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The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes
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The hobbits return to the Shire, where they find that evil
has been at work in their absence. The Shire is saved, but
Frodo never recovers from his many wounds.

The four hobbits, accompanied by Gandalf, now depart for
home. After stopping in Rivendell to visit Bilbo, they arrive
in Bree, where there has been trouble with ruffians from the
south. The travelers learn that things are not well in the
Shire either. Gandalf seems to know more about the trouble
than he lets on. The hobbits assume he will set things right,
but Gandalf tells them he isn't going to the Shire. His time
of helping out is over, and they're quite capable of doing it
themselves. In fact, he tells them, this is what they were
trained for. What do you think he means by that remark?

The hobbits continue on to the Shire and find that Saruman
and his men have taken over and are tearing down
buildings and cutting trees. Now you can see most clearly
how their journeys have changed the four friends. They are
not intimidated, but set out with determination to rouse the
inhabitants of the Shire to throw out Saruman's ruffians.
Frodo, however, refuses to fight. He has learned that no one
has the right to take the life of another, no matter how just
that death may seem. He extends his sympathy to all-the
good, the evil, and the misguided-because he knows that
no one started out evil and that those who do fall into evil
suffer the most of all. Saruman himself appears as a pitiable
figure, and even his attempt to kill Frodo doesn't change
Frodo's resolve to let him go free.

Grima the Wormtongue is still with Saruman. Like Gollum,
he has been deformed by evil and now crawls after
Saruman like a dog. Frodo offers him a chance to turn away
from Saruman. Grima seems to feel a touch of hope, but
Saruman destroys it by telling the others about Grima's evil
deeds. Grima turns on his master and kills him, only to be
killed himself by the overzealous hobbits.

Sam uses Galadriel's gift, a box of soil from Lorien, to
restore the beauty of the Shire. He finds that he's become a
hero like Merry and Pippin. Ironically enough, Frodo's
deeds are overlooked. The folks of the Shire are more
concerned with the events in their own small country than
with far-off happenings in places they've never seen. They
don't seem to understand the danger that would have faced
them if Frodo's quest had failed.

Frodo has not emerged from his trials unscathed, either
physically or spiritually. The memory and the effect of the
Ring stay with him. "It is gone forever," he says, "and now
all is dark and empty." Like Gollum, he feels lost and
empty without the Ring. Although Frodo has won peace for
the land, he himself cannot enjoy it. He travels with Bilbo,
Gandalf, Elrond, and Galadriel over the sea to the serenely
beautiful Blessed Realm, leaving Sam to return home to his
wife and child in the Shire.

Some readers see this as a happy ending. Others feel sad
that Frodo's selfless quest has ended unhappily for him.
Which view do you agree with? Is this a pessimistic or an
optimistic ending? Why do you feel that way?

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The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes

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