Our travels though Middle Earth has been well documented on this blog. Check out this post if you want to hear about how and why we undertook such a task. And this post for a recap of the first book, Fellowship of the Ring. And this post for a recap of the second book, The Two Towers. Or just stay here to read about the finale of our journey- The Return of the King.
We picked up by joining Gandalf, Pippin and Shadowfax as they arrive at Minas Tirith to warn the Steward of Gondor, Denethor, that Sauron is about to unleash the armies of Mordor. We beg him to prepare his city. We vow our service to Gondor to repay for the death of Boromir, Denethor's favorite son. We watch Denethor lose his mind, and order Faramir, his unfavored son, to sure death in the hopeless resiege of Osgiliath against a hoard of orcs. We watch Faramir return, wounded and nearly dead. We see Denethor order to burn his son alive rather than seek medical attention. We seek Gandalf as Minas Tirith is under heavy attack from evil army of Mordor.
Meanwhile... In the kingdom of Rohan, King Théoden and his men recover from their battle against the forces of Saruman in the Battle of the Hornburg. Aragorn, hmmmmm Aragorn...
Wait... where was I?
Right. Aragorn abandons his ranger ways and confronts Sauron through the palantír of Isengard by claiming the throne of men. Along with Legolas, Gimli and the Grey Company (the Rangers from Arnor), we set out with Aragon through the Paths of the Dead and convince the undead to fulfill the oath to the King and fight against the black army. With Aragorn going one way, we watch as Théoden and the Rohirrim go the other, to the aid of Minith Tirith. We beg with Merry and Éowyn to fight with the men, and even though we are refused, we go anyway.
As we arrive at the fields of Pelennor in front of the gates of Minas Tirith, we see the chaos and carnage of war. We and the army of Rohan break into the foray and slay us some orcs! We watch as Aragon leads the army of the dead fight along side us and the men of Gondor. We cry as Snowmane is slain by the Nazgul and collapses on top of the King of the Mark. But along with Éowyn (and Merry), we kill the Leader of the Black Riders before he can hurt Théoden further. Girl power.
Then, Gandalf and Pippin help us nick Faramir off of the funeral pyre, who was healed by the hands of the true King, Aragorn (along with Merry and Éowyn who were injured taking down the Black Rider). We watched love bloom between Éowyn and Faramir. We strategized with Aragon and Gandalf and stood bravely in front of the Black Gates of Mordor to draw the armies out of the lands and distract the Eye of Sauron from the movements of Sam and Frodo as they move toward Mount Doom.
Speaking of Sam and Frodo... We met up with Sam as he realized that Frodo was still alive and we follow him into the Tower of Cirith Ungol to rescue his master. We disguise ourselves in orcish armor. We walk. We thirst. We tire. We hide. We march in line with other orcs. We think we see something following us. We can't go on. We ditch the heavy armor, our pots and pans, and everything else we can spare. We walk boldly toward the fiery mountain. We collapse. We are carried. We are attacked by Gollum! We reach the Crack of Doom and we are so close... but we can't throw the ring in. We are overtaken by its power. We put it on. We are attacked again by the former ring bearer- and we watch as Gollum bites off our finger and falls into the fire, with the ring. The ring is destroyed. We free Middle Earth from Sauron's power. We think about the Shire, and we are happy to be with Sam, here at the end of all things. Then... we are rescued by the Eagles!
Aragorn is crowned King, as in, the King has returned to Gondor. Now is the time of men... sexy, sexy men.
Sorry... Then we celebrate. We are honored. Faramir is named Prince of Ithilien, Eromer is the new King of the Mark in Rohan, and Elrond's of Rivendell's daughter, Arwen, finally marries her mortal love. We head back toward the Shire with all our friends and say goodbye to them each one by one along the journey. We say goodbye to Tree Beard and Legolas and Gimli head back to Fangorn forest. Galadriel and Celeborn head back to Lorién. Gandalf goes as far as Bree and then tells us that we are on our own from here on out.
We find the Shire is in ruins, run by ruffians! [This part of the book is not in the movie, so for those of you who have not read the books, I will be vague so as not to ruin it]. Regardless to say, we brought our worldliness, bravery and general awesomeness back to the Shire and helped set things right. We run into Saruman and Gríma and they get their comeuppance. We prove how bad-ass Hobbits really are.
Time passes and the Shire heals. Holes are rebuilt and trees are replanted. We watch as Merry and Pippin lead Buckland and Tookborough and rejoice as Sam marries Rosie Cotton and moves into Bag End. But we suffer with Frodo, who cannot fully heal from the wounds of his journey and the burden of the ring. We welcome the birth of Sam and Rosie's little girl, Elenor.
We journey with Sam and Frodo once more. We head to the havens. We feel sweet sadness as Frodo meets with the other ring bearers- Bilbo, Gandalf, Celeborn, Galadriel and Elrond- and tells us that he is leaving the Shire, and Middle Earth, forever. We say our goodbyes. We watch from the shores with Merry, Pippin and Sam as Frodo sails away to Valinor. With the ring bearers gone, so ends the Third Age of Middle Earth. We head back to the Shire. We finish the book with Sam saying the words, "Well, I'm back."