It seems like an extraordinary coincidence that Sauron's army set off for Minas Tirith precisely when Frodo crossed the line between the watchers. It was practically to the second! (You know - the bit in the film when that green light ejects into the air above Monas Morgul, the music goes crazy, Pippin wets his new armour back at Minas Tirith, and Gandalf looks concerned).

Presumably Sauron had a plan in mind as he was building his army as to when he would launch the attack. He might have brought the timing earlier in response to seeing Aragorn in the palantir a few days before, but even so, to bring it to that precise moment?

Could it be something to do with the fact that the watchers detected the presence of the ring? And that previous to that while making his plans, in trying to see into the future, Sauron mistook the immense significance of that moment in that place as the launch of his army?

  • I don't recall this in the books. Nazgûl were patrolling in the books as well, causing distress to Frodo. Frodo saw the marching of the Mordor army too, but I don't recall such an extreme coincidence. He merely witnessed moving troops, not the exact moment of the start of mobilization.
    – user65648
    May 15, 2018 at 17:42
  • 1
    No, he saw the start in the books. The Witch-king halted the army for a moment and looked around, presumably feeling the Ring faintly. I think it does just come down to coincidence though.
    – Nolimon
    May 15, 2018 at 18:18
  • Peter Jackson nonsense to make more money
    – Edlothiad
    May 15, 2018 at 18:36

1 Answer 1


It was all a coincidence - one arranged by Eru, no doubt - that the army marched from Minas Morgul when Frodo, Sam, and Gollum were passing by with The Ring.

There are silent watchers at Minas Morgul as well as Cirith Ungol. When Gorbag from Minas Morgul meets Shagrat near Cirith Ungol he says:

"…See here – our Silent Watchers were uneasy more than two days ago, that I know. But my patrol wasn’t ordered out for another day, nor any message sent to Lugbúrz either: owing to the Great Signal going up, and the High Nazgûl going off to the war, and all that. And then they couldn’t get Lugbúrz to pay attention for a good while, I’m told."


So the Silent Watchers at Minas Morgul did sense something when Frodo and The Ring were near.

But I don't remember any outward signs of the Silent Watchers reaction to sensing The Ring in the book.

In the book, the Great Signal to begin the invasion was sent by the Dark Tower of Mordor.

The Great Signal, as Gorbag the Orc called it,2 occurred on 10 March T.A. 3019.1 On that date, as Sam and Gollum urged the weary Frodo to stand up and start climbing the Stairs of Cirith Ungol, the ground shook and a vivid, violent red flash leapt up from within Mordor, painting the clouds crimson, followed by a crack of thunder. The Signal was answered by Minas Morgul; blue lightning forked from the tallest tower and surrounding hills into the dark clouds.[3]

The Great Signal was the call for the armies of Mordor to begin the assault upon Minas Tirith. As the hobbits and Gollum watched the gates of Minas Morgul opened and an army came forth, led by the Lord of the Nazgûl. [3] At the same time another army issued from the Morannon heading for Cair Andros,1 probably set in motion by the same Great Signal.

In the movie The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) the great signal is sent from Minas Morgul only, and thus might possibly have been triggered by detecting Frodo and Sam.

In Scene 16, "Minas Morgul", the Great Signal occurs just after Sam and Gollum have prevented Frodo from walking straight up the road to the gates of the city. There is no eruption of light from Mordor; the signal consists of a swirling twister of luminous vapor shooting into the clouds above the central tower. The scene cuts to Minas Tirith where Gandalf and Pippin witness the Signal. Frodo, Sam, and Gollum rush back to the base of the stairs and hide behind an outcropping of rock. Soldiers and citizens of Minas Tirith are shown silently reacting in alarm to the sight. The Lord of the Nazgûl appears on a Fell Beast and the Orcs march from the city.


The great signal in the movie could, chronologically speaking, have been triggered by the silent watchers of Minas Morgul sensing Frodo with The Ring, since the Great Signal was sent from Minas Morgul and not from the Barad-dur.

But if the Silent Watchers were agitated enough for the Witch King to made a change in the timing of the invasion, why didn't the Witch King send soldiers out to search for who or what disturbed the Silent Watchers?

If the Witch King's logic went like this:

"Our intruder detectors are agitated. There must be intruders lurking around. There are four hours left before the scheduled departure of our troops, so we could send some out to look for the intruders. But no, Let's march out with all our warriors right now, four hours ahead of schedule, and ignore the hostile intruders."

He wouldn't seem like a very intelligent commander.

So it was probably just a coincidence that The Great Signal was sent up by Minas Morgul, and the troops marched out, just as Frodo was passing with The Ring, even in the movies.

In the book Sauron sent the Great Signal to begin the invasion from Barad-Dur long before he could have learned about the Silent Watchers at Minas Morgul being disturbed and order the garrison there to send out a patrol.

Gorbag says:

But my patrol wasn’t ordered out for another day, nor any message sent to Lugbúrz either: owing to the Great Signal going up, and the High Nazgûl going off to the war, and all that. And then they couldn’t get Lugbúrz to pay attention for a good while, I’m told.

So in the books the timing of the Great Signal was definitely a coincidence. A coincidence arranged by Eru, who fancies himself a writer and so arranges the order of events for dramatic effect.


  • I agree that the presence of the ring did not directly cause the signal to be sent up. Sauron would have been working to a schedule that was very carefully planned.
    – user100501
    May 15, 2018 at 19:46
  • Very carefully indeed in fact, since it was the culmination of years of building his forces and preparing for the moment he would finally take over Middle Earth. The exact moment - in his plans - that the order is given to march would have been widely communicated to the entire army well in advance. The orcs etc. would have been sharpening weapons, eating, drilling, and finally mustering in their units in preparation for the pre-appointed hour. So how come the moment of departure Sauron chose just so happened to coincide with the moment the ring came closest to his grasp?
    – user100501
    May 15, 2018 at 19:53
  • As the answer, supported by references to the book states: dramatic effect.
    – Verdan
    May 16, 2018 at 4:50
  • 1
    @Verdan I'm not seeing a conclusive answer here, it seems to insinuate it was Eru, which it almost certainly wasn't, and repeats two quotes while repeating two core ideas.
    – Edlothiad
    May 16, 2018 at 13:03
  • @user100501 Sauron's attack might have been intended to be that well planned, but Aragorn drew him out early. By looking into the Palantir, Aragorn shook Sauron completely, drawing his attention away from Mordor and setting his armies on the March.
    – Edlothiad
    May 16, 2018 at 13:05

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