The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King: Vol 3 by JRR Tolkien.
This month was the last part of the LOTR Readalong and everyone’s final thoughts can be found at Just Add Books. Having finished all 1076 pages of the three volumes of LOTR plus the Hobbit I think I’m going to miss them.
The final volume was certainly full of action. There are some memorable scenes – Faramir and Eowyn falling in love was lovely and heartwarming, Sam giving back the ring to Frodo for instance. But one that affected me particularly was Denethor’s death. He had totally mis-read Gandalf’s actions after the loss of his oldest son Boromir; his other son Faramir was so badly wounded. Knowing that Aragorn is on the way to reclaim the throne, he is consumed with anger and rants at Gandalf:
‘Do I not know thee, Mithrandir? Thy hope is to rule in my stead, to stand behind every throne, north, south or west. I have read thy mind and its policies. Do I not know that you commanded this halfling here to keep silence? That you brought him hither to be a spy in my very chamber? And yet in our speech together I have learned the names and purpose of all thy companions. So! With the left hand thou wouldst use me for a little while as a shield against Mordor, and with the right bring up this Ranger of the North to supplant me.
‘But I say to thee, Gandalf Mithrandir, I will not be your tool! I am Steward of the house of Anarion. I will not step down to be the dotard chamberlain of an upstart. Even were his claim proved to me, still he comes but of the line of Isildur. I will not bow to such a one, last of a ragged house long bereft of lordship and dignity.’
‘What then would you have,’ said Gandalf, ‘if your will could have its way?’
‘I would have things as they were in all the days of my life,’ answered Denethor, ‘and in the days of my longfathers before me: to be the Lord of this City in peace, and leave my chair to a son after me, who would be his own master and no wizard’s pupil. But if doom denies this to me, then I will have naught: neither life diminished, not love halved, not honour abated.’
‘To me it would not seem that a Stewart who faithfully surrenders his charge is diminished in love or in honour,’ said Gandalf. ‘And at the least you shall not rob your son of his choice while his death is still in doubt.’
At those words Denethor’s eyes flamed again, and taking the Stone under his arm he drew a knife and strode towards the bier. But Beregond sprang forward and set himself before Faramir.
‘So!’ cried Denethor. ‘Thou hadst already stolen half my son’s love. Now thou stealest the hearts of my knights also, so that they rob me wholly of my son at the last. But in this at least thou shalt not defy my will: to rule my own end’.
Apologies for the long extract, however I found this scene which ends with Denethor immolating himself very sad, dramatic and positively Wagnerian. After this the actual destruction of the ring was almost an anticlimax.
Given that this was a re-read for me, I’d forgotten that the coda, the tying up of all ends, the crowning of Aragorn, the Hobbits’ return to the Shire, and the sailing of the Elves and their friends from the Havens would take eighty pages, (plus the Appendix of the story of Aragorn and Arwen).
I’m very glad to have re-read the books and have got much more from them this time, in particular understanding more about the politics between all the tribes and races. One thing hasn’t changed though, Aragorn remains my favourite character! Taking it slowly over a period of four months has enabled me to read plenty of other books in between yet keep them in the forefront of my mind. Lastly many thanks to Teresa who started the whole thing off.