The Return of the King: Character Profiles

Character Profiles Denethor: The Steward of Gondor, who, through the palantír, has received only partial truth about the situation of his kingdom and so falls victim to despair. Pippin: The youngest of the hobbits who set out from the Shire when the quest began, who experiences dramatic growth as a character in Book V through his rash but honorable service to Denethor. Merry: too, offers his service to a great lord, King Théoden of Rohan. In Merrys story, readers see the importance of being willing to take chances and making oneself available for service, even when others do not see how one can serve, for it is Merry who, together with Éowyn, brings down the Witch King of Angmar. Merry reminds readers of one of Tolkiens central themes: help comes in unexpected ways, and valor wears many guises. Aragorn: The heir to the throne of Gondor and the high king of Middle-earth is presented through increasingly messianic imagery in this final third of Tokens tale. For example, when telling Théoden and Éomer that Aragorn has taken the Paths of the Dead, she says, “[H]e has passed into the shadow from which none have returned.” Only a messiah, in other words, can return from the realm of death as Aragorn does (and as Jesus and other Christ-figures in world religion and literature do). Or again, in Book VI, Chapter 4, Frodo and Sam see Aragorn as king and “they knew him, changed as he was”-in other words, the ruler who has come is one they have already known, just as Christians anticipate Christs return to rule, though he has come before. Aragorns messianic status in the book lends to its apocalyptic feel and also completes the characters journey from wandering and sometimes indecisive Ranger to the monarch he was born to be. Éowyn: is devoted to her uncle King Theoden but also feels drawn to what she perceives as her duty to fight in defense of her people. As “Dernhelm,” she rides into battle, where she fells the Witch King of Angmar, the dreaded chief of the Nazgûl. She demonstrates the ability to remain true to her duty and her purpose even when defying the direct orders of others. Specific duties, her story suggests, may change as circumstances change, but the underlying virtue of duty does not. Sam: has evolved considerably as a character since Book I. Most important, Sam becomes a near-perfect embodiment of Tolkiens theme of heroism. In Book VI, Chapter III, for the clearest example, he argues with himself in a way similar to that in which Gollum argued with himself in Book IV. Part of Sam tells himself, “Its all quite useless,” while the other part responds, “Ill carry up Mr. Frodo myself, if it breaks my back and heart. So stop arguing!” Again, despair is no option in Tolkiens philosophy of virtue. Like Aragorn himself and certainly unlike Denethor, Sam “knew all the arguments of despair and would not listen to them. His will was set, and only death would break it.” Frodo: the Ring-bearer, functions as a “wounded healer” in The Return of the King: he brings healing to Middle-earth and most especially to his home country f the Shire, but he cannot find healing for himself within that world. Like Sam, he has grown considerably since readers first met him, but in a rather different direction. Sam grows into his role as a “hobbit of his own” within this world; Frodo grows beyond that role. Arwen: the daughter of Elrond, chooses (as did Luthien for Beren, ages before) to give up immortality in order to spend her days with Aragorn. Her choice is a further representation of the theme of passing that is present throughout The Lord of the Rings. Saruman: represents the stubbornness of pride. Even when virtually all of his power has been taken away from him, he prefers to go his own way and to reject all help or mercy. His appearance in the penultimate chapter of Tolkiens epic reminds readers that evil is persistent, even when its power has already been decisively broken. Gollum: the wretched hobbit-like creature who once possessed the Ring as his own, re-emerges in Book VI as one of the most important players in Tolkiens drama-despite himself! It is his attack of Frodo at Mount Doom that leads to the Rings destruction. Gollum thus represents another of Tolkiens key themes: good (in this case, the Rings destruction) can unexpectedly come out of evil (Gollums desire for and enslavement by the Ring).