Literature Study GuidesThe Lord Of The RingsThe Return Of The King Book 5 Chapter 1 Summary

The Lord of the Rings | Study Guide

J.R.R. Tolkien

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The Lord of the Rings | The Return of the King (Book 5, Chapter 1) : Minas Tirith | Summary



Gandalf and Pippin have ridden to Gondor and can now see the beacons of Gondor (large fires lit at intervals across the land signaling Gondor's need for help from its allies) are lit. The two travelers enter the walls of the city of Minas Tirith and go to see Denethor, the Steward of Gondor, to give him news—including news of his son Boromir's death. Because the stewards only govern the kingdom in the king's absence, Gandalf warns Pippin to keep news of Aragorn quiet for now, because Denethor might not appreciate being told he may lose power.

Gandalf and Pippin enter the throne room where Denethor is seated—not on the throne, but on a chair near it. He is in a bad mood because he has already received news of Boromir's death. He questions Pippin about Boromir's death, and Pippin, in return for Boromir's sacrifice on his behalf, swears loyalty to Denethor. After talking with Denethor, Pippin goes off to acquaint himself with the city, and Gandalf leaves to take care of other business.

Pippin meets another soldier of Gondor, Beregond, who helps him find his way. Everywhere Pippin looks, preparations are being made for war. When Beregond must attend to other matters, he sends his son Bergil to take over as Pippin's guide. That night, Pippin is asleep when Gandalf finally returns.


This chapter begins and ends in darkness. As Pippin rides with Gandalf, the world is dark around him: "[he] could see nothing but the wheeling stars, and away to his right vast shadows against the sky." And at the end of the day, Gandalf grimly notes, "The Darkness has begun. There will be no dawn." Tolkien uses darkness and light as symbolic representations of good and evil, and suggests the evil of Mordor has reached such a height of power, it can overshadow even the light of the rising sun. Tolkien has also used the rising sun to represent new hope, as at the Battle of the Hornburg. So again, the fight against evil must continue with or without hope.

The city of Minas Tirith reflects the virtues of the race of Men—strong, proud, standing tall against the darkness of Mordor, to which it is adjacent. Its seven levels reflect the "seven stars and seven stones" brought to Middle-earth by the Men of Westernesse.

The concept of stewardship is developed in this chapter as Denethor articulates his duty as steward to rule Gondor unless (or until) the "king should come again." A steward takes care of another's property in that person's absence. Gandalf, taking up this concept, says, "But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care ... For I also am a steward."

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