Well dear readers, today’s the day. The day. Of course, it’s not the end of our story, and thus not the end of this blog. We’ll keep going in real time until the very end – whatever that means.
For now, let’s talk about today. I’ll be brief. Let’s start with Aragorn and Gandalf.
Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Pippin, and the warriors of Gondor
(“It grew cold. As morning came the wind began to stir again, but now it came from the North, and soon it freshened to a rising breeze.” Book Five, Chapter 10 – The Black Gate Opens)
Aragorn’s company, fully 6,000 warriors strong, woke to the sight of the Black Gate. But nobody was around. He arranged his forces upon two large hills of blasted and piled up stone. With that done, the Captains (and all the available members of the Fellowship) rode towards the Gate, with Gandalf at the lead.
When they were within earshot, the called for someone to come out. After a bit, out came the Mouth of Sauron, a man twisted to the ways of Mordor. He mocked Aragorn for proclaiming himself King of Gondor, and then insulted Gandalf with the ol’ greybeard jab, imply he was a coward.
It’s here, without a reply from Gandalf, that he shows the Captains the items from Sam and Frodo. They have not heard anything directly from them in a month. The last they heard word of them was from Faramir, and that news was now two and a half weeks old.
The Mouth of Sauron (Mouth, for short) made a mistake. It was because Sauron made a mistake, of course. Gandalf and pals knew that the items belonged to both Sam and Frodo. Yet, Mouth referred to only a single hobbit. He also referred to him as a spy.
This made it clear to old greybeard that something was up. Mouth said that the hobbit’s mission had failed and that he had been captured an would be tormented for basically ever.
At this point, to Gandalf, worse case scenario was that they had Sam, but Frodo had escaped. The mission had not failed, despite the possibility of this tragic setback (for Sam, anyway).
This all could be avoided if they accepted Sauron’s terms. The terms were that Mordor proper would be everything east of the Anduin. Everything west of that to the Misty Mountains would be the lower occupied territories and pay tribute to Mordor. Isengard would be rebuilt and would house someone more trusty than Saruman.
Gandalf called bullshit, and asked to see the prisoner. The Mouth feigned offense and told Gandalf to “take them or leave them!” Gandalf took… Sam and Frodo’s items and told Mouth to bring it. With that, the Mouth went back into the Black Gate and was replaced by a metric shit ton of Orcs.
If Tolkien’s count is to be trusted, there were over 60,000 of the Enemy swarming towards Aragorn’s army. Easterlings streamed in from the north, and “the Nazgûl came with their cold voices crying words of death…”
There was no way they were going to win this one. Hill-trolls took the lead and hit the hills first. Beregond was wounded, and Pippin stabbed and killed the troll, which crumpled down upon him.
Then the Eagles showed up. It was Gwaihir and Landroval, his brother. And a lot more. They went first for the Nazgûl.
But there was a cry from Barad-dûr, and they flew toward it. All the of trolls, men and Orcs in Sauron’s army trembled and were stopped in their tracks, now full of doubt.
The Army of the West saw this and pounced, counter-attacking. But now came an earthquake, which took out the Black Gate. They heard far off “a long echoing roll of ruinous noise.” A gigantic shadow grew over Mordor. It reached out to them, but could do nothing. It then blew away with the wind and was gone. This threw the entire enemy army into a bit of chaos.
Some of the Enemy fled, some cried for mercy, some killed themselves. This was victory, but still a bit of a mess. Gandalf left that to Aragorn and called Gwaihir over to him. Now mounted upon him, they flew for Mount Doom to rescue Frodo (and maybe Sam, who knows at this point?)
Sam and Frodo (and Gollum)
(“Then sleep took him, and the dim light of the last day of their quest found them side by side.” Book Six, Chapter 3 – Mount Doom)
As for Sam and Frodo, their day was pretty busy as well. Sam was up, and Frodo was having trouble even standing. Seeing that Frodo was in no shape to walk, Sam carried him – literally gave him a piggyback ride (or “pig-a-back” as Tolkien called it).
When they got to the base of Mount Doom, Sam began to climb, but had no idea where he was going. He must have been moving with some speed because before he knew it, he was halfway up when he found a path. This was Sauron’s Road from Barad-dûr to Sammath Naur, the Chambers of Fire, a distance of around thirty miles.
Sam saw the road, but had no idea how to get to it with Frodo on his back. Frodo, who was still with us, saw this too and offered to crawl. And together they did so. They felt the Eye looking, but not at them. At this point, it was looking towards the Black Gate. It was probably around the time that Sauron’s armies attacked Gandalf and Aragorn.
Frodo was fighting with everything to not put on the Ring. He was fortunate enough to have Sam with him, who held his hands, kissed them, and then carried him again. Through a series of switchbacks. Near the top Gollum was waiting. He chucked a rock at Sam, laying him out.
Gollum fell upon Frodo, trying to get the Ring. Frodo had the better of him, as Gandalf spoke through him. It’s curious that we don’t see this happen from Gandalf’s point of view.
But it was enough for Frodo to get away. Sam was left to deal with Gollum. He was about to kill him, but in the end felt pity on Gollum, empathy, compassion. Rather than kill him, he just told Gollum to just go away. Gollum left, and Sam took off after Frodo. Gollum saw his chance.
Sam found Frodo down a tunnel, standing over the Crack of Doom. Frodo refused to destroy the Ring. He slipped in on his finger and disappeared.
This caused Sauron to take notice. On the battlefield the Eagles had just arrived and the Nazgûl raced into Mordor at Sauron’s cry.
Gollum had sneaked into Sammath Naur and clocked Sam, then jumped on the invisible Frodo. “Gollum on the edge of the abyss was fighting like a mad thing with an unseen foe.” (Which would look pretty ridiculous if they’d try to portray that in a film.) Feeling around, Gollum was able to find Frodo’s hand, and be bit off his Ring finger.
The Ring was Gollum’s again and he lept about in glee, accidentally stumbling into the Crack of Doom. Together they fell. The Ring was destroyed.
This kicked off one hell of an earthquake (that was felt at the battlefield). Both Sam and Frodo, together again, figured they were about to die. Still, Sam suggested that maybe they should try to put a little distance between themselves and the Crack of Doom.
Somehow, they were able to scramble down the side of Mount Doom to the base, but couldn’t go any farther. The mountain itself, as well as the land around it, were erupting. The lava was rising around them.
Gwaihir, carrying Gandalf, then arrived with his brother and another Eagle. They rescued the Hobbits and took them back to Minas Tirith.
They would sleep four two whole weeks.
Merry, Éowyn, and Faramir
(“And so the fifth day came since the Lady Éowyn went first to Faramir…” Book Six, Chapter 5 – The Steward and the King)
That day, Éowyn and Faramir stood together looking through the clouds and Shadow towards Mordor. Together they waited “for some stroke of doom.” As they stood time seemed to stop. They held hands. They felt Mount Doom erupting, and it reminded Faramir of Númenor. He felt that the world was ending, but his heart told him it was quite the opposite. He kissed her forehead.
“And the Shadow departed, and the Sun was unveiled, and light leaped forth; and the waters of the Anduin shone like silver, and in all the houses of the City men sang for the joy that welled up in their hearts from what source they could not tell.”
A single Eagle came out from the East, telling them that “the Realm of Sauron is ended for ever.”
And the people sang in all the ways of the City.
Well, our story is over, but there’s still quite a bit of story to go. If you look at the Schedule, you’ll be able to see what’s to come.
Some will come soon (though they’ll be short entries, I’m sure), and others will come in time.
For those taking off now, thank you for reading along. For those staying, I’ll try to keep it interesting.