The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Summary and Analysis of Book 6, Chapters 5-9

Chapter 5: The Steward and the King

Lady Eowyn is feeling ill and she remains in the care of the Steward at the Houses of Healing. She longs to go to the battle and as she has received no news from the East, she fears the worst: that Sauron has been victorious and her allies have been lost. She visits Faramir, who is also recovering from his battle wounds. Faramir feels sorry for Eowyn and he can clearly see that she hoped for a heroic death in a valiant battle. He also feels that Eowyn is very beautiful and he expresses his love for her‹though at present, she is not interested in his advances.

On the day of victory, the great Shadow departs and the sun emerges. The people of the City sing with joy and an eagle comes bearing the news that "the Realm of Sauron is ended for ever." The King will soon be returning to the city. The only person who does not express merriment is Eowyn, but when Faramir visits her again, he is able to move her heart and she falls in love with him.

When the company arrives from the battle, Aragorn kneels to be crowned by Gandalf. Aragorn wears the White Crown and he announces: "Now come the days of the King." One morning, soon before Midsummer, Gandalf and Aragorn take a walk together and they find a sapling tree that had survived, though it was on the very edge of the snow. This is the new tree that will represent Aragorn's royal house. When Midsummer arrives, the City receives a number of guests from Rivendell and Lothlorien, including Lady Galadriel and Celeborn, the Lord of Lothlorien. Master Elrond also joins them. Arwen (the Evenstar) comes as well and after her father, Elrond, surrenders his scepter to Aragorn, Arwen and Aragorn are married.


The tree is a symbol of life and of new beginnings and the contrast between the young green sapling and the edge of the snow, is important in archetypal terms, suggesting that life has only barely survived the threat of eternal winter (under Sauron). The transfer of power from the old powers to the young is repeated in the surrender of Elrond's scepter to Aragorn. The motif of midsummer, coupled with the wedding, suggests life and sunlight and nature functioning at their maximum levels. This midsummer is also important in terms of narrative structure, for this is not the first midsummer that has passed in the course of the novel. The theme of nostalgia is evoked in the mention of Bilbo and the Shire but there is the foreshadowing of trouble ahead. Finally, the tone of the chapter is somber at points, particularly when Gandalf says to Aragorn: "The Third Age was my age. I was the Enemy of Sauron; and my work is finished. I shall go soon. The burden must lie now upon you and your kindred." The previous prophecies and songs are sure to come to pass, as the motif of the song and the theme of fate have both been sustained throughout the novel.

Chapter 6: Many Partings

Frodo addresses the King and informs him that he wishes to go to Rivendell and then return to the Shire. Arwen gives Frodo a white gem to wear around his neck; the stone will help him when the "memory of the fear and the darkness" troubles him. A large company congregates for the departure, seven days later. Eowyn gives Merry the gift of a horn that will "set fear in the hearts of enemies and joy in the hearts of friends." Legolas joins Gimli to see the Glittering Caves and after this, Treebeard arrives and those characters that had not met him are now acquainted. Saruman was permitted to leave‹owing to Treebeard's kindheartedness, but Gandalf worries that Saruman will still do something malicious. While traveling, the group sees an old man slouching alongside another beggar. These two are Saruman and Grima. Gandalf offers Saruman forgiveness and help but Saruman rejects this help. In fact, he even curses the hobbits' land.

In Rivendell, they find Bilbo, who is sitting in a little room littered with papers and pens and pencils. He has been busy writing his story. The following day is Bilbo's 129th birthday. Bilbo is an old and sleepy man and he gives Frodo the task of completing his writings.


Despite the successes of the heroes, there is a sad tone in this chapter, which foreshadows both the departure of the older characters and the destruction of the Shire. Arwen's white gem is compared, in a simile, to a star. It will be an amulet for Frodo, who is increasingly tormented by nightmares and visions of the past. Bilbo and his books are often read as a characterization of the author. Certainly, the motif of the written story and passed-down tale has been part of the trilogy from the very beginning. The passing down of the task of recording is also Bilbo's way of bequeathing his possessions and preparing for death. The sea and boats imagery is also connected to ideas of travel, which implies death and permanent departure in this case. Saruman's derisive comments about Gandalf boarding a "ship full of ghosts" proves not so far from the truth.

Chapter 7: Homeward Bound

Frodo feels the old pains in his shoulder and Gandalf admits that there are some wounds that cannot be wholly cured. When Gandalf and the hobbits arrive at Bree, they are dismayed by the apparent damage that has transpired in their absence. There is a need for security and strong gates; there is an excessive of forcible legislation that has been handed down by the mayor. Robbers terrorize the roads. Mr. Butterbur and the others at The Prancing Pony are astonished that the company has returned. They are also pleased to hear that Strider (Aragorn) is the new King. Still, the good news from afar has yet to take hold in these far off regions. The evil that has been done has come from Saruman, of course. The hobbits are eager to get to the Shire to investigate the damage.


Bree is an incredible contrast to the scenes of joviality, drunkenness, and goodwill that marked The Prancing Pony as described in the first book of the Fellowship. This cycle is important for the narrative structure though, as it marks the near conclusion of the hobbits' story. It is ironic that after battling in foreign lands, the hobbits will return to Hobbiton and face one final struggle, but they are well prepared. In terms of characters, Saruman and Grima will make an appearance in the next chapter. The Gaffer and the other residents of the Shire are also foreshadowed.

Chapter 8: The Scouring of the Shire

It is nightfall when the hobbits arrive at Brandywine and the scene is "all very gloomy and un-Shirelike." They are blocked at the gate and there is a sign that reads: "No admittance between sundown and sunrise." The guards at the gate are surprised when they learn that Frodo and Merry and Pippin have arrived. Mr. Lotho has become Chief of the town and he has tyrannized and oppressed the people with the help of a few wild men. Of course, the hobbits who have just returned from battle are not dismayed by the challenge before them and they intend to galvanize the hobbits of the region and remove Mr. Lotho and his henchmen from their positions. They find that a sizeable portion of the population has been jailed as they were unwilling to obey Mr. Lotho and his henchman, Sharkey. The village successfully chases out the henchmen and they learn that Mr. Lotho is a puppet leader. Sharkey is the real Chief. Sharkey reveals himself to be Saruman and Saruman laughs with revenge because he has destroyed so many of the homes and gardens of Hobbiton. The hobbits move to strike at him but Frodo withholds them. Saruman passes by Frodo and flashes a knife, attempting to stab him, but Frodo is wearing a coat of mail beneath his garment and the knife does no damage. Frodo remains patient and forgiving and he refuses to strike at Saruman, but this only angers Saruman. Asking about Mr. Lotho, the hobbits learn from Saruman that Wormtongue has killed him‹but Wormtongue is enraged because Saruman forced him to do this. Wormtongue then draws his own knife and cuts Saruman's throat. Wormtongue is shot dead with arrows before Frodo even has a chance to speak. Saruman's body emits a grey mist and then it dissolves into nothing.


The long foreshadowed destruction of the shire is presented here, and the scene is more dreary than the hobbits had feared. The two remaining evil characters, Saruman and Wormtongue, die in this chapter and this spiritual cleansing precedes the cleansing of the territory, which will take place in the next chapter. Frodo's death and departure is also foreshadowed in Saruman's curse.

Chapter 9: The Grey Havens

The cleansing of the Shire does not take as long as Sam had feared. One of the initial tasks at hand is the release of the prisoners who have been locked up by Sharkey and Mr. Lotho‹among these is Fatty Bolger, who has lost a lot of weight during his season in jail. Sam mourns for the destroyed flowers and trees of the Shire and he calculates that it will only be when his great-grandchildren are alive that the Shire will resemble what it was. But then he remembers the gift of Galadriel: a box that was filled with a grey dust and a small seed. Sam spreads this dust and in a year's time, it does the work of twenty years. The trees and flowers return, the children grow beautiful and strong, and pretty much everybody is happy. Sam gets married to Rose Cotton and they move in with Frodo, who still suffers his ailment. Frodo finishes nearly all of the writing before he passes the project on to Sam to finish the final pages. Sam becomes the mayor in Frodo's place and Frodo prepares for his departure with Gandalf to the shores of the Sea. Sam, Merry and Pippin ride along with them, and there are also the Elves, Bilbo, Elrond and Galadriel. All of the ring bearers must depart from Middle Earth and so they board the great ship and sail away. The three hobbits return to their lives in Hobbiton and enjoy the rest of their lives.


In terms of narrative structure, this is a very definite conclusion‹there are very few loose ends after the end of this novel. One thing that we find is the final evolution of Frodo's character. He becomes more distant from his hobbit friends (Sam, Merry and Pippin) and eventually takes his place with Bilbo and the others who depart with the passing of their age. The pain that Frodo continually suffers from foreshadows his inevitable departure ("I am too deeply hurt," he says), though the tone is not as depressing and mournful as it could be. Clearly, the sailing away is a symbolic death because the characters who sail away do not return to their former environs. At the same time, no scene of physical death is presented here. We are permitted to remember these figures as the heroes and heroines that they are. There are several images of vegetation that go further than the usual archetypal representations of life, regeneration and renewal: the young baby named Elanor, the enormous growth of the Shire's vegetation and the mallorn tree all suggest that a living memory of the old age will continue into the new age‹even if it is only in name (Elanor, the child), imitation (the growth from the grey dust) or a more specific duplication of older object (the mallorn). The inclusion of characters like Bilbo and Elrond should remind us that "The Grey Havens" is not simply the conclusion of The Return of the King but it is the end of a trilogy. And Bilbo's reference to the "treasure of Smaug" recalls the dramatic scenes of The Hobbit. Perhaps one of the most developed themes in this chapter is the very idea of literary representation. The lineage of writers continues from Bilbo to Frodo to Pippin; we also see Bilbo's books as an alternative to the songs that have been memorized and rehearsed throughout the trilogy. The idea of an author‹whether Tolkien or a character within the story‹is complicated here, though it seems clear that the story is destined to be popular and converted into the form of the songs of heroes.