In the book some time elapses between Frodo taking on the task of bringing Ring out of The Shire and his actually leaving. He has time to put up a pretence of moving house, clearing all his possessions out of Bag End. There is a moment when he is standing in the deserted hallway and he catches a glimpse of himself in a dusty mirror. He notices that he has put on some weight. 'The bit of exercise will do me good..' he says, bravely whistling in the dark. He looks unfit, unwilling and unequal to the task. He has said yes, but to use Tolkien's phrase his heart keeps still a debate. He wondrs how he will achieve what he has promised. He wants to understand, to retain some control over his life. It is this intense inner life that makes Frodo so real, so psychologically convincing. He is not a mule, or a victim, or a sacrifice.
Gandalf was never going to take no for an answer. In the book there is nothing cosy about their meeting where Gandalf tests the ring and gives the task to Frodo. It is horribly uncomfortable. Frodo panics and begs Gandalf to help him. But Gandalf has the lives of many people, of whole communities, to think of and cannot let Frodo off the hook, however much he loves him. When Frodo in his fear oversteps their friendship and questions him Gandalf sharply reprimands him. He slaps him down for interrupting him. But it is not that he doesn't respect Frodo. In fact as the conversation goes on his respect for Frodo grows, even from answers that are totally guileless in their fear.
When Gandalf tells Frodo that Gollum has revealed to The Enemy that the ring is in The Shire, he also tells Frodo how he got the truth out of Gollum; he threatened to burn him. The thought of burning Gollum is quite horrific. Not because Gollum is good, but because he is wretched. Frodo has no pity for Gollum but Gandalf has, and it is a measure of how desperate Gandalf is that he is willing to resort to even the threat of torture to wring the truth out of Gollum. During the conversation between Gandalf and Frodo you can hear the awful creaking of the door of history swinging back on its bloody hinges to trap another innocent person. 'Why me?'Frodo asks desperately, but he is already cornered by fate.
But at the very moment Frodo, mastering his terror and borne down by the force of Gandalf's arguments, agrees to take the Ring away, he does not think of it, or of Gandalf, or even of himself, but of Bilbo. The debate in his heart is not the debate that is going on with Gandalf. He thinks of how much he loves Bilbo and how much he would love to see him. Even in this moment of doom for him, he is master of his own thoughts if not his destiny.
This inner life continues throughout the book, right to the end, showing Frodo's growth and development. Bt the time he gets to Lothl?rien he is able to turn the tables on Galadriel when she tests him and she observes shrewdly 'You begin to see with a keen eye'. No matter how much it hurts, Frodo wants to know and to be in charge of his response to his fate. He never ceases to want rid of it, and offers Galadriel the Ring as the last chance he has of willingly being rid of it, safely for the world with honour for himself. Bt Ithilien he knows his road is set and Faramir's horror and concern at what Frodo is going into shows he is at the same level that Frodo was that day so long ago when Gandalf laid the task on him. How far Frodo has come since! At first gently then less gently he asks Faramir to let him go, and is set free at last by Faramir with words of farewell such are given to ones certain to die.
But Frodo is not the only one to have this inner debate. All the characters in The Lord Of The Rings have it. It is what makes this a modern novel, not an ancient lay or a 'fantasy epic'. Even Gollum, says Gandalf, has some corner of his mind still able to see some light. In Mordor for a brief moment, watching Frodo sleeping peacefully in Sam's protective arms, Gollum has a tearing moment of remorse and memory, but it is gone quickly, and the only ones that lack this inner dimension are the servants of Sauron and Saruman, who destroy that inner debate and inner life of their slaves.
Although Sam and Frodo are so close, their inner lives are completely different. However well they know each other they each surprise each other by what they say and do. Sam is Frodo's anamchara not his alter ego.
Hobbits fight not for great causes but for people and places they know. Gandalf prefaces what he has to say to Frodo by saying what a pity it would be to see such admirable if foolish hobbits destroyed. He works on Frodo's love of the Shire and his desire to keep it safe. Gildor also tries to arouse Frodo's sense of the Shire at risk. It is something Frodo has to learn, as hobbits are not used to war or invasions. Buckland is a bit of a frontier land, close to the Old Forest and on the wrong side of the river, and Brandybucks are more alert and Frodo grew up there and takes a Brandybuck with him, Merry. But making a contribution to the fate of the West is a new thing to Frodo and hobbits in general. He is to borrow a phrase from James Joyce, 'forging the unforged conscience of his race'. As Elrond says, this is the hour of the Shire folk, when they arise from their quiet fields to take part in the counsels of the great.
Frodo's courage surpasses that of all the warriors in the book. Even before he sets out he knows that he might perish. But in Bree he sits on the bed listening to Aragorn and realises that there are worse things than death. 'What are they?' 'They are the Ringwraiths, neither living nor dead'. Just before he attacks Frodo, Boromir says to him 'You will beg for death!' and Frodo turns away with a snort. As if I don't know....
In Alexandr Solshenitsyn's book One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovitch the hero has only death and disease to look forward to. But he can control his day, his fate for just this while, by will and courage and intelligence. And so does Frodo, day by day, into Mordor. By the time he has to carry him, to Sam's surprise, Frodo weighs no more than a hobbit child, worn by long travelling, hunger and injuries. He has lost weight and much else besides, but never his fierce comprehension of the situation, his desire to make it his reality. He only loses that at the very end, and not even then for very long.
Apologies to all, sorry to ..er...intimidate anyone. If I have, and if it is indeed the will of the Council, I will undergo voluntary banishment to the Prancing Pony, for a time to be decided by Ringers but not to exceed thirty six hours. From now. :)