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The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes
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PART THREE: THE RETURN OF THE KING
BOOK V, CHAPTERS 1-5

Sauron's army begins its siege of Minas Tirith, the capital
of Gondor.

Gandalf and Pippin arrive in Minas Tirith amid
preparations for war. They meet with Denethor, Boromir's
father, the steward of Gondor. Pippin offers his allegiance
to Denethor, and the steward accepts. What moves Pippin
to do this?

NOTE: Minas Tirith is the capital of Gondor, one of the
ancient kingdoms of the Numenoreans, a noble and long-
lived race of men. The last king of Gondor disappeared in a
previous encounter with evil, and since then a series of
stewards have ruled, safeguarding the throne until a king
should appear. This is the throne that Aragorn is heir to.



Just as some readers compare the men of Rohan to the
Anglo-Saxons, they compare Gondor to such ancient
kingdoms as Rome or Greece. Like a Roman city, Minas
Tirith is immense and beautiful. The hall of the king is
imposing, and the steward is a subtle and learned man,
wise in the ways of politics. Next to him, King Theoden
seems like just a kindly old man. But there is also a sense of
barrenness here: the dead tree in the courtyard, the cold
granite of the great hall, and the steward himself, who
shows no trace of human warmth. Compare this to the
description of Theoden's hall, Meduseld, with its hanging
tapestries and many-colored, richly carved pillars. Look
for further contrast between Gondor and Rohan, and try to
determine what Tolkien is saying about the two cultures.

The story now returns to the point when Gandalf and
Pippin left the others, a day's journey out of Isengard.
Aragorn, Merry, Legolas, and Gimli remain with the king
and his company. As they make ready to depart, a company
of riders appear. They are Rangers from the north, like
Aragorn, and have come to help him. That night, Merry
swears fealty to King Theoden. How does this differ from
the scene where Pippin swears fealty to Denethor?

Aragorn now takes a fateful step, for the first time going
against Gandalf's advice. At the end of Book III, Gandalf
had warned him against using the palantir, saying that it
was not yet time to reveal themselves to Sauron. Aragorn
now judges for himself that the time has come and that he
has the strength to face Sauron. He wrests the stone from
Sauron and reveals himself as the heir to Gondor's throne.
This strikes fear into Sauron's heart. Aragorn hopes also
that it will move Sauron to a hasty attack, which will be ill-
timed and unprepared. The palantir shows Aragorn an
unforeseen danger approaching Gondor from the south,
which only Aragorn can act to avert. With new resolve,
Aragorn decides to take the Paths of the Dead, caverns that
lead right through the mountains, and that are haunted by
spirits of the dead.

This is an important point in Aragorn's life. He steps out
from under Gandalf's wing, making two crucial decisions
without consulting others: he uses the palantir, and he
accepts his destiny that he must travel the Paths of the
Dead. Both are supreme tests of his power. He has passed
one, and it remains to be seen if he'll pass the other. If he
fails, he stands to lose everything, including the throne of
Gondor and his love, Arwen.

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