It’s March 25th. What better way to celebrate Tolkien Reading Day (which also happens to be the anniversary of Sauron’s defeat) than by talking about Middle Earth and its populace? Or, more specifically, what better day than to talk about Frodo? (I’ll also be listening to a bit of The Children of Hurin – narrated by Christopher Lee today as well.)
Whenever someone asks, “Who’s your favorite character in The Lord of the Rings?” the characters I hear cited over and over again are Aragorn, Sam, Gandalf, and Legolas – for good reason too. Every now and then I hear a different character but, surprisingly, I find Frodo to be one of the most infrequent names of the bunch.
Personally, I can barely choose a favorite because each character is distinct and offers so much to the story. I can only say that my appreciation and/or fascination for each character continues to grow.
When Sam and Frodo are placed on the same measuring stick though, I can’t help but feel like Frodo often gets the short end.
One of the unique things about The Lord of the Rings is that, without each hero, the quest would have failed. Each hero was integral to the Ring’s destruction and/or the defense of Middle Earth. Without Frodo, the quest may have never begun or have failed completely.
I’m going to assume that the majority of people who read this have never read the book. Therefore, our journey begins at the beginning of the novel. Bilbo has left the Ring and Frodo has been left to keep track of it in Gandalf’s absence. He never knew such a task could lead to a perilous journey or have such lasting repercussions. If he had though, I’m certain Frodo would have done it anyway.
Frodo had the Ring for approximately 13 years before he set out from the Shire towards Bree (give or take a few). 13 years with the Ring of Power. When Gandalf comes back bearing terrible news revealing the Ring’s true nature, Frodo wants nothing other than to rid himself of the object.
Upon learning Gandalf cannot remove this burden, Frodo willingly – although with some hesitation – takes the Ring to Rivendell. During this time, the danger that follows and pursues him becomes more prevalent, as does the Ring’s power. Frodo is nearly dead by the time he arrives in Rivendell. This was supposed to be the end. He wasn’t supposed to go further.
When the time comes though, those who should have been brave feared the journey (and rightly so) and were unwilling to put themselves in such danger. They despaired at the thought of the task.
“What strength have we for finding the Fire in which it was made? That is the path of despair. Of folly I would say…” (The Fellowship of the Ring, p. 350)
Finally, Bilbo makes the offer to carry the Ring further which is nearly met with laughter from a harden warrior.
Boromir looked in surprise at Bilbo, but the laughter died on his lips when he saw that all the others regarded the old hobbit with grave respect. (The Fellowship of the Ring, p. 351)
It’s worth noting, that Bilbo made the offer quite lightly, but it was a honest and sincere one, and you can’t help but notice that none of the warriors, Boromir included, offered to carry the Ring.
No one answered. The noon-bell rang. Still no one spoke… All the Council sat with downcast eyes… A great dread fell on him [Frodo], as if he was awaiting the pronouncement of some doom that he had long foreseen and vainly hoped might after all never be spoken. An overwhelming longing to rest and remain at peace by Bilbo’s side in Rivendell filled all his heart. At last with an effort he spoke, and wondered to hear his own words, as if some other will was using his small voice.
“I will take the Ring,” he said, “though I do not know the way.” (The Fellowship of the Ring, p. 352)
Not many people would offer to undertake a task when they don’t know how to accomplish it, and I’m not talking about just life and death tasks. Frodo already had a taste of the danger ahead but he made the offer anyway. Yes, he didn’t truly understand the sacrifice he was making when he made his offer; however, Frodo had two long months to change his mind and no one would have faulted him if he had. He didn’t though.
A fact worth noting although not strictly relevant to this article is that only four out of the nine companions who ever intended to travel with Frodo for the entire journey: three hobbits and a wizard. Legolas and Gimli only committed as far as the mountain pass, although there was the possibility that they’d go further. Aragorn and Boromir only committed as far as Gondor. (The Fellowship of the Ring, p. 360)
Essentially, when they set out from Rivendell, Frodo was left to march into Mordor with three hobbits and a wizard. That was it and that would be a discouraging thought. The reality of Frodo’s original statement was far too close:
“But this would mean exile, a flight from danger into danger, drawing it after me. And I suppose I must go alone, if I am to do that and save the Shire.” (The Fellowship of the Ring, p. 82)
Frodo had many opportunities to give up on his journey. He could have given the Ring to Boromir himself. Boromir begged for the Ring. Yet Frodo never even considered giving it to him. It would have been easy to perhaps drop the Ring into the depths of Moria, likely hiding it for many years to come. There were too many times Frodo could have let the Ring go – too many people who offered to take it after the journey began. He never strayed in his decision though. Even when the road grew blacker than night, Frodo used all of his strength until there was nothing left in order to get the Ring to Mount Doom.
That has to count for something.