This is a Review (Kind Of): The Return of the King, by J.R.R. Tolkien

December 02, 2014

Source: Goodreads
I mentioned the week before last that I finished The Return of the King and thus finally completed my jaunt through Middle Earth (after a couple years of trying).

Writing a review of TRotK, or The Lord of the Rings in general, sounds both impossible and unnecessary. I mean, what's there to say that dozens, if not hundreds, of people have not already said before, both good and bad? (The short of it: the story manages to be both amazing and, at times, insufferably dense. From thumbing through the appendices, Tolkien seems more like a historian who simply happened to write a story about his universe.)

Instead, I think I'll offer you a few of my favorite excerpts from the story and my thoughts on them. (Beware of spoilers below!)

"Now is the hour come, Riders of the Mark, sons of Eorl! Foes and fire are before you, and your homes far behind. Yet, though you fight upon an alien field, the glory that you reap there shall be your own for ever. Oaths ye have taken: now fulfill them all, to lord and land and league of friendship!"

This is Théoden, King of Rohan, urging his men on to the aid of Gondor against all sorts of Sauron's nasties. This is a perfect example of how epic Tolkien can be.

Another (and maybe even better, because feminism) is Éowyn (aka Dernhelm)'s showdown with the Nazgûl Lord, who speaks first:

“Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!" 
Then Merry heard in all sounds of the hour the strangest. It seemed that Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel. 
"But no living man am I! You are looking upon a woman. Éowyn am I, 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." 

Come on. That's just pure, woman-warrior awesome. 'Nuff said.

Moving away from the larger-than-life and awe-inspiring, there were a handful of surprisingly relatable moments. This is Merry speaking with Aragorn after waking from a ringwraith's curse:

"But it is the way of my people to use light words at such times and say less than they mean. We fear to say too much. It robs us of the right words when a jest is out of place."

Right there with you, Merry. I have a habit of making light of stressful or upsetting situations, not wanting to come off as dramatic or mawkish. I think humor can be a good strategy for dealing with the difficult parts of life, but this is a good reminder that it can also take something away from otherwise meaningful moments.

Finally, we have Gandalf (because, really, how can you not quote Gandalf?):

"Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule."

I see this as the wizard's version of the serenity prayer—do what you can, when you can, and don't fret too much about the rest. Leave things better than you found them, which is great advice for life, camping and destroying the One Ring.

Have you all read The Lord of the Rings? What were your favorite moments?

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