|Yes, I know it's The Lord of the Rings but screw the lot of you (and Moorcock too), it's one of my favourite books.|
"Where are you going, Master?" cried Sam, though at last he understood what was happening.
"To the Havens, Sam," said Frodo.
"And I can't come."
"No, Sam. Not yet anyway, not further than the Havens. Though you too were a Ring-bearer, if only for a little while. Your time may come. Do not be too sad Sam. You cannot be always torn in two. You will have to be one and whole, for many years. You have so much to enjoy and to be, and to do."
"But," said Sam, and tears started in his eyes, "I thought you were going to enjoy the Shire, too, for years and years, after all you have done."
"So I thought too, once. But I have been too deeply hurt, Sam. I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: someone has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them. But you are my heir: all that I had and might have had I leave to you... Your hands and your wits will be needed everywhere. You will be the Mayor, of course, as long as you want to be, and the most famous gardener in history: and you will read things out of the Red Book, and keep alive the memory of the age that is gone, so that people will remember the Great Danger and so love their beloved land all the more. And that will keep you as busy and as happy as anyone can be, as long as your part of the Story goes on.
"Come now, ride with me!"
When I first read The Lord of the Rings I was probably about twelve, and it was the first book I encountered where life went on after the big bad was vanquished. Everyone lived happily ever after in the Narnia books, except Susan who was an evil slut whore and deserved everything she got. Characters might die in the middle of the story but that was all right, because at the end their widow, or their orphaned children would find true love and normality is restored.
Lord of the Rings was different. We are told that Sauron's power must be destroyed if the world is to survive, but that to do so will also destroy much, if in a subtler way. LotR is a meditation on loss and death, informed by the death of Tolkien's parents at a young age and the death of many of his friends and comrades in the First War. He was aware there was no happy ever after, why else does he take great care in telling the fates of the various members of the fellowship: Aragorn and Arwen grow old and die (he even writes a fragment of that future story just telling of Aragorn's death), Legolas and Gimli sail west, Merry and Pippin ride south to Gondor where they die of old age and Sam eventually follows Frodo, Bilbo and Gandalf to the West. And even though in the West they might be immortal, we never really envision it as a Narnia-like Heaven.
For me, the idea that you go through such struggle and pain and don't really get a reward at the end of it is a moving one, if Frodo had settled down in Hobbiton and lived 'happily ever after' then I don't think I would have liked this book half as much as I do. It's also a rare idea in English literature, King Arthur doesn't count as he falls through his own failings and bad luck. Martin Chuzzlewit is the only other story I can think of, OtTomH, though I'm sure there are others.