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The 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 the King 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.
Read an in-depth analysis of Frodo Baggins
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 lighthearted nature.
Read an in-depth analysis of Samwise Gamgee
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, functions 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.
Read an in-depth analysis of Gandalf the White
The lone Elf member of the Fellowship. Legolas, like his friend Gimli, plays a smaller role in The Return of the King than he does in The Fellowship of the Ring or The Two Towers. Nevertheless, he bravely represents the Elf race in Gondor’s march against Mordor.
The 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.
The 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.
Read an in-depth analysis of Aragorn
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.
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.
The 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 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.
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.
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. t the conclusion of The Return of the King, Wormtongue turns on Saruman and kills him.
Two Orcs whom Sam and Frodo encounter in the tower of Cirith Ungol.
The 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 the palantír to convince him that he is incapable of saving Minas Tirith from Mordor’s power.
The 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.
The 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.
The 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.
The 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 father’s death.
A 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.
Beregond’s son. Bergil becomes close with Pippin after the hobbit joins the Guard of Minas Tirith.
The 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.
The beautiful daughter of Elrond. After the defeat of Sauron, Arwen marries Aragorn to become Queen of Gondor.
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 aid.
The Lord and Lady of Lothlórien. Celeborn and Galadriel arrive at Minas Tirith after Sauron’s defeat, and then later sail to the West.
Frodo’s cousin and mentor, the previous keeper of the Ring. Bilbo spends much of the latter part of The Lord of the Rings in Rivendell, writing his memoirs— ostensibly the source material Tolkien uses in writing the novel.
Hobbit 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.
Frodo’s greedy and corrupt relative, whom Frodo suspects is the “Chief” to whom the Shirrifs refer.
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.
Farmer Cotton’s daughter. Rosie marries Sam Gamgee at the end of the novel, and together they have a daughter, whom they name Elanor.
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.
Gandalf’s mythically swift horse. Shadowfax bears Gandalf to Minas Tirith, where the wizard saves Faramir and his men from the Nazgûl.
The Ent who keeps the corrupt Saruman imprisoned at Isengard. Treebeard, however, ultimately frees Saruman because he does not wish to keep the miserable, defeated wizard caged.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Return of the King!