The Last Debate

From Tolkien Gateway
The name The Last Debate refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see The Last Debate (disambiguation).
The Last Debate
Chapter of The Return of the King
EventAragorn holds a council with the Captains of Gondor.
Date16 March 3019
LocationMinas Tirith
PerspectiveMerry and Peregrin
Preceded byThe Houses of Healing
Followed byThe Black Gate Opens

The Last Debate is the ninth chapter of the first book in The Return of the King.


Gimli and Legolas found Merry and Pippin in the Houses of Healing. The Hobbits eagerly asked questions about the Paths of the Dead.[1] Gimli refused to speak of the experience, but Legolas described it. According to Legolas, after setting out from the Paths of the Dead, Aragorn led the Company and the army of the Dead to the Great River, Anduin. Invading fleets of Sauron's allies prevented thousands of potential defenders from reaching Minas Tirith. At Aragorn's command, the legion of Dead had swept over the Enemy’s ships, causing the terrified sailors to throw themselves overboard. Aragorn had released the Dead from their curse and then, gathering the local Men of Lamedon, set sail for Minas Tirith. At the end of the tale, Gimli and Legolas expressed their wonder that Mordor’s allies were overthrown by darkness and fear.[2]

While the four companions shared their stories, Aragorn held a meeting of the lords in his tent outside the city. Gandalf told the assembled captains that Mordor had not yet unleashed the greater part of its army. Though Minas Tirith had fought back the first assault, the next would be much stronger. In addition, the Ring of Power was now somewhere within the borders of Mordor.[3] Should Sauron seize it, all hope would be lost. Gandalf suggested an assault on the Black Gate of Mordor, reasoning that it was impossible to defeat Mordor without destroying the Ring, and that the Eye of Sauron must be diverted from the Ring-bearer as long as possible. Gandalf predicted that Sauron would think that Aragorn had taken possession of the Ring and, rash with pride, had chosen to attack Mordor. Gandalf believed that while attacking Mordor may prove fatal, it was their duty to defend against evil while it remained in their power to do so. The Captains agreed to this plan.


The chapter was probably reworked in September-October 1946. In an earlier draft of the chapter, Aragorn was narrating all his journey from Helm's Deep as a "flash back". In the published version, the scenes of the Paths of the Dead up to Erech, became part of the narration and were moved to a new chapter.[4]