Who is the Hero of LOTR?

by Overlithe, with responses

I post this because at ELF it was a panel...a question I never really considered, because to me its painfully obvious. There are many heroic deeds and characters in LOTR.

The panel a group of self proclaimed experts...From TOR.n staffers to a guy who has a whole bunch of LOTR collectibles...Well by that qualification I too am an expert. But placing that aside I was amazed as I sat and listened to them proclaim almost every character in the trilogy as the HERO...except one...Frodo.

Lithy Q will attest that I almost needed to be restrained and actually got Cliff Broadways attention it was becoming too one sided. Cliff was the moderator, but he'd not needed to moderate anything until then. As soon as the mic was opened I tried to point out the heroism of Frodo and also of all the main hobbit characters.

I was shot down repeatedly when pointing out that Gandalf though heroic was merely doing is job he knew what he was doing, he knew the risks and he also knew what would happen if the RING was recaptured, so did Aragorn and though this does not diminish their deeds it does alter their perception and motivation for success. Even Gimli, and Legolas knew something of the danger and of the history of the Ring. Men like Boromir well I'd be more inclined to point to one of the lesser men as heroic as they also did not know the full possibilities nor the fullness of what they defended.

Only the hobbits, with little or no knowledge of the outside world and limited understanding of the Ring set out together, protecting eachother and their little corner of the world. When Frodo first learns of what he has and understands he must flee, he flees not only to keep the ring from being found but to protect his people and his land.

upon learning that the Ring is evil he tries to remove himself from the task but after learning he must carry it he pulls himself together and through great fear and the unknown sets out. He does not yet understand that it could very well be his end...

I define a hero as someone who acts in the face of paralizing fears...a hero rarely feels heroic, nor does he seek to be the hero, he is placed in a situation that requires a response....the hero goes on.

consider this. A present day individual, finds a radioactive rock, the thing has been safely tucked away under his home for years. Only now it has been uncovered and the dangerous radioactive energy is spreading through his house leaching into the ground, destroying everything it has contact with. He is told he must get rid of it...what would you do? Could you be Frodo and take it somewhere safe far from your beloved home and family and friends? If you take it, the closeness to it that is required could destroy your body and mind, you may never be the same if you survive at all. Can you take it?

Though initially Frodo did not fully grasp the peril to himself as the story plays out he certainly begins to understand..."The quest would claim his life." He in a few momest of weakness attempts to give it away but ultimately he carrys it as far as he can.

There was another contention that stated that Frodo failed and that Tolkien wrote this, as well he may have, but I still disagree, He may have failed to be the one to toss the ring nto the fire, but he surely did not fail to take the ring to where it needed to be so that it could then be destroyed..."even the very wise cannot see all ends" after all.

Sam to is heroic as are all the hobbits for the reasons I stated above about Frodo, they left their homes for love of a friend, no matter the danger to themselves.

But still it is Frodo who made the ultimate sacrifice...Sam well he is so much a hero, Frodo's hero, but even Sam would point to Frodo and say no he did the hard part...he took the mind destroying thing unto himself and allowed it to gnaw into his mind body and soul...when it was taken away from him it took part of him with it...And yet he chose to go on he did not die...yet....He endured physical and mental pain afteraffect of the ring for the sake of his friends, for he knew his passing would cause them pain. When finally he could take no more of it he passed damaged and seeking healing into the west. Heroic until the end he spared his friends and family the awful task of watching him fade into death.

Who gave the most? Who lost the most? who had absolutely nothing to gain from the taking the task unto himself? there can only be one answer for me...Frodo is my choice, my HERO Poke

In closing perhaps too much time is spent trying to find who...perhaps the truth of the tale is that no one can accomplish anything alone and that with help both from friends and places and persons unlooked for that great feats can be accomplished...it when we try to step out alone unaided and proud that things go amiss....Perhaps.....

Responses:


Earrame:
Ghan-buri-Ghan was the hero! If Rohan had not arrived when they did and distracted the Witch King the war would have been lost. The Lords of the West would not have been able to mount an attack at the Morannon and Frodo and Sam would have been caught.

We can do this all day.

In other words, I concur.

Lithilien Quicksilver:
I can only say that both Over and I were appalled at the blatant omission of Frodo from the hero roster... I was tensed in disbelief, and her hand shot up when she could take it no more. I continued the debate afterward, and sadly made no headway in asserting that The Professor redefined heroism and taught that the heart is often more to be followed than the head.

And while I most definitely agree that there are many heroes in LOTR, I take my stand most firmly among the ranks of the Frodo Defense League. He will forever be the greatest hero of Middle-earth to me. 

Gandalf921:


Although Frodo may have paid more then any other character in the quest, Sam being more brave is probably visibly more heroic. Thats just my opinion.

Yes it is true that -

In closing perhaps too much time is spent trying to find who...perhaps the truth of the tale is that no one can accomplish anything alone and that with help both from friends and places and persons unlooked for that great feats can be accomplished...it when we try to step out alone unaided and proud that things go amiss....Perhaps.....

In that sense, maybe even Gollum is a hero? Or, maybe all of the Rohirrim and Gondorian (?) soldiers who died in all the major battles are heroes as well.

Overlithe:
I think the definition of heroism....well its just skewed. Heroic act do not a hero make...For some are trained to fight some excel in it some do not...Sam is heroic in heart....he would do anything to save Frodo his focus was mainly frodo except for the short time when he denied his heart and thought to go on alone...

Sam is Heroic there is no doubt
Merry and Pippin were also heroic, all of the Rohirim army was heroic as were the people of Gondor who stood their ground long against the darkness.

But I still hold to Frodo as the hero..though his acts did not seem heroic and even at times he seemed lost and undecided, confused ambivilant....his reluctance only makes his final decisions to go on all the more amazing more...dare I say it??? Heroic.

Though I respect your view of heroic Samwise the brave for Frodo counted him a hero also..."Frodo wouldn't have got far without Sam..."

Franny86:
Well there are so many "if not--"...If Frodo wouldn't have been- well, who knows what would have happened then? If Sam wouldn't have been, how far would Frodo have gotten? If Aragorn hadn't been, if Tom Bombadill hadn't been, Gandalf, Galadriel, Elrond, Eowyn, Faramir, Boromir, Eomer, Theoden, do I have to continue?
I'm just saying that- there are so many heroes and so much that could have gone wrong (or right) if they wouldn't have been, so I can't say there is one Most Heroic.
So I'll quote SW ep III: Heroes are on both sides, evil is everywhere...


Daughter of Kings:
A hero is anyone who faces fear and danger and still does what needs to be done. By that definition, any soldier in war is a hero, but in war the term generally applies to those who go above and beyond "what needs to be done". The man who throws himself on a grenade to save his buddies, the corpsman who risks his own life to save others... that sort of thing. By that definition, Frodo was a hero in that he gave his life to save the Shire and Middle Earth; Gandalf was a hero when he fought the Balrog to protect the Fellowship; Boromir was a hero in that he died trying to save the hobbits; Theoden and the Rohirrim were heroes when they rode to Gondor's aid against overwhelming odds; Eowyn and Merry were heroes in that they faced the terror of the Witch-King and brought him down; Aragorn and the men of Gondor were heroes when they rode to the Black Gates, to a battle they knew they could not win, just to buy Frodo some time. Personally, I don't consider Gollum a "hero", but I believe he was certainly necessary for the success of the mission, in much the same way that the common soldiers of Rohan and Gondor were necessary.

That said, we all have our own ideas about Tolkien's intentions with regard to the book, and my ideas tend to agree with Overlithe: some of us are heroes and some not, but we're all in it together, and no hero does it all alone.

Frodosmiss:
All of the characters (minus the villains, of course) were heroic and vital to the ring's final destiny. I must agree w/ Over and Lith that the hobbits, particularly Frodo, are the truest heroes of the books (and I am so glad they were able to speak up on their behalf!)

Aragorn, Boromir, Faramir, Theoden, Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel, Legolas, Gimli, Eomer and Eowyn...as well as the countless men and elven warriors were certainly heroes. However, they were educated and practiced in matters of war and battles of good vs evil. Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin lived their lives in the Shire... a people dedicated to peace. They didn't raise a hand against each other and were unknowing of the ways of war. Had the council met without having met the hobbits, and they were asked to prepare a list of possible races from which a hero would step forth to take the ring to Mordor, do you suppose hobbits would have been on their list at all? I doubt it. Yet, Frodo offered to take the ring, having already felt it's power and weight and having been wounded by the witch king. His friends went along to protect him, putting their lives at risk to be by his side, even though they had never been in battle or wielded sharp instruments for anything other than cutting their food. All of the characters stepped into battles where they were outnumbered and outsized, but none so much as these brave little hobbits.

The hobbits should never be left out of any conversation re: heroes of ME. They were the greatest heroes of all...the everyman who faced insurmountable odds for the most basic of reasons. Of the four, Frodo made the ultimate sacrifice. Although he survived, he never again lived.

One sentence keeps running through my mind when it comes to this topic...All gave some, and some gave all. Frodo, the most unlikely of heroes, gave all. Just one hobbit lover's view of the subject.

MrsFrodoBaggins:
Frodo...not even in the running?....

Some "experts"!!!
Did any of them think to consult Tolkien himself???
Have they not read the books?!?!
Have they no ears? Did they hear nothing we said?
Have they no hearts?

**sounds of screaming, breaking glass, stomping feet, and the roar of what looks like a gargantuan Reeking Sadistic Demon Queen of Thangorodrim**

Um--gentlemen, THE BALROG IS ANGRY.

Overlithe:
Easy there Mrs. Frodo....lol. The answer of course is NO they do not have hearts and the DO believe they consulted JRR. Via his notes anyway.
they are the intellectuals..i suppose; there are those who seek for answers, answers that would just simply be obvious if they'd only open their hearts to the possibilities. I feel sorry for them if they truly cannot see the heroism of all the characters Including Frodo....And I am saddened that they cannot feel the totality of the loss which Frodo experiences.

Ashlyn:
Hrmph! No hearts indeed. Nor do they know what Pity and Mercy are!

Experts they may call themselves, but my interpretation of what I have read says that Tolkien himself considered Frodo the hero of the book. The following quotes come from The Letters of JRR Tolkien:

Letter 91
Here is a small consignment of ‘The Ring’: the last two chapters that have been written, and the end of the Fourth Book of that great Romance, in which you will see that, as is all too easy, I have got the hero into such a fix that not even an author will be able to extricate him without labour and difficulty. …

Letter 246
… But, for one thing, it became at last quite clear that Frodo after all that had happened would be incapable of voluntarily destroying the Ring. Reflecting on the solution after it was arrived at (as a mere event) I feel that it is central to the whole ‘theory’ of true nobility and heroism that is presented.
Frodo indeed ‘failed’ as a hero, as conceived by simple minds: he did not endure to the end; he gave in, ratted. I do not say ‘simple minds’ with contempt: they often see with clarity the simple truth and the absolute ideal to which effort must be directed, even if it is unattainable. Their weakness, however, is twofold. They do not perceive the complexity of any given situation in Time, in which an absolute ideal is enmeshed. They tend to forget that strange element in the World that we call Pity or Mercy, which is also an absolute requirement in moral judgement (since it is present in the Divine nature). In its highest exercise it belongs to God. For finite judges of imperfect knowledge it must lead to the use of two different scales of ‘morality’. To ourselves we must present the absolute ideal with compromise, for we do not know our own limits of natural strength (+ grace), and if we do not aim at the highest we shall certainly fall short of the utmost that we could achieve. To others, in any case of which we know enough to make a judgement, we must apply a scale tempered by ‘mercy’: that is, since we can with good will do this without the bias inevitable in judgements of ourselves, we must estimate the limits of another’s strength and weigh this against the force of particular circumstances.
I do not think that Frodo’s was a moral failure. At the last moment the pressure of the Ring would reach its maximum – impossible, I should have said, for any one to resist, certainly after long possession, months of increasing torment, and when starved and exhausted. Frodo had done what he could and spent himself completely (as an instrument of Providence) and had produced a situation in which the object of his quest could be achieved. His humility (whith which he began) and his sufferings were justly rewarded by the highest honour; and his exercise of patience and mercy towards Gollum gained him Mercy: his failure was redressed. ...

So, pay attention boys, ya might learn something!

MrsFrodoBaggins:
Erm, sorry. Roggie has gone off to cool her jets in the reservoir, though she grumbled in a most disconcerting way as she left, stuff like "read the blasted book!" and "get your facts straight!" and "blast it all if I don't melt the soles of their Reeboks to the floor so they can't go spreading their inane rubbish any further! The very idea...." I almost reminded her that she oughtn't be too quick to invoke the book, as she isn't in it herself, but one must tread very softly around an enraged balrog.

Well, Cliff has a heart--just not for Frodo. I only wish he had actually heard what I was trying to say. I guess I didn't do a very good job with it. Sometimes it takes me days to work through what I actually think and feel about important things, and I wasn't at all prepared to defend our beloved Frodo's heroism. Who'd have thought we'd need to in a crowd of fanatical Ringers!?!

they are the intellectuals..i suppose; there are those who seek for answers, answers that would just simply be obvious if they'd only open their hearts to the possibilities. I feel sorry for them if they truly cannot see the heroism of all the characters Including Frodo....And I am saddened that they cannot feel the totality of the loss which Frodo experiences.

This is why I believe Frodo is underappreciated: one can't possibly understand what it is to be utterly burned away by an evil not of one's own making without actually having endured such a thing. That's why I had to get up and speak.

Also, Frodo is a pretty difficult mythological figure. He's the Wounded Hero and the Wounded Healer--and, theologically, the Suffering Servant. There's enough Christology in Frodo's journey to make for several weighty books. Cliff mentioned the Wounded Hero archetype sort-of in passing in reference to Frodo, but he seemed to think it relatively unimportant--certainly not heroic.

That, I think, is what makes me most upset. For me, Gandalf, Frodo and Aragorn are the Holy Trinity of the Lord of the Rings (Father/Prophet, Son/Redeemer/Priest, Spirit/King). Frodo is in fact nothing less than the redemptive aspect of the book. Um...let me see...shrug off Frodo's heroism... shrug off...Jesus's.... Oopsie-poopsie!

Anyway. Frodo lives! Frodo rocks! Frodo rules! GOOOOOOOOOO FRODO!!!! 

**carefully steps down from Dawn dishwashing liquid crate and sets it out of the way**

Overlithe:

This Quote is marvelous....and as per usual folks have taken what they wanted and discarded the rest...they took the words FRODO FAILED and ran with them.

And in Cliffs defence yeah he was ok, just a moderator.

And Mrs Fro....you did a fine job stating your case and your story..if I remember correctly I had tears in my eyes when you were done.

I love this quote particularly because it is exactly what Ive been trying to grasp onto and I am so Glad that I indeed do have a similar read on it as the author did. IT is reaffirming in a way to know that at least some of us can read all the subtleties.

I've never read any of Tolkiens letters/ notes ect. So I am particularly thrilled to see this......Thank you

Ashlyn:
And you are welcome.

I have to admit that part of it is boring, but most of it is extremely fascinating. Well worth the money just for the peek you get into Tolkien's mind.

Bregalad:
I have Tolkien's letters, but haven't yet run across this one. I wish I'd had, because I remember another thread on this subject at the previous boards which went several pages and got pretty heated. This is the perfect quote from Tolkien as far as I'm concerned, because like Overlithe, it says wha I feel but don't have the eloquence to say rightly. Oh well, the professor said it so much better anyway.

I like this section the best: "I do not think that Frodo’s was a moral failure. At the last moment the pressure of the Ring would reach its maximum – impossible, I should have said, for any one to resist, certainly after long possession, months of increasing torment, and when starved and exhausted. Frodo had done what he could and spent himself completely (as an instrument of Providence) and had produced a situation in which the object of his quest could be achieved."

This is the point of Frodo's quest and heroism. He gave his all to get the Ring to the point where it could be destroyed, whether or not by his own hand.

Ashlyn:

Bregalad, when you get a chance look up this one and read on past where I stopped, it goes into even more detail on moral failure and why one who takes on a task greater than he is capable of completing is not a moral failure.

MrsPippinTook:
I got some very great advice to buy Tolkien letters in London, which I will buy. Because here they don't have it. (not in my small town)
After all this suffering, being stabbed by the Witch-king, chased by the Nazgûl, captured by Faramir, captured by Shelob, Frodo's destination wasn't a failure. He was human. If Tolkien had made him destroying the ring without doubts, it would have been a bit more unbelievable. But this ending with Frodo refusing to destroy the ring, because of it's intense power, was the best ending that Tolkien could have made.
What's a hero? Someone who fight and stays loyal like Aragorn? Or Faramir who could resist the ring? Eowyn by killing the Witch-King? Sometimes a hero can be someone who doesn't fight or kill, but someone who is desperate to do what he is supposed to do like Frodo destroying the ring. Yes, In this way is Frodo the hero by far. He went on a mission and he was faithful till the end and in the end, he failed to destroy the ring. But that doesn't make him a bad character! He went to the undying lands. He had to heal inside again. When you have read the books, you can't be untouched by Frodo his character.
But I guess everybody has his or her own personal hero.

* My personal hero will always be little Samwise Gamgee*


Lady of Light:
Its just my opinion but I feel they are all heroes in their own way. Each played an important part however small in the destruction of the ring.

Overlithe:
Yes..I think its safe to say we all agree that all of the characters are heroic...

But it seems that most of us still feel that Frodo's was the greatest sacrifice..."taking on more than he was ever capable of."

I love those notes arg...another expense. But I think I must have them so that if the subject ever comes up again I will be better prepared to defend my views.

MrsFrodoBaggins:
(Note to Cliff, wherever you may be: Yes, having cooled down and thought about it, I think Lith is right. I apologize for lumping you in with the panelists. I can see that leaving Frodo out to fuel the debate would be a respectable enough tactic for the moderator--and you certainly seem like a nice, kind-hearted guy, not somebody who would diss a poor little hobbit who did his best to complete an impossible mission. I will convey all this to the balrog, hoping that she hasn't already melted the soles of your Reeboks to the floor. Her testy moods can last awhile.)

Tolkien stated that Frodo is the hero of the book. He even described those who wouldn't 'get it' because they wouldn't be able to get past legalism to the concepts of mercy and pity. Maybe somebody should show the panelists these quotes...who knows; maybe they'd actually recognize themselves. (Not holding my breath.)

When you get right down to it--why would there be such a panel at all? I can understand discussing Tolkien's views on heroism, the varying forms it takes in various characters, etc.--but "Who is the hero of the book?" It doesn't seem like a real debatable issue, since we have the answer from the author himself.

HollyBaggins:
Yes, Frodo is my hero also. This has come up before in RW conversations for me, and it absolutely exasperates me when people don't understand. They cannot see past "Frodo failed" and see that ANYONE else in his position would have too, and I don't think anyone else could have brought the Ring as far as Frodo did, which is essentially why Frodo was "chosen". Ultimately, the Ring could not have been destroyed by a mere imperfect person without some divine intervention, which is displayed in the book by Gollum just falling into the fire.

There are also a lot of Christian parallels that can be seen in this, such as the fact that sin cannot ultimatly be conquered without the Lord's intervention.

Oh, well, that's my two cents. 

I hate to say it, though, but I think the movies are partially to blame in most people's incorrect view of Frodo. But that's a whole 'nother subject... Don't get me started on that, lol. (Don't get me wrong, though- I love the movies, but they certainly changed a lot for the worse, if you know what I mean.)

BTW, thanks, Ashlyn, for the wonderful quote from Tolkien's letters. I'm going to have to get his letters. And MrsFrodoBaggins, thanks for some excellent points.

Carnen:
Interesting topic for discussion. I think that at times academics and so-called experts can be a little blind to things. As I recall there have been papers presented in the recent past (on various literary topics) where the 'expert' appears to have completely missed the point in a piece they're dissecting. Perhaps its because their knowledge is very specialised they get blinded to other aspects of things, who can say? I've been labelled an expert myself in the past* and I'm not entirely happy with it (it applies to some things but ...) anyway I'd rather say I was a fan with an opinion and an ability to articulate it. I am very suprised at Cliff though as moderator for not pointing out that Frodo ought to have been on any list of heroes, maybe he'd been up too late the night before?

As for Frodo's heroism, Lynnette Porter's book Unsung Heroes of The Lord of the Rings: From the Page to the Screentakes it for granted that Frodo, Aragorn, Gandalf and Sam are the people most readers consider to be the heroes of the tale. Her book is about the characters who also meet literary standards of heroism yet who are 'unsung' as it were. Admittedly she makes a couple of mistakes too one of which is to think that Farmer Maggot is one fo the big folk!  And its a book that I really must finish reading soon.

*For some reason people think members of the Tolkien Society are experts and scholars but not fans! When its really made up of all three!


Bonnie HalfElven:
Courage is not the absense of fear. It is acting in spite of it.

There are many heroes and Frodo certainly could not have done it alone, but he made the greatest sacrifice.

Also, Elijah Wood pointed out that Frodo's compassion for Gollum meant that he was there at the end. So while Gollum wasn't a hero, he had a part to play and he was there to play it because Frodo pitied him and showed him mercy even though it was dangerous to have him around.

Ladyhawk:
At the end of the Sil Tolkien talks about Frodo the Halfling and his faithful servant who saw to the destruction of the Ring. No mention of anyone else in the Fellowship.



This discussion was picked back up in a subsequent musing, Frodo as Hero Revisited.