The Lord of the Rings

by J. R. R. Tolkien

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Book 5 Summary

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The Return of the King: Book 5
Pippin and Gandalf reach Gondor and meet Denethor, the ruling steward. Denethor questions Pippin closely about his dead son. He is not happy with what he hears. He resents Aragorn and believes the Ring should be used to defeat Sauron. Pippin, who admired Boromir, offers his sword to Denethor who accepts him as one of his guardsmen. Meanwhile Aragorn has been joined by a small band of his kinsmen. He takes leave of King Theoden and rides for the Paths of the Dead to demand the help of a ghostly army cursed to have no peace until they fight against Sauron. Gimli and Legolas go with him. Longing for glory and in love with Aragorn, Éowyn, niece of Theoden and regent in his absence, begs Aragorn to let her come with him. Aragorn is miserable. He knows she loves him, but he has spent his whole adult life trying to win Elrond' s permission to marry his daughter Arwen. He also understands she is frustrated by woman's work. He refuses Éowyn's pleas and tries to convince her that her role as regency is vital. When Theoden sets out for Gondor, Éowyn, disguised, rides with the army. Merry, who had been ordered behind by the king, comes with her.

At Gondor, meanwhile, Denethor, aged prematurely by watching events distorted by Sauron in the palantír of Minas Tirith, falls further into despair. When Faramir, whom he berated for not seizing the Ring, is brought back wounded, he slips into madness. The Riders of Rohan arrive at Minas Tirith and attack the besieging army. In the battle, the Chief Ringwraith, mounted on a flying beast, attacks Theoden and kills his horse, which falls, killing the king. Éowyn, who has stayed close to him through the fighting, comes between the Ringwraith and her dying uncle and, with Merry's help, kills him. Eomer finds his uncle in time to be named king and receive Theoden's last message for Éowyn. Finding Éowyn apparently dead, he goes into a rage and charges through the enemy, overstretching his lines, but bringing them within sight of Aragorn, who is arriving with the fleet he has liberated from Sauron. Denethor has seen the approach of the fleet in the palantír and, thinking it is Sauron's, decides to kill himself and Faramir. Pippin, looking for Gandalf, meets a guard, Beregond, whom he sends to try to delay Denethor. With the help of Pippin and Beregond, Gandalf rescues Faramir, but Denethor commits suicide. The battle won, Aragorn refuses to officially enter the city for fear of stirring up dissension, but comes secretly to nurse Faramir, Éowyn, and Merry. With Minas Tirith secured for the moment, the leaders decide to send a small force under Aragorn to Mordor to draw Sauron's attention away from the Ringbearer. When they reach the gates of Mordor, they are met by the "Mouth of Sauron" who shows them Sam's sword, an elven cloak, and Frodo's armor.

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