The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

Tolkien 2014The Return of the KingInformation

Goodreads: The Return of the King
Series: The Lord of the Rings #3
Source: Purchased
Published: 1954


Frodo and Sam are continuing their journey to Mount Doom, in hopes of destroying the One Ring and saving Middle Earth from destruction.  In the West, the Men of Gondor and Rohan are rallying for battle and preparing to take on the greatest Enemy of their time.


(Potential spoilers)

The Return of the King is a breathtaking conclusion to The Lord of the Rings, bringing readers the dramatic finales of all the tangled plotlines they have been following.  The book takes leaps of imagination, satisfying readers even as it thwarts their expectations.

This installment of the story certainly has its share of adventure and epic warfare, as Frodo and Sam continue their journey to Mount Doom and the Men of Gondor and Rohan ride to face Sauron at his own Gate.  More compelling, however, may be the final views readers are given of the characters and their growing relationships.  The friendships the characters have developed are shown in full bloom here: Frodo/Sam, Merry/Pippin, Legolas/Gimli, and Aragorn/Gandalf.  Some new, unexpected relationships arise, as well, and The Return of the King, unlike the previous two novels, is surprisingly romantic.  These bonds and this happiness, readers realize, are what the characters have been fighting for all along.

The Return of the King is also more moving than The Fellowship of the Ring or The Two Towers, as the characters experience a series of endings and new beginnings.  Even though good prevails, so much of what the characters, and readers, love about Middle Earth has to pass away.  A new Age, the Age of Men, begins.  It makes me cry every time.

Some have accused the story of having “too many endings” (and the Jackson filmmakers seemed to have agreed, and cut some scenes out), but I have always found each chapter of The Return of the King to be interesting, and even necessary.  The set-up of the entire story leads readers to a point where they cannot be happy stopping with the destruction of the Ring or even the return of the King.  The audience  know the War has been bigger than that, that the reach of Mordor is long.  The infection of the Shire, and Frodo’s enduring wound, complete the tale and emphasize the scope of what was at stake in this adventure.  Besides, seeing the sleepy Shire wake up is just fun.

The Return of the King has always been my favorite part of The Lord of the Rings.  It features the very best things of the story: the epic battle between good and evil, the beauty of Middle Earth, the complex relationships among the characters.  Readers have known these things all along, but they are highlighted here because we come to the moment where everything is at stake: the Cracks of Doom.  The Return of the King is not a standard fantasy story, where good triumphs and the world rejoices.  Things have still been lost in the War.  More things will be lost.  But the book promises new future and hope.  Its bittersweet ending is unique, beautiful, and moving.  A highly recommended series.


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