Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Return of the King -- Book Five

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, Part 3

    Finally, the review of the first half of The Return of the King! It took me a long while to get going, but incredibly in a single day I read nearly six chapters, which put me in the way of finishing this half the next day :) Six chapters isn't a whole lot to speed-readers and readers of modern-day authors, but when Hannah Elise reads six chapters of The Lord of the Rings, which she has read three times before, in a single day, Hannah Elise calls it a milestone.
   Book Five involves the experiences of Merry and Pippin as they face war under different flags. Pippin, punished duly for his curiosity in the matter of the palantír of Orthanc, rides to Minas Tirith with Gandalf to give counsel and aid to Denethor, Steward of Gondor. Merry, however, must ride with Aragorn back to Helm's Deep, and eventually with King Théoden to Dunharrow and Edoras. Mordor assails Minas Tirith, and Gondor and all those still wise enough to escape the temptation of Sauron must band together if they hope to save the City. For if the City falls, then Gondor, Rohan, and the Shire fall too.
   Pippin and Merry are Tolkien's main focus, although he shifts from time to time to Aragorn. Both Hobbits must find their way alone, passing through the fires of loneliness, war, and grief before they have any chance of coming together again. Pippin is still often foolish, but I can only imagine how the war on Minas Tirith changed him. As usual, those foolish must come forth when the wise can do nothing. (Aren't we called to be fools for Jesus Christ? And those "too wise" to believe in Him will be those who are hopelessly lost.) Merry misses "the unquenchable cheerfulness of Pippin," but in spite of his fear of battle he longs to ride by King Théoden. Sometimes I think Tolkien made these two characters too much alike: though Merry is a little less impulsive than Pippin, their personalities are both less wise than Frodo and more, well, educated than Sam. Yet their sameness never bothers me; in fact, I loved reading this half over again, and Merry and Pippin were a large part of my enjoyment.
   Tolkien's dramatically fresh phrasing didn't stand out to me as much in this half as it has in others, but that's more likely because I'm getting used to it than it is waning. Yet the organization of this half is totally admirable. Okay, incredible. I love his plot, I love the way he outlined it. Merry rides with Rohan, Pippin stays in Minas Tirith, and Aragorn tries his fate on the Paths of the Dead: all three sections he describes in a marvelous order.
   There is quite a bit of "magic" (or so it's called) in this half: any book that has Gandalf in it will have it. There's a lot of violence too, even when considering that Tolkien never describes it graphically. But there is no romance, though there is possibly one instance of language--and it may not even be classified as language in modern-day English (I can't remember the instance right now). The moral standards of this book are exceptionally clean to me, but your opinions may be different. I adore this book and recommend it wholeheartedly, especially to a teen. If you're younger than that and can get through it and understand it, great. If not, I say wait until the time is ripe: The Lord of the Rings is well worth waiting for.

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