The Return of the King

The Return of the King is the third and final volume of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, following The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. It was published in 1955. The story begins in the kingdom of Gondor, which is soon to be attacked by the Dark Lord Sauron.

The Return of the King
The Return of the King cover.gif
First edition, with Tolkien's artwork
AuthorJ. R. R. Tolkien
CountryUnited Kingdom
SeriesThe Lord of the Rings
Set inMiddle-earth
PublisherGeorge Allen & Unwin[1]
Publication date
20 October 1955
Pages416 (first edition)
LC ClassPR6039.O32 L6 1954, v.3
Preceded byThe Two Towers 

Title and publicationEdit

Tolkien conceived of The Lord of the Rings as a single work comprising six "books" plus extensive appendices. The original publisher split the work into three volumes, publishing the fifth and sixth books with the appendices into the final volume with the title The Return of the King. Tolkien felt the chosen title revealed too much of the story, and indicated he preferred The War of the Ring as a title.[2]

The proposed title for Book V was The War of the Ring. Book VI was to be The End of the Third Age.[3] These titles were used in the Millennium edition.

The Return of the King was in the end published as the third and final volume of The Lord of the Rings, on 20 October 1955 in the UK.[4]


Some editions of the volume contain a synopsis for readers who have not read the earlier volumes. The body of the volume consists of Book V: The War of the Ring, and Book VI: The End of the Third Age. The volume ends with a set of appendices and an index, varying in different editions.

Critical receptionEdit

In a review for The New York Times, W. H. Auden praised The Return of the King and found The Lord of the Rings a "masterpiece of the genre".[5]

The science fiction author and critic Anthony Boucher, in a review for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, praised the volume as "a masterly narration of tremendous and terrible climactic events", although he also noted that Tolkien's prose "seems sometimes to be protracted for its own sake".[6]

The critic Edwin Muir, writing in The Sunday Observer, attacked the book as "a boy's adventure story", comparing it to the works of Rider Haggard, and stating that "except for a few old wizards", all the characters "are boys masquerading as adult[s]".[7][8]

The author Anthony Price, reviewing the novel for The Oxford Mail, called it "more than immense; it is complete", praising Tolkien's Middle-earth as "an absolutely real and unendingly exciting world". He admired the characterisation of Tom Bombadil, the Ents, and Gollum. In his view, the One Ring was destroyed "with terrifying logic", though he did not demand that the text end there, noting that the hobbits' return to the Shire put the larger events in perspective.[9][8]

The novelist and publisher Michael Straight, reviewing the whole of The Lord of the Rings in The New Republic, wrote that the devastated landscapes in the work recalled Tolkien's First World War experiences, just as the snowstorm in the Misty Mountains recalled his climbing trip in Switzerland, and the Shire reflected England. He concluded by calling the novel a work of genius.[10][8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "The Return of the King". Between the Covers. Retrieved 28 December 2010.
  2. ^ Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, no. 140, ISBN 0-395-31555-7
  3. ^ Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, no. 136, ISBN 0-395-31555-7
  4. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1981) Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, London, George Allen & Unwin, #172 to Allen & Unwin, 12 October 1955
  5. ^ Auden, W. H. (22 January 1956). "At the end of the Quest, Victory". The New York Times.
  6. ^ Boucher, Anthony (1956). "Recommended Reading". F&SF (July 1956): 92.
  7. ^ Muir, Edwin (27 November 1955). "A Boy's World". The Sunday Observer. p. 11.
  8. ^ a b c Thompson, George H. (1985). "Early Review of Books by J.R.R. Tolkien: Part III". Mythlore. 12 (1): 58-63 (article 12).
  9. ^ Price, Anthony (20 October 1955). "Exciting, Enchanting, Inspiring". The Oxford Mail.
  10. ^ Straight, Michael (16 January 1956). "The Fantastic World of Professor Tolkien". The New Republic (134): 24–26.

External linksEdit