The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

Title: The Return of the King.
Series: The Lord of the Rings #3.
Writer(s): J.R.R. Tolkien.
Publisher: HarperCollins.
Format: Hardcover.
Release Date: October 1st, 2017.
Original Release Date: October 20th, 1955.
Pages: 593.
Genre(s): Fantasy.
ISBN13: 9780008264222.
My Overall Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Previously in The Lord of the Rings series:
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.
The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien.
The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien.


To fight for what’s right, to act upon your most visceral beliefs, requires one to be of a tenacious spirit, to withstand adversity no matter its shape or strength. Before evil, many may succumb to the temptation of defeat, to the abandonment of hope, as their mental toughness crumbles at the thought of eternal doom, of an unforgiving demise within a world bereft of heroes, of eternal demise. Others will channel the remnants of their power and face calamity with only a desire to do great deeds. Taking up the burden of their lineage, their wisdom, or their destiny, these heroes go down in history as pillar examples of altruism and heroism. Although it is the third and final part of The Lord of the Rings, this fully corrected and revised edition is comprised of books five and six of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy adventure, the appendices, as well as the indexes.

What is The Return of the King about? Aragorn, now revealed as the hidden heir of the ancient Kings of the West, marches toward the Paths of the Dead alongside Legolas and Gimli. Aware of the repercussions of his actions, the road ahead is one untravelled but also the only avenue that he must embrace if only to give the heroes of Middle-Earth a fighting chance against the forces of evil. Wasting not a moment longer, the armies of the Dark Lord assemble and direct their attention to Gondor at the whim of Sauron, fearing an entity of good he cannot fathom. Meanwhile, Sam puts it upon his lone shoulders the fate of all things good and does everything in his power to try and rescue Frodo from the tower of Cirith Ungol. Despite being inches away from the edges of Mount Doom where the One Ring must be banished, the toll of the journey has reached a pinnacle on their body and mind. Can they do what they were set out to do or fall before the towering forces of darkness?

“I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

What at first seemed impossible, a task deemed inconceivable by the common of mortals, one that could only be achieved by a godlike entity, was given to the most honest of halflings. It was their endeavour through treacherous lands, their belief of a home to return to once the plight was overcome, and the thought of being surrounded by friends with whom they can share the burden, that gave these little fellows the fortitude they required to take on this trial. But these hobbits weren’t the only heroes in this tale larger than life itself, as, no matter where you come from, what race you belong to, or what gender you are, these diverse heroes of this majestic tale of honor, courage, and strength spoke through their actions and proved that heroism comes from the heart, deep within one’s soul, and alongside allies, a conviction can take root: good will always triumph over evil.

With outstanding mastery over prose, J.R.R. Tolkien commands the narrative with the same vigour as Aragorn over the Army of the Dead. This finale, a culmination of a myriad of memorable events, builds up the story to deliver the final act of each key character as they work up the courage and determination necessary to act upon their beliefs and become part of legends. It is not only through efficient detailing of the scarring battles or the vivid descriptions of Middle-Earth’s wonderful landscape that he succeeds in enamouring readers this time around but also through the poetic and enlightened dialogues, conveying beautiful moments within this epic journey against the foul armies of the Dark Lord.

The bittersweet epilogue, longer than anything found in many fantasy stories nowadays, also offers a unique final quest, one that properly sends off many characters but also highlights the transformative journey of the hobbits. The included appendices also present curious details concerning the mythology and history behind Middle-Earth as well as tidbits about several beloved characters and their final days. These appendices, including the sections on the family trees, hobbit calendars, writing, spelling, and languages in Middle-Earth, also serve as an excellent foretaste of The Silmarillion and anything else written about Tolkien’s exquisite world.

The Return of the King is a monumental and timeless finale cementing J.R.R. Tolkien’s unrivaled poetic prose as heroes stand tall through unequaled resilience, unrivaled unity, and undiminishable courage, to face evil head-on.



29 thoughts on “The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

  1. The bittersweet ending you mentioned is both heart-wrenching and heart-warming, and at the same time offers a closure that does show some “happily ever after” but also the price one has to pay for that. It’s one of the translations from book to screen that Peter Jackson handled with care and an unusual (for him) light hand, particularly in the scene between the four Hobbits in the Green Dragon, where they observe their fellow Hobbits going about the usual activities, blessedly ignorant of what transpired: the look the four friends exchange before clinking their ale mugs speaks volumes and always touches me deeply.

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  2. It has been a long time since I read this, but I clearly remember the long epilogue, which went on and on long after the big climax of the story. Still, the series ranks as favourite of mine and I really ought to reread at some point.

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  3. I have to admit that I’ve read nothing of Tolkien. The size of the books always intimidated me. And since fantasy is not my preferred genre, I’ve put it off. I enjoyed the movies, though. Which of Tolkien’s creations would you recommend for a novice? I do like the appendixes you mention. That definitely enables you to delve deeper into the world.

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    1. It’s definitely scary at first sight but once you dip your toes in it, you’ll quickly know how immersed you are and if you want more of it all. I would always recommend The Hobbit first; it’s self-contained, aiming at a universal audience, and gives you a good taste of Tolkien’s imagination before going to the more mature and epic scale of LOTR. Absolutely, those appendices really added so much more to the world, a good foretaste of The Silmarillion.


  4. I felt this was such a satisfying conclusion to a long, difficult and life-changing journey. I liked how the hobbits, especially Frodo, were portrayed with all the frailties of humanity, how despite all they’ve come through they can falter at the end, and yet things can still turn out ok thanks to the strength of friendship. I doubt I’ll find very many series that stick with me quite the way this one has. Very glad you enjoyed this, Lashaan. It’s been great re-experiencing it through your eyes, and I look forward to my next reread, and to reading further into the Histories than I have so far.

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    1. I absolutely agree, Todd. It’s quite wonderful to see how Frodo was written in the epilogue, still suffering but not troubling anyone with what he continues to hold as his burden. His decision to go to Grey Haven really does show how much he’s suffered/grown from the whole experience too. He pretty much sacrificed himself for the world, for people to live on, and have what Sam got in the end. I hope you get around to rereading these soon, Todd!


  5. On the one hand, I kind of wish we could have seen the Scouring of the Shire on-screen, even if it was limited to the extended cut. It conveys a major part of Tolkien’s anti-war attitudes, showing that wars generally don’t end after one big battle, but there are always ripple effects that last for a while, sometimes well after the war is officially over. On the other hand, I fully understand why it didn’t make it into the films. It’s anti-climactic from an action standpoint, and it probably wouldn’t have worked for the average audience.

    I’ve heard it argued that this book kind of has two climaxes. There’s the action climax with the destruction of the ring, and the dramatic climax, which is the very moment Frodo leaves Middle Earth. It’s an interesting point of view that’s worth looking at.

    The Lord of the Rings is a masterpiece as a whole. Originally intended to be one big release, but it’s probably for the best that Tolkien’s publishers split it up into 3 books. Well … 3 volumes comprised of 2 books each.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, I feel like a lot of the major changes from the books to the movies were made with the objective of keeping an average viewer’s attention. We might not have gotten everything from the books on the big screen but we did get plenty of other goodies in exchange!

      In all honesty, the epilogue segment felt like another story, with its own problems and resolution. I like that it refocuses the narrative to a somewhat smaller scale to give the four hobbits the chance to show everyone what they’ve learned from their journey.


  6. Amazing review, Lashaan! It perfectly captures how epic the whole series of book is, but especially this one! I’m glad you liked it (though I had no doubts given your other reviews about the first two books ahah)! I remember spending a lot of time studying the appendixes as they are filled with interesting information – and they barely cover all of Tolkien’s work around his invented languages!

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  7. Great review, Lashaan. Do glad you enjoyed this reread as much as the first time. Again, I have these books but haven’t read them in many, many, years. I need to try and find them when I get home. I know they are on one of my 4 bookcases, unless my son confiscated them.

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