The Steward and the King
The Steward and the King is the fifth chapter of the sixth book in The Return of the King.
The narrative jumps back to the time before the quest is finished, now focusing on the perspective of those in Minas Tirith. While Aragorn and the forces of Gondor are away, the city remains shrouded in fear. Faramir meets Lady Éowyn in the Houses of Healing. Éowyn longs for Aragorn and the chance to fight with the Riders against Mordor. Her sadness, mixed with pride and beauty, leads Faramir to fall in love with her. For days, they stare to the east, waiting for word of Gondor’s success, until they eventually see the Darkness break. As sunlight breaks through the sky, the citizens of Minas Tirith break out in song. Messengers soon arrive telling of Aragorn’s victory. The conflict resolved, Éowyn’s longing for war fades, and she and Faramir agree to wed.
When Aragorn returns, Faramir rides out of the gate of Minas Tirith and offers him the keys of the city and an ancient crown. To everyone’s amazement, Aragorn calls for the Ring-bearer and Gandalf. Frodo hands the crown to Gandalf, who places it upon Aragorn’s brow.
The city of Minas Tirith begins to revive. Its walls are restored, and the city is filled with trees, fountains, and laughter. Ambassadors from many lands arrive in Gondor, and Aragorn shows mercy by rewarding both the faithful and the enemies of the West. Gandalf explains that the Third Age of Middle-earth has passed: the war against Sauron is over, and Aragorn’s reign in the age of Men has begun. The group climbs up an ancient, snowy path, at the end of which, amidst a pile of debris, Aragorn finds a sapling of the great White Tree—the symbol of ancient Elendil, Gondor’s kingdom. Aragorn takes the sapling back to the Citadel. The old, dead tree is removed and laid to rest, and the new one planted in its place.
The day before Midsummer, a group of Elves approaches Minas Tirith. Celeborn and Galadriel, Elrohir and Elladan, and all the Elf princes arrive in the city. Behind them, mightiest of all, is Elrond with his daughter, Arwen. On the day of Midsummer, Aragorn (now called King Elessar) and Arwen are wed. Queen Arwen, seeking to repay Frodo for his immeasurable service and suffering, offers him a gift. When the time comes, he may sail in her stead across the Great Sea to the unknown West, where the Elves dwell in eternal youth and joy.