5.01 Minas Tirith by Morwinyoniel
What happened in the book:
Gandalf and Pippin ride towards Minas Tirith in great haste. On the third night after their departure, they are in Anorien, where they see the beacons of Amon Dîn and Eilenach lit, and pass three unknown riders, most certainly errand-riders from Minas Tirith. After one more night’s journey, they reach Rammas Echor, the fortifications enclosing the Pelennor Fields, and meet a group of men repairing the wall. From their leader, Ingold, they get to know that Lord Denethor has already guessed Boromir’s fate because of some strange portents; and Gandalf in turn warns them that, not even the direction of Rohan is necessarily safe any longer.
In the city, they head straight for the Citadel in the seventh, uppermost circle. Pippin notices a dead tree by the fountain in front of the High Court and wonders why it has been left there. Before they enter the throne room, Gandalf warns Pippin to be careful with his words when speaking with Denethor, and to not tell him more than what is necessary; especially he tells him not to say anything about Frodo’s errand or to mention Aragorn.
Denethor, the Steward of Gondor, is described as an old man with carven face, long curved nose and deep dark eyes. In his hand he is holding a white rod with a golden knob: the rod of the Stewards, the symbol of his authority. After greeting Gandalf, he asks straight if Pippin is the one who saw his son die, as he has been informed that Gandalf will bring such a person with him. When Gandalf asks how the Steward has had news of Boromir’s death before their arrival, Denethor shows them a great horn cloven in two, which Pippin immediately recognizes as Boromir’s horn.
The scorn and suspicion in Denethor’s voice when he asks Pippin how it was possible for the hobbits to escape but not Boromir, although there were only orcs against them, stir a pride within the hobbit, and he offers his service to the Steward in payment of his debt. Denethor recognizes the origin of Pippin’s sword, realizes that there is more in the hobbit than it seems, and accepts his offer. He swears Pippin into his service right away, and questions him for an hour about Boromir’s last days.
When Gandalf asks Denethor if the news he brings from Rohan means nothing to him, the Steward says that, he already knows enough of those deeds for his own counsel, because the lords of Gondor have keener sight than lesser men, although the seeing-stones may be lost. Yet, he welcomes the wizard to his councils.
Gandalf has to leave for his errands soon after he and Pippin have been led to their lodgings, and he asks the hobbit to go and see that all is well with Shadowfax. On his way to the stables, Pippin meets a soldier named Beregond who has been sent to tutor him, teach him the passwords and tell him about the ways of the Guard of the Tower. And, like a true hobbit, the first thing Pippin wants to know is the mealtimes… After visiting Shadowfax, Beregond takes Pippin to the storehouse where they get some provisions, and they have breakfast and a long talk on the walls of the city. The civilians have been evacuated to the countryside; they see the last of their wagons leaving. And then, they hear the cry of a Nazgûl, which freezes their blood for a moment – but, the moment of despair soon passes.
In the afternoon, Beregond must return to duty, but he advises Pippin to seek out his son Bergil, one of the few children who have remained in the city as errand-runners. At first, the boy is afraid that his father has after all decided to send him away with the women and children, but hearing that it is not the case, he gladly accepts to act as Pippin’s guide. Together they go to the gates of the city to watch the enforcements from the southern fiefs march in. While they are there, great clouds of smoke come from the east and darken the sky; after the sun has set, it is so dark that, looking out of the window Pippin feels that it’s like looking into a pool of ink. When Gandalf finally returns to their lodgings he tells Pippin that he will take him to Lord Denethor when the summons come: “The Darkness has begun. There will be no dawn.” [5.I.]
What happened in the movie:
Gandalf and Pippin travel in great haste. When they reach Minas Tirith, they ride straight to the Citadel; normal life is going on in the streets, no evacuation of civilians has been taken place. In front of the court, Pippin notices a dead tree by a fountain; he recognises it as the tree he saw in his vision in the palantír. Gandalf tells him that it’s the tree of the Kings; but, lord Denethor, whom they are going to meet, is no king, but a steward. Gandalf also warns Pippin to not talk too much, especially to say nothing about Frodo’s task or Aragorn.
Denethor receives them in the throne room. When Gandalf greets him and says that he has come with counsel and tidings, the Steward shows him the horn of Boromir, cloven in two, and asks very sourly if Gandalf then perhaps can explain it. Before the wizard can say or do anything, Pippin steps forth, and tells that Boromir fell defending him and his kinsman against an orc attack. He kneels and offers his service to Denethor in payment of this debt. Denethor doesn’t make the hobbit swear fealty to him yet, but orders him to tell how it was possible for him to escape but not for Boromir.
Gandalf soon pushes Pippin aside, inquires Denethor why nothing has been done to prepare the city for war, and urges him to order the beacons to be lit to call help from Rohan. Denethor asks him if he thinks that the eyes of the Tower are blind – he has seen more than the wizard knows, and that he knows about Aragorn and his identity. He directly accuses Gandalf for an attempt to supplant him; he doesn’t bow for some upstart from the North, the rule of Gondor is his and his alone. Infuriated and frustrated, the wizard marches out, followed by Pippin.
In the courtyard, Gandalf gives Pippin a short introduction to the decline of Gondor. He tells how the Kings made tombs more splendid than the houses of the living, and counted old names in the rolls of their descent dearer than the names of their sons. Childless lords sat in aged halls musing of heraldry, or kept asking questions of the stars. Finally the line of the kings died out, the White Tree withered, and the rule of the realm was given to the Stewards. The Tree has been left standing in its place in a faint hope that it one day should bloom again.
Looking east from the walls, Pippin and Gandalf see dark clouds of smoke rising from Mordor. Gandalf explains that they are of Sauron’s make, to block the sunlight that his orcs can’t tolerate. In the evening, when Pippin and Gandalf are discussing in their lodgings, the clouds have already reached the city. Gandalf tells the hobbit that there are not just orcs and humans fighting for Sauron, but also a most terrible creature: the Witch-king of Angmar, the lord of the Nazgûl, who cannot be killed by any living man.
The next day, Pippin swears fealty to Denethor.
- The throne room is almost exactly as described in the book: Monoliths of black marble, no hangings or tapestries, no items made of wood, just the statues of the ancient kings which remind Pippin of the Argonath; the throne on a high dais, and the Steward’s seat, black and unadorned, at the foot of the dais.
- Also the plan of Minas Tirith, with the gates of the successive circles at the opposite ends and the keel-shaped cliff, is very true to the book.
- Gandalf’s talk about the decline of Gondor is almost word to word spoken by Faramir to Frodo in “The Window on the West” in The Two Towers.
Differences / mistakes:
- In the book, Pippin and Gandalf only travel by night to avoid being seen. In the movie, they travel by full daylight.
- In the book, the banner of the Stewards is described as plain white. The banner seen in the movie has the heraldic symbols of Gondor in it.
- Denethor has no rod in the movie. Instead, he has a prominent seal ring which Pippin has to kiss as a part of his oath of fealty.
- In the book, Pippin doesn’t get a uniform until the next day. In the movie, he is already examining it in the first evening in their quarters; later it turns out that it had belonged to Faramir when he was a boy. In the movie, he also gets a sword with the uniform; in the book, he has his own sword from the Barrow-downs.
- In the book, Pippin is sworn to Denethor’s service immediately; in the movie, he doesn’t swear fealty until the next day.
- 3.01. The Departure of Boromir
Our Gallery has has screencaps of the theatrical version, as well as the extended edition.
A transcript of 'The Lord Of the Rings: The Return of the King' can be found in our Film Fun & Facts section.
A summary of 'The Lord Of the Rings: The Return of the King' can be found in Elrond's Library.
Some articles that are related to this sequence:
- The Middle-earth Section of Elrond's Library has articles about Peregrin Took, The Stewards and the Royal Family of Gondor and Denethor, Son of Ecthelion.
There's also a family tree of the House of Stewards.
Forum threads related to this sequence:
- You can discuss this sequence in detail in ROTK Sequence by Sequence #4: Minas Tirith / Denethor / The Beacons and ROTK EE Sequence by Sequence # 3: Minas Tirith in the Movies Forum. This Forum also has a thread about Denethor and Merry & Pippin: Comic Relief or Indepedent Characters.
- The Book Forum has threads about Denethor, Tragic Character Flaws and Pippin.
- The Book Club discusses this chapter here.
Take a look at how some artists saw this part in the book:
- Gandalf, Pippin and Shadowfax by Michelucci
- The White Rider by Katherine Chmiel
- In Haste to the City by Ted Nasmith
- Shadowfax Speeds Gandalf and Pippin to Minas Tirith by John Howe
- Minas Tirith by John Howe
- Minas Tirith 02 by John Howe
- Minas Tirith by Pauline Baynes
- Minas Tirith, the White Tower of Gondor by Graham Bence
- Minas Tirth by J.R.R. Tolkien
- At the Court of the Fountain by Ted Nasmith
- Lord Denethor by Alan Lee
- Pippin Swears Fealty to Denethor by Douglas Beekman
- Bergil by Stefano Baldo
- Visiting Shadowfax by Anke Eissmann
Looking for something more creative - you may find it here: