And then it was finished....
Barad-Dur has fallen, the Ring is destroyed, the crownless again is king, the Ring-wearers have sailed to the West.
OF course it all works out in the end. Most classic quest stories do after all.
But there are surprising twists. I remember it was only after several readings that I first caught the line Gandalf says just before he leaves the 4 hobbits on the journey home, where he tells them that they have been trained to deal with what they find when they get back to the Shire, that this training was one of the points of the whole quest.
In these last two volumes I have always wavered in which parts I preferred. Is it books 3 and 5 which focus on the "main" battle, the events on the Western front? Or is it books 4 and 6 which focus on Frodo and Sam, where the focus of success or failure eventually lies? I tend towards the Western front. More activity.
BUt then there is the Frodo-Sam-Smeagol/Gollum dynamic. Smeagol/Gollum is a fascinating character study. In some ways one of the most fascinating characters in the whole book. What does it mean to be fallen? Does it mean you are beyond hope? Does it mean your contributions are without merit? I think there is another paper in those questions.....
Then there are the appendices. Telling some of the backstory, showing the flow of the story/allowing the reader to know what things are happening at the same time, giving more insight into the world Tolkien has created through writing and calendars and languages.
THe question that comes to mind in this reading is who are the essential characters vs the non-essential? Or who are the most essential or important characters? Surprisingly I would suggest that there are few non-essential characters. Most everyone plays a role in the eventual defeat of Sauron--even if that role could never have been predicted (Merry Pippin Sam and Gollum come to mind).
THere are a few books that I think most people SHOULD read. Lord of the Rings is one of them.