LOTR Read-Along! Return of the King Part Two

The Hobbit and LOTR Read-Along is hosted by Little Red Reviewer and Geeky Daddy

Previous Posts:
FOTR: Part One Part Two Part Three
Bonus One: Photos of Books
TT: Part One Part Two Part Three
Bonus Two: TOYS!
ROTK: Part One

(PS: For more fantasy, come back this Mon-Wed for a short string of Discworld reviews, culminating in a review of Snuff, the newest one, on Wednesday. But back to Tolkein for now...)

Welcome to Part Two of Return of the King!
This section took us through the main plot climax, and into the actual returning of said king. I love the whole sequence on Mount Doom, always have, although I'm still looking forward to the rest of the book!

1. After witnessing the events of Denethor's demise, what are your thoughts on him as a father and as a ruler, especially when compared to what happened with Boromir and the Ring.

Denethor is a pretty sad character. I mean, he's arrogant and foolish, but as the leader of a city under siege (and I don't just mean now. They take that whole 'line of defense for all the free peoples' thing seriously) he's under a lot of pressure. Boromir was young and headstrong, but he learned from his father the pride of their city and the pressure of their position. I don't think Denethor necessarily started out a bad father or a bad ruler, but his direction and moral compass was twisted by his contact with his palantir. Not to mention Denethor had a lifetime of hopes bound up in his son that were doubly broken by the time we really met him: both by Boromir's death and by the impending coming of the King. His relationship with Faramir is broken on many levels, but the simplest is that parents often have trouble relating to children who are different then they are, and that small, normal stress was blown up into disaster by the pressures of the war.

2. Instead of riding into the city with pomp and circumstance, Tolkien pens the king's return as a clandestine act in which he demonstrates his rightful place through the act of healing the wounded. Your thoughts?

Well, Gondor has lived with the Stewards for so long that it's probably better to change things a little gradually. It would be very unlike the Aragorn we've seen up until this point to brashly claim his birthright until he was sure that it was the best thing for the city and everyone involved.

3. For one chapter Sam got to be rescuer and ring-bearer. What are your thoughts about Sam's brief time as a ring-bearer in comparison to the others who have born the ring, or wished to?

I talked a little about this in the last third of Two Towers. I love Sam as a Ringbearer. I love how much his grounded goodness protects him from the Ring, and how his ability to stay in touch with his instincts keeps him from pushing his luck.

4. In a twist unexpected in many hero tales, Tolkien ends the journey into Mount Doom with Frodo ultimately failing at his task. How did you feel about this and ultimately how does it make you feel about both Frodo and Gollum?

I think this sequence reveals the full power of the Ring, and really brings home how extraordinary is was that Frodo made it this far to begin with. The Ring doesn't want to die, and Frodo and Sam were very strong to be able to bring it close enough that a little luck could win the day. Gollum's mad struggle for the Ring is a part of this too, it helps you feel the malignant power of the thing.

5. Given that The Lord of the Rings is largely about an all male cast, what are your thoughts about Tolkien's portrayal of Eowyn now that we've seen the course of her journey through these culminating chapters of her story?

I adore Eowyn, even though I have conflicting feelings about her. As a character, unique in her own right, she is fantastic. She rises from her wound and eventually finds some personal peace after her pain. As almost the only representative of women in the whole book, my feelings are more mixed. The part where Gandalf essentially tells Eomer: your sister is just like you, but she hasn't had the freedom you've had, so how do you think she feels! That part was wonderful and surprisingly progressive. The part where she finds salvation through the love of the right man? Slightly more problematic. Let me be super clear here: I think it's a good place for her character to go, but a simplistic thing to happen to the only warrior woman mentioned in all of Middle Earth. Because I do think the bookish Faramir, kind and wise, and the warrior Eowyn, brave and honorable, are a really perfect couple.

6. Much of this section of our reading has been filled with desperate acts with little hope of success. How do you feel about the mood Tolkien created in the build up both to the battle and the final push into Mount Doom and what are your thoughts on how these sections ended?

It's so hard to put the book down through this entire sequence. I remember watching the movies thinking about how without the Book plot-split, they couldn't actually convey the tension from the end of Book Five, when Aragorn and Gandalf think Frodo might have been captured or killed. Watching the movies, you know what happened, but reading the book, last you saw Frodo, he had been captured. Really, from then through Mount Doom is one long push toward the end. Even though a lot of this is Sam and Frodo walking across Mordor, I still felt the constant tension.

The moments with Sam and Frodo coming down the mountain after the Ring is destroyed are some of my favorite scenes in literature; I find them incredibly moving, perfectly sad and hopeful and peaceful all at once.

7. The "assigned" sections for part 3 only take us to the end of the actual story. Will you be reading the appendices?

Of course! Well, some of them. I do recommend everyone find and read the section that details (and finishes) Aragorn and Arwen's story.


  1. I like your comments about Denethor - I wasn't as reasonable (I don't seem to be able to get over my dislike and suspicion of him). I also thought Sam was great as a ring bearer.
    I have to admit that I probably won't read the appendices - although maybe I'll seek out the one you mention about Aragorn and Arwen.
    Lynn :D

  2. Wasn't Sam great with the ring? Like everyone who has it, it promises them everything they could have ever wanted. . . and he wanted something a little different than everyone else.

    On the side of the good guys, Denethor is about as close as we get to a bad guy.

  3. @Lynn: The story of Aragorn and Arwen is a section of the first Appendix, and it's short and worth looking up, I think.

    @Red: Yes! Also, the way you put that about Sam reminds me of the graphic novels I posted my review of last week. ( Blue Beetle 1-3) The modern Blue Beetle is a good kid whose parents raised him well, and at one point he runs into a magic-based villain who releases his "darkest fantasies of ultimate power", and that turns out differently than the villain expects... http://blog.newsarama.com/gallery/albums/userpics/10087/normal_bluebeetle2.jpg

  4. I like Sam as a Ringbearer as well. It just seems that ring did that affect him as much as the Ring affect that other that was bestowed it.
    I like your thought that the Ring just did not want to die, but Gollum's mad struggle is all that it took to "kill" it. Thanks for the recommendations for Appendices to read:)


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