20 October 2015

On the 60th anniversary of the publication of The Return of the King

Sixty years ago today Books 5 and 6 of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings were published as The Return of the King.

Tolkien was from the beginning against the splitting of The Lord of the Rings, but his publisher insisted upon it due to the cost of such a lengthy work and the uncertainty of its popularity (the world had not yet seen anything quite like Tolkien's story). What is more, Tolkien was not fond of the title chosen for the third volume. He said titling volume one as The Fellowship of the Ring "will do" and title volume two as The Two Towers "gets as near as possible to finding a title to cover the widely divergent Books 3 and 4." He preferred, however, to call the final volume The War of the Ring because "it gets in the Ring again; and also is more non-committal, and gives less hint about the turn of the story" (Letter 140 to Rayner Unwin, 17 August 1953). Not a bad point, that.

I am tempted today to try and pinpoint a favorite passage from The Return of the King, but, as I flip through its pages trying to find one, I realize that there are simply too many passages and lines which resound deep in my heart. I have utilized many of these lines and passages in homilies to good effect; others have provided not only good entertainment but also rich food for thought. For these gifts, I can only say, "Thank you, Professor Tolkien!"

No comments:

Post a Comment