| Quote #10
And Gandalf said: "This is your realm, and the heart of the greater realm that shall be. The Third Age of the world is ended, and the new age is begun; and it is your task to order its beginning and to preserve what may be preserved. For though much has been saved, much must now pass away; and the power of the Three Rings also is ended. And all the lands that you see, and those that lie round about them, shall be dwellings of Men. For the time comes for the Dominion of Men, and the Elder Kindred shall fade or depart."
"I know it well, dear friend," said Aragorn; "but I would still have your counsel."
"Not for long now," said Gandalf. "The Third Age was my age. I was the Enemy of Sauron; and my work is finished. I shall go soon. The burden must lie upon you and your kindred." (6.5.106-8)
Ah, here we are at last. Frankly, we think the worst thing about the end of Return of the King is that Tolkien introduces us to this whole world and then insists on taking away huge chunks of it. Rivendell? Gone. Lothlórien? Gone. Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel? All gone. Well, okay, maybe they're not actually gone, but they are in the West, in a place that "no man can discover" (6.4.70). But let's face it: one of the major themes of this series is that all things must end, even lovely things. What does Middle-earth get in exchange for the loss of the elves? By what logic must the elves and Gandalf leave Middle-earth at the end of Return of the King? How would the moral of the story change if Lothlórien and Rivendell endured, along with the reborn Shire and Gondor?