqyrff. Rbjla vf zl snibevgr! Naq gung'f zl snibevgr fprar va gur jubyr gevybtl, V guvax. Juvpu fnlf n ybg. Jung pna V fnl, V ybir onqnff jneevbe jbzra trggvat pebjavat zbzragf bs njrfbzr.

    • fantasy_fan says:


      Can you please share? I need some of those hobbits to be my hobbits…

    • SaintMercy says:

      Guvf vf gur bar guvat gung V ungrq va gur zbivrf. V ybir Rbjla gbb naq gur erirny gung fur pnzr jvgu gur nezl frpergyl vf fb zhpu zber cbjreshy gb zr jura jr qba'g xabj vg'f ure.
      "'Uvaqre zr? Gubh sbby. Ab yvivat zna znl uvaqre zr!'
      Gura Zreel urneq bs nyy fbhaqf va gung ubhe gur fgenatrfg. Vg frrzrq gung Qreauryz ynhturq, naq gur pyrne ibvpr jnf yvxr gur evat bs fgrry. 'Ohg ab yvivat zna nz V! Lbh ybbx hcba n jbzna. Ébjla V nz, Ébzhaq’f qnhtugre. Lbh fgnaq orgjrra zr naq zl ybeq naq xva. Ortbar, vs lbh or abg qrnguyrff! Sbe yvivat be qnex haqrnq, V jvyy fzvgr lbh vs lbh gbhpu uvz."
      Jura V svefg ernq gung V jnf fb oybja njnl! Rira abj V trg puvyyf!

      V pna'g jnvg sbe Znex gb trg gb vg!

  38. Eregyrn says:

    I have always lived on the east coast, where we have hills and mountains, certainly, but very low ones. I grew up in a place with low hills, but always had an affinity for mountains (even the Alleghenies, which are low).

    A couple of summers ago I finally got to visit CA and go into the Sierras, my first experience with the Rockies-like mountains I always yearned for.

    One of the things that struck me the most about being in Yosemite, that I struggled to put into words, was the way the mountains that surround you there have a presence you can feel even when trees are blocking them. The only way I could think to describe it was to say that it was almost as if those massive rocks have a gravity of their own, that you can feel.

    (Which isn't just fancy, but is based on something I read once about 18th century attempts to calculate the weight of the Earth by trying to measure the gravitational pull of a mountain in Scotland of such a regular shape that its weight might by calculated by exacting measurements, and contrasting that gravitational pull against that of the actual Earth. Or something.)

    But it didn't make me feel oppressed or anything. I really rather loved it.

  39. Alice says:

    * The armies of Middle-earth are gathering…this battle that is coming is going to be a huge one!
    * The image of Merry riding side by side with Theoden is the cutest ever!!!
    * We find out that the skeleton of the golden knight that Aragorn and the others saw belongs to a man from the House of Eorl. Poor bugger!
    * Sauron has really made something to block the sun.I mean,if you think about it,it's quite obvious…wasn't it said that the orcs can't stand the light?
    * It's so heartbreaking Merry's wish to fight.You brave hobbit!I know the feeling of not wanting to be left behind.Luckily Dernhelm decides to carry him.
    * The way that the chapter ends is terryfing.The Riders of Rohan are going to war,and while they are leaving their realm,they find out that it's being attacked.This is bad!!!

    <img src="; width="600">
    Alan Lee – The Muster of Rohan

    <img src=""&gt;
    John Howe – The Pukel-Men

    <img src="; width="600">
    Donato Giancola – Eowyn in the grasses of Rohan sketch

    <img src=""&gt;
    John Howe – Merry,Esquire of Rohan

    <img src=""&gt;
    John Howe – Rider of Rohan

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

  40. Wheelrider says:

    Funny, I had a similar impression visiting Nebraska as a teenager (shortly after reading this book, go figure)… it was SO uniformly flat it seemed like it should be impossible in nature. I kept getting a creepy hair-standing-up feeling, and turning around and around, totally disoriented. I grew up in a hilly/small-mountain region.

    • grinmankey says:

      I think the disorienting sensation is part of why I was so uncomfortable in a "flat" landscape. I definitely use the mountains as a landmark to establish a sense of direction. The lack of that spatial reference was very disorienting. Also, I really just love the beauty of the Mountains. My two favorite places in the U.S. are Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. Both prominently feature mountains.

    • Rheinman says:

      I have family from West Texas, where it is also as flat as Nebraska. Some of them get freaked out by all of the trees and hills we have here in North Texas and feel very claustophobic. Ther rest say, "Wait, you have water, and greenery , and no dust storms!?!?! And they move here as fast as they can. 🙂

    • Majc says:

      I am from Nebraska so have had the complete opposite reaction as you. I have now traveled quite a lot and have lived many different places (now in Anchorage, AK). I still have to orient myself every day trying to remember where north is and I actually feel claustrophobic when in mountain valleys or large forests. I miss the flat openness that is Nebraska. 🙂

  41. rubyjoo says:

    I love the images of the stone pukel men that Tolkien gives us. We have the lines of squat carved men and the lines of stones, all leading to the entrance of the Paths of the Dead. I wondered what had inspired Tolkien because I know of no stone men in Britain or Europe. The only ones I can think of are those on Easter Island. Tolkien's statues seem reminiscent of ancient races like the Aborigines. But we do have a famous avenue of stones in England at Avebury Circle. The stone avenue leading to the circle was erected nearly 5000 years ago and runs for more than 1.5 miles. Here's a link. It's worth scrolling down and also checking out the links on the left. The avenue is close to two mysterious hills, Windmill Hill and Silbury Hill. The latter was man made and is sometimes referred to as the navel of the earth through which one could descend into terrifying and mystic regions.

  42. TheWelshPirate says:

    V'z tynq gung "Qreauryz" znqr fhpu na vzcerffvba ba Znex. Ur'f tbvat gb xrlfznfu uvf xrlobneq va gb boyvivba jura ur svaqf bhg vg'f ernyyl Rbjla! Abobql unq orggre fcbvy guvf sbe uvz.

  43. Rheinman says:


  44. novice says:

    The Orthanc stone.

    Don't know if anyone else has pointed this out because I didn't read all the comments, but I can clarify this without spoiling a thing.

    The seeing stone which Aragorn used is a Palantir. It is known as the Orthanc stone because it was the one that was kept to be used in Orthanc, the tower in the middle of Isengard in which Saruman lived.

    So, it is not the Orthanc (that's the tower), but the seeing stone kept in Orthanc, or the Orthanc stone.

    The other palantiri are also nicknamed after the locations in which they were kept.

  45. ZeynepD says:


    • monkeybutter says:

      And I rot13'd your original comment because it's on the confirmed list 🙂

      • ZeynepD says:

        Sorry about that—I really didn't think a quote like that out of context was a spoiler, especially since I'd replaced the name [spoiler] with Elbereth to make it context-appropriate here. Thanks for doing it.

        (And yay again Mark Reads Bujold.)

  46. Anonymous says:


    Frevbhfyl, Znex vf fb tbvat gb synvy jura ur svaqf bhg gur vqragvgl bs Qreauryz ("frperg uryzrg" va Byq Ratyvfu, farnxl Gbyxvra). Naq jr jvyy ynhtu, naq vg jvyy or tybevbhf.

  47. Sinnive says:

    That is interesting … to me, like to Merry, mountains are beautiful things, but definitely something foreign, and I am certain that I'd have a hard time feeling really at home in a mountainous landscape. I grew up in a surrounding which is called the *lower* rhine area for a reason … Mountains are fine for holidays, but I tend to get completely disorientated around them. To me, it is just normal to be able to look for miles in any direction and to go there in a straight line, without having to curve around a mountain or to climb across one or whatever.

    I used to live in a hilly region for a few years (though to me it seemed like high mountain range) and I never got used to it. When I visited my hometown after the first few months, I went on train to another city and I enjoyed it so much that the train just went straight for a whole hour, while at my new home, the railways were constantly meandering around some mountains and I was thoroughly annoyed by it.

    It's so intriguing that people do feel this exactly the other way round.

  48. eyelessgame says:

    Gur arkg guerr puncgref ner zl snibevgr cneg bs gur ragver abiry. Gur Fvrtr bs Tbaqbe – Gur Evqr bs gur Ebuveevz – Gur Onggyr bs gur Cryraabe Svryqf … guvf vf gur ovt bar; guvf vf jurer pvivyvmngvba vf nobhg gb unat va gur onynapr, naq guvf vf jurer vg nyy cnlf bss. Rirelguvat – bgure guna gur Evat vgfrys – unf ohvyg gb guvf. Rirelguvat Tnaqnys naq Nentbea unir orra fpurzvat hc, rirel cyna gurl'ir znqr: vg nyy pbzrf qbja gb guvf.

    Naq gur raq bs gur arkg puncgre vf Gur Zbzrag. Vg fgvyy, sbegl lrnef nsgre V svefg ernq vg, oevatf grnef gb zl rlrf. Vg vf gur orfg vaibpngvba bs zntvp gung unf rire orra jevggra, jura Tnaqnys snprf gur Jvgpu Xvat va sebag bs gur oebxra Tngrf bs Tbaqbe.

    So. Unprepared.

  49. Kevin says:

    Dear Mark,

    At the risk of sounding pedantic, I think it is important to remember that the Lord of the Rings is not about hobbits and the Third Age of Middle-earth. It is about the story of hobbits and the Third Age of Middle-earth.

    This is because we are not reading a novel, but a romance: different genres with different tropes and expectations.
    At the risk of sounding sycophantic, let me say that I am truly enjoying your running commentary.



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