Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Frodo (not Sam) [nor Gollum] is the hero of Lord of the Rings

Naive first-time readers of The Lord of the Rings regard Frodo as the hero.

Sophisticates, who have read the book a few times, or read the secondary literature; regard Sam as the hero - noticing that the point-of-view switches to Sam not long after the Fellowship is broken, Sam has the last words in the book; and that Sam is indeed heroic in multiple ways - especially in fighting Shelob and rescuing Frodo while alone.

(Some weird people - who are profoundly out of sympathy with Tolkien, and haven't read LotR carefully - regard Gollum as the hero, because... well, you know the kind of stuff.) 

However, Ultra-sophisticates such as myself (!) realise that Frodo was the hero all along!

Why? Well, because the book is primarily about the destruction of The One Ring, and Frodo is the only character whose primary priority is the destruction of The Ring. This is not vitiated by the observation that Frodo was unable purposively to complete his task - the fact is that he gave the job his everything.

Most important job, gave it everything: Frodo is the hero.

By contrast, Sam's priority is Frodo - and when he temporarily tries to put The Ring first, and leaves Frodo for dead - he deeply regrets having done so, and berates himself for having failed to stick by his proper task.

(Gollum is the person who actually destroys the ring, but does so by accident - assisted by providence; so he isn't the hero.)



RossRN said...

I don't think Sam put the Ring first.

As you say Sam was dedicated to Frodo, and when he thought Frodo to be dead, he was torn, but decided to try to fulfill Frodo's mission for him.

Sam in doing so may have made a mistake in that Frodo was not dead, but he saved the Ring from the enemy.

Further, he then saved Frodo from the Orcs and gave the Ring back and journeyed with Frodo to the end.

Sam represents all the elements of being a hero. On the other-hand, Frodo faltered at the end and only because of Gollum was his mission fulfilled.

I'm not sure how to describe Frodo, but Sam was more the hero in late parts of the work, whereas Frodo stepped back at that time and as his mission was finished.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure it ever occurred to me to ask, before, but, if Gollum had not turned up (or had been successfully fended off), could Sam have charitably and serviceably subdued Frodo and - once again - parted with the Ring, himself?

David Llewellyn Dodds

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - I don't think he could. You probably remember Tolkien's own speculations about what 'might' have happened without Gollum (in the letters). There are various possibilities. Some kind of suicide is one, Or Sam might have grabbed and pulled Frodo into the cracks - together. Or Frodo, backing away from the Nagzul, stumbled in.

Anonymous said...

As I was just finishing rereading The Silmarillion, I was struck by 'Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age' including, of "Frodo the Halfling", "into the Fire where it was wrought he cast the Great Ring of Power" - !

David Llewellyn Dodds