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March 14, S.R. 1419 (T.A. 3019)

The Tale of Years for today:

  1. Samwise finds Frodo in the Tower. Minas Tirith is besieged. The Rohirrim led by the Wild Men come to the Grey Wood.

This and the following date, March 15th, are both mentioned explicitly in The Lord of the Rings to provide the reader with an anchor to the calendar as Frodo and Sam escape the Tower of Cirith Ungol—even though the characters themselves have lost track of the date. Today’s date is mentioned near the beginning of ‘The Tower of Cirith Ungol’:

‘I wonder if they think of us at all,’ [Sam] said, ‘and what is happening to them all away there.’ He waved his hand vaguely in the air before him; but he was in fact now facing southwards, as he came back to Shelob’s tunnel, not west. Out westward in the world it was drawing to noon upon the fourteenth day of March in the Shire-reckoning. And even now Aragorn was leading the black fleet from Pelargir, and Merry was riding with the Rohirrim down the Stonewain Valley, while in Minas Tirith flames were rising and Pippin watched the madness growing in the eyes of Denethor. Yet amid all their cares and fear the thoughts of their friends turned constantly to Frodo and Sam. They were not forgotten. But they were far beyond aid, and no thought could yet bring any help to Samwise Hamfast’s son; he was utterly alone.

The Shire-Reckoning · Mar 14 · 5:50 am

On this fifth morning of darkness, great catapults are hauled within range of the first circle of Minas Tirith. Aiming over the walls, rather than at them, they fling flames into the City, as well as the heads of the men who fell fighting in Osgiliath and in the retreat.

Though it is still dark as Théoden ponders whether to follow Ghân-buri-Ghân into the hills, the chieftain himself asserts that the Sun has indeed risen:

‘Who knows?’ said Théoden. ‘All is night now.’

‘It is all dark, but it is not all night.’ said Ghân. ‘When Sun comes we feel her, even when she is hidden. Already she climbs over East-mountains. It is the opening of day in the sky-fields.’

This lets us place their debate at least a few minutes after dawn.

The Shire-Reckoning · Mar 14 · 6:45 am

Scouts find Orcs blocking the road, readying trenches and stakes against a cavalry attack. King Théoden decides to follow Ghân-buri-Ghân, a Drúadan, on a path around the Orcs: ‘Road is forgotten, but not by Wild Men. Over hill and behind hill it lies still under grass and tree.’

The Shire-Reckoning · Mar 14 · 7:31 am

While Aragorn and his friends rested overnight from their five-day ride, thousands of southern Gondor’s armed men have heard the rumour of the Heir of Isildur and have reached Pelargir. Now he embarks with them in the captured ships. They row north against the Anduin’s current.

The Shire-Reckoning · Mar 14 · 10:15 am

Pippin spends the day on duty, standing terrified by the door as Faramir burns with fever and Denethor sits weeping—refusing to rise even as men call desperately for the Lord of the City.

Gandalf and the Prince of Dol Amroth take command of the City’s final defence.

The Shire-Reckoning · Mar 14 · 11:45 am

Sam wakes, still in the Orc-passage under the fortress of Cirith Ungol. He resolves to attempt Frodo’s rescue. Not knowing when the under-gate might open again, he starts climbing back down the stairs to return to the Cleft, enter Mordor, and find the fortress’s front gates.

The Shire-Reckoning · Mar 14 · 12:35 pm

Wearing the Ring one last time, Sam hears Orcs fighting. He takes it off, crosses the Cleft, and sees two Orcs shot down as they run from the fortress. He grasps the Phial and pushes past the gate’s Watchers, who cry aloud. ‘That’s done it! Now I’ve rung the front-door bell!’

The Shire-Reckoning · Mar 14 · 1:09 pm

Sam is surprised to find the fortress full of dead Orcs, following a dispute between its garrison and the patrol from Minas Morgul that found Frodo—presumably over who claims the mithril-coat.

Sam starts a cautious search for his master. Many passages still have torches burning.

The Shire-Reckoning · Mar 14 · 2:35 pm

Following a small Orc upstairs, Sam reaches the highest tier of the tower. He watches its wounded captain kill the last of the Orcs from Minas Morgul. The captain escapes past him, carrying a bundle of items taken from Frodo: his mithril-coat, his elven-cloak, and Sam’s sword.

The Shire-Reckoning · Mar 14 · 4:20 pm

It’s afternoon as Théoden and the Rohirrim emerge from the hills and return to the main road. They decide to rest, and ride late tonight to reach Minas Tirith at dawn. They thank Ghân-buri-Ghân.

Before vanishing into the forest, Ghân-buri-Ghân sniffs the air. ‘Wind is changing!’

The Shire-Reckoning · Mar 14 · 5:45 pm

Sam has thoroughly searched the tower, but can’t find Frodo. As the last torch goes out, leaving him in the dark, he sings.

‘…Above all shadows rides the Sun,
and Stars for ever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done,
nor bid the Stars farewell.’

An Orc hears him singing.

The Shire-Reckoning · Mar 14 · 5:47 pm

‘You up there, stop your squeaking!’ While Sam watches, the small Orc enters, raises a ladder to a trap-door, and climbs up to a secret room. Sam hears a whip crack. He scales the ladder and cuts off the Orc’s hand before the whip can fall a second time across Frodo’s body.

The Shire-Reckoning · Mar 14 · 5:49 pm

The Orc falls through the trap-door, breaking its neck. The hobbits are alone. Sam amazes Frodo by returning the Ring—Frodo thought it had been captured!

Sam suggests that they might ‘share’ the Ring’s burden from now on. Frodo calls Sam a ‘thief’, but then apologizes.

The Shire-Reckoning · Mar 14 · 9:25 pm

In the darkness, the men of Aragorn’s fleet see a red glow along the bottom of the clouds ahead: Minas Tirith, burning.

The Shire-Reckoning · Mar 14 · 11:58 pm

At midnight, there is growing excitement among the sea-crafty men on Aragorn’s ships, rowing slowly up the Anduin against the current: the wind is about to change!

Soon the ships are hoisting sail and white foam is breaking at their prows, thanks to a brisk wind from the Sea.

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