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The Return of the King

The Return of the King

by J.R.R. Tolkien

Perseverance Theme

Let's face facts. From the beginning, it seems like a great deal of the characters in The Return of the King are doomed to death. How in the world can a motley band of Middle-earthers defeat the ultimate Big Bad? It would be understandable if these guys crawled under a rock. But aside from Denethor (whose cowardly despair is his biggest mistake), the inhabitants of Middle-earth rally rather than run away. Even though they believe failure is certain, Pippin, Frodo, Sam, and Merry refuse to despair. They all keep going with their duties, even if they are certain that they will not be successful. It's not that they're happy to; it's that they must. And that's what we call perseverance, folks.

Questions About Perseverance

  1. In places like Dunharrow and Minas Tirith, what signs of the past persevere into the present time of the novel? What do the ruins or ancient structures of these places tell us about who lived there before? 
  2. Which of the characters in The Return of the King give in most often to despair? How do these characters persevere in spite of their despair (if they do)? 
  3. How does perseverance connect to emotions like love, fear, or sorrow? What kinds of feelings do Pippin or Sam or Merry experience when they decide to persevere in spite their terrible odds for survival? How do their emotional states differ from Denethor's when he gives up and decides to die? 

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

In The Return of the King, characters have to persevere, not for their own survival, but to guarantee the survival of others.

While love helps characters like Frodo, Merry, and Pippin persevere through dark times, the most essential trait for encouraging perseverance is a strong personal sense of duty.

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