If you happened to see my end of April round-up picture, you would have noticed that I did indeed go on to read the final part of the Lord of the Rings, “The Return of the King”; really, having adored my revisit to the first two books in the sequence, there was no way I was not going on to finish off the story!

The second book, “The Two Towers” ended on a massive cliffhanger, with Frodo and Sam in dire straits whilst attempting to get into Morder; however, the first book in this volume focuses on the various peoples who will take on Sauron in battle. Rohan, Gondor and their allies will join together to form a force for good. There are sieges and battles, madness and death, and the returning king will dispense healing. It’s in this part of the tale Aragorn comes into his own, taking command as the king he is and leading his party through the Paths of the Dead, one of my favourite sequences of the whole trilogy. Merry and Pippin play an important part in the narrative too, attaching themselves to two great leaders and proving to be brave hobbits. The Nazgul will meet opposition from an unexpected combatant, Gandalf will continue to rally the troops and this section ends with the armies of the good poised for battle, hoping that their combined forces will distract Sauron and his troops enough to allow the two hobbits to complete their mission.

Meanwhile, all is not going easily for Sam and Frodo. At the end of “Two” Sam had to make some very difficult choices, which seemed to be the wrong ones but actually were probably not; and as events move on in Mordor, with Orcs at every turn, he takes centre stage in the final part of the journey to destroy the One Ring. It’s a difficult and painful trek, which will take every ounce of strength and cunning they have; and needless to say Gollum/Smeagol still has a part to play in the story. More than this I shall not say, except to note that matters build to a dramatic climax which is the perfect resolution.

The book ends with Middle Earth settling itself down into a new era; the King has returned, some elements will fade and leave the world, the survivors of the conflict will need to move on and make themselves new lives – and there is plenty of mopping up to do… This latter element is again one of my best-loved parts of the story, with the “Scouring of the Shire” chapter being a long-term favourite – it’s just so satisfying seeing things being put to right on a small scale, as well as on a large one! The ending of the book brings many farewells and is really poignant in places; and the story comes to end surprisingly quickly, partly, I suppose, because over 100 pages of this volume are appendices, which *are* quite interesting but into which I only dipped this time round.

As with the other two volumes of “The Lord of the Ring”, I was completely absorbed into “Return”; Tolkien’s narrative never flags, his writing is so beautiful and evocative, bringing Middle Earth alive, and the battles, conflicts and race to get to Mount Doom are completely engrossing. Once again, I was living the adventure alongside the characters, who by this point have become dear friends again, and I really didn’t want the book to end. When there is closure for many at the Grey Havens, I experienced the same massive sense of loss I always had when reading these books, having become totally absorbed into a world and characters I’d come to love; and I understand why I went through a phase of going straight back to the start to enjoy the quest from the beginning all over again! I shan’t be doing that at the moment, but I’m certain I *will* read “The Lord of the Rings” again.

I arrived at the end of “The Lord of the Rings” convinced more than ever that it’s Tolkien’s work of genius; I’ve tried reading some of his other works but they never gelled in the same way, and I suspect that that’s because of the hobbits; those little creatures, so very human in many ways, give the reader a way into Middle Earth that isn’t there is the grander tales of his mythologies. I do accept that he had a much bigger world and mythology he was constructing around, and in the background to, this story; but LOTR will always be the star for me. Needless to say, I ended my re-read knocked out and in an emotional state, as well as with a massive book hangover – it took me a while to pull my thoughts about the whole experience together. All I can say is that I’m *so* glad that we chose 1954 for the last club as it finally nudged me into this re-read; and revisiting “The Lord of the Rings” was pure joy from start to finish. If you’ve not read the series, I recommend you have a go – you may well end up as hooked as I am! 😀