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

ISBN: 0345235118
ISBN 13: 9780345235114
By: J.R.R. Tolkien

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About this book

THE GREATEST FANTASY EPIC OF OUR TIMEWhile the evil might of the Dark Lord Sauron swarmed out to conquer all Middle-earth, Frodo and Sam struggled deep into Mordor, seat of Sauron’s power. To defeat the Dark Lord, the accursed Ring of Power had to be destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom. But the way was impossibly hard, and Frodo was weakening. Weighed down by the compulsion of the Ring he began finally to despair.The awesome conclusion of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, beloved by millions of readers around the world.

Reader's Thoughts

Nikki

I fear I'm never going to like The Return of the King as much as the rest, although when you think about it there's so much good in it -- Eowyn, and Faramir, and the victory which... isn't quite at the end, but more in the middle. I think Book V might actually be my favourite, in some ways, but Book VI, well... kind of bores me? I think there's too much emphasis on telling us how joyful everyone is, making the ceremonies too high and making it all a bit precious. And then Tolkien doesn't seem to know where to end it: I think there's half a dozen endings I could identify in Book VI.Still. I read this in two big gulps: Tolkien is an undoubted master, to my mind.

midnightfaerie

The Return of the King was by far the best Lord of the Rings yet. It made me cry several times and had some key elements to it that really made it the best and rounded out the series perfectly. First of all, we have my favorite part, when the hobbits come back to the Shire. They've been through so much and are hoping to rest but are sorely mistaken when they find their beloved Shire in ruins. Trees cut down, water polluted, homes destroyed, and basically a gang of ruffians has taken over. These ruffians, who are twice as big as these hobbits, tower over them, informing them of all the rules they've broken and how they're under arrest, and the hobbits just laugh. Going through town, and ignoring every rule and missive blatantly, they do what they want and scoff at the opposition. After everything they've been through, it's pretty much like they're saying, "Whatever, you ruined my home, I don't care how big you are or how many of you there are, get over here so I can kick your ass." It's just beautiful, the whole scene, who they encounter there, how the battle ensues, and I was very disappointed that the movie didn't even touch upon it. Second, the two battles. Tolkien expertly bringing in the different races one at a time to ensure a fantastic climax of an epic battle. I especially loved the addition of the dead. It seemed a nice sideline at first but quickly became an integral part of how the battle at Gondor turned out. I loved the detail as they went through the mountain and again, I wished the movie would have focused a little more on this as well. Then there's the debate at the end. Perhaps this is understood among LOTR nerds, however, in my circles, there's heavy debate on whether the "Havens" are actually death for the characters going there. I'm still undecided. It seems as if Tolkien was hinting at this all along, constantly bringing up the pain in Frodo's shoulder and pointing out that he's never fully whole again and he's been "too deeply hurt". Then there's the whole debate on whether Gandalf died in Moria and came back. It almost seemed so to me, especially when he says "Oh yes, Gandalf, that's what they used to call me." Like he was not quite with it. The elves that go are different, since they live many times longer then the other races and have different magical powers. Or perhaps the elves keep them from aging/dying and so they go with them to live there so they don't die. There are many examples of things that are said that can be interpreted to mean that they've dying, (anyone who reads the book can find them, they're easy to find, so I won't go into them here), but there still seems to be a big debate on whether it's spiritually/physically/metaphysically dying/leaving an old life behind/etc. As for me, I think they've died physically. Not right then, but they are sailing to their peace. But that's just my opinion. I'd also like to state quickly my favorite characters. First, Galadriel, probably because it's the faerie in me. She's exquisite, magical, strong, tenacious, and wise. And she doesn't mind flirting across races. And she allows herself to hold the ring, testing herself to see if she can withstand it, and does. That's cool. Then there's my second favorite, Legolas. Intelligent, quiet, skilled, neat friendship with a dwarf, and he can walk on snow, among other things. Just very cool. Then it's really difficult, but I'd have to say Samwise. Frodo gets on my nerves quite often, he seems pretty whiny. But Sam, to me, is the real hero. Loyal, true, brave, always putting Frodo first, and carrying him in the end. Just a all around great character. Some other characters that touched me were Merry and Pippin, how they changed through the book, with them, I think you saw the most personality growth. Then there's Tom Bombadil. What's his story? Really? I think Tolkien should have written a whole book just about this guy. He's so interesting and he was there before all of them. And what was that bit about at the end? Gandalf saying he's gotta go spend some time with Tom, and they had a lot to discuss. So interesting and then just dropped! So much of that in this book! Frustrating and intriguing all at the same time. In the end, just a fantastic story. Characters that appeal to every type of personality with heroes to love, and villains to hate. A classic fantasy story, I can now see why many fantasy reviews are compared to this book. An enchanting story and for all the reasons I've stated in all three reviews, a classic. ClassicsDefined.com

Baelor

I have finally finished the Lord of the Rings! I had first started the first book over ten years ago, in my early teens. I have since attempted to read them about three or four times. All prior attempts were abandoned sometime toward the end of the first book or the beginning of the second. It was simply too boring for me at the time, and seemed to be going nowhere. With age came maturity, however, and I finally succeeded, and I managed to enjoy the journey as well! Thus ends the greatest literary endeavor of my life so far.What made Lord of the Rings so hard to review upon publication was Tolkien's unique goal in writing it. Even now, over fifty years after its release, over which period its shadow has only extended to cover ever more of Tolkien's lesser imitators, it stands alone. Is it really a novel? Is it even an epic, given that its entire mythology is completely fabricated and never considered to be actual history? Whatever one thinks of these issues, it is rather clear that Tolkien reached his professed goals in writing LotR. His forward to the second edition of the text states, "The prime motive was the desire of a tale-teller to try his hand at a really long story that would hold the attention of readers, amuse them, delight them, and at times maybe excite them or deeply move them." While the reviews blasting the length of the work or its dull pace certainly exist, most readers can say that their attention was held, they were amused, delight, and even sometimes excited or moved. The indelible mark Tolkien has left on fantasy is a monument to his success.Is there, then, any room for criticism? Of course. One may disagree with his intent, or point out aspects of the text that were stylistically problematic, morally questionable, and so forth. Some of these, of course, are more sensible than others.Perhaps the most frequent criticism, especially among the élite and literate, is that Tolkien's prose is bad and his pacing is dull. The boredom issue is subjective. The prose one can be made more concrete, while remaining somewhat subjective. I had the opposite experience of most readers, judging by the reviews here: Tolkien's dialog was excellent. The characters and regions were differentiated, and the wisest and most eloquent of characters (Gandalf, Saruman, Denethor, the elves) had some beautiful and forceful dialog. Highlights included the conversation between Denethor and Gandalf, any monolog of Saruman, and almost the entirety of the Council of Elrond chapter. One is reminded of the best speeches in epic poetry from all cultural traditions. The frequent poetic devices, archaisms, and syntactic flexibility add to this effect.On the other hand, I agree with the detractors about Tolkien's description. At best it was boring. At worst -- and the worst was too frequent -- it was boring and unclear, and therefore worse than pointless (e.g. Treeboard's grotto). The best descriptions were those of the fantastical that were sufficiently vague to permit imagination. Mount Orodruin and Minas Tirith are too such examples (although the latter included the frustratingly vague description of Rath Dínen's location). The pacing is uneven -- FotR was exciting and full of discovery and beauty; the TT was rather slow (and almost immobile in the Fangorn segment); the RotK moved along at breakneck pace and provided a thrilling conclusion. The songs and poems embedded in the text are its low point. They are just awful. One or two were tolerable; they rest, not so much. Why we must read a bath song or Tom Bombadil's terrible verses is never established. Whatever Tolkien was trying, even if it was some masturbatory impulse to show off his non-existent poetic ability, failed utterly. Bad bad bad. Very bad. The song of Eärendil at Rivendell was probably the sole good inclusion. Your mileage may vary on this issue, but no me gusta.On the other hand, as I have noted in my reviews on the other two books in the 'series,' Tolkien's prose was very deliberate in one particular way: diction. Tolkien was a linguist and drew primarily on Germanic inspirations for his mythology. What better way to do this than using Germanic language? Read a paragraph anywhere in the text and think about how many words are Latinate/Greek in origin; the answer is disproportionately few. Tolkien created a linguistic effect by using mainly English/Germanic words.Another criticism is the characterization and character development. I feel the characters are a mixed bag. Again, it is important to remember that LotR is not merely about individuals undergoing psychological change, as many modern novels and short stories are. Tolkien is not interested in exploring in detail the thought processes of his characters, just as the epic poets and even dramatists were not. Of course, characters have motivations, but we are not privy to every detail. Some characters stick out as exceptional. Frodo, Gandalf, Éowyn, Denethor, Elrond, Galadriel, and Gandalf are particularly interesting, and all have distinct personalities. Other characters, not so much. Gimli and Legolas seem to exist to provide interaction between Elves and Dwarves. Merry and Pippin were not well differentiated (the films were excellent in providing actual personalities to the two), and pretty much all the important lords and knights are generically valiant. In brief, there are hits and misses.Tolkien's plot is indescribably complicated, not least of all because the events of LotR are simply entries in the annals of a history that extends back thousands of years. While the book does not begin in medias res, Tolkien masterfully conveys a sense of passing time and forgotten lore from the beginning of the work, when Gandalf spends years learning about the One Ring. The complexity of Middle-Earth is emphasized throughout all the work, especially through the appropriation and conversion of architecture (Minas Ithil/Morgul, Minas Arnor/Tirith, Greenwood/Mirkwood, Amon Sul/Weathertop, Orthanc, to name but a few). The issues of passing time and the individual's role in it are picked up by the departure of the Elves and the conversations between Frodo and Sam at the end of the Two Towers. The emotional impact this has upon the careful reader should be experienced firsthand. At a time in our world where history is more forgotten by decision-makers and the general population than ever before, LotR provides a much-needed counterpoint. Is human history divided into eras? It history circular or directional? Is there such a thing as decay, or a Golden Age, or recovered glory? The theme of time's progression makes Tolkien's work realistic in a way ignored by most fantasy authors, to their great detriment. Time in LotR is one of the strongest elements of the work.Related to the issue of time is the partial subversion of the epic hero. Frodo and Sam are virtuous but are not noble or battle-tested or even covetous of fame or glory. They are not rulers (Aragorn is, however), nor do they ever ascend to high ranks of nobility, though they enjoy great honor throughout the land. When they return to the Shire, however, they are changed, in such a way that they can never return to normal life. Unlike Odysseus, Frodo and Sam have only temporary peace and quiet. Tolkien's ending is therefore not totally happy: Frodo leaves Middle-Earth because his pain is too great to bear(view spoiler)[; Sam leaves when his wife dies and nothing tethers him to the Shire any longer (hide spoiler)]. They have thus prepared a world which they are unable to enjoy. Again, a remarkably realistic touch given the struggles that soldiers face coming home to a society that cannot or does not appreciate or even understand their efforts.It would be impossible to comment on every other theme or motif within Tolkien's work, but I did want to briefly touch upon morality in LotR. It is no secret that the work is fundamentally Christian. The largely dualistic moral system should therefore be unsurprising. There are, of course, shades of grey -- Gollum, Bill Ferny, Saruman even -- but the central conflict is clearly between an obvious good and an obvious evil. I do not find this problematic. We confront "obvious evil" all the time: what else are genocidal tyrants who murder senselessly, or psychopathic serial killers? LotR focuses on a conflict against Sauron, who desires the destruction of freedom and good. Given this focus, it should not be surprising that a dualistic moral system is in play. Most of the peripheral characters and locations are glossed over. Dol Amroth may have its crime problems, but they are not relevant to the story being told.The question of agency is more interesting: are any characters evil because of human agency, or are they evil only because Sauron's evil influence has taken over them? I do not think it is a stretch to say that Tolkien's view of humanity is optimistic: almost none of the protagonists make decisions that would be considered evil/wrong without being influenced by the Ring (as Boromir). But greed, selfishness, and disrespect abound not only through characters like Wormtongue, Saruman, Bill Ferny, and others, but also in the historical figures that have shaped Middle-Earth. Faramir resists the Ring; Boromir does not. Agency does appear in the Lord of the Rings, but in subtle ways.The morality of LotR is unsatisfactory in one respect: Tolkien does not actually address the issue of technological progress adequately. The only real advancement comes from Saruman, who of course is corrupted, etc. We are then left with the bizarre impression that society should come to a technological stand-still. Fine; perhaps Tolkien is a Luddite of sorts. But then what of Minas Tirith? What of the horse lords? What of the archives, all of which use paper? What of the cities and fortresses that clearly encroach upon nature? The answer is unclear. Perhaps Tolkien means to suggest that some balance with nature is possible. I would agree. The problem is that this system requires perfect benevolence and a total lack of curiosity on the part of every rational being involved. Militaries often spur scientific progress as a defensive maneuver; only complete and total trust could rid them of this apparent need. But how is such trust possible unless every person is perfect? The issue of agency resurfaces: Is all evil gone now that Sauron is? Or are the humans, remaining Elves, dwarves, hobbits, and others still agents who can do wrong? Unclear. Given the roles that technology and society play in the book, this is a slight oversight, but not enough to dampen enjoyment.I am very glad to have read Lord of the Rings. In terms of artistic goal and the nature of the book, it is of course sui generis. More than that, however, it is amusing; it is delightful; it is moving. It is full of wise aphorisms and strange tales. It is both personal and epic. It does reflect a particular worldview that we can critique and/or apply to our own lives. Tolkien likely had no idea how significant his novel would become, but that is for the best: he wrote the book for his own purposes, with an eye toward his readers and his own enjoyment. It worked.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

Chris

** spoiler alert ** The Return of the King is the conclusion to the LOTR; its conclusion and its history, for the book is part appendices to the tale. These appendices include bloodlines and history that is not covered by the trilogy itself or by its prequel, The Hobbit.In many ways, this book is the best one of the trilogy. It has the most memorable battle in just about any fantasy work, the Battle of Pelennor Fields. It has the most traumatic and heart breaking, yet realistic, end to the quest.For the best part of this book, in many ways, the best part of the trilogy is the scene where Eowyn confronts the Chief Nazgul to defend her fallen uncle. The best lines ever being, “But no living man am I! You look upon a woman.” And don’t forget, she laughs first. I love the fact that Tolkien refers to her as lady or woman, but never girl. I love that. When I first read the trilogy at the age of seven, I couldn’t understand why Aragorn married Arwen. She didn’t do anything in the meat of the story, and Eowyn, she did something big. As I got older and understood more about literature and the inspiration for LOTR, I came to understand and even endorse why Tolkien structured the book this way. In fact, it is fun to see Arwen rob the cradle. (As an aside, why is it usually, mostly, female elves and human males? Would elven males be less likely to give up their immortality, or we can tolerant the age difference in the elf female, but not an elf male with a human woman?). In fact, Arwen’s sacrifice is as brave, if not more so, than Eowyn’s stand. Tolkien may have few women in his story, but he presents them as strong and independent.It’s undoubtedly true that there is much of Tolkien in the hobbits, but I also think there is something of him in Eowyn. Tolkien is one of the few authors who shows the cost paid by those who stay at home in the time of war. He does this toward the end of the book, but also, most touchingly, with Eowyn when she says to Aragorn, who has bid her stay, “All your words are but to say: you are a woman, and your part is in the house. But when the men have died in battle and honour, you have leave to be burned in the house, for the men will need it no more.” How often in history do we focus on the battle and not the resistance or those who make a stand at home? Tolkien returns to theme of Eowyn and the cost of service and duty in the Houses of Healing when Gandalf points out to Eomer what Eowyn faced during her uncle’s illness and subjection to Wormtongue. It is hard not to see a degree of the survivor of WWI and the father who has to watch his children go to war in the character of Eowyn. The conclusion of her story is most lovingly told. It is not often remembered by many critics, but it should be, that Faramir says, “And if she will, then let us cross the River and in happier days let us dwell in fair Ithilien and there make a garden.” He too is giving up his sword. Both Eowyn and Faramir were unvalued in varying degrees, yet each understands very well. Faramir, outside of Gandalf, is the only character in the book to truly understand Eowyn.While Eowyn allows Tolkien to make comments on the total cost of war, the most heartbreaking aspect of the novel is the end of Frodo’s quest. For Frodo makes it the total way and fails. “But I do not choose not to do what I came to do. I will not do this deed. The Ring is mine!” Frodo says before puting the Ring on. Tolkien is brave enough to allow Frodo to fail. The only reason why the Ring is destroyed is because of the Judas, Gollum, who dies in the height of joy. This use of the temptation of Christ is stunning and heartbreaking. And wonderful.The use of parallels and doubling is still here. There are the three rulers -Denethor, Theoden, and Aragorn – who represent various degrees of ruling. There is almost a second Ring and a second Gollum in the Scouring of the Shire chapter. This book balances the whole trilogy.12/14/12 - Who doesn't like Rosie Cotton?

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 Oprah.com[applause]Sauron: I'm still here. I'm having trouble logging off. Bollocks! I'm not too good with bloody comput [click][applause]

Todd

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.)

Nikki

The Return of the King is perhaps my least favourite of the three volumes. Part of that is the slow hideous crawl to Mordor, of course, despite the bright valour of Aragorn and Eowyn and most of the people in Minas Tirith -- even the death of Denethor is good to read, though sad. Part of it is the fact that a huge chunk of it, over a hundred pages in my edition, is the winding up of the story. There are some beautiful bits, of course, but Tolkien's descriptions of joy and victory don't ring quite so true as his descriptions of strife against the odds. I'd be surprised if they did: joy is very difficult to write about, I think.It seems to take forever to wrap up and for those interested in the characters, it's very satisfying in that sense, if bittersweet in places. But it's also the wrapping up of the mythology, the end of an age, and for once I was focused more on that than on the characters. I'm not interested in the Fourth Age!Of course, then the appendices are a welcome addition, from that point of view. You really mustn't neglect them, if you're interested in Tolkien's worldbuilding. He worked on a scale that few other writers bother with, for the sheer joy of the imagination required, and it's amazing to look at his handiwork.

Anbu

It's been quite a long time since I felt a bit sad when a book is finished. This book just did that.. Felt a bit sad towards the last few pages thinking it is getting ended.. Wish it would have been longer.. :DOne of the great series of books I've ever read..

Kristin

This was technically a re-read, but since it was twenty years ago that I read it the first time I decided I could review it here. When the LotR trilogy came out in the theaters, I was reading the books after watching the theatrical release. Except for RotK. I either wasn't in the mood to read it or I just bounced off of it. After our trip to Vegas, we watched RotK again, and I decided that I was at last ready to give the book another attempt. Do I need to summarize RotK? I think enough folks have read this - or seen the movies - to remember the basic story well enough.Reading this book was an interesting comparision between the movie and the written word. I know amongst avid Tolkien fans that there was much resentment towards Peter Jackson and how he did the whole trilogy. Now having watched (more than several times) the theatrical version and having re-read all the books, I really must applaud Jackson for tackling such a difficult series. I have decided Tolkien is not an easy read. He has so much history and discription woven into all of the books that you really have to be paying attention to what is going on. His writing style is very formal to the point of being almost stilted. The names of his characters all look alike and sound alike (Eowyn, Eomer, Elrond, Elindil - to mention just a few) and he has multiple names for many of them. I felt it helps if you have read the Simarillion (which is a history of the four books) to help set the stage and all the characters straight - but it is certainly not necessary. Did Jackson "miss the point" in the final movie when compared to the books? In my opinion, no. Jackson took the whole LotR series and distilled it down to its bare bone essence. Like taking wine and making brandy. You start with something full of floral notes, fruity overtones and lingering tastes of summer and end up with, concentrated floral and fruity notes that make brandy. Something was going to be cut, changed, altered (artistic liberties going on here) and out came the movie trilogy. So while I think the books allow a person to really dive into the world Tolkein created and the epic struggle, I feel the movies did a good job of bringing that struggle to the screen. And I would say, if a person has the patience to read Tolkien, it is a facinating comparison because really, the whole story is brilliantly conceived and written.

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.

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.

Caris

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.

Vasia

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

Joe

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.

Keely

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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