I don’t know how I can possibly praise Tolkien more than I have in the past. Reading The Return of the King was just…an amazing experience. I plowed through the story itself and then lost myself for another couple hundred pages in the appendices and the history of the world, and I came away knowing and appreciating this series so much more than I did before. I’ve never read this last book before, so I came in completely blind, basing all my expectations on the films I’ve adored for most of my life.
I don’t quite know how I’m supposed to “review” this. It’s a masterpiece, plain and simple, and I would give a lot of things for the chance to sit down and chat with Tolkien about this beautiful world he’s created. Just…it’s really spectacular. If you’ve never read Lord of the Rings or immersed yourself in this world in any way, I highly recommend doing so. To me, it’s pure inspiration to know that a man can build worlds and cultures and be so brilliantly influential that his works will literally never die. I mean…what more is there to say?
What I Liked: Spoilers!
- The character development here was just…amazing. You begin this journey with nothing more than four (somewhat lazy) hobbits, who have never seen anything of the world and really only care about smoking decent pipeweed and making sure elevensies is on the table when it’s supposed to be. Frodo has a little sense of adventure because of his Uncle Bilbo, but as for Sam, Pippin, and Merry, well…I think they were all more than happy staying at home and sitting by the fire. By the time Return of the King even opens, the hobbits have been split up for quite awhile, and Merry and Pippin have also been ripped apart from each other–one of the most heartbreaking things to happen in the whole story, if I’m being honest. Pippin becomes a member of the Guard of Gondor and saves the life of the prince by defying the Steward. Merry swears his life to a king who is like a father to him, only to ride into battle because he doesn’t feel like he deserves to stay at home when everyone else is out there risking their lives. Sam goes from gardener to hero, because he keeps Frodo going, and if Sam had given up, then all of Middle Earth would have had to pay for it. And Frodo destroys the Ring, but he feels so guilty because it was only because Gollum attacked him that the Ring accidentally fell into the fires. And the one who was supposed to be “the hero” is the only one who can’t seem to live with himself when everything is said and done. And it’s not just the hobbits. When you think about where Legolas and Gimli were in the beginning, both proud of their people and stubborn in their ways, and where they ended up at the end–best of friends, willing to tread even the Paths of the Dead because their friend and king asked them to, it’s just…wow. There are no static characters here. Each and every one of them, side characters, main character, random characters with one line–all of them seem to grow and become different–if not better–than who they were in the beginning. Tolkien tells a masterful story and his cast is perfect for what they accomplish. None of them are “perfect”, of course, but they all learn to live with or overcome certain flaws in order to fight towards the greater good. I mean…it’s just flawlessly executed.
- I stand in awe of Tolkien’s dedication to his work. We live in a world where “making stuff up” is looked down upon as being silly, but Tolkien is one of the most genius minds to ever grace the human race with his work. Reading through the appendices, I became very fluent in the history of Middle Earth, right from the First Age up through the “present” Fourth Age, and I’m just… “shock and awe” is really the only way I describe how I feel. Lineages, histories, battles, rises and descents of civilizations and people. It’s like reading a real history book, and the appendices answered every question I had regarding the series and things left unsaid in the main books. Plus, it’s like getting a whole second story! You find out more about Arwen and Aragorn, who aren’t talked about at all in the series, and why Aragorn’s line was lost in the first place, and how everything came to be, and it’s so extensive and beautiful. You learn the history of all the peoples of Middle Earth and he invested so much time and so much of himself into this series and this world that you can’t help but admire him. Please, I beg you–if you read this book, read the appendices. You will not regret it.
What I Didn’t Like:
- I think there’s been one book, ever, that I’ve left this section blank for. This is now the second.
Overall: Ever since the films came out when I was a little girl, I’ve been head over heels in love with Lord of the Rings. My idea of a fun night was playing Lord of the Rings trivial pursuit with my older brothers. And now that I’ve officially completed all the books, after all this time…I feel like I’ve accomplished something truly great. I know this review isn’t very well written or thorough, but it’s not like I can critique Tolkien. To me, he’s above that. This was a stunning last installment to the main series, and I am greatly looking forward to continuing my adventures in Middle Earth with books like The Silmarillion and The Unfinished Tales.