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Was Frodo a hero?

Rivendell_librarian

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People who watch the PJ LOTR trilogy often remark that Sam is more of a hero than Frodo. I don't think this is entirely due to PJ but rather modern values.
For instance Frodo declaring "the Ring is mine" does not fit in with people exposed to superhero comics, James Bond films etc. This is Le Carre rather than Fleming. Tolkien swerved away from the traditional heroic narrative and so made a deeper and better message. There is evil in the world and it is powerful. We need external help to defeat it and that help can come in unexpected ways. Had Bilbo, Frodo, Faramir etc. not had mercy on Gollum then would Sauron and evil have triumphed?

But had Tolkien made Frodo a traditional hero what would he have said in Mt Doom instead? "Take that Sauron, serves you right for underestimating hobbits of the Shire"

Other suggestions welcome.

I do think Tolkien intended Frodo to be considered a hero but not in the traditional James Bond sense.
 

Miguel

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I don't know about the Lotr books since i haven't read them, but in the movie Sam is like a mom/dad in the form of a dude. Is that why Gandalf was pleased that he was with Frodo?.
 

Squint-eyed Southerner

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Good post, RL -- but I don't think you can tie the reactions to comics, superheroes, James Bond, or the like -- a "modern" sensibility, in other words. Tolkien cited a letter from a reader saying Frodo shouldn't have been feted, but hanged. He (Tolkien) then goes on to state his conception: that Frodo strove to get the Ring to Mount Doom, to the very entrance of the Sammath Naur, where "all other powers were subdued". That was heroism enough for any, and more than many could have done. At that point, yes, he succumbed, but I think the implication is clear that no one in that situation could have resisted the power of the Ring. As you say, an outside power was needed, and in the event, just as Gandalf's heart told him, the pity of Bilbo did indeed "rule the fate of many".

But Sam was a hero, too.

Hey Miguel -- I thought you said you'd listened to the audio books. Am I misremebering?
 

Gothmog

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I don't think you can say that "Tolkien swerved away from the traditional heroic narrative" since he based his mythology on many traditional sources. There were different types of Heros in the story, you have Aragorn who had spent something like 70 years preparing for the war of the Ring and becoming High King of Arnor and Gondor. Then you have Frodo, very happy to live quietly in the Shire but forced by circumstances to leave his home and undertake a dangerous journey he did not want to take. Also there are the heroic companions who would not have gone on this journey if not for friendship. Each has traditions. Frodo pushed further than any thought possible and failed at the last hurdle but that does not wipe out all the hardships that he suffered to get to that point. Yes it is true that he only succeeded because of Smeagol but there was none in Middle-earth who could have made it even that far, to the place where it was possible for the ring to be destroyed. All others would have failed sooner. Though many forget, Frodo was also the hero that was forgotten by nearly everyone and had to give up that which he most wanted, a quiet life in the Shire. He saved the Shire for everyone except himself.
 

CirdanLinweilin

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I don't think you can say that "Tolkien swerved away from the traditional heroic narrative" since he based his mythology on many traditional sources. There were different types of Heros in the story, you have Aragorn who had spent something like 70 years preparing for the war of the Ring and becoming High King of Arnor and Gondor. Then you have Frodo, very happy to live quietly in the Shire but forced by circumstances to leave his home and undertake a dangerous journey he did not want to take. Also there are the heroic companions who would not have gone on this journey if not for friendship. Each has traditions. Frodo pushed further than any thought possible and failed at the last hurdle but that does not wipe out all the hardships that he suffered to get to that point. Yes it is true that he only succeeded because of Smeagol but there was none in Middle-earth who could have made it even that far, to the place where it was possible for the ring to be destroyed. All others would have failed sooner. Though many forget, Frodo was also the hero that was forgotten by nearly everyone and had to give up that which he most wanted, a quiet life in the Shire. He saved the Shire for everyone except himself.
*applause*

Yes, he suffered so greatly, and I think that's why I can connect with Frodo on so many levels. He failed, but he's not perfect, somehow in the pit of all evil, it was almost expected, but he didn't fail until he was in that cavern, and that's farther than anyone. As someone that religiously believes sacrifice and suffering could be heroic, I always feel a respect for Frodo in that regard.

CL
 

Miguel

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Hey Miguel -- I thought you said you'd listened to the audio books. Am I misremebering?
Yes, as it is my preferred approach, but i need multiple sessions in order to comprehend the whole thing. However, i tend to lean more towards the early days of Arda and that's were my mind is for the most part, though i am aware that knowing every nook and cranny in TH & LOTR is a must to get the whole picture.
 

Merroe

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For me personally, Frodo appears as the main hero in LotR, more so still than Aragorn or even Sam. He is called upon against his will to carry an enormous burden, sets out to fulfill his task and fails - never mind the fact that the Ring ended up where intended - against much higher forces. His return to his former life fails as well from the consequences of his task. In the end he looses everything including his beloved Shire to seek some final peace for himself.

Does this part not feel like a classic Greek tragedy (Oedipus comes to mind) for which a happy end for Frodo never was the intention? I dare saying that it is a quite classic approach to story construction; Shakespeare would have been delighted...!
 

Rivendell_librarian

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Hello Merroe,

I like the comparison to Greek drama. I did a course on Greek Drama and listened/watched various plays online (and one live in my home town). They are plays that use direct language and well constructed plots that deal with fundamental human issues, hence similar to Tolkien. The Oedipus trilogy is a particular favourite, especially Oedipus at Colonus.
 

user16578

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Gollum snatched the Ring from Frodo and fell into the mountain... Frodo was too overwhelmed with the attraction of the Ring to do it himself.
I think that Sam, as a co-bearer of the Ring, and the endurance he showed on the journey makes him a greater hero than Frodo... I also think he should have been allowed, that after his long life etc., to travel to the west... as Frodo and Bilbo did...
 
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Merroe

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Belthil, as regards Sam it is suggested that he did.

In the unpublished Epilogue Sam has a certain fore-feeling in the year 1436 that this would be his end:

[...]
'And you came back,' said Rose.
'I did,' said Sam; 'to the most belovedest place in all the world. I was torn in two then, lass, but now I am all whole. And all that I have, and all that I have had I still have.'
They went in and shut the door. But even as he did so Sam heard suddenly the sigh and murmur of the sea on the shores of Middle-earth.


"The Tale of years" notes for the year 1482:

Death of Mistress Rose, wife of Master Samwise, on Mid-year’s Day. On September 22 Master Samwise rides out from Bag End. He comes to the Tower Hills, and is last seen by Elanor, to whom he gives the Red Book afterwards kept by the Fairbairns. Among them the tradition is handed down from Elanor that Samwise passed the Towers, and went to the Grey Havens, and passed over Sea, last of the Ring-bearers.
 

user16578

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Belthil, as regards Sam it is suggested that he did.

In the unpublished Epilogue Sam has a certain fore-feeling in the year 1436 that this would be his end:

[...]
'And you came back,' said Rose.
'I did,' said Sam; 'to the most belovedest place in all the world. I was torn in two then, lass, but now I am all whole. And all that I have, and all that I have had I still have.'
They went in and shut the door. But even as he did so Sam heard suddenly the sigh and murmur of the sea on the shores of Middle-earth.


"The Tale of years" notes for the year 1482:

Death of Mistress Rose, wife of Master Samwise, on Mid-year’s Day. On September 22 Master Samwise rides out from Bag End. He comes to the Tower Hills, and is last seen by Elanor, to whom he gives the Red Book afterwards kept by the Fairbairns. Among them the tradition is handed down from Elanor that Samwise passed the Towers, and went to the Grey Havens, and passed over Sea, last of the Ring-bearers.
Well thank you very much Merroe for this, I guess I never knew that part, or forgot it... so thanks for this enlightment!! :)
So everybody should forget my last remarks in my post... :eek:

I really must have had a black-out... :

Born 6 April III 2980, passed over the Sea late September IV 61 (1380-1482 by the Shire-reckoning)
 
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Olorgando

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Frodo was very much a hero, and a very modern one at that. Now memory is sketchy as to the exact sources, but Verlyn Flieger in her 1997 book “A Question of Time: J. R. R. Tolkien's Road to Faerie” (I have been desperately unsuccessful in obtaining the 2002 revised edition of her 1983 book “Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien's World”) and Tom Shippey in his must-have books “The Road to Middle-earth” (2003 revised 3rd edition – I also have the 1992 2nd edition) and “Author of the Century” (2000) drive the point home that JRRT was very much a “modern” (but not “modernist”) author. In the process, practically all of the early (and often even much later) “modernist” negative criticism of LoTR is left in tatters. (Those “modernists" may have been too occupied with their preference for “incestuous dukes in Tierra del Fuego”, a quote from an earlier statement by one of JRRT’s most vociferous critics, with which he basically shot away the foot of his later JRRT criticism with a double-barreled sawed-off shotgun – or was it a six-barrel Gatling gun?) 😆
 

Olorgando

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Fyi the "vociferous critic" is supposed to be Philip Toynbee
Exactly. As to his ability to find Tierra del Fuego on a map - no idea. I suspect he and his ilk were mostly drooling over the incest part (in whatever books he actually meant in his article - probably few if any about Tierra del Fuego!) - nothing of the sort in LoTR (yawn!). But I do not find consigning the names of such hopelessly self-contradictory whatsits to memory profitable (checked it out in Shippey's "Author of the Century").
 
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I don't know about the Lotr books since i haven't read them, but in the movie Sam is like a mom/dad in the form of a dude. Is that why Gandalf was pleased that he was with Frodo?.
I have both read the books and watched the movies but it was years ago. I am just starting to read them again. Please forgive me if I am wrong. I think that Sam in the movies is a lot like Sam in the books. Frodo in the Movies however is much weaker.

I might be wrong but I think that Tolkien had a batman/orderly in mind when he wrote Sam and a gentleman and officer in mind when he wrote Frodo. Frodo in the movies is less of an officer then the one in the books. Because of this the relationship feels more like a parent child dynamic than it does in the books.

Having watched the biopic I wonder if it was true what is shown about the relationship between Tolkien and his batman Sam. Was there really a man called Sam in Tolkien’s life (and why is he addressed with his first name. Was This how batmen usually were adressed?)?
 

Olorgando

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I have both read the books and watched the movies but it was years ago. I am just starting to read them again. Please forgive me if I am wrong. I think that Sam in the movies is a lot like Sam in the books. Frodo in the Movies however is much weaker.

I might be wrong but I think that Tolkien had a batman/orderly in mind when he wrote Sam and a gentleman and officer in mind when he wrote Frodo. Frodo in the movies is less of an officer then the one in the books. Because of this the relationship feels more like a parent child dynamic than it does in the books.

Having watched the biopic I wonder if it was true what is shown about the relationship between Tolkien and his batman Sam. Was there really a man called Sam in Tolkien’s life (and why is he addressed with his first name. Was This how batmen usually were adressed?)?
Yes, Frodo in the movie was decidedly several steps down from the book. Much of this was the fault of having the quest start perhaps a year after the "long-expected party", at which party Frodo turned 33 - and Elijah Wood, 20 when the "Fellowship" film premiered, never mind filming,, look pathetically too young even for that! - instead of 17 years later, when Frodo turned 50 (like Bilbo was at the beginning of The Hobbit). To make it clear, at the time of the "long-expected party" in the book, Sam is 21, Merry is 19 (so both are over a decade away from "coming of age" as Hobbits, at 33), and Pippin is 11!
PJ turns this "age ranking" totally on its head, as Wood was the youngest, and "Pippin" Billy Boyd the oldest in actual life!

That batman/orderly to officer relationship is exactly what JRRT himself described Sam to Frodo to be several times, in "Letters".

JRRT himself having a batman named Sam in real life in WW I is pure fantasy of the filmmakers of the biopic.
How batmen were actually addressed - this may have varied. But if I check out a short story / book series by P. G. Wodehouse, the title character "Jeeves" is the butler, and it is is last (family) name, by which he is addressed. In my 1992 collection of short stories "in honour of J.R.R. Tolkien", "After The King" (celebrating JRRT's 100th birthday), there was the story "In the Season of the Dressing of the Wells", which features a young aristocrat, one knee injured in WW I so that the leg was stiff, and his batman Tinker (taking place just after the end of the war - that horrific 1918-1920 Influenza pandemic killing more people than did the war itself also figures in). Again, Tinker was the family name. The point in the missing prefix "Mr.". Consider "Hobbit customs" and the reverse address of Sam to Frodo, in book and film: Mr. Frodo (never Mr. Baggins!)
 

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Frodo didn’t see himself as a hero. After the initial shock of surviving wore off, and the reality set in that without Gollum, his quest would have failed, Frodo began to see himself as a failure. He withdrew after his return to the Shire: The overthrow of Sharkey (Saruman) and his minions was accomplished by Merry and Pippin, and Sam was the person most responsible for reconstructing and healing the Shire from the damage they’d done: that’s why he was elected Mayor seven times.

Frodo reproached himself for his inability to destroy the Ring. Tolkien says that his eventual submission to the power of the Ring was inevitable: the psychological and spiritual force bearing down on Frodo was too much for any mortal, that it was no different than if a rock had a fallen on him and killed him, and in this regard Tolkien reminded his correspondent of the plea in the Lord’s Prayer: “Lead us not into temptation,” the form in Matthew that most of us remember that in Luke is presented as, “Do not subject us to the final test.” (The Greek word πειρασμός translated as “temptation” does mean “temptation”, but its more common meaning is an experiment, attempt, trial, proving.) Tolkien also says that Frodo’s failure was inevitable, but that the mercy he showed Gollum preserved him and salvaged the Quest.

Frodo also was neglected and overlooked by other hobbits in the Shire, something that bothered Sam, who received much of the praise and adulation along with Merry and Pippin. I believe I recall that Tolkien indicates part of Frodo’s problem was pride, though I must admit I do not understand what role pride played in this.

Frodo was a hero in the best sense of the word: there are many heroes in Lord of the Rings, and Frodo is foremost among them. But he himself did not see it that way.

By the way, Tolkien received a letter from one reader that I think he described as “savage” in which the reader denounced Frodo as a traitor who should have been executed. And the author noted twentieth century psychological torture and manipulation such as brainwashing.

Fyi the "vociferous critic" is supposed to be Philip Toynbee
It figures someone like Toynbee, a cultural suicidalist seeking to destroy the society that made and nurtured him, would hate a tale like Lord of the Rings, which praises that civilization and its values.
 

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