The final installment of this classic high fantasy tale, our heroes are on the last leg of their journey. Pippin and Gandalf arrive in Minis Tirith, the White City. This is one of my favorite parts in the film, because the white city stands out against the oncoming darkness like a white beacon of hope. I love how Shadowfax runs through the days and nights with great haste, taking them to see the Steward of Gondor, who resides in Minis Tirith.
While Gandalf tells Pippin not to say anything about the death of Boromir, it’s already too late: Denethor is holding the cloven horn that Boromir had in his possession. He is much aggrieved, eventually turning to madness when he mistakenly believes that his second son Faramir is dead. Pippin swears allegiance to Denethor, stung by the scorn that he utters, already knowing that an attack from Mordor is imminent.
Meanwhile, Aragorn, Gimil, and Legolas are fresh from the Battle of Hornburg, also known as the Battle of Helm’s Deep. On their way back to Isengard, Aragorn and Theoden’s company are met by the Grey Company, who end up going with Aragorn to the Paths of the Dead. Eowyn tries to get him not to go, but he disagrees with her, also stating that he does not love her. He leaves with Gimil and Legolas, as well as the Grey Company, who all go with him to Dunharrow. With the armies of the dead pledged to him, Aragorn and the others head to the port of Pelagrir. They vanish once they fulfill their oath.
Gandalf proposes a plan: if they can distract the Eye of Sauron, they can give Frodo and Sam a chance to destroy the One Ring. The company marches on Mordor, heading right to the Black Gates.
Sam frees Frodo from the Tower of Cirith Ungol. Together, the two of them make their long journey to Mount Doom. It takes them a while, because they have to briefly go north, because they can’t just cross directly across Mordor. Gollum is also on their trail.
Gandalf’s plan to distract the Eye works: all the Orcs in Mordor are gathered to the Black Gate, where they fight Aragorn’s army. Aragorn, especially in the movie, in his element: he is kingly, emboldening the men who are going to fight all the evil in Mordor. I love his speech that he gives to the men, telling them: “I bid you stand, men of the West!” The fear that the men were feeling at facing such vast evil is assuaged, for they seem strong enough to take on the Orcs, Trolls, and whatever else the Eye can throw at them.
When Frodo reaches the top of Mount Doom, he is about to throw the Ring into the fire, but feels the pull of the Ring, which is overwhelming at this point. He puts on the Ring, and is about to leave Mount Doom, when Gollum intercepts him. Biting off part of his index finger, Gollum takes the Ring from Frodo. The two fight, and Gollum goes over the edge. He dies with the Ring in hand. Sam and Frodo flee, ending up stuck amid the lava flow. The Eagles come to save Frodo and Sam, whisking them off to safety in Rivendell.
Aragorn is crowned king. The Fellowship say their farewells, and the Hobbits return to Hobbiton. What surprised me is that the Shire is much changed once Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin return. There’s been an altercation, with the Shire’s tress mowed down and Shiriff’s in place of the peaceful life that the four Hobbits once knew. Mills and other such developments have taken hold, something that wasn’t there when the group left the Shire.
Not to my surprise, I learned that Saruman was behind all of this. He was freed from his tower in Isengard, believed to no longer have power. True, he was no longer a wizard since Gandalf broke his staff, but he still possessed the ability to sway people with his voice. With his voice, he started all of this chaos in the Shire. The Hobbits defend themselves, and with the help of Wormtongue, Saruman is killed. Wormtongue himself is killed after he tries to escape the Shire.
Slowly, over the years, the Shire recovers. Trees are planted, and fields are resown. Sam marries the love of his life, Rosie, and Merry and Pippin become quite esteemed in the Shire. Frodo lives in Bag End with Sam, his wife, and their daughter Elanor.
Frodo, because his wounds from Weathertop do not fully heal, goes to the Undying Lands with Gandalf and the other ring bearers, which include his Uncle Bilbo, and several Elves. Frodo does not go to the Undying Lands to die. On the contrary, his wounds there are healed and he lives out his days there in peace up until his death.
Sam, Merry, and Pippin return to Hobbiton. While they are sad to see Frodo leave them, they know he is going to a good place. Sam returns home to his wife and young daughter, Elanor. “Well, I’m back” (pg. 385) Sam says.
Once again, I watched the film version of The Return of the King after I read the book. I was amazed at how closely detailed the film is compared to the novel. While the bit about the Shire was taken out, the film follows the book closely, adapting what needed to be adapted for time and the viewer’s sake. I love The Lord of the Rings films and am able to appreciate their content much more fully now that I’ve read the books. The books, while a little slower in pace, are just as wonderful and magical as the films. I loved hearing the various songs in the books–as well as hearing the pieces of poetry presented in the novels–and enjoyed recognizing them from where they are used in the film. I also loved learning more about the lore and world in which the Fellowship lives. Tolkien is truly a master at creating worlds; he is well versed in creating languages, and knows how to let hope shine in places where there is darkness.
There is hope in a world where there’s mostly darkness, which is applicable to what is happening in our own world today.
I highly recommend reading the novels to anyone who has seen the films and loved The Lord of the Rings trilogy. You won’t be disappointed.