The last Tolkien post. I knew it had to come.
Perhaps this reality wouldn't have hit me so hard, if it hadn't been for the fact that I received an adamant automatic notice from the library telling me my LOTR books MUST be returned. After all those weeks, fighting with Frodo...Skulking in the bushes while Ringwraiths rode by...hearing the nasty little footsteps of something behind me and my companion--because after all I was Frodo...until suddenly Tolkien switched me from being Frodo to being someone completely different.
It will happen to you, too.
In the first book, The Fellowship of the Ring, you will receive the commission to destroy the Ring along with Frodo; Tolkien draws you in that way; makes you feel one with this little hobbit; weighs you down with the burden of destroying the force of evil. And as you draw ever nearer to the Cracks of Doom, the burden will grow heavier and heavier--until the last few pages of The Two Towers. Then in book three you will no longer be Frodo; for this is what I experienced, and what other Tolkien readers have experienced before me. Instead, you'll identify with one of the remaining members of the company trying to help the Ringbearer reach his goal, and holding your breath as you watch him lest he give up--or turn back--or die.
So let's make this an absolutely epic finale, to herald the conclusion of Tolkien's masterpiece: The Return of the King
I don't know if you've noticed, but it gets harder and harder to summarize LOTR without spoilers. :) So forgive generalities, and allow me a few side-notes to explain the important plot bits.
After three of the company fight with Rohan's king Theodan at Helm's Deep, (the conclusion of which I couldn't give away) they reunite with the two other companions that are hanging out with the Ents. After a confrontation with the evil Sauruman (remember? He betrayed the good Council and is out to get the ring for himself) in which they entreat him to return to their own side, they retrieve one of the Seeing Stones of Numenor, which is a bit like a magic ball. Unfortunately, one of the company looks into it, and reveals to Sauron, the ultimate dark power, where they are. After this happens, one of the Ringwriaths flies by over their camp, and at the orders of their leader, they break camp to go and rescue Minas Tirith.
Now I'm going to name the company memembers: The three that have stuck together so far, I will call A, B, and C. And the two they were out to look for are D and E. This will make it much easier. :)
Member D looked into the stone. He is taken by a White Rider on a very special horse, Shadowfax, to Minas Tirith. This horse can go faster than the others, and they quickly outstrip Theodan and the riders of Rohan. Arriving at the city, they find that things are not well. The city is preparing for war, but they aren't receiving enough help from their surrounding allies to face the thousands of orcs marching towards them. Faramir, son of Denethor, has not yet arrived with his men. And Denethor seems moody, irritable, and suspicious of Member D's companion, the White Rider. In fact, the White Rider tells Member D to conceal the fact that they have Minas Tirith's king in the company of Theoden's army. Now is not the time. Member D swears allegiance to Denethor and Minas Tirith, and is given a place as a soldier in the army. The orcs draw closer. Faramir appears at the gate, and Denethor sends him off in anger on a suicidal mission to defend the outpost of Pennelor from the oncoming orcs.
Members A, B, C, and E stay with Theoden, but not for long. Member A, who has now taken charge of the Seeing Stone of Numenor, looks into it to challenge Sauron, and draw his attention ever farther away from the frail mission of the Ringbearer. When he returns to his companions, he tells them that he is going on to help Minas Tirith, which is his duty as it's king--and he is going by the way of the Paths of the Dead. None who have taken that path have ever returned. Before he starts, members from the house of Elrond come to place their swords at his command, and they agree to accompany him along with Members B and C. In spite of the passionate appeal of Eowyn, the woman in charge of Theoden's people, he refuses to take her with him.
Faramir returns to Minas Tirith struck by a Nazgul. He is in a coma, and no-one expects him to live. The battle begins on the fields before the city. Denethor looks himself and his still-living son in the tombs of the kings, and orders his servants to set fire around him. The riders of Rohan spur towards the city, and reach the army, only to encounter the head Ringwraith, the King of the Nazgul. One of Theoden's foot soldiers and Member E wage war upon it, as it narrows down on Theoden.
The Paths of the Dead...a mad Steward of Gondor, about to burn himself and his son alive...a lady in disguise in the ranks of Rohan...the members of the company...Minas Tirith. If help does not arrive in time, then Minas Tirith will fall, and Sauron will discover the Ringbearer in his own lands. But if they do manage to hold their own--then at what cost will it be?
Then came at last dreadful nightfall; and even as the Captains of the West drew near to the end of the living lands, the two wanderers came to an hour of blank despair...All this last day Frodo has not spoken, but had walked half-bowed, often stumbling, as if his eyes no longer saw the way before his feet. (His companion) guessed that among all their pains he bore the worst, the growing weight of the Ring, a burden on the body and a torment to his mind. Anxiously, (he) watched how (Frodo's) left hand would often be raised as if to ward off a blow, or to screen his shrinking eyes from a dreadful Eye that sought to look in them. And sometimes his right hand would creep ot his breast, clutching, and then slowly, and the will recovered mastery, it would be withdrawn.
Then Frodo can hold out no longer: while his companion goes without eating and drinking to give him strength to reach his journey's end, and his friends give their life-blood to buy him a few more seconds of precious time--as the Ring grows ever heavier, and his mind draws ever closer to the fine line of throwing it away, or giving in to the pull it has upon his mind and heart for complete mastery-
He can bear it no longer. And his action destroys Sauron's distraction, and brings the Eye straight to where he stands. He only has a few seconds left. And he is powerless to do anything to help himself.
I would highly recommend reading these books. When you're done, you'll probably want and need to seek out further understanding of Tolkien's imagery, his intentions, and the original syntax of the words he used, so that you won't be confused as to his meaning on certain points. After you've read the LOTR books, I highly encourage you to click here for another bibliophile's review of the LOTR books; she goes into great detail and clarity, even discussing what Tolkien intended with his use of the word "Magic" and some of the events that took place in the books.
I hope you enjoy your journey through Middle Earth as much as I did. Prepare to lose yourself in this breathtaking struggle of good against evil.
And be sure to read The Hobbit first. :)
Posters used do not necessarily portray the events of The Return of the King or accuratly depict Tolkien's Middle Earth. They are here for flavor only.
Special Edition for Those Who Have Read the Books
I was going to end this post a little differently; I wanted to say "And he slipped on the Ring," but I thought it might not be quite fair to put in that big of a spoiler. I didn't know until Arwen gave Frodo the little chain that he would be going with the elves. The thought never occurred to me that he would do anything else than seek rest from his labors in the Shire. But the funny thing was, as soon as the Ring fell into the cracks of doom (and I think that was pretty slick the way Gollum went with it. I knew that had to happen.) I became Frodo again. I felt just as weary and sick as he did, and much as I loved Sam, and sad as it was to think of leaving him, I wanted Frodo to find a place of rest. I wept streams of tears as he rode to meet the elves, and one of my family members came in opon me right after I started the last section.
"I'm okay. (sniff, sniff) It's a great book. (sniff) It's not sad, its just..." What I meant was, it's not a tragic ending; it's a triumphant one. But it was hard to get that point across in the midst of sobs. :)
Totally satisfying. Very well-done. Epic. Good.
Definite read again.