Monday, October 28, 2013

LOTR Reread Highlights: The Return of the King

Note: SPOILERS ahead for those who haven't read the book and/or seen the movie.

I finished rereading LOTR quite a while ago, but I’m only getting to post the things which stood out to me on this reread of The Return of the King only now due to having hard time keeping up with blogging.

The Return of the King is perhaps my favourite volume of LOTR, due to its grand scope and diversity, so without further ado, a few things I’d like to highlight.

As much as Tolkien is criticised for the lack of women in his work(s), LOTR presents some of the strongest female characters, though few in number. Of these, Éowyn stands out the most.

I especially like these Éowyn’s words to Aragorn:

“All your words are but to say: you are a woman, and your part is in the house. But when the men have died in battle and honour, you have leave to be burned in the house, for the men will need it no more. But I am of the House of Eorl and not a serving-woman. I can ride and wield blade, and I do not fear either pain or death.”

And, in response to what she fears:

“A cage, […] To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.”

These two quotes and the rest of Tolkien’s portrayal of Éowyn convey that Tolkien understood the plight of being a woman, condescended by men solely for her gender, and more: that he opposed the misogynist notions of what women could and should do and set a great (female) role models in his female protagonists, especially in the character of Éowyn.

Of course, LOTR is full of examples worth following. Another such instance is Aragorn's conduct after the Battle of Pelennor fields, as he refuses to claim his rightful title of the King of Gondor for the time being, for fear of causing a split among the allies who should not be divided in the time of crisis when they should join all their forces to defeat Sauron.

At the current point in time, I can’t help but think this example would be a great advice to the politicians running my country (or any country, actually) who are struggling for power, for ‘who is right’, instead of pulling their forces together to work for the benefit of the people who elected them and find a way out of recession (at this point we are in a terrible position, and I’ve been unemployed for quite a while and nothing is getting better, so I can’t help myself but draw parallels.)

The world would be a much better place if those in power looked more after the benefit of those who they were entrusted to rule over than after their own interests, like Aragorn. Of course, you would say, that is a terribly idealistic view. Yes, it is. However, I believe that the lack of striving after ideals is what this time and age lack in order to make the world a better place.

The world would also be much kinder if more people lived by the following words, which are also very close to my heart:

“It is useless to meet revenge with revenge: it will heal nothing.”

I think the truthfulness of this sentence requires no explanation.

Thus, LOTR always reminds me of the morals I aspire to live by while it overwhelms me with the beauty of its language and the greatness of its tale with the complexity of the world Tolkien built and the mass of compelling characters he brought to life.

At last, I have to mention the Appendices, at least Appendix A, which is almost a novel on its own, recounting the annals of the Middle-Earth and wrapping up the story of what happened to the beloved characters after the end of the War for the Ring.

To conclude, I am glad I decided to reread LOTR this generally poor reading year for me. It has, as always inspired me not only to continue reading, no matter how little or how slowly, but also reminded me of some important life lessons.

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