The Return of The King by J.R.R. Tolkien – Book Review

Stack of colourful books with only the bottom visible

This is the final instalment of the review of The Lord of The Rings with Rory of According to Rory. You can find the previous 2 books here and here. As always, do not keep reading if you don’t want spoilers.

If I’m completely honest, I have a love/hate relationship with the final book in the saga: it is the one when I do see where criticism is coming from. The ending is thorough and even pedantic: after the climax of the victory and celebration, we have a long-winded journey back and goodbyes. Granted, there are more adventures happening on the way, but it does at times feel a bit like the work of an excessively anxious author who needed closure in his meticulously perfect work. 

As with the previous books, it is again split in different stories up until the point when the remnant of the fellowship would reunite. For all its failures, the book shows some interesting characters, and developments. The best one, of course, is my literary kindred spirit Eowin marrying Faramir despite her original affection for Aragorn, after leaving her enclosed life to fight. That’s a storyline that really merits some attention and I don’t say that just because the little girl who liked St Joan of Arc in me obviously likes strong women who aren’t good at doing what they’re told. There is more in there than an example of strong womanhood among others in the novels, there are also literary references and the like. She loved with sacrificial love all her life, and deserved her happy ending as the partner of a ruling prince.

Reportedly, Tolkien did not like the title given by the publisher because it gave too much of the story away, preferring The War of the Ring for the full volume rather than just Book V. However, I don’t believe it really gives much away except the happy ending. By that point we know who the King is, even if he had not made a claim to his kingship yet. I also think the worry around that is probably unwarranted, as Book V gives a few spoilers of what is going to happen in Book VI. The way things would happen, however, are not given away, and there would be a surprising turn of events over who is the hero of the whole story. It’s also a wonderful tale of friendship and the duty it demands towards those who lose the most important thing one has (namely, the will to carry on).

All in all, despite the criticism of the extended storyline, I like the parts that happen back in the Shire and the other deserved happy ending, which is again the marriage of a hero of the war. I’m disappointed, though, at the seemingly lonely last few years of the person who suffered the most for the mission. It perhaps adds to my negativity towards the chapters following the coronation, and it betrays my need for saccharine endings and my earthly idea of fairness. It’s not that I always need the happy ever after, but I tend to prefer negative endings when there is a sense that they deserved what they’ve got. Instead, Frodo died on that journey, and even if he doesn’t actually ever dies it will not be the same person who left at the beginning of the novel until he reaches the Undying Lands. None of them was, true, but he is the one who failed completely to adapt to the new age and that makes me rather sad. His ending would be happy in the end, but there seems to be a long journey of suffering to get there. I guess in a way it’s true of many people, whose only relief from suffering is to get to Heaven, but I tend to prefer my literature as escapism rather than a reflection of what’s it like down on earth.

You may also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *