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

Dear Lord of the Rings, 

Our time together is coming to an end. It’s been another wonderful visit, and I’ll miss you, but right now I just have to move on. I need some space. Because the truth is you’ve kind of begun to take over every aspect of my waking life, and if I don’t break away now my friends are going to find me in 2015 – still pouring over The Histories of Middle Earth and writing epic poetry, skin and bones from having forgotten to eat or go outside. Heck, I’ll be a veritable gollum. I need to pace myself if I’m going to keep the power of your pages from destroying my mind.

Of course, I still want to be friends. Best friends, even. I’ll still watch your film adaptations, wear your shirts, and talk about you to keep the memory alive until we meet again. And trust me, we will meet again. After all, we always do.




As you can see, my four weeks of Tolkien have finally ended. And I have a LOT to say about the last installment of The Lord of the Rings. 

One of the best things about this section of the trilogy is that it features a strong, independent female character who actually has more than a couple of lines, and plays a huge role in the defeat of The Witch King of Angmar, the chief of the ring-wraiths. In a time when women didn’t have the rights and freedoms they do now, it was rare to see a girl at the forefront of any kind of adventure story. Women were supposed to be in the domestic sphere, and I really appreciate that while Tolkien certainly didn’t write about a lot of women, the women he did write about were generally awesome. And with Eowyn, there is certainly as much spirit in her as there is in any of the men she longs to fight beside.

“What do you fear, lady?” he asked. 

‘A cage,’ she said. ‘To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.’ 

As a woman I support this mission-statement.

Now, as I continue in my musings I’m going to do something I didn’t do with the previous two volumes – I’m going to compare The Return of the King with Peter Jackson’s adaptation. It’s a marvelous movie, by all accounts (a fantasy film doesn’t win the Best Picture and ten other academy awards for nothing). But it wasn’t without flaws. Many critics complained about the number of endings – it has five separate endings, and to anyone who isn’t an ardent fan this seems a bit excessive as the last hour of the movie drags on through them all. The “Honest Trailer” for the movie makes fun of that fact to great effect.

But anyone who’s read the book could tell you that the novel itself is mostly endings – one third of the novel’s 300 or so pages are dedicated to what happens after Gollum and Frodo destroy the ring…
My one complaint with the film adaptation isn’t that there are too many endings, but, rather, that there are too few… My favorite section of the novel is the section that takes place when the hobbits return to the shire and find it in an state of ruin and oppression. The movie has time to make a HUGE to-do over the army of the dead, but doesn’t give the hobbits their chance to shine and be badasses.
I mean, come on! The four of them have changed so much by the time that their journey comes to an end, and they’re more than capable of raising an uprising in a few short hours and putting Saruman back in his place. There is so much snark in that section of the novel – it’s blessedly light after all the trials and hardships they’ve endured previously.
Some of the best moments include this exchange when they reach the new gates that enclose the shire, and are told they can’t come in because it’s after curfew.
‘Who’s that? Be off! You can’t come in. Can’t you read the notice: No admittance between sundown and sunrise?’ 
‘Of course we can’t read the notice in the dark,’ Sam shouted back. ‘And if hobbits of the Shire are to be kept out in the wet on a night like this, I’ll tear down your notice when I find it.’
Then Frodo gets his chance to shine when they try to arrest him and he basically says, “haha, nope. Not going to happen. I walked to Mordor and back, and I’m not about to get arrest in the shire. Eff that sh*t.” But really he just says, ‘Don’t be absurd! I am going where I please, and in my own time. I happen to be going to Bag End on business, but if you insist on going too, well that is your affair.’
Then the guy arresting him has the audacity to be like, “But don’t forget that I’ve arrested you,” to which Frodo sassily remarks, “I won’t. Never. But I may forgive you.” Well played, Master Baggins, well played.
Merry and Pippin each have their turn as well, organizing a militia in literally five minutes and destroying the outlaws within a day or so. It’s one of the most emotionally satisfying parts of the entire trilogy, and Peter Jackson didn’t even film it for the extended edition.
Now, I will say, lest you get the idea that I don’t LOVE the movie (because I promise you I do), that one of the best moments of the extended edition, and one of the reasons I refuse to watch the regular edition, is the scene with the mouth of Sauron. I love that scene because it just makes everything so much bleaker – you can see that Aragorn and Gandalf and Legolas and Gimli all think that Frodo has failed, but they still decide to fight to the last. It makes it much more impressive than it would have been had they still had that hope. It’s a great moment in the book too, so it definitely deserves a mention.
I won’t end this talking about Frodo’s departure from Middle Earth because it literally makes me cry every single time, but instead I’ll leave you guys with one of my favorite pieces of Middle Earth wisdom, courtesy of the Gaffer, via Sam, in regards to baby names: “Make it short, and then you won’t have to cut it short before you can use it.” 
I’m going to remember that in a few years.

Overall Rating: PERFECT/10 (Like you guys don’t already know.)

Reaction: WHY CAN’T I LIVE IN THE SHIRE?!?! Also, “I shall one day have a daughter and she shall be called “Elanor” and she shall hate me for it because it shall be spelled thusly, after the flower in Lothlorien and she’ll tire of having to explain this.” So mote be it.

Up Next Week: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz


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