In the aftermath of the Shire’s time as a despotism, the Hobbits rebuild.
Sam finally opens the box that Galadriel had given him, spreading the dust far and wide across the area, but favoring those areas closest to his heart. Having a little left, and discovering a small silver seed, Sam plants that at the center of the Shire in the Party Field. A Mallorn rises to replace the old tree that was cut down, becoming a marvel known across the land.
Merry and Pippin have become Shire heroes. Frodo retires to quietly finish the Red Book of Westmarch that Bilbo had begun. Sam marries Rose, Farmer Cotton’s daughter, living at Bag End with Frodo, who is still suffering the injuries of his wounds. A daughter is born to the couple on March 25th, the anniversary of the downfall of Sauron (known to us today as Tolkien Reading Day). They name her Elanor. More of her will be discussed in Appendix B.
Frodo opts to travel to Rivendell to visit Bilbo. He entrusts to Sam the aforementioned Red Book of Westmarch, the history of the War written in turns by Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, and others. Frodo and Sam set out together.
It would be inappropriate to come to the end of the story without some more of Tolkien’s songs and poems. As befitting the journey within this book, The Tolkien Ensemble offers their own renditions. As Frodo and Sam enter the Woody End, Sam gives us new lyrics for “The Old Walking Song,” which is answered in counterpoint with “An Elven Hymn to Elbereth Gilthoniel.” Elrond and Galadriel ride among the host of Elves, each wearing one of the Three Elven Rings. Behind them is Bilbo.
Their destination is the Grey Havens. Sam and Frodo accompany the party to the Great Sea. It is decided that Frodo will go with Bilbo and the Elves, with Sam staying behind for now to care for his family and to keep the legacy alive of that which they fought for and rebuilt. At the gates to the Grey Havens, they find Gandalf, wearing the last of the Three Rings. A white ship stands ready to sail to the West.
Merry and Pippin make their final appearance in the story, wishing to see Frodo off. Frodo bids his sad farewell and boards the ship. Gandalf declares the end of the Fellowship in Middle-Earth, encouraging the three remaining Hobbits to enjoy their friendship.
The three companions ride home in silence, eventually singing as they enter the Shire. As Sam enters his home, Rose is waiting with little Elanor. For the war-weary Tolkien, this final image encapsulates the whole of which his protagonists have fought, for as Bilbo pointed out to us so long ago, “It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life.”
Here endeth The Return of the King.
While I’ve read this story many times before, in doing these deep dives every week I can’t help but feel like I’ve accomplished something truly monumental and worthwhile. And while we come to the bittersweet end of the tale, it is not the end of the book. I and my fellow questor will be continuing with The Appendices starting next week. After all, the entire point of this quest is dig deep into the world building, and The Appendices are the real treasure trove for such information. This sort of thing may get a little squirrelly, but we’re going to give it our best shots. If you’d like to continue to follow along, you can find the progress page with all the entry links at my Silmarillion Blues page or keep tabs on my blog feed each week.