The title of the third volume, The Return of the King, refers to Aragorn, or Strider, and his return to claim the throne of Gondor. When the hobbits first encounter Strider in The Fellowship of the Ring, he is a cloaked and mysterious Ranger of the North, a mercenary who patrols the borders of Middle-earth against bandits and evildoers. As the novel progresses, we learn that Strider is Aragorn, the heir of Isildur, the last and greatest king of Men who led the forces of Middle-earth against the armies of Mordor. To the hobbits, Strider appears rugged yet strangely stately, an ideal combination for the ruler of the great realm of Gondor. As time passes, however, Strider becomes quiet and aloof. He increasingly refers to himself as Aragorn, and his attention is fixed mainly on the throne he will claim if the quest to destroy the Ring succeeds.

In Books V and VI, Aragorn ceases to be a character who reveals himself through conversations, personality quirks, or limited knowledge of events. Aragorn becomes the opposite of the hobbits, who represent the common individual’s perspective and for whom the quest is a journey of self-understanding and discovery. Aragorn’s character reveals itself in the roles he plays, and particularly in the symbolic actions he performs. Aragorn emerges as a Christ figure—one whose experiences resemble those of Christ and who performs a sacrifice that redeems others. Interestingly, Tolkien’s Christ figure does not sacrifice himself for anyone in the novel. Aragorn heals people, like Christ in the biblical Gospels, but he suffers no wounds on their behalf. Tolkien opens the sacrificial role to all characters, particularly the most humble ones, the hobbits. Aragorn represents the eschatology of Christ—the belief that Christ will return to establish a kingdom on earth for his faithful.