The Return of the King Summary: A Riveting Chapter-by-Chapter Precis Of The Final Volume of  J R R Tolkien LOTR

Josiah Nang-Bayi, MD
9 Min Read

The Return of the King Summary Plot

The Return of the King is the epic culmination of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The story picks up where The Two Towers left off, with the forces of good and evil amassing for a final, cataclysmic showdown over the fate of Middle-earth.

Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee continue their near-impossible quest to reach the fires of Mount Doom in Mordor as the last hope to destroy the corrupting One Ring and vanquish the Dark Lord Sauron once and for all. However, treacherous Gollum dogs their footsteps, obsessed with regaining his “precious” Ring.

Meanwhile, Aragorn, heir to the throne of Gondor, has finally claimed his birthright as king and rallied the armies of men and a ghostly force to aid in the defense of Minas Tirith against Sauron’s overwhelming forces. An epic battle rages across the Pelennor Fields as Gandalf and the forces of Rohan also arrive in a desperate attempt to turn the tide.

As Frodo nears the heart of Sauron’s domain, his waning strength and the Ring’s maddening influence cast doubt on the possibility of succeeding. And if the Ring is not destroyed, the valor of Aragorn and the free peoples of Middle-earth may be in vain against Sauron’s darkness.  Tolkien’s towering achievement reaches its shattering climax across multiple storylines in this third volume, evoking the grand heroism and rich history of ancient epics and myths.

The Two Towers Summary

Chapter Summaries

Book V (Continued)

1) Minas Tirith

Gandalf and Pippin arrive in the towering citadel of Minas Tirith in Gondor. They find Lord Denethor, the ruling Steward, has been driven mad by Sauron’s deceptions viewed through the seeing-stone palantír.

2) The Passing of the Grey Company

Aragorn at last claims his birthright as the heir of Isildur and king of Gondor, taking the Paths of the Dead to recruit an undead army of oathbreakers to aid in the defense of Gondor.

3) The Muster of Rohan

In Rohan, King Théoden calls his forces to muster and prepare to ride to Gondor’s defense, fulfill their ancient allegiance. The Witch-King, Lord of the Nazgûl, leads Mordor’s assault.

4) The Siege of Gondor

Sauron’s overwhelming army lays siege to Minas Tirith in Gondor. Denethor’s grief poisons his mind utterly as his son Faramir appears struck down in battle against the Witch-King.

5) The Ride of the Rohirrim

As Gondor seems doomed, Théoden’s Riders of Rohan arrive in a pivotal charge out of the shieldwall, driving directly into Sauron’s forces, soon joined by Aragorn leading the Army of the Dead.

6) The Battle of the Pelennor Fields

Aragorn takes command, turning the tide as the beleaguered armies of Gondor, Rohan and his ghostly warriors drive Sauron’s forces from the Pelennor Fields after an epic battle for Minas Tirith.

7) The Pyre of Denethor

With the siege of Gondor broken, Aragorn enters the city and uses kingsfoil to revive the wounded Faramir and Éowyn after her slaying of the Witch-King. He claims the throne by reforging Andúril.

The Lord of the Rings summary

Book VI

8) The Scouring of the Shire

While the climactic war rages, Saruman has taken control of the Shire back in the homeland of the hobbits with evil intent until he is killed there by Grima Wormtongue and hobbits.

9) The Grey Havens

As the company rests in Ithilien, Frodo struggles with the psychological wounds from bearing the One Ring. Ultimately, it is decided that he must leave Middle-earth with the Elves for the Undying Lands.

10) The Last Debate

While the story returns to Frodo and Sam’s suffering path through Mordor guided by treacherous Gollum, Aragorn is crowned as the King of the Reunited Kingdom, beginning a new age of peace.

11) The Black Gate Opens

Aragorn marches his combined armies to the Black Gate of Mordor itself in one final effort to distract Sauron’s Eye from Frodo and Sam as they make their way across the burning plains toward Mount Doom.

12) The Tower of Cirith Ungol

As Frodo and Sam trek through the hellish wastes of Mordor, they are captured by terrible spider-like creatures called Shelob and her minions in Cirith Ungol only for Sam to bravely rescue Frodo.

The Two Towers Summary

13) The Land of Shadow

With his faithful friend Sam’s aid, Frodo clings to life as they escape the tower of Cirith Ungol and continue their desperate journey to the Mountain of Fire, all while being hunted by Gollum.

14) The Passing of the Grey Company

In the meanwhile, Aragorn leads the valiant but sacrificial attack on the Black Gate to distract Sauron’s Eye from Frodo in an epic sequence of warcraft and bravery amidst the gathering shadow. 

15) Mount Doom

Frodo and Sam finally arrive at Mount Doom, the only place where the Ring can be destroyed in its elemental fires. After an otherworldly journey, Frodo succumbs to the Ring’s influence at the last moment.

16) The Scouring of the Shire

Back in the Shire amidst the victory in Mordor, the four hobbits return home to find Saruman has subjected their homeland to devastation until they rise up at last to liberate it. 

17) The Field of Cormallen

After parting from Frodo and Bilbo at the Grey Havens, Aragorn, Gandalf and the Fellowship return to their friends and celebrate their victory after the heroic sacrifices to defeat Sauron.

18) The Black Gate Opens

The remaining members of the Fellowship celebrate their triumph but say farewell as Frodo, Bilbo, and Gandalf prepare to journey across the sea to the Undying Lands, marking the end of the age of Elves in Middle-earth.

19) The Tower of Cirith Ungol

A final glimpse reveals that it was Sam carrying Frodo, now almost fully consumed by the Ring’s malign influence, up Mount Doom where Gollum finally attacks them to reclaim his “precious.”

20) The Field of Cormallen

In a tear-jerking climax, Gollum manages to take back the Ring, but in his madness he dances with joy until slipping into the fiery Cracks of Doom and finally destroying the Ring and Sauron’s power forever as the Dark Tower crumbles. Aragorn is crowned as the new King of the Reunited Kingdom, bringing peace, while Frodo lives out the rest of his days in the Shire before departing Middle-earth as the Elves do, fully healed but forever changed by his grand burden.

The Final Word: Climax Of The Lord Of The Rings Triology

In this staggering final volume, Tolkien weaves together the myriad storylines and brings the free peoples of Middle-earth together for one final, desperate set of confrontations with the ancient evil of Sauron. From Frodo and Sam’s treacherous path through Mordor to Aragorn amassing his forces for the Battle of Pelennor Fields and desperate attack on the Black Gate as a feint, the heroic sacrifices and grandeur on display are suitably epic to close this seminal work of high fantasy literature. Brimming with imaginative visuals, incredible action set-pieces, and resonating themes of courage, loyalty and mercy, The Return of the King provides a fittingly seismic climax for one of the most influential and beloved stories ever told.

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Josiah Nang-Bayi, MD is a medical doctor by profession, an author, a financial literacy and digital assets enthusiast, an entrepreneur and a growing philanthropist.
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