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Full Title The Return of the King, the third part of The Lord of the Rings series
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.
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.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Return of the King!