18 April 2010

Readalong 2: The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien

Here is what is likely my last post for the Lord of the Rings readalong. I've finished the final book in the trilogy, The Return of the King (by J. R. R. Tolkien), and I'm ready to answer the mid-month questions. April's host is Maree at Just Add Books.

The last I discussed Return of the King, I was on the battlefield near Gondor and had not yet revisited Sam and Frodo. Sam becomes such a hero during the march through Mordor that you have to admire him for his strength of character. Even as Frodo says himself early on after they leave the others, he wouldn't have gone far without Sam.

  • If you're a repeat offender reader, like me, how are you finding the return journey? Are you loving it just as much as ever? What little treasures have you found in ROTK that you never noticed before?
I really like all the parts at the end of the book that the movie left out: from the final skirmishes to the preparations of the crowning to the return to the Shire. The ending is one part of the movie that I really dislike. In the film, even after having been in battle and faced the terror of Mordor, the Hobbits are still treated like children who have just won the spelling bee. People bow down to them, but the four Hobbits project no sense of their strength and maturity.

I am not going to recap the entire end of the book, but there was lots to do between the time the eagles find Sam and Frodo and the time the Hobbits start out for the Shire. The countryside is cleansed of the remaining evil, new kings and princes are given their lands, the dead are honored and properly buried, Aragorn is crowned, and at least two weddings take place.

When the Hobbits leave Gondor to return to the Shire, the fellowship starts out together and then slowly dwindles as Aragorn leaves to take care of his duties and Legolas and Gimili visit Fangorn Forest. Once back in Rivendell, the Hobbits meet up with Bilbo and finally take their leave and head for Bree. After Bree, it is just the four Hobbits, dressed for battle, who arrive back home. There they must rally the Hobbits to throw out Saruman and Wormtongue and then set the land right again.
  • How do you feel, when you close the end of the last part; after Sam's words on the last page? Are you sad it's over, nostalgic? Looking for your next read already?
I was sorry it was over, and the parting of the ship from the Gray Havens is always so sad. The times of the elves and wizards are over, and now begins the time of men. The ending is fitting for all the characters, and Sam will certainly find his peace at last. I am also sad because I won't likely read the book again for another five years or so.

If you haven't read the book, then you probably don't know that the trilogy ends with extensive appendices. These tell you a bit of what happens to the remaining fellowship as well as some history and other information. Much of this material is included in the unabridged audio edition. I have read the appendices several times, but I chose not to this month.
  • What's your favourite scene in ROTK?
Are you kidding? This is as bad as asking me to name my favorite book or author. I just can't do it. So there!
Thanks to all the hosts for The Lord of the Rings readalong. I'm so glad I decided to participate.


Maree 4/18/10, 8:35 AM  

Yay, I'm glad you decided to join in as well! I've been having fun, even though I'm still reading The Two Towers - I'm so slow!


Sandy Nawrot 4/18/10, 9:11 AM  

You have definitely got me excited to read this series, and maybe even try to find the audios so the kids and I can listen, once we are finished with Harry. That last scene, in the movie at least, left me so sad. Sad because you don't want it to end, sad for Frodo. I'm sure it is just as impactful in print.

Ana S. 4/18/10, 10:03 AM  

I missed that about the ending of the movie as well. I felt that it didn't show what the real costs of what Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin had been through enough - whereas the book does so perfectly.

Athira 4/18/10, 10:50 AM  

I haven't yet started this book. But you captured it so well about the ending!! That part is always so sad to read about.

Amy 4/18/10, 12:12 PM  

I really enjoyed re-reading the series too. It brought back a lot of good memories. :-)

Teresa 4/18/10, 2:10 PM  

I just finished the book itself on Friday and do intend to read/skim the appendices before posting again.

In the movie, I didn't necessarily miss the scouring of the shire, although I do like that part, but I totally agree with you that in the movie "still treated like children who have just won the spelling bee." All four of them, by the end of the book, have gravitas that doesn't come through in the movies at all.

Shelley 4/18/10, 3:48 PM  

I would have loved to join in on this readalong. When I get to the end of the series I'm usually sad that it's over.

Jenny 4/19/10, 11:41 AM  

I've been delaying finishing the book, I'm afraid, because it makes me so sad to see everyone breaking off and going to do their own thing. :(

J.G. 4/20/10, 7:27 AM  

The appendices are definitely an important part of the book. Not only to prolong the reading experience (after 1,000+ pages, I still want more!) but to give context and the "real" ending. Interesting how Tolkien's characters value lore and loremasters, and try to figure out how they fit into the old tales that seem to have come to life, and he leaves us hungry for a similar knowledge. Even when we know a lot about Middle Earth, we still want to know the even bigger picture.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 4/20/10, 3:36 PM  

I liked the format of this readalong, with the facilitators asking specific questions of the readers. I was interested to read your thoughts (even though I wasn't reading along!)

Eileen 5/6/10, 1:38 PM  

I agree with you on the difference between the way Tolkien treated the hobbits and the way Peter Jackson treated them. Reading the books, I was surprised at how awesome they really were. And I had no idea about the appendices! After reading your post and Theresa's, I think I really do need to check them out.

Carl V. Anderson 6/8/10, 8:29 AM  

I'm glad that you mentioned the appendices, because there are some wonderful things in there. Even the timeline at the end of ROTK which mentions a few interesting tidbits about what happened with Legolas and Gimli is well worth reading.

I can understand why they didn't film the Shire part for the films, they were already long by general audience standards and I don't think it would have worked. Personally I don't see them being treated wildly differently by PJ as opposed to Tolkien, there just isn't time to tell their whole story. I think Sean Astin and Elijah Wood do a great job of conveying their maturity and the price they've paid just through their looks once they are back among familiar settings in the Shire. I think there is a real melancholy air in the film that points back to the spirit of the book ending. I love having read the books for the first time AFTER the films, because for me the books just went and filled in the gaps, not for what didn't happen in the film, more for what happened to the characters that we the audience just didn't get to see.

And you are right, picking a favorite part of ROTK is a pretty monumental task. There is so much that goes on there that has such an impact.

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