Book Review: The Return of the King by JRR Tolkien

Just as every great story has a beginning, every great story also has a great ending. The difficulty with the last book in a series or in the season finale of a television show is that you don’t want the story to end just yet; and you hope beyond hope that the writers will be able to wrap everything up and give you a satisfying ending. The same goes with “The Lord of the Rings” Trilogy. Thankfully, in the end, JRR Tolkien was able to masterfully come up with a satisfying ending that wrapped all the loose threads neatly while still leaving some room for future stories to be told; and skillfully made the conclusion to his trilogy that balanced all the action and romance together.

Return of the King Tolkein co uk
Image Source: The Official Online Tolkien Bookshop

 

“The Return of the King”, the last book in Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, pick up where where “The Two Towers” ended.

Here, Tolkien narrated everything in a different structure than “The Two Towers”. The first part follows what happened to Pippin Took, Gandalf, Merry Brandybuck, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli, after they went to Isengard, all the way to when the troops of Middle Earth faced off against the forces of Sauron for the last big climactic battle for the fate of Middle Earth.

The second part feels like it was broken down into several subsections. It first narrated what happened to Sam Gamgee and Frodo Baggins, all the way until their journey to Mount Doom; then the second part narrated what happened to the troops facing Sauron’s army; then the next part talked about what happened to Eowyn and Faramir while all the battles were raging, and their own little love story; the next part then talked about the joyous days that happened after the battles, and after the ascension of Aragorn to the throne; then the battle for the Shire was narrated; and finally, it was narrated as to how Frodo met Bilbo again and together with Galadriel, Gandalf, Elrond and the other elves, left Middle Earth for the Grey Havens.

However, the book doesn’t really end there as Tolkien put several appendices at the end of the book. These appendices held information about some of the history of Middle Earth and its races; it had the entire timeline of the history of Middle Earth, including information on what happened to all the members of the Fellowship after all the battles ended; it included some tales of old and the love story of Aragorn and Arwen Undomiel; it had family trees; and it also had detailed explanations about the language and the writing systems of both the Elves and the Dwarves. All of these are wonderful supplements to the main story, and reading it honestly makes you wish to read more about Middle Earth.

While “The Fellowship of the Ring” was mostly a light-hearted adventure quest kind of book, and “The Two Towers” had the bulk of the expansion of the world of Middle Earth to the readers and was action packed, “The Return of the King” was an action packed conclusion that gave a satisfying conclusion to the members of the Fellowship and was also quite romantic in a sense.

The action came in with all the battles that happened, everything that happened to Sam and Frodo as they made their way to Mount Doom, and with everything that happened when they liberated the Shire from the clutches of Saruman.

The romance here can be found in different ways. First, there’s all the actual romantic relationships found in this book. There’s Aragorn and Arwen, Faramir and Eowyn, and Rosie and Sam. Aragorn and Arwen’s relationship has been there since the first book, and it is given a satisfying conclusion here. We are actually able to pause for a moment from the battles, and witness Faramir and Eowyn falling in love with each other; and finally, we see the wonderful, comforting, and very natural relationship that Rosie and Sam have with each other. There’s also a lot of bromance in the book, and this can plainly be seen with the friendship that the four hobbits have with each other (in particular, with Merry and Pippin, and also with Frodo and Sam); the love that the guard named Beregond has for his captain, Faramir;  and of course, the bromance between Gimli and Legolas.

Lastly, I thought that this book was romantic in the medieval sense of the word, where you had stories of noble knights and kings who stood for everything that was good in the world and made everything right again. This is seen in Aragorn, Faramir, Eomer, and even in the hobbits, when they returned back to the Shire and made things right again.

Tolkien was able to masterfully weave all of this together seamlessly in the conclusion to his tale, so much so, that this book was an easy read for me, and has now become my favorite book in the trilogy, over “The Fellowship of the Ring”.

There are many interesting moments in this book which I do believe that many will find interesting. Aside from everything I have just mentioned, special consideration, I think, has to be given to the trials Sam faced while he was Ring-bearer, even if it was only for a little while; and to how the Ring ultimately was destroyed.

I love the fact that Sam’s own temptations had him see himself as a mighty warrior and gardener, and I love the fact that in the end, his devotion to Frodo and his own hardy hobbit sense won out in the end. Because of this, and because of everything he has done throughout the entire trilogy until he, according to tradition, also went to the Grey Havens, many think of Sam as the actual true hero of the story.

Now, in the end, Frodo did succumb to the wiles of the Ring, and the Ring was destroyed thanks to Gollum. However, I do not think any less of Frodo as he had truly tried his best to stay strong throughout the entire journey. I also liked the fact that Gollum, in the end, was the one who caused the Ring to be destroyed, and in so doing, he accidentally redeemed himself.

Redemption was also a strong theme in this story. All of the characters, and even the secondary ones do offer mercy and redemption to their enemies, regardless of whether it is received or not. But in the case of Gollum, Bilbo Baggins, Frodo and even Sam at the very end, took pity on him, and because of that, Gollum was able to play his part in the destruction of the Ring.

I also love the fact that the entire story started out in the Shire, and ended in the Shire.

There were also some interesting parallels with how the book compared and contrasted King Theoden and Lord Steward Denethor. Here, it shows Theoden as a kind, almost grandfatherly sort of figure; while Denethor is a noble, proud and stubborn old man who has lost almost all hope. There is also a difference in how they rule and how they treat their kinsmen and soldiers as well, but still following the same pattern.

All in all, I did enjoy re-reading “The Lord of the Rings” Trilogy. Not only did my rereading make me remember some things that I had forgotten, I like the fact that when I read it, it was like I was reading it for the very first time. It also made me aware of the fact that Sam had slowly but surely became my favorite character in the entire series both in the films and in the book. Because of this, I think that I’ll re-read this series every year, and I think that I’ll be re-reading my favorite Tolkien book, “The Hobbit”, on Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday (September 22), every year starting this year.

In the end, “The Return of the King” gave readers a satisfying conclusion to the “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, that masterfully wove action, adventure and romance together. This book, in the trilogy, was also the one that seemed more like an epic romantic tale from the Middle Ages.

However, it has to be said that “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, with its three books, are great pieces of literature and of the fantasy genre itself. Tolkien was a master in this field, and  used everything he knew in order to create an epic tale that is now considered as the grandfather of modern fantasy literature, and none yet has come close to it since.

What did you think of the “The Lord of the Rings” book trilogy? What did you think of “The Return of the King”? What did you like and not like about it? What was your favorite book in the entire trilogy? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Image Source: The Official Online Tolkien Bookshop

 

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