|Hardcover, 182 pages|
Published 2000 (originally 1955)
Acquired February 2011
Read June 2013
by J. R. R. Tolkien
This turned out to be my least favorite and the most uneven installment of The Lord of the Rings. Mainly, I think, because Tolkien severely overestimates how much I care about the kingship of Middle-earth. Seriously. I get that it's a sign of the restoration of Middle-earth, but the book just goes on and on about the details of the restoration of the crown, and the marriage, and whatever. I'm not sure where Aragorn didn't show up and ask for his crown years ago, nor why a king is so important-- at one point we're told the roads to the Shire will be kept up better now. What, a steward of Gondor can't order anyone to put down new pavement? I also don't think it's really explained why all the elves are like, "Welp, we're leaving." It just suddenly seems to be something everyone knows about.
The book still has its moments, of course. Frodo and Sam escaping from Cirith Ungol continues the good work done in The Ring Goes East, and the "Mount Doom" chapter is excellent. I'd read the book and seen the films before, but I'd forgotten that even Frodo succumbs to the Ring in the end. I also really like the romance between Faramir and Éowyn-- two of the most awesome characters in the books, of course they have to get together, and unlike always happened in the Harry Potter books, they actually do. Also, they have the most epic kiss ever:
'Éowyn, Éowyn, White Lady of Rohan, in this hour I do not believe that any darkness will endure!' And he stooped and kissed her brow.
And so they stood on the walls of the City of Gondor, and a great wind rose and blew, and their hair, raven and golden, streamed out mingling in the air. And the Shadow departed, and the Sun was unveiled, and light leaped forth; and the waters of Anduin shone like silver, and in all the houses of the City men sang for the joy that welled up in their hearts from what source they could not tell. (93)If that's what happens when he kisses her on the forehead, imagine what locking lips will do-- probably cure cancer! Actually, I don't like that Éowyn-- the women who slew the Witch-King of Angmar-- has to give up being a warrior for being a healer when she gets married, but 1) lets not ask for too much progressiveness of old Tolkien and 2) given that Aragorn, that manliest of men, turns out to be the world's best healer, I can't really argue that healing is particular feminine activity.
Once you muddle through the interminable chapters about the coronation and then everyone saying goodbye all the time (seriously, the climax of this installment comes in the third chapter of nine!), the end of the book is pretty good, too. "The Scouring of the Shire," far from being an anticlimax serves to both escalate the threat at the novel's end (sure, Sauron is dead, but the Shire itself is in danger!) and show how badass our little group of hobbits has become. And the last chapter is just lovely; Bilbo was irrevocably changed by his journey, but poor Frodo was changed even moreso. All adventures have their price, and even if Sam suffers less for it, he'll never be the same either.