In The Return of the King, the Witch King of Angmar is mounted on a flying fell beast. When the gate of Minas Tirith is broken down, he quickly rushes in to confront Gandalf.

But he is mounted on a flying fell beast. He could have entered the city whenever he wanted to by simply flying over the walls. So why did he wait until the entrance at ground level was open?

Note: As I read this passage, I was reminded of this YouTube video. The Witch King is basically the dog.

  • 14
    Because he's a schmuck
    – Valorum
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 21:17
  • 2
    Backup. Landing alone, he could be swarmed and overwhelmed. Then too, we can ask whether he knows he's going to face Gandalf, or just whatever defenders happened to be on the other side of the gates.
    – jamesqf
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 21:24
  • 17
    @Oldcat - planes land laterally, and try to avoid hitting people and obstacles. Fell beasts land almost vertically, and eat people.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 21:29
  • 6
    @Oldcat - birds have wings. They land on stuff all the time. They know how to do it without breaking anything. They land vertically and tuck their wings back as they touch down. That is why they can live in trees, which have more things to snag wings on than almost anything else. I've seen Eagles being used to hunt wolves. They don't give a f---.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 22:34
  • 3
    Can I just say, this "debate" should be sent for inclusion in a Big Bang script :)
    – Marv Mills
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 12:46

1 Answer 1


In the book, it's because he'd only just arrived, on horseback, evidently having accompanied Grond (and some additional troops) to the battlefield.

Over the hills of slain a hideous shape appeared: a horseman, tall, hooded, cloaked in black. Slowly, trampling the fallen, he rode forth, heeding no longer any dart. He halted and held up a long pale sword. And as he did so a great fear fell on all, defender and foe alike; and the hands of men drooped to their sides, and no bow sang. For a moment all was still. The drums rolled and rattled. With a vast rush Grond was hurled forward by huge hands. It reached the Gate. It swung. A deep boom rumbled through the City like thunder running in the clouds. ... And suddenly upon the last stroke the Gate of Gondor broke. As if stricken by some blasting spell it burst asunder: there was a flash of searing lightning, and the doors tumbled in riven fragments to the ground. In rode the Lord of the Nazgûl. A great black shape against the fires beyond he loomed up, grown to a vast menace of despair. In rode the Lord of the Nazgûl, under the archway that no enemy ever yet had passed, and all fled before his face.

  • 20
    There's also the symbolic effect: flying over the walls is no big deal. Passing through the gate that no enemy has ever passed, that's a different matter.
    – Mark
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 3:53
  • 2
    This answer is somewhat more nuanced than your comment to the question. *nodnod* Commented May 27, 2015 at 9:05

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