Minas Tirith (chapter)

From Tolkien Gateway
The name Minas Tirith refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see Minas Tirith (disambiguation).
Minas Tirith
Chapter of The Return of the King
EventPeregrin and Gandalf come to Minas Tirith.
Date9 March 3019
LocationMinas Tirith
Preceded byThe Choices of Master Samwise
Followed byThe Passing of the Grey Company

Minas Tirith is the first chapter of the first book in The Return of the King.


Having parted from Aragorn and the Riders of Rohan at the end of Book III[1], Gandalf and Pippin rode swiftly east from Isengard to Gondor, the southeastern land inhabited by Men and bordering the dark region of Mordor. Gandalf and Pippin headed toward Minas Tirith, the major city of Gondor. They travelled by night to elude the searching Nazgûl, who were now mounted on horrific winged steeds that flew overhead whose eerie cries echoed throughout the land.

Gandalf and Pippin gained entrance to Minas Tirith. The white stone city was built on seven tiered levels along one side of an immense hill, each tier surrounded by one of seven concentric semicircular stone walls. Upon the crown of the hill was the Citadel, and within the Citadel was the High Court, at the feet of the White Tower. The sight of the iridescent city amazed Pippin. The Hobbit noticed, however, that Minas Tirith was slowly falling into decay.

The two reached the gate of the Citadel, which opened to a court in which a pleasant green fountain trickled water off the broken branches of a dead tree. The Guards of the Citadel, who still wore the ancient symbol of Elendil, an image of the White Tree, allowed Gandalf and Pippin entrance without question. Approaching the court, Gandalf warned Pippin to watch his words and to avoid mentioning the subject of Aragorn, who maintained a claim to the kingship of Gondor.

In the Hall of the Kings, the high throne remained empty. Denethor II, the Steward (Lord) of Gondor, sat upon a black stone chair at the foot of the steps to the throne. While his body appeared proud and healthy, he was an old man and stared blankly at his lap. Denethor held the broken horn of his dead son, Boromir, who died at the hands of the Orcs in The Two Towers.[2]

From the outset, there was a palpable yet unspoken tension between Gandalf and Denethor. Denethor took great interest in Pippin, however, wishing to hear of Boromir’s last stand in defense of the hobbits. Pippin realized that he owed Gondor and its Steward a debt; driven by a strange impulse, the hobbit offered his sword to Gondor in service and payment. Denethor, flattered and amused, accepted Pippin into his Guard.

Denethor asked Pippin questions about the Company, deliberately ignoring Gandalf. Pippin sensed Gandalf growing angry beside him. The two old men stared at each other with intensity. Pippin pondered Gandalf and was perplexed about the wizard’s role and purpose. Finally, Denethor bitterly accused Gandalf of being a power-hungry manipulator. Denethor said he would rule alone until the day the King returned to Gondor. Gandalf responded that his only goal was to care for the good in Middle-earth during the current period of evil.

After the interview, Gandalf explained to Pippin that Denethor possessed the ability to read men’s minds. Gandalf praised Pippin for kindly offering service to Denethor in spite of the Steward’s rudeness, but he warned the hobbit to be wary around Denethor. Gandalf expressed his longing for Faramir, Denethor’s other son and Boromir’s brother, to return to Gondor.

Pippin met a soldier, Beregond, who was instructed to give the hobbit the passwords of the city. Looking over the city walls, Pippin perceived a deep shadow resting in the East, either because of a cloud wall or a distant mountain, beyond the Anduin River toward Mordor. Beregond expressed little hope that Gondor would survive the ensuing conflict. The two heard the far-off cries of a flying Nazgûl, riding a terrible steed with enormous wings that darkened the sun.

Pippin descended to the outermost ring of Minas Tirith, where Beregond’s young son, Bergil, showed the hobbit to the gate. The Captains of the Outlands arrived with reinforcements, the proudest of whom was Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth. The reinforcements proved smaller than expected, as the Outlands were under attack from the south by a large army of Men of Umbar, allies of Mordor.

That night, a black cloud settled over Minas Tirith and enshrouded it in a terrible gloom. Gandalf ominously explained to Pippin that for some time there would be no dawn, for the Darkness had begun.


Tolkien started writing Book V in October 1944, after a long hiatus. The chapter had abortive beginnings.[3]