Once again, I have come to the end of The Lord of the Rings. In September, I read Book Six, the final part of this marvellous work, which brings the story to an amazing conclusion.
Book Six could be divided in three parts: fulfilling the Quest, reckoning of scores, and finally, returning to normal life.
a) Fulfilling the Quest
The first three chapters of Book Six are the darkest part of the LOTR and full of despair as the reader accompanies Frodo and Sam through dangerous, suffocating, lifeless wastelands of Mordor to The Cracks of Doom to destroy the Ring.
Yet, despite the hopelessness of their mission, their exhaustion, and suffering, Frodo and Sam go on as long as they have the slightest drop of strength left. What really enables them to go on and fulfil their quest is their bond of friendship that gives them strength. The loyalty and care Sam displays is incredible and utterly touching.
One of the most emotional parts is when Sam finally realises that after their task is done there will be no return for them. He quarrels with himself, a part of him wanting to give up, lie down and sleep. Yet, Sam refuses to give up. He knows they must make a sacrifice for the good of the world even if they don’t live to see the outcome. As Tolkien puts it:
“He knew all the arguments of despair and would not listen to them. His will was set, and only death would break it.”
Personally, I draw a lot of encouragement from this particular part of the LOTR. It teaches me that anything can be accomplished if we don’t give up. It also teaches us that we should persist in doing good deeds for the sake of doing/being good alone, even though it seems pointless, even though there seems to be no reward.
b) The reckoning of scores
Chapters Four to Seven are about the aftermath of the War of the Ring. Those who are too deep in evil to change are destroyed. Those who repent are forgiven and given a chance to build a new life. The deserving get what they worked towards, and the fellowship is reunited. I liked how Aragorn after he becomes a king is not affected by power; he remains benevolent and gracious and does not get the smallest bit pretentious.
Besides all the war and statehood business, at the end there is finally time for friends, family and love. One of my favourite parts of the book is short, but sweet, courtship between Faramir and Éowyn.
c) Returning to normal
Actually, there is returning to normal and there is not. While most people can return to their normal peaceful life, there are some who, marked by their experience, cannot.
The hobbits return home, finding out they still have work to do. But as Gandalf says they “will need no help. [They] are grown up now. Grown indeed very high,” they are among the great and Gandalf has no fear for any of them.
They live up to that statement soon, as they deal with Saruman and his Men. Frodo acts as a mediator, trying to spare as many lives as possible, for “It is useless to meet revenge with revenge: it will heal nothing” – a lesson worth remembering in any place and at any time.
Another memorable lesson is that we do not always get what we should. As much as it grieves Sam that amidst all the prosperity gained through Frodo’s actions Frodo himself does not enjoy much honour among his countrymen, Frodo knows there must be a price for everything. As he says “It must often be so […] when things are in danger: someone has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.” He tried to save the Shire and succeeded, but not for himself. Yet Frodo’s reward and consolation is to sail to the Uttermost West with the Elves and leave the Middle-Earth to its own destiny.
I did not read the appendices this time around. I had read them before, however, and I really enjoyed all the additional information provided there: the history of the Middle-Earth, the events following the War of the Ring, the family trees, and as a linguist I appreciated the explanation about the languages Tolkien created.
I will still probably go trough the appendices again in the future, but I will enjoy them slowly. I am planning to (re)read The Silmarillion as the fourth book of this read-along, which will more than cover pre-LOTR history, anyway.