There were two original songs, “May It Be” and “Gollum’s Song,” which drew on themes from the first two “Lord of the Rings” movies, but “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” needed of a song to wrap up the epic series as a whole. At first, composer Howard Shore was going to include a lament from “The Gray Havens” chapter, but it wasn’t quite as grand. Inspired by the untimely passing of a 16-year-old New Zealand Maori filmmaker named Cameron Duncan, Howard Shore, screenwriter Fran Walsh and singer Annie Lennox composed “Into the West” (via Extended Edition Appendices, part 6, “Music for Middle-earth” and “Cameron Duncan: Inspiration for ‘Into the West'”). The tune incorporates musical themes used throughout the trilogy, including the triumphant “Black Gate Opens” as Sam transports Frodo to Mount Doom.
The dark but peaceful lyrics detail the immortal lands where Frodo and Bilbo go to rest after suffering with the ring for so long, and reference Gandalf’s monologue to Pippin on the beauty beyond: “The curtain of gray rain of this world recedes, and everything turns to silver glass. … White shores, and beyond, a land very green under a rapid sunrise.” Annie Lennox’s soulful voice, simple guitar and floating flute sum up not only the tearful goodbyes between the hobbits, but the total end of an arduous journey.
The serene “Into the West” plays over the end credits of “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” which includes beautifully illustrated portraits of the cast. The battle for Middle-earth is over, and we feel both relief for the camaraderie and sadness that this incredible fantasy series has come to an end.