Monday, May 7, 2012

J.R.R. Tolkien - The Return of the King

  Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
Title: The Return of the King
Published: October 1955
Publisher: Allen & Unwin (HarperCollins)
Length: 378 pages (not including appendices; greatly varies, this is for a trade paperback edition)
Genre: High fantasy
Why I picked it up: Reading the trilogy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Challenges: TBR Double Dare
Buy:  IndieBound Chapters | Check your local bookstore!

NOTE: I just finished writing this post. It's ridiculous. I couldn't convey properly what I wanted to say and it got ridiculous. If you're a fan of LotR then perhaps you'll understand it, but otherwise, you'll just think I'm crazy =) Read at your own risk! (The bullet points are the only sane part of this post, I think, so you can reaad those if you wish.)


Ohhhhhhhhhhh my goodness. Finished this Friday morning but didn't post until now because I wanted to wait awhile to let everything sink in (and I've been a little reluctant to start writing because I know I won't be able to myself justice XP). My immediate reaction is here. I'm going to try to do this like I did with the final Harry Potter - I'll document both my RotK thoughts and the trilogy as a whole thoughts as they come to me. I probably should have reviewed all three books together as one anyhow because that's how I read them and how they were intended to be but oh well maybe next time. ;P

I don't often get emotional over books (John Green used to be the only one that could make me cry) and I especially was not expecting to become emotional over LotR, as I was already quite familiar with the basic story and Tolkien's writing style did not really feel full of emotion. It felt to me as though he was relaying a story But, obviously, I did get emotional over this final book and I am happy to admit so. A strong story is one that moves you in some way. I loved reading the first two books, I loved the stories and the characters and the writing, but I was never really too emotionally invested - it's such a mammoth story with so much context and history behind it, it took me until the third and final book to settle into the tale and be totally captured and involved in the character's story. I was full of anticipation and anxiety, despite knowing how the tale would ultimately end. For this reason, The Return of the King is my favourite book in the trilogy, or my favourite part in the book of The Lord of the Rings. The characters went through so much to get here, this last book is what the story is all about. Ironically, the third movie is my least favourite because it is so darn sad. But the book contains so much more, the storytelling is masterful, the conclusion is perfect, the characters stole my heart, and I was able to totally immerse myself into the story for the first time.

It isn't so much that RotK was emotional for me, it's more that that book represented the - actually. You know what, I think I'd rather just think of The Lord of the Rings as a single book, as it was intended to be. No more comparing one book to another. I love The Lord of the Ring, this story as a whole, this epic tale, this masterpiece. I've never read anything before that I would describe in such a way. Compare LotR to many other fantasy trilogies - often each book follows a specific adventure, or the original hero's son, or something like that. This story deserved the three books, the thousand pages it filled. It's not a trilogy - it's an 'epic tale'. (Oh god, shoot me now, I can't write.) I love LotR because it's such a sweeping story but every part of the story is part of the story (hurr =.=). There is nothing that comes close to the scope of LotR. There is so much history, so many stories, contained within this single text, and yet the tale of The Lord of the Rings can stand on its own. Tolkien has created a world, a story, stories, hundreds of stories, that no one could ever rival. Now I'm just rambling all over the place. Does anyone know what I'm talking about? It's the scope of LotR, it's context in the greater history of Middle-Earth that astounds me, but also it's containment, this brilliant, sad tale of four hobbits going on an adventure. The balance between the two is a great part of The Lord of the Rings appeal, I assume.

Tolkien will always be one of the people I have immense respect and admiration for, perhaps you might even call him one of my heroes. The works he has created, the world he imagined, are so close to my heart and my soul, I can't even begin to imagine how he wrote so much. I'd love to believe Middle-Earth is real and Tolkien just tapped into its history to document it all. Like how Sherlockians (is that the term?) believe Arthur Conan Doyle simply document Holmes' work. And you know what, why shouldn't I believe that? I'm sure plenty of people would think I'm crazy, obsessed, or something, but there are others who I'm sure would understand. The stories we tell are real, just because we cant't visit the places we create doesn't mean they're any less real. Tolkien has created such an incredible world and done so much work that I want to believe it's real, because how could somehow just create something from their own imagination? Right, I know it's not real, it's all make-believe but what does that even mean. It's real enough for me. (Now, especially, I sound like a raving lunatic because I am so terrible at transcribing my thoughts. I don't think it words, I think in pulls and tugs of emotion [using words to try to describe how I think is a bad idea =.=])

There were a lot of passages, bits of dialogue, lines, that I really enjoyed and that moved me emotionally in The Return of the King. This is likely to do with the build up of the story and how much emotion naturally occurs at the end of a story. I write notes while I read a book, I think in this case it'd be best to transfer my notes almost exactly as I made them (just going to develop them into relatively full sentences for readability :P), they give a good impression of my immediate reactions while reading - in fact, my notes are probably a lot better than anything I've written from the top of my head in this post so far XP (page numbers refer to The Lord of the Rings 50th Anniversary Edition).

Minor spoilers in this list.

  • This is it!!
  • Pg 800 - Ahh the build!! The story's gotten so intense. It's been slowly culminating, percolating to this point. There's a change in the feel of the story, I'm finally invested in what's happening, what's going to happen, and not just merely curious in how the story will progress. I feel the weight of the previous two books, the story is heavy and immense now (appropriate for my edition...)
  • Pg 859 - I'm starting to feel a bit disappointed in how Merry's role was downplayed in the movie. This is an aspect of the book I really love, the balance and importance of Pippin and Merry, their mirroring 
  • Pg 902 - The Two Watchers, wow, this was really intense and scary idea, I wasn't expecting this at all. I do love Sam, nice to see him get past these guys :)
  • Pg 914 - This segment was really rattled for me - like the idea just hit me, how they honestly believe they won't see tomorrow, that they'll never go home, that they'll never accomplish this task. How devastating would that be? And yet they go one because they must. This realization of mine made me tear up, because it's not just Frodo and Sam who trek on without knowing, there are millions of people in our world who must do they same. Heartbreaking, reality is.
  • Pg 922 - Sam's realization
  • Pg 975 - God, I love all the endings and conclusions and wrapping up that's happening. Some people might find this anti-climactic, but not me, I love it. I want to know how everyone ends up at the end of the story. A good example of this is the exchange between Gimli and Eomer about Galadriel - I laughed out loud! It was just so refreshing and lovely to read such a carefree exchange between the two. 
    • Continuing on with the endings thread, I think it's great that Tolkien including the journey home and 'The Scouring of the Shore' - this is so significant, the story coming home, the hobbits' using their new experience, and fianlly returning to their old lives best as they can.
  • Pg 996 - Wow, was not expecting this bit of dialogue. Speaks volumes about Bombadil's character and Gandalf's greater role, if you wish to read into that.
  • Pg 997 - This is description is spot on, it perfectly describes how conflicted I felt at this part. I was caught between what Forod and Sam each felt.
  • Pg 1013 - The mill...
  • 'The Grey Havens' - Ohhhh my goodness. This chapter. Blew me away. I was expecting some sadness due to the nature of the ending of the story, but this chapter was packed full of segments that I found particularly tragic, bittersweet or moving, particularly Lobelia, Sam's plantings and the exchange between Frodo and Sam on pg 1026, particularly this line (I literally choked, I have never done that before while reading), which speaks so much to what the two have been through and what's coming:
    • 'Poor Sam! It will feel like that, I am afraid,' said Frodo. 'But you will be healed. You were meant to be solid and whole, and you will be.'

I'd also like to take a moment to note how I will also be forever in debt to Howard Shore. His music is absolutely stunning and does a far better job at conveying what this story means to me than I could ever convey in a piddly blog post. I listened to the complete recordings while reading the books and I have to say, Shore's work made a perfect reading companion. 'Into the West' is a brilliant piece, maybe not that musically impressive, but god, it contained all the emotion. It makes my stomach churn (in a good, sad way?). All the emotion! I had after finishing the book. Shore knows. His music knows, guys. IT KNOWSSSS.

Okay this post is getting out of hand. I'll stop now.

It is times like these that I wish I was stronger with words, that I was better at putting emotion into writing. I mean, look at how many times I used 'emotion' in this post! It's near impossible for me to convey how I felt while reading this book and why. I just know.  It frustrates me; I wish I could document this incredible feeling, this sense of awe. I almost want to cry at what a poor job I've done in writing this post, haha. I've done my best to document my thoughts and feelings, but my writing does not do justice to how the book impacted me in a way no other book has, and just how much the story of The Lord of the Rings means to me.


  1. I was wondering whether you would be happy to put up a link in my brand new monthly series called “Books You Love”. The idea is for people to link up posts about a book they loved – it doesn’t have to be one they just posted about. It could be an old fave. I am hoping we will end up with a nice collection of books that can go on our reading lists. Here is the link Books You Loved May Edition