Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club

Return of the King 1970s The Return of the King (1955, 1965)
Part Three of The Lord of the Rings

1976 Ballantine books, 544 pages
cover art by J.R.R. Tolkien (left)

2001 Del Rey paperback
cover art by Ted Nasmith (right)
Return of the King 2001

From the back cover of the 2001 movie trade edition (not shown):
As the Shadow of Mordor grows across the land, the Companions of the Ring have become involved in separate adventures.  Aragorn, revealed as the hidden heir of the ancient Kings of the West, has joined with the Riders of Rohan against the forces of Isengard, and takes part in the desperate victory of the Hornburg.  Merry and Pippin, captured by Orcs, escape into Fangorn Forest and there encounter the Ents.

Gandalf has miraculously returned and defeated the evil wizard, Saruman.  Sam has left his master for dead after a battle with the giant spider, Shelob -- but Frodo is still alive, now in the foul hands of the Orcs.

And all the while, the armies of the Dark Lord are massing as the One Ring draws ever nearer to the cracks of Doom.

Read for group discussion on December 10, 2003

More book covers: The Return of the King (LOTR3)
Return of the King unauthorized Return of the King 1969 Return of the King 1990s
1965 Ace books
(unauthorized edition!)
cover art by Jack Gaughan
1969 Ballantine books
544 pages
authorized edition
1990s Ballantine books
507 pages
cover art by Michael Herring

How we each rated this book
Dan - Amy 9 stack of books 10   Wow! Don't miss it
8-9  Highly recommended
7    Recommended
5-6  Mild recommendation
3-4  Take your chances
1-2  Below average; skip it
0    Get out the flamethrower!
U    Unfinishable or unreadable
-    Skipped or no rating given
Cheri 10 Barb -
Aaron 7 Cynthia 9
Jackie 10 Ron 6
Christine 9 Mitch -

Aaron's Commentary  J.R.R. Tolkien - The Return of the King

This is the triumphant conclusion to the most influential fantasy story of our age.  Tolkien pulls the many threads of his epic together beautifully, first with the inspiring Battle of the Pelennor Fields, then with the harrowing journey of Sam and Frodo through Mordor.

But then follows perhaps the most egregious anticlimax I have ever encountered, as Frodo and his friends retrace all their steps across Middle Earth, then have a final dull and unnecessary encounter with Saruman.  In my view, whatever points Tolkien was making with this long denouement were not worth ending the trilogy on such a flat note.

Notwithstanding the weak conclusion, The Lord of the Rings is a wonderfully memorable and enjoyable tale, well deserving of the renewed interest and attention that Peter Jackson's outstanding screen version has generated.

hat do you think? Your comments are welcome. Please send them to

Our book group has also read the following books by J.R.R. Tolkien:
-- The Hobbit   in June 1999
-- The Fellowship of the Ring   in December 2001
-- The Two Towers   in December 2002

J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) was a UK writer.  He was a professor at Oxford University.  (Full name John Ronald Reuel Tolkien.)  He was born in South Africa but lived in the UK from 1895.

He became Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University in 1925, and was appointed Merton Professor of English at Oxford in 1945, a post he held until his retirement in 1959.

He was part of the Inklings, a literary group, with C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Owen Barfield.

Tolkien virtually invented the fantasy genre.  His masterwork is The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
It's the most influential fantasy series ever written.

The Lord of the Rings (LoTR)
--The Fellowship of the Ring (1954, rev 1965 US) (FoTR)
--The Two Towers (1954, rev 1965 US) (TT)
--The Return of the King (1955, rev 1965 US) (ROTK)

The Hobbit: or There and Back Again (1937) is a young adult prequel to Lord of the Rings.

Many stories and story-fragment of his Middle-Earth mythology were published posthumously.
--The Silmarillion (1977)
--Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth (collection 1980)
--The Children of Húrin (2007)

The History of Middle-Earth series
most collections of stories, edited by Christopher Tolkien, J.R.R.'s son
-- I. The Book of Lost Tales 1 (1983)
-- II. The Book of Lost Tales 2 (1984)
-- III. The Lays of Beleriand (1985)
-- IV. The Shaping of Middle-Earth (1986)
-- V. The Lost Road and Other Writings (1987)
-- VI. The Return of the Shadow: The History of the Lord of the Rings 1 (1988)
-- VII. The Treason of Isengard: The History of the Lord of the Rings 2 (1989)
--VIII. The War of the Ring: The History of the Lord of the Rings 3 (1990)
-- IX. Sauron Defeated: The History of the Lord of the Rings 4 (1992)
-- X. Morgoth's Ring: The Later Silmarillion 1 (1993)
-- XI. The War of the Jewels: The Later Silmarillion 2 (1994)
-- XII. The Peoples of Middle-Earth (1996)

Other works
--Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (1925)
--Farmer Giles of Ham (1949, chapbook)
--Smith of Wootton Major (1967, chapbook) young-adult fantasy novella
--Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham (1976 US)
--The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book (1962)
--A Tolkien Reader (1966, collection)
--Tales from the Perilous Realm (1992, reprint of Poems and Stories (1980) omnibus collection of "Farmer Giles of Ham", "Leaf by Niggle", and "Smith of Wootton Major" and "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil"
--Leaf by Niggle
--"On Fairy-Stories" 1939 lecture
--The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth
--Tree and Leaf (1964, collection) material on writing fantasy
--Sir Gawain/Pearl/Sir Orfeo (1975) collection of 3 epic poems, translated by Tolkien from mediaeval English
--The Father Christmas Letters (1976) collection of letters from Tolkien (Father Christmas) to his children, with illustrations by Tolkien
--Mr. Bliss (1982) children's story with illustrations by the author
--Finn and Hengest (1982) Tolkien's lectures and notes on the story which was the basis of Beowulf
--The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays (1983) Non-fiction, a collection of 7 essays/lectures, edited by Christopher Tolkien
--Roverandom (1998, written in 1925) juvenile fantasy about a dog's adventures
--The Road Goes Ever On : A Song Cycle (with music by Donald Swann, 1967)
--Bilbo's Last Song  (1990) 32 page picture book illustrated by Pauline Baynes, a 24-line poem originally published in 1974 as a poster
--Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien (1979) collection of Tolkien's artwork

Our book club's page for The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Our book club's page for The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
Our book club's page for The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
J. R. R. Tolkien - Wikipedia
Official Lord of the Rings LOTR Movie Site

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This page was last updated October 20, 2008