Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Book 5, Chapter 6

The arrival of the Rohirrim does change the tide of battle, but in more ways then simply changing the numbers the army besieging Gondor faces.  Things get a little metaphysical here.  "The darkness was breaking too soon, before the date that his Master had set for it."  Read that again, think about what it might imply that the darkness was breaking "too soon" before the planned date.

Villains don't necessarily think of themselves as evil or opposing good.  Opposing the status quo or the reigning power,yes, but that doesn't mean they're trying to make the world a worse place.  Sauron is the Opposition, but much of what fostered this rebellion was resentment and frustration.  The orcs themselves were born out of an attempt to re-create the elves.  Some of the armies flocking to Sauron's banner are doing so out of feelings of alienation and isolation.

For all that this chapter is prose, it reads like a battle lay as Theoden leads his Rohirrim into battle against the armies of Mordor.  Whole sentences that would not be out of place in verse.  Just read the first few paragraphs and imagine someone reading this as if giving theatrical oration.

And of course we get Eowyn's feminist moment.  Yeah, LotR is a bit of a brofest, with about as many named female characters as I can count on one hand, but Eowyn, when she's not being needlessly saddled with a romance plotline, stands out proud.  We've been seeing it throughout the chapters, where she nails the feminine mystique.  Now she laughs in the face of the Lord of the Nazgul, standing between him and the armies of her land, striking doubt into Sauron's right hand.

It is perhaps the King's role to die for the land, and for the type of heroic narrative arc, Aragorn doesn't suit for the sacrifice.  Perhaps since he is uncrowned his sacrifice is to live.  And I guess it falls to the hobbits to save the day in small and often unintentionally overlooked ways.

The second favorable turn of battle comes from a unlooked for source.  Not the Corsairs of Umbar arriving signaling the fall of strongholds and the influx of troops against Gondor, but instead allies thought lost to the Paths of the Dead.

Visually, we get grandeur in this scene.  One of the stories from the 'behind the scenes' of this movie is the discussion of the flail the Witch King wields.

It's not exactly a realistic battle, but it is a heroic cinema battle none the less.  Fantasy films (ok, most films) rarely give us realism in pitched battle... but then that's not really what they're trying to sell us.  The overall battle progress is more broken up as well, giving us the field, our friends within the walls of Gondor, and the Dead Army all intercut.  Eowyn is less heroic and defiant throughout her face off, more scared but determined until the moment she takes off her helm, but then this isn't the first time I've knocked the films for lessening Eowyn's power (nor the first time I've knocked them for the ways in which they've decided to highlight the few women visible).

As a teen, I thought the counting of kills hilarious.  As an adult it feels more like a trick to keep momentum and engagement.  More powerful to me than the battle is the aftermath.  Gandalf stepping through the fallen, Aragorn releasing the Dead, Pippin finding Merry.


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