It has been four days since the Rohirrim set forth to Gondor. Merry wonders why he came along when he was given every opportunity to sit it out and not be a hindrance. He’s fairly certain those riding near Dernhelm have discovered him, but they say nothing, not even looking Merry’s way when he speaks.
The Riders encounter the Woses, Wild Men of the Woods, otherwise known as the Drúedain. Merry recognizes them from carvings of Púkel-men he’s seen in drawings. Their leader, Ghân-buri-Ghân, offers to show the Riders a path through the Drúadan Forest to the Pelennor Fields. It’s slow going, but faster than the path they were taking.
When the Riders emerge from the forest, the Woses go their separate ways. Two bodies are discovered, one of them being the messenger from Gondor, still clutching the red arrow. Gondor has no idea their message was received by the Rohirrim, and thus no idea that aid is coming. This goes a long way to explaining the despair that drove Denethor to madness in the previous chapter.
Approaching the destruction at Minas Tirith, Dernhelm breaks ranks and rides closer to Théoden. A flash of light and a booming sound sparks Théoden to action. The Rohirrim rout the Orcs and their allies, the fresh wind from the sea dissipating the Darkness.
Sensing the tide of battle turn, the Black Captain enters the fight. Théoden rides in frenzy at the head of his Riders, The Southrons, or Haradrim — allies of Mordor — attack Théoden. He and Éomer, outnumbered, charge the enemy line, cutting down the Southron chieftain.
To my mind, this is the stuff of legend, the truly heroic charges of cavalry that, if being honest, Tolkien wished were a part of British history in the Middle Ages. He never quite forgave William the Conqueror and his Normans for their interference, and he was always a bit jealous of France’s flower of chivalry. What he imagined could have been is glorified here in the Rohirrim.
When the Riders are rallied to their charge, we’re given “Théoden’s Battle Cry.” If you’d like to hear Sir Christopher Lee perform this short piece, backed by the Tolkien Ensemble, click here.