The Siege of Gondor

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The name Siege of Gondor refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see Siege of Gondor (disambiguation).
The Siege of Gondor
Chapter of The Return of the King
EventMinas Tirith is besieged.
Date10-15 March 3019
LocationMinas Tirith
Preceded byThe Muster of Rohan
Followed byThe Ride of the Rohirrim

The Siege of Gondor is the fourth chapter of the first book of The Return of the King.


Back in Minas Tirith, Pippin received his new uniform and gear as a member of the Tower Guard. He spent a long day serving Lord Denethor, Gandalf, and the Captains of the West. Pippin chatted with Beregond at the outer wall of the Citadel amid heavy darkness and a stagnant air. Suddenly, they heard the terrifying shriek of a Black Rider. Beyond the outermost gate, they could see five dark Nazgûl swooping over a small, rapidly approaching group of Men on horseback. The leader of the horsemen sounded his horn; Beregond recognized the trumpet call of Faramir, Denethor’s son.

The men, thrown from their terrified horses, ran for the city gate on foot. Just as a Nazgûl descended on Faramir, Pippin saw what appeared to be a brilliant white star in the north—it was Gandalf on his horse, Shadowfax. Gandalf raised his hand and sent a shaft of light shooting upward into one of the Nazgûl. The Nazgûl cried and circled away, the other Ringwraiths following. Gandalf returned to the city with Faramir slumped in the saddle.

Faramir was escorted into Denethor’s chambers, where he was shocked to see Pippin (Faramir has already had a strange encounter with two other HobbitsFrodo and Sam—in The Two Towers[1]). Gandalf erupted when he learned from Faramir that Frodo and Sam were heading to Mordor by way of Cirith Ungol. Faramir noted that he bid farewell to the Hobbits only two days ago;[2] they could not have reached Cirith Ungol yet. The men surmised that Sauron’s new movement on Gondor was not related to Frodo’s approach to Mordor.

Denethor upbraided Faramir for showing cowardice in defending the outposts. The Steward bitterly remarked that Boromir, his other son, would have brought him a "mighty gift"—meaning the Ring. Gandalf pointed out that Boromir would have kept the "gift" for himself. The two men argued, and Pippin again sensed the strain between them. Denethor opposed sending the Ring with a Hobbit into the hands of Sauron, believing that he himself should have been given the Ring for safekeeping. The gathering dispersed. Pippin asked Gandalf why, as Faramir had indicated, Frodo and Sam were traveling with Gollum.[3] Gandalf feared Gollum’s treachery, but noted that perhaps some good may yet come of Gollum’s actions.

The next morning, Denethor sent Faramir to protect the outlying ruins of Osgiliath, where Mordor's armies were likely to strike first. Faramir dutifully accepted the perilous—possibly suicidal—assignment from his father. News arrived the following morning of a battle for the nearby Pelennor Fields.

The Lord of the Nazgûl, the Black Captain against whom none could stand, led the armies from Mordor. Gandalf rode off toward Osgiliath to help fight the Black Captain. The Wizard returned the next day, leading many wounded men. Faramir remained at Pelennor, trying to hold his men together to execute a safe retreat.

Not long after, the armies of Mordor approached Minas Tirith. Thousands of black-clad Men and Orcs streamed onto the plains. A small, beleaguered ensemble rode before them: the last of Gondor's rearguard in retreat. Lord Denethor, clad in armour, sent a small army of horsemen out to protect the retreat. Gandalf rode among them, using his white fire to deter the front lines of the Enemy. The retreating men reached the city safely, but one of the Nazgûl’s poisoned arrows struck Faramir.

Sauron's armies besieged the city in a vale of fire, cutting off all roads. They used huge catapults to lob blazing missiles into the first ring of the city. As the forces of Minas Tirith tried to put these fires out, they realized to their horror that the Enemy’s missiles were the burning heads of those who had died defending Osgiliath.

Stricken with sudden bitterness and grief, Denethor locked himself in the Tower with Faramir, who was now delirious with fever from his arrow wound. Pippin looked on as Denethor wept, cursing Gandalf and bewailing the end of his lineage as Steward of Gondor. As Denethor was holed up, Gandalf took over the defense of Minas Tirith. The army of Mordor launched an attack on the outer wall of the city. Denethor instructed the desperate messengers who arrived in his court that everyone in the city should give up and burn in the fires.

Denethor called for his servants. He had Faramir carried out of the Citadel to the Hall of Kings, where Gondor's leaders were laid to rest. Denethor placed Faramir on a marble table and called for dry wood and a torch. Pippin warned the servants not to obey Denethor's orders, as it was clear that the Steward had gone mad. Pippin broke the rule of the Tower Guard by leaving his post. He sent Beregond up to the Hall of Kings to try to intervene with Denethor, and then the hobbit went in frantic search of Gandalf.

The armies of Mordor, led by the Lord of the Nazgûl, approached the gate of Minas Tirith with a great battering ram. The servants of the Enemy struck the great iron door three times. On the third strike, the door shattered. The Black Captain entered the first ring of the city, and all fled in terror before him. Pippin watched as Gandalf alone stood before him. Gandalf ordered the Lord of the Nazgûl to return to Mordor—to nothingness—but the Ringwraith laughed. He threw back his hood to reveal a crown on a headless body. His sword burst into flame, ready to strike, but Gandalf stood firm and resolute, ready to do battle. Suddenly, a cock crowed, and a great clamour of horns emanated from the north. The Riders of Rohan had arrived.