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"Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money."
Louis Untermeyer

The Lord of the Rings
The Return of the King

By J.R.R. Tolkien
Houghton Mifflin Company, 277 pp, 1954

This series just keeps getting better. The second book was better than the first, and this one is best of all. It's also the shortest.

I won't say much about this book, mainly because so much has been said in the fifty years it's been in publication. It picks up where The Two Towers leaves off, with Gandalf and Pippin at Minas Tirith, dealing with the crazy lord of Gondor and the hordes of Sauron. Aragor, Legolas, and Gimli are trying to get to Minas Tirith, and Aragorn decides they must travel through the very cool-sounding Paths of the Dead, where Aragorn will summon an army of zombies. Sam rescues Frodo from the orcs and they continue their journey through Mordor, with the ring weighing even heavier on Frodor and Gollum shadowing their every move.

So that's the book. It's slow at first, then picks up with the siege of Gondor. After that, it's all battles and fighting. Very exciting.

What's most interesting to me is what they're going to do with the upcoming movie. The Two Towers ended before the book did, so this last film has a lot of ground to cover. I imagine it will skip the drawn-out ending, with Frodo, Sam, Pippen, and Merry liberating the shire, and then Frodo, Gandalf, and some elves leaving Middle-Earth on a ship (an odd ending, I thought).

The movie also must be PG-13, which will also be interesting because this is a fairly gory book. We've got zombie armies and severed heads flying around, folks. How do you portray that in a movie and not get tagged with an R rating? But if they leave it out, Tolkien readers (including your truly) will be disappointed.

Like I said, it should be interesting. But never forget this. As good as the movies are, the books are always better, and this case is not an exception. If you like the movies, you'll like the books even more.

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