The Return of the King

Track 17 - ROTK


(10:11) The Fellowship is reunited one last time. Arwen comes to Aragorn who is crowned King. Tribute is paid to four Hobbits. The Hobbits return to the Shire. Rosie and Sam are wed.


These music covers the scenes where we see our last of Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Éowyn, Éomer, Faramir, and Arwen. It also covers the last occasions (barring the credit music) of the Fellowship Theme and the Gondor Theme. See my comments below for more thoughts on 'endings'.


Quiet strings play as Frodo awakes in Ithilien and sits up to see...




A sweet and only slightly melancholy melody (the Fragrance of Ithilien) plays. The CR-ROTK liner notes state the melodies and instrumentation of the Shire are mixed here with hints of the Fellowship Theme. The Fellowship references are too subtle for me to pick out. Gandalf chuckles at Frodo's amazement to see him. Frodo joins him and soon they are both laughing out loud. A tin whistle creeps into the strings.


Merry and Pippin open the door and run to join Frodo on the bed. All four are laughing hard.


Gimli appears from around the corner and Frodo calls out his name. The music swells then quiets for a moment as...


...Legolas appears in the doorway dressed in princely Elven garb. Frodo seems a little awed.


As a solemn but noble Fellowship phrase plays, Aragorn steps into the doorway.


The Fellowship Theme continues as Merry and Pippin continue to cavort on the bed as Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli stand near smiling.


As the final notes of the Fellowship Theme play, Sam steps into the doorway. Frodo looks up at him.


As Frodo and Sam knowingly look at each other, the Shire A melody begins (not sure if it's a Pensive setting). They smile, but perhaps a little more soberly than the rest.


As the Shire A melody finishes up with repeats of its opening notes (DA identifies this as The Journey Back theme. I disagree), the screen fades to black for a moment ~and 12 more people walk out of the theater~...


...then cuts to a long shot of Minas Tirith. The music is moving from melancholy to...


...the majestic Gondor Reborn Theme as the camera pans up to show throngs on the top level of Minas Tirith, then to...


the steps of the Citadel. As the music swells, Gandalf holds a crown over the head of Aragorn. Gimli looks at it in awe. (Our last close up shot of Gimli.)


The Gondor Reborn Theme ends quiets dramatically as the crown is brought down and


..the horns play a noble Realm of Gondor Theme as Aragorn is crowned. Gandalf declares, "Now come the days of the King."


The camera cuts to Aragorn's face as we hear the Realm of Gondor in Ascension (similar to Aragorn's Theme). Gandalf adds quietly, "May they be blessed."


The main Realm of Gondor Theme returns as Gandalf steps back and Aragorn stands up. Aragorn takes a big sigh...


and the Realm of Gondor in Ascension plays again as he turns to face the crowd who cheer and clap.


A triumphant phrase is heard as the camera moves from a close up of crowd back to Aragorn...


then quiets as Aragorn address the crowd. (This music really echoes the call and response nature of the Realm of Gondor Theme and the Realm of Gondor in Ascension from 2:44 - 3:12)


Cymbals shing as the crowd cheers and petals fall from the sky. Then, all quiets as the newly crowned King...


...Aragorn sings the oath Elendil made upon leaving Númenor.


Et Eärello Endorenna utúlien.

Sinome maruvan ar Hildinyar

tenn’ Ambar-metta!

We see our last glimpse of Faramir, Éowyn, Éomer and then....


...the Fellowship Theme plays quietly as we see Legolas, wearing the crown of princedom and leading a contingent of Elves.


As the Fellowship Theme continues, they place a hand on each other's shoulder and Aragorn says, "Hannon le." The last time Aragorn thanked Legolas, it was for returning the Evenstar jewel to him at Helm's Deep. This time, Legolas gestures for Aragorn to look beyond him. (Our last shot of Legolas.)


Our last full statement of the Fellowship Theme gives way to...


... the Arwen Revealed Theme as Arwen looks out from behind a white banner of Gondor. Elrond, at her side whispers, "Go to him." then steps back with the anguished look of a father letting go of his daughter. (This is one of the moments that always makes me clench with tears.) Aragorn steps toward her and takes the banner from her hand. She bows to him. He looks at her a bit quizzically and lifts her head up gently. (HS COMMENT) As Arwen's Theme winds down, she smiles at him and...


Tinúviel elvannui

Elleth alfirin


...he kisses her hard.


A quick phrase, evocative of Aragorn's Theme and the Realm of Gondor in Ascension (which are related) plays. The camera cuts to Elrond who still has tears in his eyes but is smiling at their joy.


Arwen kisses Aragorn, gently. They cuddle a bit. (Five minutes into the track and it just keeps going. Ah, I love this track.)


A flute creeps in as Aragorn walks forth with Arwen at his side. He finds himself standing in front of the Hobbits.


They bow before him which distresses Aragorn. "My friends." They look up at him. (The music in the movie is a little longer than on the CD, although it feels foolish to even note that at this moment.) "You bow to no one." and he, along with every other person in the city,...


...bow down to Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin as a glorious rendition of the Hymn Setting of the Shire A melody. (Our last shot of Aragorn and Arwen) A choir hums quietly in the background.


The camera first zooms into Frodo's face, which seems conflicted, then cuts to a wide shot of the city.


The Shire A melody gives way to the humming choir, then quiet horns as the camera pans out. The music swells up into the The Journey Back theme as the shot of Minas Tirith morphs into the indication of the city on a map. "And thus it was.... that the Fellowship of the Ring.. was ended." The camera moves through the map: along the mountains, past Rohan, Isengard, Lórien, Moria, Rivendell and Bree.


As the flute begins playing the Pensive Setting of the Shire A melody over slow, sedate versions of the Hobbit Outline Figure, we see the Shire on the map and then the four Hobbits, in princely garb, riding ponies into Hobbiton. Frodo narrates, "We were home." They ride by the same disapproving Hobbit from the beginning of the story, sweeping his sidewalk. They all nod pleasantly at him but he just shakes his head as the Shire A melody ends.


(The Shire A melody plays longer on the CD than in the movie. 7:48-8:22 not in movie.)


The sober Shire A melody drops out and we hear a Hobbit Accompaniment.


The first four bars of the Fragrance of Ithilien, the blend of Shire and Fellowship music heard earlier in the track, is reprised on violin (HS COMMENT) as we cut to the Green Dragon. After those first bars, the fiddle finds a new but related melody to explore. Frodo has fetched a round for the four Hobbits. Around them all is merry but they are solemn. They look at each other quietly then take hold of their mugs and...


...raise them together then drink. The music becomes more resolute.


A harp creeps into the music as Sam looks up at...


...Rosie. The violins begin the Hobbit Outline Figure and a solo violin follows with a return of the Rural Setting of the Shire music. Sam takes a deep draught of his beer and goes toward the bar. The others are a bit surprised but delighted.


The Rural Setting moves into a Pensive Setting of the Shire B melody as we cut to Sam and Rosie's wedding. The bodhrán taps out the Heartbeat of the Shire. As Sam and Rosie turn toward their guests, clapping and cheering break out. She throws the bouquet and...


Pippin catches it. The Shire B ends, leaving a slowly fading Outline Figure, as we take a last look at the newlyweds and Frodo, who seems happy.



Lyrics 3:46 - 4:19 from “Elessar's Oath

Lyrics 4:41 - 5:25 from “Song of Lúthien


[04:41] Ti
[04:46] nu
[04:51] vi (el)
[04:55] elva
[05:01] nnu
[05:05] i
[05:06] El
[05:10] leth
[05:11] al
[05:15] firin


to get a sense of how the choir's singing corresponds with the soloist's, go HERE.


Sept. 10, 2005
a completely personal note upon completing the cue by cue for this track.

I've never been good with endings. As a child, I couldn't bear goodbyes of people I'd only known a few days. As an adult, I began to realize that endings are just one component of change with the twin component being beginnings. I grew to recognize and acknowledge the beginnings, to value the beginnings, and finally... to not mind the endings so much because I understood they were needed for the beginnings to occur. But I say, 'so much' because, really... they're still very hard for me.

In the summer of 2002 I found myself at a milestone in my life. Actually, many milestones. Although I had anticipated the release of Fellowship of the Rings and had seen it twice over the winter, it wasn't until a third viewing in May of 2002 that something clicked. I went back to the books, something I hadn't done in 30 years and I found myself caught up in something so personally enormous, I was almost overwhelmed. That's a long story... too long for here, even with my tendency towards long-windedness. But in August, I found myself sitting in the backyard starting Return of the King. A quick flip through the book shocked me. I didn't have a whole book to go... I only had half a book. I was going to have to say goodbye to this story way sooner than I was prepared to. The Elves were already leaving. Soon I was going to have to leave as well. As I read on, I endured the ending of the Fellowship and then, horrifyingly realized that there would be no happy ending for Frodo. He was leaving too. I read the timeline in the appendix and watched each of the remaining Fellowship die or pass over the sea.

In this year on March 1st came at last the Passing of King Elessar. It is said that the beds of Meriadoc and Peregrin were set beside the bed of the great king. Then Legolas built a grey ship in Ithilien, and sailed down Anduin and so over Sea; and with him, it is said, went Gimli the Dwarf. And when that ship passed an end was come in the Middle-earth of the Fellowship of the Ring.

And it was over. Honestly?... I cried not only during the last chapters of the book but for days after finishing. I think there were lots of reasons I was so completely caught up in this story, but a significant contributing factor toward my sorrow was this prolonged but definite ending. I've revisited the story many times, and it does get easier. But... endings are still very hard for me.

When "Into the West" was released in anticipation of the movie, I downloaded it and listened to it a number of times. Then I bought the ROTK soundtrack CD prior to the movie as well. "Into the West" would play,. the singing would finish and, after a few bars of quiet music, it all just faded away. FOTR and TTT had ended with triumphant, expectant music. This one just faded away and I knew that ROTK would come out and I would watch it and it would end. And I would be faced with a whole new set of endings: the ending of the movies and the ending of the Fellowship of Tolkien fans that had bonded over the internet. I couldn't listen to those last few notes because they were so symbolic of what was to come and I would quickly hit the button to just start the soundtrack over again. At some point, I would see the movie for the last time. I would have my last contact with an online Tolkien friend.

Here's what I wrote at a forum 11/25/03 - regarding my first listen to the newly (pre movie) released soundtrack:

I listened to the last moments of the CD in the car as I drove up to home. I sat there in tears and realized that at some point, I will hear those notes and it will all be over. Over! No more theatrical showings. No more news on filming. No more speculations or spoilers. No more new scenes of my long-haired Elves.

PJ, I take back every criticism I ever voiced. I don't care that Imrahil wasn't in there. I don't care that Faramir has flaws. I don't care that you killed Haldir. Keep Middle-earth coming. I love the books and I always will. But those images are so dear to me and for me, the two... your images and Tolkien's words... are tied together inextricably.

Excuse me I need a tissue....


I've been listening to ROTK a lot at bedtime. It swirls in my ears as I fall asleep. Often, I wake up at the beginning of "The End of All Things", perhaps because it has such bombastic opening music. But I think I know it's coming... the end, and my mind needs to take it in. When I list my 'favorite' music from the soundtrack, I rarely list the battle music, or the 'contentious' music. It just doesn't drift up the list. But "The End of All Things" really fits the emotions of the activity on screen so well. My brain sits up and takes notice. Then... it comes. "The Return of the King". It's a long track and it holds, for me, the essence of the goodbyes. It's during this track that we see the last of Gimli, then Éowyn and Faramir, and Éomer... Legolas... and finally, Aragorn and Arwen. It's during this track that we hear the last (bar a few echoed notes) of the Fellowship Theme.

The rest of the soundtrack is sweet. But I've already endured the hardest, the breaking of the Fellowship. I'm resigned now. It will end and I will go on.

For such is the way of it: to find and lose, as it seems to those whose boat is on the running stream.

As I write the cue by cue for this track, I face yet another ending. The ending of the work I've done on this website. I have a tremendous amount to do before I could call it finished, but that doesn't mean the work won't end -whether it's finished or not. So, I have ending piled on ending all represented by this track. With years and experience, I realize the risks we take result in both pain and delight. And I've gotten a lot from Tolkien. I've gotten a lot from my online circle of Tolkien fans. And I've gotten a lot from my having done this website. I've met and worked with people from all over the world. I've gotten positive feedback from people of all ages and professions. I've bonded with the movie in ways I wouldn't have without listening to the music over and over again.

Before the end of these things, I want to say thank you to all the people who have helped - to all the people who have written me - to all the friends who have supported me and encouraged me - to Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh - to Howard Shore - and finally, to John Ronald Reuel Tolkien.

And all the host laughed and wept, and in the midst of their merriment and tears the clear voice of the minstrel rose like silver and gold, and all men were hushed. And he sang to them, now in the Elven-tongue, now in the speech of the West, until their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.






1-A Storm is Coming ~ 2-Hope and Memory ~ 3-Minas Tirith ~ 4-The White Tree

5-The Steward of Gondor ~ 6-Minas Morgul ~ 7-The Ride of the Rohirrim ~ 8-Twilight and Shadow

9-Cirith Ungol ~ 10-Anduril ~ 11-Shelob's Lair ~ 12-Ash and Smoke ~ 13-Fields of the Pelennor

14-Hope Fails ~ 15-The Black Gate Opens ~ 16-End of All Things

17-Return of the King ~ 18-The Grey Havens ~ 19-Into the West

ROTK Closing Credits Music