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The Ride of the Rohirrim

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The Ride of the Rohirrim is the fifth chapter of the fifth book in The Return of the King.


Four days into their journey to Minas Tirith, Merry remains hidden among the Riders of Rohan. He worries that he is a burden to the Rohirrim (as the Riders are sometimes called), and he feels unwanted and small. While the group rests, the Riders encounter the Woses, the Wild Men of the Woods. Troubled by Orcs, the Woses offer their services to Théoden. They are a little-known yet ancient people, stumpy and brutish. The Woses’ leader informs Théoden that all roads to Minas Tirith are blocked, save the secret ways the Woses know. The Wild Men promise to show the Riders through these paths, though they will not fight alongside Rohan.

The Riders emerge from the forest just north of Minas Tirith, and the Woses bid them farewell and vanish. To Théoden’s dismay, the Riders discover two dead bodies, one of them the earlier messenger from Gondor, still clutching the red arrow. Apparently, Minas Tirith does not know the Riders are coming to its aid. Dernhelm, still carrying Merry, breaks rank and draws closer to Théoden as the Riders reach the out-walls of Gondor.

Théoden looks sadly upon the destruction of Minas Tirith. Suddenly, a great flash of light springs from the city with a booming sound. Reinvigorated, Théoden commands his Riders into battle with a great cry “more clear than any there had ever heard a mortal man achieve.” The shouting Rohirrim rout the Orcs and armies of Mordor. The Darkness dissipates with a fresh wind from the sea.

At the arrival of the Rohirrim, the Black Captain senses the Darkness fading and the tide of battle turning. He vanishes from the city gate to enter the fray. Meanwhile, Théoden rides in fury ahead of the Rohirrim. The chieftain of the Southrons—allies of Mordor—leads his men against Théoden. Though outnumbered, Théoden and Éomer charge through the line of enemy scimitars handily, striking down the Southrons’ chieftain.