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Frodo Baggins is one of the central, if not arguably the main character, in J.R.R. Tolkien’s best selling book, The Lord of the Rings. He is an intelligent, graceful hobbit, who inherits the evil Dark Lord Sauron’s Ring of Power. He must make the agonizing decision to try to destroy the ring by taking it from his beloved home in the Shire to Sauron’s evil country of Mordor, so he can if possible, cast the ring into the depths of the fiery Mount Doom.
There are a few important points about Frodo Baggins that must be settled especially for those who are only familiar with Peter Jackson’s film versions of Tolkien’s books. First, though hobbits tend to have longer lives than humans, and look younger for much longer (which is enhanced by wearing Sauron’s ring), Frodo is not just a youngster. When Tolkien’s book opens, Frodo is about to celebrate his 33rd birthday, the typical year for coming of age for hobbits. He is 50 when he sets off on his perilous quest, an echo of the age his Uncle Bilbo (really a cousin) was when Bilbo began his “adventure,” in the prequel book, The Hobbit.
There is much in the character of Frodo that is admirable, and as his journey continues, his figure becomes distinctly Christlike. He is clearly and fully aware that he is sacrificing himself in the hope that the world will be saved. As a hobbit, he begins Tolkien’s book being described as somewhat different from other hobbits. Under the tutelage of Bilbo, Frodo has learned some Elvish, and the wizard Gandalf describes his mind as “quick,” not always the case with hobbits, who can be quite simple folk. Though he loves the Shire, his homeland, he is torn by the desire to go adventuring like Bilbo did, and though he has many hobbit characteristics, like a good sense of humor and a love of mushrooms, he has more of a thoughtful mind and adventuring spirit.
As Tolkien’s novel progresses, Frodo Baggins is increasingly tested especially by the continued need to carry the enemy’s ring, which corrupts all who come into contact with it. The chief need for Frodo is to remain as free as he can of this taint, and have the mental strength to ultimately cast the ring away. This is no easy task, since possession of the ring is not only corruptive but also addictive.
In his journeys, Frodo is accompanied by his faithful servant Sam Gamgee, and later is guided by the former ring bearer and desperate creature Gollum. A Jungian interpretation of Gollum/Sméagol would clearly call Gollum Frodo’s shadow. In most other interpretations, Gollum is merely clear indication of what Frodo would become if he chose to claim the ring for his own. To remain Frodo Baggins and resist being Gollum is a terribly difficult task.
Yet Gollum serves Frodo, in some instances, extremely well. It should be recollected that Gollum and not Frodo is ultimately responsible for the ring’s destruction, and further, that Peter Jackson’s film version once again veers from the original. When Gollum seizes the ring from Frodo by biting the poor hobbit’s finger off, Frodo does not respond with violent act or deed. Instead, Gollum in his madness and exultant joy at gaining the ring dances too close to the edge of Mount Doom’s volcano and falls in. Frodo does not push him in.
iIn the end, the experience of bearing the ring makes returning to the Shire and living there too difficult for Frodo Baggins. Instead of remaining in the Shire, which Frodo believes he’s saved for others, not for himself, he leaves with the last of the elves to go to the Gray Havens. He has gone from land loving hobbit to one of the great heroes in fiction, and his end is both fitting and sad. The Gray Havens suggest immortality, and perhaps Tolkien little knew that his character would become nearly immortal to the many readers who have treasured his work. Frodo combines ultimate self-sacrifice with abiding love, and is thus to be cherished; small of stature, but immeasurably great in spirit.
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