The Return of the King (The Lord of the Rings #3)

ISBN: 0739301403
ISBN 13: 9780739301401
By: J.R.R. Tolkien Ian Holm

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About this book

"As the Shadow of Mordor grows across the land, the Companions of the Ring have become involved in separate adventures. Aragorn, revealed as the hidden heir of the ancient Kings of the West, has joined with the Riders of Rohan against the forces of Isengard, and takes part in the desperate victory of the Hornburg. Merry and Pippin, captured by Orcs, escape into Fangorn Forest and there encounter the Ents." "Gandalf has miraculously returned and defeated the evil wizard, Saruman. Sam has left his master for dead after a battle with the giant spider, Shelob - but Frodo is still alive, now in the foul hands of the Orcs." And all the while, the armies of the Dark Lord are massing as the One Ring draws ever nearer to the Cracks of Doom.

Reader's Thoughts


Finally got to sit down and finish listening to this. I started with the cassette, but I actually finished using the audio CDs, which some kind soul bought me for Christmas. (Definitely recommended: they come with a CD of the soundtrack music too. I love it.)Like most BBC adaptations, I think this is stunningly well done. As I've said with the other instalments, it's perfectly cast -- I do think J.R.R. Tolkien would have approved. It's a testament to how good they are that a housemate of mine who isn't at all interested in fantasy got hooked and wouldn't leave my room and stop listening -- and the one who is into fantasy got that it was LOTR within two minutes of listening and was wildly excited.It does help, of course, that I have a certain amount of childhood nostalgia for this stuff. One very bored holiday with my grandparents' was spent listening to these.


Swords and fights and epic elves and aragorn and hobbits and aaagh!!

mark monday

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥a rousing climax to the most ravishing love story of the modern age. tempestuous, tormented Frodo at long last learns to accept the love of his lifemate - the loyal and submissive Samwise Gamgee, bottom-extraordinaire. this is truly a tale of love's labour hard-won, and at such a cost! but love conquers all in the end, and even bitter, militantly hetero villain Sauron cannot stand in the heart's path for too long. in this third book of the torrid trilogy, Frodo's love-hate relationship with the concept of commitment - deftly symbolized by a gorgeous, one-of-a-kind, designer ring - reaches a dramatic fever pitch, as he wrestles with his awkward feelings about monogamy & gay marriage in the boiling, repressive deserts of "Mordor" (clearly a stand-in for maverick Texazona). fortunately, the maternal Sam is constantly by his side to offer succor - forever the wind beneath Frodo's wings.♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥the incredibly racy & erotic atmosphere is filled with a circuit party's worth of soldier types, as well as many classic queer icons: butch trade turned romantic male-model Aragorn; saucy friends-with-benefits Merry & Pippin; the tough & dour yet loveable uber-dyke Arwen; little bear-daddy Gimli; cringing closet-case Oh My Precious; fey pretty-boy Legolas; the exquisite drag queen enchantress Galadriel; and of course, presiding over them all, flouncing from scene to scene, battling his nasty sourpuss of an ex-boyfriend Saruman, and just chewing up the scenery like no one else...the fabulous and effervescent Gandalf the Gay. you go, girlfriend! ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥despite the couple dozen unnecessary scenes of Sam staring dreamily into Frodo's sad sad eyes, this is truly a flawless and timeless gay classic, one that boldly states Love Is a Glorious Burden That We Must Ever Shoulder. love knows no boundaries. and even the smallest of men can have the biggest...."heart", i suppose. queer fave Enya even contributes to the soundtrack. Return of the King is a luscious, deliriously homoerotic fantasia.♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥oops, forgot i wasn't reviewing the thrillingly fagtastic film version. well, as far as the novel goes, it is perfect. i wouldn't change a word. even the poetry is awesome.


Long before the movies, I sat up into the deep of the night, a young kid who had no business being awake, but could not put the books down. This is one of the books that gave me the desire to dream.


How I Spent My Summer Vacationby: Caris “The O’Malley” O’MalleyThis summer was really good. I got to do a lot of neat things. The best part of the whole summer was that I got to spend it with my new best friend Johnny. Johnny is my friend because he’s smart and he tells good stories and his mustash tickles. The stories he tells are filled with creatures and adventures, so they’re really good.Johnny is really serious about his stories. Sometimes he gets really detailed about little things and I have to call him a fuckstick. Some things that made me call him a fuckstick are: lots of walking and funny names. When Johnny gets going though there’s no stopping him. We have to read a lot of books in school but none of them are as good as Johnny’s stories.It seems like school got out forever ago and just a day ago at the same time. Right when school got out, Johnny started telling me his story, called The Lord of the Rings. This is the story about two little people called Hobbits who go on an adventure. They meet lots of people along the way. Some of them are good and some of them are bad. One of the things that makes me hate Johnny is that a lot of the boring characters are in the story a lot and some of the cool ones (like Tom Bombadil) are just forgotten in the past of the story.Right before school started, Johnny told me the last part of the story. It was called The Return of the King. A lot of things happen in this part and it was the most exciting I think. I really liked the end and wished it would have been longer. It is the conclusion of all I had heard this summer. The end was very sad, but happy at the same time because everything worked out good for the characters.I feel like I spent a million years in Middle Earth this summer. That’s the setting of the story. I feel like I am now friends with Bilbo and Sam. They are the main characters in the story. Middle Earth is a nice place to go, especially when my dad is drinking a lot and my mom yells at him. No one does those things in the Shire. The Shire which is also the setting is where the Hobbits live.The Lord of the Rings taught me a lot about what it means to be someone’s friend. It was Frodo’s job to get rid of the ring, but his friend Sam stayed with him to the end. There was nothing that could keep Sam away from Frodo, not even spiders. Sam would do anything to make Frodo happier even if it meant giving him his last piece of food or his cloak to sleep on. I think if everyone was willing to give their cloak away to their friends then the world would be nicer.The other thing I liked about the story was that there weren’t very many girls in it. There were a couple but they didn’t do anything really and they weren’t around for long. One of those girls I think was a boy anyway because she wanted to fight with the soldiers. She was okay I guess.I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone, but I want to talk about the end. The end was my favorite part. The adventures in far away places was cool but the Shire was neatest. I liked how Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin came back to the Shire and took over again. Saruman an evil wizard decided to take over the Shire after the ring was destroyed and the evil armies were defeated. The Hobbits were not scared though because they knew they could beat him because Galdalf already did. It was really cool when Peter Pettigrew killed him with a knife then got shot by some Hobbits. I didnt really understand that part though. Why would Saruman go back to one of the only places his enemies would return to? He should of known he would catch a beat down there. If he was smart he would have gone somewhere else like America or Mexico. Even though it was a weird part I liked seeing the Hobbits being heroes.That was what I did this summer. It was fun. I hope next summer will be as fun as this one was. When I am an old man I bet I will want to hear Johnny’s story again. But next summer I want to go to camp instead.

Roly Chuter

I’m sure glad Stevie didn’t bother to read this one:Sam and Frodo wake up in some swamp/heath/mountain passFrodo: We’re lost, oh its awful, I’m hungry, we only have 3 pieces of elfin bread leftSam: Don’t worry Frodo I’m here for you, you have the breadSam and Frodo walk around a bit looking dirty and lost and miserableFrodo: oh the ring, it’s so heavy, how will I cope?Golem: Myyy presssciousss [and all that nonsense]Sam: Don’t worry you have a nice sleep, things’ll look better in the morning you’ll seeSam and Frodo wake up in some swamp/heath/mountain passFrodo: We’re lost, oh its awful, I’m hungry, we only have 3 pieces of elfin bread leftSam: Don’t worry Frodo I’m here for you, you have the breadSam and Frodo walk around a bit looking dirty and lost and miserable...FOR 200 HUNDRED GOD AWFUL PAGESAnyone who wasn’t desperately hoping that Golem cracked open Frodo’s skull like a pumpkin after Halloween and drained the grey goo inside has more patience than me.


I can understand why The Lord of the Rings is one of the most popular books of all time. It had adventure, action, war, and magic. But it reminds me too much of a blockbuster action movie, which keeps the audience entertained, without really providing any substance. While I didn't find this book very entertaining, I can see how others do, but I fail to see how it found its way onto a list of 100 All Time novels.As one who thinks great characters are what makes a book great, Lord of the Rings was a huge disappointment. All the characters, without exception, could be described as two-dimensional at best. They seem to lack the emotional complexity normally found in intelligent beings, and instead seem more like characters from a fairy tale, where everybody is either 100% Good or 100% Evil. Despite having 1,349 pages with which to work, most of the characters' back stories are never really explored, save the odd one paragraph anecdote about a past incident. And nor do they ever really change despite their journey and experiences. I found each character to be so vague, I was never able to develop any sympathy or attachment to any of them.That there wasn't really any story behind most of the characters was only part of the problem however. With a couple of different plot lines unfolding in the third book, there would be times that I wouldn't read of Frodo or Mary for nearly a hundred pages. It would be so long that I would have trouble remembering what had happened to them or where they were. Any attachment I had been developing was long gone, as I found myself flipping back dozens and dozens of pages, trying to refresh myself on what had happened so long ago.My next beef with this book was the plot. Sure, as I mentioned above, there was magic, there was war, there was adventure, and there's nothing wrong with those things. But the story was just too formulaic for my tastes. Everything always seemed to reach the only possible conclusion, and any hardships the main players did face (which was usually that they hadn't eaten for twenty minutes), was the briefest of problems, resolved almost immediately, allowing them to continue on their way to a predictable outcome.Formulaic stories aren't necessarily a bad thing though, as often the fun is in getting to the inevitable conclusion. We never think for a minute that T-1000 is going to actually kill John Connor, but Lord of the Rings doesn't have the fun bits in between. Tolkien would describe Frodo et al walking through the forest for forty pages, then Sam complaining about being hungry for another ten, and then them taking turns sleeping for another fifteen. But a confrontation with a foe would be cut down to one page. It was as if every time I was about to take some interest in what was happening, I was returned to a discussion about lembas, or the lack there of.When there was an opportunity for a creative plot twist, it either wasn't taken, or it was recanted almost immediately. Gandalf's dead? Surprising and interesting. The characters mourn for a bit before continuing on their journey. At this point in the book I was more interested than ever (and as it turns out ever would be), as the characters had been confronted with real adversity. There was a change in the way they interacted with each other and a change in the general mood or tone of the book. But alas, a few pages later it turns out he was brought back to life and everything is fine. It really destroys any fears one might have about a main character in a deadly situation, knowing they can be brought back to life at any time.It was even worse when Frodo dies, leaving Sam heart broken and scared. Despite the Gandalf experience, I was quite intrigued by the development. Of course the next page we learn that he was actually only unconscious. What a relief, everything was going to be okay! I might as well have read that the previous few pages had only been a dream and Frodo had never really died.I suppose that I'm maybe being too critical of this book, but after having invested so much of my time into it, I feel I deserve to be so. Too many things weren't explained or poorly explained, and too many unnecessary things were explained. And because I stand by my feelings of over a month ago that novels shouldn't require 600 pages of appendices, maps, and charts, to explain central plot points and character backgrounds, I now consider myself done with Lord of the Rings, forever.Unless I watch the movies, which I am now less inclined to do, than ever.You can read my other reviews here.


To me, the whole point of reading the first two books of LOTR is to get to this one, because this is the truly masterful part of the story.One thing I will say is that I really admire how the main heroes of the story, Frodo and Sam, are quite inconsequential in the classic tradition of heroes. They can't fight, they can't cast spells, they can't really do anything except persevere through extreme trial, all so that they can do what they promised to do, to do the right thing. Sam, in particular, is a True Hero in my eyes, a character with a pure heart.Do I need to warn of spoilers when everyone already knows the story? Oh well, SPOILER ALERT!It's very interesting to me that Frodo is unable, at the edge of the Pit of Doom, to part with the ring. It takes a struggle with Gollum, and an accident, really, in order for the ring to be destroyed. I wonder if any mortal, even Sam, would have been able to throw the ring away? I suspect not, and to me it signifies our mortal failings in this life. We cannot, try as we might, fully separate ourselves from the natural man of our own accord. But still, like Frodo and Sam, we can give it our best go.In the end, however, we will need to be rescued. Like Frodo and Sam, we will not be able to survive or escape in and of ourselves, but we will need (so to speak) Gandalf and the eagles to come swooping down and rescue us, in the end.(I am, of course, speaking metaphorically in a religious sense.)


Having just re-experience The Lord of the Rings on audio book, I am struck again by how truly awesome these books are. Tolkien's fantasy has been copied endlessly yet remains so very unique. Reading (hearing) it again, it is difficult not to compare it to the Peter Jackson films. I think Peter Jackson is to be commended for taking great pains to include much of the textual dialogue and faithfully attempting to recraft the books' scenes as much and whenever possible. I was surprised by the extent the films adhered as much as possible to the books. However, Tolkien obviously never wrote with film adaptation in mind. In the chapter "The Paths of the Dead" for example, (surely one of the scariest parts of the trilogy), Tolkien creates a scene of primarily psychological horror. His florid passages construct a scene of vague terror and, occurring in total darkness give no visual cues to future directors. Gimli senses, yet does not see or hear, the growing presence of dead souls following behind him and must draw upon every part of his will to marshal the courage needed not to flee in terror or rush to give himself up to the undead host in his unendurable terror. Jackson's rendering of this scene is not necessarily a failure, but has to be viewed as something else entirely.As I intimated in my review of "The Fellowship of the Ring", Tolkien world is weirder, more counter-intuitive, and more wonderfully unique than I remembered.

Julie Davis

What becomes very noticeable to me at this point, listening as opposed to reading, is the juxtaposition of the two kings and their hobbit observers. One has been brought back to himself after being under the Dark Lord's sway and the other is prideful and arrogant. It is a striking contrast.Another thing is how touched I was by the description of those coming to the defense of Gondor, early after Gandalf and Pippin got there. They were the few, those coming out of common need to defend themselves and their lands, in answer to the king's call. It made me understand just how personal war is on that level. It kept coming back to me for hours.It occurs to me that we are also loathe to let surprises unfold by themselves. I was thrilled at the way Tolkien keeps everyone in the dark over the identity of the stern young man who took Merry up on his saddle, until the crucial moment. Whereas the movie had to let us in on the secret, I suppose in support of girl empowerment. *sigh* Because THAT hasn't been done before. Listening also allowed me to suddenly notice how Aaragorn's speech has been transformed into something lordly and formal, nobler and grander than when we met him as Strider. It was especially noticeable when he was speaking to Eowyn. "Lady," he would begin every statement to her. In my mind's eye, it was as if he was transformed into the king that we know he is underneath the travel-stained ranger.The final realization, at this point, is just how the movies lessened the epic scale by making all the heroes less heroic than in the book. They were portrayed with ordinary fears and doubts. I imagine the idea was to give us someone to relate to. However, we already have the hobbits who are, as they themselves would tell us, as ordinary as dirt and happy to be that way. Tolkien's epic storytelling, by contrast, allows the heroes to be imbued with nobility and qualities that emerge as situations require.We need heroes to look up to who are imbued with something grander than we ourselves have. Otherwise, what is there to strive for? If all our heroes have been knocked down to average, we have only ourselves to look to. And that is not helpful in dire circumstances like those faced in this struggle in Middle Earth.

Ellie Red

I don't think there is anything new to contribute as far as reviewing is concerned when it comes to this epic trilogy but I just couldn't contain my excitement. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien is the father of this fiction genre, I really believe this! From a little kid I was a hard core fan of the films and I have watched them more times that I can count and I always wanted to read the books and finally I got the chance.Even though it is entirely set in an imaginary world, it feels like reality because Tolkien knew how to write and touch our hearts with simple things. Especially the third part of this epic reading adventure is magnificent, filled with powerful scenes and breathtaking descriptions. If you have read the books you know what I am referring to, if you haven't don't waste another minute and read it, you will only make yourself richer and wiser.


Que dizer deste livro... Adorei-o, pura e simplesmente. Emocionei-me e vivi todos aqueles momentos com as personagens, que já fazem parte de mim.No final ficou aquela nostalgia de tudo ter terminado e cada um ir para o seu lado.Sem dúvida que a trilogia do Senhor dos Anéis é daquelas histórias que vai ficar comigo sempre, estará sempre presente.

Greg of A2

And so it ends. What Tolkien did so well in the final book was to provide closure to the story. The fellowship is allowed to part ways in a fine and loving fashion. Most writers never go to these lengths to conclude a story (probably an additional 40 pages after the destruction of the ring and the completion of the quest). And just when you think the story had come to a quiet end, the return to the Shire is filled with drama. And here, Tolkien gives the reader a chance to observe the new found confidence and maturity of the four hobbits. There is no better three volumes of fantasy in print as far as I'm concerned.Note on text: this 4-book Houghton Mifflin trade paperback set (known as the Alan Lee set) is great because it's inexpensive. The size of the volumes make for good traveling companions and easy holding while laying about. But...and it's a big but, this edition is poorly edited and is ripe with punctuation errors (missing commas) and misspellings. This is not a collector's set or a set that a serious reader would want to own if they wanted just one authoritative set. Much better editions of LOTR exist.

Jonathan Cullen

A Review of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, by Sauron[Oprah Winfrey voice-over]: We all remember him. Sauron, the displaced Lord of the Rings. Once feared by millions, Sauron has been living in relative squalor in what he prefers to remain an undisclosed location. [Video shows unidentified heap of garbage behind a Wal-mart. In front stands a mailbox with the word "Nameless Enemy" printed on the front. The flag is down.][applause]Oprah: Today, we'll be joined by someone that many of you know but haven't seen or perhaps thought of in decades. Because of his status as a wanted quasi-deity, Sauron has agreed to participate via the internet, thanks to our good friends at Skype. Welcome Dark Lord of Mordor.Sauron [via Skype, single eye only] Thank you Oprah, it's good to be here, among friends.Audience: BoooooooooooooooooooOprah: Sauron, I wanted to do this show so you would have the opportunity to tell the story of the final volume of Lord of Rings, The Return of the King, from your perspective.[Sauron flinches] Oprah: I'm sorry, I understand you even have trouble with the title. Why do you want to talk to us today?Sauron: After my review of the second volume, my agent told me that some asswhipe named Ashton Kutcher tweeted that he was going to "punk me". I had no freaking clue what he was talking about but he told me this was trouble. Then one day I was coming back from Costco…[audience laughs]Sauron: Frack you. I use a lot of kleenex. Anyways, I was trying to load all of my items from my cart into my Corolla. They don't even give you bags those bloody cheapskates! Before I know it, a young lady offers to give me a hand. It's the first time in years anyone's ever helped me. I was so grateful. Then as she puts my last box into the trunk she drops something under the car. It makes a metallic sound as it hits the pavement. She looks distressed so, being the gentleman I am, I go on my hands and knees, reach under the car and feel a small trinket. I pull it out. It's a ring. A plastic pink ring. My pants are ruined, I have oil streaks on my arm and my nose is running. She asks me to look to the right and say "You cannot hide. I see you. There is no life in the void. Only death.", while holding up the ring. I do it. I don't know why but I did. Then that a-hole Kutcher bursts out of the bushes laughing. The cameras were next. It was all over YouTube within like 20 minutes. It was the lowest point for me since I tore my cornea when Barad-dûr came crashing down [a single tear drops from The Eye].Oprah: I thought you might have trouble today so I've brought you some help.[Dr. Phil enters to applause]Sauron: Aww hell no. Who invited this windbag?Dr. Phil: I feel some negative energy. Sauron: Thanks Kreskin. I went from the cusp of the total domination of the free peoples of Middle-earth to living next door to Marjory the Trash Heap from Fraggle Rock. I think she's dead but I'm not sure. So yes, there's a tad bit of negative energy. A-hole.Dr. Phil: If you're willin ta change, I can make some resources available to you. Are ya willin to do that?Sauron: Your accent is melting my brain. Please stop talking.Dr. Phil: I sense some resistance. This ain’t my first rodeo son!Sauron: You'll sense some fist in your face in a second, you hack. Dr. Phil: One of the things I believe is that we're in the biggest teen crisis in the history of this country.Sauron: [stares] I don't…Dr. Phil: I heard you've started to abuse narcotics? Your eye does look a little red.Sauron: I am Sauron the Deceiver, the Dread Abomination. I can do whatever the hell I want you country bumpkin. I'll snort the rest of the hair off your head right now if I feel like it.Dr. Phil: It's ok to admit it.Sauron: Fine. I'm hooked on Ent-draught, are you happy? That Treebeard is one expensive pusher. Maybe I do a little lembas bread too, but only in the morning. I can stop any time.Dr. Phil: How was your relationship with your parents Sauron?Sauron: Why do we always have to go there!? Fine, fine whatever makes you and Harpo Inc. happy. Freaking vultures. I originated as an immortal angelic spirit, an offspring of the thoughts of Eru, the Creator. I was there before anything else was created. It's all in The Silmarillion you illiterate blowhard.Dr. Phil: Boy, you're saying a lot of words there but you're not tellin me much! I'll tellyouwhat, if someone out there doesn’t agree with me, then somewhere a village is missing their idiot. Oprah: That's an Ah-ha moment. [to audience] Isn't that right?[applause]Dr. Phil: Let's talk about the Return of the King.Sauron: That's why I'm here you idiot. Let's just say, if Aragorn would have accepted the offer I made through the Mouth, we'd all be living happy lives now, with the lands to the East under my rule and those to the West paying me tribute. I felt that was a reasonable offer. I didn't know he cared so much about a halfling. I just want to apologize to everyone. Oprah: What do you say audience, should we give Sauron another chance?Audience: Noooooooo!!! Oprah: Sorry.Sauron: Blow me! I'll forge a new One Ring and come back and stuff it up your asses while it's still hot! Read this in the Black Speech of Mordor detective Gandalf: "May cause a-hole burns". I'm not sorry! I'd do it again!Dr. Phil: [to Oprah] I think my work is done here. [smiles and look at Mrs. Dr. Phil, who smiles][applause]Oprah: Sauron…I have a confession to make. I had a dual purpose to bringing you here. I wanted you to face your issues but I always wanted to discuss…OPRAH'S FAVOURITE THINGS FROM MIDDLE-EAAAAAARRRTTTTHHHHH!!!![Drab stage background parts to reveal glorious backdrop of Middle-earth. Audience goes ape shit, women make out with the closest person, grown men don't even bother to hide the growing urine stains on the front of their pants, Oprah guffaws triumphantly]Sauron: WTF!Oprah: That's right! That's right! You're all going to get all of my favourite things from the world that Sauron failed to conquer! Anddddddddd THEN WE'RE ALL FLYING TO RIVENDELL!!! From there, Tom Bombadil will take us on a guided tour of the ruins of Barad-dûr. You may even find a petrified eyelash from the Lidless Eye!![audience member]: Tom who? Sauron: I'm out of here. I'll ship you back the gift basket. [Oprah voiceover] Thus ends the story of Sauron's Review of Lord of the Rings and our glimpse into the Eye of evil. What new terrors is the Dark Lord of Mordor planning? What new plots will he unleash on Middle-earth in order to recapture what was lost. Thank you. That's our show today. Make sure to sign up for Oprah's No Phone Zone Pledge on[applause]Sauron: I'm still here. I'm having trouble logging off. Bollocks! I'm not too good with bloody comput [click][applause]


Writers who inspire a genre are usually misunderstood. Tolkien's reasons for writing were completely unlike those of the authors he inspired. He didn't have an audience, a genre, and scores of contemporaries. There was a tradition of high adventure fairy tales, as represented by Eddison, Dunsany, Morris, MacDonald, Haggard, and Kipling, but this was only part of what inspired Tolkien.His writing was chiefly influenced by his familiarity with the mythological traditions of the Norse and Welsh cultures. While he began by writing a fairy story with The Hobbit and other early drafts, his later work became a magical epic along the lines of the Eddas. As a translator, Tolkien was intimately knowledgeable with these stories, the myths behind them, and the languages that underpinned them, and endeavored to recreate their form.Contrarily, those who have followed in his footsteps since have tended to be inspired by a desire to imitate him. Yet they failed to do what Tolkien did because they did not have a whole world of mythic tradition, culture, and language to draw on. They mimicked his style, but did not understand his purpose, and hence produced merely empty facsimiles.If they had copied merely the sense of wonder or magnificence, then they might have created perfectly serviceable stories of adventure, but they also copied those parts of Tolkien which do not fit a well-built, exciting story--like his work's sheer length. Tolkien made it 'okay' for writers of fantasy to produce books a thousand pages long, and to write many of them in succession. Yet Tolkien's length had a purpose, it was not merely an affectation.Tolkien needed this length in order to reproduce myth. The Eddas were long and convoluted because they drew from many different stories and accounts, combined over time by numerous story-tellers and eventually compiled by scribes. The many digressions, conflicts, repetitions, asides, fables, songs, and minutiae of these stories came together organically. Each had a purpose, even if they didn't serve the story, they were part of a grand and strange world. Epics often served as encyclopedias for their age, teaching history, morals, laws, myth, and geography--as may be seen in Homer or The Bible.This was the purpose of all of Tolkien's long, dull songs, the litany of troop movements, the lines of lineage, the snippets of didactic myths, and side-adventures. To create a realistically deep and complicated world, he felt he needed to include as many diverging views as the original myths had. He was being true to a literary convention--though not a modern one, and not one we would call a 'genre'.He gave characters similar names to represent other historical traditions: that of common prefixes or suffixes, of a house line adopting similar names for fathers, sons, and brothers. An author who copies this style without that linguistic and cultural meaning just makes for a confusing story, breaking the sensible rule that main characters should not have similar names.Likewise, in a well-written story, side-characters should be kept to the minimum needed to move the plot and entertain the reader with a variety of personalities. It is another rule Tolkien breaks, because he is not interested in an exciting, driving pace. He wants the wealth of characters to match the number of unimportant side characters one would expect from a historical text.The only reason he sometimes gets away with breaking such sensible rules of storytelling is that he often has a purpose for breaking them, and is capable of drawing on his wealth of knowledge to instill further depth and richness in his world. Sometimes, when he slowed his story down with such asides, they did not have enough purpose to merit inclusion, a flaw in pacing which has only increased with modern authors.But underneath all of that, Tolkien does have an appealing and exciting story to tell, of war and succession and moral struggles--the same sort of story that has been found in our myths since the very earliest writings of man. He does not create a straight monomyth, because, like Milton, he presents a hero divided. Frodo takes after the Adam, placing strength in humility and piety, not martial might or wit. Aragorn is an attempt to save the warlike, aristocratic hero whom Milton criticized in his portrayal of Satan.Yet unlike Satan, we do not get an explanation of what makes Strider superior, worthy, or--more importantly--righteous. And in this, Tolkien's attempt to recreate the form of the Eddas is completely at odds with the Christian, romantic moral content with which he fills the story. This central schism makes his work much less true to the tradition than Anderson's The Broken Sword , which was published the same year.Not only does Tolkien put forth a vision of chaste, humble, 'everyman' heroes who persevere against temptation through piety, he also presents a world of dualistic good and evil, of eternal, personal morality, prototypical of the Christian worldview, particularly the post-Miltonic view. His characters are bloodless, chaste, and noble--and if that nobility is sometimes that of simple, hard-working folk, all the better for his Merrie England analogue.More interesting than these is his portrayal of Gollum, one of the few characters with a deep psychological contradiction. In some ways, his central, conflicted role resembles Eddison's Lord Gro, whose work inspired Tolkien. But even this internal conflict is dualistic. Unlike Gro, Gollum is not a character with an alternative view of the world, but fluctuates between the hyperbolic highs and lows of Tolkien's morality.It is unfortunate that both good and evil seem to be external forces at work upon man, because it removes much of the agency and psychological depth of the characters. There is a hint of very alien morality in the out-of-place episode of Tom Bombadil, expressing the separation between man and fairy that Dunsany's work epitomized. Bombadil is the most notorious remainder of the fantastical roots of Tolkien's story which he painstakingly removed in editing in favor of Catholic symbology.Yet despite internal conflicts, there is something respectable in what he achieved, and no fantasy author has yet been capable of comprehending what Tolkien was trying to do and innovating upon it. The best modern writers of fantasy have instead avoided Tolkien, concentrating on other sources of inspiration. The dullards of fantasy have merely rehashed and reshuffled the old tropes back and forth, imagining that they are creating something.One cannot entirely blame Tolkien because Jordan, Martin, Goodkind, Paolini, Brooks, and Salvatore have created a genre out of his work which is unoriginal, cloying, escapist, and sexually unpalatable (if often successful). At least when Tolkien is dull, ponderous, and divergent, he is still achieving something.These authors are mostly trying to fix a Tolkien they don't understand, trying to make him easy to swallow. The uncomfortable sexuality is an attempt to repair the fact that Tolkien wrote a romance where the two lovers are thousands of miles apart for most of the story. Even a libertine like me appreciates Tolkien's chaste, distant, longing romance more than the obsessively fetishistic consummation that has come to define sexuality in the most repressive and escapist genre this side of four-color comic books.I don't think Tolkien is a great writer, I don't even think he is one of the greater fantasy writers. He was a stodgy old Tory, and the Shire is his false golden age of 'Merrie Olde England'. His romance wasn't romantic, and his dualistic moralizing cheapened the story. His attempt to force Christian theology onto a heroic epic is as problematic and conflicted as monks' additions to Beowulf. Tolkien's flaws have been well-documented by notable authors, from Moorcock's 'Epic Pooh' to Mieville's adroit analysis, but for all that, he was no slouch. Even if we lament its stolid lack of imagination, The Lord of the Rings is the work of a careful and deliberate scholar of language, style, and culture. It is the result of a lifetime of collecting and applying knowledge, which is a feat to behold. Each time the moon is mentioned, it is in the proper phase as calculated from the previous instance. Calendar dates and distances are calculated. Every name mentioned has a meaning and a past. I have even heard that each description of a plant or stone was carefully researched to represent the progression of terrain, though I can find no support for this theory.Yet what good is that to a story? It may be impressive as a thought exercise, but to put that much time and work into the details instead of fixing and streamlining the frame of the story itself seems entirely backwards to me. But for all that The Lord of the Rings may be dull, affected, and moralistic, it is Tolkien's, through and through.My Fantasy Book Suggestions

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