This is one of the most important days we’ll encounter. While there’s not much going on with Sam and Frodo, there’s the whole battle of Minas Tirith to deal with. Let’s get going!
Sam and Frodo
(“Sam scrambled to his feet.” Book Six, Chapter 2 – The Land of Shadow)
They didn’t mean to doze off, but apparently did. Sam woke first just before dawn and they continued on deeper into Mordor. Frodo was utterly exhausted from wearing the Orc armor. Discarding it, they went on.
The sun rose for the first time in six days. They heard the cry of a Nazgûl, but no terror because of it – “a cry of woe and dismay”. This gave Sam some hope, but Frodo had little. They stuck to the main road, which was dangerous, but speed was of the essence.
They found water good enough for drinking. As they neared an Orc stronghold, they left the road to parallel another heading north. Shortly after, they found a patch of thorns to curl up in. Frodo was tired and needed to sleep. Sam held his hand until nightfall. With that, he slept.
Merry, Éowyn, Éomer, King Théoden, and the Riders of Rohan
(“But it was no orc-chieftain or brigand that led the assault upon Gondor.” Book Five, Chapter 6 – The Battle of Pelennor Fields)
Dawn broke over the Pelennor Fields before Minas Tirith. The Enemy’s army had breached the gate and all seemed lost. But with the sun came the sound of a horn. Rohan had arrived.
The Riders threw themselves onto the right flank of Sauron’s forces, hacking and slaying without let. Seeing this, the Witch-king, now mounted no a winged beast, flew towards King Théoden. The beast killed the king’s horse and apparently most of the men around him, mortally wounding the king himself.
One, a warrior known as Dernhelm, but actually Théoden’s daughter Éowyn in disguise, still stood. Merry was behind her. She faced off against the Witch-king, who warned her to “come not between the Nazgûl and his prey!” There were quite a few other wordy threats as well. She told the Witch-king to do his worst, but she would “hinder it, if I may.”
“Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!”
If you’ll remember, there was a bit of a riddle or curse or mystery that stated that the Witch-king could be killed by no man. Just what this meant wasn’t exactly known. Until now.
‘But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Éomund’s daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him.’
This seems to have stumped the Witch-king. Maybe he didn’t even know what the mysterious curse meant for sure. Okay, a man couldn’t slay him. But what about a woman? Good question. And he seemed to think this over.
His beast, however, was not so hesitant. It screamed at her and attacked. She quickly cleaved off its head. The Witch-king rose from the carnage and smashed his mace into her shield, smashing it and breaking her arm. Merry, seeing an opportunity, stabbed the Nazgûl in the back of the damn knee. The Witch-king cried out in pain.
With this, Éowyn stabbed him “between crown and mantle,” breaking her sword. There was a cry (likely “of woe and dismay”) and the Nazgûl was gone from this world.
King Théoden was nearly dead. He asked for Éomer and Éowyn (he had no idea of Dernhelm’s true identity). While Éowyn appeared to be dead, Éomer rode up and spoke with his father. The battle must be continued. Then Éomer saw his sister lying beaten on the ground before him. This threw him into a mournful rage. With no time to spare, he led his men back into the battle. Their cry was “death!”
The few men remaining bore the body of the King and Éowyn to the rear. But the Prince of Dol Amroth rode up to them and noticed that she still lived. He sent a rider to fetch her aid.
The Enemy continued to be reinforced, though it lost some ground with the flank attack of the Rohirrim. They were help, but not help enough. The battle could not be won as it now stood.
Gandalf, Pippin, Denethor, and Faramir
(“When the dark shadow at the Gate withdrew Gandalf still sat motionless.” Book Five, Chapter 7 – The Pyre of Denethor)
After leaving King Théoden, the Prince of Dol Amroth rode back into the city and found Gandalf trying to figure out what to do about the suicidal Denethor. The Steward of Gondor was trying to burn himself and his son, Faramir alive.
Gandalf and Pippin rode to where Denethor was and asked him where Faramir was. Denethor said that Faramir was already burning. Taking him at his word, Gandalf rushed in and found him ready to be set ablaze, but not yet so. Gandalf grabbed the unconscious Faramir and threw him over his shoulder. After a bit of back and forth between the wizard and Denethor, the latter drew a dagger to kill his own son.
Beregond (the warrior who had befriended Pippin a few days back) stood between the Denethor and Faramir. With that, Denethor jumped on the pyre and set himself ablaze, holding his palantír in his hands.
This was a bummer, but Gandalf had stuff to do. Beregond and Pippin took Faramir to the Houses of Healing. Gandalf announced to all that the Witch-king was slain.
Merry and Pippin
(“A mist was in Merry’s eyes of tears and weariness…” Book Five, Chapter 8 – The Houses of Healing)
As the battle raged, Merry and Pippin reunited near what used to be the Gate of Minas Tirith. They had not seen each other since March 6th near Helm’s Deep. Pippin was here to take Merry to the Houses of Healing.
Once there, he was put into a bed near both Faramir and Éowyn and watched over by Gandalf. Many of the warriors already here were sick with “the Black Shadow,” a disease of sorts received from the Nazgûl. There was no cure for that.
An ‘old wife’ (so-called) named Ioreth, gave Gandalf an idea. “The hands of the king are the hands of a healer.” Gandalf left to find Aragorn.
Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas
(“For Anduin, from the bend at the Harlond, so flowed that from the City men could look down it lengthwise for some leagues…” Book Five, Chapter 6 – The Battle of Pelennor Fields)
From Minas Tirith, the men could see down the river. And what they saw at this moment, when the battle seemed lost, was black ships sailing towards them. Being the ships of the Enemy, the destruction of Minas Tirith and thus the fall of Gondor seemed certain.
But, as we know, while these were Enemy ships, they were full of thousands of Gondorians, led by Aragorn, ready to fight. The warriors of Minas Tirith were ordered back into the defenses. But Éomer, who was closer to the shore, saw the ships for what they were: reinforcements for the city.
The Rohirrim, joined by the knights of Dol Amroth, cleared a path to the ships, slaughtering Orc and Troll as they went. Out of the ships spilled perhaps 4,000 well-rested warriors seeking justice against Mordor.
The battle raged all through the day, and by evening every single foe was dead on the field. This was victory.
Gandalf, Aragorn, Faramir, Éowyn, Merry and Pippin
(“Now as the sun went down Aragorn and Éomer and Imrahil drew near the City…” Book Five, Chapter 8 – The Houses of Healing)
With the battle won and the day over, Aragorn was headed into Minas Tirith. He was now the rightful king, but didn’t want to push the matter so soon. So again he disguised himself as “a captain of the Rangers.”
They found the Houses of Healing, which made Gandalf pretty happy. Aragorn, Gandalf understood, could heal them. he asked Ioreth if she had any kingsfoil, a healing herb that he thought would do the trick.
They had a ton of kingsfoil round back in the woods (there was more to it than this, but you get the idea). When some finally arrived, Aragorn worked his magic/not-magic. First it was on Faramir, then Éowyn (with Éomer’s help), and then Merry.
Aragorn later met with the sons of Elrond, and planned out what was to come next.
Battles in Other Places
On the same day as the assault upon Minas Tirith, Sauron’s forces also assailed Lórien (for a second time), Mirkwoord (attacking Thranduil), and Dale.
In each of these, the enemy was beaten back, though the Battle of Dale would last two more days, as Erebor was besieged.