Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Paths of the Dead

Paths of the Dead. Accompanied by Gimli, Legolas, and his kinsmen Rangers of the North, Aragorn leads his forces south to the coast, passing through a forbidden door into a haunted passage beneath the Dwimorberg. There he calls upon the Army of the Dead, Numenoreans who once broke a vow to fight against Sauron and now have one last chance to prove their loyalty and rest in peace. The Dead follow, while even Gimli, used to the deep places of the earth, quakes in horror. Meanwhile Merry joins Theoden’s troops on a more conventional road to Gondor.

Minas Tirith

Minas Tirith. Chief city of Gondor that occupies a series of circles on Mount Mindolluin. Its ancient culture and people have declined, and many houses stand empty while childless lords brood about death. The White Tree has withered, but the Houses of the Dead are honored. Even this diminished Gondor awes Pippin of the Shire when he and Gandalf arrive. A series of sorties and battles ensues, both within the walled city and outside its gates; the timely arrival of Aragorn’s forces temporarily beats back a wing of Sauron’s army. The Defenders of the West march to the Black Gate, outnumbered but hoping to draw Sauron’s attention away from Mount Doom in case Frodo and Sam reach the central plain of Mordor, heading for the fiery volcanic chamber where the One Ring might be destroyed.


Mordor. The Dark Lord’s realm. Polluted, arid, and rocky, the plain of Gorgoroth (a name that suggests biblical Golgotha) offers little cover to the exhausted Hobbits once Sam has rescued Frodo and gotten them out...

(The entire section is 678 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Tolkien attempts, as do many fantasy writers, to engender in his readers a new vision of the world around them, or at least a new...

(The entire section is 278 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In The Return of the King, Tolkien provides the reader not only with satisfactory conclusions to a multiplicity of story lines, but...

(The entire section is 459 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In The Return of the King (1955), J. R. R. Tolkien unites a disparate group of men, women, Hobbits, and other creatures to defeat the...

(The entire section is 574 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Many of the names and incidents contained in The Two Towers, and elsewhere in Tolkien's work, can be traced back to Richard Wagner's...

(The entire section is 219 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Tolkien's earliest novel was The Hobbit; or There and Back Again, published in 1937. The Hobbit serves as an effective prelude to...

(The entire section is 437 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Abridged audio book versions of all of the volumes of The Lord of the Rings, including The Return of the King, have been...

(The entire section is 76 words.)


(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Carter, Lin. Tolkien: A Look Behind “The Lord of the Rings.” New York: Ballantine Books, 1969. Basic introduction to the trilogy. Contains a summary of The Return of the King and includes chapters on allegory, fairy stories, elements of classical epic and fantasy in the trilogy, and the sources Tolkien used.

Ellwood, Gracia Fay. Good News from Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 1970. In his introduction, Ellwood asserts the “aliveness” of all things in Middle Earth, as in the human unconscious. Traces the blend of sacred and secular in the work and interprets Gandalf, Frodo, and Aragorn as complementary heroes. The chapter on Aragorn and The Return of the King emphasizes the human need for a king.

Giddings, Robert, ed. J. R. R. Tolkien: This Far Land. Totowa, N.J.: Barnes & Noble Books, 1983. Essays on varied topics, including narrative structure, which show how each episode in The Return of the King is described through a major character. Other essays address Tolkien’s relevance, humor, and female characters.

Isaacs, Neil D., and Rose A. Zimbardo, eds. Tolkien: New Critical Perspectives. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1981. An introduction to earlier Tolkien criticism. Includes a chapter on Frodo as the old hero and Aragorn as the new, as well as a discussion of the combination of mythic and Christian elements in The Return of the King.

Lee, Stuart D, and Elizabeth Solopova. The Keys of Middle-Earth. Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. A handy portal into Tolkien’s medieval sources, featuring modern translations of the original texts.

Petty, Anne C. One Ring to Bind Them All: Tolkien’s Mythology. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1979. Good introduction to Tolkien and mythology. Includes a chapter entitled “Trial, Death, and Transfiguration” and a structuralist interpretation of the trilogy.