Previously on An Adventure in Tolkien: Can someone please explain to me why I managed to cry about Morgoth IN A BOOK WHERE HE DOESN’T EXIST?!

Tudo bem, before we begin, we’ve got to talk about the thing that happened to me.

This is only eight seconds of a 4:44 clip of Sean Astin not only wishing me happy holidays and reciting my favorite Samwise Gamgee line–and just favorite line ever–but he also rambles on about how inspiring Tolkien was, pitches himself for a role in a future film adaptation of my books, and just generally made me cry. Like??? I am speechless. My best friend, Jen, gave me this for a Christmas gift, and I just still don’t even know what to do with myself. I watched it four times in the first hour. The second he said my name, at the very beginning of the video–LAST NAME AND EVERYTHING SO THERE WAS NO MISTAKING–I was just on the floor. I either do one of two things when I’m overwhelmed, and it’s to stand up on top of things or to start to contort my body. Since I was already sitting, my knee ended up over my shoulder (obrigado, yoga!), and Jen was just dying watching me watch this incredible Cameo video. I’m just–there are no words. This was the best 4:44 of my life, and I am going to watch it over and over again.

Thus, I was going to start reading ROTK a bit later, take a week off in between, but then this happened, and I had to start reading the next morning. Wow.

As before, I’m reading a second edition hardcover of the book, so that’s how my citations are noted.

Return of the King (coloured)
Aragorn
Art by haleyhss

TIME TO START SCREAMING ABOUT MY OG FAVE AGAIN

Growing up, Aragorn was always my favorite. He’s just the archetype that I love–kingly, but doesn’t want to lead because he’s afraid he’ll do it wrong, loyal, quietly proud, a little bit stubborn, fierce about his family and friends, but only has a few chosen of each, sad and strong–and I continue to love it through different iterations–Arthur, Eragon, Fingolfin, Luke. And thus, ROTK used to be my favorite for a long time because Aragorn gets so much time to blossom, and it’s just wonderful. That, and–I don’t care what anyone says because I’m the exact same way, and it’s great–I LOVE Tolkien’s 35 endings. It’s the best. Tie up every loose end, I’m here for it.

His synopsis is longer this time, but for good reason because he summarizes Fellowship, too! I’m so in love with this; can we please have these moving forward, publishers?

Tudo bem, it looks like we’re with the main company for the fifth book and don’t get to Frodo & Sam again until the sixth. I do appreciate Peter Jackson’s decision to combine each part inside of each book into a cohesive movie rather than doing a part one and two for each one because if I’d had to wait that long for Frodo & Sam scenes, I don’t know what I would have done. Revolted, probably. I’m already feeling pretty miffed about the fact that I have to wait 173 pages as it is.

And there where the White Mountains of Ered Nimrais came to their end he saw, as Gandalf had promised, the dark mass of Mount Mindolluin, the deep purple shadows of its high glens, and its tall face whitening in the rising day. And upon its out-thrust knee was the Guarded City, with its seven walls of stone so strong and old that it seemed to have been not builded but carven by giants out of the bones of the earth.

Even as Pippin gazed in wonder the walls passed from looming grey to white, blushing faintly in the dawn; and suddenly the sun climbed over the eastern shadow and sent forth a shaft that smote the face of the City. Then Pippin cried aloud, for the Tower of Ecthelion, standing high within the topmost wall, shone out against the sky, glimmering like a spike of pearl and silver, tall and fair and shapely, and its pinnacle glittered as if it were wrought of crystals; and white banners broke and fluttered from the battlements in the morning breeze, and high and far he heard a clear ringing as of silver trumpets.

Minas Tirith, pg 23

I will just never get over how much I love Minas Tirith. For though the Rohirrim are my favorite, I love those people and their land, but the architecture of Minas Tirith? Damn.

Literally every time they mention the war or Rohan or just anything vaguely ominous, I get full body chills. I cannot wait for the Battle of the Pelennor Fields! I do love Helm’s Deep, and it will forever remain my favorite battle, but Pelennor is a close second. It’s just–woah. I’m so curious to see the comparison between Tolkien & Jackson, particularly where the Rohirrim are concerned.

A choice stands before me. I generally read 50 pages at a time, so, where I’m at currently, I can either read another 50 and find myself literally on the brink of Pelennor Fields, so I’ll either be plowing right on or saving that, or I can just call it a day now and stop at the very beginning of the story. Because I’m almost guaranteed to want to continue on once I’ve read the Rohirrim coming, and I know that Pelennor Fields is the next chapter, so really, it’s either I’m reading the entirety of book five today or pausing here at the first fifty.

YOU KNOW WHAT I DIDN’T REALIZE

I was so angry at all of my copies of the trilogy (I have three different ones) because none of them seemed to include the appendices, BUT ROTK DOES!

WELL, tudo bem, I forgot they were published specifically with ROTK, but this is my first time having a hardcover edition–I’ve only ever had old mass market paperbacks–so I’ve never actually gotten to read the appendices, and I am so damn excited. It looks like my copy has all six appendices, too, with all corresponding parts, so none of it is missing, and given that Tolkien Gateway tells me a lot of editions don’t include some or even all, this is going to be wonderful.

If I read the entirety of the fifth book right now, that means I’m halfway done and that much closer to the appendices.

I would have gone with you to the end — Today in Middle-Earth: The charge  of the...

I didn’t end up reading the rest of the fifth book because I didn’t want to have the Battle of Pelennor Fields in my brain while I was watching Helm’s Deep, and it was such a good choice. We cried so much when Gandalf arrived, when Sam gave his speech, and just, you know, in general over Middle-earth. It was wonderful, and it still remains my favorite movie.

I know why we weren’t given Elrohir & Elladan in the movies, but what I wouldn’t have given to see elf twins bickering with each other. There are so few siblings in this, now that I think about it; or, rather, siblings that we actively see. Boromir & Faramir never have any scenes together, Éowyn & Éomer don’t interact a ton because they’re usually going separate ways, and everyone else is far from their family, but can you imagine how wonderful it would have been to see Elrohir, Elladan, and Arwen all hanging out together, even if for only a scene? Oh, now I want it! And now I’m going to start dreaming about it–they’re older than her, too, so they totally would’ve been all stern with Aragorn, or besties with him, who knows with Elrond’s kids, but they’d definitely get all protective over here, and she would just roll her eyes at them and take care of business on her own.

I really appreciate the conversation with Éowyn about fearing a cage because it’s so direct. ‘All your words are but to say: you are a woman, and your part is in the house.’ (pg 58) Just that alone is so much more direct than anyone else at the time would have written, and it furthers my point that though there are few women in LOTR, sim, the ones that are there are there to challenge stereotypes. When Lúthien is told to stay home and remain safe, she breaks out of her cage and goes to save the day on her own. When Morwen is told to stay home and remain safe, she bars her doors and dares anyone to try to harm her people, and when they do, she takes up a sword and shows them exactly what she’s made of. When Éowyn is told to stay home and remain safe, she challenges the language, demanding that she be seen and heard for exactly who she is, rather than what she is. ‘But I am of the House of Eorl and not a serving-woman. I can ride and wield blade, and I do not fear either pain or death.’ She refuses to just be told to stay home because she’s a woman, and she forces them to shake off the careful language they’re skimming through and actually get to the meat of it. “You want me to stay here,” she says, “Because I am a woman, and that’s not a good enough reason.” And that, more than anything, more than the deeds that Tolkien’s women do, shows how much he truly respected the women in his life, and women in general, and how he wanted to find a way to challenge the norms that society had set by not only giving his women glory, but allowing them to speak plainly.

His knees shook and he was wroth with himself. ‘Here is a thing unheard of!’ he said. ‘An Elf will go underground and Dwarf dare not!’

The Passing of the Grey Company, pg 60

I recognize that that was a big tonal change from discussing feminism in LOTR, but Gimli just makes me cackle.

Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli
Art by Kazuo

I’ve always believed I’m Hobbit-like, and what I wouldn’t give to just ditch my whole life, fly to New Zealand, and live in the Shire forevermore, but the more that I read about dwarves, the more I’m thinking that might be my true calling. I laugh so much about Gimli because I see so much of myself in him, and honestly? Now that I think about the dwarves in the Hobbit, I’m thinking that might be the case. Maybe I’m more dwarf-life than Hobbit-like, and I’m okay with that.

I’ve gotten to the siege of Gondor, and honestly, it always surprises me when they throw the heads of the fallen men from Osgiliath. Not that I’ve ever been in a war, so I’d have no way of knowing how I would respond to that, but it almost feels like the natural response to having your best friend’s decapitated head flung at you would enrage you so much that you’d stop at nothing to defeat the person who’d done such a horrible thing. Granted, the Nazgûl come right after that and banish all hope of such brave determination, but I feel like I’d find myself hardened, not wearied and unhopeful, at the sight of something so terrible. It’d be almost like a well there’s nothing else to lose now moment. I think, too, that it’s definitely the Witch-king leading that kind of attack, too, and not Sauron because I do definitely think Sauron would see that. I mean, he watched the defeat of Morgoth, he knows what seeing a field of your dead instills in the furious hearts of warriors, he witnessed Fingolfin march across the battlefield to give his life trying to defeat the worst of all evils.

Oh, how timely!

Long had it been forging int he dark smithies of Mordor, and its hideous head, founded of black steel, was shaped in the likeness of a ravening wolf; on it spells of ruin lay. Grond they named it, in memory of the Hammer of the Underworld of old.

The Siege of Gondor, pg 102
Melkor/Morgoth with his hammer, Grond
Art by Phobs

Oh, Grond, huh? Really, Sauron? You named a battering ram after your husband’s giant hammer that he used in the final days of war? You don’t think that’s a bit too sentimental? Not at all?

I AM CACKLING

I remembered this, but I also forgot how it was described, in memory of the Hammer of the Underworld of old, my goodness, that boy is so in love and so sad and it BREAKS MY HEART. This is literally both Sauron being petty about the fact that Morgoth is no longer around and just the saddest he’s ever been because he misses his dark lord so much, UGH. Like, Morgoth went up against Fingolfin in single combat wielding this giant ass hammer against a little elf, and Sauron misses those days of strength and darkness and terror so much that he decided to name his mighty battering ram (it’s making me giggle) after Morgoth’s hammer, I literally cannot.

And in that very moment, a way behind in some courtyard of the City, a cock crowed. Shrill and clear he crowed, recking nothing of wizardry or war, welcoming only the morning that in the sky far above the shadows of death was coming with the dawn.

And as if in answer there came from far away another note. Horns, horns, horns. In dark Mindolluin’s sides they dimly echoed. Great horns of the North wildly blowing. Rohan had come at last.

The Siege of Gondor, pg 103

HERE WE GOOOOOOO

Arise, arise, Riders of Théoden!
Fell deeds awake: fire and slaughter!
spear shall be shaken, shield be splintered,
a sword-day, a red day, ere the sun rises!
Ride now, ride now! Ride to Gondor!

The Ride of the Rohirrim, pg 112

It is uncanny the similarities between Aragorn and Ëarendil right now, and I love it. It’s not really shown in the movie, and given that I haven’t read the books in ages, I didn’t quite see it, but now? I mean, Aragorn literally sails to Minas Tirith with a star upon his brow, mithril and gold dotted across his banner so that it looked cast in starlight, bolstered by the magic and power of the elves, and all I can think about is Ëarendil soaring through the sky, a Silmaril lighting his way. And what a character to echo, one that went up against the Valinor and demanded that they provide aid, that carried a Silmaril without letting it turn against him, that killed Ancalagon the Black. Like, damn. Ëarendil was legendary, and Aragorn is not only the heir of legends, but slowly becoming one himself, the last great king of Numénor that they’ll talk about for ages and ages to come.

I just really, really love watching Aragorn become more kingly over the course of the three movies, but this, right here, him sailing in looking like damn Ëarendil the Mariner is a thing of beauty.

I also really appreciate how well I can see the movie unfolding in my head as I read along. It’s not perfect, and Éowyn’s powerful I am no man line is a bit different, but it’s still such an excellently written battle. Tolkien is so careful to pay attention to each facet of the battle, rather than just “ahhh swords here and death here and woah mûmakil“. Instead, he unfolds the battle slowly, giving just enough information to allow us to imagine some of the rest, but also checking in with those that matter most. I love that the battle isn’t told through Éomer or Théoden’s POV. I love that we mostly see it through Merry, who’s frightened and unsure and just trying not to die because it’s so realistic. That’s how we would feel, and Tolkien recognized that. He could have easily dropped us in Aragorn’s POV, but instead, he showed us the truth of war–that it’s dark and horrible and full of sorrow.

And that, more than anything, speaks to the truth of Tolkien.

Here, have a song!

This is at the end of the battle, as they’re finally fighting off the last of the Enemy and starting to name their wounded. I like, too, that Tolkien takes a moment to name some of the characters, whether we’ve met them or not, to remind us of the terrible price of war.

For it is said in old lore: The hands of the king are the hands of a healer.
And so the rightful king could ever be known.

The House of Healing, pg 136

Well, here I am, falling more and more in love with Aragorn with each passing page. And don’t even get me started on the fact that he remains outside of Minas Tirith because he doesn’t want to challenge Denethor needlessly in the middle of a war. But that the true king would be known by his healer’s hands? That just about does me in. There is not a single purer thing in the world that Tolkien could have possibly done to hold Aragorn up above all other men than make him identifiable by something so kind and warm.

Anyway, I’m just so excited for Aragorn to be crowned king.

I know I said I was going to read straight through book five, but Pelennor Fields was exhausting, and I’ve spent the last hour just imagining it over and over in my head, so I’m taking a break before the last two chapters so I can fully appreciate them later.

Gimli & Legolas
Art by Coconutmilkway

YUP I’M GLAD I WAITED

Together the Elf and the Dwarf entered Minas Tirith, and folk that saw them pass marvelled to see such companions; for Legolas was fair of face beyond the measure of Men, and he sang an elven-song in a clear voice as he walked in the morning; but Gimli stalked beside him, stroking his beard and staring about him.

The Last Debate, pg 148

I literally cannot with these two. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed my LOTR reread immensely, but I’ve missed the absurdity of The Silmarillion and all the friends–there are so many damn friends!–and it’s been really nice to watch these two be absolutely adorable together. And I particularly love their friendship because it’s so unexpected. Everyone in The Silmarillion is either elf or man, and there’s no struggle in friendship there. Sure, there’s one elf/dwarf/man trio that will forever make my heart sing, but there really aren’t any elf/dwarf friendships in The Silmarillion, which means there isn’t anything truly noteworthy to shout about when it comes to those friendships. Do Maedhros & Fingon absolutely break my heart with their undying loyalty to one another? Of course. Will I scream eternally about Túrin & Beleg? FOR MY WHOLE LIFE. Are Ecthelion & Glorfindel actually the best? Balrog slaying boyyyyyyyys.

But Legolas & Gimli are different because, even way back to the First & Second Age, elves and dwarves haven’t been friends. There’s always been at least a small bit of animosity between them, and the very subtle, casual way Tolkien goes about breaking down these barriers is amazing. I’ve got a whole long ass post about their friendship coming up next month, so I won’t go into a big tangent now, but it’s just beautiful. Tolkien builds a foundation for that animosity before he shoves them together and basically does a “and don’t come out until you’re friends” locked in a room together vibe, and it just works. And getting to see Legolas & Gimli go from:

Thats why you never trust an elf...

absolutely despising the sight of each other, to:

Legolas and Gimli | LOTR Amino

literally being best friends will never get old.

Tolkien is either The Death of Beleg for his chapter title or ‘The Eagles are coming!’ for the end of his chapter. Like, my dude, you’re hilarious. Go big or go home, and he means it. You can have either exactly what’s going to happen or the worst cliffhanger of all time.

This book is a journey. I’ve spent the last 169 pages absolutely dying over Gimli, and now, here I am again, at the heart of my love, His love for Frodo rose above all other thoughts (pg 175), OH SAMWISE!

These Two Watchers are so intense. I had a moment of now hang on is that from Neverending Story, but nope, LOTR was published over twenty years prior to Ende’s beloved fairytale. They definitely do have a lot of similarities, though, so one wonders if maybe Ende was inspired. They’re so creepy, though, and I love that Sam’s got to use Ëarendil’s light in order to get past them. It’s a bit of a workaround that I’m sure Sauron never thought to consider, that his horrible, evil guards might be bested by something so purely good.

Gosh, the fact that Sam starts singing in the middle of Mordor, when he’s alone and surrounded by impenetrable darkness and just feeling that all hope has been lost is both beautiful and reminds me so much of Fingon. Ugh, don’t even get me started with Fingon literally playing his harp and singing in Angband with a sound so pure and bright that all of Angband trembled beneath it, for they’d never heard something so wondrous before. And Maedhros singing back like some kind of romantic call and response so Fingon could just casually scale the tallest mountain in history to save him. I see your echoes, Tolkien, and I appreciate them fully. Because Sam deciding he’s going to sing to cheer himself up is both so perfect for his character and just a lovely bit of circuity.

I know I usually go for Clamavi de Profundis for my songs, but this rendition by The Tolkien Ensemble is just beautiful and totally in line with what I was hearing in my head.

Something that just truly amazes me, over and over, is how alone Frodo & Sam are. When you think about it, even though the Fellowship is broken at the end of the first book, the rest of them are still among a lot of people. Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli not only have each other, but they pretty quickly come across the Rohirrim, and not long after that, they’re reunited with Gandalf and Merry & Pippin, not to mention basically taking up residence in Rohan with Théoden. And even before they’re reunited with everyone, they have a very specific purpose that has a very specific end. Yes, Frodo & Sam also have this, but their errand is, frankly, rather hopeless and horrible. Frodo says many times that he doesn’t envisage surviving the journey, but to still carry on, despite that belief, is miraculous.

And not only are they alone and don’t really encounter anyone else for huge stretches of time, their only other companion wants to kill them. Whatever Gollum says, and however much he sways wildly into Sméagol and tries to be good, his base desire is to see them dead and the ring returned to him. There is no variation on that desire in which Frodo & Sam are still alive after Gollum’s dealt with them. And though they encounter Faramir and the other men of Osgiliath, it’s not ever really a friendly encounter right up until the end, and it’s a very brief one in the grander scheme.

And that’s just so sad. Of course Frodo & Sam’s chapters are difficult to get through, and often seem slow and cracking at the seams with darkness. Would Aragorn maybe have fared better in that situation? Sure! But would any one of us? Not a chance. Imagine, just for a second, that you’re in Frodo’s shoes–or bare feet, rather–carrying this unimaginable burden, believing that, no matter what, you’re going to die trying to destroy it, and walking hopelessly into the worst place possible. It breaks my heart. Their chapters are so, so important because they’re alone, because they’re so realistic, because they’re, truly, the heart of the story. I mean, I’ve waxed poetic endlessly about how Sam is the true hero of the story, and he is, but Frodo is right up there alongside him. No matter what way you look at it, they’re the reason everyone lives in the end. They’re the reason that Aragorn & Co. are able to stand before the Black Gate and fight one last terrible battle. They’re the reason, that when the sun does rise, it dawns all the brighter. They’re the whole reason behind Sam’s there’s some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for speech. Because Sam recognizes that even though their journey may seem hopeless, their friends are the good in this world, and they’re going to keep trudging through, fighting for that good, because it’s right. Because it’s the good thing to do.

I get it if you think Frodo & Sam’s chapters are boring, but you can’t, for one second, pretend that they’re not the most important chapters in the entire story.

Samwise Gamgee ICant Carry It For You But ICan Carry You GIF -  SamwiseGamgee ICantCarryItForYouButICanCarryYou Carry - Discover & Share  GIFs

I am so ready for this movie to ruin me tomrrow.

I’m about to get back on my Sauron shit. I just love that he’s got a staircase built into Orodruin, and that it technically connects to a path across Gorgoroth and back to Barad-dûr, and it doesn’t even make sense! He has no corporeal form! Why do the paths have to be maintained! Tolkien’s literally like “always that road was repaired and cleared again” BUT WHY IT’S NOT LIKE SAURON CAN STILL USE IT?? Because he is a Grade A Drama Queen, and he must have the possibility of walking again at any moment. Despite the hundreds and hundreds of years that the ring has been lost, making it very evident that he’s not going to be finding it anytime soon, but just in case, let’s have the path ready.

To make matters worse, all I can think about is this:

LOOK I AM 100% CERTAIN THAT NONE OF YOU WERE EXPECTING THAT TO BE WHAT I WAS THINKING ABOUT BUT HERE WE ARE

Animated gif in The Lord Of The Rings/ The Hobbit collection by sᴋʏᴡᴀʟᴋᴇʀ

I’M FINE I SWEAR

‘The realm of Sauron is ended!’ said Gandalf. ‘The Ring-bearer has fulfilled his Quest.’ And as the Captains gazed south to the Land of Mordor, it seemed to them that, black against the pall of cloud, there rose a huge shape of shadow, impenetrable, lightning-crowned, filling all the sky. Enormous it reared above the world, and stretched out towards them a vast threatening hand, terrible but impotent: for even as it leaned over them, a great wind took it, and it was all blown away, and passed; and then a hush fell.

The Field of Cormallen, pg 227

There’s just so much to love about this passage. Obviously, I’m flailing over this very obviously monstrously huge version of Sauron that seems to be hurling all his last strength at Frodo so that he appears chaotically massive, and that’s just Sauron in a nutshell, basically. But it also makes me so sad because Morgoth was always depicted as this giant, beastly figure, too–I mean, practically every work of art of his fight with Fingolfin shows a tiny little elf holding a brilliantly shining sword and then just HEY IT’S MORGOTH for about 75% of the picture because he’s just huge. But Sauron was always kind of tucked into his shadow, and even though he’s definitely described as larger than life in the Battle of Dagorlad, he’s legit straight out of a nightmare in his last moments, almost as though he’s channeling all of his pent-up–coughcreatedacultforhishusbandcough–love for Morgoth.

But also, let’s appreciate how dramatic this final scene is. Sauron is like DAS MY RING YA FOOL and makes such a hellish last stand that his incorporeal form literally gets corporeal for a second. I am here for it.

‘Is everything sad going to come untrue?’

The Field of Cormallen, pg 230

OH MY GOSH

SAM

I CAN’T

I always forget that they have no idea that Gandalf is okay, and what an incredible moment that must be, after all the horror they’ve weathered, to wake to find the person they’ve longed for most is there to greet them on the other side. And that might have been heartbreaking enough, to be reminded of that, but then there’s Sam, wondering if this means all else is just null & void since Gandalf is back, who is so good that that must mean all evil is gone.

I really wish they’d kept some of these songs in. I would have loved to hear a rendition of this, even if they didn’t want Orlando to sing it, drop someone like Annie Lennox in the background and give them actual Tolkien lyrics.

I’d just like to point out that the gargantuan Sauron scene gets even better when, of course:

Then presently it seemed to them that above the ridges of the distant mountains another vast mountain of darkness rose, towering up like a wave that should engulf the world, and about it lightnings flickered; and then a tremor ran through the earth, and they felt the walls of the City quiver.

The Steward and the King, pg 240

He’s so damn hellbent on not letting Frodo win that all his last strength is badass enough that they see his massive shadow form from Minas Tirith. Sauron, you psycho, I love you.

Not gonna lie, I’m getting a bit weepy reading these closing chapters. I can’t remember if I’ve said it before, but I’ve always been a big fan of Tolkien’s three hundred endings. It’s how I end my books, everything and everyone tied up in a nice, neat bow, and I appreciate it so much because it really doesn’t leave any ambiguous questions. You know exactly what’s happened to all of your favorite characters, and that’s such a relief. But man, it’s really getting me, and this adaptation of The Road Goes Ever On just about did me in. It definitely doesn’t help that I’m listening to the end of the ROTK soundtrack, either, or that Elrond just told Frodo he’d come to collect him for the Grey Havens ship soon.

It’s just occurred to me, as they’re finally riding home to the Shire, that they’ve been away for an astronomically long time. Some quick Googling shows this insanely cool graphic that compares the distance between Bilbo & Frodo, which are only a difference of about ten days, but I imagine the burden of the LOTR journey made it felt much longer than anything Bilbo experienced. And it’s just remarkable, which is, really, what Tolkien hoped that LOTR would be all about, that no matter how small, or how unexpected, or how improbable, even the littlest of people, for they may have the biggest of hearts, can accomplish anything.

month of Mondays

Oh, hell, I’m stealing that. That’s just the best thing I ever heard. A month of Mondays. Wow, Tolkien, what a mood, all the way back in ’55.

‘My time is over: it is no longer my task to set things to rights, not to help folk to do so.’

Homeward Bound, pg 275

I CANNOT EVEN BEGIN TO EXPLAIN HOW HAPPY I AM THAT GANDALF IS FINALLY GOING HOME

image
Art by silmaspens

LOOK AT SWEET LITTLE BABY OLÓRIN AT THE SIDE WITH NIENNA I AM WEEPING

The amount of joy I’m experiencing right now at Gandalf being able to shed his Middle-earth worries, return to his life as Olórin, and finally see Lady Nienna’s smile again is probably going to be the end of me as we know it. Out of everyone–yes, even Frodo–Gandalf has been through the worst of the worst, and all he’s ever wanted was to go home; heck, he didn’t even want to leave in the first place! And now he finally, finally, gets to return to Valinor and be with his family, and I am just going to quietly sob into my book now.

I’ve only read heard discussions about The Scouring of the Shire in passing, and I’m sure some of those were actually from Peter Jackson, but I’ve got to say, I’m really glad Jackson didn’t include this chapter in the movie. I understand why Tolkien brought war to the Shire because, truly, it would be highly unlikely that they wouldn’t be effected at all. And it does nicely round out everything, to see the hobbits taking back their land and maybe proving a bit of their worth that most of the Shire wouldn’t have believed as much more than tall tales, but it also does hurt my heart, much as it does Frodo’s, to see fighting and death come to the Shire. And so, in the end, I’m really glad that the Shire is peaceful when they return in the movie, however far-fetched that idea is.

Oh gosh, this is it! Only one chapter more!

I’m so sad that it’s over, and though I know I’ve got an entire thirteen volume history to work my way through, plus the 100 pages of appendices at the back of ROTK, it’s been such a wonderful journey traveling back with my favorite characters, and I’ll miss them dearly. I’m very excited to rewatch the movie, but we are not yet at an end! Because yes, we are going to review the appendices, too.

Art by breath-art

My only notes from the movie are:

  • Gandalf must just love being around the humans in Middle-earth. The elves are all doom and gloom most of the time, or can see into the future like he can, but the humans are just constantly there is still hope, and that must be so refreshing.
  • Sauron’s storm is just another addition to the Grade A Drama Queen list, and it’s hilarious.
  • I love it in the book & the movie, but Sam keeping his pots & pans until the absolute last moment in Mordor is just–add it to the very long, endless list of reasons why I love him the most.
  • The thing that truly broke my heart more than anything was Frodo & Sam stumbling up Mount Doom in their comfy trousers and suspenders and linen shirts, ugh.
  • Am I ever not going to cry over you bow to no one? Nope.
  • Oh, I didn’t realize it ended on the same line as the book! I really like that.

And now we move onto the appendices!

His descendants were long-lived but mortal. Later when they became powerful they begrudged the choice of their forefather, desiring the immortality within the life of the world that was the fate of the Eldar, and murmuring against the Ban. In this way began their rebellion which, under the evil teaching of Sauron, brought about the Downfall of Númenor and the ruin of the ancient world.

Appendix A, Annals of the Kings and Rulers, The Numenorean Kings, pg 315

YOU KNOW WHAT

Everyone just goes around blaming Sauron for all the bad things when it was LITERALLY ALL THEIR OWN FAULT. I was going to say this is just like Morgoth all over again, but nah, he was legitimately just an ass. And yeah, sure, Sauron makes it real easy, but in this way began their rebellion, KINDA SOUNDS LIKE YOU WANTED IT.

THIS MAN

I can’t get over how much I love Tolkien sometimes. So the descendants of Elros are so pissed about not getting the long Elvish life, even though they have unnaturally long lives for humans anyway, so they start getting greedy and trying to “claim their Elvish heritage” or some shit, and Tolkien just swoops in with a “but their years lessened as their fear of death grew, and their joy departed” (pg 316). Basically, if you’re gonna get salty about your good fortune, it’ll be taken away altogether. Not only that, when the Númenóreans try to take up arms against the Valar, they basically shrug off responsibility to Ilúvatar, and he’s all BYE BITCHES and sinks all their land.

TAKE THAT

Also, like, on my Sauron soap box again, kind of don’t blame him for declaring war against all mankind? Ar-Pharazôn the Golden, oh how fancy, decides he’s going to challenge Sauron, kidnap him when Sauron pretends to surrender–look, it’s your own fault if you truly believe someone like Sauron is surrendering–and then force him across the seas to do battle against the Valar. Obviously, half of this is because Sauron has poisoned their minds, but that’s neither here nor there, they’ve got free will, they’re choosing to listen to him. And then, to just add salt to an already very open wound, they all drown in the sea when Ilúvatar sinks them and their land, and that’s why Sauron doesn’t have a body anymore! Of course he’s pissed when he finds out Elendil survived. I’d be pretty angry, too.

ohhhhhhh

my heart

I cannot go on

His daughter Elanor the Fair is one of the maids of Queen Evenstar.

APPENDIX A, ANNALS OF THE KINGS AND RULERS, THE North-kingdom and the Dúnedain, PG 324

Yup, that’s nearly too much for me, wow.

Arwen & Aragorn
Art by Katerina Zavialova

I can’t find art of Arwen & Elanor, so you’ll just have to stare at this gorgeous one of Arwen & Aragorn while I weep into Appendix A.

I really appreciate that there’s no animosity between Boromir & Faramir. He could have done it so easily, and just Denethor having a favorite child would have been enough to explain it, particularly with Boromir’s proud nature, but instead, he let them choose love between each other, and that’s pretty beautiful.

Oh, I am ruined, I’ve finally gotten to the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen, and I already knew it was going to kill me, but then Aragorn starts singing in the woods and sees Arwen walking nearby, and I just–I know where this is going, AND I WAS RIGHT.

For Aragorn had been singing a part of the Lay of Lúthien which tells of the meeting of Lúthien and Beren in the forest of Neldoreth. And behold! there Lúthien walked before his eyes in Rivendell, clad in a mantle of silver and blue, fair as the twilight in Elven-home; her dark hair strayed in a sudden wind, and her brows were bound with gems like stars.

For a moment Aragorn gaze in silence, but fearing that she would pass away and never be seen again, he called to her crying, Tinúviel, Tinúviel! even as Beren had done in the Elder Days long ago.

APPENDIX A, ANNALS OF THE KINGS AND RULERS, Here Follows a Part of the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen, PG 338

Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.

MY GODS, Aragorn is so young in this, I’m gonna truly die.

LOL @ Gandalf’s chance meeting with Thorin. Also kind of love it, though, because Gandalf sees Smaug, recognizes how much worse the war could be if Sauron had a dragon, and is like, I’m gonna take care of that. Because sure, firing up some dwarves about reclaiming their homeland is definitely the way to do it! Imagine, though, if there had been Nazgûl and dragons in the War of the Ring. Dragons, plural, because you totally know that once Sauron got Smaug, he would’ve convinced Smaug to call down the rest of his kind, and even though Smaug was small in comparison to the dragons of old (I dare you to think I’m not about to drop some Ancalagon art all over this stupidly long review), he was the greatest of his kind for that age, and he was pretty damn big.

Honestly, sometimes I just sit back, in pure, unadulterated fear, and think about the fact that Smaug was considered small.

Smaug vs Ancalagon
Smaug vs Ancalagon
Art by Valonia-Feline

First of all, the amount of willpower I had to just employ to not use these tiny baby pictures of all the great dragons of Middle-earth was a lot, but this is legit the most perfect rendition of that fear I feel. Smaug is, like, the size of a fourth of Ancalagon’s head?? NO WONDER IT WAS SO HARD TO DEFEAT MORGOTH.

Also, like, how freaking big was Middle-earth that Ancalagon could just hang out and prosper? It’s terrifying to think about, let’s not.

Celebrimbor was lord of Eregion and the greatest of their craftsmen; he was descended from Fëanor.

Appendix B, The Tale of Years, The Second Age, pg 363

I just feel like they should have known? “Yeah, we’ve got this super awesome dude, he’s a great craftsman, and he’s gonna do some kickass jewelry. Oh, his ancestor? Yeah, I mean, it’s Fëanor, but no big deal.” And Sauron’s just like “SAY WHAT NOW I’LL BE RIGHT THERE!”

There is something so satisfying about the white tree of Gondor remaining dead while the stewards hold the rule of the city until the true king returns, and then it just magically starts blossoming again. It’s such a Tolkien thing to do, to give nature so much power–truthfully, as much power as she already has and deserves–that she defies all logic and says, instead, that while evil lives–and evil can mean many things in Middle-earth, but for this particular bit of lore, I think it’s specifically the evil of industrialism–nature shall not flourish. But the moment that evil is defeated–ie: Mordor’s hellish steel wastelands destroyed–nature shall blossom again.

There’s a huge timeline in here of all the major events, and things I did not know:

  • Bilbo is older than Aragorn by 41 years!
  • Frodo is older than Boromir by 10 years.
  • Samwise is a wee babe when they set out on the quest!
  • Gandalf & Frodo are literally mere days away from each other all the way from the Shire to Rivendell and it’s maddening to see it spelled out so plainly.
  • If I’d thought about it, I’d have known that the dwarves & elves were also at war, and I definitely knew that, but seeing it written out so specifically, down to who and when and where, is really neat.
  • I totally forgot that Sam gets to eventually sail into the West, as well, and that just makes me so happy that he gets to be with Frodo again.
  • STOP REMINDING ME THAT LEGOLAS SNEAKS GIMLI ONTO A SHIP AT THE GREY HAVENS I ALREADY SHIP THEM YOUR WORK HERE IS DONE, JOHN RONALD REUEL

The names given in these Trees are only a selection from many. Most of them are either guests at Bilbo’s Farewell Party, or their direct ancestors. The guests at the Party are underlined.

Appendix C, Family Trees, pg 379

There is truly nothing less hilarious than this note about the family trees. And holy hell, these are extensive! Not to mention he also included a Shire calendar, like damn. I mean, this was also the man that wrote a ten thousand word letter to convince someone to publish LOTR & Silmarillion together, so what were we really expecting?

This is a very vague spoiler of what’s to come in 2021 from me.

ANYWAY, that’s it for me & Tolkien in 2020, though we’re going to be hopping right back on the Middle-earth train very soon! Stay tuned for an announcement right after the new year–it’s about Tolkien month–and then keep your eyes peeled for another announcement at the very end of January–it’s going to be literal chaos, and I cannot wait–and, until then, happy holidays!

How much do you love Return of the King?

Previously: The Two Towers | Next: The Book of Lost Tales, Part One

Posted by:Mary Drover

she/her | yoga teacher | Tibetan Buddhism | part-time witch | full-time author | astronaut in a previous life

11 replies on “An Adventure in Tolkien: Return of the King

  1. Thank you. I enjoyed your post so much.
    I love J.R.R. Tolkien’s stories. Actually, I’m late to reading Tolkien’s stories. I recently read, The Fellowship of the Ring, but I’m preparing, and buying, several other Tolkien stories to read. I’ve also purchased three nonfiction books on Tolkien. One is a book of essays written about his writings. And two books have illustrations and are considered companion books for his stories.

    Liked by 1 person

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