The Return of the King
August 7, 2016 7:44 AM - by J. R. R. Tolkien - Subscribe

The armies of the Dark Lord Sauron are massing as his evil shadow spreads even wider. Men, Dwarves, Elves and Ents unite forces to do battle against the Dark. Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam struggle further into Mordor, guided by the treacherous creature Gollum, in their heroic quest to destroy the One Ring…
posted by Fizz (15 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I cry at the end of this. Heck, I cry at the end of the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen, and even the bit in the Tale of Years about Gimli sailing west.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:18 AM on August 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

Easily my favourite of the three books. For many reasons but far and away the most significant reason is for this paragraph, which I have bookmarked in both my tattered paper copy and my iBooks copy so I can read it whenever the mood takes me.

"In rode the Lord of the Nazgûl. A great black shape against the fires beyond he loomed up, grown to a vast menace of despair. In rode the Lord of the Nazgûl, under the archway that no enemy ever yet had passed, and all fled before his face.

All save one. There waiting, silent and still in the space before the Gate, sat Gandalf upon Shadowfax: Shadowfax who alone among the free horses of the earth endured the terror, unmoving, steadfast as a graven image in Rath Dínen.

"You cannot enter here," said Gandalf, and the huge shadow halted. "Go back to the abyss prepared for you! Go back! Fall into the nothingness that awaits you and your Master. Go!"

The Black Rider flung back his hood, and behold! he had a kingly crown; and yet upon no head visible was it set. The red fires shone between it and the mantled shoulders vast and dark. From a mouth unseen there came a deadly laughter.

"Old fool!" he said. "Old fool! This is my hour. Do you not know Death when you see it? Die now and curse in vain!" And with that he lifted high his sword and flames ran down the blade.

And in that very moment, away behind in some courtyard of the city, a cock crowed. Shrill and clear he crowed, recking nothing of war nor of wizardry, welcoming only the morning that in the sky far above the shadows of death was coming with the dawn.

And as if in answer there came from far away another note. Horns, horns, horns, in dark Mindolluin's sides they dimly echoed. Great horns of the north wildly blowing. Rohan had come at last.”

posted by Effigy2000 at 8:35 PM on August 7, 2016 [11 favorites]

I think I've said on MeFi before how much I love that moment, Effigy2000. I love that the Witch King does all this metal shit, like summoning lightning bolts to help Grond smash the gates, trots through as the first person to break Minas Tirith; he's got a floating crown head and fire sword and he's about to kick Gandalf's ass. It's his big moment!

Then like five minutes later he gets dropped by a hobbit and a woman. Not the plan! (Also I like to think Tolkien meant it to be that since Merry is a halfling, a half-man, he can sort of half-kill the Witch King.)

I love that it does not come to a staff and sword wire-fu showdown between the Witch King and Gandalf, because even though Gandalf wants to go after the Witch King, Pippin pulls him away to save Faramir. It's hard to imagine a modern story doing all this work to bring the two power players together, have them exchange some sass, then go off in separate directions.

After listening to the book on CD (narrated by Rob Inglis) I might have a new favorite part though: when Frodo et al are returning to Rivendell and come across Saruman on the road. Saruman is such a bitter little fucker!
"Then once more you are going the wrong way," said Gandalf, "and I see no hope in your journey. But will you scorn our help? For we offer it to you."

"To me?" said Saruman. "Nay, pray do not smile at me! I prefer your frowns. And as for the Lady here, I do not trust her: she always hated me, and schemed for your part. I do not doubt that she has brought you this way to have the pleasure of gloating over my poverty. Had I been warned of your pursuit, I would have denied you the pleasure."

"Saruman," said Galadriel, "we have other errands and other cares that seem to us more urgent than hunting for you. Say rather that you are overtaken by good fortune; for now you have a last chance."

"If it be truly the last, I am glad," said Saruman; "for I shall be spared the trouble of refusing it again. All my hopes are ruined, but I would not share yours. If you have any."

For a moment his eyes kindled. "Go!" he said. "I did not spend long study on these matters for naught. You have doomed yourselves, and you know it. And it will afford me some comfort as I wander to think that you pulled down your own house when you destroyed mine. And now, what ship will bear you back across so wide a sea?" he mocked. "It will be a grey ship, and full of ghosts." He laughed, but his voice was cracked and hideous.
Then he steals Merry's tobacco pouch.
posted by nom de poop at 10:52 PM on August 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

Also I like to think Tolkien meant it to be that since Merry is a halfling, a half-man, he can sort of half-kill the Witch King.

He definitely did. That is totally his style.
posted by town of cats at 11:15 PM on August 7, 2016

I was wondering, was there literary precedent (beyond, like, the book of Revelation) for the kind of totally fkn metal imagery Tolkien dished out here? Were there other books to read in the 1940s and 50s with witch-kings wielding badass flame swords and so forth? How completely out of left field would that stuff have been to a contemporary reader?
posted by town of cats at 11:27 PM on August 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

In off the moors, down through the mist bands
God-cursed Grendel came greedily loping.
The bane of the race of men roamed forth,
hunting for a prey in the high hall.
Under the cloud-murk he moved towards it
until it shone above him, a sheer keep
of fortified gold. Nor was that the first time
he had scouted the grounds of Hrothgar's dwelling—-
although never in his life, before or since,
did he find harder fortune or hall-defenders.
Spurned and joyless, he journeyed on ahead
and arrived at the bawn. The iron-braced door
turned on its hinge when his hands touched it.
Then his rage boiled over, he ripped open
the mouth of the building, maddening for blood.

Beowulf was fucking metal
posted by Sebmojo at 4:20 AM on August 8, 2016 [6 favorites]

I went looking for some even more metal quotes, but really they're all the most metal.

"They have seen my strength for themselves,/ Have watched me rise from the darkness of war,/ Dripping with my enemies' blood. I drove/ Five great giants into chains, chased/ All of that race from the earth. I swam/ In the blackness of night, hunting monsters/ Out of the ocean, and killing them one/ By one; death was my errand and the fate/ They had earned. Now Grendel and I are called/ Together, and I've come."

posted by Sebmojo at 4:22 AM on August 8, 2016

Mourn not overmuch! Mighty was the fallen,

meet was his ending. When his mound is raised,

women then shall weep. War now calls us!
posted by Chrysostom at 6:10 AM on August 8, 2016

Oh, right, of course Beowulf was metal. I made this sick painting of Grendel's arm over the roof beam for a school project in tenth grade and remember my English teacher being unsure whether to be impressed or horrified. I may have gone a little overboard with the dripping blood?

But was anyone trading in that type of imagery anytime between Bible/Beowulf and Tolkien?
posted by town of cats at 10:19 AM on August 8, 2016

William Blake, America a Prophecy, 1793 might be an example:

Here on their magic seats the Thirteen Angels sat perturb'd,
For clouds from the Atlantic hover o'er the solemn roof.

Fiery the Angels rose, and as they rose deep thunder roll'd
Around their shores, indignant burning with the fires of Orc;
And Boston's Angel cried aloud as they flew thro' the dark night.

posted by porpoise at 10:38 AM on August 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Jane Eyre likes to paints goth metal album covers for fun:
The third [watercolor] showed the pinnacle of an iceberg piercing a polar winter sky: a muster of northern lights reared their dim lances, close serried, along the horizon. Throwing these into distance, rose, in the foreground, a head,—a colossal head, inclined towards the iceberg, and resting against it. Two thin hands, joined under the forehead, and supporting it, drew up before the lower features a sable veil, a brow quite bloodless, white as bone, and an eye hollow and fixed, blank of meaning but for the glassiness of despair, alone were visible. Above the temples, amidst wreathed turban folds of black drapery, vague in its character and consistency as cloud, gleamed a ring of white flame, gemmed with sparkles of a more lurid tinge. This pale crescent was “the likeness of a kingly crown;” what it diademed was “the shape which shape had none.”
posted by Iridic at 2:08 PM on August 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

Book Six of Milton's Paradise Lost:

The first fight described: Satan and his Powers retire under night. He calls a council; invents devilish engines, which, in the second day's fight, put Michael and his Angels to some disorder; but they at length, pulling up mountains, overwhelmed both the force and machines of Satan.

"Satan, with vast and haughty strides advanced,
Came towering, armed in adamant and gold."
posted by Sparx at 9:01 PM on August 8, 2016

I feel a little guilty that this thread became "find the sickest, most metal quotations from the western canon" at my behest...but I must admit, I mostly feel completely delighted? I'd totally forgotten how completely awesome the Satan bits of Paradise Lost are.

Actually, in general Tolkien cribs quite a bit from Milton imagery-wise, doesn't he? I'd never really drawn that line before.
posted by town of cats at 9:28 PM on August 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

1 Kings 12:11: And now whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.

That's easily my favourite metal KJV bible quote. Believe I came across it in H Rider Haggard's She. Which I was only reading because it and the sequel were suggested as inspiration to CS Lewis. Which fact I only came across because I was hunting for more about the [big name] Inklings. Which I was only doing because Stephen King was right and The Lord of the Rings is too short.
posted by comealongpole at 1:29 PM on August 9, 2016

I cheated a little bit. These threads made me realize that it has been a long time since I have read the books I also realized that I had never seen the extended edition (14 hours longish) of the movies. I had always meant to track them down and I've been going through them this week. As an appetizer before I got into the books. I absolutely understand why it wasn't included in the theatrical release, but as a lifelong Tolkien fan I really loved the extra (plot slowing/childhood affirming) deleted scenes. My next move it to re-read the books to center myself in my childhood mythos.

I'm only 10-ish hours in to the movies, it's the Battle of the Pelennor Fields but I had to take a break.

The last time I either read this scene on the page or watched it on film I did not have the modern vocabulary to describe it.

But the head Black Rider?
The chief of the Nazgûl,
The Witch King of Angmar?

That boss?
He got pÉowynd
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:59 PM on August 27, 2016

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