A poisoned dart hits Théoden’s horse, causing the mount to rear up, and the king to fall beneath his horse. Seeing his prey broken and helpless, the Lord of the Nazgûl swoops down upon his own mount. Théoden’s guards flee in terror… save for Dernhelm. Though dazed, Merry hears Dernhelm speak and recognizes his voice as she reveals herself as Éowyn. The Witch-king’s mount strikes at her, and she cuts off its head. The Witch-king comes after her, shattering her shield and breaking her arm, but before he can strike again, Merry stabs him from behind in the leg. Calling on the last of her strength, Éowyn swipes at the Witch-king’s head with her sword. The blade shatters upon impact, and the Nazgûl’s armor falls in a heap at Éowyn’s feet. She collapses.
Say what you will about the lack of a feminine presence in Tolkien’s grand epic. In the final analysis, Éowyn turned the tide of battle with bravery unmatched and an act that no man on the battlefield could have accomplished.
Dying, Théoden appoints Éomer as his heir. Seeing his sister’s body, Éomer leads the Rohirrim in ferocious attack. The men of Minas Tirith lead their own charge from the gates, driving back the enemy. The bodies of Théoden and Éowyn are taken to the city, where it’s revealed that Éowyn is not dead after all.
The forces of Rohan and Gondor have been considerably thinned at this point, and the allies of Mordor arrive in force from Osgiliath. A fleet of black ships appears on the river, and for the briefest of moments Éomer knows he is beaten, but he is determined to go down fighting.
Then against all hope, the Standard of Elendil is unfurled from the lead ship, marking the ancient high-kingdom of Arnor, a banner that has not seen action since the days of the kings. Aragorn has arrived, wielding Andúril, the reforged legendary sword of the king, and bringing with him Legolas, Gimli, the Rangers of the North, and reinforcements from the southern kingdoms. As quickly as hope faded, it is restored once more, and the armies of Mordor fall.
As you might expect, you can’t have epic battles where epic heroes are felled and which songs are sung without Tolkien providing those songs. Thanks to Christopher Lee and The Tolkien Ensemble, we have an appropriate amount of drama added to these bits of verse. You can find those here:
This final track really captures the spirit of a Medieval choir for me. It’s one of those that, if you can’t get it live in a cathedral, it pretty much demands high quality headphones at volume.