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Old 08-04-2014, 12:45 PM   #1
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Question What if Gandalf the White killed the Witch King?

In the event that Gandalf the White killed the Witch King at the main gate of Minas Tirith, would this victory have been enough to drive the hosts of Mordor back in fear and disarray, leading to a quick and decisive victory in favour of Gondor? Kill the leader, and the sheep will scatter? Or would another leader step in, such as the remaining 8 Nazgul, or even the Mouth of Sauron?

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Old 08-04-2014, 12:56 PM   #2
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The Witch-king was destroyed at the hands of Éowyn, and no mass panic of Sauron's forces ensued. Why should things have been different if Gandalf had done it?
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Old 08-04-2014, 01:16 PM   #3
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The Witch-king was destroyed at the hands of Éowyn, and no mass panic of Sauron's forces ensued. Why should things have been different if Gandalf had done it?
The real battle had not started yet when Gandalf confronted the Witch King. Also, the hosts of Mordor would have been mortified with fear and amazement at seeing their so-called invincible leader falling to a superior power before their eyes. It would have mesmerised them. The Witch King was slain in the midst of battle where far fewer soldiers would have seen his fall, and there was no time to pause for reflection.

Would anyone else have had the guts to take on Gandalf the White? The Uruk Hai of Isengard fled with terror at his coming. One thing to consider is whether Gandalf would have broken the rules bestowed on the Istari to not reveal their true power against Sauron directly. In slaying the Witch King, he probably would have had to have used is true Maia powers, thus dying himself as a consequence. But that is one possibility, and Gandalf living on to fight another day to continue the battle against Sauron is another.

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Old 08-04-2014, 03:51 PM   #4
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In the event that Gandalf the White killed the Witch King at the main gate of Minas Tirith, would this victory have been enough to drive the hosts of Mordor back in fear and disarray, leading to a quick and decisive victory in favour of Gondor? Kill the leader, and the sheep will scatter? Or would another leader step in, such as the remaining 8 Nazgul, or even the Mouth of Sauron?
Had Gandalf done that, he would have defied Glorfindel's prophecy that no man could kill the Witch-King. This is something of a moot question, since Tolkien clearly wanted Eowyn as the vehicle for this.
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Old 08-04-2014, 05:30 PM   #5
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Had Gandalf done that, he would have defied Glorfindel's prophecy that no man could kill the Witch-King. This is something of a moot question, since Tolkien clearly wanted Eowyn as the vehicle for this.
That's debatable, since the prophecy, if I recall correctly, said rather than no mortal man would kill the Witch-king. Does an incarnated Istar count as a mortal man? Though Tolkien's solution of having him killed by a mortal woman is, of course, nicer.
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Old 08-04-2014, 05:41 PM   #6
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Had Gandalf done that, he would have defied Glorfindel's prophecy that no man could kill the Witch-King. This is something of a moot question, since Tolkien clearly wanted Eowyn as the vehicle for this.
Gandalf clearly was no ordinary man. Plus the prophecy of Glorfindel was just a prediction, he was not psychic. He did not predict the fall of Gandalf the Grey, only to come back as a more powerful Gandalf the White?

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That's debatable, since the prophecy, if I recall correctly, said rather than no mortal man would kill the Witch-king. Does an incarnated Istar count as a mortal man? Though Tolkien's solution of having him killed by a mortal woman is, of course, nicer.
Not forgetting the handy work of a certain hobbit.

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In the event that Gandalf the White killed the Witch King at the main gate of Minas Tirith, would this victory have been enough to drive the hosts of Mordor back in fear and disarray, leading to a quick and decisive victory in favour of Gondor? Kill the leader, and the sheep will scatter? Or would another leader step in, such as the remaining 8 Nazgul, or even the Mouth of Sauron?
I wonder if Sauron himself may have decided enough was enough, and for this to be his hour he must confront the slayer of his most powerful servant head on? Sauron versus Gandalf the White? What a titanic battle that would have been, even bigger than Gandalf the Grey versus the Balrog of Morgoth. Gandalf would have been weary from his battle with the Witch King, so Sauron couldn't have taken him on at a more opportune moment.

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Old 08-04-2014, 05:45 PM   #7
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The real battle had not started yet when Gandalf confronted the Witch King. Also, the hosts of Mordor would have been mortified with fear and amazement at seeing their so-called invincible leader falling to a superior power before their eyes. It would have mesmerised them. The Witch King was slain in the midst of battle where far fewer soldiers would have seen his fall, and there was no time to pause for reflection.
Sauron's forces were not tied to a specific field commander, even one as singular as the Witch-king. It is said more than once in the books that it was Sauron's will that drove his armies forward against all doubt and fear. Even if thousands of them had seen the WK's fall, they would not have abandoned the battle.

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Would anyone else have had the guts to take on Gandalf the White? The Uruk Hai of Isengard fled with terror at his coming. One thing to consider is whether Gandalf would have broken the rules bestowed on the Istari to not reveal their true power against Sauron directly. In slaying the Witch King, he probably would have had to have used is true Maia powers, thus dying himself as a consequence. But that is one possibility, and Gandalf living on to fight another day to continue the battle against Sauron is another.
Gandalf revealing himself "uncloaked" as the White was reserved for very special occasions, such as when he rode to rescue Faramir. It was only allowed when no other option existed. It is notable that at the confrontation at the Gate with the Witch-king he does not display any overt power. I believe Gandalf, possessing a self-acknowledged amount of foresight, could have had an idea that the WK was to soon meet his fate, though lacking the details. At any rate, Gandalf did not take to the field of battle to confront him; he only wanted to prevent him from leading his host in a sack of Minas Tirith. Gandalf had the power to destroy him, but in keeping with the limitations he worked under, still left actual fighting to others.

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That's debatable, since the prophecy, if I recall correctly, said rather than no mortal man would kill the Witch-king. Does an incarnated Istar count as a mortal man? Though Tolkien's solution of having him killed by a mortal woman is, of course, nicer.
The quote from Glorfindel in Appendix A only says "not by the hand of man will he fall".
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Old 08-04-2014, 05:53 PM   #8
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Sauron's forces were not tied to a specific field commander, even one as singular as the Witch-king. It is said more than once in the books that it was Sauron's will that drove his armies forward against all doubt and fear. Even if thousands of them had seen the WK's fall, they would not have abandoned the battle.
I did not say Mordor would just surrender as soon as the Witch King fell, but I would have expected the army of orcs to flee at the coming of Gandalf, slayer of the Balrog of Morgoth (to my mind an opponent almost level with Sauron), demolisher of Saruman, and the bane of the Lord of the Nazgul. There would still be the armed men, and trolls, and the Mumakil to deal with, not to mention the other eight remaining Nazgul.

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Old 08-04-2014, 08:51 PM   #9
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Or would another leader step in, such as the remaining 8 Nazgul, or even the Mouth of Sauron?
Are we talking about at the Pelennor itself? Given that "Gothmog, Lieutenant of Morgul" (whoever that was) stepped in as the commander - albeit seemingly a rather incompetent one whose strategy was mostly just 'throw the reserves in' and still lost - in the course of events as they actually happened, he seems to be the most likely candidate.
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Old 08-04-2014, 08:59 PM   #10
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Oh, but Gandalf did defeat the Witch King at the gate. I really love that war of words. Gandalf curses both the Nazgul and his master. The response? This is my hour. Curse now and die in vain. Except the new hour starts when the cock crows. As Gandalf did not die right then, the curse was not in vain.

The Witch King was dead. He just didn't know it yet. And arguably, the curse against his master hit home too.

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Old 08-05-2014, 11:20 AM   #11
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Are we talking about at the Pelennor itself? Given that "Gothmog, Lieutenant of Morgul" (whoever that was) stepped in as the commander - albeit seemingly a rather incompetent one whose strategy was mostly just 'throw the reserves in' and still lost - in the course of events as they actually happened, he seems to be the most likely candidate.
But would anyone within the Mordor ranks seriously be in a position to risk confronting Gandalf the White in full flow at the main gate of Minas Tirith, having seen their great commander slain before them? I can't see it myself, even Gothmog would be at a loss. They may well have needed Sauron to make an appearance to restore belief again. The Mouth of Sauron isn't as powerful as the Witch King, so I am not sure what he would bring to the battle scene other than a token of leadership and urgency to proceedings. Incidenally, what happened to the Mouth of Sauron once the Ring was destroyed?

The Mumakil would have been unfazed, however, and would make no bones about attacking the main gate, But the archers of Minas Tirith would have a field day at targeting the eyes of these monsters, ultimately leading to their carcasses blocking the gate.

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Old 08-05-2014, 11:33 AM   #12
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The quote from Glorfindel in Appendix A only says "not by the hand of man will he fall".
Yes, I was misremembering the Witch-king's own quote to Eowyn, "No living man may hinder me!'
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Old 08-05-2014, 12:44 PM   #13
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Yes, I was misremembering the Witch-king's own quote to Eowyn, "No living man may hinder me!'
I wonder if the Witch King knew whether Gandalf was a Maiar, and not just a man? Unless Sauron told him so, or unless if he put two and two together after their previous encounters, I would guess not.
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Old 08-05-2014, 09:15 PM   #14
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But would anyone within the Mordor ranks seriously be in a position to risk confronting Gandalf the White in full flow at the main gate of Minas Tirith, having seen their great commander slain before them? I can't see it myself, even Gothmog would be at a loss.
Why is "confronting" Gandalf an issue? Aren't we just talking about who would command the army?

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They may well have needed Sauron to make an appearance to restore belief again.
I doubt it. Sauron's armies were led by the will of Sauron himself, by fear of their masters and hatred of their enemies. I don't see the Lord of the Nazgūl's leadership as being one of inspiration without which the hosts of Mordor were in disarrary. See Morgoth's Ring for the following regarding Sauron: "the Orcs of his own trained armies were so completely under his will that they would sacrifice themselves without hesitation at his command. And he proved even more skilful than his Master also in the corruption of Men who were beyond the reach of the Wise, and in reducing them to a vassalage, in which they would march with the Orcs, and vie with them in cruelty and destruction."
So evidently Sauron's armies could very much be led by 'remote control' as it were, and the Easterlings and Haradrim would follow suit.

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The Mouth of Sauron isn't as powerful as the Witch King, so I am not sure what he would bring to the battle scene other than a token of leadership and urgency to proceedings. Incidenally, what happened to the Mouth of Sauron once the Ring was destroyed?
Well he would in all likelihood have been in Barad-dūr during the Battle of the Pelennor Fields anyway, wouldn't he? So I don't see how him "bringing something" to the battle is even an issue. After the Ring was destroyed one assumes he was killed in the upheavals, but in any event it's a non-issue. He ceased to be important and we never hear about him again.

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The Mumakil would have been unfazed, however, and would make no bones about attacking the main gate, But the archers of Minas Tirith would have a field day at targeting the eyes of these monsters, ultimately leading to their carcasses blocking the gate.
If you say so, but really your guess is as good as anyone else's unless there is textual evidence to back up these kinds of assertions.
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Old 08-09-2014, 03:22 PM   #15
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Why is "confronting" Gandalf an issue? Aren't we just talking about who would command the army?


I doubt it. Sauron's armies were led by the will of Sauron himself, by fear of their masters and hatred of their enemies. I don't see the Lord of the Nazgūl's leadership as being one of inspiration without which the hosts of Mordor were in disarrary. See Morgoth's Ring for the following regarding Sauron: "the Orcs of his own trained armies were so completely under his will that they would sacrifice themselves without hesitation at his command. And he proved even more skilful than his Master also in the corruption of Men who were beyond the reach of the Wise, and in reducing them to a vassalage, in which they would march with the Orcs, and vie with them in cruelty and destruction."
So evidently Sauron's armies could very much be led by 'remote control' as it were, and the Easterlings and Haradrim would follow suit.


Well he would in all likelihood have been in Barad-dūr during the Battle of the Pelennor Fields anyway, wouldn't he? So I don't see how him "bringing something" to the battle is even an issue. After the Ring was destroyed one assumes he was killed in the upheavals, but in any event it's a non-issue. He ceased to be important and we never hear about him again.


If you say so, but really your guess is as good as anyone else's unless there is textual evidence to back up these kinds of assertions.

Having killed their great commander, and part of Sauron's power, who would then have the confidence to take on Gandalf at the main gate? The orcs would flee before his face just like the Uruk-hai did at Helm's Deep. The will of Sauron was broken at this point.

New leadership would have been necessary to re-inforce the will of Sauron, and I could imagine Sauron ordering the Mouth of Sauron into the fray to restore order in the ranks of the legions of Mordor.

I believe the soldiers of Rohan did indeed use crossbows to assault the Mumakil, targeting the eyes of these monsters, and this point is stated in the relevant chapter (Battle of the Pelennor Fields). The obvious thing to do from the high walls of Minas Tirith was to use archers to bring the Mumakil down.
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Old 08-09-2014, 03:59 PM   #16
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Having killed their great commander, and part of Sauron's power, who would then have the confidence to take on Gandalf at the main gate? The orcs would flee before his face just like the Uruk-hai did at Helm's Deep. The will of Sauron was broken at this point.
No. Sauron's command and control over his troops actively engaged in battle wasn't affected by the fall of any particular minion, even one as powerful as the Witch-king. At the Morannon, there is mention of the Power that drove Sauron's armies and "filled them with hate and fury". It was only after Sauron's attention was elsewhere that they feared their enemies.

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New leadership would have been necessary to re-inforce the will of Sauron, and I could imagine Sauron ordering the Mouth of Sauron into the fray to restore order in the ranks of the legions of Mordor.
The Mouth doesn't strike me as a warrior sort. More of a cunning counselor/politician who liked for others to do the dirty work.

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I believe the soldiers of Rohan did indeed use crossbows to assault the Mumakil, targeting the eyes of these monsters, and this point is stated in the relevant chapter (Battle of the Pelennor Fields). The obvious thing to do from the high walls of Minas Tirith was to use archers to bring the Mumakil down.
There is no mention of the Rohirrim using crossbows. It was the men of the Morthond Vale who shot at the eyes of the mūmakil, and that by "bowmen". I think the walls of the City would have been too high for any targeting of such small areas, and it was said more than once that Gondor and Rohan didn't have a lot of archers anyway.
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Old 08-09-2014, 04:31 PM   #17
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No. Sauron's command and control over his troops actively engaged in battle wasn't affected by the fall of any particular minion, even one as powerful as the Witch-king. At the Morannon, there is mention of the Power that drove Sauron's armies and "filled them with hate and fury". It was only after Sauron's attention was elsewhere that they feared their enemies.



The Mouth doesn't strike me as a warrior sort. More of a cunning counselor/politician who liked for others to do the dirty work.



There is no mention of the Rohirrim using crossbows. It was the men of the Morthond Vale who shot at the eyes of the mūmakil, and that by "bowmen". I think the walls of the City would have been too high for any targeting of such small areas, and it was said more than once that Gondor and Rohan didn't have a lot of archers anyway.
Arrows, spears, boulders - whatever the weapon, the soldiers of Gondor would have been better off assaulting the Mumakil from the walls rather than risk a stampede of these monsters destroying their army at a whim on the ground.

Part of Sauron's own power was in the form of the Witch King, especially after giving his commander an added demonic force. So even Sauron would have been left weakened by the fall of the Witch King. Whether this drain of power filtered down to the Mordor legions is something which is hard to prove, but not impossible as a notion.
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Old 08-09-2014, 09:25 PM   #18
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New leadership would have been necessary to re-inforce the will of Sauron, and I could imagine Sauron ordering the Mouth of Sauron into the fray to restore order in the ranks of the legions of Mordor.
Except that to the best of our knowledge he was hundreds of miles away (by the main road) in Barad-dūr at the time, so I don't see how he could simply be "sent into the fray."

We also have no knowledge about his skill as a military commander or even as someone to scare the Orcs into submission. He was "more cruel than any Orc," but that's about the extent of it.
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Old 08-09-2014, 09:30 PM   #19
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Except that to the best of our knowledge he was hundreds of miles away (by the main road) in Barad-dūr at the time, so I don't see how he could simply be "sent into the fray."

We also have no knowledge about his skill as a military commander or even as someone to scare the Orcs into submission. He was "more cruel than any Orc," but that's about the extent of it.
He could have come by horse, or hitch a lift with a Nazgul. Also he was well received by Sauron, so he obviously had some confidence in him as a top servant. He may have been sent on this merit alone.
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