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The Return of the King

J. R. R. Tolkien

Key Facts

Important Quotations Explained

Study Questions & Essay Topics

full title  ·  The Return of the King, being the third part of The Lord of the Rings

author  · J.R.R. Tolkien

type of work  · Novel

genre  · Epic; heroic quest; folktale; fantasy; myth

language  · English, with occasional words and phrases from various languages of Middle-earth that Tolkien invented

time and place written  ·  1937–1949; Oxford, England

date of first publication  ·  1955

publisher · Allen and Unwin

narrator  · The whole of The Lord of the Rings is told by an anonymous, third-person narrator.

point of view  ·  The Return of the King is narrated in the third person, following various members of the Fellowship, who by this point are separated. The early part of The Return of the King focuses on Pippin, Gandalf, and Aragorn, but then the focus switches to Frodo and Sam for much of the second half. The narration is omniscient, which means the narrator not only relates the characters’ thoughts and feelings, but also comments on them.

tone  · The tone of The Lord of the Rings is in the epic tradition throughout, reinforcing a sense of myth through repeated references to characters’ lineages and through spoken or sung prophecies that indicate the fates of various characters or the course of future events. The narrator makes few, if any, comments upon the unfolding story.

tense  · Past

setting (time)  · The end of the Third Age of Middle-earth and the beginning of the Fourth Age

setting (place)  · Various locales in the imaginary world of Middle-earth, including Minas Tirith, the Paths of the Dead, Osgiliath, Cirith Ungol, Mount Doom, the Shire, and the shore of the Great Sea

protagonist  · Primarily Pippin in Book V, and returning to Frodo and Sam for most of Book VI, though the Fellowship as a whole might be considered a single protagonist

major conflict  · The Fellowship and the forces of Gondor battle the forces of Mordor, led by Sauron and the Lord of the Nazgûl. Frodo, meanwhile, struggles with the increasing torment of the Ring’s burden, prompting Sam to take up a large part of the responsibility for the quest.

rising action  · Gandalf and Pippin’s arrival in Minas Tirith; Aragorn’s journey through the Paths of the Dead; Denethor’s madness and suicide; the battle of the Pelennor Fields; the death of Théoden; the slaying of the Lord of the Nazgûl; Frodo and Sam’s weary journey to Mount Doom; Frodo’s confrontation with Gollum

climax  · Gollum’s plunge with the Ring into the Cracks of Doom; the destruction of Sauron’s power

falling action  · The crowning of Aragorn as King of Gondor; the dissolution of the Fellowship; the scouring of the Shire; Frodo’s departure for the unknown West with the other Ring-bearers

themes  · The ambiguity of evil; the importance of redemption; the priority of friendship

motifs  · Geography; race and physical appearance; the Christ figure

symbols  · The Ring; Minas Tirith; the Great Eye of Sauron

foreshadowing  · Aragorn’s journey through the Paths of the Dead foreshadows his later Christlike ability to heal and restore the realm and residents of Gondor.

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