On Reading The Lord of the Rings for the Fourteenth Time, Part Three: The Return of the King

Now we come to the end of it.  There are some splendid passages in this book that never fail to bring tears to my eyes.  As Gandalf says, “Not all tears are an evil.”  One of the greatest is the ride of the Rohirrim and their attack and battle at the Pellenor Fields, the fall of King Theoden, and the defeat of the Nazgul Chieftain.  Then there is Frodo and Sam’s heroic struggle through Mordor to Mount Doom, despite hunger and thirst and devastating despair.  (By the way, one of the ridiculous aspects of the screenplay in which for some strange reason they felt necessary to deviate from the book was the sundering of the friendship of Frodo and Sam – ridiculous, I say, because their unshakeable unity and resolve is one of the core elements of the plot and the reason they succeed.)  And the story also tells of Aragorn and the Gray Company’s journey through the paths of the dead, commandeering of the enemy’s ships, and timely arrival at the siege of Minas Tirith.  In the book the dead help to clear the ships and then are released, and therefore the battle before the city is accomplished by mortals only, giving it greater verisimilitude, honor, and sense of victory.  I never was too keen on the movie’s take:  that the horde of green ghosties move in and cream the enemy.  What honor is there in that?  It’s too blatant a contrivance.

Overall, this book is shorter than the others, though the movie version is the longest of the three.  The movie uses material from the second book, “The Two Towers”, but leaves out long chapters in “The Return of the King” that would indeed have slowed down the film but are very important in the book.  One of these sub-plots is the romance of Faramir and Eowyn, which is elegantly told.  Another is the scouring of the Shire.  The hobbits get back home only to discover that Saruman has been working mischief in the Shire, and they must use what they have learned of strategy and arms to drive off the unsavory invaders.  I like this chapter because it shows that what they experienced in far-off lands strengthened them and gave them the wisdom and maturity to deal with important problems at home.

At the end of “The Return of the King” are the appendixes.  There are genealogies, explanations of the alphabets and grammar of the major languages, timelines, and histories.  In the past, for the first dozen readings or so, I continued into the appendixes as if they were part of the primary story.  Therein is a lot which is thrilling and inspiring.
You can find out what happened to each of the fellowship, for example.  This time I am skimming over them, because I have such a backlog of other things to read.  One story I did not skip over, however, and which I commend to you, is “A Part of the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen” in Appendix A.  It tells of how they met but were separated when Aragorn departed for his years of laboring in the wilderness, how they became betrothed in Lorien, how they ruled as king and queen in joy for many years, and finally it tells of their parting, of the death of Aragorn, and Arwen’s subsequent lonely wandering in the fading woods of
Lothlorien until she herself dies a mortal’s death.  It is a bittersweet but lovely tale.

This book is full of ennobling virtue, if one reads it with an open heart.  It has great goodness, courage, nobility, honor.  It makes me want to choose the good and abhor and resist evil.   Every time I read it I am made better in some way.  Plus it is thrilling,
adventurous, and poignant.  What more could one ask than that?

I’m a professional writer; I make my living by my words.  I’m happy to share these essays with you, but at the same time, financial support makes the words possible.  If you’d like to become a patron of the arts and support my work, buy a few of my available books or available stories.  Thanks!

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