This part of the text has an odd place in my recollection. I remember thinking about how each man who took part in this march was remarkably brave, and how I could relate to the men whom Aragorn allowed to turn back and accomplish a lesser deed because their valor faltered. I cannot remember a time when I felt as much tension or anticipation for the battle before the Black Gates as I did for the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.
Honestly, the largest part of this campaign that I remember is Pippin’s experience in the final battle. His narrative voice as the battle begins, and then the way his story is obscured by unconsciousness reminded me of Bilbo. This was especially true when the Eagles appear and Pippin claims that they were
‘in [Bilbo’s] tale, long long ago’ (RK, V, x, 893).
Just over the precipice of such a great battle, the narration cuts short and leaves much to the reader’s imagination. It is not until several chapters later that a recap of this battle is given, and in a very detached manner (except for the emotional asides from the tellers). Not only is this a trick of narrative to add suspense, but it puts Pippin squarely in the Bilbo-like (Bilboian? Bilboic?) role, which was significant in my first reading.
Aside from this one aspect, the other parts of this chapter were less engrossing to me than the previous chapters. I followed Aragorn’s logic, and I thought that he led his campaign well, I just had a difficult time investing in these events. I think that part of my lack of investment is because I did not believe that they would die—this is probably in large part because I realized that half the book remained ahead of me, and I had no knowledge that the narrative would jump over and follow Frodo and Sam for much of the next book.
On a positive note, I really enjoyed the interaction between Sauron’s messenger and Aragorn/Gandalf. Their acerbic back-and-forth and posturing was very interesting to me.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Into Book VI with Frodo and Sam!
What Do You Think?
What was your impression of these passages and what did you think of the Mouth of Sauron?
Did you connect Pippin and Bilbo?
Did I miss anything? Let me know!