Middle-earth is, in one sense, the story of struggle against inevitable decline. While the Ring is destroyed and a new age of peace is ushered in, there is nevertheless the palpable sense that it is a reprieve as much as a victory—that decline has been temporarily arrested but not halted. After all, Gondor in its replenished splendor under the King is still only an imitation of Númenor; the Elves, wise teachers of Men and lovers of beauty, must depart to the havens and sail westward, never to return. In the midst of triumphant joy there is deep and poignant sorrow.
Peter Wilkin received his PhD in English from the University of Sydney in 2012.