This chapter title would make a good name for a record album. (Well, if we still had record albums.)
The Return of the King, Book 5, Chapter 5: The Ride of the Rohirrim
Chapter synopsis: The host of Rohan rides quickly towards Gondor for four days. One night Merry listens to Théoden and Éomer talking to Ghân-buri-Ghân, a chieftain of the Wild Men of the nearby woods. Orcs seem to have waylaid the road towards Minas Tirith, and Ghân offers to show them a long-abandoned and unknown path through the forest. Thus they come unchallenged to the field of Gondor, for all the enemies are busy assailing the city walls. Just when the armies of Mordor are attacking the gates with their great ram, Théoden blows a signal with his horn and the Rohirrim charge into attack
This is an odd (and short) chapter. We start off not knowing of any complications in Rohan’s ride to Minas Tirith; then we realize that it’s not going to be so easy. Wild Men surround them. An army from Mordor is setting up an ambush. Before we get very far with either of these complications, the men of Rohan are quickly given a solution: the wild men want to be friends, and they can take a shortcut. Meanwhile, before we find out about any of this, we have already established with the last sentence of the last chapter that Rohan makes it to Minas Tirith safely.
Personally I think it would have been better if the last Merry chapter would have been extended to include the beginning of this one: end it with the Riders of Rohan in peril, thinking the woses are going to get them, and setting up exposition about the ambush. Not only would their arrival at Minas Tirith become more dramatic, this chapter would answer the riddle of how they got through… sort of like reading about the riddles Merry and Pippin set up for Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas, and then learning the answers.
Anyway, it’s still a good chapter (even if it’s only nine pages or so). It’s nice to see what the Riders have been up to, and it’s fun to learn about what’s going on in Minas Tirith from another perspective: from afar. Tolkien’s also very clever with the shifting of the wind, which would come into play in future chapters.
This chapter is largely cut from the movie, the decision made to jump from the Muster to the Rohirrim’s arrival at Minis Tirith without anything in-between. The speech made by Théoden is well done, however, and might be Bernard Hill’s finest moment in the films. The charge is an amazing piece of real-life/CGI melding, a perfect beginning to the following battle sequence.
Rankin/Bass’s Take: (Drew’s Take)
The Rankin/Bass movie completely omits this chapter.