As delightful as Gandalf and Frodo’s first scene together in the Shire is, their final scene in “The Return of the King” is even more breathtaking and moving. The White Wizard, a rapidly aged Bilbo, and Frodo, still suffering from his wounds, are bound for the last ship to leave Middle-earth. They intend to join Galadriel and Elrond on a journey to the Undying Lands. But first, Frodo must bid farewell to his dear friends Merry, Pippin, and of course, Sam. It’s not an easy goodbye. Gandalf, as steadying and authoritative as ever, helps get them all through their emotional parting. “Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the sea, comes the end of our fellowship in Middle-earth,” he tells them. “I will not say ‘do not weep,’ for not all tears are an evil.” The wizard’s own eyes are welling up, though his face stretches into a warm and content smile, knowing full well that this is the best possible outcome for all involved.
Frodo explains to his friends that they did what they set out to do — save the Shire — but saved it for them and for future generations of hobbits, and not himself. After a last embrace, he gives Sam the Red Book and walks toward Gandalf’s outstretched, welcoming hand. They board the ship together with the indescribable beauty of Valinor in the distance, though Frodo can’t help but look back at his lifelong friends before they sail into the glowing horizon.