Battle of the Pelennor Fields

Battle of the Pelennor Fields

Infobox Me battle

location= Pelennor Fields and Minas Tirith
date= 15 March, ME-date|TA|3019
result= Victory for the Men of the West
books= "The Lord of the Rings"
("The Return of the King")
adaptations= See below
combatant1= Gondor, Rohan, Dúnedain of the North
combatant2= Mordor, Harad, Rhûn, Khand
participants1= Gandalf, Éomer, Éowyn, Aragorn, Imrahil, Merry, Denethor†, Théoden†, Halbarad
participants2= Witch-king of Angmar† and other Nazgûl, Gothmog

In J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy fiction, the Battle of the Pelennor Fields is the battle for the city of Minas Tirith between the forces of Gondor and its allies, and the forces of the Dark Lord Sauron. Tolkien recounts this battle in "The Return of the King", the third volume of his 1954-55 novel "The Lord of the Rings" as originally printed.

The battle was the largest and most important of the War of the Ring, the war in which the Third Age of Middle-earth comes to a close. It takes place on 15 March, T.A. 3019 in the Pelennor Fields, the townlands and fields between Minas Tirith and the River Anduin.

The concept and history of composition of the battle is detailed in the fourth volume of "The History of the Lord of the Rings".


The city of Minas Tirith was besieged following the fall of Osgiliath and the Rammas Echor, Gondor's final barriers against the forces of Mordor. In the retreat to the city, Faramir, son of Denethor, Steward of Gondor, was severely wounded. Since the despairing Steward refused to leave his son's side, the Wizard Gandalf took command of the city's defences. Meanwhile, the enemy forces assembled before the city on the Pelennor Fields. The Great Darkness blotted out the sun.ME-ref|rotk|"The Siege of Gondor"] The Nazgûl, Sauron's most feared servants, flew over the battlefield on fell beasts, causing the defenders' morale to waver.

After repeated futile attacks by catapults and siege towers, Sauron's forces were able to breach the city gate using the giant battering ram Grond. The Witch-king entered alone at dawn and was confronted by Gandalf. However, at that moment the Rohirrim arrived and charged into battle.


Sauron's army from Minas Morgul, led by the Witch-king of Angmar (chief of the Nazgûl or Ringwraiths) greatly outnumbered the combined armies of Gondor and its allies. Sauron's forces included Southrons of Harad (or Haradrim), who brought elephantine beasts called "mûmakil" {or "Oliphaunts"), Easterlings from Rhûn and Variags from Khand, as well as great numbers of Orcs and Trolls. Tolkien describes the army as the greatest to "issue from that vale since the days of Isildur's might, no host so fell and strong in arms had yet assailed the fords of Anduin; and yet it was but one and not the greatest of the hosts that Mordor now sent forth." [ME-ref|ttt|"The Stairs of Cirith Ungol"]

The defenders' numbers were considerably less. Tolkien writes that Faramir is outnumbered by ten times at Osgiliath, where he loses one third of his men. Tolkien gives a catalogue of companies from outlying provinces of Gondor that come to the aid of Minas Tirith.ME-ref|rotk|"Minas Tirith"] Prominent among them was a contingentME-ref|rotk|"The Last Debate"] led by Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth, Denethor's brother-in-law. The total contingent of allies was smaller than expected since Gondor's coastal towns were being attacked by the Corsairs of Umbar.

A cavalry army from Rohan, Gondor's ally, ME-ref|rotk|"The Muster of Rohan"] arrived at dawn the next day - whereupon the battle proper began. The Men of Rohan (Rohirrim) were "thrice outnumbered by the Haradrim alone".

Reinforcements from the coastal towns of Gondor later sailed on Corsair ships to the city. They had been relieved and were now led by Aragorn, a man with a claim to the throne of Gondor due to his decent from the Kings of Arnor. He also led a small forceME-ref|rotk|"The Passing of the Grey Company"] of Rangers of the North, representing Arnor.ME-ref|rotk|"The Battle of the Pelennor Fields"]

The battle

The battle begins immediately following Gandalf's denying the Witch-king's entry into the city.

After breaking the gate with Grond, the Witch-king rode "under the archway that no enemy ever yet had passed."ME-ref|rotk|"The Siege of Gondor"] Gandalf, with Shadowfax, alone stood in his way. But before the two could fight, the Rohirrim arrived. Dawn broke, and the battle proper began. The Rohirrim had bypassed Sauron's lookouts thanks to the mysterious Wild Men (Drúedain) of Drúadan Forest. Charging the ranks of Mordor, the Rohirrim secured the outer wall. They destroyed siege engines and camps, and drove off Haradrim cavalry. The Witch-king (on his winged fell beast) went straight for Théoden. The king's horse was killed by a dart, and it fell and crushed the king.

The King's niece Éowyn (disguised as Dernhelm, a man) challenged the Witch-king. In the ensuing combat she was gravely injured. The Hobbit Meriadoc Brandybuck, who had accompanied "Dernhelm", intervened and stabbed the Witch-king with his Barrow-blade, an enchanted sword. The Witch-king was bitterly wounded due to that particular sword's special magic. Éowyn then "drove her sword between crown and mantle", slaying him. This was a fulfilment of Glorfindel's prophecy following the fall of Arnor that the Witch-king would not die "by the hand of man". [ME-ref|rotk|Appendix A, "Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion"] Both weapons that struck his undead flesh were destroyed as well.

Théoden died without realizing his niece was present. Her brother Éomer, now the king, discovered their bodies. Furious, he charged his cavalry without order into the enemy forces. Meanwhile, nearly every fighting man had left Minas Tirith to join the battle, led by Imrahil and other local captains. Imrahil rode up to Éowyn and found she still lived. She and Merry were sent to be healed in the city. The Ringwraith's Black Breath had made them both gravely ill, as with Faramir earlier. Their arms were left numb and cold after striking the Witch-king, and Éowyn's other arm was broken in the mêlée.

Before the Rohirrim arrived, Denethor prepared to burn himself and his son upon a funeral pyre, believing Faramir to be beyond cure. Only the intervention of the Hobbit Pippin Took, a guard named Beregond, and Gandalf saved Faramir, but Denethor immolated himself before they could stop him.ME-ref|rotk|"The Pyre of Denethor"] Tolkien indirectly states that Théoden's death could have been prevented if Gandalf had helped the Rohirrim instead, as he had intended.

The battle yet turned against Gondor and their allies, despite the growing daylight. Gothmog, lieutenant of Minas Morgul, brought forward reinforcements, and the forces of Mordor rallied around the "mûmakil". Éomer was surrounded, and as he prepared to make a last stand, he saw a fleet of enemy ships with black sails sailing up the River Anduin. They were the ships of the Corsairs of Umbar, seemingly more of Sauron's reinforcements, but manned by Aragorn and his Rangers of the North, Gimli the Dwarf, Legolas the Elf, the Half-elven brothers Elladan and Elrohir and troops from south Gondor. (Later in the book, Legolas and Gimli relate how the Dead Men of Dunharrow, commanded by Aragorn, captured the ships from the Corsairs chiefly through fear.) [ME-ref|rotk] Much of Sauron's forces were pinned between Aragorn and Éomer's forces. The tide of battle turned in favour of Gondor, yet fighting lasted until the end of the day. A brief respite was won until the Battle of the Black Gate.



Various artists have illustrated the battle or elements of it, including Alan Lee, John Howe, the Brothers Hildebrandt, and Ted Nasmith.


The Led Zeppelin song "The Battle of Evermore" appears to be mostly about The Battle of the Pelennor Fields. It appears on Led Zeppelin's untitled fourth album.


In this BBC radio series, the Battle of the Pelennor Fields is heard from two sides, the first being mainly Pippin's. One hears him discussing with Denethor, and like in the book, he has to find Gandalf to prevent Denethor from burning Faramir. This part is very similar to the book. The second side is the battle itself. Théoden's speech is declaimed, followed by music. A vocalist sings how the Rohirrim host rides forth and attacks the forces of darkness. Then the vocalism changes again and one hears Jack May and Anthony Hyde, voicing respectively Théoden and Éomer, saying a Nazgûl is coming. The 'opera' begins again, stating the Witch-king attacks Théoden, smacks him down and prepares to kill him. The vocalism ends here, then one hears Éowyn facing the Witch-king and slaying him.

Live-action film

The battle is the major centrepiece of Peter Jackson's film "". In the battle proper, importance is given to the arrival of the Rohirrim, the combat with the Oliphaunts, and the death of the Witch-king and the added presence of the Dead Men of Dunharrow on the field.

The enemy officer Gothmog, the Witch-king's field commander, is interpreted as a grotesquely misshapen Orc.

The siege of the city begins with the Orc army of about 250,000 Orcs and evil MenME-fact|date=March 2008 throwing severed heads of Gondorian soldiers into the city with siege engines, as in the book. Gandalf acts as the general of Minas Tirith and oversees the defence. Unlike the book, siege towers filled with Orcs manage to reach the wall and Gandalf leads the Gondorians in fighting off the Orcs. The Orcs are later joined by the Nazgûl who destroy Minas Tirith's trebuchets. Eventually the city gates are broken by Grond, and deviating from the book, the armies of Mordor enter the city and the defenders fall back in rout to the upper levels of the city.

As dawn breaks, Théoden and the Rohirrim arrive and rout the Orcs. Unlike the book, the film makes it clear beforehand that Éowyn has ridden secretly with the others; she does not use the alias "Dernhelm". The Rohirrim then face "mûmakil". Théoden orders a second charge against these, which results in many casualties. Nevertheless the Rohirrim bring down some beasts with arrows and spears.

As Théoden is marshaling riders for a third charge, the Witch-king bowls Théoden and his horse over with his fell beast. He is armed with a huge flail (instead of the book's mace) and a sword. Éowyn then faces him. She reveals herself as a woman just before giving the Witch-king the fatal blow, whereas in the book she reveals her true nature before they fight. She and Théoden exchange words before the latter dies (in the book Théoden talks to Merry, not Éowyn, before dying).

Aragorn arrives on the Corsair ships accompanied by only Legolas and Gimli and the "Army of the Dead" (a term Tolkien does not use), and go on the attack. Sauron's forces are soon defeated. The Dead, invincible and unstoppable, kill Sauron's forces on the field and in Minas Tirith (this is a significant deviation from the book -- if the Army of the Dead could pose a threat to Sauron's forces, he would have certainly plotted his strategy to account for them).

Following the battle, Aragorn dismisses the Dead by declaring their oath to the King of Gondor fulfilled– but only after a scene of silent hesitation, where Gimli suggests that they keep them for their usefulness.

The Extended Edition of the film expands on the involvement of some characters. New scenes depict both Éowyn and Merry fighting the Orcs and Haradrim on foot, as well as a brief fight between Éowyn and Gothmog in which the latter is wounded, and later killed by Aragorn and Gimli. put the battle on a list of best and worst battle scenes in film, where it appeared twice: one of the best before the Army of the Dead arrives, and one of the worst after that, dubbing the battle's climax an "oversimplified cop out" as a result of their involvement. [ - The Screening Room. [ "The best -- and worst -- movie battle scenes."] Last retrieved November 20, 2007.]

Concept and creation

"Sauron Defeated", the fourth volume of "The History of the Lord of the Rings", part of the "History of Middle-earth" series, contains superseded versions of the battle. Some changes of detail are apparent. For example, Théoden dies by a projectile to the heart instead of being crushed by his horse; when Éowyn reveals her sex she has cut her hair short, a detail absent from the final version. Tolkien also considered killing off both Théoden and Éowyn. [ME-ref|IX]

Critical response

The battle has been analyzed in various publications.

"War and the Works of J.R.R. Tolkien" by Tolkien scholar Janet Brennan Croft examines the influence of World War I and II on Tolkien's fantasy writings, and the development of his attitude towards war. [cite book |last= Croft|first= Janet Brennan|title=War and the Works of J.R.R. Tolkien |year= 2004|publisher= Praeger Publishers |isbn= 0-41-593890-2 [ Overview/review page] ]

Michael D. C. Drout's "Tolkien's Prose Style and its Literary and Rhetorical Effects", featured in the academic journal "Tolkien Studies", published by West Virginia University Press, analyzes Tolkien's writing style and deduces influence from and parallels with "King Lear". Drout also writes about the evolution of events in the narrative using material from the "History of Middle-earth" series. [cite journal |last=Drout |first=Michael D. C. |authorlink= Michael D. C. Drout |title= Tolkien's Prose Style and its Literary and Rhetorical Effects |journal= Tolkien Studies |volume=1 |issue=1 |date= 2004 |pages= 137–163 |url=|accessdate=2007-07-31 |doi= 10.1353/tks.2004.0006]

The events of the battle are also analyzed in "Fantasy: The Liberation of Imagination" by Richard Matthews, which explores "how fantasy uses the elements of enchantment and the supernatural to explode everyday reality and create profound insights into essential human realities." [ [ book description for "Fantasy: The Liberation of Imagination"] ] [cite book |last= Matthews |first= Richard |title= Fantasy: The Liberation of Imagination|year= 2002|publisher= 2002|isbn= 0-41-593890-2]


ee also

*Middle-earth warfare

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