20 Costumes to Rule Them All: The Return of The King

We have reached the conclusion of our journey! The fiery cliffs of Mount Doom are upon us, and the final piece in this costume series is here. Thank you all for reading parts one and two! If you missed them, you can catch up by following this link.

Last week, we covered the second film of the trilogy, The Two Towers. Which brings us to the next and final film, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. In comparison to the other two films, this is drama entry. We go through a lot of emotions, tears of joy, and tears of sorrow. Emotion plays a big part in developing the costumes in this film. I am so excited, let’s get to it! Behold part three of 20 Costumes to Rule Them All: The Costumes of Middle-Earth.

15. Peregrin (Pippin) Took – The Return of the King

In one of the more tragic, but beautiful scenes of the trilogy, an unlikely hero takes center stage. Peregrin Took (played by Billy Boyd), also known as Pippin, volunteered to serve the Steward of Gondor, Denethor II. He does so because he foolishly responsibility for Boromir’s death early on in the story. *cue Gandalf’s eyeroll* Denethor is a mad man and demands Faramir lead a battalion of soldiers to attack the orcs that recaptured Osgiliath. Everyone knows this is a suicide mission, but Denethor does not care. While Faramir’s battalion is slaughtered, Denethor is having himself a feast and demands Pippin sings a song.

This is where the focus on the costume of Pippin comes into play. Pippin is dressed in all black. He is obviously in the mourning, for those that are being killed and those that will. You could also say Pippin is singing in mourning of the Kingdom of Gondor. His armor bears the insignia of Gondor, The White Tree. Therefore, you can tell from the costume that we are witnessing the defeat of Gondor, even if you were watching without audio. It’s a truly beautiful, powerful scene that I think so many of us can relate to, that sinking feeling that clings on when your anxieties take hold. That feeling you get in your gut when you know something is wrong, and there is nothing you can do about it.

16. Éowyn – The Return of the King

Now we have come to one of the biggest “hell-yeah” moments of the trilogy. Remember last week when we talked about Éowyn’s character (played by Miranda Otto), growing outside of the misogynistic control of her costumes? Well, it all leads to this grand moment where Éowyn takes her life into her own control . Éowyn, despite her King’s command to avoid the battle, disguises herself in armor and goes to war. A prophecy of Middle-Earth said, that The Witch-King of Angmar would not die “by the hand of man”. Éowyn approaches the Witch-King costumed in a man’s armor. Éowyn has spent her life abiding by the rules of men, but not today. She rips off her helmet as though she is ripping away a life of being told how to dress, how to feel, and how to serve, and calmly says, “I am no man!”. After diving her sword directly into the head of the Witch-King, Eowyn single handedly destroys a monster responsible for the destruction of countless civilizations, an accomplishment made by no man. Amazing.

This is just the most perfect, full-circle moment. Though she wears what is considered a man’s armor, Éowyn shows that it doesn’t matter who fights underneath the armor. It is just armor after all. Regardless of your gender identity, race, sexuality, we are all warriors and have the power to make real change in this world, and Middle-Earth.

17. Aragorn – The Return of the King

In a dramatic transformation from when we first met Aragorn (played by Viggo Mortensen) , he is now leading the allied forces into the lands of Mordor. This costume in particular really says a lot about Aragorn’s own character development. Think about when we first saw him, cloaked and hidden from both forces of good and evil. Now, as our “knight in shining armor” wearing the insignia of Gondor, the Kingdom he is the rightful heir to, stands alone against the forces of evil. The light of the Eye of Sauron reflects upon his armor, sort of giving us the mirage of light at the end of the tunnel. It’s such beautiful imagery and a really beautiful costume.

18. Frodo and Sam – The Return of the King

We are coming to an end here, wrapping up with where we began, Frodo and Sam (played by Elijah Wood and Sean Astin). Earlier we talked about how Sam was dressed as though he was a hard worker, and Frodo was dressed as he came from a life of privilege. I think it’s really quite interesting that by the time we get to the end, their costumes have now evened out. It’s like the costume designer is saying that through his journey, Frodo learned the real trials of life and the value of hard work. Sam on the other hand, though he looks pretty beat up, Sam was already aware of the value in hard work. Sam literally carried Frodo up Mount Doom. Therefore I don’t see a whole late of change in Sam’s costume, with the exception of more dirt. It’s a proud moment, and the costumes show real transformation for both of these characters.

19. Aragorn – The Return of the King

This is the last Aragorn costume I wanted to highlight! At the conclusion of the series, we see Aragorn now being crowned King. This costume is pretty on the nose in terms of significance, essentially serves as a beautiful bow wrapping up this incredible story. The armor is incredible. Most of all, I love the crown as it looks as though there are beams of light branching out from behind the White Tree of Gondor. I think it is also important to note that some of the suspected historical and literary inspirations for Aragorn’s character are, for example, King Oswald of Northumbria, King Alfred the Great, and the figure of Christ the King. Aragorn is emerging as the savior of Middle-Earth. He didn’t do it alone, but he sure as hell led the charge.

20. Arwen – The Return of the King

The first conflict of the film is resolved by Arwen (played by Liv Tyler), and it’s only fitting that she signals the end of the story as well. At Aragorn’s coronation, Arwen steps out from behind a white banner looking as what can only be described as an angel. At this moment, Arwen is the most beautiful woman, elf, being in existence. She wears a very pale green gown, with billowing sleeves and a stunning jeweled headpiece that has the shape of a crown. Her presence means hope, not just to the characters, but to the audience that the powers of good will always overcome evil. This land can now heal. Arwen is about to become queen, but in this costume, I say she revealed herself as a goddess.

There we have it, everyone. As you can see, costume design is integral to the story of The Lord of the Rings. Almost every costume in this series holds much significance and symbolism- detailing every character, scene, and theme.

I can’t even begin to thank costume designer Ngila Dickson for her incredible work on these films. Ngila is a hero of mine and helped shape the very story that continues to inspire my life. Her work was beautiful, extravagant, and convincing. She made Middle-Earth feel real. Even when a costume was under-stated, it still had a lot to say. Her costumes told the story, and that is the true power of costume design.

Thank you for reading! I’ve been anxiously looking forward to the publishing of this three pieces and it was such a great experience. Please feel free to leave a comment, and share with your friends. Let me know what you thought, and which costumes are your favorites!

“So do all who live to see such times but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world Frodo besides evil.

Gandalf – The Fellowship of the ring

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