The Return of the King Characters
by J. R. R. Tolkien

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The Return of the King Characters

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Much as Gandalf did in the earlier parts of The Lord of the Rings, so Aragorn returns from the dead here, at least symbolically, rendering The Return of the King a title with at least a dual meaning. Aragorn represents Tolkien's ideal leader—sensitive and loving, loyal, self-sacrificing, courageous, courteous. Although a fearsome foe in battle, Aragorn's hands are also "hands of healing," capable of almost miraculous works. Gandalf himself appears not only as a wise counselor and powerful magician, but as a courageous warrior as well, demonstrating Tolkien's commitment to the ideal of waging righteous warfare when the cause is just, even for a man of learning. He is revealed also as the Enemy of Sauron, whose own time and purpose pass with his enemy's.

Merry and Pippin, sworn to the leaders of the Rohorrim and the city of Minas Tirith, respectively, each play important parts in the battle against Sauron's forces. Yet when the battle has been won, both return to their Shire and the lives they left behind when they first joined Frodo as his companions on his Quest. Sam joins them, and though he longed for adventure, now finds great comfort in the things of home. All three of these Hobbits, then, represent the common person who, when called up, can accomplish great deeds without losing their sense of appreciation for a warm fire or "the evening meal."

Frodo, however, has somehow changed during his time as Ring-Bearer and decides to retire with Gandalf and Bilbo across the sea after only a few years of quiet in the Shire. As he tries to explain to Sam, "I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me." Thus Frodo, too, is revealed as making the ultimate sacrifice—not only risking his life on the quest, but actually giving up his life...

(The entire section is 469 words.)