Literature Study GuidesThe Lord Of The RingsThe Return Of The King Book 5 Chapter 3 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 3) : The Muster of Rohan | Summary



Théoden, Merry, Éomer, and the Riders of Rohan ride quickly. When they find out that Aragorn has gone by the Paths of the Dead, they do not have much hope he will survive. A messenger from Gondor arrives and gives Théoden a red arrow—the sign from Gondor that their need is very great. Théoden promises to bring soldiers who will arrive in about a week. The messenger thinks this may be too late to be any help, but Théoden's forces can't travel any faster.

The following morning, Merry awakes to darkness and prepares to leave with Théoden. But Théoden instructs him to stay in Rohan and help Éowyn run things while he is away. Neither Éowyn nor Merry are happy with this arrangement, but later, a young soldier named Dernhelm offers to let Merry ride with him on his horse. Despite the fact he was ordered to stay behind, he takes Dernhelm up on this offer.


This chapter begins, "Now all roads were running together to the East to meet the coming of war and the onset of the Shadow." Pippin and Gandalf will see the "onset of the Shadow" from Minas Tirith as the darkness comes that will obscure the dawn. Aragorn and those who accompany him go by the Paths of the Dead to meet that same shadow. And back among Théoden and the Riders of Rohan, Merry will awake to a sunless day in which "[t]he very air seemed brown, and all things about were black and grey and shadowless." The shadow, explains the messenger from Gondor, comes from Mordor: "I saw it rise and creep across the sky ... eating up the stars. Now the great cloud hangs over all the land."

The Lord of the Rings is full of people who have premonitions and prophetic visions, especially those with ties to Elves or of a royal line of Men. Théoden is no exception, as he says of Aragorn, "my heart tells me that I shall not see him again." Indeed, this will prove true, though not in exactly the way Éowyn seems to think—that Aragorn is lost and will not return.

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