LOTR Read-along: The Return of the King (September Post)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Whew. We finished it! The big, giant, epic beast of The Lord of the Rings. All that's left, if you're still with us (at this point it seems like it is just me and Pepca) is the elective Tolkien book. I am reading The Silmarillion.

Spoilers are fair game from here on out.

ANYWAYS, The Return of the King has displaced Fellowship of the Ring as my favorite volume of Lord of the Rings. When I first read the series in middle school, I think I was so tired by the time I got to this book that I skimmed everything. I just wanted to be done. I will admit that there is a hefty amount of winding down action. I mean, who wants to hang out in the Shire while the hobbits are cleaning out the evil that seeped in during the war? Who wants to hear that Saruman is still wreaking havoc, even though Sauron is dead and the Ring is destroyed? And who wants to see Frodo leave Middle Earth, when he did everything in his power to protect it?

But for some reason, I loved it this time around. I loved finally getting a little romance after the promise of it in the previous books. We finally get to see Arwen and Aragorn together (although the book doesn't give nearly enough information to convince me that he was wise in choosing Arwen over Eowyn). And we get a heart-rending little chapter in which Eowyn confesses to Faramir that her heart has been broken. Aragorn expresses to Faramir as well that he felt horrible about not returning her affection. It almost made me wonder if Aragorn loved Eowyn back, but was loyal to Arwen because he loved her too, and loved her first. (Can you tell I have a fixation on the whole Eowyn/Aragorn issue? I just can't believe that he wouldn't choose her. Even if she is merely mortal). But all of that is alleviated when Eowyn begins to fall for Faramir, andtheylivehappilyeverafter. The first time I read the book, I think I felt off toward Faramir because I wanted him to be Aragorn. However, this time around I was able to recognize how awesome he is, and to be happy that he and Eowyn ended up together.

I also loved the utter triumph of the battles and Sauron's defeat. I love how Frodo, frail and beaten and completely ready to give in, is still able to see his mission through (with help from some friends and enemies, of course). I love how Sam fully blooms into a complete, selfless, and heroic person as he aids Frodo in completing his seemingly hopeless mission. I loved how Aragorn swept through the wounded with his healing power. I love it all!

I realize I'm all over the place with this post, and I think it is because there is so much there. There is a reason this book has outright disciples, people who are obsessed and learn Elvish. It is because the world is so complex and well constructed, and the events of the story are so powerful. I know that C.S. Lewis hated allegory, so I am assuming Tolkien does as well, but the events of the story relate to human experience and the universal battle between good and evil like allegory. While I enjoyed this story before, reading it ten years later has given me added insights. I am completely happy that I decided to start this project almost a year ago! I'm excited to spend the next three months working through my elective Tolkien read and seeing what everyone else has to say. Don't forget to link up if you posted for the read-along this month.


  1. Great post! It is true that The Return of the King includes a lot of winding down, however it is delightful to observe how everything turns out. Sam's development is incredible as he becomes one of the crucial figures in the War. Faramir is one of my favorite characters and I was so happy for his and Eowyn's happy ending.

    You are right about allegory, Tolkien himself says in the foreword to the second edition of the LOTR that he rejects allegory in every form. Yet, the complexity of the issues treated in his work make the LOTR timeless and therefore easily for people to relate to

    It does seem it's just the two of us now, and we apparently think alike, as I decided to read The Silmarillion as the elective book, too:)

    I can't see the linky, so here is the link to my post: http://beyondstrangenewwords.blogspot.com/2011/09/journeyends-once-more-this-is-my.html

  2. Lorren, this is a wonderful review of a wonderfully complex and amazingly timeless trilogy of novels. I think you've really captured the essence of "The Return of the King" with your character assessments. This was Tolkien's great retelling of elements of the Heroic Myths from antiquity (especially the Norse myths as told in both the "Prose" and "Poetic Eddas").

    Finally, I would strongly recommend that, at some point in time, you pick up and read Tolkien's "The Children of Hurin" and "The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun". Personally, I love both of them as much as I love the LotR trilogy. Great review and posting, and have a wonderful weekend. Cheers! Chris

  3. The one complaint I hear about Return of the King, over and over again, is this: It has so many endings. People mostly say this about the movie, but the point is the same. And my response? Yes, it has so many endings. It's like real life, that way. No one wants to scour the Shire, or deal with Saruman, or watch Frodo leave the Havens. But Tolkien doesn't deal out simple happy endings. He doesn't give us what we want. He gives us what is. It doesn't all end on Mount Doom, or in Gondor, or even in the Shire. Things aren't neat and tidy and happy. They take time, and they hurt deeply. And Tolkien believes that having been through the whole journey, we deserve to know what really happens at the end.

    Or, as Frodo put it, "I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them."

  4. @ Pepca - I'm excited to see what you think about the Silmarillion! I am really loving it so far. i read it a long time ago but have forgotten almost everything, so it should be a good little revisit.

    @ Christopher - Thank you! I have really been wanting to read the Eddas because I know that they were a huge inspiration to both Lewis and Tolkien. I haven't taken the initiative to start yet, but I'm looking forward to the day that I do. And I actually have a copy of both books you mention, so I will hopefully add those to my reading stack pretty soon as well.

    @ Laura - I like what you say about the many endings - it is so true that real life is like that. We don't just get to kiss the hero and then glide by in life.


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