Frodo and Job

An Essay written for a class, by Lizmybit

“Few will have the greatness to bend history; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation ...It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped, each time that a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance” (“Ripple of Hope”).
Injustice, and fighting against it, is one of the most basic of the human traits. When we experience something that is wrong and we are willing to stand up and do something about it, we put our lives on the line rather than submit. Injustice has always been a part of individual societies and will continue to be. It is the individual people who run the race, fight the good fight and wage war against it, that become and will forever be heroes. Whenever injustice is present, whether in real life or in myth, there is inevitably suffering of the innocent involved. The Biblical book of Job is undeniably one such story where an innocent and blameless man is plagued with such suffering. Another character that endures torment is the mythical character Frodo Baggins of J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved novel The Lord of the Rings. In the following paper the author will prove that Frodo Baggins is the Jobian character of The Lord of the Rings and readers must recognize him as such.

Due to the recent popularity of director Peter Jackson’s cinematic version of the Lord of the Rings, there has never been a more exciting time to be a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic tale. In the past several years there have been numerous books, magazine articles, and television shows that have explored the novel that took most of a lifetime to complete. Some of these books explore Tolkein’s personal life the connection his religious convictions had to his writings. Many Tolkien enthusiasts deny the idea that God has meaning to the story and that the work of the Divine is non-existent in Middle Earth. One of the main arguments is that there are no churches in Middle Earth and that none of the characters discuss God. Tolkien would strongly disagree, and has said so. In the book The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Humphrey Carpenter, Tolkien, in a letter to Father Robert Murray, S.J. writes, “The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like ‘religion’, to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism” (Carpenter 172).

Now that we have established that Tolkien acknowledges “religious elements” in his story, how do we begin to make the correlation? For that we must turn to the book
The Silmarillion compiled and edited by Tolkien’s son Christopher four years after Tolkien’s death. It is an account of the “Elder Days,” the “First Age” of the world. The Silmarillion beautifully describes Creation in the Ainulindalë, meaning The Music of the

Ainur. God, in the form of Eru Ilúvatar (The One All-Father) creates the Ainur, “The Holy Ones that were the offspring of his thoughts” (Tolkien, Christopher 15). The Ainur
Then, through a great symphony of music and voices, create the world. Author Greg Harvey in his book The Origins of Tolkien’s Middle Earth for Dummies, describes the creation by stating, “Eru intended to model the various aspects of Arda after the themes sung together by the Ainur. These themes were to counter balance each other, and in their harmony, the full promise of his creation was to be realized” (Harvey 4).
Tolkein’s Middle Earth is full of religious “symbolism” and one has only to expand their vision in order to discover it.

Both the book of Job and Lord of the Rings begin their stories with characters of great wealth. Job is described in the prologue of the book as being a man of “wealth” and “piety”. “In the Land of Uz, there was a blameless and upright man named Job who feared God and avoided all evil. Seven sons and three daughters were born to him; and he had seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred she-********, and a great number of work animals” (Job 1:1-3) Job also had many servants and owned much land. Job lived in a tribal community as was the custom of his time. He was the patriarch of his tribe and therefore concerned with all of the community’s needs for food, shelter and survival of their way of life. He was an honest man who was well loved by his people.

Frodo Baggins was also a character of great wealth. His Uncle Bilbo had left the Shire, his homeland, and left Frodo all of his worldly possessions including his home, Bag End. Bag End was one of if not the most beautiful of all the homes in Hobbiton. Many people admired and were jealous of Frodo’s great wealth. He was also a respected member of the community. Despite the fact that most of the other hobbits did not understand him and often thought he was strange.

The story of Job tells us of this man who feared God and lived a blameless and upright life. One day Satan stands before God and tells Him that Job would not be so loyal if God had not blessed his life so greatly. God, knowing that Job would still honor him no matter what Satan did, allowed Satan to attack him. In one day, Job looses all his livestock, children, and servants. Then Satan afflicts him with a horrible physical disease. In the book Job, written by Michael D. Guinan, he quotes Job’s lamentations “Perish the day on which I was born” (Guinan 15). Job is a character undeserving of the suffering that he now has to endure. Does he bear it well? Does Job in fact still honor God and not turn from him? Is Satan correct? Is Job just a fair weather friend of God’s? These are all questions that shall be answered.

In the story of Frodo, one of the possessions that Bilbo left to his heir was a ring. It is revealed to Frodo though his friend, the wizard Gandalf the Grey, that the ring is evil and must be destroyed.

Frodo becomes the patriarch of the Hobbits of Middle Earth and ultimately all its inhabitants by willingly accepting the burden that has been placed upon him and deciding to do whatever is necessary to make sure no harm comes to his people. Although Frodo ultimately would have been concerned with the survival and safety of all Middle Earth, his main motivation was to save the Shire. At the end of the Council of Elrond, Frodo designates himself as a willing suffering servant by saying “I will take the ring, but I do not know the way” (Tolkien 264). However, prior to this happening, he willingly sells his beloved home and most of his possessions in order to move away from Hobbiton so as not to bring danger to his people. The character of Frodo is not certain that his decision to leave will make him happy. In fact, he is quite certain that it will be difficult. “But this would mean exile, a flight from danger to danger, drawing in after me. And I suppose I must go alone, if I am to do that and save the Shire” (Tolkien 61). Frodo, in an earlier comment to Gandalf, admits that he despises the whole situation “How on earth did it come to me?...I wish it had not happened in my time” (Tolkien 50). Gandalf answers Frodo in one of the most poignant responses in literature: “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to us”(Tolkien 50). This is a striking comparison to one of Job’s friends Bilad who says to Job “You tear yourself in anger, shall the earth be neglected on your account?” Guinan paraphrases this passage for us by saying, “because you are upset, you want the whole order of the universe to be rearranged to suit you” (Guinan 41).

In the midst of Job’s agony, three friends come to visit him and offer advice. The majority of the book is Job’s reactions to his suffering and his friends offering advice.
Most of the time they offer ill advice and are not very comforting to Job. They constantly tell him to repent of his sin and God will restore his life. At one point after seeing Job’s great discomfort his wife says to him “Are you still holding on to your innocence? Curse God and die” (Guinan 14). Because Job’s friends believed that God only punished people who were sinful and wicked, they believed that if Job would simply repent for his great sin then God would bless him once again.
Frodo also suffers physically and mentally along the journey. He is stabbed by the Witchking and nearly dies. He is stung by Shelob the spider, captured by orcs and finally Gollum bites off his finger to retrieve the ring from him. One of the most excruciating pains that Frodo endured was the constant temptation of the ring. It was evil, and it never let him rest. The ring was constantly trying to get to its maker Sauron and would use any means necessary to do this. By the end of the journey Frodo was just a shell of the hobbit he used to be. The mental anguish was too much for him to bear. Like Job, Frodo also had friends that tried to help him bear his burden. Many of them also offered ill advice. One companion, Boromir, tried to get Frodo to bring the ring to Gondor to be used as a weapon of war. Frodo’s deadliest companion though was Gollum, who wanted the ring more than anything and was willing to do whatever it took to get the ring back into his possession, even kill Frodo and his companion Sam. He lures them into Shelob’s lair hoping that she will kill them so that he can reclaim the ring.

Ultimately Frodo and Job put aside the advice of others and find their own answers. Job looks inside himself and knows that he has done nothing wrong. Job, realizing that his friends are not offering help, but in fact hindering him poses this question, “What strength have I that I should endure, and what is my limit that I should be patient?...Have I no helper?…A friend owes kindness to one in despair” (Guinan 21). Job was seeking comfort and help that he did not receive. His friends did the best they could but they could not see beyond their own understanding and convictions to reach out to Job.

In a direct contrast to Job, Frodo had Sam, his faithful servant from the Shire. Frodo would never have made it to Mordor to destroy the ring and save Middle Earth had it not been for Sam. At one point when Frodo could no longer continue his journey, Sam literally carries him up Mount doom saying, “Come on Mr. Frodo, I can’t carry it (the ring) for you, but I can carry you” (Tolkien 919). Even with Sam as support and guidance, Frodo still needed to seek his own answers. There were many times that Sam strongly disagreed with Frodo about Gollum being their guide to destroy the ring. But Frodo, recalling the words of Gandalf to Sam says “Do you remember Gandalf’s words: even Gollum may have something yet to do” (Tolkien 926). Frodo was willing to trust Gollum as he might have an important part to play in the destruction of the ring.

Job, in the first chapter of the book was so distraught over his loss and turns to prayer saying, “Oh, that I might have my request, and that God would grant what I long for” (Guinan 21). Job, knowing that he is helpless in his plight, turns to God seeking mercy and help. Frodo, in dire need of help, seeks help from a higher power: “At that moment Frodo threw himself on the ground, and he heard himself crying, O Elbereth! Gilthoniel!” (Tolkien 191). Tolkein was also quoted as saying the passage of Frodo calling out to Elbereth, who’s more common name was Varda, as an “invocation clearly related to the Catholic devotion to Mary” (Carpenter 288).

According to Guinan, Job experiences a period of time when he is despised by his community members and looked down upon. They view him, as his friends do, as having sinned against God and not worthy of their honor: “But now they hold me in derision who are younger in years than I,…they abhor me and stand aloof from me” (Guinan 59). Frodo also experiences similar dejection from his fellow hobbits after the quest is fulfilled: “Frodo dropped quietly out of the doings of the Shire, and Sam was pained to notice how little honor he had in his own country. Few people knew or wanted to know about his deeds and adventures” (Tolkien 1002).

As the book of Job continues and his friends constantly argue with him to repent, Job never gives in. He constantly upholds his innocence. Toward the very end of the book, Job has a conversation with God and seemingly repents by telling God “I repent in dust and ashes” (Guinan 7). Does Job fail? Does he give up and repent just to pacify others? Guinan says no. According to him “Job may have overstepped his limits for an understanding, but his suffering was not a result of sin, the Hebrew word for repent does not convey a confession of sinfulness, but to be sorry. Even God repents” (see Gen 6:6) (Guinan 7). Job does not fail, he merely apologizes to God for overstepping his bounds.

Many Tolkien enthusiasts also feel that Frodo ultimately fails in his quest to destroy the ring by claiming the ring as his own on Mount Doom. Tolkien has said that, in essence, Frodo did not fail, rather that the strength of the ring would have become stronger and stronger as the quest was realized. After the “increasing torment and when starved and exhausted, Frodo had done what he could and spent himself completely”(Carpenter 326). Frodo did not fail. His task was to carry the ring to Mordor, and he did. In another quote from Tolkien he says, “Frodo undertook his quest out of love, to save the world he knew from disaster at his own expense, if he could; and also in complete humility, acknowledging that he was wholly inadequate to the task. His contract was only to do what he could, to try and find a way, and to go as far on the road as his strength of body and mind allowed” (Carpenter 327).

One of the great themes in the story of Job is how he shows mercy for his friends. These men who spend all of the book telling Job that he is sinful and needs to repent find themselves in bad positions with God at the end of the story. God tells them that He is angry with them for trying to lead Job astray. He is going to punish them for their transgressions; however, Job, intercedes for his friends and prays to God to spare their lives from the torment that he himself endured. God does spare them and tells them that it is only on Job’s merciful account that he is doing it (Guinan 79).

In The Lord of the Rings mercy is also a key theme. Frodo exclaims to Gandalf that it was a “Pity” that Bilbo let Gollum live and didn’t kill him when he could have. Gandalf responds with the following statement: “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life, can you give it to them Frodo?” (Tolkien 5). This theme of mercy bears deep into Frodo’s conscience and he carries it with him for the rest of the quest. There are many times that he could have turned his back on mercy and killed Gollum, but never does and mercy wins out in the end. If Frodo had killed him, then the ring would never have been destroyed and all would have been lost. Frodo also pleads for mercy at the memory of Gollum when he tells Sam, “But for him Sam, I could have not destroyed the ring. The quest would have been in vain, even at the bitter end, so let us forgive him” (Tolkien 926).

At the end of the book of Job he is restored to his previous state. God shows mercy and restores all of Job’s possessions. Doubling what he had before. He receives twice the amount of livestock and servants. He also goes on to have seven more sons and three more daughters. He also lives another one hundred and forty years and is very happy.
When Frodo returns to the Shire after the quest, he is given back his home and tries to make a life for himself in the Shire once again; however, he has been too wounded by his journey to stay. He receives a special dispensation from the Elves to travel to the undying lands to receive healing. We can assume that Frodo lives a long full life in the blessed realm, although Tolkien never wrote that part. He left it up to his readers to fill in the blanks.

Tolkien clearly had a great grasp on religion and Biblical stories. His Catholic faith and upbringing are reflective in his life’s work. He would have been very familiar with the story of Job and the tragedy that Job underwent . The idea of the suffering servant is classic and is present in many works of literature. After dissecting the journey of Job, can anyone deny that Tolkien had to have his story in mind when writing Frodo’s journey? This author believes that Frodo Baggins is the Jobian character of The Lord of the Rings.