The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The Return of the King can be found here.

Yes. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is based on the third book of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, written by the English academic and author J.R.R. Tolkien [1892-1973]. The other two books in the series (both movie and novel) are: (1) The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and (2) The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. The novels were adapted for the movie by New Zealand screenwriter Philippa Boyens, director Peter Jackson, and Jackson's wife, screenwriter Fran Walsh. The movie won the 2004 Academy Award for Best Motion Picture.

Sauron, the Dark Lord, is the Lord of the Rings.

Earlier in the story, Gollum was captured by Sauron and tortured and interrogated. When he "escaped" he left via the pass of Cirith Ungol. So the paths he leads Sam and Frodo on are the ones he took when he fled from Mordor. Gollum, being the crafty sort and in possession of the ring for 5 centuries, may have learned how to use stealth to avoid dangerous situations. In the time he took to escape Mordor, he applied this skill to sneaking through the tunnels of Shelob's lair. In the novel, Tolkien explains that, during Gollum's escape from Mordor, he was confronted by Shelob, but he was released on the condition that he would return to her and bring her new and fresh food. This would explain why Shelob did not hunt for Gollum. He had fulfilled his condition by bringing her Frodo, and he was not hers to eat.

The book is more elaborate on this point than the film, and Peter Jackson also explains the reason during the audio commentary on the dvd. The Eagles did not take sides in the War of the Ring until the end, so they would not have assisted Frodo when he started his quest. This is similar to the Ents, who only participated when they felt they were drawn in by Saruman. The Eagles are also very proud creatures, who will not allow themselves to be used as just a means of transportation. The Eagle, Gwahir, that rescued Gandalf (Ian McKellen) from the tower of Saruman (Christopher Lee) did so as a special service to Gandalf, whom he knew personally (Gandalf had previously saved his life). In addition to this, there are allusions that while Sauron was still in power, the Eagles would have struggled getting to Mount Doom, not least because of the wraiths on their fell-beasts and other dark creatures and powers that Sauron had at his disposal. Sending Frodo on the back of an eagle into Mount Doom would have been effectively air-mailing the ring to Sauron. A ground-based approach was decided to be much more effective and appropriate. Finally, the ring corrupts the proud much more easily than the humble. While there is no proof that the ring has the same effect on an Eagle as it does for men, there may have been too much risk in tempting the extremely proud Eagles.

In the book, while traveling with the Rohirrim, Aragorn receives a visit from Elrond's sons Elladan and Elrohir, who come and join him in battle (Aragorn had already received the mended sword back in The Fellowship of the Ring novel). Peter Jackson decided to have Elrond (Hugo Weaving) hand over the sword in the movie, and not his sons, in order to avoid introducing more new characters at such a late time, especially since they would not play major roles in the story. And it also makes for a more dramatic introduction of the mended sword, now named Anduril.

Why is Arwen dying?

Arwen, like her father (and brothers) is considered to be a Half-Elf, the result of a union between an Elf and a mortal human. The Half-Elven of Middle-earth get a choice, to remain immortal and return to the West (Valinor) or to become mortal and to die as humans do. Elrond chose to remain an Elf. Arwen (like her uncle Elros) chooses to become mortal in order to wed and remain with Aragorn. Elrond senses this; this is what he means when he says that Arwen is dying. It is the same as in The Last Unicorn, when the unicorn is given the form of a human woman and can feel that she is no longer immortal ("I can feel this body dying all around me"). According to Tolkien, though, after Aragorn dies in the year 120 (Fourth Age), Arwen returns to Lrien, where she dies by choice the following winter.

The novel states Shelob stung Frodo in the neck, not in the chest as depicted in the film: "Shelob with hideous speed had come behind and with one swift stroke had stung him in the neck." (The Choices of Master Samwise) While we see Shelob impales Frodo in the front with her stinger, we don't see exactly where he was stung. We only see a close-up of Frodo's face while being stung. He could have been stung in the leg, the inner-thigh, or other areas the vest doesn't cover. The wound on Frodo's chest could have been from something else. Or perhaps something was altered during filming which created a continuity error.

In myth and legend, unlike real life, kings were measured by nobility and the honoring of commitments. Aragorn commanded the army of the dead to fulfill their oath by helping him with one battle. Any attempt to send them into another battle would have backfired. He showed his worthiness by honoring his word even though it might have seemed easier to try and do otherwise. Also, the ghosts couldn't kill Sauron. At most they could have given him a fight. From the author's perspective, it would have been too easy of a solution and rendered Tolkien's Eucatastrophe meaningless, a Hobbit, the unlikeliest of creatures, defeating Sauron. From a story standpoint, it would have been a shortcut that would have made the overall story suffer.

Essentially, the Istari were not allowed to use their magic to directly influence or affect the people of Middle Earth. They were to remain in the background and aid when and where they could. But when confronted by other immortals such as the Balrog, Ringwraiths, other Istari, etc, they were allowed to use whatever means at their disposal.

Just before Sam begins to carry Frodo the last leg up the slopes of Mount Doom, Frodo tells him "there is no veil now between me and the wheel of fire." This references the fact that in the book, Frodo had begun to see an image of a wheel of fire in his mind beginning around the time they crossed into Mordor. By the time they have reached the mountain, he is seeing it with his eyes, as if it was a real image. The film retains his admission of this fact to Sam, but does not mention his prior visions. The wheel itself most likely refers to the One Ring.

Frodo would not have given it to Sam, and Sam knew that. Earlier, Frodo told Sam, "I must carry this burden to the end. It can't be altered. You can't come between me and this doom." From the book, just before Sam says "I can't carry it for you" there's this:


Sam knew before he spoke, that it was vain, and that such words might do more harm than good, but in his pity he could not keep silent. 'Then let me carry it a bit for you, Master,' he said. 'You know I would, and gladly, as long as I have any strength.'

A wild light came into Frodo's eyes. 'Stand away! Don't touch me!' he cried. 'It is mine, I say. Be off!' His hand strayed to his sword-hilt. But then quickly his voice changed. 'No, no, Sam,' he said sadly. 'But you must understand. It is my burden, and no one else can bear it. It is too late now, Sam dear. You can't help me in that way again. I am almost in its power now. I could not give it up, and if you tried to take it I should go mad.'

When Sam says,'I can't carry the Ring for you', this response from Frodo is motivating him. To even suggest he carry the Ring has highly distressed Frodo. To push the matter or to force it, would likely drive him mad.

Just something Peter Jackson made up for cinematic effect. What happened according to the novel was this: (From The Return of the King, The Field of Cormallen): "...the creatures of Sauron, orc or troll or beast spell-enslaved, ran hither and thither mindless; and some slew themselves, or cast themselves in pits, or fled wailing back to hide in holes and dark lightless places far from hope." Also, in the novel, violent earthquakes tore through much of Mordor, so Jackson could have be incorporating that into his film. The cracking of the earth does indeed coincide with the eruption of Mount Doom. Perhaps when Sauron was destroyed, his lands were destroyed along with him, as if anything over which he held power (buildings and lands) was also destroyed. We do know that Orcs were created from corrupted Elves, and in the prologue of Fellowship of the Ring we saw how the Orc army seemed to dissolve when Sauron's Ring was cut from his hand. Since Sauron can use the Ring's power to rule over others, it may be reasonable to assume that when the source of power is taken away or destroyed, everything that the power controls or brought about is also eliminated. This does not explain why the Orcs don't 'dissolve' at the end, so perhaps this means that they were not created with the Ring's power, only persuaded and enslaved by it.

According to the book, Frodo leaves Bag End on September 23rd and reaches Mount Doom on March 25th of the following year. So that's six months. But, there were long stays in Rivendell and Lorien (three months, total) so the actual journey was substantially less.

Frodo (Elijah Wood) didn't have to leave at all. He chose to depart from his home because he couldn't settle back into his old life. The Shire folk pride themselves on the ignorance of problems outside of their homeland. The corruption of the ring, the near-fatal wound from the Witch King, and his newfound knowledge of the fragility of his little community left him with an outlook on the world that couldn't be covered by the formerly peaceful and blissfully ignorant life-style of the Shire folk. He was unable to heal emotionally from his experiences, as the wound he received from the Witch King never fully healed and caused him intense pain from time-to-time, as well as flashbacks of the event. Frodo eventually died a true death, as the Undying Lands cannot make mortal beings, such as men or hobbits, into immortal beings. In the director's commentary on the dvd, Peter Jackson says that departing to the West is a metaphor for death. Remember what Galadril (Cate Blanchett) said to Lord Elrond in The Two Towers about Frodo: "The quest will claim his life." While the quest did not kill Frodo physically, it did end life for him as he knew it in Middle-earth.

Although the film shows the departure of only Frodo, Bilbo (Ian Holm), and Gandalf, other members of the fellowship are known to have traveled to the West. Legolas also made the journey, taking with him Gimli (the only Dwarf allowed to sail to Valinor). Samwise left after Rosie died and he had served seven consecutive terms as mayor of Hobbiton. He was allowed to make the journey because he was, for a short time, also a ring-bearer. Aragorn served his term as King and then died a natural death. His son, Eldarion, took up his mantle of King. Merry and Pippin never went over the sea. They died at Minas Tirith and were buried in the tombs of the kings, and later placed next to Aragorn when he died.

In the Special Features section of the movie, the total number is stated to be 600,000 strong.

Gimli was the only one as part of the fellowship, but Dwarves were fighting Sauron's army in their own lands. The War of the Ring was fought throughout Middle-Earth - we only saw a portion of it.

There were five Wizards (or Istari): Saruman the White, Gandalf the Grey, Radagast the Brown (who spent most of his time with animals and plants and lived near Mirkwood), then the two "Blue Wizards"--Alatar and Pallando (later changed to Morinehtar and Romestamo)--who went into the East and were never heard from again. After the Council of Elrond (as per the novel), Elvish scouts tried to find Radagast at his home near Mirkwood but he was gone. His absence was never explained. Radagast was not in the film version though he does appear in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Convenience! Laying siege to a city means that getting supplies, like regular rocks or other ammo, inside is nearly or totally impossible. Also, it makes for a great dramatic statement onscreen: seeing what you destroyed hurled back at you is a great way to say "UP YOURS!!" to the Host of Mordor. Interestingly enough, in the books the walls of Minas Tirith were supposed to be unbreakable, like Saruman's tower in Isengard.

It's a form of irony. Gothmog and his army had captured them, and probably tortured and beheaded them. Launching the heads over the wall of Minas Tirith was a terror tactic. Calling them "prisoners" was a way to make Gothmog seem even more evil.

What are Orcs, exactly?

They are tortured versions of elves originally captured by Morgoth the first Dark Lord or they are poor imitations (a mockery) of elves created by Morgoth--depending on the source. Tolkien worked this over most of his life and had several versions of the same story that he refined over the years. Both are versions that he had come up with. The Two Towers cites the first explanation. Trolls are perhaps wicked imitations of Ents.

Mostly no. Most Hobbits did not grow facial hair, the primary exception being those of the variety known as Stoors (who were also known for their unusually large hands and feet).

According to one of Tolkien's published letters, Shadowfax "certainly went with Gandalf across the Sea".

Sauron's physical form is not seen in the film, only his eye which rests on the top of the tower of Barad-Dur. However, the 4-disc special edition DVD set has a documentary that has original footage of Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) fighting Sauron (Sala Baker). He also appears very briefly in the scene where Pippin (Billy Boyd) looks into the Palantir. He is in the same form as shown in the first film's backstory. The filmmakers originally wanted to give Sauron a more active role at the end, as opposed to the static eye on top of the tower that he was in the previous films. The confrontation originally started with Aragorn walking out of the group towards the Black Gate, as he sees a ghostly apparition of Sauron in his original form, a handsome, young, long-haired man - Annatar, the "Lord of Gifts." The group would then become surrounded by Orcs, the giant armoured Sauron among them, who would battle with Aragorn. In the finished film, it is Sauron's eye on the tower calling to him, at which Aragorn is looking. In the documentary, Jackson discusses the reasons that Sauron was later replaced with a computer generated troll who battles Aragorn instead (he felt that the scene didn't ultimately work, as it reduced the struggles of the group and Frodo in particular to an Aragorn vs. Sauron match).

Peter Jackson stated that to include the Mouth of Sauron would be pointless, as the audience already knows that what he is saying is not true. In the book, the fates of Frodo and Sam had not yet been disclosed at that point, lending dramatic tension to the confrontation that would necessarily be absent from the film version. In the Extended Edition, the Mouth of Sauron makes a brief appearance when he tries to trick the Fellowship into thinking Sauron killed Frodo and took the Ring. Aragorn refuses to believe this and subsequently kills the Mouth. Although the scene cannot convey the dramatic revelation of Frodo's 'death', it was reinstated into the Extended Edition because it still works on another level: the (false) knowledge of Frodo's death gives more meaning to Aragorn's emotional line "For Frodo" and the sacrifice that he and his army are making.

Ownership of the Ring gave Bilbo unnatural youth, just as it did to Smagol/Gollum (who is over 500 years old). Once he gave the Ring away, Bilbo began to age as he should have. (Bilbo's age at the end is based upon the timeline in the books, though in the film versions there is nothing to indicate that seventeen years passed between Bilbo's departure and Gandalf's return; his age in the film version may be closer to 114, though it is never specified either way except by Peter Jackson in a commentary track in the extended edition of The Fellowship of the Ring). It is not clear why Gollum is still alive, having lost the Ring 60 years ago, but it may be assumed that it gave him permanent strength because he had it for so long, or he was able to live on because his desire to take back the Ring was so strong. Also, we see that Bilbo had aged a bit from the time he left the shire to when Frodo met him again at Rivendell. However, he seems to have aged rapidly at the end of the film. It's likely that he didn't start aging quickly until the ring was destroyed. This would also explain why Gollum never aged. Both due to his 500 year relationship with the ring and the fact that the ring still existed when it left him. Since Gollum died with the ring, we won't know for sure, but it's possible he would have withered and died very quickly.

For its DVD release, extended versions of all three Lord of the Rings movies have been released, and for The Return of the King, the extended version adds around fifty minutes to the running time. This includes the final confrontation with Saruman, more character scenes with Faramir, and the appearance of the corsairs of Umbar. The restoration of Gandalf's face-off with the Witch King also resulted in extensive re-ordering of the order of battle events, now more closely following the events as presented in the book. A detailed comparison, divided into two parts and with pictures, can be found here (Part One) and here (Part Two).

The answer comes in the The Two Towers, The Voice Of Saruman): "I am Gandalf the White, who has returned from death. You have no colour now, and I cast you from the order and from the Council." He raised his hand, and spoke slowly in a clear cold voice. "Saruman, your staff is broken." So, Gandalf breaking Saruman's staff was symbolic of the fact that 1) Gandalf now had authority over him, and 2) that Saruman was cast out of the order (of wizards) and the Council (the White Council of Wizards and High Elves).

They were Corsairs of Umbar, descendents of the losing side of a Gondorian civil war called the Kin-Strife, and allies of Sauron. Aragorn uses the Army of the Dead (the ghosts of soldiers who had betrayed a previous King of Gondor) to defeat the Corsairs, who then take the ships upriver to fight at Minas Tirith. This is a slight change from the novel, in which Aragorn brings a large number of Dunedain rangers who man the ships and surprise the enemy at Minas Tirith; the ghosts only assist in capturing the ships, and do not accompany Aragorn further into battle.

The main reason is a combination of storytelling decisions and changes that were made while adapting the books to the movies. The novel of The Two Towers describes the Battle for Helm's Deep, but from there it also continues with Aragorn and Gandalf traveling to Isengard in order to confront Saruman and retrieving the Palantr; it ends with Gandalf and Pippin's journey to Minas Tirith. This works perfectly well on paper, because it serves to set up the storylines of the third book. For the movie, however, it was decided to make the Battle for Helm's Deep the film's cinematic climax; Director Peter Jackson has explained in several making-of documentaries that continuing the story from there with a lengthy epilogue would have felt extremely anti-climatic and disappointing. So the decision was made fairly early on to move the Isengard confrontation and journey to Minas Tirith to the beginning of the third movie. This also led to the decision of including Saruman's death in the beginning of the third movie (in the book, it occurred at the end of the third book, but this was also changed, because it would have felt anti-climactic following after the epic battle at the Black Gate).

However, a problem emerged there; the theatrical version of Return of the King needed to cover a lot of story elements and a fitting conclusion to the entire trilogy, and it ran already over three hours long. So Jackson did not want to waste time and preferred to get the story on the move as quickly as possible. He felt that the scene at Isengard seemed like an unnecessary aftermath from a previously concluded story, which stalled the movie too much; the Saruman confrontation provided mainly character development and few new information that the plot needed, and Jackson felt that Saruman's defeat had already been shown in the previous movie. But since the scene also reintroduced the Palantr (the catalyst for the next act), and reunited Gandalf and Aragorn with Merry and Pippin again, it could not be omitted entirely.

Jackson re-edited the entire Isengard sequence several times, but he never got the desired pacing, nor was he able to convey the necessity of the scene. Another possible reason may have been that the movie's post-production, with a rapidly approaching premiere date, was an extremely rushed experience, perhaps forcing the decision to heavily cut the scene and fine-tune it later for the DVD edition. So it was decided to leave Saruman's fate out of the theatrical edition altogether. The choice was not without controversy; Tolkien fans balked at the decision, and Christopher Lee publicly voiced his objection. There was a small consolation: since Jackson had considerably fewer concerns with the pacing of the DVD version (where people can watch at their own leisure, and would expect him to take it slower and go deeper into the story and characters), he had no objections to putting the full scene back into the Extended Edition.

More specifically, this question refers to the chapter "The Scouring of the Shire," in which the hobbits return to the Shire and find their homeland ravaged by conflict and industrialisation. It appears that Saruman, who fled to the Shire after his defeat at Isengard, was responsible for this and caused a civil war among the hobbits. The running time of the movie was already exceeding three hours, so several large sections from the book had to be omitted. As the movie had already come to a finale with the battle at the Black Gate, another conflict would have felt like an anti-climax, so the decision was made to leave it out. The actual scouring of the Shire was also left out, and Saruman's death was moved to the beginning of the extended edition of the movie. One reference to the omitted ending remains, and it was seen in The Fellowship of the Ring, when Frodo takes a look into the Mirror of Galadril. There he sees the Shire burning and the hobbits being imprisoned by Orcs, thus witnessing what fate awaits the Shire if Sauron gets the ring back.

Well, Sauron may have wanted her to be alive for the protection of his fort, considering the fact that Orcs are so enourmous in number , occassional feeding of Orcses to Shelob wouldn't cause significant problem. Orcses on their part fear their Master for the same reason. As it turns out, Shelob, and not the vast army of Sauron, nearly undid all the hardwork of the two hobbitses and the whole mission .

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