Note: If you’re not a fan of spoilers, you might step back from this post in which I discuss the end of The Return of the King.
He drew a deep breath. ‘Well, I’m back,’ he said.
If you know The Lord of the Rings, specifically, The Return of the King (book 3), you’ll recognize those words and who said them. I don’t know about you, but I can’t read them without tearing up, no matter how many times I read them. No. Matter. How. Many. Times. Even now. And I have seen Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Return of the King an embarrassing amount of times. Every time I tear up.
It’s not just the perfection of that ending (and to me it is the perfect ending—so understated). It’s what’s behind it—the knowledge of the arduous journey Sam barely survived and the end of an era. That’s what resonates with me.
I’m rather hobbit-like. And not because I hate wearing shoes. I usually have to be dynamited out of my home and forced to go on an adventure. Bilbo Baggins could take lessons from me on how to cling to a hobbit hole. I’ve got that down to a science.
So I can appreciate the ending Tolkien devised: this weary hobbit returning home without his dearest friend and their mentor, Gandalf. But I finally realize why that ending was so satisfying to me. Though the journey had been difficult for Sam, Frodo, and the other companions, some of whom did not make it back alive, they were forever changed by it. Also, they had lived—really lived, something I don’t quite think I’ve been doing for the last oh ten years or so. Too busy trying to survive the day to day. Too busy also clinging to the fear of inadequacy, rejection, breaking a limb, or whatever else.
Depression changes the color of your life to a washed-out gray. Just getting up in the morning is sometimes difficult for me. So the thought of running from Ringwraiths or giant spiders repels yet excites me, because I don’t quite have those in my life. And when I get to the end of the adventure and Sam goes, “I’m back,” I can’t help thinking, Dude, it was hard, but you lived. Oh how you lived.
Other than heading to graduate school in another state for the last two years, I can’t recall the last adventure I’ve taken. (Well, there was that adventure of trying to find my way home from the unemployment office. . . .) Was it teaching at English Camp that summer in WuJiang, China in 2002? Perhaps. But note the year.
I used to be much more adventurous. I’m not sure how I became so circumspect. So, it’s time to make some changes before I become one of those old people who screams at kids to get off his or her lawn. It’s time I declared my independence from fear, from doubt, from whatever else is holding me back. It’s time I said, “Well, I’m back,” not because I’m relieved to return home but because the old me is back.
What will I do? I don’t know yet. I’ll let you know. How about you? Will you declare your independence with me? And by the way, I hope you have an enjoyable fourth of July! It will be Independence Day on so many levels, won’t it?
Photo of Sean Astin as Samwise Gamgee from fanpop.com.