Current book: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Pages read: 218 - 313
Sam makes it back to Frodo, due to the fact that all the orcs guarding him have fought amongst themselves and killed each other. Frodo is still alive, and Sam gets him up and dressed in orc's clothing, which Sam also dons by way of camouflage. They venture out into Mordor to get the Ring to Mount Doom and destroy it. It's rough going, and it takes days of miserable trudging across the blackened, smoking landscape. Frodo is half-dead with the dark poison of the Ring, and both of the hobbits are suffering from thirst and starvation. Gollum is also lurking about and following them from place to place. Finally, after having to march a considerable distance with a troop of orcs, they come to the mountain.
Frodo is so exhausted at this point that Sam has to carry him up, and, while doing so, is beset by Gollum. Sam manages to fight him off, but finds that Frodo is nearly mad with the Ring's power, and has put it on and gone upward himself to the open cracks on the mountainside. Gollum chases him and gets there first, and Frodo and Gollum have a last fight over the Ring. Gollum bites Frodo's finger completely off to get it, but in so doing loses his balance and falls into one of the cracks, destroying himself and the Ring. The task, therefore, is completed, and Sauron's great dark tower falls, his power destroyed. All of Mordor, in fact, seems to collapse in on itself. Sam and Frodo consider trying to leave, but it seems hopeless until Gandalf's giant eagle friends, having come for the battle, swoop into Mordor and save them.
The hobbits wake up days later in Ithilien, under the care of Gandalf and the elves. All the forces of Mordor scattered and fled when the Ring was destroyed, precluding the final battle for which the forces of men had girded themselves. The hobbits are great heroes, and Aragorn and the elves recognize them as such. In Ithilien, they are reunited with Merry and Pippin, Gimli, and Legolas, and marvel at the fact that they've survived and succeeded. Finally, they go back to Gondor, where Faramir and Eowyn have fallen in love, and Aragorn is crowned king. After a short time there, Arwen, Aragorn's elven love, arrives, and the two are married. Eowyn gives Frodo the gift of a pendant which will allow him to go west with the elves and leave the world, if he so desires.
Well, you may be thinking that it seems like the book is over and I haven't said (end) yet. That's...um...very true. The climax and a great deal of denouement have, in fact, occurred, and yet, we seem to be carrying on. This is considerably further than I got when I tried to read these books before, so I don't really know what the last chunk is going to consist of, but I have heard rumors. "Giant anti-climax" is pretty much what I've been told. I can't really see how it wouldn't be.
That said, the final destruction of the Ring is quite stirring, especially when the hobbits are rescued and the whole company of elves and men celebrates them for their great sacrifice. There's something about scenes like that. It's never the great sacrifice itself that's the most touching part for me; it's always the recognition afterward - the mourning or the celebration - that's the most affecting part. I also liked the fact that Arwen and Aragorn continually recognize the fact that the hobbits, and especially Frodo, are not simply going to be fine again. The fact that Arwen offers Frodo the chance to sail into the west with the elves is a fitting recognition of, basically, post-traumatic stress disorder. (Or, in gentler, less technical terms, the fact that you just don't go through something so massively difficult and frightening and exhausting and come out the same on the other side.) Too many fantasy novels forget that.
On the side of things I didn't like about this section, Sam's dialogue with himself about the suffering he and Frodo are going through and his devotion to his master is heavy-handed and ridiculous. It's partly because you simply don't speak to yourself the way Tolkien has Sam do it, and partly because it seems canned and trite, but it's jarringly unsuccessful to me. The other bit I've got problems with is Eowyn. She's pretty depressed after she wakes up in the Houses of Healing, as I mentioned, because she has not achieved the glory of dying in battle and because she sees little chance for further valor. She wanders around sadly for a while, and then, lo and behold, Faramir shows up, they fall in love, and everything's all better. She vows to be a healer and take care of people and things, and live with Faramir, who will have tamed a wild shield-maiden (no, I am not making this up), and there you go. Everything's just all neat and pretty and Donna fucking Reed. Seriously? Don't get me wrong; I recognize the transformative power of true love, having experienced (and still experiencing) it myself. But that doesn't mean you can use it to make your strongest and most excellent female character simply stop wanting everything that she wanted before. Damn it, Tolkien. I was really beginning to respect your treatment of Eowyn, and then you went and ruined it.
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