**If you haven’t read the book, just skip this review. I tried to avoid spoilers, but there is just too much to talk about.**
The Return of the King
by J.R.R. Tolkien
The final book in the trilogy holds many battles. Some are with hordes of orcs and others are battles of the will. One thing I’ve always loved about this series is that you can have the most incredible showdown on the battlefield, but those scenes are no more powerful than Sam picking up Frodo and doing all he can to carry him to Mount Doom.
In The Return of the King we get to see the brilliant triumph at Minas Tirith and then the loss of hope at the Black Gate when the Mouth of Sauron shows Gandalf Frodo's belongings. We see Sam and Frodo lose their strength and we finally understand the role that Gollum and had to play in the whole saga.
I love that this final installment reaches what you think is the climax of the story less than halfway through the book. Then the rest of the novel is about the reuniting of characters and a glorious return to all of their lands. I think that's indicative of the true focus of the story being more on the characters and less on the war. Once their goal is achieved and the war is over, their stories still continue.
Rereading the trilogy reminded me why I fell in love with it in the first place. Although I love the movies, the books have so much more depth and heart. I think the Battle of Bywater is a perfect example. Because of the sheer length of the final movie, it was completely left out, but it's in that scene that we see just how much our little hobbits have matured. Merry and Pippin are now brilliant warriors and Sam's become a leader willing to stand up against any foe. Frodo has found that above all he values peace and knows that mercy is much more valuable than revenge. His journey changed him in a different way than the other hobbits.
The scenes in the Shire made me think about World War II. The few that stood up to Hitler were immediately punished. Ruling that way instilled a fear in everyone else which made them easier to govern. The same happened in the Shire and so the hobbits stopped resisting their cruel leaders. I was glad that Gandalf didn't fight the battle with the hobbits. He left them to return to the Shire on their own because he knew they were ready to defend it themselves.
"He is a moss-gather, and I have been a stone doomed to rolling. But my rolling days are ending, and now we shall have much to say to one another." – Gandalf on leaving the hobbits to visit Bombadil.
There are a few interactions between Sam and Rosie at the end of the book that I just love. When they meet back up in the Shire they were adorable with each other. After everything that Sam had been through I couldn’t help smile when he gets the girl in the end.
BOTTOM LINE: I have a feeling I'll never tire of returning to Middle Earth and I'll certainly never let 13 years go by between rereadings again! I'll always have more to learn from these rich characters. Tolkien tells so many beautiful stories within this trilogy and I got even more out of it the second time around.
"'I do not fear either pain or death. What do you fear, lady?' he asked.
'A cage,' she said. 'To stay behind bars, until use an old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.'"
“In that hour of trial it was the love of his master that helped most to hold him firm.”
“Though here at journey's end I lie in darkness buried deep, beyond all towers strong and high, beyond all mountains steep, above all shadows rides the Sun and Stars for ever dwell: I will not save the Day is done, nor bid the Stars farewell.”
“And the journey's finished. But after coming all that way I don't want to give up yet. It's not like me, somehow, if you understand.” – Sam
"I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil." - Gandalf
A few tidbits where the book differs from the film:
- The beacons of Gondor were already lit before Gandalf and Pippin got to Minas Tirith.
- Only 13 days pass between Boromir's death and the beginning of the fifth book when we meet Denethor.
- Beregond is part of the city guard and he shows Pippin around the city. In the end he’s the one who saves Faramir by blocking the door from the guards when they're trying to burn the pyre.
- Aragorn is the one who heals Faramir, Eowyn, and Merry. He has the gift of healing and he’s the one who saves their lives.
- Eowyn takes a different name when she pretends to be a man in the Rohirrim.
- Sam is tempted by the ring and wants to go off on his own for a moment when he sees himself in a place of power. Even Sam couldn't resist the temptation for a second.
I've always loved the appendices as well for the light they shine on the history of the characters, especially Arwen and Aragorn. Here’s a few other bits of info that they include…
- Galadriel is Arwen's grandmother. Whoa!
- Elrond's father was a man and Elrond's chose to be of Elven-kind.
- Gollum had the Ring for more than 450 years when Bilbo found it.
- Sam's daughter, Goldilocks, married Pippin's son Faramir!
- Arwen was more than 2,700 years old when she and Aragorn first met. Talk about a cougar!
- Sam went to the Grey Havens at the end of his life and passed over the sea after his wife Rose died.
- Leogalas built a ship and sailed over the sea with Gimli after Aragorn died.
Names Aragorn went by:
Strider, Estel, Elessar, Elfstone, Isildur's Heir, Quenya, The Renewer, Longshanks, Wingfoot, King of Gondor, Chieftain of the Dunedain, and Thorongil