Publisher’s Summary: The Return of the King is the towering climax to J. R. R. Tolkien’s trilogy that tells the saga of the hobbits of Middle-earth and the great War of the Rings. In this concluding volume, Frodo and Sam make a terrible journey to the heart of the Land of the Shadow in a final reckoning with the power of Sauron.
In addition to narrating the prose passages, Rob Inglis sings the trilogy’s songs and poems a capella, using melodies composed by Inglis and Claudia Howard, the Recorded Books studio director. This recording also contains Tolkien’s preface to the trilogy, including a prior history of the ring, and shire habitat, history, and folkways.
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After the defeat of Sarumanís army of Uruk Hai in the previous book, Gandalf and Pippin are on their way to Minas Tirith where they will be given a cold welcome by Denethor, the cityís steward. Pippin will swear his sword to Denethor in gratitude to Denethorís son, Boromir, who gave his life to save the hobbit in the first book.
Gandalf notices a ìBlanket of Gloomî settling over the city of Minas Tirith and it must be coming from Mordor. Aragorn meanwhile is beginning to realize that the riders are not going to reach Gondor in time to save the city of Minas Tirith and so, with Legolas and Gimli he cuts through the Halls of the Dead, where after an encounter with the Sleepless Dead. He comes out with an entire army of ghosts at his command.
The Battle for Minas Tirith begins with Mordor’s Army breaking through Minas Tirithís defences, wounding Denethorís remaining son Faramir and making things look grim just before the Riders of Rohan arrive to assist Gondor in their defence. The Black Captain, a Nazgul Rider, slays the King of Rohan and is then slain by Lady Eowyn and Merry.
As the Forces of Mordor regroup to attempt another assault on the seriously outnumbered forces of Rohan and Gondor, Aragorn and the Sleepless Dead Arrive from the Anduin River, riding the Black Ships they commandeered from the enemy.
Denethor succumbing to the Gloom attempts to burn his wounded –but still breathing– son on a pyre, but is prevented from killing his son by Gandalf and Pippin. Denethor then burns himself on the pyre shortly before victory is achieved. Aragorn then fulfills a prophecy concerning being crowned king of Gondor by healing those wounded by the Black Captain.
In order to assist the ring-bearer by providing a distraction, Aragorn leads his army to the Black Gate where the meet a Mordor Lieutenant and the Forces of Mordor. The hobbits relying on skill, cunning and the power of the ring manage to escape from Cirith Ungol tower and press on toward Mordor with the indestructible Golem close on their tail –and the ring growing heavier with each step.
Frodo changes his mind about destroying the ring when Gollum shows up to bite it off his finger and fall into the chasm below in the ensuing scuffle –successfully removing both the ring and Gollum from the story. The destruction of the ring breaks the power of Sauron and the forces of Mordor at the Black Gate are crushed by Aragorn and Gondor. Gandalf flies on the back of Gwaihir, the giant eagle, to rescue Frodo and Sam from the slopes of Orodruin.
Aragorn is then crowned king of Gondor and marries Arwen the Daughter of Elrond of Rivendell. The Hobbits return to their Shire only to find it needs to be rescued from the assault of Sauron the deposed Wizard, in the form of some oppressive men. The valiant hobbits save the shire and Frodo spares the life of the wizard. Sauron meets his fate at the hand of Grima Wormtongue.
The Shire is restored to its original beauty and Sam marries Rosie Cotton. Frodo still feeling the burden of the ring chooses to leave the Shire and dwell in the paradise of the elves across the sea with Bilbo and Gandalf.
There is also a long appendix that contains copious information on the various languages, cultures and customs of Middle Earth that would be superfluous to summarize in this short article. Learn more about the Return of the King on Wikipedia, or check out the other books in the series: The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, and The Two Towers.