This blog post is a contribution to the 9th Annual Tolkien Blog Party.
‘I will take the Ring,’ he said, ‘though I do not know the way.’
There. Boom. Done. Mic drop and all that.
Oh, you want more than that? You’re not convinced that Frodo is worthy of our admiration, liking, and respect? Very well then. If I have to take on the incredible, tedious, annoying, painful burden of explaining in great detail why Frodo is my favorite Lord of the Rings character and why he doesn’t deserve to be so maligned and underrated…so be it.
(And what better day to defend Frodo than his birthday? Happy Hobbit Day, y’all!)
Before I go any further, I want to let you all know that I’m aware that Tolkien himself considered Sam the ‘chief hero’ the story (or something to that effect). And I am NOT about to discount Sam and his amazing, wonderful role in the story. Frodo truly wouldn’t have got far without Sam. ❤ It’s just that I see Sam hyped and praised a lot more than Frodo is, and that rubs me wrong. Sam would agree with me.
Nothing for him marred that whole year, except for some vague anxiety about his master. Frodo dropped quietly out of all the doings of the Shire, and Sam was pained to notice how little honour he had in his own country. Few people knew or wanted to know about his deeds and adventures; their admiration and respect were given mostly to Mr. Meriadoc and Mr. Peregrin and (if Sam had known it) to himself.Return of the King, ‘The Grey Havens’
Additionally, I’m fully aware that Frodo failed to destroy the ring at the Cracks of Doom. Just wanted to make that clear, in view of all the fangirling to come. 😉 I could get into all of that and my thoughts on the matter, but that’s not really the point of this blog post. So instead, let’s explore some of the reasons I love Frodo. (Mainly focusing on Book Frodo, because I consider him more canon and also he’s a million times better. Not that I don’t like Movie Frodo though!)
i. HE VOLUNTEERS TO TAKE THE RING
‘Of course, I have sometimes thought of going away, but I imagined that as a kind of holiday, a series of adventures like Bilbo’s or better, ending in peace. 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. But I feel very small, and very uprooted, and well – desperate. The Enemy is so strong and terrible.’ –The Fellowship of the Ring, ‘The Shadow of the Past’
‘I have been so taken up with the thoughts of leaving Bag End, and of saying farewell, that I have never even considered the direction,’ said Frodo. ‘For where am I to go? And by what shall I steer? What is to be my quest? Bilbo went to find a treasure, there and back again; but I go to lose one, and not return, as far as I can see.’The Fellowship of the Ring, ‘Three Is Company’
I included the above quotes because they illustrate the fact that, even before the council of Elrond, Frodo had already stepped up (above and beyond!) to take on the burden of the ring. Of course, at this point in the story he didn’t know (even with all that Gandalf said) what he was getting himself into. But he knows that all is lost if Sauron gets his hands on it, and so he takes the ring.
You know what makes this even more heroic? He doesn’t expect to come back. There’s a bit of debate over whether “but I go to lose one, and not return, as far as I can see” is Frodo thinking he’s going to die or whether he simply won’t be able to return to the Shire because danger will follow him and the ring. I’m inclined to think it’s the latter because, no matter how brave, I think few people would so quickly sign up for something they believe at the outset is a total suicide mission. But just leaving the Shire is bad enough…and Frodo still volunteers.
And what about him stepping forward at the council of Elrond? By this point, he’s been wounded and terrified by the Nazgûl. He knows they are hunting him. He has heard many more details about the ring and Sauron’s plans and the perils the Ring-bearer must face. But he volunteers again! Later on that day, when Pippin laments not being allowed to go with Frodo on his quest, Frodo has this to say: “You are not thinking what you are saying: condemned to go on this hopeless journey, a reward? Yesterday I dreamed that my task was done, and I could rest here, a long while, perhaps for good.”
The journey is hopeless, as far as Frodo can see. (This is why he needs Sam’s sturdy optimism!) He dreamed of resting and remaining in Rivendell with Bilbo and all the comforts a hobbit could ever want. But the ring is there, it’s deadly, and someone has to at least try to destroy it.
So Frodo volunteers.
ii. HE LEAVES ALL COMPANIONSHIP AND PROTECTION BEHIND FOR THE SAKE OF HIS FRIENDS
Frodo rose to his feet. A great weariness was on him, but his will was firm and his heart lighter. He spoke aloud to himself. `I will do now what I must,’ he said. ‘This at least is plain: the evil of the Ring is already at work even in the Company, and the Ring must leave them before it does more harm. I will go alone. Some I cannot trust, and those I can trust are too dear to me: poor old Sam, and Merry and Pippin. Strider, too: his heart yearns for Minas Tirith, and he will be needed there, now Boromir has fallen into evil. I will go alone. At once.’The Fellowship of the Ring, ‘The Breaking of the Fellowship’
This is a wholly sacrificial choice, one that Frodo makes for the good of his friends and travelling companions. Striking off across completely unfamiliar country on your own, with no guide, no friendly ear, and no protection other than what you, inexperienced and relatively weak as you are, can muster yourself? It’s definitely not the fun option. But Frodo choose to go on alone because to do otherwise would jeopardize the other members of the fellowship.
An earlier passage in the book highlights Frodo making a similar selfless stand:
‘You shall ride my horse,’ said Glorfindel. ‘…he will bear you away with a speed that even the black steeds of the enemy cannot rival.’
‘No, he will not!’ said Frodo. ‘I shall not ride him, if I am to be carried off to Rivendell or anywhere else, leaving my friends behind in danger.’The Fellowship of the Ring, ‘Flight to the Ford’
Frodo does end up leaving his friends at that point because, as Glorfindel points out, they wouldn’t be in much/any danger if he leaves them. And that’s his reasoning for leaving the fellowship at the end of Book Two: they’re safer without him–or, more specifically, without the burden he carries around his neck.
iii. HE EXHIBITS TREMENDOUS BRAVERY
`Galadriel! ‘ he called, and gathering his courage he lifted up the Phial once more. The eyes halted. For a moment their regard relaxed, as if some hint of doubt troubled them. Then Frodo’s heart flamed within him, and without thinking what he did, whether it was folly or despair or courage, he took the Phial in his left hand, and with his right hand drew his sword. Sting flashed out, and the sharp elven-blade sparkled in the silver light, but at its edges a blue fire flicked. Then holding the star aloft and the bright sword advanced, Frodo, hobbit of the Shire, walked steadily down to meet the eyes.The Two Towers, ‘Shelob’s Lair’
Of course Frodo shows himself to be incredibly brave by volunteering to take the Ring into Mordor–and then actually doing it. But besides that, even before he ‘officially’ becomes the Ringbearer, he fights to defend his friends and himself. Frodo could have left Sam, Merry, and Pippin to the Barrow-wights. After all, they look ‘deathly pale’ and are all wrapped up in (kinda sorta) funeral shrouds. They could be dead! But he doesn’t abandon them.
Later on, Frodo also makes a valiant stand against the Nazgûl–once at Weathertop, and then again at the Ford (all while suffering terribly from the wound he received on Weathertop). And that’s another thing! He keeps travelling with the others for days and days even after getting stabbed with a poisonous blade. (Before the first day’s march was over Frodo’s pain began to grow again, but he did not speak of it for a long time. -‘Flight to the Ford’)
But more than all of this, Frodo shows his bravery with each step that brings him closer to Mount Doom, with each moment he resists the ring’s temptation. He takes upon himself an impossible task, one that seems more hopeless each day, and he doesn’t give up.
iv. HE SHOWS MERCY TO GOLLUM
`No,’ said Frodo. `If we kill him, we must kill him outright. But we can’t do that, not as things are. Poor wretch! He has done us no harm..still I am afraid. And yet, as you see, I will not touch the creature. For now that I see him, I do pity him.’The Two Towers, ‘The Taming of Sméagol’
Frodo’s mercy to Gollum is the crux upon which the success of the entire quest hinges. Of course, it all starts with Bilbo decades earlier. (Did anyone else get emotional at the portrayal of that scene in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey?) And Frodo might not have not shown Gollum much (if any) mercy, if it weren’t for Gandalf’s wise words earlier in the story. But the fact remains that, when given the choice, Frodo chooses to spare Gollum’s life. Frodo thought Gandalf was dead, so he wouldn’t have had to worry about Gandalf finding out and disapproving. Sam would have supported the choice to do away with Gollum. And Gollum himself certainly deserved death.
Yet mercy keeps Frodo from following through on what Gollum deserved. And in the end, that’s what sees the ring destroyed.
(I don’t have the time or space to get into it now, but Frodo also shows a kind of mercy to Boromir. I wrote about that in a Femnista article, if you’re interested. <3)
v. HE KEEPS MOVING FORWARD WHEN ALL SEEMS HIDEOUS AND HOPELESS
‘Look here, Sam dear lad,’ said Frodo: ‘I am tired, weary, I haven’t a hope left. But I have to go on trying to get to the Mountain, as long as I can move.’The Return of the King, ‘The Land of Shadow’
Frodo looked again towards the Mountain. ‘No,’ he said, ‘we shan’t need much on that road. And at its end nothing.’ Picking up his orc-shield he flung it away and threw his helmet after it. Then pulling off the grey cloak he undid the heavy belt and let it fall to the ground, and the sheathed sword with it. The shreds of the black cloak he tore off and scattered.
‘There, I’ll be an orc no more,’ he cried, ‘and I’ll bear no weapon fair or foul. Let them take me, if they will!’The Return of the King, ‘Mount Doom’
‘Now for it! Now for the last gasp!’ said Sam as he struggled to his feet. He bent over Frodo, rousing him gently. Frodo groaned; but with a great effort of will he staggered up; and then he fell upon his knees again. He raised his eyes with difficulty to the dark slopes of Mount Doom towering above him, and then pitifully he began to crawl forward on his hands.The Return of the King, ‘Mount Doom’
Two hobbits going up against the most evil power currently infesting Middle Earth? There really was only ever a fool’s hope. But Frodo keeps going. And going and going and going. Now, Sam definitely deserves credit here! (He almost always deserves credit, let’s be honest.) Sam nurtures Frodo’s body and spirit with his sturdiness and optimism. But once in Mordor, so close to Mount Doom and feeling every bit of the ring’s weight and influence, it takes more that outside influences (Sam) to keep Frodo going. It takes inward light, a spark of spirit near inextinguishable. And Frodo, clearly, has that.
vi. HE SUPPORTS SAM
‘Why, Sam,’ he said, ‘to hear you somehow makes me as merry as if the story was already written. But you’ve left out one of the chief characters: Samwise the stouthearted. “I want to hear more about Sam, dad. Why didn’t they put in more of his talk, dad? That’s what I like, it makes me laugh. And Frodo wouldn’t have got far without Sam, would he, dad? ” ‘The Two Towers, ‘The Stairs of Cirith Ungol’
‘That Gollum’s about again, I’m afraid, Mr. Frodo,’ he said. ‘Leastways, if it wasn’t him, then there’s two of him. I went away to find some water and spied him nosing round just as I turned back. I reckon it isn’t safe for us both to sleep together, and begging your pardon, but I can’t hold up my lids much longer.’
‘Bless you, Sam!’ said Frodo. ‘Lie down and take your proper turn!’The Return of the King, ‘The Land of Shadow’
Let’s be real here: there isn’t that much Frodo can do for Sam on their journey between the burden of the ring and the fact that Sam won’t let Frodo serve/care for him anyway. But often when Frodo does have an opportunity to encourage and aid Sam, whether with words or making sure Sam gets some rest himself, Frodo takes that opportunity. Despite what some people say, this isn’t a one-sided relationship. Yes, Sam ends up having to literally carry Frodo. But Frodo does what he can too.
How about this scene, for example?
‘I’ve got a bit of a stew for you, and some broth, Mr. Frodo. Do you good. You’ll have to sup it in your mug; or straight from the pan, when it’s cooled a bit. I haven’t brought no bowls, nor nothing proper.’
Frodo yawned and stretched. ‘You should have been resting Sam,’ he said.
‘Wheew! Gollum! ‘ Sam called and whistled softly. ‘Come on! Still time to change your mind. There’s some left, if you want to try stewed coney.’ There was no answer.
`Oh well, I suppose he’s gone off to find something for himself. We’ll finish it,’ said Sam.
`And then you must take some sleep,’ said Frodo.The Two Towers, ‘Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit’ (emphasis mine)
So good. ❤
vii. HE REMAINS POLITE
‘The Ring is enough. This extra weight is killing me. It must go. But don’t think I’m ungrateful. I hate to think of the foul work you must have had among the bodies to find it for me.‘The Return of the King, ‘The Land of Shadow’
Frodo did not speak, and so Sam struggled on as best he could, having no guidance but the will to climb as high as might be before his strength gave out and his will broke…when his will could drive him no further, and his limbs gave way, he stopped and laid his master gently down.
Frodo opened his eyes and drew a breath. It was easier to breathe up here above the reeks that coiled and drifted down below. ‘Thank you, Sam,’ he said in a cracked whisper. ‘How far is there to go?’The Return of the King, ‘Mount Doom’
This may seem like a small thing, but I LOVE IT SO MUCH. Trials have a way of revealing who a person truly is, and the fact that Frodo remains so polite and, well, a true gentlehobbit makes me incredibly happy.
viii. HE ENDURES UNIMAGINABLE PSYCHOLOGICAL TORMENT TO BRING THE RING TO MOUNT DOOM
‘Do you remember that bit of rabbit, Mr. Frodo?’ he said. ‘And our place under the warm bank in Captain Faramir’s country, the day I saw an oliphaunt?’
‘No, I am afraid not, Sam,’ said Frodo. ‘At least, I know that such things happened, but I cannot see them. No taste of food, no feel of water, no sound of wind, no memory of tree or grass or flower, no image of moon or star are left to me. I am naked in the dark. Sam, and there is no veil between me and the wheel of fire. I begin to see it even with my waking eyes, and all else fades.’The Return of the King, ‘Mount Doom’
Nobody can fully understand all that Frodo went through to bring the ring to Mount Doom. Besides the fact that it’s fiction, it’s just…indescribable. The constant temptation of the ring, the wearing on his body and spirit, the burden growing heavier and heavier as he and Sam travelled through Mordor. It’s no wonder that Frodo sometimes appears weak. Why? Because he IS. He’s a hobbit, and it’s a miracle he made it to Rivendell in one piece, let alone the dominion of the dark lord. He’s struggling against a terrible weight and temptation, one which he can’t get rid of (both because the world will be lost if he does, and also because he’s simply too attached to the ring–the very thing that is destroying him).
Sam faces many, many challenges along the way to Mount Doom. He keeps Frodo in one piece. He fights Shelob. He infiltrates Cirith Ungol to rescue Frodo. These are all amazing, astounding feats that I do not want to diminish at all. (If I haven’t made it clear before this, Sam is wonderful and I love him.) But I’m sure that Frodo would much rather have faced all those external dangers and trials than have to deal with the ring and its weight on his mind and the temptation to give up and claim it. I’ve struggled with temptation and OCD and obsessive thoughts before (and will certainly have to face more of the same in the future), and I would rather square off against visible problems than my own mind. By far. And I would guess that Frodo would agree.
viv. HE SHOWS SARUMAN MERCY
Frodo said: ‘…I will not have him slain. It is useless to meet revenge with revenge: it will heal nothing. Go, Saruman, by the speediest way!’…Saruman turned to go, and Wormtongue shuffled after him. But even as Saruman passed close to Frodo a knife flashed in his hand, and he stabbed swiftly. The blade turned on the hidden mail-coat and snapped. A dozen hobbits, led by Sam, leaped forward with a cry and flung the villain to the ground. Sam drew his sword.
‘No, Sam!’ said Frodo. ‘Do not kill him even now. For he has not hurt me. And in any case I do not wish him to be slain in this evil mood. He was great once, of a noble kind that we should not dare to raise our hands against. He is fallen, and his cure is beyond us; but I would still spare him, in the hope that he may find it.’The Return of the King, ‘The Scouring of the Shire’
You guys. Like…who even DOES THIS??? Saruman literally tries to murder Frodo, right after Frodo showed him mercy, and Frodo still lets him go in hopes of better things. I’m not saying that it’s completely unrealistic for Frodo to do this. It’s just astounding that he would show that much mercy to Saruman. If I didn’t love Frodo before this point, this moment alone would probably have given him a place among my most favorite fictional characters.
This is unrelated, but also happens in the Scouring of the Shire chapter (and it’s something else that highlights how Frodo has become someone greater than he was before the quest).
‘Well I am staggered!’ said Pippin. ‘Of all the ends to our journey that is the very last I should have thought of: to have to fight half-orcs and ruffians in the Shire itself – to rescue Lotho Pimple!’
‘Fight?’ said Frodo. ‘Well, I suppose it may come to that. But remember: there is to be no slaying of hobbits, not even if they have gone over to the other side. Really gone over, I mean; not just obeying ruffians’ orders because they are frightened. No hobbit has ever killed another on purpose in the Shire, and it is not to begin now. And nobody is to be killed at all, if it can be helped. Keep your tempers and hold your hands to the last possible moment!’The Return of the King, ‘The Scouring of the Shire’
So I get that it’s a bit unrealistic to say something like this, just in the sense that if a hobbit has truly gone over to the other side, they’d probably try to kill you if it came to it and so you’d need to defend yourself. But though Frodo is giving a general command here, it’s mainly a reflection of his own mind. I don’t believe that, at this point, he himself would kill another hobbit–even if it meant saving his own life. Not because he’s suicidal, but because he’s just that determined not to add more hurt and suffering and grief to the world by taking a life. (Frodo had been in the battle, but he had not drawn sword, and his chief part had been to prevent the hobbits in their wrath at their losses, from slaying those of their enemies who threw down their weapons. –Scouring of the Shire)
vv. HE HIDES HIS SUFFERING FOR THE SAKE OF HIS FRIENDS
Frodo was ill again in March, but with a great effort he concealed it, for Sam had other things to think about.The Return of the King, ‘The Grey Havens’
vvi. HE SACRIFICES HIMSELF FOR THE SHIRE (AND, BY EXTENSION, THE WORLD)
‘There is no real going back. Though I may come to the Shire, it will not seem the same; for I shall not be the same. I am wounded with knife, sting, and tooth, and a long burden. Where shall I find rest?’
Gandalf did not answer.The Return of the King, ‘Homeward Bound’
‘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: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.’The Return of the King, ‘The Grey Havens’
Frodo reminds me of another favorite fictional character of mine: Ender Wiggin. Both characters save their world, but in doing so they lose a piece of themselves and have to travel far away to find rest and peace (if that is even possible). Ender flees to the stars, and Frodo journeys across the sea. Both are able to travel with a beloved family member (Ender with his sister Valentine, and of course Frodo with Bilbo), but that doesn’t take away the bitterness of old wounds and many grievous partings.
Frodo gave up his health, happiness, and home so that everyone else could keep theirs. He didn’t seek for glory and praise after the completion of his quest (perhaps partly because he felt he didn’t deserve such recognition, having claimed the ring for himself). He “dropped quietly out of all the doings of the Shire”. And, as mentioned above, he eventually left for the Undying Lands with the elves. Frodo gave so much of himself so that his world could be saved, and he asked for nothing in return. And that, to me, is the mark of a true hero.
*lets out a deep breath*
That was a LONG post, wow. I don’t know if you read the whole thing or just skimmed it, but either way…thanks for being here! I’m passionate about defending Frodo (if you haven’t noticed lol), which leads to wordiness. 😉 I also don’t know if you were already a firm fan of Frodo at the start of this post, or if you needed some convincing as to his being just as much a hero as Sam (simply in a different way). If you fall into the latter category, I hope I’ve helped you see Frodo in a different (better) light. 🙂
So talk to me, y’all! Do you have a newfound appreciation for Frodo? Do you disagree with any of my points? Or would you have added others? Let me know in the comments! ❤