Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Book 6, Chapter 7

If there is any single chapter that pulls on Tolkien's experiences serving, this one stands out the most to me.  Tolkien could have gone the route we see Jackson choose in the film, with a clean return back home and even if they are dramatically changed from who they were, the seeds of how their lives will grow going forward plain to see.  He could have gone even more traditional happily ever after, and I think one of the strongest points of this story is the handling of coming home.
"There is no real going back.  Though I may come to the Shire, it will not seem the same; for I shall not be the same.  I am wounded with knife, sting, and tooth, and a long burden.  Where shall I find rest?"
I don't know enough about Tolkien's personal experiences serving, but he's at least speaking from close, if not personal experience, when he writes about coming home from war.  The hobbits have gone through changes and injury that will never fully heal.

But it's not just the hobbits who have changed, though I'm wondering quite how obvious the changes are.  To some extent the changes fit right in with their experiences at war, but at the same time they stand opposed to their memories of the peace of home.  The locals are staying in with their doors locked, Bree has a small guard station, and folks are wary of strangers and even antagonistic to specific expected parties.
"Then the hobbits suddenly realized that people had looked at them with amazement not out of surprise at their return so much as in wonder at their gear.  They themselves had become so used to warfare and to riding in well-arrayed companies that they had quite forgotten that the bright mail peeping from under their cloaks, and the helms of Gondor and the Mark, and the other fair devices on their shields would seem outlandish in their own country."
Gandalf predicts the ills come from Saruman, be it a scheme before or after his fall.  We've had hints that he's eye turned towards the Shire, and not just due to knowledge of the halflings, but through the presence of Shire-grown pipe weed in his citadel.  However, as he has told us for the last few chapters, his work is done.  Whatever our hobbits face now, they must face on their own.  Or, on their own with backing from Bill the Pony.


While the return to the shire is an important conclusion to the journey, I almost wonder if with everything else exised if Jackson should have essentially ended the movie at Aragorn's crowning and the celebration of it.  A brief image of the hobbits riding home, then Frodo finishing the book, with even less story than he gives us.  I do appreciate the seeds of their future given, they are sweet touches.  But the idea of the Grey Havens and the nuances of elven immortality is pretty much undiscussed.  In the film we get a procession with Arwen being led away before she chooses Aragorn instead, but if you don't know what's going on it's not explained that she's not just moving away from war.

I also can't help but crack up at the voice over for their journey home... "13 months to the day since Gandalf sent us on our long journey."

Fortunately, Jackson does keep some of how they are out of place.  They arrive home richly dressed, but to much the same reaction as they left.  They have changed, you can see how they feel disconnected, but also how their lives will grow forward from there.  "how do you pick up the threads of an old life... when in your heart you know there is no going back."

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