The final installment of “Re-telling Tales of Middle-Earth” summarizes the story of Book Six of The Lord of The Rings, which is the second half of The Return of the King. Book Six recounts the completion of the Ring Quest, and the efforts of our characters to live on in the world they’ve saved. In this summary, I endeavor to put as many of the cards from Magic: the Gathering’s Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-Earth in narrative order as possible, incorporating both the main and commander sets, so that the enjoyment of both the cards and the story may be as full as possible for everyone. As with any summary, I’ve made certain omissions – much from the story and many cards – for the sake of brevity..

Check out Book One, Book Two, Book Three, Book Four, and Book Five!

Chapter One: The Tower of Cirith Ungol

Sam’s Desperate Rescue by Lixin Yin

On the very day that Aragorn was leading the captured Black Fleet from Pelargir to the Pelannor Fields, the day that Merry rode with the Rohirrim, when Minas Tirith was burning, Sam was infiltrating Cirith Ungol in a desperate attempt to rescue Frodo. The sound of a fight within the tower provides the opening Sam needs – when he enters the tower, he discovers that the orcs under the command of Shagrat and Gorbag have come to blows, almost entirely annihilating each other. Shagrat has slain Gorbag and is making his way out of the tower with Frodo’s Mithril Coat and elven cloak, bound for Barad-dur. With the orcs gone, Sam makes his way to the top of Cirith Ungol and frees Frodo.

Chapter Two: The Land of Shadow 

Detail from Hristo Chukov’s Valley of Gorgoroth

The following day, the same day that Éowyn had killed the Witch King of Angmar, the change in the air was palpable. As Sam and Frodo march toward Mount Doom, they see the armies of Mordor moving to prepare for the final battle. One company of orcs comes upon the hobbits, but in the darkness assumes that they are orcs, and orders in them into line. The hobbits undergo a forced march for a day until they are able to escape in the chaos of converging armies. As the pair move away from the companies of orcs, they catch sight of Gollum following in the distance.

Chapter Three: Mount Doom

Frodo, Sam, and Gollum as The One Ring falls into Mount Doom by Marta Nael.

The grim reality of the Ring Quest sinks in for Sam as he realizes that their journey to Mount Doom will be a one-way trip. The burden of the ring grows arduous for Frodo, and Sam carries him up the mountain for some time. As they ascend to the Cracks of Doom, Gollum accosts them – Sam fends Gollum off and tells Frodo to go on toward the fires. Gollum retreats momentarily, and Sam runs after Frodo.

As Sam approaches the Cracks of Doom, he sees Frodo, who speaks “with a voice clearer and more powerful than Sam had ever heard him use, and it rose above the throb and turmoil of Mount Doom, ringing in the roof and walls.”

‘I have come,’ he said. ‘But I do not choose now to do what I came to do. I will not do this deed. The Ring is mine!’

As Frodo claims the ring, the greatness of Sauron’s folly is “revealed to him in a blinding flash,” and the remaining Nazgul began flying toward Mount Doom at his desperate command. Just then, Gollum leaps from the dark, and biting the ring from Frodo’s finger, tumbles with his Precious into the Fires of Mount Doom. As the Ring is destroyed, the great towers and edifices of Mordor are shaken from their foundations, the Nazgul wither, and his armies despair.

Sam hears Frodo’s voice from his side, “Well, this is the end, Sam Gamgee… I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam.”

Chapter Four: The Field of Cormallen 

Gwaihir, Greatest of the Eagles by Jesper Ejsing

Meanwhile, at the The Black Gate (Book Five, Chapter Ten), the eagles wheel down from the sky. Gwaihir the Windlord, Landroval, and the mightiest of the Eagles of the North swooped down upon the Hosts of Mordor. As the eagles arrive, the events at Mount Doom are occurring – answering the Dark Lord’s summons, the Nazgul leave the fray and fly for the fiery mountain. The Shadow of the Enemy is blown away by a great wind and the Towers of the Teeth fall to the ground. The armies of the West rally and are victorious.

With the help of the eagles Gwaihir, Landroval, and Meneldor, Gandalf rescues Frodo and Sam. Two weeks later, Frodo and Sam awakes among their friends in Ithilien, and share tales of their journey. The gathered people celebrate the hobbits and rejoice in their victory.

Chapter Five: The Steward and the King 

Aragorn and Arwen, Wed by Magali Villeneuve

In their days of absence, while the army of Gondor marched to Mordor, no news returned, and the people grew worried. In those days, Éowyn had grown restless, and sought out Faramir, who encouraged her to remain in the care of the healers and not to ride again to battle. Days passed, and the two awaited news together, looking toward the east.

At last, an Eagle brings tidings. As the army returns to Minas Tirith, Faramir resigns his duties as Steward, and gives the Crown of Gondor to Aragorn, who bids Frodo take it to Gandalf, who then crowns Aragorn. Aragorn, as King, makes Faramir the Prince of Ithilien and retains him as steward.

Riding out into the Mountains to survey his kingdom with Gandalf, Aragorn finds a sapling of the White Tree, which he brings back to Gondor and plants on Midsummer’s Eve. A company of elves including Galadriel, Celeborn, Glorfindel, Erestor, Elrond, and Arwen arrive in Gondor, and Aragorn and Arwen wed on Midsummer’s Day.

Chapter Six: Many Partings 

Many Partings by Dmitry Burmak

After the days of rejoicing, Frodo makes plans to leave. Arwen tells Frodo that he may pass to The Grey Havens when the time comes. Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and the elves ride north with Frodo and the hobbits and returns Theoden’s body to Rohan.

The occasion was a mixture of mourning and celebration. There, Éomer, King of Rohan blesses the union of Faramir and Éowyn, and Éowyn bestows upon Merry the Horn of the Mark. Departing from Meduseld, Legolas and Gimli visit the Glittering Caves of Aglarond and Fangorn Forest with the company, then depart from them. At the Gap of Rohan, Aragorn bids the remaining company farewell and returns to Minas Tirith.

As the Hobbits continue north with Gandalf, Galadriel, and Celeborn, they overtake Saruman and Grima on the road, but let them go. The group arrives in Rivendell in time for Bilbo’s 129th birthday. There, Bilbo gives Sam the last of the gold from Smaug’s trove, and tasks Frodo with writing down the story of their journey in the Red Book. Elrond insinuates that it may only be a year before he and Bilbo depart for the Grey Havens.

Chapter Seven: Homeward Bound 

Bill the Pony by Christina Kraus

Gandalf and the hobbits travel west to Bree. In their absence, Bree and the surrounding lands had grown inhospitable. Nevertheless, Butterbur offers the hobbits and Gandalf a warm smile and a cold pint at the inn, and reuinites them with Bill the Pony! Butterbur hints at dark tidings that remind Sam of what he saw in the Mirror of Galadriel. Gandalf leaves the hobbits to handle whatever mischief they may find afoot in The Shire, and departs to have a long chat with Tom Bombadil.

Chapter Eight: The Scouring of the Shire

The Scouring of the Shire panorama by Martina Fačková

Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin return to the Shire to it blocked by very “gloomy and unshirelike” gates. Quickly, they realize its been overrun by ruffians and troublemakers like Bill Ferny and Lotho, and totally despoiled.

Merry makes plains to raise the shire, and same rides to rouse Farmer Cotton (and check on Rosie). Pippin rides to rally the Tooks, and the rest learn that a man called “Sharkey” is behind everything and is running things from Bag End.

Pippin and his army of Tooks arrive, and with combined forces of the Shire, the hobbits subdue the occupying ruffians with minimal casualties at the Battle of Bywater. With the ruffians ousted, the hobbits confront Sharkey, who is really Saruman, at Bag End. The hobbits exile Saruman, but as he walks down the road, Wormtongue kills him. Wormtongue is then quickly dispatched by hobbit archers.

Chapter Nine: The Grey Havens

The Grey Havens panorama by Kieran Yanner

The hobbits set about rebuilding the Shire. Sam plants a seed from his box from Lórien where The Party Tree had been, and scatters Lórien soil around the seed and around the Shire. Frodo invites Sam and Rosie to live at Bag End.

Months pass. That spring, the Shire is blessed with miraculous regrowth and rich harvests of fruit and grains, and the tree that Sam plants – a mallorn of Lórien – grows incredibly swiftly. Frodo takes ill on the anniversaries of his grievous wounds. Sam’s first daughter is born and named Elanor.

That autumn, Frodo and Sam ride out into the countryside, and meet the elves and Bilbo traveling west through the Shire. Frodo and Sam ride with them to the Grey Havens, where they meet Gandalf. As Merry and Pippin arrive, Frodo, Bilbo, Gandalf, and the elves say their goodbyes. Gandalf, Bilbo, Frodo, and the elves depart for the West.

After looking long after the ship that has borne away their friends, the hobbits ride back to the Shire in silence. Merry and Pippin then go on to Buckland, already singing as they turn, and Sam rides toward Bag End.

“And he went on, and there was yellow light, and fire within; and the evening meal was ready, and he was expected. And Rose drew him in, and set him in his chair, and put little Elanor upon his lap.

He drew a deep breath. ‘Well, I’m back,’ he said.”

…to the Cracks of Doom and Beyond

So concludes The Lord of the Rings. Whether we stop there, or turn the page to the copious appendices detailing both the history and the future goings on of the characters, the tale ends wistfully, almost with a bit of melancholy. Sam’s return home to his family reminds me of so many times I come home to my own family (to whom I still have not yet finished reading this story). In the Appendices, Tolkien tells us that Legolas and Gimli also cross the sea. Many years later, when Sam has written the story in the Red Book, he passes it down to Elanor, and he, too, sails to the West. Tolkien is keen to tell us that “happily ever after” is its own story – or many stories, for that matter, and that these tales are, until the end of all things, unfinished. After all, “The road goes ever on and on…”

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