05 April 2010

Readalong 1: The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien

It's April, and those of us in the Lord of the Rings readalong are on the final book. It's been a long journey for our heroes and for the readers. This month we're reading The Return of the King (by J. R. R. Tolkien), and our host is Maree at Just Add Books. The cover shown here is that of the paperback I bought lo those many years ago when I first read the trilogy.

I'm going to depart from the question-and-answer format and talk about Maree's discussion points as running prose. I am not very far along in the audio yet (disc 3 of 16), so my discussion will mostly focus on the beginning of the novel. In The Return of the King, the original company is split up into four groups, and we follow each one as it travels along its own path in the attempt to defeat the forces of Mordor.

Some of my favorite parts of this novel involve the Hobbits Pippin and Merry as they find their places in service to different lords. Although they sometimes feel as if they were nothing but baggage, each will show his bravery and do his part to honor both the land to which he has sworn fealty and to the Shire.

In this book, we also find my two favorite scenes with Éowyn. I'll share the first with you here. Aragorn has just told Éowyn that her duty is to stay behind as the men go off to war, so she can govern her people. She answers:

"All your words are but to say: you are a woman, and your part is in the house. But when the men have died in battle and honor, you have leave to be burned in the house, for the men will need it no more. But I am of the House of Eorl and not a serving-woman. I can ride and wield blade, and I do not fear either pain or death."

"What do you fear, lady?" he asked.

"A cage," she said. "To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire."
I love Éowyn.

The only comments I have today about the movie versus the book have to do with Merry and Pippin. When Gandolf and Pippin arrive at Minas Tirith, the Hobbit swears allegiance to Denethor, the steward of Gondor. Pippin feels an obligation to make amends for Boromir, who died in his defense. In the movie (if I recall correctly), Gandolf scolds Pippin for acting rashly. In the book, however, Gandolf is impressed with Pippin's decision to serve the steward. The Hobbit becomes a guard of the citadel, makes friends, and has the respect of the other guards.

Merry, on the other hand, develops a close relationship with King Theoden, who asks the Hobbit to be his esquire. Merry makes the hard decision to part from Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimili and go on his own back to Dunharrow with the king. In the movie, this whole section was rewritten, so Merry was never on his own, and his relationship with Theoden was not properly developed.

To see what the other readers are thinking about as they begin to read The Return of the King, see Maree's discussion post and the Mr. Linky there.

Source: Have owned for years (see review policy).


Maree 4/5/10, 6:30 AM  

I love Eowyn, too. I've never listened to the audio books. Thanks for joining in! :D

Meghan 4/5/10, 6:39 AM  

Eowyn has always been my favorite character. It has been so long since I read the books (or watched the movies) that I've lost track of the differences, but I do feel like they made the hobbits far more childish than they should have been. Your comments back me up.

Alice 4/5/10, 7:01 AM  

Reading what you wrote here is bring back all the nice memories about this book when I read it years ago. I've finished THE HOBBIT (finally!!) and will now proceed to the trilogy.

J.G. 4/5/10, 8:03 AM  

Eowyn is wonderful, isn't she? It's one of the interesting threads of the book that Eowyn fears what almost happens to Theoden.

Jenny 4/5/10, 1:27 PM  

Good for Eowyn. Love it that she's not taking crap from Aragorn even though she's in love with him. :)

Dorte H 4/5/10, 2:45 PM  

A cage! Scary indeed, and wonderful how an author can put two words together - and provoke you to think!

Sandy Nawrot 4/5/10, 6:13 PM  

Even just from the movie, Eowyn is a great character...my kinda girl! And I was going to say, I don't remember ANY of that happening to Merry and Pippin. Talk about a departure.

Veens 4/6/10, 3:34 AM  

I really need to read this series! I have seen the movies though!

kayerj 4/6/10, 12:03 PM  

I love Eowyn too. Arwen not so much.

It has been interesting reading the books with the movie in the back of my mind. I didn't realize how many changes to character had been made until this reread. I agree with your observations about Merry and Pippen.

The Bumbles 4/6/10, 12:25 PM  

Andy & I were just talking about the movies last night. We can never remember any of the gazillion different characters' names. So we describe them by the way they looked in the films. It's kind of like charades ;0)

Eva 4/7/10, 11:33 AM  

That Eowyn quote is the BEST! I lurve her so. :)

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