Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Ending is the Best Part

Endings are always seen as a sad thing—the story is over, someone has died, a friendship has ended, or all of the above. These are most likely sad because something is finished, and the reader does not get anymore of that thing from the actual author. The journey is over, and there is nothing you can do about it. I would argue the opposite, that endings are the best and most important part of any journey.
            Take The Lord of the Rings as an example. The ending of Sam and Frodo’s story is a fond farewell before Frodo goes off to the Undying Lands. Though they will never see each other again, they exchange meaningful words and gifts. While sad, it is the best for both of them because of the closure it brings them both.
            Another ending within the book is that of the fellowship. That story ends effectively when Frodo and Sam leave and Boromir dies. This ending is also sad because of abandonment and death, but serves an important and greater purpose. It is also necessary because of the individual jobs of each character. The end is an essential component, while sad because the fellowship stood for hope and light, is crucial due to the greater importance of the mission.
            Similar to the great many missions discussed in the book, the overall ending of The Lord of the Rings—as in the ending of typed out and published in books by J.R.R. Tolkien—serves a greater purpose as well and should not be seen as sad. For the readers, the end of the books is necessary to gain closure and explanation. Without an ending, one would not know the fate of the Shire, what Sam does after Frodo is gone, and what the great elf lords and ladies did. More than that, the ending shows the true colors of each character. Rather than following Frodo, his dear master, to the Undying Lands, Sam remains in Middle Earth to be with his wife and children as well as look after the Shire and record the his story. This reflects Sam’s true and noble character of always putting others before himself and staying true to what his duty is no matter the emotional price or pain. Anther instance of an ending revealing the true quality of the characters is in the breaking of the fellowship. Aragorn could have forced Frodo to stay with him as he fought the army of Uruk-hai. This, if successful, would have meant that Merry and Pippen would have been abandoned in favor of Frodo’s mission. It also most likely would have resulted in Gollum’s death and the death of other fellowship members. Rather than doing that, Aragorn let the fellowship break, allowing Frodo and then Sam to leave, burying Boromir, and banding together with Gimli and Legolas to find and save Merry and Pippen. Showing his true quality, Aragorn facilitates a devastating ending to create the possibility of hope. 
            In the words of Sam Gamgee during the end of The Twin Towers,  It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.”
            In that quote, Sam really captures the human fear and dread of endings. Sometimes, stories are scary and sad, so how could the ending be ok? However, even with the fear, one has to stick it out to the end—even if you didn’t completely understand what happened or why. Endings matter because they teach someone to not turn back, to push past the difficulties, the sadness, the strife, to work to the end to see what happens and be glad you did. People hate endings because it reminds us that the story is not really real. Endings conclude the lives and characters you loved; they finish a great story.
            However, the conclusion does not necessarily mean the story dies. As discussed in class, dedicated readers can continue by thinking about the characters’ lives after the story ends, and fill in the blank spaces themselves. This allows for a closer connection to the story, and an appreciation for an ending because where one story and one author ends, another can begin.
            These qualities: revealing the true colors behind a character, providing closure for the reader, as well as allowing a new story and author to pick up the strands make endings the best and most important part of a story. While the written words are finished, it is something that is necessary because all stories must end at some point otherwise they wouldn’t be good. Endings, like those Sam mention, are so important because those final moments and deeds are really what stick with a reader and make them think on the story after—showing how strong and important they truly are.  

            On a more personal note, lets examine the end-of-class party today. While sad that it is over and that reading and talking about The Lord of the Rings will no longer be a daily part of my life, the party did provide a lot of closure. I got to hear the results of the ring game, listen to awesome presentations by my peers, and see my professor and TA in full regalia and force. It was an event that showed the true colors of my classmates as they realized it was the end—taking happy and satisfied photographs, thanking our professor, and having light-saber duels between a hobbit and Sauron (there’s a sentence I never thought I would write). It shows that while difficult and sad, endings are best because of the closure and finality they bring, as well as the promise for a personalized future—whether that is taking pictures of yourself proudly wearing the ring Professor Fulton-Brown bestowed on to you, continuing on final projects long after they are due, or watching The Lord of the Rings with friends gained from class next year. 



  1. I found this post interesting because it made me think about why The Lord of the Rings resonates so strongly with so many people. The easy answer is the triumphant ending. The destruction of evil forces present in the ending gives us hope for our own world. However, the role of the ending is much more than an instrument to make us feel good. As you note, endings are for "providing closure for the reader, as well as allowing a new story and author to pick up the strands make endings." The story doesn't end with the triumph of good - it ends with us picking up the pieces and fragments left of the story and carrying them with us for the rest of our lives. The ending is satisfying because we see the arcs of characters whom we've come to love come to a graceful halt. It shows us that even after the darkest times, our stories can come to graceful endings. We as humans seek catharsis, especially in stories as emotionally intense as The Lord of the Rings. This catharsis can either be found in the words of the author or in our own ideas of how the characters continue to grow. The final moments of triumph and heroic deeds do stick with the reader, but in my opinion this sense of catharsis is what makes the ending of The Lord of the Rings so resonant.

  2. I think your argument that the endings in Lord of the Rings are always good even if they don't seem like that on the surface (many character deaths come to mind as seemingly bad endings. I think that another point that would be important to your argument, though, is that many of the 'endings' you mentioned are important / good because they mark the beginning of something else.

    In the case of Bormir's death and the breaking of the fellowship, it's the beginning of Frodo's true quest to Mordor. If the fellowship had continued on as a group to Mordor, would Frodo have made it? A large part of me doubts it and thinks that it was important that, at the end of all things, it was two small hobbits making their way through Mordor. So Boromir's death wasn't just an ending - it was the beginning of many other quests: Frodo and Sam, Aragorn and Gimli and Legolas, and Merry and Pippin.

    I think that an even better example of an ending causing a beginning is your example of Sam letting Frodo go to the Undying Lands. It is an incredibly sad parting, but it marks the beginning of Sam really coming into his own. He is no longer a servant or a small hobbit making his way across the big world, he is the mayor and it is his family that ends up preserving history.

    In this way, I think that Tolkien's endings are even more realistic. You note that endings can seem unrealistic because life doesn't just end arbitrarily - the story goes on. And in fact, the endings of all these stories you mentioned do just lead into beginnings of new stories.

  3. I am so happy you enjoyed the party! I agree: we need endings, even as they feel sad. Perhaps this is why Tolkien considered Death a gift? Endings give us a sense of purpose, of a meaning to life, even as they bring sorrow. But in that sorrow, as Tolkien teaches us, is also great joy, we do not get the one without the other. Much to ponder on here! RLFB