The Return of the King: Wikis


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The Return of the King  
1st edition
Author J. R. R. Tolkien
Country England
Language English
Genre(s) Fantasy
Publisher George Allen & Unwin[1]
Publication date October 20, 1955
Media type Print (Hardback and Paperback)
The Lord of the Rings
Volume I · Volume II · Volume III

The Return of the King is the third and final volume of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, following The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers.



Tolkien conceived of The Lord of the Rings as a single volume comprising six "books" plus extensive appendices. The original publisher split the work into three, publishing the fifth and sixth books with the appendices under the title The Return of the King. Tolkien felt the chosen title revealed too much of the story, and indicated he preferred The War of the Ring as a title.[2]

Tolkien may have hoped to publish the one large volume together with The Silmarillion, and to give names to the individual six books.[citation needed] The proposed title for Book V was The War of the Ring. Book VI was to be The End of the Third Age.[3] These titles were used in the Millenium edition.

The Return of the King was in the end published as the third and final part of The Lord of the Rings, on October 20, 1955.

Plot summary

Book V

The story begins with Gandalf and the hobbit Peregrin Took (Pippin) arriving at Minas Tirith in the kingdom of Gondor, delivering the news to Denethor, the Lord and Steward of Gondor, that a devastating attack on his city by Sauron, the Dark Lord of Mordor is imminent. Pippin then enters the service of the Steward as repayment of a debt he owes to Boromir, Denethor's dead son and preferred heir.

Now clad in the uniform of the tower guard, Pippin watches the fortunes of war unfold, while the Lord Denethor descends into madness as the hosts of Mordor press ever closer to Gondor's capital city of Minas Tirith. Faramir, Boromir's younger brother, returns from his campaign with the shattered remnants of his company and is soon ordered to ride out and continue the hopeless defence of Osgiliath against a horde of orcs. Osgiliath is soon overrun and a gravely wounded Faramir is carried back to Denethor. His people seemingly lost and his only remaining son all but dead, Denethor orders a funeral pyre built that is to claim both him and his dying son. Minas Tirith stands encircled and besieged by the Dark Lord's Orcs.

Meanwhile, in far-off Rohan, Théoden and his Rohirrim are recovering from the Battle of the Hornburg, in which they defended Rohan against the forces of Saruman at great cost. Aragorn, having confronted Sauron through the palantír of Isengard, sets out to find the lost army of the undead oathbreakers who dwell in the Paths of the Dead, a mountain hall where they have been enslaved since their treachery ages ago. Helped by his companions Legolas and Gimli as well as a Company of Rangers from Arnor in the north (the "Grey Company"), he sets out to recruit the Army of the Dead to his cause. As Aragorn departs on his seemingly impossible task, King Théoden musters the Rohirrim to come to the aid of Gondor. Merry, eager to go to war with his allies, is refused by Théoden several times. Finally Dernhelm, one of the Rohirrim, takes Merry up on his horse, and secretly rides with the rest of the Rohirrim.

The hosts of Mordor, led by the dreaded Witch-king of Angmar, succeed in breaking through the gates of Minas Tirith, but are in turn crushed by the arriving cavalry of Rohan. The battle is also joined by a "black fleet with black sails". The forces of Mordor initially rejoice at its arrival; and then are horrified to see the banner of the King upon the ships. Aragorn has succeeded in using the Oathbreakers to defeat the Corsairs of Umbar; the men of Gondor who were once slaves on the ships are brought back to fight the host of Mordor. In the following Battle of the Pelennor Fields the Witch-king is slain by Dernhelm, revealed to be Éowyn the niece of King Théoden, with help from Merry. Thus the siege is broken, but at heavy cost: many warriors of Gondor and Rohan fall, among them King Théoden. Denethor immolates himself and Faramir on his funeral pyre, but Gandalf and Pippin succeed in saving Faramir, who is subsequently healed by Aragorn. Aragorn also heals Merry and Éowyn, who were hurt by the Witch-king before he fell.

Knowing that it is only a matter of time before Sauron rebuilds his forces for another attack, Aragorn and Gandalf decide to draw out the hosts of Mordor with an assault on the Black Gate, providing a distraction so that Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee may have a chance of reaching Mount Doom and destroying the One Ring, unseen by the Eye of Sauron. Gandalf and Aragorn lead an army to the Black Gate of Mordor and lay siege to Sauron's army. The battle begins and the body of a troll he had killed falls onto Pippin, and he loses consciousness just as the Great Eagles arrive.

Book VI

Book VI begins with Frodo held captive in the tower of Cirith Ungol after being poisoned by Shelob. The brave and loyal Sam — who for a short time bears the One Ring in Frodo's place — rescues his master from torture and death by Orcs and the two navigate the barren wasteland of Mordor. They are overtaken by a company of Orcs but escape and are forced to disguise themselves in Orcish armour. Gandalf's plan to distract Sauron from the Ring is successful: Mordor is almost empty as all the remaining Orcs have been summoned to defend the land against the assault of the army led by Gandalf and Aragorn.

The two Hobbits, after a weary and dangerous journey, finally reach the Crack of Doom. Yet just as he is about to throw the Ring into Mount Doom, Frodo succumbs to the Ring's power and refuses to let it go. Just then, Gollum, who had been following the pair still, attacks Frodo and bites off his finger with the Ring. Gollum gloats over his prize, but loses his balance and falls into the lava below, taking the Ring with him. The Ring is destroyed, freeing Middle-earth from Sauron's power. Frodo and Sam are rescued by the Great Eagles who carry them from Mount Doom. Upon Sauron's defeat, his armies at the Gate flee.

Aragorn is crowned King of Gondor outside the walls of Minas Tirith in a celebration during which all four hobbits are greatly honoured for their contribution to the War of the Ring. A healed Faramir is appointed Steward of Gondor and Aragorn marries Arwen, daughter of Elrond of Rivendell. After a series of goodbyes, the Hobbits return home to find the Shire in ruins, its inhabitants oppressed by Lotho Sackville-Baggins (usually called "The Boss") who is in reality controlled by a shadowy figure called "Sharkey". Sharkey has taken complete control of the Shire using corrupt Men, and begins felling trees in a gratuitous program of industrialization (which actually produces nothing except destruction and misery for the locals). Merry, Pippin - now experienced warriors -, Frodo and Sam make plans to set things right once more. They lead an uprising of Hobbits and are victorious at the Battle of Bywater which effectively frees the Shire. At the very doorstep of Bag End, they meet Sharkey, who is revealed to be the evil wizard Saruman, and his servant Gríma. Obstinate in defeat, Saruman abuses Gríma, who responds by slitting his master's throat. Gríma is himself slain by hobbit archers as he attempts to escape.

Over time the Shire is healed. The many trees that Saruman's men cut down are replanted; buildings are rebuilt and peace is restored. Sam marries Rosie Cotton, with whom he had been entranced for some time. Merry and Pippin lead Buckland and Tuckborough to greater achievements. Frodo, however, cannot escape the pain of his wounds, having been stabbed by the Witch-king and poisoned by Shelob. Eventually he departs for the Undying Lands in the West, with Gandalf, Bilbo Baggins, and many Elves. Sam, Merry and Pippin watch them depart and return home. Now heir to all of Frodo's possessions, Sam is greeted by his wife Rosie and his daughter Elanor. In the last line of the book, Sam says to Rosie: "Well, I'm back".


The structure of The Return of the King mirrors somewhat that of The Two Towers in that the first section recounts the various adventures of several characters including a massive battle, and the second section resumes the quest of the Ring-bearers.

  • Book V
  • Book VI
  • Appendices
A Annals of the Kings and Rulers
I The Númenórean Kings
(i) Númenor
(ii) The Realms in Exile
(iii) Eriador, Arnor, and the Heirs of Isildur
(iv) Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion
(v) Here follows a part of the tale of Aragorn and Arwen
II The House of Eorl
III Durin's Folk
B The Tale of Years (Chronology of the Westlands)
C Family Trees (Hobbits)
D Calendars
E Writing and Spelling
I Pronunciation of Words and Names
II Writing
I The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age
II On Translation
  • Indices
I Songs and Verses
II Persons, Beasts and Monsters
III Places
IV Things



External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

The Tree in the Court of the Fountain is still withered and barren. When shall I see a sign that it will ever be otherwise?
Though the fruit of the Tree comes seldom to ripeness, yet the life within may then lie sleeping through many long years, and none can foretell the time in which it will awake.

The Return of the King is the third and final volume of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, following The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. It contains Book V: The War of the Ring and Book VI: The End of the Third Age.

For quotations from the movie adaptation see: The Lord of the Rings movies page.


Book V

Minas Tirith

  • Seven stars and seven stones and one white tree.
  • Here do I swear fealty and service to Gondor, and to the Lord and Steward of the realm, to speak and to be silent, to do and to let be, to come and to go, in need or plenty, in peace or war, in living or dying, from this hour henceforth, until my lord release me, or death take me, or the world end.
  • I will not forget it, nor fail to reward that which is given: fealty with love, valour with honour, oath-breaking with vengeance.
  • The rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I also am a steward. Did you not know?
  • Generous deed should not be checked by cold counsel.

The Passing of the Grey Company

  • 'What do you fear, lady?' he [Aragorn] asked.
    'A cage,' she [Eowyn] said. 'To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire. '

The Muster of Rohan

  • Where will wants not, a way opens.

The Siege of Gondor

  • You deceive yourself. He would have stretched out his hand to this thing, and taking it he would have fallen. He would have kept it for his own, and when he returned you would not have known your son.
  • 'You think, as is your wont, my lord, of Gondor only,' said Gandalf. 'Yet there are other men and other lives, and time still to be. And for me, I pity even his slaves.'
  • Let us remember that a traitor may betray himself and do good that he does not intend. It can be so, sometimes.

The Ride of the Rohirrim

  • Arise, arise, Riders of Théoden!
    Fell deeds awake, fire and slaughter!
    spear shall be shaken, shield be splintered,
    a sword-day, a red day, ere the sun rises!
    Ride now, ride now! Ride to ruin, and the world's ending!

The Battle of the Pelennor Fields

  • 'Begone foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion! Leave the dead in peace!'
    A cold voice answered: 'Come not between the Nazgul and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shriveled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye.'
    A sword rang as it was drawn. 'Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may.'
    'Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!'
    Then Merry heard of all sounds in that hour the strangest. It seemed that Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel. 'But no living man am I! You look upon a woman! Eowyn I am, Eomund's daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you if you touch him.'
  • Great heart will not be denied.
  • Over the field rang his clear voice calling: 'Death! Ride, ride to ruin and the world's ending!'
  • Out of dark, out of doubt, to the day's rising
    I rode, singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
    To hope's end I rode, and to heart's breaking,
    now for wrath, now for ruin, and a red nightfall.

The Pyre of Denethor

  • 'Authority is not given to you, Steward of Gondor, to order the hour of your death,' answered Gandalf. 'And only the heathen kings, under the domination of the Dark Power, did thus, slaying themselves in pride and despair, murdering their kin to ease their own death.'
  • To me it would not seem that a Steward who faithfully surrenders his charge is diminished in love or in honour.

The Houses of Healing

  • Few other griefs amid the ill chances of this world have more bitterness and shame for a man's heart than to behold the love of a lady so fair and brave that cannot be returned.
  • It is the way of my people to use light words at such times and say less than they mean. We fear to say too much. It robs us of the right words when a jest is out of place.
  • It is best to love first what you are fitted to love, I suppose: you must start somewhere and have some roots, and the soil of the Shire is deep. Still there are things deeper and higher; and not a gaffer could tend his garden in what he calls peace but for them, whether he knows about them or not.

The Last Debate

  • It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.

The Black Gate Opens

  • The Lieutenant of the Tower of Barad-dûr he was, and his name is remembered in no tale; for he himself had forgotten it, and he said: 'I am the Mouth of Sauron.'

Book VI

The Tower of Cirith Ungol

  • Wild fantasies arose in his mind; and he saw Samwise the Strong, Hero of the Age, striding with a flaming sword across the darkened land, and armies flocking to his call as he marched to the overthrow of Barad-dûr. And then all the clouds rolled away, and the white sun shone, and at his command the vale of Gorgoroth became a garden of flowers and trees and brought forth fruit. He had only to put on the Ring and claim it for his own, and all this could be.
  • The one small garden of a free gardener was all his need and due, not a garden swollen to a realm; his own hands to use, not the hands of others to command.
  • Though here at journey's end I lie
    in darkness buried deep,
    beyond all towers strong and high,
    beyond all mountains steep,
    above all shadows rides the Sun
    and Stars for ever dwell:
    I will not say the Day is done,
    nor bid the Stars farewell.

The Land of Shadow

  • There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.

Mount Doom

  • 'I have come,' he said. 'But I do not choose now to do what I came to do. I will not do this deed. The Ring is mine!' And suddenly, as he set it on his finger, he vanished from Sam's sight.
  • But do you remember Gandalf's words: Even Gollum may have something yet to do? But for him, Sam, I could not have destroyed the Ring. The Quest would have been in vain, even at the bitter end. So let us forgive him! For the Quest is achieved and now all is over. I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam.
  • Come on, Mr. Frodo. I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you! - Sam

The Steward and the King

  • The world is full enough of hurts and mischances without wars to multiply them.
  • Many folk like to know beforehand what is to be set on the table; but those who have laboured to prepare the feast like to keep their secret; for wonder makes the words of praise louder.
  • This is your realm, and the heart of the greater realm that shall be. The Third Age of the world is ended, and the new age is begun; and it is your task to order its beginning and to preserve what may be preserved. For though much has been saved, much must now pass away
  • Who shall say how it comes here in the appointed hour? But this is an ancient hallow, and ere the kings failed or the Tree withered in the court, a fruit must have been set here. For it is said that, though the fruit of the Tree comes seldom to ripeness, yet the life within may then lie sleeping through many long years, and none can foretell the time in which it will awake.

Many Partings

  • I am the daughter of Elrond. I shall not go with him now when he departs to the Havens; for mine is the choice of Lúthien, and as she so have I chosen, both the sweet and the bitter.
  • You have chosen the Evening, but my love is given to the Morning. And my heart forebodes that soon it will pass away for ever.
  • Out of doubt, out of dark, to the day's rising
    he rode singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
    Hope he rekindled, and in hope ended;
    over death, over dread, over doom lifted
    out of loss, out of life, unto long glory.
  • It is sad that we should meet only thus at the ending. For the world is changing: I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, and I smell it in the air. I do not think we shall meet again.
    • Treebeard to Galadriel and Celeborn; in the movie adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, the part of this in bold was spoken by Galadriel in the introductory words to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Homeward Bound

  • 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?
  • 'I am with you at present,' said Gandalf, 'but soon I shall not be. I am not coming to the Shire. You must settle its affairs yourselves; that is what you have been trained for. Do you not yet understand? My time is over: it is no longer my task to set things to rights, nor to help folk to do so. And as for you, my dear friends, you will need no help. You are grown up now. Grown indeed very high; among the great you are, and I have no longer any fear at all for any of you.'

The Scouring of the Shire

  • 'If I hear not allowed much oftener,' said Sam, 'I'm going to get angry.'
  • If we all got angry together something might be done.
  • You won't rescue Lotho, or the Shire, just by being shocked and sad, my dear Frodo.
  • 'I have already done much that you will find it hard to mend or undo in your lives. And it will be pleasant to think of that and set it against my injuries.'
    'Well, if that is what you find pleasure in,' said Frodo, 'I pity you.'
  • You have robbed my revenge of sweetness, and now I must go hence in bitterness, in debt to your mercy. I hate it and you! Well, I go and I will trouble you no more. But do not expect me to wish you health and long life. You will have neither. But that is not my doing. I merely foretell.

The Grey Havens

  • Still round the corner there may wait
    A new road or a secret gate

    And though I oft have passed them by
    The day will come at last when I
    Shall take the hidden paths that run
    West of the Moon and East of the Sun.
  • I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them. But you are my heir: all that I had and might have had I leave to you.
  • You will be the Mayor, of course, as long as you want to be, and the most famous gardener in history; and you will read things out of the Red Book, and keep alive the memory of the age that is gone. so that people will remember the Great Danger and so love their beloved land all the more.
  • 'Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the Sea comes the end of our fellowship in Middle-earth. Go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.'
  • But Sam turned to Bywater, and so came back up the Hill, as day was ending once more. And he went on, and there was yellow light, and fire within; and the evening meal was ready, and he was expected. And Rose drew him in, and set him in his chair, and put little Elanor upon his lap.
    He drew a deep breath. "Well, I'm back," he said.

The Lord of the Rings - Part 1 The Fellowship of the Ring - Part 2 The Two Towers; See also: The Lord of the Rings Movie Trilogy

External links

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