Happy Ring-day and Gondorian New Year! I have learned something fascinating about ROTK's seemingly anticlimactic ending.

Notes:

Keep in mind, it was Morgoth who laid "bonds of evil" on Sauron, so Sauron is just an (albeit with different goals) extension of Morgoth's evil.

Fëanáro - Fëanor in Quenya, the language the Elves of Valinor spoke

Narya- Gandalf's Elven Ring of Fire

Araman- place in Valinor where Mandos intercepted the fleeing Noldor and pronounced the Doom of the Noldor

Olórin- Quenya rendition of Gandalf's original name as a Maia of Valinor

The entire Army of Mordor- nay, the whole world- stills.

But it is more than that: Gandalf feels a new Master of the One through Narya, deep in his soul.

And then suddenly he is Olórin again, watching with horror and dread as Fëanáro refuses to share his precious light- light that should never be possessed or splintered but shared with all- and turns away and vows fey words and charts Arda on a course to destruction, as Celebrimbor makes his grandfather's mistake and dooms them all again, as Isildur turns away from the one chance they had to defeat Evil forever in Middle-earth- all the failings against the evil of Morgoth, who himself wanted to possess the Light, the Secret Fire, and grew twisted when he could not- and here he is now, and it is happening again... despite all the miracles and impossibilities and the fact that they made it so far, Frodo, brave, pure-hearted Frodo, has finally been worn down and is making Fëanáro's mistake of old...

"Stand and wait!" Olórin calls with a voice like Doom, like the voice of Lord Mandos so long ago in Araman. "This is the hour of Doom."

He might as well have been in Mandos's place so long ago. There is no difference.

So many dear to him are here at Sauron's doorstep today, and so many more throughout Arda- not least the two little ones at the heart of Evil on Earth- and he has led them here, and he can see failure on the horizon...

He scarcely breathes.

And, struggling to keep his own will, he just begins to despair...

Then an image comes to his mind: Samwise struggling to his feet, Frodo invisible and the Ring's at last, but then! a twisted creature- Gollum- Gollum, who has been allowed to live by the mercy of the one he is now trying to kill- comes bursting in and grapples for endless moments with air, and he bites...

Then suddenly Narya is free, and Frodo is visible again, his finger stump bleeding, and Gollum has the ring- but he is dancing on the very Crack of Doom... and could that mean...

And Olorin's eyes widen as he slowly begins to guess what his wisdom was telling him in the Mines... is it... could it be? Is that why?Perhaps, despite Frodo's failure that mirrors Feanaro's fall to anger and lust (the Ring, he notes idly, is quite shiny- ironies abound in the world), they are not doomed as the Noldor were so long ago, after all.

Gollum hangs in the air for a long moment- Olorin is timeless and from before Time, but he cannot bear the wait as Gollum falls back down to the surface of the Mountain-

except... he is too far out, directly over the lava...

and he falls...

and he falls...

and then- impact...

and then, impossibly, wonderfully, Olórin feels a shudder through his whole soul, a lightening, and Narya loses its power, and a great feyness passes from the world.

He takes a deep breath of clean air and announces, "The realm of Sauron is ended. The Ring-bearer has fulfilled his quest."

But while the world stands still in a moment of respect for all those dead and in disbelief of the great cleansing of Arda and jubilation just begins to hit the hearts of the many assembled here, the first thought that comes to his mind is, with a shout of exultation that he has not felt since the moment of his creation, The cycle is broken!

And the second, Gollum, you did indeed have a role yet to play- unwittingly, you alone have broken a cycle of possession and greed that has lasted for more than three ages. Strange are the ways of the One indeed.

The Eye of Sauron goes out- victory at last, Sauron was the last, ever since the beginning of the world we have toiled and now, thanks to three Hobbits, we have won!

And the clouds blow away from the land and the black armies run in despair and the Eagles of Manwe caw and spin in the air and shouts of victory and ecstasy rise up from the Army of the West- and for the first time since before the Sun rose (for the first time in its existence), Arda is free.

Idly humming a familiar-sounding melody he has not sung in a very, very long time, Olórin runs to his faithful friend Gwaihir, to rescue those who have brought back hope.

How delighted he is to find that Sam carries the Phial of Galadriel, the light coveted greedily by so many shared willingly for the hope of Middle-earth, as it should be.

LOTRLOTRLOTR

When it is clear that the three brave Hobbits will live and Olórin can be spared from healing and planning and organizing, he goes away from the camp and falls to his knees, coming undone, weeping with pain for all his friends lost- and with exhaustion from the long road- and with joy that finally, we have won, we are free!

He raises up his hands to the West, tears streaming down his face, and he feels the celebrations of Aman, and the love and pride of his kin and his lords, and he feels Nienna weeping with him, and Tulkas's long, free laughter, and Nessa dancing in joy, and Oromë's deep sense of victory over the servant of the one he had chased across Aman and failed to catch, and Aulë's gratitude finally beginning to triumph over grief at losing two of his greatest Maiar, and Yavanna and Vána's hope for growth and renewal in the abused land of Mordor, and Irmo and Estë soothing his weary soul, and Námo and Vaire's deep satisfaction that Eä has come full circle at last, and Manwë and Varda's ecstasy (such a rare emotion lately), and their loving message, You have done well- and then, a faint whisper of something pure and wonderful, and Olórin hears words he has not heard since before the world began.

And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.

He feels, then, a gentle hand on his shoulder and looks up to see Aragorn, wearier and happier than Gandalf has ever seen him. The two warriors and dear friends share a silent moment; words do not seem necessary.

"Arda is free," Gandalf says at last, as the Man takes his shoulders and raises him up.

"Yes," says Elessar, glowing with victory and hope and wisdom learned from decades of travel and from his father who had lived through the greatest folly of the Eldar and from Gandalf himself, carrying the lessons of Ages on his shoulders and standing all the taller and prouder for it. He takes each of Gandalf's hands in his own and looks him straight in the eye as he says in a soft whisper, "And it will stay that way. I swear it."

"No- Frodo 'failed'. It is possible that once the ring was destroyed he had little recollection of the last scene. But one must face the fact: the power of Evil in the world is not finally resistible by incarnate creatures, however 'good'; and the Writer of the Story is not one of us." -J.R.R. Tolkien