A Tolkien Virgin: The Return of the King - Book V - Chapter 4 - The Journey Continues

'You cannot enter here,' said Gandalf, and the huge shadow halted. 'Go back to the abyss prepared for you! Go back! Fall into the nothingness that awaits you and your Master. Go!"
Book V
Chapter 4
The Seige of Gondor

Well at least given the title you know what you're getting into, right? I mean, man, things have really taken a turn for the worse. Rohan has come, that's a good thing, but that aside things are looking pretty grim. The situation isn't any more grim than I expected, but that made it no easier to read.

It was a vivid chapter and an emotionally difficult one. Anxiety. Anger. More anxiety. Disbelief. And finally, hope.

Faramir's return, his rescue by Gandalf, was exciting--that White Rider stuff really gets me. Then, Denethor starts to flip out, lusting for the Ring and basically overreacting. And let me just say that it's a really good thing that Denethor didn't have his hands on the Ring, cause geez, with his madness, his rashness in such a desperate hour, he most certainly would have used it.

The army of Sauron advances. Takes Osgiliath. Takes the walls of the Pellenor.

The retreat becomes a rout. But then the sortie is released and the swan-knights and the Prince of Dol Amroth show up and the rout becomes an onslaught. So, that's good. But Faramir is injured, and on the verge of death. So, that's bad. Denethor goes certifiably coo-koo--again, bad. The city seiged--worse. The first ring of the city is burned, heads of the dead cast upon the city--that made me an interesting mix of sick and angry. Then, if that's not enough, Denethor decides to burn himself and Faramir on a pyre. Can it get worse? Of course! The gate is broken and the Lord of the Nazgul enters the archway of the city. Ah, but finally, at long last, there's Gandalf. Standing his ground.

How's that for an emotional ride? You can't really call it a rollercoaster, cause it's just a straight plunge into bad-ness. But this is Tolkien, so it has to get really, really bad before it can get good, and we've still a long way to go before the end.

Aside from the calculated way Tolkien knocked the stuffing out of me, there was other stuff about this chapter I liked.

I liked that Tolkien tells us where Frodo was as the sun set. That little reference does a lot. Not only does it put into perspective where Frodo and Sam were at the same moment, it reminds us of Frodo and Sams story; it reminds us that the most important thing isn't here where the action is, but in the mountains yonder. Another good reminder of this is of course when Faramir returns and talks about his meeting with Frodo and Sam. But then, Gandalf turns out to be really negative about Frodo and Sam's prospects. That's not a real hope-booster. If Gandalf can't be hopeful for Frodo's success, what about the rest of us? We know that the ring will be destroyed in the end, but in the interim, Tolkien's trying to make us doubt it, so that it doesn't seem like such a foregone conclusion. That's nice of him.

The statement, "...in some half-forgotten time when he had still been a hobbit," I liked, too. Pippin, and the others have really become something other than hobbits haven't they. They may still be hobbits, but they are more, they have been changed. They are more aware of the perils of the world.

Now, there's at least one thing I know I don't understand: Gandalf. Why is he holding back? Is he holding back? After his battle with the Balrog, his show of power before the Three Hunters and his encounter with Saruman, I feel like he's got a lot more up his sleeve than he's showing. His rescue of Faramir is another example of how capable he must be. The Captain of the Nazgul should be no match for him--or else I understimate the power of Sauron gone into the Wraiths, which might be. But, with the Lord of the Nazgul standing before him, I'm expecting Gandalf to be able to send him to the abyss with a word. But, Gandalf tells him to go, and the Wraith laughs--that can't be good.

In the end, Rohan has come. And, thank God. I couldn't take much more of it.

Now, I suspect Rohan will do some good, but then there will be more trouble, and then Aragorn will show up with his hosts of the Dead and clean house. That's my guess. The undead Nazgul versus the undead Dead. That's a battle that should be interesting.

till next time,
keep thinking,

Kanazawa, Japan

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