Death in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields

Paisid Map Aramphongphan '07, English 65, Fantasy, Brown University, 2003

In Tolkien's The Return of the King, the people of Gondor and Rohan suffer many losses in the battle against the power of the dark lord, Sauron. Éomer, son of Théoden, bears a particularly personal loss. After seeing his father succumb to death, Éomer notices his sister's body, lying still. Because he believes that she, too, has died, the sight devastates him greatly.

And he looked at the slain, recalling their names. Then suddenly he beheld his sister Éowyn as she lay, and he knew her. He stood a moment as a man who is pierced in the midst of a cry by an arrow through the heart; and then his face went deathly white, and a cold fury rose in him, so that all speech failed him for a while. A fey mood took him.

"Éowyn, Éowyn!" he cried at last. "Éowyn, how come you here? What madness or devilry is this? Death, death, death! Death take us all!"

Then without taking counsel or waiting for the approach of the men of the City, he spurred headlong back to the front of the great host, and blew a horn, and cried aloud for the onset. Over the field rang his clear voice calling: "Death! Ride, ride to the ruin and the world's ending!"

And with that the host began to move. But the Rohirrim sang no more. Death they cried with one voice loud and terrible, and gathering speed like a great tide their battle swept about their fallen king and passed, roaring away southwards. [p.826]

Discussion Questions

1. Why does Tolkien repeat the word death again and again many times? What effect does this create?

2. Tolkien also uses the word and repeatedly. What sentence structure does he use the most in the quoted passage? Why?

3. Death figures prominently in the battle of the Pelennor Fields. Why do you think Tolkien emphasizes death and its effects in narrating the battle?


Tolkien, J.R.R. The Lord of the Rings. Houghton Mifflin, Boston: 1966.

Victorian Web Overview J. R. R. Tolkien Victorian courses

Last modified 1 March 2004