Oh No, Return Of The King’s Ending Could Have Been Even Longer
Many jokes have mocked the final 20 minutes of Return of the King, full of scenes that seem like endings for the entire trilogy, but each one followed up by one scene more. Those who watched the film when it first came out still have war stories about sitting in the theater, waiting for the credits to finally start, and their bladders in the meantime rupturing, almost fatally.
Watching the movie now, and knowing what you’re in for, the ending works fine. Other individual parts of the long trilogy might seem plodding and skippable, but not the careful ending. In part, this is because you’re watching the stripped-down version of what Peter Jackson originally envisioned as the ending (and no, when we're talking about the full ending, we’re not talking about the sizable final bit of the novel called “The Scouring of the Shire,” which he never planned to include).
The Return of the King book ends with a bunch of different appendices, containing extra info about Middle-earth, like calendars, family trees, and language notes. One of these appendices gives little epilogues for various characters, and Peter Jackson planned to include those in the movie, as a sort of montage.
According to the appendix, Gimli becomes “Lord of the Glittering Caves,” building new mithril gates to replace the ugly ones Sauron owned. He and Legolas bring elves and dwarves out of their own native lands to settle in some of the places ravaged by war. Then when Legolas finally sails west like so many elves, he takes Gimli with him. We have (very brief) footage of what they filmed for these final glimpses at Legolas and Gimli. The uploader added the music—the footage never reached the music stage.
The appendix also said Faramir and Eowyn marry, and while you might guess that from the film putting them next to each other in their final scene, the planned ending was going to show their wedding too. Somewhere around this point, Jackson must have realized he’d be going beyond most viewers’ patience, and he left the last few scenes just about the Shire folk instead.
And so die-hard fans of the story might feel a little short-changed. Legolas and Gimli get no ending beyond finally acknowledging that they are at least friends—and in fact, Frodo goes the entire trilogy without speaking to Legolas. When the Followship appear at Frodo’s bed, it’s unclear if Frodo can even remember the elf’s name.
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