So here we are, at the end of all things.
Out of all three volumes of The Lord of the Rings, my favourite has to be The Return of the King. It is funny because how could I choose a favourite out of the three volumes, since they form one complete story? I can choose because it has one shining moment in it that I just cannot replace with anything else.
Surprisingly, this shining moment is not the destruction of the Ring. That is an amazing moment, yes, but it is not the one that shines the most to me. No, I am talking about during The Battle of Pelennor Fields, when Dernhelm reveals that he is not actually a man and is, in reality, Éowyn. I find this an amazing thing because Éowyn proceeds to take the Witch King down.
I really waxed poetic about how much I love Éowyn in an essay I wrote for my Tolkien class in university. If you want to read that essay, I do have a copy and will post. Just let me know in the comments! What it really boils down to, that essay, is the moment she takes down the Witch King. There is nothing like it:
“But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Éomund’s daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him.”
I actually really love that Tolkien put Éowyn in the books and in a role like this. The Hobbit, of course, did not have any significant female characters at all. The Lord of The Rings does not have many, but it is a step up from none. I think the most prominent, or at least the three people will remember, are Éowyn, Galadriel, and Arwen. Éowyn is thrust into more of a warrior type role, whereas Arwen seems to be more content in a behind the scenes, princess sort of role. Well, as close as you could get given the nature of the elves. Galadriel is hard to pin down, though I think its clear that she does have fierceness and danger in her, something we know of when she was with Frodo and the Ring.
Regardless of the other female characters, I think its clear that The Return of the King is Éowyn’s time to shine. It really is! You can clearly see her struggle with both what others expect of her and the fact it is different. She has to disguise herself but she wants to protect her king and country.
While I do not believe that Éowyn needs a man, but I am glad with the way it turned out for her. Although she seemed to have feelings for Aragorn, I got the impression that he did not see her the way she would have wanted. I do not mean feeling-wise (although that is the case as well here), but rather that she is a strong woman who does not want the typical female role.
Faramir, on the other hand, accepts her for who she really is and takes into account how strong she is, given what happened at the battle earlier. Healing together after the traumas they endured is one amazing way to bond closely. They supported one another through it.
Moving forward, I want to address one question (well, a couple of them in one) I found quite interesting. At no point during The Lord of the Rings do we learn why Sauron is so evil. We can only wonder if he is just pure evil or if there a reason for it, even a misguided one. Why does Tolkien leave out Sauron’s story in these volumes? Do you think that your opinion on Sauron would change if you knew more of his history? What about the impact of that history on the story as a whole?
I do not know Tolkien’s mind. I do not think I can truly say why he did what he did. I can only give a theory on this, which is that the history was left out to either shorten the book (which is likely not a concern he has) or to ensure readers saw Sauron as a true villain. Consider Gollum. I think he is a tragic character, though he has many villainous qualities. I cannot help but feel for the Sméagol side of him.
If Sauron has a tragic story, it would take away from his imposing villainous character. As for if my opinion would change or if there would be an impact on the story if Sauron’s history was in The Return of the king…I think it all depends on what that history is. If it is a tragic one, then yes there would be an impact on my opinion as well as the story. On the other hand, if his history is not a tragic one, I do not believe there would be any change.
The other thing I want to discuss that I think many people might forget is the fact that Frodo actually fails in his quest to destroy the Ring. Sure, the Ring is destroyed in the end but it comes off as a complete accident. For those who may not remember, Frodo decides he wants to keep it and puts on the Ring while he and Sam are inside Mount Doom. Thus, he disappears. However, Gollum shows up again, bites the Ring off Frodo’s finger, and proceeds to fall into Mount Doom.
I honestly think that was probably the only way for the Ring to be destroyed. If the Ring was really as powerful as everyone says, who would have the ability to resist it? Sure, someone could resist for a while, but not for too long. Isildur and Gollum seemed to fall quickly. Bilbo resisted the true pull for quite some time, but we can tell he was entwined in the Ring in the end. I actually think Bilbo was the closest to resisting, given he was eventually able to drop it and leave it, but I do not think he could have made it to Mount Doom. The only one unaffected was Tom Bombadil back in The Fellowship of the Ring, but I feel as if he was a mythical character rather than a fallible one. The only way for someone to be strong enough is if they are an infallible, mythical, god-like character. The Ring is supposed to be the root of all evil, right?
How does everyone else feel about The Return of the King and the other two volumes of The Lord of the Rings? Do you enjoy Tolkien’s depiction of Éowyn? What about her relationship with Faramir at the end? How do you feel about how the Ring is ultimately destroyed? I would love to hear what you think in the comments.
Title: The Return of the King
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
Publisher: George Allen & Unwin (first)