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Lord of the Rings Ending Explained

Credit: Warner Bros

Most Lord of the Rings articles nowadays will likely focus on the forthcoming Amazon TV series, or the recently announced anime, Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim. Amidst these discussions, however, it's important to remember where it all started; not only are Tolkien's books absolutely beautiful, but they've also been extremely influential and, in many ways, shaped the fantasy genre. In this article, the ending of The Lord of the Rings is explained.

In general, The Lord of the Rings is an extremely rich and complex work, but it follows a more or less traditional narrative structure. The plot revolves around one central goal, the quest to destroy the One Ring, and all subplots contribute towards a fight against the evil forces of Sauron. But there are a few parts that are different and more complex in the books or parts you might have questions about:

The Lord of the Rings Ending Explained: How Was the Ring Destroyed?

The destruction of the ring was pretty straightforward, though not everyone expected that twist. There had been plenty of foreshadowing that the Ring corrupts everyone who holds on to it for too long, but it was still heartbreaking to see Frodo overtaken by its power and claiming it for himself.

Nor would you expect that Gollum would accidentally save the day by biting off Frodo's finger to reclaim the Ring. As a result, Frodo was freed by its influence and became himself again, while. Gollum fell into the fires of Mounts Doom, essentially ending Sauron's reign and annihilating his power.

This too had been foreshadowed, of course. Early on, Gandalf advised Frodo never to wish death on a living being, as he believed that even someone like Gollum, who was beyond saving, could still have an important role to play. The ending is thus tied with a central message of the novel; we should pursue our goals with hope, courage, and kindness, without wishing ill on others, as everyone might have an important role to play that we can't always foresee.

The Lord of the Rings Ending Explained: What Happened to the Shire?

In Peter Jackson's film trilogy, the hobbits return to the Shire to find it just as peaceful as it was when they left it, but the book deals with the very real fear of returning home only to find that it's not home any longer. The fact that the Shire was taken over by Saruman perfectly illustrates that nothing is ever safe, making the hobbit's journey a more complete coming-of-age story.

More than the films, the book allows Sam to come into his own, separate from Frodo, who is too exhausted and changed from his journey to actively participate in the struggle against Saruman. Not only is this a more realistic ending, but it also proves that Tolkien's work is no simple, stereotypical hero's journey – even though some treat it as if it was.

Rather than having a hero leave home, experience hardship, learn, and to a home that hasn't changed in his absence, Tolkien's hobbits don't simply return home – they must fight once more, using what they have learned to get it back. Besides, Frodo's lack of participation in the rebellion, compared to Sam's active involvement, foreshadows the bittersweet ending.

The Lord of the Rings Ending Explained: Why Did Frodo Go to the Undying Lands?

The end of The Lord of the Rings marks a new age for Middle Earth, the Fourth Age, also known as the "Age of Men." One of the Third Age's last events is the departure of Elrond, Galadriel, Gandalf, Frodo, and Bilbo into the Undying Lands.

Normally, that Realm was reserved for immortals, but Frodo and Bilbo, and later Sam, were allowed to go, having been ring-bearers.

For many fans, this departure means that Frodo died, though, even if that was the case, they might be better interpreted as an afterlife free from pain and suffering – akin to heaven – rather than annihilation.

Frodo loved the Shire deeply and only left it reluctantly to protect and preserve it, by removing himself and the ring. So, why did he leave it? In the Mallorn article Too Deeply Hurt: Understanding Frodo's Decision to Depart, Karyn Milos succinctly analyses possible reasons for Frodo's departure.

As we saw earlier, the Shire might have survived, but Frodo could not completely keep the corruption and pain of the world outside of it; Saruman proved just that. While, at first, Frodo was relieved to be alive and at home again, he soon realized he could not enjoy the Shire in the same way as before. It had changed, and so had Frodo.

This has partly to do with Frodo's trauma, which he was forced to relive, through increasingly frequent illnesses. While his mission to destroy the ring was successful, Frodo might still remember the ways in which he failed; he didn't willingly let go of the Ring in the end, nor did he succeed in making Gollum's good side the dominant one.

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The above, combined with Frodo's wish to reunite with Bilbo, might have influenced his decision to depart from the Shire and sail with the elves. This might not be the end fans have wanted for him, but it's so much more poignant than other heroes' journeys.

While works that were heavily influenced by The Lord of the Rings often followed overused and idealized formulas, LotR reminds us of the faith and courage required to be the hero, but also of the price one often has to pay in order to be heroic. It's not by chance that it's one of the most enduring fantasy works.

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