Thoughts on Rereading The Return of the King: This Book Is Dark

Spoilers!

This year, I embarked on a quest to finally reread The Lord of the Rings. (I know: I talk about it enough on the blog that people probably assume I must reread it every year or something, but that’s not true. It’s been a while since I last read the story cover to cover.) In April, I posted some reflections on the geography of Middle-Earth after finishing The Fellowship of the Ring, in which I realized the world is much more isolated than I tend to remember. Now, after finishing The Return of the King, I’ve realized the story is also darker than I often remember.

The Lord of the Rings is generally a story I associate with hope. Small, unimportant people do great deeds. Disparate people band together to fight an incredible threat. Frodo succeeds in his quest despite all odds. I’ve written before about how the ending is bittersweet, as some things blossom and come to fruition (the actual return of the king) but other things pass away (the Elves). However, I don’t generally think of the book as actually dark. That changed with this rereading.

This time around, I really felt the despair of the peoples of Gondor, and slightly less so Rohan, as they prepared to take on the forces of the Dark Lord in battle. I know, of course, that Lord Denethor despairs of victory, but I always have it in the back of my mind that, of course, he’s supposed to be wrong. Gandalf tells him off for his despair, and readers learn that he’s been tricked into by Sauron, who has selectively shown him things in the Seeing Stone that will make him think Gondor has no chance of winning the coming battle. Knowing that, I’ve come to have in the back of my mind the idea that the other characters must be a bit more optimistic about the situation, but upon rereading, I’ve realized that’s not true.

None of the characters really know what’s coming before the battle at Minas Tirith, but they are not hopeful about it. In general, they are convinced they are going to die. Pippin fears the battle and that he will never see his friends again. Gandalf thinks they have a slim hope of winning this battle, maybe, but of course the whole war rests on Frodo’s ability to destroy the Ring. The people of Rohan ride hard to Gondor’s aid but are half-convinced they won’t arrive in time to participate in the main battle but instead will simply have a chance to briefly harry the orcs and Men who have triumphed over Minas Tirith before succumbing to said orcs and Men themselves, with no one even left to sing songs about their deeds. There is truly a sense that all the characters are going to fail. Or, even if the main battle is won, a lot of these characters are going to be dead.

Things get even more dire after the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, when Aragorn and the Captains of the West go to challenge Sauron at the Black Gate. They’re not even pretending there’s a chance they are going to come back alive at this point. It’s basically a suicide mission to buy Frodo a little more time and privacy to get to Mount Doom while Sauron is looking elsewhere. This is very depressing! And when a chapter ends with Pippin’s being attacked and subsequently closing his eyes and losing thought, well, it certainly seems as if he’s dead! I cannot remember what I thought the first time I read the book, and didn’t know the ending, but I assume I really thought Pippin was gone, and perhaps Aragorn and all the others were next.

Of course, the Eagles come, Frodo’s quest succeeds, and things generally become happy by the end. It’s the eucatastophe Tolkien wanted, but for many, many chapters in this book, it really feels as if hope is missing. One gets into the minds of the characters, who do not know where Frodo is or if he’s even still alive, who assume they have a part to play in fighting Sauron because, really, it’s the only option, but they’re not convinced it’s going to work or they’re gong to come out alive. In some places, this may in fact be the most hopeless book I’ve ever read! Or perhaps the most realistic about how people feel before a large battle in which they are outnumbered. Why should they expect to be lucky enough to survive?

The Lord of the Rings is, of course, still one of my favorite books. I simply did not remember the amount of darkness and despair Tolkien manages to convey in the first part of The Return of the King, especially since I now know how it all ends. It’s really a masterpiece of writing, and I think this bit of darkness is often overlooked.

Briana

The Geography of Middle-earth: How Isolated Is Everyone?

The Geography of Middle-earth

One of the defining characteristics of the Hobbits in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is their insularity. They’re committed homebodies, and most of them barely venture even as far as Bree by the time of The Fellowship of the Ring. Other people in Middle-earth have all but forgotten about Halflings because they’ve never seen one; the Ring is safe for a while because Sauron and the Ringwraiths have to spend so long traversing Middle-earth asking where this “Shire” place even is.

Yet every time I reread The Fellowship of the Ring, I am struck by the fact that, actually, Hobbits are not the only ones who tend not to leave their own lands. When I’m not actually reading the book, I tend to imagine the other peoples of Middle-earth as worldly and knowledgeable — but it turns out that most of them don’t travel, either, and A LOT of areas of Middle-earth have passed into the stuff of legend for the people who don’t live there.


At the Council of Elrond

One of the first instances we see this is at the Council of Elrond, where a surprising number of representatives of various lands have serendipitously gathered to help decide the fate of the One Ring.

For example, Boromir notes that he travelled for 110 days after his brother Faramir had a dream speaking of “Imladris,” and Boromir set off to find this land that the lore masters of Gondor knew about but no one had visited for a long time:

‘. . . but since the way was full of doubt and danger, I took the journey upon myself. Loth was my father to give me leave, and long have I wandered by roads forgotten, seeking the house of Elrond, of which many had heard, but few knew where it lay.’

Boromir, The Fellowship of the Ring

Later at the Council, Boromir gives news of Gondor and the battles they are already having with the forces of Mordor, suggesting that no one there is aware of what the valor of his people is accomplishing. In this case, people know OF Gondor, but it’s clear much news hasn’t come from there recently.

News then trickles in from the other attendees, and readers get the shocking announcement that the Dwarf Balin and some followers went to check out the long-abandoned Moria THIRTY years ago, and no one has heard from them in quite awhile. No messengers to Moria, and no messengers from Moria in years. And apparently this is normal.

The sense readers begin to get is that there are some travelers in Middle-earth, and there are some messengers sent about to give and gather news, but characters like Gandalf and Aragorn who have been all over Middle-earth and familiar with many parts of it are clearly rare.

Lothlórien

Issues of how isolated the peoples of Middle-earth are get highlighted again when the Fellowship exits Moria and comes to the eaves of Lothlórien. Like Moria, Lórien is a place of legend to most of the characters; Boromir in particular is wary of a dangerous woman he has heard dwells in the wood. Gimli is initially skeptical anyone lives in the forest at all, and Legolas — the prince of another Elven kingdom, who one assumes would be in regular communication with both Elrond and Galadriel — seems only vaguely certain Lothlórien is still inhabited:

‘If Elves indeed still dwell here in the darkening world,’ said Gimli.

‘It is long since any of my own folk journeyed hither back to the land whence we wandered in ages long ago,’ said Legolas, ‘but we heard that Lórien is not yet deserted, for there is a secret power there that holds evil from the land. Nevertheless it’s folk are seldom seen, and maybe they dwell now deep in the woods and far from the norther border.’

Gimli and Legolas, The Fellowship of the Ring

Once the Fellowship runs into some of the Elves of Lórien, readers learn that they do, in fact, rarely leave their own land. Haldir is one of the messengers occasionally sent out, but his command of the Common Speech seems uncertain, suggesting he doesn’t get to practice it that much.

‘Welcome!’ the Elf then said again the Common Language, speaking slowly. ‘We seldom use any tongue but our own; for we dwell now in the heart of the forest, and do not willingly have dealings with any other folk. Even our own kindred in the North are sundered from us. But there are some of us still who go abroad for the gathering of news and the watching of our enemies, and they speak the languages of other lands. I am one.’

Haldir, The Fellowship of the Ring

Furthermore, Haldir indicates that he, like Legolas, is not entirely certain where there are other Elves in Middle-earth; the fact that there are Elf Havens still inhabited near the Shire is news to him:

‘Even if we could come to the shores of the Sea, we should find no longer any shelter there. It is said that there are still havens of the High Elves, but the are far north and west, beyond the land of the Halflings. But where that may be, though the Lord and Lady may know, I do not.’

Haldir, The Fellowship of the Ring

Other Places

Finally, readers get some hints near the end of The Fellowship of the Ring that there are even more places that practically no one in Middle-earth ventures. There are, of course, the various ruins that the characters encounter, from Weathertop at the start of the novel to Amon Hen near the end.

And then Boromir tells readers directly that much of Middle-earth seems foreign to the people of Gondor:

‘Indeed we have heard of Fangorn in Minas Tirith,’ said Boromir. ‘But what I have heard seems to me for the most part old wives’ tales, such as we tell to our children. All that lies north of Rohan is now to us so far away that fancy can wander freely there. Of old Fangorn lay upon the borders of our realm; but it is now many lives of men since any of us visited it, to prove or disprove the legends that have come down from distant years.’

Boromir, The Fellowship of the Ring

The statement is a fun foreshadowing of Fangorn, which readers may think is a bit of a throwaway comment about geography at this point, and not somewhere some of the characters will end up, but it also clarifies that anywhere in the surrounding areas, besides Rohan, is not much explored by Boromir’s people.


Conclusion

I don’t actually have a big conclusion about what any of this means at this point. It is perhaps a topic I will continue to ponder and eventually write a follow-up post on. But I am always intrigued while reading to realize that, in fact, many of the characters are as little familiar with the various lands of Middle-earth as the Hobbits are! Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin initially (perhaps always) feel out of their element when they leave the Shire, the only place they’ve ever known, but most of the other characters are not big travelers and have also seen relatively little of the world. They don’t even always know whether certain lands are still inhabited or not! They may be more familiar with stories and legends of these places, but they haven’t been there — and often no one they know has been there either. Middle-earth has a long and rich history, but it also apparently has a larger and wilder geography than I tend to keep in mind!

Briana

Tolkien Reading Day – A Shelf Tour by Between Pages (Guest Post by Rucha)

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme selected by the Tolkien Society is Hope and Courage. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts! Check out the full schedule of events by clicking here.


Tolkien Collection Shelf Tour Guest Post

Hi, I am Rucha and I blog at Between Pages. Although I have always been an avid reader, my blogging journey began only about six months ago, largely thanks to the lockdown. In the past six months, I have blogged a couple of times about Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings – each time feeling a little intimidated by the sheer scope of his works.

I am somewhat of a late comer to the world of Tolkien and Middle Earth having read the books only about 6 years ago. That was a different world, when I would spend about 2 hours travelling to and back from work, and it was a perfect time to finally pick up The Lord of the Rings. I fell in love almost instantly – and hopelessly – with Middle-earth, and till date if anyone asks me a fantasy world where I’d like to live, my answer’s always been Middle-earth. 🙂

So naturally the first on my Tolkien Shelf Tour are my very first beloved copies of the trilogy that I’d bought second hand. I nearly sold them off as my book collection started growing, and also since I recently acquired a more coveted LoTR box set, however, fortunately, I changed my mind and decided these are far too precious to let go off. I really love their worn-out spines and beautiful yellowing pages and I think someday I’d like to hand these down to my children and grandchildren.

The new collection I own is the 60th anniversary edition by Harper Collins. I bought it recently, largely out of vanity I should admit. These are hard backs with a slip case and the dust jackets feature Tolkien’s own original (and unused) designs.

I especially love the fold-outs in these books. Each of the three books have maps, and The Fellowship has a bonus foldout of the runes from the Book of Mazarbul.

This box set also comes with a Readers Companion, which is a perfect resource especially for those who wish to delve deeper into the marvelous world of Middle-earth.

And finally, almost perfectly timed for Tolkien Reading Day, this is my diary, with a stunning gold foil illustration of Frodo, Sam and Gollum at the foot of Mount Doom dated 24 March 3019. It is a special edition Moleskin that truly commemorates the epic tale of The Fellowship. 

I especially loved the accompanying (fold-out) timeline of Frodo and Sam’s journey and a guide to the Cirth Alphabet.

As book lovers, we cannot help buying beautiful books the moment we see it; however, building my Tolkien collection over the years has taught me the importance of not only mindful book collection but also cherishing and preserving old books.

Once again, I’d like to thank the lovely folks at Pages Unbound for letting me guest blog and geek out about my love for The Lord of the Rings, Middle-earth and Tolkien. It truly forms a very important part of my life and more often than not I have found myself leaning on its themes of hope, friendship and comradery whenever I’ve needed to bring some perspective in my life.

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Hi! I’m Rucha, an avid reader who loves to find inspiration between the pages of the books she reads. I created my blog Between Pages mainly to share book reviews but it has now grown into a dedicated space to share my immense love of books and book inspired experiences.

Why You Should Read The Silmarillion (Guest Post by Mary Drover)

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme selected by the Tolkien Society is Hope and Courage. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts! Check out the full schedule of events by clicking here.


Growing up, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings was one of the first classic epic fantasies that I ever read.  I read the books out of order–trilogy first, The Hobbit second–though that was entirely because my father wanted to see the movies in the theater, so he handed me The Fellowship and told me to get reading so I could join him.  I’ll never forget sitting in the dark theater, absolutely sobbing as Gandalf fell after the Balrog in Moria.  My dad leaned over and whispered, “Have you read the second one yet?”  I had, but it was still the saddest thing ever to witness, and, to this day, I still cry over his death in that scene.

I fell hard for the stories of Middle-earth.  I read the trilogy as fast as my little preteen brain could comprehend, devoured The Hobbit, and decided that wasn’t nearly enough.  My dad had this small bookshelf next to his bed, and I went scrounging through it, trying to see if there was anything else with Tolkien listed as the author.  My dad found me there, frowning at his bookshelf, wondering why there were only these four books when all the other series I loved usually had many more.  I wanted this world to be endless, and when I told him that, he said, “Oh, there’s The Silmarillion, but it’s impossible and terrible.  I threw it away years ago.”

Because I was still a child and my dad was basically a wizard straight out of Middle-earth come to grace my life with his magical presence, I took his word for it.  For years and years, despite shifting pretty quickly from everyday love to outright obsession over Tolkien’s stories, I never once questioned my dad.  At that young age, the trilogy had been tricky for me to read, and so, I assumed that The Silmarillion would be even harder.  Plus, it wasn’t about the characters I’d grown so fond of, so what was the point?

Fast forward to a few years ago, headed toward the end of my twenties, writing my own novels, reading everything in sight, and trying to clear out some of my long overdue unread owned books.  And there, sitting on my shelf, was The Children of Húrin.  I’d never read it, though I always planned to.  As I researched it a little, it was to find that although it didn’t contain any characters I was familiar with, it was still firmly set in Middle-earth, and it told the tale of characters from before.  I thought about the Battle of Dagorlad, that we only see for the briefest of seconds as a setup in Fellowship.  I wondered if the Balrog that had slain Gandalf might have a name and a history.  I remembered, all at once, something that had always niggled at me.

‘This, Gandalf, was Glamdring, Foe-hammer that the king of Gondolin once wore.’ – The Hobbit

I’ve long been a huge fan of swords, but who wasn’t as a child?  Pair that with the camera work in The Return of the King when they’re finally showing us Andúril reforged from the Shards of Narsil, and this line in The Hobbit has always struck me.  When Gandalf falls with the Balrog, he’s wielding Glamdring, and it wasn’t the things he shouted at the Balrog that had niggled at me, but this mention of Gondolin.  Why did they call this sword Foe-hammer?  What was so special about this king?  And why did Gondolin no longer exist?

At some point in your life, you’ve wondered a similar question while reading the main works in Tolkien’s legendarium.  He drops these little hints all around the books, things that reference untold adventures, mentions of extraordinary feats from unknown characters, the possibility of a pantheon of gods and so much more lore.  And, for the first time since I picked up Fellowship as a child, I started thinking about The Silmarillion again.

Currently, I’m hosting a four-week read-along on my blog for The Silmarillion, and, when I first announced it, I got a lot of the same responses as my dad all those years ago.  People think it’s too dense, too convoluted, too hectic.  They think it’s impossible to read or just plain difficult.  They think it twists and turns too much.  Inevitably, though, everyone with that opinion has never actually tried to read it.  Like me, they’ve just been influenced by other readers, and they’ve wiped their hands of it.  The trilogy is good enough.  Right?

Honestly, if you want to just surface level read the trilogy and be on your merry way, yeah, it is enough!  But if, like me, something like an offhand mention of the king of Gondolin has always had you wondering, I’m begging you, read this beautiful, insane masterpiece.  Because that, in its essence, is why you should read The Silmarillion.  There’s so much packed into it, even more than you’re possibly thinking of right now.  When I decided I was going to read it, I knew I wanted to read the trilogy after, and the experience of rereading the trilogy post-Silmarillion knowledge is unlike anything I’ve ever felt with a book.  Are there things I still missed?  Yeah, definitely, Tolkien was actually out of this world brilliant.  But now, there’s so much more that I understand.

Gondolin, now, is not just this mysterious city in history.  It’s the place where Ecthelion and Glorfindel fought off the Balrogs long enough to save their people.  It’s the place where Turgon hid from the world until the moment of greatest need, and then an entire army poured out of the mountains to rise up against Sauron.  It’s the place with seven gates, each more wondrous than the last.  It’s the place where Maeglin was fostered, where Eärendil was born, where Gandalf’s mighty sword was forged.  And that’s just the beginning.

In truth, The Silmarillion is no more difficult to read than the trilogy.  If you’ve ever suffered through George R.R. Martin’s endless cast of characters, there’s probably fewever in The Silmarillion.  Sure, many of them–looking at you, Túrin–have half a dozen names, and Tolkien likes to name things in not just different languages, but different dialects.  Yes, there are no hobbits, everyone is mean to the dwarves, and the elves are actually the worst.  But you also get to see Sauron before he went over to the dark side.  You get to read about Aragorn’s ancestors and the great love that he often sings about.  You get to see the creation of the world, understand why there is so much strife and sorrow in the Third Age, and witness the truly badass natures of characters like Fingolfin and Maedhros.

In a letter to a potential publisher, Tolkien was asked to describe, in detail, why The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings needed to be published together, as a single unit.  Over the course of ten thousand words, he did exactly that, and honestly?  I’ve got to agree with him.  To fully appreciate the majesty that is the trilogy, you also need the knowledge contained within The Silmarillion.  And, even beyond just having that knowledge to understand all the hidden aspects of the trilogy, The Silmarillion is good.  It’s an expertly written book, or I wouldn’t still be weeping over it years after my first read, enough that I needed to reread it and try to convince even more people it was worth their time.

I could go on and on and on, until my words run dry, listing out all the reasons why you should read The Silmarillion.  At the end of all things, though, the only way to truly understand its worth is to dive right in.

Read Mary’s 2020 guest post: History Repeats Itself: Tolkien’s Primary Villains.

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Mary Drover finds adventure along the New England coastline, deep in the White Mountains, and always on a yoga mat.  She spends her days in an office, her nights drinking tea, and all the in-between moments snuggling her sister cats or writing about magic, pirates, witches, faeries, planets, and romance.  She has a BFA in Creative Writing & a BA in English from the University of Maine at Farmington, practices Tibetan Buddhism, has too many candles, and cannot stop buying crystals or plants.  She is a registered yoga teacher, a part-time witch, and was an astronaut in a previous life. Visit Mary at Mary and the Words @ https://marydrover.com/.

The Power of Revisiting the World of Tolkien (Guest Post by Edith-Marie @ Short Girl Writes)

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme selected by the Tolkien Society is Hope and Courage. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts! Check out the full schedule of events by clicking here.


The Power of Revisiting The World of Tolkien

When I was a kid, my parents did “Family Read-Aloud”–every night after we cleaned up from dinner, they would take turns reading a chapter from a book to my brother and me. We worked through many a tome that way–the Chronicles of Narnia series, a wide variety of Carl Hiaasen and Cornelia Funke books, and, of course, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The first time I read those books on my own, I was in seventh or eighth grade. 

It’s been a while since then, and while I have enjoyed discussing the books with friends over the years, I didn’t seriously revisit the books until this past summer, when I was doing an internship in a remote, mountainous area. With a lack of wifi and meager cell service, I brought a crate of books (and a plethora of art supplies) to keep myself occupied. One of the books I brought along was my copy of The Lord of the Rings, which I stole from my brother at some point. Dog-eared, with food and drink spills adorning it, the book is well-loved and perused. 

It is, perhaps, fortuitous that I re-read the series during a year that was tumultuous for so many, including myself. Middle-earth is a lovely world to get lost in, and the stories found in these books are at times funny and other times poignant (and sometimes, they’re both). I have remarked to several people before that the stories sometimes read as if the characters appeared in Tolkien’s living room and told him about their lives. 

But I think the importance of these books, and why they have remained so popular, is not just how well-written they are but also how much they resonate with people. Ultimately, The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a story of hope, perseverance, and change. The task the Fellowship is given–take the Ring to Mordor–would be impossible if they did it on their own. Even Frodo, the Bearer of the Ring, must be borne himself. Along the way, they take loses and face immense hardships, but they also gain new friends and have moments of heartfelt camaraderie. And, perhaps most importantly, none of them are the same at the end. Their experiences throughout the books make them all different, and at the end, when Frodo sails off with Bilbo, Gandalf, and the remaining Elves, I always feel both sadness and joy. On the one hand, it’s not easy to watch one leave their friends. On the other hand, they have changed, and so have Frodo’s wants and needs. It’s representative of the new age they find themselves in after the defeat of Sauron. 

Perhaps that’s the time we’re in now. The past year has certainly been difficult on many levels, and it has forced us all to adapt. We aren’t supposed to be the same people at the end of our personal adventures. Maybe we’re not destroying a ring of great power for the betterment of Middle-earth, but we all have our own personal Mount Dooms to climb. And I have found that, if you ever need a place to go as you climb, the world of Tolkien is always there. 

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Edith-Marie started her blog Short Girl Writes in January of 2016. When she’s not reading, writing, or writing about either of those things, she’s a college student, majoring in international studies with a concentration in global health.

“It Was Pity That Stayed His Hand” (Guest Post by Anne Marie Gazzolo)

Tolkien Reading Event 2019

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Tolkien and the Mysterious. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring guest posts and interviews!


As Bilbo Baggins crawls along the goblin tunnels in total darkness, he happens upon a small ring. He puts it in his pocket without much thought and continues on until he hits water. With no way to tell how deep or far across it is, he stops. He does not know he is under surveillance by an unsavory creature. That is, not until he hears it speak of how delicious he would be to eat. So meet two small beings who play such crucial roles in the fate of the Ring. Bonniejean Christensen observes:

J. R. R. Tolkien’s fallen hobbit, Gollum, is an interesting character in his own right, but the changes in his character that Tolkien made between the first edition of The Hobbit in the 1930s and second edition in the 1950s make him one of his most fascinating creations.

. . .

In The Hobbit he is one of a series of fallen creatures on a rising scale of terror. In The Lord of the Rings he is an example of the damned individual who loses his own soul because of devotion to evil (symbolized by the ring) but who, through grace, saves others. (9, 10)

In an earlier draft of The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf tells Frodo of Gollum’s pitiable state before he met Bilbo:

“Don’t you realize that he had possessed the Ring for ages, and the torment was becoming unendurable? He was so wretched that he knew he was wretched, and had at last understood what caused it. . . . Half his mind wanted above all to be rid of the Ring, even if the loss killed him. But he hated parting with it as much as keeping it. He wanted to hand it on to someone else, and to make him wretched too.” (Treason 24-25)

The wizard goes on to say Gollum would not give the Ring to the goblins. After Bilbo comes, the creature sees his chance. Gandalf hints at the other Power at work in his mention both Bilbo and Frodo were singled out as the Ring’s guardians. Through this, Gollum’s life remains safe. If anyone other than Bilbo found the fell object, it would have likely meant the wretched being’s death (Treason 25).

Gollum challenges Bilbo to a high-stakes riddle-game which reveals their respective worldviews. The hobbit speaks of life, light, and beautiful things. In retaliation, Gollum focuses for the most part on death, darkness, and decay. Bilbo likewise counters the wretched creature’s despair with hope. With the hobbit’s life in immediate peril, he cannot think as clearly as he would otherwise. But he need not, as grace provides some of the answers without his conscious thought.

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Tolkien’s Tales of the Elder Days (Guest Post by Linda White)

Tolkien Reading Event 2019

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Tolkien and the Mysterious. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts!


Elder Days Tales

You may have some familiarity with The Silmarillion and seen these newer works being published that are part of it. But maybe you are not sure where they came from, or how they fit in to the larger work. Here is the scoop: you can pick up any one of the three separate works from The Silmarillion that have been released as standalone volumes and enjoy it on its own. They are The Children of Hurin, Beren and Luthien, and The Fall of Gondolin. Some say the reading order should be publication order, but you would not be wrong to read Beren and Luthien first.

But what are they, and how did they get here? And why are some more complete than others? Here we’ll take a look a little bit at what I have come to understand as the evolution of the Tales of the Elder Days.

JRR Tolkien worked on the stories in The Silmarillion for years. He worked on the individual stories, and he worked to bring the entire opus together into his long-sought mythology of England. But after the success of The Hobbit, his publishers wanted “another hobbit story” and not a deep epic about elves and men. So during the years from the publication of The Hobbit in 1937 to the publication of The Lord of the Rings in 1954, his attention veered away by necessity more towards hobbits, which he strived to bring into the story of his larger mythology. However, this took much longer than he thought it would, and he was not able to spent time to pull together the pieces of The Silmarillion into a definitive arc. After the unbelievable success of The Lord of the Rings, he worked on The Silmarillion in bits and pieces, in between interview requests, answering fan letters, and the other demands of his sudden fame.

His publisher, Allen & Unwin, did not seem to be interested in anything other than the stories surrounding The Hobbit. They did not want Farmer Giles of Ham, and they didn’t want any pieces of The Silmarillion. So it was that his original stories, his magnus opus, was not published during his lifetime. The Silmarillion was finally published in 1977 as a total, but not quite completely polished, work.

At this point, his son Christopher was the literary executor of his estate, and seemed to share an affinity for the stories. He certainly had grown up knowing about them, if not reading them. After the publication of The Silmarillion, there seemed to be nothing left to do. But wait. There were mounds more of papers, sketches, snippets on scraps of paper, and different versions of some of the tales. More than had been included in the published edition of The Silmarillion.

Ultimately, it was decided that the most complete, and arguably, pivotal tales in the saga could be published in their most complete forms, and in the case of Beren and Luthien at least, along with little snippets of the story that differed somewhat from the most complete form of the tale.

Eventually, there would be three stories published, in separate editions over a period of years. These can be collectively called the Tales of the Elder Days, as Christopher Tolkien refers to them in his Introduction to the first one, The Children of Hurin. This one was published in 2007, and it is probably the most complete of the three that would be published as a stand-alone book.

Even though it refers to other stories that occur in The Silmarillion, much as The Lord of the Rings refers back to events in The Silmarillion itself, The Children of Hurin can be read as a complete story unto itself.

The next book to be published was Beren and Luthien in 2017. This particular tale is presented as more fragments, with commentary interspersed from Christopher Tolkien. Imagine trying to sort through all the papers and snippets, and make them into some kind of coherent whole. And yet, Christopher knew how important this story was to Tolkien. After all, Tolkien had the names carved on the tombstone of he and his wife, he Beren, and Edith, always, his Luthien. It was one of the first tales he had written after returning from the Battle of the Somme in 1916, during his convalescence the following year.

Soon after the publication of Beren and Luthien as a standalone, the world received The Fall of Gondolin in a similar lovely volume. As this seems to be the final episode in the First Age, and since Christopher Tolkien has retired as Director of the Tolkien Estate, it seems unlikely that we will get anything further in this series. However, since he retired in 2017 – and at 93 who can blame him? – and was known to be notoriously tight with rights to Tolkien’s works, it is highly likely that there will be more adaptations, more ways to enjoy the work that exists. The first inkling of this is the upcoming Amazon series, for which Amazon Prime is doling out teasers in incredibly maddening tiny tidbits.

Yet, it is unlikely that we will see any really new work. Christopher Tolkien had an understanding of and familiarity with his father’s work which is unlikely to ever be equaled. We still have The Lost Tales, which are the very first versions of these stories. And there are more Tolkien scholars delving deeply into every aspect of the work of Tolkien. But whether there will ever be any other tales taken from the larger works, expanded and edited, is doubtful.

Still, it is incredibly satisfying to have these three volumes to read, each of them a standalone and yet part of a whole. Each of them includes information pertinent to that particular story, and is the furthest one can delve into that part of the history of the First Age.

*This post is comprised of knowledge gleaned from many sources, and I can’t specifically cite segments, as I have integrated what I know and paraphrased most of it. These sources include The Letters of JRR Tolkien, Tolkien: Maker of Middle Earth, and various articles and posts online. The quote about the publisher wanting “another hobbit story” is from somewhere in The Letters of JRR Tolkien.

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About the Author

A long-time reader and book collector, Linda is also a writer and is working on her first novel. She can be found on Instagram @lindabookmania where she loves to talk Tolkien, Harry Potter, and all things

fantasy. She runs the blog BookManiaLife and a website for writers called The Publishing Bones, as well as a boutique agency, BookMania. When not reading or writing, she might be gardening, hiking or dabbling in book arts.

Find me at www.bookmanialife.com and https://www.instagram.com/lindabookmania/ and on Twitter @LindaWonder

The Dwarf Name Generator

Tolkien Reading Event 2019

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Tolkien and the Mysterious. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring guest posts and interviews!


Middle-Earth Dwarf Name Generator

Find your Dwarf name by following the directions below!

Pick the first letter of your middle name to discover your name.

A: Fundin
B: Grór
C: Thorin
D: Farin
E: Nain
F: Azaghâl
G: Frór
H: Dain
I:  Frár
J: Mim
K: Borin
L: Nori
M: Bombur
N:  Telchar
O: Durin
P: Náin
Q: Dwalin
R: Frerin
S: Dís
T: Gloin
U: Dori
V: Bifur
W: Kili
X: Ori
Y: Fili
Z: Lóni

Pick your favorite number to discover your title.

1. Ironhelm
2. Silvershield
3. the Craftsman
4. Stonehelm
5. the Matchless
6. Oakenshield
7.  the Smith
8. the Deathless
9. the Broad
10. Ironfoot
11. the Mighty
12. Heavy-Handed
13. the Skilled

Pick your favorite color to discover your home.

Red: Iron Hills
Orange: Dunland
Yellow: The Blue Mountains
Green: Erebor
Blue: The Glittering Caves
Purple: Khazad-dûm
Black: Gundabad
White: Belegost
Brown: The Grey Mountains
Pink: Nogrod

What’s Your Dwarf name? Tell us in the comments!

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My Journey Through Tolkien’s Works (Guest Post by Short Girl)

Tolkien Reading Event 2019

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Tolkien and the Mysterious. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts!


My Journey Through Tolkien

My Journey Through Tolkien

I will be honest: I did not read The Lord of the Rings before I watched it.

My family has always been the type that reads.  Even though I’m getting up in years now, my parents still do “family read-aloud.” Each night, my mother will read a chapter or so aloud from whatever novel we’re on to my father and me. It’s a fun time. I’ve had The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, the Inkheart books, and many other classics read aloud to me over the years.

Surprisingly, though, my parents didn’t read LOTR to me before they decided we should watch it one wintry eve when I was ten or eleven. Since I had never read the books, I was supremely annoyed at the cliff-hanger that the first movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, leaves viewers on. Granted, I had watched LOTR before (the creepy cartoon version, when I was seven, at school; it scared me so I tried not to remember it), but I was still upset. A few weeks later, I goaded my parents into a nearly six-hour long double feature to watch The Two Towers and The Return of the King in order to see what happened next. I remember loving Éowyn, who slays the Witch-King. She was a super cool gal, and my prepubescent self was dazzled.

Then I read The Hobbit.

I know what you’re thinking. Hold the phone, you say, you watched the LOTR trilogy and then read The Hobbit? When are you actually gonna read the LOTR books?!?

The Hobbit was another family read-aloud book, and, as a child, I liked the imagery of the maze of caves that Bilbo finds himself in, where he sees Smeagol. I liked how small the book was but how the characters could still go on such an adventure. The other problem was that my brother owned the copy of LOTR, a thick, dog-eared one with all three books in it, and he was at college.

Eventually, though, he left his book at home, and I stole it and began reading. I was in seventh grade, and I carried the thick book around in my backpack for weeks, reading during lunch, between classes, during breakfast, and before bed. The imagery was just as dazzling, the characters just as gripping. I still loved Legolas and Gimli and Frodo and all of them. Frodo and Sam’s friendship was really important to me, especially in the tumultuous time that was middle school. I claimed my brother’s book as my own and covered it in peanut-butter stains during my excited reading.

When The Hobbit movies came out, I went to see the first one in theaters, and I was a little disappointed. I wanted to see the whole book at once, but I couldn’t! My then-boyfriend was obsessed with Tolkien, and he got me a copy of the movie for Christmas. It was nice of him, but I didn’t end up seeing the other two movies. I decided to keep the magic of The Hobbit to myself.

Even though Harry Potter was my favorite book series growing up (still is), LOTR was an important part of my development. It taught me about friendship, doing the right thing, and going on an adventure. It was part of my family culture–my brother and parents and I bonded over watching/reading it. When I heard recently that there was a movie about Tolkien coming out, I was quite excited.

Of course, I’m older now, so I have to admit the flaws of both Tolkien as a person and also his writing, but his books paved the way for me to love fantasy, try and write some of my own, and to keep on exploring.

Books offer you the opportunity to go into a another world, and The Lord of the Rings series definitely did that for me.

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About the Author

Short Girl has been blogging at Short Girl Writes (www.shortgirlwrites.wordpress.com) for a little over three years. As the name implies, she’s a short girl who writes. Her blog is focused largely on book reviews, but includes posts on other aspects of the world of reading and writing. In her spare time, she’s usually making music, knitting, or…surprise, reading books.

The Bittersweet Ending of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings

Tolkien Reading Event 2019

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Tolkien and the Mysterious. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts!


ending of the lord of the rings discussion

When I read fantasy, I often find myself half hoping for a happy ending and half hoping that things will fall apart and go terribly wrong because, as much as I love happy endings, I sometimes have a sneaking suspicion that they’re too common, too predictable and that if the protagonist were to fail at least it would be a good plot twist.  The heroes win so much in fantasy (particularly YA fantasy, which I read a lot of) that I often assume the outcome of the book is a given, that I’m not really reading to see how things end but to see how the characters get there.  I want good to win, but I’m sometimes left wishing the villains would triumph, just to mix things up.  It’s a mental struggle I go through nearly every time I pick up a fantasy novel.

The last time I thought about my dilemma in choosing whether to cheer for good or evil (again, just for the sake of variety), it occurred to me that Tolkien’s heroes in The Lord of the Rings win.  They take the Ring to Mount Doom and toss it in, Sauron is destroyed permanently, and his armies mostly fall apart. Yet it never occurred to me to think that this ending was too boring or too predictable and needed to be “spiced up.”  And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this is because the ending of the book comes with immense joy but also with a sense of loss because, although the future is bright in Middle-earth, things will never be quite the same.

I do want to emphasize that the ending is happy, happier than the characters and even readers might predict.  Boromir, of course, is killed by Saruman’s Uruk-hai early on, but no other members of the Fellowship die.  Frodo and Sam, who were prepared to toss the Ring into Mount Doom at the cost of their own lives, are saved.  Merry and Pippin make it through the war.  Aragorn is crowned king.  Both he and Eowyn find love.  Middle-earth is poised to flourish.  But, still, there is loss.  It just isn’t what the characters were expecting.

Fighting Sauron meant fearing death, fearing the Ringwraiths, fearing a world where all the Free Peoples were enslaved and all green things died.  Little of that came to pass.  Instead, Frodo lost peace and his sense of belonging.  Sam lost his best friend when Frodo left for the Undying Lands.  The Shire lost its innocence and sense of safety.  Middle-earth lost the Elves and ushered in the Age of Man.

The Lord of the Rings shows us that, even when we defeat great evil, one of the costs is that things can never be quite the way they were before.  Change, of course, is not necessarily bad, and maybe some of what is different will be better.  But there will always be loss.  The “good guys” win in The Lord of the Rings, but it is a bittersweet victory tinged with the loss of some beautiful things.  It’s too complex to be a “happy ending.”

Briana