brave but unassuming hobbit who bears the Ring back to Mordor. Frodo
has a quiet determination and a strength of character that establish
his distinctive heroism. Increasingly affected and burdened by the Ring’s
power, Frodo assumes a more passive role in The Return of
than in the first two volumes of The Lord
of the Rings.
Nonetheless, Frodo’s ultimate struggle to
overcome the temptation and burden of the Ring reminds us that an
individual with less courage and moral fiber would be unable to
complete the quest.
in-depth analysis of Frodo Baggins.
Samwise (Sam) Gamgee
Frodo’s loving friend and dutiful support throughout
the quest, especially in its final stages. Over the course of the
journey, Sam grows from an insecure sidekick to the determined and
shrewd guardian of his master. Sam emerges as the true hero of The
Return of the King,
performing the physical and sacrificial
deeds expected of a great hero while maintaining his humble and
Gandalf the White
The great wizard, also known as Mithrandir, who
leads the forces of the West. Gandalf, resurrected from his seeming
death in The Fellowship of the Ring,
as a soldier and a mystic, but more often as an advisor to the political
rulers of the world of Men. While Gandalf possesses supernatural
abilities, his powers of speech remain his greatest tool for admonishing
his counterparts and rebuking his foes.
in-depth analysis of Gandalf the White.
lone Elf member of the Fellowship. Legolas, like his friend Gimli,
plays a smaller role in The Return of the King
he does in The Fellowship of the Ring
Nevertheless, he bravely represents the Elf
race in Gondor’s march against Mordor.
lone Dwarf member of the Fellowship. The headstrong Gimli dutifully
traverses the Paths of the Dead with Aragorn, but he is crippled
with fear throughout the journey. The trip through the Paths is narrated
from Gimli’s perspective.
heir of Isildur and the throne of Gondor, the king to which the
title The Return of the King
refers. Aragorn, also
known as Elessar or Elfstone, claims his right to the throne near
the end of the novel, and takes the elf Arwen Evenstar as his queen.
in-depth analysis of Aragorn.
Peregrin (Pippin) Took
A young Hobbit member of the Fellowship. Pippin,
stranded from the other hobbits in Book V, abandons his troublesome
ways and acts as the intermediary between Gandalf and Denethor.
Pippin is the primary focus of the narrative in the scenes in Minas
Tirith in Book V.
Meriadoc (Merry) Brandybuck
The fourth hobbit in the Fellowship. Merry, also
stranded from his counterparts, desperately seeks the approval of
King Théoden, to whom he offers his service. Merry, who sacrifices
his safety for Théoden in slaying the Black Captain, is the primary
focus of the chapters concerning the Riders of Rohan.
Enemies and Malevolent Beings
Dark Lord of Mordor and creator of the One Ring. While we never
encounter Sauron himself in the novel, the far-reaching effects
of the Darkness of Mordor suggest Sauron’s overwhelming presence
throughout Middle-earth. Sauron’s Great Eye, which scans the land from
his home in the Dark Tower of Barad-dûr, acts as a manifestation
of his will. The destruction of the Ring ultimately empties Sauron
of his power.
The Lord of the Nazgûl
The leader and most powerful of the nine Ringwraiths,
or Black Riders, who serve Sauron in search of the Ring. Though
the Black Captain embodies undefeatable evil, he is ironically struck down
by a small hobbit, Merry.
A black and bestial creature who owned the Ring prior
to Bilbo. Gollum incessantly pursues Frodo throughout The
Lord of the Rings
in hopes of regaining the Ring. Throughout
the novel, Gollum acts as a strange double to Frodo. The shriveled
creature represents what Frodo might become under the Ring’s influence.
As Gandalf predicts, Gollum’s evil ultimately serves a good purpose.
Gollum completes the Ring-quest, biting the Ring off Frodo’s finger
and falling into the Cracks of Doom.
The Lieutenant of the Dark Tower
A deputy to Sauron who confronts Gandalf and Aragorn
at the gates of Mordor. Although the Lieutenant is a living creature,
his face is a skull, and fire burns in his eye sockets and nostrils. The
Lieutenant taunts and mocks the assembled army of Gondor, but Gandalf
rebukes him and sends him fleeing back into Mordor.
Saruman the White
The deposed wizard and the enactor of the Shire’s
brief police state. Out of pride, Saruman refuses forgiveness at
the hands of Gandalf or Galadriel. Saruman’s power is so diminished
that the hobbits easily overthrow his regime, after which the wizard’s dejected
slave, Wormtongue, kills him.
Saruman’s servant and agent, who earlier posed as
an advisor to Théoden in The Two Towers.
conclusion of The Return of the King,
on Saruman and kills him.
Shagrat and Snaga
Two Orcs whom Sam and Frodo encounter in the tower
of Cirith Ungol.
Steward of Gondor and the father of Boromir and Faramir. Denethor
undergoes a painful descent into madness that Tolkien uses to explore
the complexity of human evil. Proud and wise, Denethor fails not
because he is inherently evil, but because he allows the evil lies of
to convince him that he is incapable
of saving Minas Tirith from Mordor’s power.
son of Denethor, brother of the deceased Boromir, and future husband
of Éowyn. Faramir appears confident and assured when Frodo and Sam
encounter him at Ithilien, outside Mordor. Denethor’s attempts to burn
Faramir alive are the extreme manifestations of the Steward’s suppression
of his dutiful son. In contrast to his father, Faramir displays
the depth of his nobility by immediately recognizing Aragorn’s long-awaited claim
to the throne of Gondor.
King of the Mark and the leader of the Riders of Rohan, or Rohirrim.
Théoden functions as a foil, or counterpoint, to Denethor. Whereas
Denethor neglects the fate of Minas Tirith by committing suicide, Théoden
bravely sacrifices his own life on the battlefield for the sake
of the West.
Lady of Rohan and future wife of Faramir. Éowyn, driven by a desire
for combat and for Aragorn’s affection, disguises herself in men’s
clothing and endangers herself to challenge the Lord of the Nazgûl. With
the passing of the Shadow of Mordor, Éowyn is freed from her desire
for war, and she turns her affections to Faramir.
nephew and declared heir of Théoden and the brother of Éowyn. Éomer,
who initially urges his father not to go east to battle Mordor,
joins the battle himself and bravely leads the Rohirrim after his
member of the Tower Guard at Minas Tirith and Pippin’s friend. Beregond
breaks the law of the Guard of the Citadel by leaving his post,
but he successfully delays Denethor from killing his son Faramir.
son. Bergil becomes close with Pippin after the hobbit joins the
Guard of Minas Tirith.
Prince of Dol Amroth, the proudest of the
captains of the Outlands who arrive to aid Minas Tirith. Imrahil
is appointed interim leader of Gondor after Denethor’s suicide.
The innkeeper at the Prancing Pony in Bree. Butterbur
welcomes Gandalf and Frodo back to the inn on their return journey
to the Shire.
The wise Master of Rivendell. Elrond travels with
the other Elves and Frodo to the West beyond the Great Sea at the
end of the novel.
beautiful daughter of Elrond. After the defeat of Sauron, Arwen
marries Aragorn to become Queen of Gondor.
Elladan and Elrohir
The sons of Elrond. Elladan and Elrohir are members
of the Dúnedain of the North, who make their way to Minas Tirith
in response to a message requesting that they come to Aragorn’s
Celeborn and Galadriel
The Lord and Lady of Lothlórien. Celeborn and Galadriel
arrive at Minas Tirith after Sauron’s defeat, and then later sail
to the West.
cousin and mentor, the previous keeper of the Ring. Bilbo spends
much of the latter part of The Lord of the Rings
Rivendell, writing his memoirs— ostensibly the source material Tolkien
uses in writing the novel.
policemen who attempt to arrest Frodo, Sam, Pippin, and Merry as
they reenter the Shire. The Shirrifs warn the Company that the “Chief”
who has taken over the Shire has a large army.
greedy and corrupt relative, whom Frodo suspects is the “Chief”
to whom the Shirrifs refer.
Farmer Tom Cotton
One of the oldest and most respected hobbits in
the Shire. Farmer Cotton explains how a police state formed in the
Shire after Frodo and the Company left.
Cotton’s daughter. Rosie marries Sam Gamgee at the end of the novel,
and together they have a daughter, whom they name Elanor.
Other Allies and Benevolent Beings
Gwaihir, the Windlord
The leader of the Great Eagles, who bears Gandalf
to Mount Doom, where the wizard rescues the exhausted Frodo and
Sam after they complete the quest.
mythically swift horse. Shadowfax bears Gandalf to Minas Tirith,
where the wizard saves Faramir and his men from the Nazgûl.
Ent who keeps the corrupt Saruman imprisoned at Isengard.
however, ultimately frees Saruman because he does not wish to keep
the miserable, defeated wizard caged.