Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Defending Frodo

I love most of Tolkien's characters.  Of course, there are some obvious exceptions--Sauron, Gothmog, Morgoth, &c.  Oh, and Denethor.  Can't forget him. :P
But in any case, one of my very favorite Tolkien characters (indeed, perhaps my favorite) happens to be Frodo, so I thought it was fitting that my first Tolkien post this month be about him.
As a general rule, Frodo is not regarded very favorably in the LotR fandom.  I can only think of two or three people who thoroughly approve of him.

The main objections to him seem to be that he is cowardly and weak, so I'll address that first.  (I'll only be defending Book-Frodo here, by the way--I happen to like Elijah Wood's Frodo, but he's a bit less defensible. :P)

First of all, he is NOT cowardly.  Scared, yes--but he faces that fear and rises above it.  He defied the Nazgul, left the Fellowship when it was clear it was necessary, and attacked a giant spider.
"But he's afraid.  Now it's come to the point, he's just plain terrified.  That's what his trouble is.  Of course, he's had a bit of schooling, so to speak--we all have--or he'd just fling the Ring in the River and bolt.  But he's still too frightened to start. [...]  If he screws himself up to go, he'll want to go alone.  Mark my words!  We're going to have trouble when he comes back.  For he'll screw himself up all right, as sure as his name's Baggins."
~Sam, "The Breaking of the Fellowship", The Fellowship of the Ring

You see, he may start out small and scared, but he grows throughout the story.  I didn't like him too much when I began reading either, but by the end of ROTK I was completely rooting for him.
"A great dread fell on him, 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 Council of Elrond", The Fellowship of the Ring
I get chills every time reading this, because I think it's one of most courageous moments.  He doesn't want to go; he doesn't hunger for glory.  But he still volunteers because he feels that it's his duty.

As to the weak part--is he weak?
He's one small little hobbit against one of the greatest dark forces in Middle-earth.  He's borne the Ring for seventeen years.  Of course he seems weak.  He's not Aragorn or Gandalf or Elrond.  He doesn't have any special powers, no particular strength--and that is precisely why he was chosen.

One of the things I find absolutely amazing about Lord of the Rings is that when Frodo sets out with the Ring, he knows he can't destroy it.  Galadriel knows it.  Everyone at the Council of Elrond knows it.  He wasn't even able to do the necessary deed in his own home!  But he goes on anyway, trusting that some higher power than Sauron meant for him to have the Ring, and that somehow, the Ring will be destroyed.

And that is precisely what happens: because of his personality, because of his compassion for Gollum, his love for his friends, his determination to keep on going no matter what, the Ring is unmade despite his actions at the end.

He's weak in body, but not weak in mind or heart.  He grows weary, but he doesn't give up.  The Ring is slowly twisting him, taking his heart and whispering to his mind, but he doesn't listen.  And through it all, he keeps on going.  He walks and walks and walks until he falls to his knees--and then he crawls.
"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."
~"Mount Doom", The Return of the King
This moment, you guys.  THIS MOMENT.  It is, by far, my favorite Frodo moment.  The strength and courage he displays here are just--no. words.

As the journey goes on, he becomes fully convinced that he's going to die--and that if by some miracle he survives and the Ring is destroyed, he will never be whole again.
"'I don't know how long we shall take to--to finish,' said Frodo. 'We were miserably delayed in the hills.  But Samwise Gamgee, my dear hobbit--indeed, Sam my dearest hobbit, friend of friends--I do not think we need give thought to what comes after that.  To do the job as you put it--what hope is there that we ever shall?  And if we do, who knows what will come of that?  If the One goes into the Fire, and we are at hand?"
But though he knows this, he goes on, motivated by love and the realization which Sam makes later in the story--that there is "light and high beauty for ever" beyond Sauron's reach.

He never stops--not even when he comes back to the Shire and it's been ruined, or when he realizes that he'll never fully heal.  He tries to be part of Sam's family and he finishes the Red Book.   He's kept his humility and gained wisdom, the wisdom that enables him to see what Saruman could have been and grieve at his fall.

Loyalty, honor and a willing heart.  Bronwë athan Harthad (Endurance beyond Hope).
"Here is a jewel among hobbits!"
~"Three is Company", The Fellowship of the Ring 


Beth said...

YES!!! I 100% agree with you my dear! Frodo has always been one of my favourite characters, he reminds me of myself:-)

Joanna said...

Ah, yes, this is a beautiful defense. Sam seems to have so many fans because of how much he helps Frodo, and he certainly does, but I think it's easy to forget what a load Frodo had to carry. My brothers and I argue about this often, and I think it's because they've only seen the movies, and never read the books. In the movies, he does seem a bit weak, but it's because we can't see his thoughts and feelings, like in the books. And I've always loved how they took back the Shire at the end. I think it's Frodo's other shining moment: when he just lets Saruman go and doesn't take revenge. :-)

Ivy Miranda said...

You're Team Frodo too! I wrote a post just like this two years ago! And yes, I get so tired of characters like Frodo who always get run down for the simple fact that they imperfect beings in an imperfect world.

Mònica said...

Lovely post! I think that a lot of the time people forget that character's flaws make them admirable too, because of how they are able to overcome them.