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cannot enter here. . . . Go back to the abyss prepared for you!
Go back! Fall into the nothingness that awaits you and your Master.
Gandalf offers this dramatic challenge
to the Lord of the Nazgûl at the close of Book V, Chapter 4.
The old wizard confronts the Black Captain alone, recalling Gandalf’s
earlier confrontation with the Balrog in The Fellowship
of the Ring. Initially, Gandalf’s efforts fail in both
instances: earlier, the Balrog pulls the wizard into the chasm of
Khazad-dûm; here, the Black Captain sneers, turning away from Minas
Tirith only because he hears the Riders’ battle cry to the north.
Nonetheless, the image of Gandalf standing firm before the Lord
of the Nazgûl, unshaken and alone, lingers powerfully throughout The
Return of the King.
While neither of these evil beasts directly cowers before
Gandalf’s commands, they both ultimately meet their demises. In
this regard, the hand of providence or fate seems to direct events
after Gandalf makes a sacrificial gesture. Gandalf scorns the opportunity to
fight force with force, and he refrains from using his physical
or mystical powers against the Nazgûl. Instead, the wizard uses
human speech to invoke the powers of good over the powers of evil.
Gandalf speaks with authority, as though performing a priestly duty, intervening
with the unseen god or gods of Middle-earth on behalf of Minas Tirith.
Interestingly, only Pippin, who observes the standoff, knows of
the sins that Denethor, the Steward of Minas Tirith, is preparing
to commit in the Citadel as Gandalf attempts to thwart the physical
emblem of evil from entering the city.
In instructing the Lord of the Nazgûl to leave, Gandalf
presents the Black Captain with a moral choice. The wizard offers
brief redemption to the Black Captain, granting the creature the
opportunity to make a moral choice in favor of good rather than
completing the evil errand he has been sent to perform. However,
the likelihood that the violent Ringwraith, given wholly over to
evil, might change his mind because of a verbal rebuke is remote
at best. Gandalf’s words imply the assumption that the Lord of the
Nazgûl has free will when it comes to choosing between good and
evil. As servants of Sauron, however, the evil of the armies of
Mordor resides in their corruption at the hands of the Dark Lord,
their enslavement to his will, and their conviction they do not
have such a choice to turn to the side of good.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Return of the King!