"I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened."note
"I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil."
— Gandalf, summing everything about this page.
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Tearjerker in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings
- "The Scouring of the Shire", where the Hobbits return to the Shire to find Saruman and his goons have trashed the place.
- The slow glimpses we get of Bilbo's age catching up with him, starting when we see him in Rivendell after almost 2 decades without the Ring, and much more apparent at the end. In the end he has to be bundled up like a child and he's very forgetful, recalling he gave Frodo the Ring but not why he did so.
- Bilbo and Frodo reuniting is very heartwarming. A while later, however, when the Fellowship is planning to leave, Bilbo starts reciting "I sit beside the fire and think", which is about how though he loved adventures and still yearns to go on them he is too old (expressly saying he knows he will die soon, no less!) and all he can do now is wait for those still young to return from them.
- The end of Return Of The King. When Frodo realises that he can never be happy in Middle-Earth, goes across the sea and leaves Sam, Merry and Pippin behind; especially the paragraph involving the "white shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise."
- And straight after, the scene changes to the friends of Frodo staying alone on the shore under a darkening sky. The strong contrast makes the scene so poignant that it is nearly impossible not to feel sorry for them.
- The end of The Two Towers.
- When Sméagol comes back to the Hobbits sleeping from betraying them at Shelob's cave. He sees them sleeping peacefully, and just for a moment he repents.
For a fleeting moment, could one of the sleepers have seen him, they would have thought that they beheld an old weary hobbit, shrunken by the years that had carried him far beyond his time, beyond friends and kin, and the fields and streams of youth, an old starved pitiable thing.
- The ultimate fate of Arwen, after Aragorn's death. Aragorn knows it even as he is dying; he says to her, "I speak no comfort to you, for there is no comfort to such pain within the circles of the world."
But Arwen went forth from the House, and the light of her eyes was quenched, and it seemed to her people that she had become cold and grey as nightfall in winter that comes without a star. Then she said farewell to Eldarion, and to her daughters, and to all whom she had loved; and she went out from the city of Minas Tirith and passed away to the land of Lórien, and dwelt there alone under the fading trees until winter came. Galadriel had passed away and Celeborn had also gone, and the land was silent.
There at last when the mallorn-leaves were falling, but spring had not yet come, she laid herself to rest upon Cerin Amroth; and there is her green grave, until the world is changed, and all the days of her life are utterly forgotten by the men that come after, and elanor and niphredil bloom no more east of the sea.
And so passed Arwen Undómiel, Evenstar of her people and the likeness of Lúthien the beloved, whom they have lost. An an end was come to the Eldar, of story and of song.
- This is probably a good place to point out what happened to Elrond throughout the story. When he's a young boy, his father leaves to ask the Valar for aid against Morgoth, he and his brother are separated from their mother by the Third Kinslaying (where the Sons of Feanor attack the haven of Arvernien). His twin brother choses a mortal life, becoming the first king of Numenor (and remember, Elves and Men have different afterlives). In the Third Age, his wife is abducted by Orcs and while she is rescued, she soon after departs for the Undying Lands. His daughter chooses a mortal life and it's hinted that his sons also choose to remain in Middle-Earth. Poor guy.
- How Orcs are made.
- The diminishing of Lórien. The heart of Elvendom on Middle-Earth, the last place on the Bent World where some memory of Aman was preserved, and, after the destruction of the Ring and the departure of Galadriel over-sea, "in a few years Celeborn grew weary of his realm and went to Imladris to dwell with the sons of Elrond... in Lórien there lingered sadly only a few of its former people, and there was no longer light or song in Caras Galadhon."
". There's a reason why that chapter is called "Farewell to Lórien" and why this quote adorns the End of an Age
On the green bank near to the very point of the Tongue the Lady Galadriel stood alone and silent. As they passed her they turned and their eyes watched her slowly floating away from them. For so it seemed to them: Lórien was slipping backward, like a bright ship masted with enchanted trees, sailing on to forgotten shores, while they sat helpless upon the margin of the grey and leafless world.
- From the same chapter, there's also Galadriel's song lamenting her exile:
O Lórien! The Winter comes, the bare and leafless Day;/ The leaves are falling in the stream, the river flows away./ O Lórien! Too long I have dwelt upon this Hither Shore/ And in a fading crown have twined the golden elanor./ But if of ships I now should sing, what ship would come to me,/ What ship would bear me ever back across so wide a Sea?
- Gandalf. Bridge of Moria.
- The Appendices, where we learn what became of Sam after LOTR...
- The Appendices' account of the "Tale of Aragorn and Arwen" is heartrending. Aragorn's mother's last words to her son, who grew up under the name of Estel, which means Hope...
I gave Hope to the Dúnedain, I have kept none for myself.
- When Pippin goes to Minas Tirith. His little tour of the city with that kid, playing games and having fun.
- An in-universe example - after the Rohirrim arrive to lift the siege of Minas Tirith, Pippin can never hear the sound of a horn again without tearing up. Manly Tears, of course.
- In Ithilien Samwise sees his first dead (human) enemy, giving us one of the few moments where Tolkien is speaking obviously and heart-rendingly from his own experience.
He was glad that he could not see the dead face. He wondered what the man's name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace - all in a flash of thought...
- If you read beyond the end of the Return of the King, you get to the appendices. And if you read to the end of appendix B, you finally come to the end of the Fellowship.
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 out beside the bed of the great king. Then Legolas built a grey ship in Ithilien, and sailed down Anduin and so over the sea; and with him, it is said, went Gimli the Dwarf. And when that ship passed an end was come in Middle-Earth of the Fellowship of the Ring.
- Treebeard's nostalgic and afflicted account about the loss of the Entwives makes you feel very sorry for him. More so, even after Sauron is gone, Treebeard predicts they won't be found in the new lands and his race will slowly die. There isn't a hint of the opposite in other Tolkien works. Given that Middle-Earth is supposed to be the ancient past... have you seen any walking, talking trees lately? note
- The poem or song he recites about the Ents and Entwives searching for one another is heartrending too.
- Poor Merry in Return of the King. First, all of his fellowship friends take off and leave him, then his new friends in Rohan do the same, then he's in a huge battle with only Dernhelm to rely on. After Dernhelm reveals himself to be Éowyn in disguise, Merry comes to her aid but because he's so small he ends up ignored or overlooked by everyone around him (save for Théoden, his surrogate father, who is dying) and has to make his own way into Minas Tirith (half dead from Witch-King poisoning by this point). When Pippin finally finds him he wasn't the only one saying "Thank goodness". Then all his fellowship friends go and leave him behind again.
- "BALIN FUNDINUL, UZBAD KHAZAD-DÛMU"khu . If you've read The Hobbit, you know Balin, Ori, and Óin. You also know what Fire-Forged Friends they were with Bilbo.
- Théoden's last words to Merry: "Farewell, Master Holbytla! My body is broken, I go to my fathers. And even in their mighty company I shall not now be ashamed. I felled the black serpent. A grim morn, and a glad day, and a golden sunset! To him, at least, this death is an Esoteric Happy Ending.
- The redemptive death of Boromir. 'But Boromir did not speak again.'
- The beautiful elegy Aragorn & Legolas sing for Boromir.
Oh Boromir the Tower of Guard will ever Northward gaze/ To Rauros, golden Rauros falls until the end of days!
- The last line of the book: "Well, I'm back." The reader who is new to the story is not sure until the very end if Sam will survive his separation from Frodo, but when he returns he is recommitting himself to life in a changed world and the beginning of the Fourth Age - and with it, the loss of Lothlórien and diminishing of Elven magic. It is impossible not to relate their story to the universal story of soldiers returning from war, some irrevocably changed (Frodo) and some able to move forward (Sam).
- The massive sense of finality those three words carry. This is an entire world, with a full history stretching back millennia of legendary heroes that have goals, dreams, and causes to fight to the last for. Three Ages of war and blood and a faint spark of hope held at all costs against literal gods and demons. Magic and firm alliances against utter evils. And a final victory, even though so much has been lost forever. And it's all over, for good.
Tearjerker in Adaptations
- In 1981, The BBC adapted the trilogy for radio broadcast, complete with a gorgeous soundtrack, showcasing Tolkien's own poetry. Perhaps Bilbo's last song can be seen as a crowner, as it has never been set at such a scale (Jackson didn't have the rights to that poem, leading to the writing of Into The West, which is heartwrenching in its own right).
- Bill Nighy's performance as Samwise Gamgee in the BBC Radio Adaptation is nothing short of marvelous; one such example is his relationship with Bill the Pony... which is all the more heartbreaking when he grieves upon thinking the Watcher outside Moria killed him.
Tearjerker in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings films
- The cavalry charge at the Battle of Helm's Deep. It was just perfect.
- When the Rohirrim join the battle at Pelennor Fields.
- The most emotionally powerful "going into battle" scene in the entire trilogy.
- Théoden's speech.
Théoden: Ride now! Ride for ruin, and the world's ending!
- Oh, hell yes. Théoden's entire speech sets it up for you, and minutes later, as he lies shattered beneath his horse, cue the Kleenex:
Théoden: I go to my fathers...in whose mighty company I shall not now feel ashamed. Éowyn...