A Tolkien Virgin: The Return of the King - Book VI - Chapter 6 - The Journey Continues

Book VI
Chapter 6
Many Partings

All the stone-circle had been thrown down and removed, and the land within was made into a garden filled with orchards and trees, and a stream ran through it; but in the midst of all there was a lake of clear water, and out of it the Tower of Orthanc rose still, tall and impregnable, and its black rock was mirrored in the pool..."All the stone-circle had been thrown down and removed, and the land within was made into a garden filled with orchards and trees, and a stream ran through it; but in the midst of all there was a lake of clear water, and out of it the Tower of Orthanc rose still, tall and impregnable, and its black rock was mirrored in the pool...""Many Partings" indeed!! What a sad chapter. Tying up ends here and there, leaving others loose. I forgot how many people we've met along the journey, how many people there are to say good-bye to. But, as they work backwards along the once perilous road, we're reminded of just how much they've done and endured. It's almost unbelievable that the fear and doom, the nightmare, it's all gone with the ring.

Well, not "all" gone. Arwen's gift to Frodo is testament to that. Memories and nightmares of past traumatic experiences continue to haunt survivors for years. For the rest of their lives, sometimes. I think Tolkien knew this from personal experience.

Yet again there's a little humor provided by Gimli. He and Eomer agree to disagree over whom is fairer: Galadriel and Arwyn. That is, it's funny to see him over-react a little (I'll have to fetch my axe), but it wouldn't have been funny at all if they'd actually fought to the death over it.

Soon Theoden's body is retrieved and they all depart from Minas Tirith: the long road home. The first thing we encounter along the road is the Wildmen's drums. Aragorn says he "gives" them the first they abide in, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Wildmen said that it wasn't his to give them.

They arrive in Edoras and say a final farewell to Theoden, properly. Merry weeps for him and says that he was like a father to him for a little while. It was sweet and sad, but think how much sadder the parting between Arwen and her father must have been. That's a farewell forever, no hope of meeting in the elven "afterlife."

After Eomer announces his sister's betrothal to Faramir, Eowyn and Aragorn share words and get a little closure. That's nice. I can see now that Aragorn cared for Eowyn and was fond of her, but just "not in that way." 

Merry receives a horn--from the horde of Scatha the Worm--it's been a while, so I don't recall off the top of my head, but was Scatha the one from the Silmarillion? If so, that's an old horn. Either way, it's interesting to note another magical item--like the phial of Galadriel. Magic is so subtle in the Lord of the Rings--well, with the exception of the Rings of Power, that is.

Tolkien takes a moment for Legolas and Gimli to make a quick stop at the glittering caves, and eventually depart for their homes via Fangorn. I'm probably not the only one that would have liked Tolkien to dwell a little more on them. I guess it wouldn't have worked in this story, but it would be kinda cool to read some tales about Legolas and Gimli in some kind of adventure together. What can I say, I like those two.

So, Orthanc is destroyed, but new life surrounds it. The Ents have been at work. In more ways than one, too. We learn from Treebeard that the Ents took out an Orc army on its way to Edoras. That reminds me of all that must have been going on in other parts of Middle Earth that aren't a part of the main story. How much havoc did other Orc armies cause elsewhere? Unfortunately Saruman has been at work, too. Very likely he convinces Treebeard to release him. I'm a little bummed, because of course I love the Ents and there doesn't seem much hope they'll find the Entwives. But, then, that's kinda good in that Tolkien doesn't just write the destruction of the Ring and then it's just one big happy ending for everyone. He keeps it real. Keeps some of those loose ends loose. That's just one of the things that raises Tolkien above the rest.

I was a little taken back by the mention that the Fellowship is finally ended, because I kind of thought of the fellowship as ended back when Frodo and Sam took off and Boromir got killed. Maybe this is just the last time the surviving members of the Fellowship will ever all be in the same place. That's worth a mention.

My ears perked up at Celeborn's cryptic message to Treebeard about possibly meeting in the future: "Not in Middle-earth, nor until the lands that lie under the wave are lifted up again. Then in the willow-meads of Tasarinan we may meet in the Spring. Farewell." Mysterious and very cool.

Merry and Pippin join Treebeard for another ent-draught and then they're all off again--makes me wonder just how big they've got by now. We say farewell to Aragorn at the Gap of Rohan, where Pippin muses about a seeing stone and Aragorn reminds him of his duty to Gondor. With Merry tied to Rohan and Pippin to Gondor, there's plenty of room left for adventure for those two.

Surprise, surprise, in all of Middle Earth who should they stumble upon, but Saruman. I couldn't believe how hard-hearted and petty he had become. Again, I think about what he must have been like when he was wise and good and Gandalf respected him (something I wish Tolkien would have given us a good picture of)--such a terrible waste.

I like that although this chapter feels like Tolkien is in the "wrapping things up" phase, he doesn't pinch on the colorful detail that I like so much. In the midst of this chapter, Tolkien takes the time to mention the swans on the Greyflood. A beautiful sight although totally unnecessary.

One more thing that grabbed my attention was Gandalf, Celeborn, and Galadriel sitting as stones in council. What they've come through is incredible (especially when you consider their ages), and what they discussed must have been amazing, but the thing I noticed most was the telepathy! I guess it makes sense, but it's the first time it's come up so far, so it just seemed odd. And then, the Lorien Elves are gone.

At long last the hobbits are back in Rivendell and we get to see Bilbo again. But, seeing Bilbo like that was saddening. He mentions the ring, he'd really like to see it again--whether that's just from old habbit or the lingering effects of what the Ring had done to him, I'm not sure. Old, confused, tired, I wonder how much life is left in him.

One last comment--if you want to get home, stop wasting so much time! I know, I know, they don't want to say good-bye sooner than they have to, but with the surviving Orcs on the loose out there and what Sam saw in Galadriel's mirror, I would have hurried back to the Shire just to make sure everything is okay. Once I knew my friends and family were safe and sound I'd feel more at ease going back out into the wide world to visit the friends I made along the journey. But that's just me.

till next time, keep thinking,

Mark-Edmond Howell
Kanazawa, Japan


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