Warning: Spoilers ahead, my precious!
Well, I did it. I finally finished Lord of the Rings. When I read the last page of The Return of the King, I just sat there for a few minutes trying to absorb both how amazing the story had been and the fact that I had actually, finally, finished the series. I still can’t believe it. I could never get interested in Middle-earth before until recently when I picked up The Hobbit and was surprised by how cool it was.
The Return of the King, the final book in Tolkien’s trilogy, is about Elvis Presley returning to the music world years after everyone thought he was dead.
Just kidding. That’s the wrong king.
The Return of the King is about the destruction of the One Ring and the ensuing overthrow of the Dark Lord Sauron. In a nutshell. It takes two hundred pages to get there and there’s still one hundred pages after Sauron’s defeat, which I wasn’t expecting. There are battles and madmen and people in disguise. There are oodles of Orcs and one Gollum.
Oh yes, and there is also a king who returns.
Let’s talk about him first. Aragorn. From the moment I first ‘saw’ him as Strider at the Prancing Pony in Bree, I thought he was cool. I remember that he was one of the few characters I thought interesting when I tried to read the series before. He’s smart and an amazing fighter and has traveled all over Middle-earth a lot so he guides the Fellowship after Gandalf falls – and yet he isn’t arrogant. It’s like he knows he’s awesome, but he doesn’t show it. He knows he’s supposed to be the king, but that doesn’t mean he treats people as if they were below him. He decides to take the Paths of the Dead although no one else has ever dared to and come back alive. I had this huge silly grin on my face when he was on that journey and leads an army of the dead to defeat the Corsairs. When he sailed into Gondor on all those Corsairs’ ships just in the nick of time, I changed my mind about Legolas. I still like Legolas, but Aragorn is boss. I hereby declare that from now on, all men in line for the throne in those few places where there are still monarchies must be just as amazing as Aragorn or they can’t be king. This includes having the ability to look really hot despite having apparently not taken a bath in forever.
Legolas turned out to not have as much of a role as I’d thought he would. I was a little disappointed by that. He had a bigger role in The Two Towers, I think. Oh well.
I can’t believe I forgot to mention Treebeard when I reviewed The Two Towers, but I did. Treebeard is a tree, or more specifically an Ent – a king of thinking, talking, walking tree. He helps the main characters to defeat the evil wizard Saruman and later helps to rebuild Isengard, which Saruman destroyed. I love Treebeard. He’s thoughtful, kind, and funny.
When I read the second book of the trilogy, I thought Éowyn would have a huge role. She didn’t, but she does in The Return of the King. Because she’s a woman, she’s not allowed to fight in the battles. I knew that she does anyway, but wasn’t sure how. I thought she probably snuck off on a horse and rode behind everyone else so they wouldn’t see her. It turns out she was in disguise and also took Merry to the battle when he wasn’t supposed to be there either. Some people think Tolkien doesn’t have enough female characters in his books and they have a point. On the other hand, the ones he does have are generally amazing. Except for Arwen. Ha. Éowyn kills the head Ringwraith! She was a kick-butt girl in fantasy long before that was the “in” thing to write about!
Gollum is my favorite character of the series and one of the few big spoilers I knew was that he dies. I didn’t read about it earlier or anything – believe it or not, I knew what would happen to him from watching “How Lord of the Rings Should Have Ended”. At Mount Doom, he fights Frodo for the One Ring and ends up falling along with it into the lava, where the Ring is finally destroyed. It was very sad, and yet a bit anticlimactic. It was like, “Oh, he’s dead now. That’s the end. Let’s go home now.”
Similarly, the overthrow of Sauron wasn’t quite what I’d expected. He loses his power when the Ring is melted and that’s it. Bye bye, Sauron. I thought, “What the Gollum?! That’s all?” Maybe I should have known. The Battle of the Five Armies at the end of The Hobbit was anticlimactic, too. I’m not saying that Tolkien’s endings are bad – I mean, the book didn’t really even end after Sauron’s destruction because it goes on for another hundred pages – but other aspects of his writing are better.
The ending was wonderful. The last sentence is awesome, but what I really love is what happens right before. The elves originally came from across the sea and at the end of the book Galadriel (from Lothlórien) and Elrond (from Rivendell) sail across the sea once again. They don’t really have any reason to stay any longer, because Elrond’s daughter Arwen is married to Aragorn and living in Gondor (and apparently that makes Elrond have a sad?) and Galadriel knows that the elves are dying out. Or something. It’s the Age of Men now and elves don’t matter quite so much.
But they don’t go alone. Gandalf goes with – and so do Frodo and Bilbo. The past Ringbearers – the two elves and Gandalf still have the three Rings made for elves – sail off into the distance. It’s sad but amazing. They’re going on a final journey.
The Return of the King is my favorite of the trilogy, and my favorite by Tolkien so far. It was a perfect conclusion and I loved that, having read too many final books that didn’t wrap things up well or just fell flat. It’s also a very sad book. There’s Denethor, who goes mad in his city while a battles rages outside and decides to kill himself and his son Faramir because he just knows Sauron will win. Luckily Faramir doesn’t die, but I couldn’t believe that someone would give up hope like that. Another sad part is when Théoden is dying and wishes that he could say goodbye to Éowyn when actually she’s right near him but no one’s noticed her yet because she was knocked out after killing the Ringwraith. (And then they all think she’s dead.) It ties Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for sadness. Every so often I would come back to reality and remind myself that this was only a story. It feels so real.
I feel weird now because The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings kept me busy in the evenings for about two months. Now I’ve finished them and feel like there’s a huge gaping hole in my mind that used to be busy wondering what happened next. I knew hardly any spoilers for the books and loved being surprised. Last night while waiting in line for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I looked through the Appendices a little bit, but there’s still a lot more to read there. And there’s always The Silmarillion and the rest of Tolkien’s Middle-earth books.
J.R.R. Tolkien, you’re amazing. Every book of yours I read is better than the last…