The Return of the King

The Return of the King

by

J. R. R. Tolkien

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The White Tree Symbol Icon

The White Tree of Gondor acts as a symbol of hope, and when it appears to have withered and died in the courtyard of Minas Tirith’s Citadel, it stands as a sign that Men are on the brink of hopelessness. The fate of Gondor’s people appears to be bound to the fate of the White Tree, as suggested by their livery which bears the tree’s image. When Aragorn claims kingship, he wrestles with the threat of his line ending and of Gondor falling into ruin. However, Gandalf takes him to a secret mountain field to show him that a White Tree sapling, a descendant of the current White Tree in the courtyard, is growing, by some miracle, in the snow. Aragorn takes this sapling and replaces the withered Tree with it to signify that his descendancy, and Gondor’s future, have a strong hope of flourishing.

The White Tree Quotes in The Return of the King

The The Return of the King quotes below all refer to the symbol of The White Tree. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Hope vs. Despair Theme Icon
).
Book 6, Chapter 5 Quotes

“Turn your face from the green world, and look where all seems barren and cold!” said Gandalf.

Then Aragorn turned, and there was a stony slope behind him running down from the skirts of the snow; and as he looked he was aware that alone there in the waste a growing thing stood. And he climbed to it, and saw that out of the very edge of the snow there sprang a sapling tree no more than three foot high. Already it had put forth young leaves long and shapely, dark above and silver beneath, and upon its slender crown it bore one small cluster of flowers whose white petals shone like the sunlit snow.

Related Characters: Gandalf (speaker), Samwise Gamgee (Sam), Aragorn/Strider, Arwen
Related Symbols: The White Tree, The Shadow
Page Number: 270
Explanation and Analysis:
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The White Tree Symbol Timeline in The Return of the King

The timeline below shows where the symbol The White Tree appears in The Return of the King. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 5, Chapter 1 
Power, Wisdom, and Mercy Theme Icon
War, Greed, and Nature Theme Icon
...Pippin and Gandalf are admitted to the Citadel by guards bearing the symbol of the White Tree . As Pippin and Gandalf stride across the court, Pippin sees a dying tree in... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 4
Expectation vs. Ability Theme Icon
...dressed uncomfortably in the black and silver livery of the City Guard emblazoned with the White Tree . (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 6
Hope vs. Despair Theme Icon
Loyalty, Love, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...a battle verse, he sees a banner unfurling on the first ship to show the White Tree of Gondor embellished with a crown and seven stars—the sign of the king. The Rohirrim... (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 5
Hope vs. Despair Theme Icon
War, Greed, and Nature Theme Icon
...him to look around him. Aragorn sees a sapling growing in the snow: it’s a White Tree that must’ve been planted from the fruit of the tree in Minas Tirith’s court. Aragorn... (full context)