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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.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Return of the King!