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

The Return of the King (The Lord of the Rings, #3)The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The third and final volume of The Lord of the Rings finishes Frodo and Sam’s journey to Mount Doom while the rest of his companions deal with armies of Sauron in the fields of Gondor and in front of the Black Gate of Mordor. ‘The Return of the King’ is where J.R.R. Tolkien gives his story it’s epic scope with both battles in arms and in the soul.

‘The Return of the King’ contains the fifth and sixth books that Tolkien divided The Lord of the Rings into. The fifth book begins with further divides the remaining Company into three, but eventually join together at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields before moving on to in front of the Black Gate. The sixth follows Frodo and Sam’s journey through Mordor to the heart of Mount Doom before they are reunited with the Company. Throughout Return, Tolkien continually foreshadows, yet surprises the reader with events and scenes that create an epic feel to his story. Although he the separate story arcs until uniting them in the middle of the sixth book, Tolkien references the other arc’s timeline to allow the reader to know how each is relating to one another. Unfortunately Tolkien’s decision to split one of the story arc’s temporarily into three resulted in another flashback retelling of how Aragorn, Legalos, and Gimli arrived at the Pelennor Fields.

Although the material in Return was originally intended by J.R.R. Tolkien to be the conclusion of an entire one-volume story, a publisher decision to split the tale into three volumes created unfortunate problems for this book. The latter part of book six taking part in the Shire would have felt like a natural conclusion to the one-volume story Tolkien intended, however the change in scenery and feeling of completeness after Aragorn’s crowning is undone do the decision to split. Another unfortunate decision was the title of the third volume, The Return of the King, which essentially gave away everything and gave an anticlimactic feeling to everything. If Tolkien’s preferred title, The War of the Ring, had been used even the events in the Shire would have felt like a completion of the whole affair given Saruman’s involvement.

‘The Return of the King’ feels incomplete as and individual book with a title that sabotages the story and a giving off the feeling of too many endings instead of the powerful conclusion of one-continuous story like it should have been. In Return, the characters introduced the ultimate clash of good and evil ends with surprising results given Tolkien’s unique way of writing the conclusion of the Ring’s journey while giving hope to the future. Characters introduced and written about that have survived are given their own exits to give off a sense of completeness. Upon finishing The Return of the King, readers will feel a sadness to the ending Tolkien’s epic while longing to know what the story would read in one-volume.

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