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The Return of the King
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that if kids are ready to see the excellent Lord of the Rings movies they're ready to read this last book of the trilogy. This is the end of a momentous quest where evil is finally defeated, so expect the violence to get a bit more intense. Gory moments include heads of fallen soldiers catipulted over a beseiged city's walls, a giant flying beast that rips apart and eats a fallen horse, talk of some orcs biting the throats of their kills, a self-conflagration, and a finger bitten off. Some key characters also die or pass into anther realm, so get the hankies out. Also expect to be touched by the loyalty of Sam who carries his friend on this back when the journey is hardest and the passages about losing and finding hope again. It's not a bad idea to read along with kids and engage them in discussing the deeper stuff and how we are all on our own Hero's Journey -- one of the reasons why this genre is so compelling.
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What's the story?
The quest to destroy the One Ring of Power before Sauron, the Dark Lord of Mordor, can conquer all of Middle Earth concludes in this third chapter of J. R. R. Tolkien's action-packed fantasy adventure. Four young, formerly sheltered heroes must dredge courage from deep within themselves to face the challenges before them as Middle Earth's peace-loving inhabitants seek to save their world.
Is it any good?
This concluding volume of Tolkien's three-book epic, The Lord of the Rings, maintains the dark desperation of its predecessor. Even amid all the celebration that occurs after the free peoples achieve their victory, sadness is there also, for good magic passes on with the vanquishing of sorcery, and the dominance of the human race begins.
But for all this gravity, the story is laced with humor and beauty, and although it is very much an adult tale, it appeals to younger readers. Tolkien's writing is dense and the writing style veers from heroic to homespun, but the plot unfolds with relentless vigor. He brilliantly describes Middle Earth -- reverently, in the case of magnificent structures and natural features, and with eloquent dread when he depicts the horror of Sauron's works.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Merry and Pippin. Who were they at the start of the series and who have they become?
The ending of this series is bittersweet. What is lost from the world of Middle Earth? Why do you think Gandalf now thinks it's time for him to visit Tom Bombadil and leave the Hobbits in charge of saving the Shire?
All seems lost to characters at many points in the quest. How do they find hope? What does Sam look at in Mordor to ground him again? How does Eowyn become hopeful again? Denethor completely loses hope -- what happens to him?
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