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The Lord of the Rings | Study Guide

J.R.R. Tolkien

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The Lord of the Rings | The Two Towers (Book 3, Chapter 6) : The King of the Golden Hall | Summary

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Summary

Gandalf, Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas arrive at Edoras, but the guards outside Théoden's Golden Hall are strangely suspicious and unfriendly. Háma, Théoden's doorwarden, demands they leave their weapons at the door before entering, which they are reluctant to do. Gandalf is permitted to keep his staff.

Inside the hall, they find Théoden in bad shape. Bent and feeble, he insults Gandalf, saying he only brings bad news. It becomes clear the king's adviser, Gríma Wormtongue, is encouraging Théoden's defeatist attitude. Gandalf uses his magic to silence Wormtongue and has some harsh words for him, exposing him as a thief, manipulator, and agent of Saruman. Gandalf and Théoden send Wormtongue away to join Saruman, if he dares confront the wizard's displeasure at his failing. Théoden, freed from Wormtongue's influence, seems to regain his former strength and courage.

Éomer, who had been imprisoned on the ill advice of Wormtongue, is released, and they all prepare for war against Saruman. Éowyn, the king's niece, is to be left in charge while the Men go to battle. She is not pleased.

Analysis

It is imperative that Gandalf convince Théoden to rise up against Saruman, because if Saruman conquers Rohan, Gondor will be caught between Saruman and Sauron as they battle for ultimate power. This is why the treachery of Gríma Wormtongue is so destructive: it causes Théoden to remain passive when he should be actively defending his realm.

Gandalf advises Théoden to give Wormtongue a choice, and to judge him by the choice he makes. Wormtongue's true nature is revealed when he chooses to flee to Saruman. This suggests a person's true nature is shown by the choices he or she makes. Gandalf presents Théoden with two choices: to slay Wormtongue, which would be just; or to have mercy on him and let him make his choice. Gandalf's advice is to show mercy, and Théoden agrees. This suggests mercy, not justice, is the more virtuous path. By being merciful, Théoden is shown as a virtuous king. This demonstration of mercy brings to mind Gandalf's previous discussion with Frodo about Bilbo taking pity on Gollum. When Bilbo took pity on Gollum and decided not to kill him, he unknowingly set the course for the Ring's eventual destruction and the accomplishment of the quest.

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