Monday, August 1, 2022

Review - The Secrets of Dumbledore

 No. No. This not… This is not… how it was supposed… No.

Ok, guys, the time has come. After a long wait, I took my seat, and wrote this review, in which probably was my most expected movie in a long while. And it’s not just that I am disappointed. I feel cheated on. You’ll see why in a minute, but first, a few things.

To read my reviews on the previous movies, follow this links:
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
- The Crimes of Grindelwald

And obviously, this CONTAINS SPOILERS, so stay at your own risk. I warned you.

Saying that this movie is all bad, wouldn’t be fair. It had some well done things, especially in terms of design, screenplay, costumes… There are lots of details everywhere that speaks of a committed team that was present in every little aspect, whether it was locations, the creatures’ animation, the special effects… everything. But sadly, the plot is not everything it could have been. The political aspect, though, is very realistic, and speaks of dirty tricks (magical or not) and deceptions, in a world where nothing and no one matter, in the competition for power. But, guys… this is the Wizarding World. I think a lot more can be done with all the resources it provides, than the political election that is the core of this film.

As I said earlier, I feel cheated on by this series. As I started this journey in the first movie, I was introduced to Newt Scamander, and this never before explored world of magizoology, and I fell in love. Everything was new, in an already familiar world. I met an absolutely UNIQUE, charming hero, and got to visit his amazing life and work. By all means, I was IN for this adventure, and eagerly waited for the next chapter that would only get me further and deeper into this world. But here… I see Newt was only a means to an end, used to lure me in, with both the promise of a hero and of an aspect of the Wizarding World I had never seen before, and in the end, it’s all about Dumbledore.

And that is not ok. If you told me there’s such a world inside a suitcase, I want to visit that world. If you introduce me to a character unlike anyone I’ve ever known, I want to go with him on his journey. And it’s not so smartly done that you can actually say “hey, this actually works!”. Newt Scamander had, all along, the potential to sustain the whole series as the protagonist, but in the end, the whole thing boils down to Dumbledore, that is, someone we already know, as well as how he will eventually end.

Guys, they have no less than the unique, amazing Eddie Redmayne –only one of the best actors alive–, playing the equally unique Newt Scamander, and they barely give him any relevant actions and decisions. That is not ok, no matter how you try to see it, and you can’t convince me otherwise.

Oh, and are you seriously giving me another Fantastic Beasts movie after three years, WITHOUT TINA? Are you kidding me?

Before I get angry, let’s go by parts.

One of the most notorious things about this movie, is that it has very few fantastic beasts for a movie in which they are a part of the title. For a guy who has a suitcase full of creatures, I thought we would see more of them. In the first one we saw them helping him, like the swooping evil, Frank the thunderbird, and Dougal the demiguise. We saw a huge amount of them, and even we could recognize the ones that were shown but not named. But in this one, we were lucky to get a bunch of manticores, the qilin, an almost burnt-out phoenix representing how Credence is on the inside, and a random cameo of the fwoopers running around Bhutan. Every time Newt can use their help, the day is saved by either Pickett, or one of the nifflers. And for someone who knows SO MANY creatures and walks around with them in his suitcase, it’s a little sad and disappointing.

Can’t the producers think of, literally, any other creature, or situation, that won’t involve Pickett picking locks, or a niffler going for shiny things? Because I know it’s possible, given the amount of beasts at Newt’s disposal.

Also, I thought Newt was banned from international travelling?

*awkward silence*

The thing is, I came here for Newt, and I barely saw him. I was sitting in the theater, and found myself thinking “by this point, in the first movie, a lot more had happened already”. There’s nothing wrong with plots about politics and broken hearts, but this is the Wizarding World! I came here for the magic and Newt’s cute weirdness as he becomes an unlikely hero. And beasts. Way more beasts. All I can think is that they somehow got bored with the concept of the magizoologist, or they couldn’t get any more ideas to keep him as the protagonist, so they turned into someone with an already complicated background, to make it even more complicated. And it’s not like they are giving us a lot of new details about the Dumbledores. Most of the things they say, are things we already know, or could figure out: that Ariana was an Obscurial –which I knew the moment the concept was explained–, how she ended up dead, that Albus was in love with Grindelwald, that he had feelings for him in return… Add to this that we already know how things will end: Albus will, in fact, defeat Grindelwald in 1945 (from which we can deduce that, at some point, he would be able to destroy the blood troth).

I admit, I didn’t see coming Credence as Aberforth’s son, but I was expecting to know who his mother was. After all, he spent the whole previous movie looking for her, finding her was his sole motivation, and instead, I was given the answer to a another, entirely different question. Oh, and how the hell can Credence send messages through mirrors? We are talking about a guy who can’t really control his magic. How did he know where to send the message to? Who to send it to?

Ok, moving on.

The general aesthetic of this film is dark, cold and grey, which is exactly the mood we are getting through the development of the plot. Things in the Wizarding World are changing, as war is coming. And speaking of changes, one of the most interesting ones was the introduction of Mads Mikkelsen as Gellert Grindelwald.

His acting really fits the character. In despite that Johnny Depp had some facial expressions that Mikkelsen just can’t reproduce, I feel that, if Mikkelsen had been the original Grindelwald, he would have owned the character by now. It’s interesting how this villain keeps going for power, without violence. Yes, he wants to take over and tries to fool everyone with the dead qilin (as an Inferius?), but he keeps going for manipulation instead of force. Like any self-respecting politician. Realistic, too: wouldn’t be the first one that, in real history, was a wanted criminal yesterday, and today is a candidate with a lot of loyal followers, neither the first one in committing fraud to win an election, with no fear of darkness, or even simple moral boundaries. Moreover, using the purest of creatures for his own purpose, something not many people would attempt to do. As we know, those who do that are wizards who aren’t afraid of consequences as long as they get what they want, just like when Voldemort killed unicorns for their blood.

Upon rewatching some scenes, I caught this quote, by Albus, and wrote it down:

Only a few days ago he was a fugitive from justice. Now he’s an official candidate in the International Confederation of Wizards[…]”.

Boy, if we know about this, in Argentina.

Another well done thing, is this feeling of “you can trust no one” that is always present. At this point, and with this situation, any person out there could be a Grindelwald follower, or a traitor; the man knows he doesn’t need to force anyone to do his bidding. Those who follow him, do it because of their conviction, and belief in his words and ideals. He wants to be adored by the masses.

He's delighted by this, as he’s being supported not because of fear or respect, but sheer admiration. He’s a charismatic leader who promises to change the world, to turn it into a utopia. But he will actually destroy it. And any resemblance with politics in the real world, is purely coincidental. Right?

Right when he falls backwards in Bhutan, after being unmasked, he says “I was never your enemy”, and if you think about it, it’s kind of true. He has a purpose and for that he’s willing to do anything, no matter the obstacles on his way. He believes in his cause, after all it is “for the greater good”. My point is, even though he wants Dumbledore out of his way, he doesn’t really care for the rest of the gang. The only one who had some value for him was Queenie, because she’s the only one with a weakness he could exploit, and a power that could serve him well. None of the others would fall for his lies, but he doesn’t put any efforts in trying to get them out of his way.

And since we mention Queenie… What a disappointment.

She’s definitely different in this movie. She looks older, only wears black, or dark clothes, and basically doesn’t smile. You can tell that she went dark, and that she’s a trusted member of Grindelwald’s side. Yet… I NEVER thought we would see her coming back to this side so fast. True is that we don’t even know how long it has been since the events in Père-Lachaise, we can only guess, which, in my opinion, it’s not well done. In the previous movie, through dialogue, we learned that a year had passed since Newt had left New York. But in this one, the only indicator of how long it has been since Paris, is Credence’s hair length.

The thing with Queenie is… *defeated sigh*. Everything passed too quickly. It’s like she never switched sides. Just as it is happening with Newt, I feel Dark Queenie was a whole lot of wasted potential. After all, she was the absolutely last person you would imagine supporting Grindelwald, and the way he snagged her, was brilliant, using her wish to be free to love and be loved to get her to work for him. After she practically swore allegiance to Grindelwald, literally walking through a fire that burnt people to oblivion at the slightest hesitation, I was hoping they would explore her character further. I knew darkness was going to be the test Jacob’s love would have to endure, to see if they both kept loving each other after some horrible things that would happen while Queenie stayed on Grindelwald’s side, and I was ready for betrayals, lies… you know, the things you do when you go dark. Things Queenie, as pure and loving as she is, wouldn’t do in normal circumstances. But we only see her suffering, and regretting her decision, even with Grindelwald’s trust. Think about it! They would have made an unstoppable pair: Grindelwald as a seer, and Queenie as a Legilimens, would have given their enemies no chance to act, knowing their intentions before they could even act on them, and always being one step ahead of everyone else.

Don’t tell me this isn’t wasted potential. Don’t you dare.

Once, Sirius Black said that you need to see how a man treats his inferiors to see what he’s really like, and you can see that very well with some of the characters here. I remembered that, upon seeing Jacob and his scene with the qilin, in Aberforth’s tavern. My favorite thing about him is that beautiful, caring soul he has, visible when he plays with her and feeds her. He truly has a full heart, and you can tell how sweet and loving he is, especially in the way he treats Queenie. If he wasn’t a muggle, I bet the qilin would have chosen him, he truly has the spirit needed to be a good leader. He’s a simple man, happy with the simple things in life: baking and cooking, and being with those he loves. And I just want to hug him because of that. I still wonder about Jacob’s role in all these, but I did gasp and said “no!”, when he was tortured with the Cruciatus curse. I think both he and Queenie deserved the ending they got, finally being able to get married (by the way, that wedding dress, truly fits Queenie’s spirit). But what left me with questions is that they marry in Jacob’s bakery in New York, and precisely, all the mess started because, in America, you can’t marry a muggle if you are a witch or a wizard.

I want to talk about Eulalie Hicks, for a minute.

Known as Lally, she’s the new addition to the series. She’s a Hogwarts teacher, expert in Charms and defensive magic. I liked the way she’s introduced, as she is no less than any witch J. K. Rowling ever created: smart, brave, resourceful, a little sassy, and obviously, strong and skilled. It’s a good start, for a new character, as I liked her, and I want to know more. I honestly hadn’t notice that she was in the previous movie, talking to Nicholas Flamel through an old book. I thought she was a dead teacher from many, many years ago, and it was a similar situation to the scene in Order of the Phoenix in which Arthur Weasley is attacked by Nagini, and Dumbledore enlists the help of Everad, Dilys Derwent, and Phineas Nigellus, so they visit their other portraits in order to find him. Or perhaps, she was someone from the past to who Flamel went to for advice. I never thought she was alive and would come to play a part in the story. I just wish we could get some more insight into her life, to understand the part she has to play here. I just think, pairing her with Jacob may not have been the best idea. Their duet wasn’t even remotely as funny and entertaining as the Newt-Jacob one.

They both have a cartoonish quality that make them perfect for magical adventures together, something that Lally doesn’t have just yet. And she’s not Tina. I felt her part could have been Tina’s, to make her deeper and richer. After all, it’s not Fantastic Beasts without her nagging Newt. I felt her absence. I get that Tina was made head of her department in MACUSA, but since Queenie chose Grindelwald, I didn’t think she would peacefully go to work, instead of fighting to get her back, especially after we learned that she’s the type of person that defies the rules when she sees a possibility of doing the right thing. We don’t know, either, how she has been after she saw Queenie doing that, or if she and Newt kept corresponding after he clarified the misunderstanding and told her he wasn’t the one getting married.

And if you cut out my favorite character, there’s no way I can like the movie. Sorry.

The last five minutes were the best, I thought “this is what I’m here for”. That is the kind of scene I wanted to see after such a long wait, and what I got, well… Wasn’t enough. Especially when it comes to the wedding. Not showing it, was a mistake. Or are you going to deny that Newt, giving a best man’s speech, wouldn’t have been pure gold?

Also, I love the huge, beautiful smile that the mention of Tina’s name always brings to Newt’s face.

And for someone who lives for Newt’s expression every time he sees her, those couple of seconds aren’t (and never will be) nearly enough.

When they meet right before the wedding, they are both so adorably awkward, that they make me smile. They only have eyes for each other, and you can tell they missed each other. They are both so genuinely happy, it is heart-melting.

But again, I waited far too long to get only those few seconds, how they expect people to be ok with that?

I’m going to talk about Credence for a while.

I thought we would see more of him, considering that he walked through fire too. But in this movie, he is only the means to an end. And he notices that. Grindelwald has him to do the dirty work for him, and it is kind of brilliant, because, if Credence succeeds, he gets to be the favored one, but if he dies, it brings him no consequences. After all, Obscurials are not meant to live too long, right from the get-go, and Grindelwald knows he won’t have to deal with him for long, both if he succeeds, or fails. He’s disposable. Grindelwald has a ton of followers he could send to kill Dumbledore, but having such a destructive force at his disposal, he thinks it’s something not even the great Albus Dumbledore can fight. And if they kill each other, all the better for him, because Credence is just a tool. Once he’s done, he’s no longer useful for him. Like the phoenix the flies around the screen from time to time, Credence will eventually burn from the inside out. I see no happy ending for him, and he probably won’t have one. But before that happens, I need to know more. His mother, his aunt (because the woman trying to save him during the shipwreck wasn’t his mother, but his aunt), how he ended on that ill-fated ship in which Leta switched him for Corvus Lestrange… I’m just asking, if you are going to create so many mysteries, at least give me some answers before changing the subject and moving on to the next big thing.

We see Credence struggling between who he is and who he’s being asked to be. He isn’t a killer. He killed in the past, but through a power beyond his control. Now he can see that he’s been used and doesn’t really want to kill, especially considering that his target –in this case– doesn’t want him dead in return, or did anything to him in the past that could make him hate him. After all, his past victims, Henry Shaw and Mary Lou Barebone, triggered him by being mean to him, and overall, mistreating him, and he wasn’t in control of his magic, nor had any way to channel it. He was always trampled on. And so, the essence remains: Credence Barebone isn’t a villain. Evil isn’t born, it’s made, and finally, he understood that he was being used.

Another character that left me wondering in this movie, was Theseus Scamander. For one, I didn’t see him, in the least, grieving the death of the woman he was supposed to marry, nor we get any insight on why Leta chose him instead of Newt, after the deep bond they shared. Plus, Theseus is obviously taking a liking with Lally Hicks, that was really obvious. But I think that was very, very notorious in this movie: that Crimes of Grindelwald built up to things that here were, either solved, or absolutely forgotten, like Queenie going dark, Leta Lestrange’s story, and Nagini! Where the hell did Nagini go, after getting so much screen time? And Abernathy, that not only impersonated Grindelwald himself but walked through the fire to join him?

Also, the scene in which Theseus is captured by the German Ministry of Magic, and Newt has to rescue him, felt like comic relief, and literally, nothing more. I felt that could have been saved as a cliffhanger for the ending, leaving it open for the next instalment. Newt’s rescue leads nowhere, Theseus is hanging upside down, but no one tried to question him about why he was there the moment he was arrested, and later, no one seems to care that the Head of the British Auror office escaped their inescapable prison.

The whole purpose of the scene seemed to be adding the funny manticore dance Newt has to perform in order to save him, which felt like a desperate attempt to get back some of the things that made the first movie so good. To grasp back something they lost along the way.

In this movie, Newt continues to be himself, not a chosen one, and fighting because he has to, even though his heart is more in healing and saving than in war. But I see him different than in the other movies. He’s no longer so awkward with people. For one, he hugs Jacob first, when in the previous movie it was the other way around. Sadly, we don’t get to see him with his creatures so much, and both he and Jacob seem to have become the comic relief, and little else. Just like Newt’s assistant, Bunty Broadacre, who is hopelessly in love with Newt, in despite that he will never see her as more than that. But I liked that, even though she sees Newt carrying Tina’s picture, and understands that he will never love her back, she doesn’t show jealousy. Loving him means wanting his happiness, even if it’s not with her.

One thing about her, that for me made absolutely no sense. She took Newt’s case to be replicated and didn’t let the guy open it, which I get, of course, but, at that point, I thought, why is she not using this?

Also, why you would get a muggle involved, when you literally have the Gemino curse at your disposal, both used by Hermione in Deathly Hallows, to duplicate Slytherin’s locket, and cast over the Lestrange vault to duplicate the treasures and prevent robberies. Moreover, the very same charm is used later in the movie when Lally and Theseus are cornered in Bhutan, and an avalanche of duplicating pastries and paper swamps the Alliance members going after them.

Since the charm didn’t duplicate the piece of Voldemort’s soul inside the locket, we can understand that it won’t duplicate the creatures inside the case, so it is safe to use it. Why risking the status of secrecy by bringing it to a muggle, when you literally carry a wand and can use to create as many copies as you want?

My guess: comic relief. Nothing more justifies this absolutely lack of logic.

Also, I didn’t understand the purpose of giving Jacob the fake wand, and moreover, telling him that he “can’t think of anyone more deserving” to keep it. I get that Dumbledore sees he has a good heart and a kind soul, and that he could make a great wizard, but reality is that a stick shaped like a wand won’t really help him, especially after he’s sent to the front lines, no less than face-to-face with an enemy that is the greatest muggle mass murderer the Wizarding World has ever known. Not even experienced, trained wizards survived an encounter with Grindelwald, much less a muggle. That makes no sense to me, and smells like plot-hole.

Another character that does absolutely nothing for the plot, is this man:

Yusuf Kama goes to Nurmengard, and offers his loyalty to Grindelwald, to which he answers, he will have to prove it. But we never see him going through any kind of test, nor we see Grindelwald keeping him watched, or distrusting him, considering that his followers were forced to walk through fire to prove their allegiance. And it doesn’t take a genius to understand that he never really switched sides. I was not fooled for a second. It feels as if the producers created this character, and now they don’t know what to do with him anymore. He’s just kind of there.

And finally, the way they go to Bhutan, through the Bhutanese prayer wheel in the Room of Requirements *face palm* This made me angry, because, in Goblet of Fire, Dumbledore says, impossibly clearer, that he doesn’t know all of Hogwarts’ secrets, and that he accidentally stumbled with the Room recently, one night, by chance, as he looked for the restrooms. So, I don’t think he should know about it at this point of the story

Oh, and by the way, I absolutely love Jude Law’s choice of using his wand as if it was a paint brush, in this scene:

He said in an interview that he wanted to make as if Dumbledore was painting, and I think it suits him perfectly.

So, in conclusion, it was a movie that had both good and bad things. I didn’t like it, and I was hoping to love it. Somewhere along the way, Newt’s spirit, and the wonderful magizoloogy world, were lost. Obviously, I am grateful for being able to re-visit Hogwarts, and for the bits of John Williams’ music that we could hear, here and there, as well as the references to other things from the Wizarding World, like the Quidditch balls, the monster book, and the paper flying just like Harry’s Hogwarts letters. But I feel that the whole Dumbledore-Grindelwald thing could have stayed a side plot, instead of making me believe that Newt would be the hero of the story, and then moving him to the sideline, and barely giving him any screen time. Instead of going deeper into characters we already know, like Albus, I wanted insight into Newt and Theseus’ past, or Lally’s or the Goldstein sisters, or even Grindelwald himself, because, as I said, nothing was revealed about Albus that we didn’t already know. And, again, you can’t introduce me to someone like Newt and then make it all about Dumbledore. You can’t have such a character, and not use it. I’m sorry, but you can’t.

Honestly, I’m not very excited for the fourth movie. I waited too long, to get this thing that disappointed me, so excuse me if I’m not very eager for the next instalment of the story. And the saddest part is, I know J. K. Rowling is better than this.

Thank you so much for reading,
See you in my next post!

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Review - Matilda

Original Title: Matilda
Series: -
Author: Roald Dahl
Published: October 1st, 1988

Publisher: Puffin (2007 edition)


First of all, guys, sorry for my long absence. It’s been a crazy couple of months. But I haven’t given up books, and today, I come back with this short but powerful classic, that I read in one sitting.

This is, in fact, my very first book by Roald Dahl. I grew up watching the 1996 movie adaptation, with Mara Wilson and Danny de Vito, and I’m sure more than one 90s kid out there –like me– wanted to have Matilda’s powers, more than anything in the world. If you are reading this, I feel you. Personally (and I’m sure I’m not the only one), I saw a lot of myself in her love for books, and the company they meant for her, that was such a lonely girl.

I admit I was expecting the book to be just like the movie, but upon reading it, I see that, for the adaptation, they kept the basic storyline, and took it a little further. For example, in the book there’s no scene with Matilda going to the Trunchbull’s house at night during a windstorm, and scaring her with the crazy clock, and Magnus Honey’s portrait, nor her adventure with Miss Honey, inside the Trunchbull’s house. Sadly, because I was really looking forward to those scenes.

Yet, it’s not a bad book, and I was actually surprised of how realistic it is, even for a book geared towards children.

I personally think Miss Honey is a strong, incredible female character. Through her sad story, losing her parents and being forced to live with her horrible aunt, she was brave enough to set her limits and leave behind the bad life she was living, with a person that abused her, both physically and mentally. She didn’t ask permission to do it, she just saw her chance of freedom, and took it. True, she lived with almost nothing, in the farmer’s cottage she rented, and even though she couldn’t even dispose of her own salary, nothing would make her go back to her aunt. I loved her for it, for her courage to say “I had enough” and do something about it, which makes her, in my opinion, the bravest person in this book. Her struggle is real, and I’m sure a lot of people can feel identified with her.

Also, and in despite of everything she went through, Miss Honey didn’t lose her sweetness and love for teaching. And that love and true encouragement are deeper than any kind of affection Matilda ever got from her grotesque, shallow parents, who never cared about her, her need of education, or the nurturing of her unique intellect. She’s clearly a neglected, misunderstood child, as there are a lot in the world. She’s a girl with extraordinary talents –magic powers aside–, virtually ignored by her parents, so engrossed in their own lives that cannot possibly see how special their daughter is. They are, in this case, the villains, portrayed in a cartoonish way that, in fact, is absolutely realistic. Matilda finds comfort in books, and reading becomes her everything, her passion, her escape. But my point is, no one can deny that those people truly exist, and that there are a lot of Matildas out there, in the different corners of the world, with self-absorbed families that do not listen nor care about their needs and talents. So, the fact that she gets a happy ending, with a new mother that truly appreciates everything she is, is a true message of hope, in which we are told that the circumstances of our birth do not determine our future, if we are brave enough to do what’s needed to change our lives.

The main villain, on the other hand, is absolutely cartoonish. Yet, the Trunchbull’s attitude isn’t completely fictional, as evil teachers definitely exist. Although, I doubt that, in real life, any other teacher could have survived the lawsuit that would have followed after grabbing a girl by her hair and throwing her over the fence, or even locking children in The Chokey (which I do not find funny at all). The Trunchbull is one of those villains that you just cannot wait to see paying for her evil, and in the movie, this is a lot funnier in terms of revenge from the school children that comes after Matilda terrifies her, writing as Magnus in the blackboard. They made her a lot more superstitious than in the book, and that is the weakness Matilda exploits to defeat her. Obviously, she has no redeeming qualities, and when she’s gone, she’s gone. No one hears about her again. But my point is, where are the parents in this book, that do not appear or do anything to prevent this monster from literally torturing their children? All the adults that could be here protecting their children, seem to be no more caring that Matilda’s own parents, virtually ignoring what happens in the school, and not doing anything about it. They are absolutely absent in this matter, which could be interpreted in more than one way.

Overall, I think it is a good book, with a great message, about seeing your own good qualities, and how wonderful you can be, even if those around you don’t listen, or don’t care. Basically, it says that you need to recognize your talent and attitude, and go for what you want and need, because no one will do it for you. And this is visible both with Matilda, and Miss Honey. In despite that one is a child and the other, a grown-up, it’s possible to understand that they come from similar backgrounds, from families that didn’t love them, in despite of the amazing people they were, or could be.

And also, I liked that even though Matilda’s powers fade with time, her personality isn’t tied to them, because when she uses her mental strength to study and get new knowledge, she can finally harness the full potential of her unusual mind. She may not be able to flip glasses anymore, but she’s no less smart or amazing because of that.

So, in short, it’s a good classic that deserves a read. It goes quickly, and it’s enjoyable for both kids and adults.


Thank you for reading, guys!
See you soon!

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Review - The Return of the King

Original Title: The Return of the King
Series: Lord of the Rings, #3
Author: J. R. R. Tolkien
Published: October 20th, 1955

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (this edition)
The board is set, and the pieces are moving.

We traveled, and fought. We lost and cried. And here we are, at last, at the end of all things.

No review, no matter how long, can do proper justice to the magnificence of this book, and of course, the movie that adapted it. Both made history, and conquered a place that nothing, ever, will take from them. This journey will live in us forever. At loss of words, I solemnly bow in front of J. R. R. Tolkien, and Peter Jackson, for what they did.

As I read Return of the King again, I realized something that I never noticed before, that perhaps I knew but I did not stop to consider it. And it is that every character has a story to tell, to the point that, if you want, you can write a book telling the same story, from their point of view, and you would get an equally rich tale. Imagine Lord of the Rings told from Gandalf’s viewpoint, or Merry’s, or Éowyn’s, or Faramir’s. Each and every one of these people have something to say, a past, a way of seeing things that make their voices unique, and would be perfectly capable of telling us about their lands, their battles and their feelings, in full detail, and in an equally believable way.

This story opens with Pippin and Gandalf, riding to Gondor, after Pippin couldn’t help himself and looked into the Palantír from Orthanc. Until then, Merry and Pippin had been doing everything together, and in this book, they are separated, and have to grow on their own, finding themselves individually, discovering what they are capable of, and the part they have to play in this war. The Ents are left behind, and what awaits them now is the open battlefield. And so, they pledge themselves in the service of King Théoden, and Lord Denethor. One of my favorite parts in this book is Merry and Pippin’s evolution, and how they are so relatable because of that. Especially Pippin; his growth is amazing, as we go with him as he discovers his own courage, and proves that heroes aren’t always leaders or great captains, and that the purity of your heart is what counts in the end. Yes, you will make mistakes along the way, but you can, and must, learn from them, as they can be the first step into becoming a better person. Obviously, Pippin shouldn’t have looked into the Palantír, but he did, and from that he became a knight of Gondor, saved Faramir’s life, and was later one of the captains during the scouring of The Shire, proving that sometimes your mistakes are the threshold to your purpose, and the tests you endure reveal what you are truly capable of.

When they go back to The Shire, and someone insults Frodo, Pippin just won’t tolerate it.

He cast back his cloak, flashed out his sword, and the silver and sable of Gondor gleamed on him as he rode forward. […]

Down on your knees in the road and ask pardon, or I will set this troll’s bane in you!

This is definitely not the same clueless Pippin that left the Shire all those months ago, and I’m so proud of him. His heart is now divided between his two homes, as he became a warrior and a knight in Gondor, and will defend it to the end.

And Merry doesn’t lag behind.
“‘Bill Ferny’ said Merry, ‘if you don’t open that gate in ten seconds, you’ll regret it. I shall set steel to you, if you don’t obey. And when you have opened the gates you will go through them and never return […].’”

Past Merry would have never uttered this challenge, but he grows so much, fighting his way to becoming this hobbit, and after the battles he went through, one man alone is no threat for him. His attitude is the one to be expected from a knight of the Rohirrim, and when he and Pippin take up as captains to retake The Shire, even there, in that normally quiet corner of the world, the mighty horn of Rohan echoes announcing the turn of the tide. And as we have learned, Rohan’s horns sound when the hour of need comes, and never in vain. Théoden would have been proud of his esquire. Even if at first, they felt like a burden to the others during the journey, they were able to find their place, through their courage and their mistakes, and that allowed them to become the leaders The Shire needed. Otherwise, the hobbits couldn’t have resisted or fought back, because war is not in them. They can be warriors, but they choose not to, as their hearts lie in living in peace.

But before all this, we get to visit Gondor.
The description of Minas Tirith has to be one of the most intricate I’ve ever read, and it’s fascinating. This place that looks unconquerable, a solid fortress of stone and marble that stood for thousands of years, is not as strong as it seems. In the absence of a King, and with a Steward that is slowly losing his mind, who makes decisions out of pride instead of wisdom, Gondor is on the brink of destruction, only kept afloat by the brave men who every day risk their lives to protect it with sword and courage. As Gandalf and Pippin ride across the plains, they see the beacons burning, as the country calls for aid, and unlike in the movie, is not for them to be seen in Rohan only, but for whoever sees them and is willing to come in Gondor’s hour of need. That’s when we meet characters that didn’t made it to the screen, but were there nonetheless, like Prince Imrahil from Dol Amroth, Faramir’s uncle on his mother side. He’s the one that realizes that Éowyn is still alive after falling unconscious in the battlefield, he assumes Gondor’s command after Denethor’s death and Faramir’s inability, he rides with Aragorn to the Black Gate, and later on, his daughter Lothíriel marries Éomer, hence becoming Queen of Rohan.

I want to talk about this man for a minute.
Denethor II, son of Echtelion, Steward of Gondor, and father to Boromir and Faramir. He’s one horrible man, but also a really well written character, who only got better after John Noble’s flawless acting. Here, I think his costume deserves a mention. Ngila Dickson says that she tried to make him look vain and expensive, as grandeur as she possibly could, with luscious furs and pelts, embroidered pieces and luxurious fabrics. And all this, without resorting to color, and adding the chainmail and the sword, to show how this man fancies himself a soldier, in despite that we never, ever see him doing anything remotely close to what a soldier is supposed to do. But also –and this is me– the black costume is completely opposite to anything we’ve seen his sons wearing. Denethor practically blends with the hall he sits in, almost like another of its statues, as his figure is made bigger by the elegant fabrics and the coat that drags behind him; but at the same time is not something someone who is ready to fight would wear. I see it as a way he has of appearing greater than he is, but also, it makes him look like he’s been sitting there for so long, in that huge hall of marble and stone, that he also became marble and stone.

I despise Denethor. During the Osgiliath scene in the extended edition of Two Towers, we can see how he’s absolutely undeserving of the sons he has. But he played with forces far greater than him, and paid for it with his life. Much like Gollum, because both came too close to the Enemy, and both went mad, they lost themselves inside their own minds. Denethor dared to pry into Sauron’s secrets, and it worn him out. He already had a bitter heart, but that pushed him over the edge, with no possibilities of returning. And yet, his son still loved him, in despite of having to live with the burden of being the least cherished child of a father who wasn’t exactly subtle about it, leaving very clear that he would rather have him dead than Boromir, in despite that he did everything he could to keep Gondor safe.

And this is in the movie in a way that’s not easily forgettable. Faramir had left Frodo go instead of taking the Ring for Gondor, and that was the final straw for Denethor. Angry at his son, he dispatches him to Osgiliath to retake it after it was overrun by Orcs, and when he and his men ride out, it is absolutely heartbreaking, not only because of the sad music and the men’s facial expressions, but because when people throw flowers at their feet, it’s like they are already dead.
As they go, you know there’s no way they can come back victorious. You know they simply won’t survive the madness of trying to retake Osgiliath, because although they are brave, and willing to fight, the reality of being outnumbered will soon crush them. It is folly, only a madman would attempt it. You lose that battle just by thinking about it. Yet, the fact that you see that Denethor eats as his men die for him, including the only son he has left, gives this idea that sending people to the grave became an everyday occurrence for him, and that it doesn’t interfere with other, more ordinary things in his life. He had looked into the Palantír, he believed the war was already lost, and still, he tries to do this, but not out of hope. Denethor doesn’t feel anything that could come any close to that. It’s pride, and stubbornness.

As opposed to Denethor, there’s Théoden of Rohan, who indeed deserves to be called a leader.
After Hirgon, errand-rider from Gondor, brings the Red Arrow as a token of war, which hadn’t been seen in the Riddermark in his time, he realizes how serious Gondor’s need is, and for the way he speaks from then on, it’s noticeable that he knows he won’t survive the war. And this is in the movie, too, when he’s talking to Éowyn in the Rohirrim’s encampment, and every word is basically a farewell. He tells her “I would have you smile again, not grieve for those whose time has come. You shall live to see these days renewed.” Not “we”, but “you”. He knows his time has come, and that he won’t see her again after this moment. And although Éowyn treats him more as a king than a relative, Théoden shortens that distance, and reminds her that he always wanted her happiness, and loved her as a daughter. It’s heartbreaking, but I’m glad their relationship was included, because he was the only father figure and example Éowyn ever knew. In the book, Théoden never finds out she’s next to him in the battlefield, but in the movie, he does, and I think it’s so emotional that right on the verge of death, her name is his last word, and he gets to see her smiling at him once more.

Meanwhile, Minas Tirith is under siege, with a mad Steward who doesn’t show up to fight, an injured, unconscious captain about to be burned alive by said Steward, and the courage of its men hanging by a thread. If they held up and fought, it was because of Gandalf and his ring, Narya; but they wouldn’t resist for long on their own. And so, comes one of the most epic battles fiction has ever known.

Great horns of the north wildly blowing. Rohan had come at last.”

I don’t think I can put into words how I feel when, in the middle of Gondor’s siege, on fire and with the gate burst into pieces, leaderless and on the brink of ruin, the horns finally sound, announcing how the story is about to change. You become a captive of what is happening, the story absorbs you completely, and keeps you silent, but heavily breathing all the way through.

With that he seized a great horn from Guthláf his banner-bearer, and he blew such a blast upon it that it burst asunder. And straightaway all the horns in the host were lifted up in music, and the blowing of the horns of Rohan in that hour was like a storm upon the plain and a thunder in the mountains.

The charge of the Rohirrim, with the horns and the king’s words, are the epitome of epicness. In the movie, it is always one of my favorite scenes. It never fails to give me goosebumps and accelerate my heartbeat, as the riders advance, unstoppable, making the scene incredible beyond words. And as they do, the Hardanger fiddle sounds for the last time, in a melody you recognize as the Rohan theme, but more intense. And in the books, you feel you are right there, with them, ready to ride into the battle that will define the fate of Gondor, and basically of the race of Men. I can’t put into words each and every one of my feelings with the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, you have to read it too, to understand what I mean. Even though every horse and rider who falls pierces your heart, the way they are unstoppable is indescribable. It truly is to win or die. This is the only way they will act, fighting down to the last man. And while Denethor, the supposed leader of Gondor, is trying to burn alive without even fighting, a true king is out there, giving his life and those of his men to save the city (although we cannot say that it’s Rohan’s victory only, Aragorn came and won in the name of Gondor, too).

But while all this takes place, nor Théoden nor Éomer know there’s someone else among them, that shouldn’t be there.
It’s is in Return of the King that Éowyn’s development truly comes, and as a warrior, she can give Boromir a run for his money. She’s a true Queen, at least in spirit.

Miranda Otto’s acting when the Rohirrim get to Minas Tirith is amazing, because it shows that Éowyn, though brave, has never been in battle before, and her eyes show the fear of not knowing what will happen; yet, she won’t turn back.
As the battle goes on and the Haradrim show up, she’s the only one smart enough to go and cut the tendons in the oliphaunt’s legs to prevent it from advancing, while everybody else is aiming for their heads and making the beasts mad and utterly more dangerous. And of course, few moments are as epic as this one.

And if words spoken of old be true, not by the hand of man shall he fall, and hidden from the Wise is the doom that awaits him.”, Gandalf had previously said. And sometimes I think, it’s not so much that she did it, as the fact that no one saw it coming, not even the Witch-King. She is the unexpected factor that changes the tides of the war. I love how it says that after Éowyn stabs him, “the great shoulders bowed before her.” Not even the Nazgûl could break her spirit and resolve, and in the end, she stood while he shrieked and disappeared. At her feet. Like a Queen.

Éowyn always knew that she was born for far more than just staying in Edoras and taking care of the small tasks. And I love the fact that she went for it, defying everyone and breaking the rules cast over her. She was perfectly aware of what she was capable of, although she was withering away in the castle, the only woman in the midst of men, but being no less than them in skill, bravery and temper. As Gandalf says to Éomer:

You had horses, and deeds of arms, and the free fields; but she, born in the body of a maid, had a spirit and a courage at least the match of yours.

And I wonder, what else could anyone expect from a woman raised among men, horses and weapons, witness to glory and honor in battle every day of her life? And worse, seeing all that denied to her, wasting her days, lonely and cold, yet devoted to those she loved. She’s a daughter of kings, and for that “stern as a steel”. In the movie, Éomer tells her that “war is the province of men”, and even though it doesn’t say, because she goes to battle with the hope of dying an honorable death, it’s as if she had taken it as a challenge. Her bravery and determination are what inspires Merry to do something that would surely cost his life, sneaking on the Witch-King and stabbing him, to help her. I like that, in the in the movie, Merry actually knows he’s riding with Éowyn, and not with a man named Dernhelm, because it adds to the development of their relationship; they have a lot in common when it comes to the war. They both had been told that the battlefield was not their place, but they knew very well that, sooner or later, everyone would have to fight, whether they wanted it or not. And they were both willing to prove what they were made of, defying those around them, being the only ones who stayed when the Witch-King showed up, and in the end, reverting the tides of the battle, achieving something that not even the greatest warriors could. Heroes, indeed, come in all shapes and sizes.

Also, I think it’s important to mention that Éowyn’s wish for death in the battlefield is not fully a reaction to being rejected by Aragorn. She had wanted to ride into battle like all the men in her life, long before meeting him, and was frustrated because she could not. However, Aragorn’s rejection is the final straw that leads her to make her decision; without that, her life was destined to be forever what had been until then, sad and lonely. However, I will say, the fact that Aragorn had already pledged his heart to another doesn’t mean that, had he not, she wouldn’t have been a match for him. Aragorn himself admits that “few other griefs amid the ill chances of this world have more bitterness and shame for a man’s heart than to behold the love of a lady so fair and brave that cannot be returned.” He has no more than respect and understanding for her, because he sees that she is, indeed, worthy of being loved. Yet, as a true man of honor –and a gentleman–, he never leads her on, or gives her false hope. If he had, I believe Éowyn could have truly gotten to love him as a man, beyond her idea of great deeds and glory, but the truth is, she didn’t know Aragorn the way Arwen did, with all his hopes, fears, faults and virtues.

The fact that Éowyn is written as a shieldmaiden doesn’t mean she’s cold, or unfeeling, in any way, for the love she feels is strong and intense, and that is what moves her to fight an enemy that even Gandalf feared. She rode into battle not even thinking she would encounter the very incarnation of darkness, and when she saw Théoden fall, she didn’t think it twice and faced the Witch-King, in despite of the terror he inspired. As Aragorn later says, she fought a foe that was beyond both her physical and mental strength, and paid for it with the Black Breath, but my point is that she was there with the secret wish for death, and yet, jumps in defense of her uncle out of love, willing to save him no matter what. And that is something that we see in Éomer too, because when he sees his sister unconscious in the battlefield, he’s possessed by a temporary madness that rekindles his fury and makes him charge towards the enemy.

Karl Urban deserves an award for that earth-shattering scream, when Éomer finds Éowyn in the battlefield, and holds her in utter despair, believing her dead.
They win at Pelennor Fields, but the price is terrible, there can be no joy in this victory. Théoden is dead, in honor and glory, and Merry, Éowyn and Faramir lie in the Houses of Healing, afflicted with the Black Breath. And even though Aragorn manages to bring them back from the shadows, sometimes the spirit takes a little longer to heal. Yet Éowyn doesn’t want to heal, but to ride to war again, and when she asks to leave, she meets Faramir, and they eventually become friends.

I personally think Faramir and Éowyn are perfect for each other. They have more in common than it seems. Both were forgotten in favor of others, overlooked, but equally capable, and still loved and followed by their people. No one deserved a happy ending more than them, even if it wasn’t together. They both fought their own battles, and saw too much grief and pain in their lives, especially Éowyn. She knew loss at a very young age, and even after that, she had to wait on an old man, a task in which she found no honor or glory, when she would have liked to prove her worth just as Éomer and Théodred did. And Faramir was very sad and lonely too, having a lot more than the responsibility for the war in his mind, especially his own grief after the loss of Boromir, and his worry over his father’s decay and mental instability. Plus, if anyone knows about unpraised deeds, that is him, always in his brother’s shadow, even after his death. True is that people fall in love faster in war, especially in the brink of darkness, but before knowing them together, we get to know them separately, and we know they are compatible.
Faramir and Éowyn’s hand holding is deeper, and more meaningful, than entire romances I’ve seen or read. There’s so much in that simple gesture, and moreover, because they don’t even know they’ve held hands, the same way they don’t know how much they are holding on to each other as they wait for news, in the despair of not knowing, and in Éowyn’s case, her eagerness to ride into battle again. They don’t know they are healing each other.
The beauty of their story lies in seeing how they unexpectedly find each other when they thought nothing good could happen after the terrible loss and pain they went through, and so, they are able to finally move on from their pain. When Faramir tells her he loves her, it says that “her winter passed”, and she finally smiles again. Her coldness was her shield, a self-defense mechanism that allowed her to survive all those years, but with him she could be vulnerable, without getting hurt, and be loved by herself. She wasn’t essentially cold, but with fire in other areas of her life, same as him, who was strong in many ways, but not perhaps in the one that was expected from him. Faramir makes Éowyn stop wishing for death and makes her sadness go away, and yes, he may not be a king, but not for that he is less worthy of her. She got to know him in a way that she could never know Aragorn, and saw him as the honorable man he was. And she loved him, or she wouldn’t have married him, as she had already proved she was not the kind of person that would have settled because she had no other choice. But I like how she can be both the shieldmaiden and the lady who falls in love. Faramir may not be Aragorn, but he has honor and the entirety of Gondor loved him, and saw how admirable he was, when his own father didn’t.

Pity that the only kiss in the entire trilogy didn’t make it to the screen. The only thing I feel Éowyn’s character lacked was, in fact, a special honoring after her battle deeds, which weren’t small at all. After she kills the Witch-King, it’s barely mentioned again, save Faramir telling her that she has herself won a renown that shall not be forgotten. As it had been foretold that no man would kill him, the battle wouldn’t have been won without her, so I think she deserved a little more renown, after Théoden’s funeral.

I want to talk about the King, for a while.
Aragorn grows so much during this book, as he leaves the Ranger behind, and starts to act more as the leader he is, no longer hiding who he is, not even to Sauron himself. Still loyally followed by Legolas, Gimli, and now the Grey Company, he sets for the Paths of the Dead, to make those who vowed to defend Gondor finally fulfill their oath. And yes, gathering an army of ghosts may sound a little too farfetched, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and it gives them the surprise factor with the corsairs of Umbar. Yet, Aragorn’s destiny is more than just achieving victory in the battlefield, because, yes, kings are warriors, but also healers; it’s their duty towards their people, and their land. In Gondor there was an old lore that said “the hands of the king are the hands of a healer”, and so the rightful king would be known. Aragorn comes to the Houses of Healing, and asks for the plant athelas to treat the wounded, and if you read carefully, you can tell how it is a metaphor of himself. As a Ranger, no one paid him any heed, much like the plant, which was considered a useless weed. But it had more power than it was given credit for, being able to purify the air, and heal in ways no one thought possible, defeating the Black Breath and restoring life, even when no one was aware of it. Just like Aragorn, who always was more powerful than it seemed, full of virtues, but often dismissed and ignored, with an aspect that made him go unnoticed. But such as the kingsfoil’s is Aragorn’s destiny, in the end, healing and banishing the darkness forever.

Yet Aragorn’s task is not only saving Gondor, but also, making amends after what Isildur did. If he wanted to, he could enter Minas Tirith, and sit on the throne, and he would be right to do so; after all, it is rightfully his, and his attitude is that of a king as the book progresses. But he doesn’t, and I so admire and love him for that. He will fight for what it is his, but it’s not in the sense of a possession, but of service. A king owes himself to his people, as a leader, a warrior, and a healer. Aragorn knows very well that taking the throne entails a huge responsibility, and that first he as to prove he is worthy of it. But one thing is for sure, and is that he’s no longer a Ranger.
Even though that is a big part of his life, and taught him almost everything he knows, making him who he is, in this book his majesty and his authority are a lot stronger, and people around him feel them, and for that respect and admire him. Also, he’s aware that victory, if achieved, won’t be only his. He doesn’t want glory, but all those who fought with him to be recognized. Everyone suffered the war, and they survived it through fighting in all kinds of fronts, not only the battlefield. And moreover, when he’s crowned King of Gondor, Faramir asks in a loud voice: “Shall he be king and enter into the City and dwell there?”. And I love it. It moves me, because, in the end, it’s the people’s will, and not his own, the one that determines the Return of the King.

Although before that, there’s the decision of going to the Black Gate and challenging Sauron, to give Frodo and Sam an opportunity to finish their task.
It’s a foolish move, and they know it very well. But nor their hope nor their intention are in winning. There’s only one way to win the war, and they know very well that it isn’t in their hands, yet, they are willing to sacrifice everything for that last remnant of hope. And I like the fact that in that last battle, the army is composed by men from Rohan, Gondor, and Dol Amroth, without any distinction. There’s no point in making a difference, because Darkness won’t, either, falling over everyone equally, and destroying without any consideration. Plus, as Faramir points out, every man that falls in battle is a terrible loss, while, for the enemies, a fallen soldier is immediately replaced, and means nothing. And that would be the future of the race of Men, battle after battle, until the day there was no one left to defend their lands and their people, finally being defeated. Without the Ring destroyed, the doom of the world would only be delayed by Men’s sheer will alone, their strength to grab a sword, and their decision of not going down without a fight; but that wouldn’t last forever. So, this attempt to go and challenge Sauron is more about saying that even if they perish, they would be giving their lives for a chance of a better world, even if they aren’t there to see it. A very slim chance. But their hope isn’t in the numbers and in the physical act of fighting, but in using what they know to their advantage. So, no matter how you see it, it is a risky move that is born from bravery as well as despair. An ill-advised one, you may think, but with the noblest of purposes.

While all this happens, Sam and Frodo keep trudging through Middle Earth, towards Mordor. The road is more difficult with each step they take, not only for the evil that reigns in the Nameless Land, and the days getting darker, but because the Ring gets heavier, and takes hold on Frodo. In the movie, there’s a moment in which Sam wants to make Frodo eat some food, saying he’s rationing the lembas bread they have left.

This, right here, it’s when it hits you. You didn’t think about the journey back, either. And it’s kind of the same with us, because once we take this journey with them, there’s no turning back.

At the end of Two Towers, Gollum betrayed them, and Frodo was taken unconscious to Cirith Ungol, after Sam, believing him dead, took the Ring to keep going and finish the quest. But now that he knows Frodo is alive, he’s determined to save him. And this is the book in which you see how Samwise Gamgee, gardener of Bag End, is the real hero of Lord of the Rings. He’s not immune to the Ring’s power, and is tempted by it, in a vision that promises that the Dark Lord will be banished and Mordor will be turned into a huge, beautiful garden. Yet, he resists, because “The one small garden of a free gardener was all his needs and due, not a garden swollen to a realm; his own hands to use, not the hands of others to command”. If Sam was less pure and innocent, he may have been tempted by the Ring beyond redemption, but the power of Mordor can’t do anything against this, against his absolute lack of ambition and wish to dominate others, and his satisfaction on the simple things in life.

But Frodo is not like that.

I am almost in its power now. I could not give it up, and if you tried to take it I should go mad.

At first it was possible to see that Frodo could resist the Ring, but near the end, he doesn’t even try anymore, he knows there’s no point to it. Heavier with every step he takes, it doesn’t let go of him. So, it becomes Sam’s responsibility to keep Frodo moving, talking to him, and reminding him there’s still beauty and life in the world, beyond the mountains of Mordor. He has to be strong for both of them.

But this blind dark seems to be getting into my heart. As I lay in prison, Sam, I tried to remember the Brandywine, and Woody End, and The Water running through the mill at Hobbiton. But I can’t see them now.

The despair Mordor provokes is too well written. What they see there is what the Ring does inside those who have it. It smothers their essence, and anything that could grow and bear fruit, is killed. Even the memory of it. Nothing grows in Mordor, and the same happens to Frodo, who day after day is less willing to fight back the darkness that crept over him since the journey started. Already shivering, hungry and thirsty, Frodo and Sam look over the Black Land, and the descriptions really let you feel how their hope of getting alive to Orodruin wavers, but even if they had the chance to turn back, they wouldn’t even take it now. All is onward, onward until exhaustion, starvation and hopelessness kills them. It’s beyond all words, beyond anything I can tell you. You need to read it yourself to understand what I mean.

Never for long had hope died in his staunch heart, and always until now he had taken some thought of their return. But the bitter truth came home to him at last: at best their provision would take them to their goal; and when the task was done, there they would come to an end, alone, houseless, foodless in the midst of a terrible desert. There could be no return.

This is when you realize that even when, ultimately, it’s Frodo’s responsibility to throw the Ring into the fire, all hope for the success of the quest rests on Sam’s shoulders, and that it is his strength and resolve what keeps them walking. Before this, he was a follower, a small figure amidst the tall, experienced warriors in the Company, such as Aragorn and Gandalf, but now he becomes a leader by necessity and discovers that he has what it takes. In the end, it depends on him, because after Cirith Ungol, Frodo reached the end of his strength, not broken yet, but definitely overcome by darkness and despair.

Up to the moment in which Sam decides to carry Frodo, I didn’t notice how deep into it I was, until I felt my eyes welled up in tears. It is what this entire trilogy does to you.

His will was set, and only death could break it.

As they get closer to Mount Doom, they have to leave everything useless behind, including Sam’s cooking gear, which is heartbreaking.

Now at last they turned their faces to the Mountain and set out, thinking no more of concealment, bending their weariness and failing wills only to the one task of going on.

This is how much nothing matters anymore. It’s just moving forward. Walking, walking and walking. Until the task is done. And nothing else. But they are not alone. Gollum is following them, determined to get the Ring back. When they finally reach Mount Doom, Frodo refuses to destroy the Ring, utterly in its power now, but Gollum leaps on him, and they struggle for a while. This scene, especially in the movie, is heart-stopping.
Being so close, and on the brink of losing everything, their whole struggle one step away of being completely in vain. It’s just… Incredibly well done, both in the book and the movie.

But with this, it’s clear once again that the Ring isn’t meant for anyone that isn’t Sauron. No one else can wield it for long, without going mad. Yet it is ironic that both its first and last bearers lost it by having their finger torn from their hands, by characters who died desperately trying to keep it, and were betrayed by it.

This is the only possible end for Gollum. If a part of Sméagol still lied inside of him, by this point is completely gone. He dies with the Ring, because there was no turning back for him, no possible salvation. In his purity, Frodo had thought that there may be still hope for him, but the sad reality soon took over. There was no possible differentiation between his personality and the Ring, he was lost beyond redemption. Yet none of them kills him, as it seemed his fate would be, making him pay for all his treachery. The damage done by the Ring can’t be undone. It can heal but it will leave marks, yet Gollum didn’t want, nor couldn’t, leave that part of his life behind. Simply, his part in this tale, though important, was done, and he had to step aside. He had a violent end, but it couldn’t have been in any other way.

And there was Frodo, pale and worn, and yet himself again; and in his eyes there was peace now, neither strain of will, nor madness, nor any fear.

This is the line when you let go the breath you didn’t know you were holding, since Frodo and Gollum started fighting for the Ring. As both hobbits lie on the rock, surrounded by all the lava and smoke that came out from Orodruin, unaware of the army that, right outside the Black Gate, is fighting for them, or that Barad-dûr is crumbling and falling, they remember happy times in their home, that is so far from them now, as the tune that sounds in the background is like a sad version of The Shire theme, because now that it is over, they remain their simple selves, yet broken, and utterly lost, because there’s no escape from there.

And I dare you not to cry.

But the Eagles come, and retrieve them from the depths of Mordor, taking them to the safety of Gondor, where they wake up to their friends, and the highest honors, and although no one can fully understand what they went through, that doesn’t stop the very King of Gondor from kneeling before them.

Aragorn himself, who should bow to no one, knows when he is in front of true heroism and majesty. In the movie is not only Frodo and Sam, but also Merry and Pippin, and they deserve it. Without them, Isengard would have never been defeated, because even without the physical skill to lead a battle, they were able to wake up those who could, and ended Saruman’s abuse. Plus, without Pippin and his mistakes, Faramir would have been burned, and with him all hope for Gondor. And without Merry, Éowyn would have been killed, and the Witch King wouldn’t have been defeated. They both grew a lot from those naïve, yet loyal, hobbits who left The Shire not really knowing where they were going, with zero fighting skills, but being stronger than what they thought. The four hobbits, together and separately, have some of the best character evolution arcs in the history of fiction.

Though I may come to the Shire, it will not seem the same; for I shall not be the same.

They left without anyone knowing, and they suddenly came back like this. Such a shock for the other hobbits! But this is what allowed them to be leaders for The Shire in its hour of need. Because even when the Ring is destroyed, and there’s a good number of pages telling us about the peaceful times that followed, not everyone is happy. As the attention was elsewhere, Saruman crawled his way into The Shire and took over it, and that, if you ask me, is definitely going too far. It’s a last, desperate attempt to grab some power, after being utterly humiliated, even without magic. Because one thing is trying to conquer Rohan or Gondor, countries that are prepared for war and can fight back, but messing with the hobbits is just too wrong. I myself will personally go and beat him up. Hobbits are peaceful creatures who do not bother anyone, love the simple things in life and stay out of everyone’s way, happy to be left alone. If Saruman had to go and slave them to feel he still had a little power left, I feel sorry for him. He wanted to rise with Sauron, and be unstoppable, and yet, he met his end at the hands of the servant he mistreated so much, right at Bag End’s door. As a Maiar his death would only be physical, but he never reached peace, rejected by those in the West, and left powerless, never to return to Middle Earth. And this is what excessive ambition does to you, leading to your downfall.

The four hobbits had to play a part in retaking The Shire, but Sam’s, just as it was during the journey, isn’t in fighting. He’s a leader now. And leaders heal. The darkness he faced couldn’t kill his purity nor his selflessness, and so, he uses Galadriel’s gift, not for himself, as it was meant, but to give new life to his home, after all its suffering, making it grow again, richer and more beautiful than it ever was. And yes, perhaps one would think that, after such journey, Sam’s ending is very common, even a cliché, as he gets his happy ending with a wife and children, but he deserved it more than anyone.

He was never ambitious, being the epitome of hobbits as they are, satisfied with the joys of everyday life. So, it is a simple happy ending for a simple hobbit, in which he asks for nothing more. It’s his turn to be selfish after being such a friend and guardian for Frodo, and for not using Galadriel’s gift for himself only.

If you want, you can read The Shire beyond fiction, as metaphor of the comfort zone, because those who leave it return changed. They simply cannot get back to what it was. Bilbo feels restless, liked trapped, in a place he almost didn’t leave in the first place. Frodo returns but he left a part of himself in every place he was in. Merry and Pippin become leaders, and when they die of old age, they lie next to Aragorn himself, in Gondor, next to the other Kings. They simply can’t go back. Not after everything they went through and the people they met. And this can be seen in the movies.
Of all the deeply emotional moments, I think the toast of the four hobbits deserves a mention. So much can be read on it, in their faces. They fought to defend their home, but they came back utterly changed. They are not the same four friends that left, and all they saw and lived will never leave them now. They really earned that drink, you could also say. Those around them could never understand, because their essence as hobbits was utterly touched by the world of Men, Elves, Ents, and the Darkness they encountered every step of the way. As it happened with Bilbo, there’s absolutely no way to come back from this journey, and they may be back in The Shire, but not as they left. It’s like saying “this right here, around us, is what we fought to save”. And it had its price.

But Frodo is hurt beyond all healing, and as much as it pains me to see him as he hugs his friends for the last time, and boards the ship in the Grey Havens, I believe it is the only possible end for him. He would never find peace in Middle Earth again. As Ring-bearer, he earned his entrance into the Undying Lands, taking the place in the ship that would have been Arwen’s, hadn’t she decided to stay with Aragorn. With him go the Elves, as their time is ended and the Three Rings lost their power, and so does Gandalf, because his task in Middle Earth is finally done.
It truly is the end of all things. Yet hobbits, until then unknown by many outside The Shire, were written forever in the pages of history by these four heroes that will also live forever, in our hearts.

Finally, a word in these, the greatest movies ever filmed. I think it is beautiful and amazing to see how everyone behind the whole trilogy was so committed to the project, with such love for what they were doing, from screenwriters, to the costume designer, the make-up artists, the composer… Everyone. And also, how the actors would sometimes do or suggest things to add to their characters to make their scenes richer. For example, Sir Ian McKellen going around set with a copy of the book to make sure he was playing the Gandalf Tolkien had written; Sir Christopher Lee going to the make-up department to give tips on how to get the Orcs right; Billy Boyd composing the tune he sings for Denethor, that made the scene what it is; Andy Serkis risking hypothermia to bring Gollum to life in a frozen river; Bernard Hill coming up with the idea of having Théoden rattling the Rohirrim’s spears right before battle; Viggo Mortensen and his commitment to Aragorn that made him carry a sword wherever he went outside the set, and scored him a call to the police, and a number of injuries, because he didn’t use any stuntmen, and worked through the pain. And so on. You don’t do this if you don’t love what you are doing. And that love shows. Every emotion and action on screen pull you in, to the point that you are a part of the story you are watching, and the feeling is just incredible. This is what fiction is supposed to do. To make you think but also feel. And feel deeply, in a way in which you don’t know where else to go after it.

Tolkien may have written about kings, but he’s definitely the King of epic fantasy. And all I can say is thank you. Thank you for all these characters and places that talk to us, and let us glimpse into ourselves, too. Even when Middle Earth is another, completely different world from ours, all these people we get to travel with are close to us, and we can relate to them in incredible ways. Lord of the Rings is a timeless classic, both in book and movie form, and I recommend it to everyone. It’s brilliant, complex and yet simple, and it will speak to your heart, as well as make you feel you are right there with them, walking through Middle Earth in this amazing quest.

If you made it this far, thank you so much!
I’m glad I could share this journey will all of you.
See you soon!