Category: Witch King

‘Not by the hand of man will he fall’ – Prophecy and End of Kings

One of the most enduring moments of the Lord of the Rings is Eowyn’s slaying of the Witch King and fulfilling the Prophecy of Glorfindel, but where did this prophecy come from? During the Witch King’s conquest of Arnor, King Eärnil II sent his son Prince Eärnur with a small army to help defend their ally. Eärnur’s army merged with an Elven host under Glorfindel, and the Host of the West met the Witch King’s army at Fornost. During the battle the Witch King rode issuing a challenge of single combat to Eärnur, who accepted the challenge, but the Witch King’s malice and intimidating aura frightened the Gondorian horses, and Eärnur’s horse fled in fear – taking the Prince with him. The Witch King mocked him for this, and as Glorfindel’s army came the Witch King escaped the battle. Eärnur regained control of his horse and wanted to chase them, but Glorfindel warned against it prophesying “Do not pursue him! He will not return to this land. Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall”. Eärnur did not pursue, and though the battle was won his pride was hurt, and ultimately Arnor was destroyed. Mordor soon took Minas Ithil, Gondor’s chief position in Mordor, and made it into Minas Morgul, a fortress of dark sorcery. Eärnur came to the throne after the death of his father, and upon his ascension to the throne the Witch King, now based in Minas Morgul, issued his challenge again. Eärnur wished to fight him but was held back by his steward Mardil. Years later the Witch King issued another challenge, but this time Eärnur accepted. He left the Crown of Gondor on his father’s tomb, gathered an escort of knights and rode to Minas Morgul. He and his escort were never seen or heard from again. There was no heir and nobody claimed the throne. The line was broken and nobody wanted to risk another Kin-Strife. So began the Ruling Stewards as the caretakers of the throne, and the Crown of Gondor remained in the tombs until the Fourth Age and the coronation of King Elessar. Glorfindel’s prophecy remained part of legend and gave the Witch King more infamy. Hundred years later, During the Battle of Pelennor Fields in the War of the Ring, Merry the Hobbit broke the Witch King’s armor with a barrow-blade, and Dernhelm revealed himself to be Eowyn, Shieldmaiden of Rohan, who then slew the Witch King. His doom was met by the hand of Woman and Hobbit, and thus the prophecy came to pass.

“Now the descendants of the kings had become few. Their numbers had been greatly diminished in the Kin-strife; whereas since that time the kings had become jealous and watchful of those near akin. Often those on whom suspicion fell had fled to Umbar and there joined the rebels; while others had renounced their lineage and taken wives not of Númenorean blood. So it was that no claimant to the crown could be found who was of pure blood, or whose claim all would allow; and all feared the memory of the Kin-strife, knowing that if any such dissension arose again, then Gondor would perish. Therefore, though the years lengthened, the Steward continued to rule Gondor, and the crown of Elendil lay in the lap of King Eärnil in the Houses of the Dead, where Eärnur had left it. “

– The end of the line of kings from the Third Age into the Fourth. Appendices, Annals of the Kings and Rulers, The Numenorean Kings, Of Numenor

The Houses of Healing was a large infirmary in the higher levels of Minas Tirith. As it’s name implies, it was used as a hospital for the sick and injured of Gondor. It features prominently after the Battle of Pelennor Fields. Faramir was sent here after being saved from Denethor’s attempt to burn him. Merry and

Éowyn

were also sent here after fighting the Witch King in the battle, where they both contracted the Black Shadow. Ioreth, the eldest woman working in the Houses of Healing, was worried about all three, and their fatal conditions, proclaiming that ‘The hands of the king are the hands of a healer. And so the rightful king could ever be known.’. Gandalf heard this and summoned Aragorn to the Houses to help, where Aragorn proved his kingship (and knowledge of old lore) by caring for them all with Athelas (Kingsfoil in Common tongue), the herb that healed them and could defeat the Black Shadow. While the Armies of the West marched on the Black Gate Faramir and

Éowyn

had still not left the Houses, and though

Éowyn

initially wanted to join the battle, she decided to remain with Faramir, where the two fell in love.

“So at last Faramir and Éowyn and Meriadoc were laid in beds in the Houses of Healing; and there they were tended well. For though all lore was in these latter days fallen from its fullness of old, the leechcraft of Gondor was still wise, and skilled in the healing of wound and hurt, and all such sickness as east of the Sea mortal men were subject to. Save old age only. For that they had found no cure; and indeed the span of their lives had now waned to little more than that of other men, and those among them who passed the tale of five score years with vigour were grown few, save in some houses of purer blood. But now their art and knowledge were baffled; for there were many sick of a malady that would not be healed; and they called it the Black Shadow, for it came from the Nazgûl. And those who were stricken with it fell slowly into an ever deeper dream, and then passed to silence and a deadly cold, and so died. And it seemed to the tenders of the sick that on the Halfling and on the Lady of Rohan this malady lay heavily. Still at whiles as the morning wore away they would speak, murmuring in their dreams; and the watchers listened to all that they said, hoping perhaps to learn something that would help them to understand their hurts. But soon they began to fall down into the darkness, and as the sun turned west a grey shadow crept over their faces. But Faramir burned with a fever that would not abate.“

– The wounded after the Battle of Pelennor Fields, and before Aragorn comes to the rescue. Return of the King, The Houses of Healing.

The Barrow-downs (Sindarin: Tyrn Gorthad) were a hilly area near Bree, in Eriador, that served as a graveyard for the kings of Arnor and the Edain. Initially the region was inhabited by the Edain during the First Age; the first Men in Middle Earth who fought during the War of Wrath. When the

Númenóreans

came they settled in the region and upon Elendil’s arrival the Barrow-downs were brought into the Kingdom of Arnor. During this time it became marked with large tombs and barrows for the Kings of Arnor. Arnor broke up and was ultimately destroyed by Angmar, under the Witch-King. Cardolan (The Arnorian splinter kingdom where the barrows are located) became a refuge for the

Dúnedain

fleeing south from Angmar’s conquests, they were eventually defeated and the area became desolate. In order to ensure the

Dúnedain

could not re-establish Cardolan or hide in the Barrows, the Witch-King cursed the land and sent Wights to haunt the region. During the Third Age the Barrow-downs are feared by the men of Bree and the hobbits of the Shire. Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin ventured into the Great Barrows during their quest to Rivendell. After leaving Tom Bombadil’s House they got lost in the great fog and were captured by the Wights. They awakened in one of the dark tombs, surrounded by old treasures and the chanting Wights. Frodo awoke first, broke free of the Wight’s spell, and sang Tom Bombadil’s song. Tom Bombadil broke into the tomb, banished the wights, and helped Frodo carry his companions out. He then gifted the Hobbits each a dagger from the barrows, which to them was long enough to be a sword. These swords were made by the

Númenóreans

of Arnor. The barrow-blades would serve the hobbits throughout their quest. During the Battle of Pelennor Fields the Witch-King’s armor would be undone by Merry stabbing him in the back, as only a blade of Westernesse (Númenórean) work could destroy his armor. Pippin would slay a troll during the Battle at the Black Gate. Sam lost his sword in Cirith Ungol but recovered it from Gandalf. Frodo remained with Sting.

“They heard of the Great Barrows, and the green mounds, and the stone-rings upon the hills and in the hollows among the hills. Sheep were bleating in flocks. Green walls and white walls rose. There were fortresses on the heights. Kings of little kingdoms fought together, and the young Sun shone like fire on the red metal of their new and greedy swords. There was victory and defeat; and towers fell, fortresses were burned, and flames went up into the sky. Gold was piled on the biers of dead kings and queens; and mounds covered them, and the stone doors were shut; and the grass grew over all. Sheep walked for a while biting the grass, but soon the hills were empty again. A shadow came out of dark places far away, and the bones were stirred in the mounds. Barrow-wights walked in the hollow places with a clink of rings on cold fingers, and gold chains in the wind.’ Stone rings grinned out of the ground like broken teeth in the moonlight.

The hobbits shuddered. Even in the Shire the rumour of the Barrow-wights of the Barrow-downs beyond the Forest had been heard. But it was not a tale that any hobbit liked to listen to, even by a comfortable fireside far away. These four now suddenly remembered what the joy of this house had driven from their minds: the house of Tom Bombadil nestled under the very shoulder of those dreaded hills. They lost the thread of his tale and shifted uneasily, looking aside at one another.”

 – Tom Bombadil telling the Hobbits about the regions of Eriador. Fellowship of the Ring, 

In the House of Tom Bombadil

l-o-t-r:

‘This is my hour. Do you not know Death when you see it? Die now and curse in vain!’

What else is there?

cvssian:

This is my hour!

l-o-t-r:

“Do you not know death when you see it, old man? This is MY hour! You have failed. The world of Men will fall.”

l-o-t-r:

‘This is my hour. Do you not know Death when you see it? Die now and curse in vain!’

l-o-t-r:

‘Do not pursue him! He will not return to these lands. Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man shall he fall.’

diana-prince:

Sauron has yet to reveal his deadliest servant. The one who will lead Mordor’s armies in war. The one they say no living man can kill.