First sentence: Pippin looked out from the shelter of Gandalf's cloak.
So Return of the King consists of books five and six of Lord of the Rings. In book five, narrators shift from chapter to chapter to chapter. Essentially we spend time with everyone but Sam and Frodo. We spend time in Rohan and Gondor. Scarlett O'Hara would be nothing but bored, bored, bored for this one is all about WAR, WAR, WAR. If they're not actually IN battle, they're marching towards battle, planning battle tactics, or recovering from battle. Did I personally find it boring??? Far from it, it is INTENSE and heartbreaking in places. (For example, Theoden's end.) I would actually say almost all the action happens in book five.
Book six starts out as being all about Sam and Frodo, but, it doesn't stay their book. The climax to the trilogy comes early in book six. Soon the fellowship is reunited and readers get the full cast of characters they've become so attached to. Here we have two to three romances squeezed in. If I had any advice for new readers it would be this: don't expect the book to be as focused on ROMANCE and FEELINGS as the movies are.
So does book six drag? Is the end of the war coming so early in the novel a weakness in the book? I'm going to say perhaps and NO. I love that the book shows what happens next. I love that the book focuses on soldiers going home, on trying to settle back into life after the war. I love that we see the effect of the war. I love that we don't get a polished, rushed happy ending. It would be so easy for a movie to end in a parade and award ceremony. (Think Star Wars!) But life isn't like that. It isn't always easy for soldiers to adjust back into life, into society. I love that we see the ongoing consequences of war. We see how war has changed everyone--not just the Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin--but everyone in the Shire.
Well, no need to brood on what tomorrow may bring. For one thing, tomorrow will be certain to bring worse than today, for many days to come. And there is nothing more that I can do to help it. The board is set, and the pieces are moving.
‘Nine o’clock we’d call it in the Shire,’ said Pippin aloud to himself. ‘Just the time for a nice breakfast by the open window in spring sunshine. And how I should like breakfast! Do these people ever have it, or is it over? And when do they have dinner, and where?’
‘I am no warrior at all and dislike any thought of battle; but waiting on the edge of one that I can’t escape is worst of all. What a long day it seems already! I should be happier, if we were not obliged to stand and watch, making no move, striking nowhere first.
‘So we come to it in the end,’ he said: ‘the great battle of our time, in which many things shall pass away. But at least there is no longer need for hiding. We will ride the straight way and the open road and with all our speed. The muster shall begin at once, and wait for none that tarry. Have you good store in Minas Tirith? For if we must ride now in all haste, then we must ride light, with but meal and water enough to last us into battle.
‘O Sam!’ cried Frodo. ‘What have I said? What have I done? Forgive me! After all you have done. It is the horrible power of the Ring. I wish it had never, never, been found. But don’t mind me, Sam. I must carry the burden to the end. It can’t be altered. You can’t come between me and this doom.’
‘So that was the job I felt I had to do when I started,’ thought Sam: ‘to help Mr. Frodo to the last step and then die with him? Well, if that is the job then I must do it. But I would dearly like to see Bywater again, and Rosie Cotton and her brothers, and the Gaffer and Marigold and all. I can’t think somehow that Gandalf would have sent Mr. Frodo on this errand, if there hadn’t a’ been any hope of his ever coming back at all. Things all went wrong when he went down in Moria. I wish he hadn’t. He would have done something.’ But even as hope died in Sam, or seemed to die, it was turned to a new strength. Sam’s plain hobbit-face grew stern, almost grim, as the will hardened in him, and he felt through all his limbs a thrill, as if he was turning into some creature of stone and steel that neither despair nor weariness nor endless barren miles could subdue.
Sam looked at him and wept in his heart, but no tears came to his dry and stinging eyes. ‘I said I’d carry him, if it broke my back,’ he muttered, ‘and I will!’ ‘Come, Mr. Frodo!’ he cried. ‘I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you and it as well. So up you get! Come on, Mr. Frodo dear! Sam will give you a ride. Just tell him where to go, and he’ll go.’ As Frodo clung upon his back, arms loosely about his neck, legs clasped firmly under his arms, Sam staggered to his feet; and then to his amazement he felt the burden light.
Then to the wonder of many Aragorn did not put the crown upon his head, but gave it back to Faramir, and said: ‘By the labour and valour of many I have come into my inheritance. In token of this I would have the Ring-bearer bring the crown to me, and let Mithrandir set it upon my head, if he will; for he has been the mover of all that has been accomplished, and this is his victory.’ Then Frodo came forward and took the crown from Faramir and bore it to Gandalf; and Aragorn knelt, and Gandalf set the White Crown upon his head, and said:
‘Now come the days of the King, and may they be blessed while the thrones of the Valar endure!’ But when Aragorn arose all that beheld him gazed in silence, for it seemed to them that he was revealed to them now for the first time. Tall as the sea-kings of old, he stood above all that were near; ancient of days he seemed and yet in the flower of manhood; and wisdom sat upon his brow, and strength and healing were in his hands, and a light was about him. And then Faramir cried: ‘Behold the King!’
‘Are you in pain, Frodo?’ said Gandalf quietly as he rode by Frodo’s side. ‘Well, yes I am,’ said Frodo. ‘It is my shoulder. The wound aches, and the memory of darkness is heavy on me. It was a year ago today.’ ‘Alas! there are some wounds that cannot be wholly cured,’ said Gandalf. ‘I fear it may be so with mine,’ said Frodo. ‘There is no real going back. Though I may come to the Shire, it will not seem the same; for I shall not be the same. I am wounded with knife, sting, and tooth, and a long burden. Where shall I find rest?’ Gandalf did not answer.
© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews