Tolkien Gateway

Black Breath

"When the black breath blows
and death's shadow grows
and all lights pass,
come athelas! come athelas!
Life to the dying
In the king's hand lying!''
"
― The herb-master in the Houses of Healing, quoting "doggerel" spoken by Ioreth[1]

The Black Breath or Black Shadow was a weapon used by the Nazgûl. The Ringwraiths' breath was poisonous and could overpower those affected by it.

This evil blight caused their victims to slip into a dark cold sleep and never recover. Those stricken by the malady murmured in their sleep until a grey shadow fell on their faces as they fell into the darkness.

[edit] History

After the Witch-king led Sauron's attack on Osgiliath, news of a "Black Shadow" reached Eriador and Gandalf felt a sense of dread.[2]

In the evening of 29 September T.A. 3018,[3] Meriadoc Brandybuck left the Prancing Pony and went for a stroll in Bree. He saw and followed (or was drawn by) a dark shadow, but then fell unconscious. Strider stated that Merry had been overcome by the Black Breath.[4]

During the Siege of Gondor many were wounded and those stricken by the Black Shadow were brought to the Houses of Healing, but the healers could not find a remedy. In the last retreat before the city of Minas Tirith was besieged, Faramir fell under the shadow while fighting to hold his outpost, and after being struck with an arrow was brought to the Houses of Healing on 13 March 3019[5].[6] It appears that both Merry and Éowyn were exposed to the Black Breath when they fought the Witch-king during the Battle of the Pelennor Fields[7] on 15 March 3019.[8] Later on that day after the battle Aragorn came to the Houses of Healing and recognized that Faramir was suffering from the Black Breath. Aragorn used athelas to cure Faramir, Éowyn, Merry and others who had been hurt by the Black Breath. This led to the rapidly spread news that the King had returned.[9]

References

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Houses of Healing", p. 865
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Great Years", entry for the year 3018 September 29
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "Strider", pp. 172-3
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Great Years", entry for the year 3019 March 13
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Siege of Gondor", p. 810
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Battle of the Pelennor Fields", p. 841
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Great Years", entry for the year 3019 March 15
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Houses of Healing", p. 860-871