The Return of the King by J R R Tolkien is the final instalment of The Lord of the Rings series. After such tragic endings at the end of each book in The Two Towers, it is anticipated that these issues will clear up fast for the ending of the trilogy. Not so fast as expected, however, with more battles to be fought and more groups splitting to emerge victorious at the end. Pippin is off with Gandalf to ensure the safety of the group, heading to Minas Tirith. Aragorn and co. are still with Théoden, although fear grips at the group as they wonder if they'll make it in time to defend Minas Tirith. Then in Mordor, Samwise fears for the life of Frodo as he has been taken away by orcs after being paralysed by Shelob.
It's all looking pretty bad for the different members of the group where we left off. The climactic ending is near but so much is yet to happen. The first book begins with Gandalf and Pippin riding to Minas Tirith. Once they reach their destination, Pippin is warned to act in a certain way so to please Denethor, the ruler of the city. It is clear Denethor is not pleased by Gandalf, but with the Pippin pledging his sword to the steward in honour of Boromir (Denethor's son) and his sacrifice to keep the hobbits alive, Denethor becomes slightly more friendly to the hobbit... but not for long. As any father would be, he is not happy about what has happened to his son, and it becomes clear that his other child, Faramir, is not in such high graces as his brother.
When Faramir is sent on a suicidal mission by his father to defend Osgiliath from the armies of Mordor. Although he holds his position as long as he can, he is forced to retreat. As he and his group retreat back to Minas Tirith with Gandalf's help, Faramir is struck with a poisoned arrow, which sends Denethor into a madness that ultimately leads him to close off crypts with himself and Faramir locked away. With the plan of ending the line of Gondor's stewards, it is not without the help of Pippin and Gandalf (who were in the midst of battle) stopping the would-be murder of Faramir, who would still live with the right antidote. Denethor throws himself onto the burning pyre made for Faramir and kills himself, and Faramir recovers after many days of treatment.
For the rest of the group, Aragorn fears Théoden and the Riders of Rohan will not make it to Minas Tirith in time to save the city. He knows of his duty and what his lies in his destiny, so he travels with Legolas and Gimli to the legendary paths of the Dead to Gondor. While travelling through these paths, they meet a huge army of the Sleepless Dead. Through proving his lineage, they heed Aragorn's command and head south to fight by his side.The Riders of Rohan make it to the city just in time to help defend it but lose King Théoden in the process. Lady Éowyn and Merry get revenge on his death by slaying the Black Captain. However, in the process, Éowyn is gravely injured.
Luckily for Minas Tirith and Gondor, before the forces of Mordor regroup, Aragorn and the army of the Sleepless Dead arrive, slaying all the rest of the Mordor army that were attacking the city. Once they are triumphant, Aragorn sees to the wounded and through his powers is able to heal all who were wounded by the Black Captain, including Éowyn. Through this, he fulfils the ancient prophecy of the next King of Gondor. Pippin and Merry also reunite after the battle. However, it's not sunshine and daisies yet, with the army heading towards Mordor to try and distract what's left of the forces of Mordor so Frodo and Sam have a safe passage to fulfil their quest.
In Mordor, Sam is trying to find the courage to go up against the orcs that took Frodo away. His fear of Frodo's life is what spurs him on, using the ring sparingly to hide away from the enemy, while also using his sword to scare off any orcs. Once he saves Frodo, they don orc armour and begin a long, long walk to Mount Doom (or Orodruin) through the unforgiving lands of Mordor. With each day that goes by, the ring becomes heavier for Frodo to bear, and he eventually has to strip himself of his protective armour to make the journey.
However, once they make it to Mount Doom, Frodo is overcome with the rings power and refuses to dispose of it. Its only when Gollum appears and fights with Frodo to protect the ring, biting off his finger in the process, does the ring finally make the fall into the fires of Orodruin with Gollum in tow (a tragic but fitting ending for the creature). Sauron's power is broken and the two hobbits find their way to safety outside of the mountain, proud of their work but waiting for death.
The forces of Gondor are able to defeat the panicked armies of Mordor and Gandalf flies on the back of Gwaihir to rescue Frodo and Sam. Frodo awakens and reunites with the rest of the group, all who congratulate him on his work in destroying the ring. The hobbits stick around for a while to watch Aragorn marry Arwen, Elrond's daughter from Rivendell, and all seems right in the world. That is until they do head back to Hobbiton and find that their issues are far from over...
...But I'll leave the ending for you to read, don't want to spoil it all for you!
What I thought
I have always loved the ending of The Lord of the Rings. Not because it's the ending, although it is a very long story, but because it brings together everything so well. The journey we are taken on all comes down to this and it is finalised in such a way that it isn't too clichéd and all 'happily ever after' like.
I think what I enjoy the most about this final instalment is seeing the character development of everyone. From Aragorn accepting his destiny to Sam finding the courage to stand up against orcs to save his best friend. Its what makes the story so humbling as well as so interesting to read. There are also some scenes of complex leadership and how the political games are played, seen through the communication between Gandalf and Denethor, which adds a little more tension into the storyline.
It's fascinating to read how the end of the ring comes about. It is obvious as you read the story that the only end can be the destruction of the ring and of Mordor's armies. However, there is the twist of Frodo becoming overcome to the power of the ring. The possibility of the ring never being destroyed because of this turn of events draws us in more. Then, the fatal decision by Gollum leads to a victory (what a nice guy... right?).
And then there's the additional tension and action in Hobbiton, just when we thought Middle Earth was safe and we could get cosy next to the fire in our hobbit holes. Again, I won't get into the ending much since I don't want to spoil the WHOLE volume for you, but it's definitely not expected. It also emphasises the growth of the hobbits that made the journey. When they first headed off, they were naive and incapable of acting in ways of violence, then they come back with such altered attitude that it saves Hobbiton.
All in all, I absolutely love the ending of this series. It is such a classic and it does take a long time to get through it all, but it is so satisfying to make it to the end. So, if you're truly interested in seeing what lies before the hobbits when they make it home, I'd recommend picking it up and having a read. You won't regret it!
Charlotte is a reading and writing lover who has completed a creative writing intensive course at the University of Oxford and is a current university student studying a double degree in journalism and creative writing. If you are curious to learn more, check out the 'About' page.