Once more back in time that we may see how events play out in Minas Tirith. The city is awash in fear. Faramir encounters Éowyn in the Houses of Healing. While her heart’s desire is divided between Aragorn and the chance to fight against Mordor, the complex mix of sadness, pride and beauty leads Faramir to fall for her. Together they pass the days, staring into the East, seeking signs of success or failure. When the Darkness breaks, the people of the city break into song. Messengers arrive in short order, telling of Aragorn’s victory. Éowyn’s longing for war diminishes, and as she dedicates herself to the healing arts, she likewise dedicates to Faramir.
Upon Aragorn’s return, Faramir rides out of the gate and runs through the pageantry of a formal surrender of his station, which Aragorn refuses. The task of the steward, and its line, is not to be ended for as long as his own heirs sit the throne. Aragorn calls for the Ring-bearer and Gandalf. Frodo passes the ancient crown to Gandalf, who in turn places it upon Aragorn.
Minas Tirith begins to live again. Walls are restored, and the city welcomes the return of trees, fountains, and laughter. Aragorn rewards his faithful and shows mercy to those who once fought as enemies. As Gandalf explains, the Third Age of Middle-Earth has passed. Sauron has fallen, and Aragorn’s reign begins the Fourth Age, the age of Men.
Amidst a pile of debris, Aragorn finds a sapling of the great White Tree, which he takes back to the Citadel. The long dead tree is removed and laid to rest as an ancestor, the new one planted in its place, a symbol of the new beginning and of new life.
On the eve of Midsummer, Elves approach: Celeborn and Galadriel, Elrohir and Elladan, all of the Elf princes, and behind them all Elrond and Arwen. On Midsummer, King Aragorn II and Arwen are wed. For his immeasurable service and suffering, Queen Arwen offers Frodo the gift of sailing across the Great Sea to the West in her stead, where Elves will dwell in eternal youth and joy.
The entirety of this chapter is, to me, written in the style of a Medieval tale. I’m immediately called to mind to the style of Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, with nearly every sentence beginning with “And.” You could make the case of it being almost Biblical in its intent.
It wouldn’t be Tolkien if occasion such as this weren’t marked in song. When the Darkness breaks, it is the Eagles who first treat us to song. This demonstrates once more that music truly is the creative force behind Middle-Earth, and Eagles are Tolkien’s “I WIN!” button. The Eagles tell us in their song of the events that will transpire in this chapter: the coming of the King, the renewal of the withered Tree… you know, all the things that are worthy of celebration after all that back there. You can hear The Tolkien Ensemble perform “The Eagle’s Song” right here if you’d like.