The Black Gate Opens

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This article is about the chapter from The Return of the King. For the scene from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, see The Black Gate Opens (scene).
Peter Xavier Price - The Battle of the Morannon.jpg
The Black Gate Opens
Chapter of The Return of the King
EventThe Captains of the West face the armies of Mordor.
Date17-25 March T.A. 3019
LocationThe Morannon
PerspectiveMerry and Peregrin
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The Black Gate Opens is the tenth chapter of the first book in The Return of the King.

Summary[edit | edit source]

Two days after the decision by the Captains of the West to assault Mordor,[1] the armies of the West set out, numbering seven thousand. At Imrahil’s urging, a small force remained in Minas Tirith to defend the city. Though the injured Merry could not go to battle, Pippin marched as a soldier of Gondor. The army passed Osgiliath and made camp; the horsemen moved ahead, but they encountered no opposing forces. As the army drew closer to Mordor, Gandalf instructed the heralds to sound the trumpets and declare the coming of the King of Gondor. The army's stirring and brazen cheers met little answer from Sauron aside from an eerie, watchful silence.

On the second day of its march, the army was nearly ambushed by a strong force of Orcs, but Aragorn and the Captains stopped the ambush. Several Nazgûl began to fly overhead, following the progress of the army. As Aragorn's army neared Mordor on the fourth day, the younger troops became paralysed with fear. In pity, Aragorn permitted them to turn back, but many decided to stay. On the sixth day, the host approached Morannon, the Black Gate of Mordor, which was surrounded by reeking pools of mud and filth. Aragorn arranged his army upon two great hills.

Gandalf and Aragorn rode toward the Morannon with a small envoy, including Gimli, Legolas, Pippin, Éomer, Imrahil, and Elrond’s sons—representatives of each of the races of Middle-earth that were opposed to Sauron. The envoy called for Sauron to emerge and submit to the justice of Gondor. After a long period of silence, the Lieutenant of the Dark Tower emerged with an embassy of black-clad soldiers. He was a living man, tall-helmed and evil, and his horse had a face like a skull, with fire burning in the eye sockets and nostrils.

The Lieutenant mocked Aragorn and his army. When Gandalf admonished him, the Lieutenant drew from his cloak Frodo's coat of mithril, Sam's sword, and a grey Elven cloak. The Lieutenant informed the anxious Captains that Sauron would spare the life of the captured Hobbit spy if they agreed to certain terms. Gandalf, with a look of defeat, asked for the terms. The Lieutenant said that Gondor and its allies must never attack Mordor, that Gondor must become a tributary to Mordor, and that a suitable captain from Mordor must rule in Isengard over Rohan. Gandalf utterly rejected these terms.

The Lieutenant, rebuked by Gandalf, was gripped by terror. He turned and retreated to the Black Gate. As he did, the host of Mordor, much larger than that of Gondor, poured out of the Gate. Drums rolled, fires blazed, and the sun turned red. A great company of brutal hill-trolls charged into Pippin's company. One of the Trolls pounced on Beregond, but Pippin stabbed the Troll with his sword. The Troll toppled forward and crushed the startled Hobbit. Pippin began to lose consciousness. He bade the world farewell, but just as everything turned dark, he heard a great clamour of voices shouting, "The Eagles are coming!" In his dazed state he wondered if he was merely recalling Bilbo's story of the Battle of Five Armies.[2] Book V ends here.

Composition[edit | edit source]

The writing of Book V was probably completed by the end of October 1946.[3]