The Mystery of Frodo

by Varda, with responses

It is imperative for Peter Jackson to establish a convincing set of motives for Aragorn. But Frodo is not the same as Aragorn. He is a centre, not of motives and answers but of mystery. Try to pin him down; try the old school-type essay on his character; you can't. He is just about anything you want him to be. He is not just everyman, he is a blank page. Well is he compared to Hamlet, who is so encyclopedic and all-embracing a character. Frodo is the character who, more than the Elves themselves, conveys the magic and spirituality of the Elves.

Whereas we know why Aragorn does what he does (sort of) we never know why Frodo does what HE does. He just says, 'I must leave the Shire, go away ' (in the book he never says 'what must I do?') Is it patriotism? He does love the Shire but never mentions it again till they return. Is it idealism? He never says so, never engages in debate or speculation on that subject. Even Sam does more wondering aloud on the meaning of their quest. Is it religion, duty, honour? Perhaps assumed but never mentioned. So Frodo's motivation is a mystery, as he is.

Frodo is the crossroads of The Lord of The Rings. He is the link between the human and the Elvish, being an Elf friend. Between the real and the supernatural, as bearer of the Ring. Between life and death, as one who can't die when he is the Ring bearer, and later can't live when he returns to the Shire. Between the present and the past, which is the age of the Rings, now gone. Between good and evil, being good but the bearer of great evil.

And for the writer he is the intersection of all Tolkien's inner forces; between Christian motivs of self-sacrifice and goodness and the pagan ideals of a maimed god of knowledge and gods of renewal and plenty. he is a Christian ideal but also a myth. He is Beowulf and also medieval Catholic dogma.

We are not meant to fully understand Frodo, as we are not meant to be able to in the end fully understand the book of the Lord of The Rings. We can only take a stab at it; as all epics, it loans itself out to many interpretations, all equally fruitful and truthful. Great literature is writing that will never allow the last word to be said about it. And it often has a hero just like it; mysterious.

Hamlet says it exactly, when Rosencrantz and Guildenstern try to spy on him, he rounds on them and says 'will you try to pluck out the heart of my mystery?'

No-one has ever been able to pluck out the heart of Hamlet's mystery, nor Frodo's. And in that they are truly human, for at the heart of every human being is a mystery, and it is not right that we could ever pluck it out. We can make Frodo ours, but he will never really belong to us.

What a problem for PJ to bring this mystery to the screen! But not really, for as well as being an enigma, Tolkien also made him a hero pursuing an action role, on the surface like Aragorn. So PJ gives him that action role, but with a difference; Frodo's Elven otherworldliness is simply conveyed by PJ's selection of his actor; Elijah's luminous beauty, his hint of distance in those endless blue eyes, says it better than dialogue.

And the scenes where Frodo suddenly lurches out of our sight and we realise we don't really know him at all, like trying to give the ring to Galadriel, or claiming it at the Cracks of Doom, are shown powerfully and with their full meaning. But mostly PJ conveys the ethereal, unwordly quality of Frodo by this beautiful young man.


Thanks, Anborn for the inspiration, and all you good Ringers for listening....

Response by April Lee

Frodo is the everyman, the ultimate example of how one person can make a difference. Not by having any great agenda or beliefs or physical or inner strength, but just by having to deal with what is dealt to you. He doesn't have to have a reason. He doesn't have to be some sort of archetype--a hero, a sage, a king. He's the unknown soldier. The unsung hero. They guys who just do the right thing when they find themselves in a tough situation. He's the quiet guy in the corner who no one notices, but who ends up being the one who is still standing when all the big talkers and movers and shakers have fallen.

These people exist everywhere around us. They could be the person walking by you on the street, the guy bagging your groceries, the teacher, the soldier, the parent, the construction worker, the secretary...

What makes a hero? What kind of person has the strength and courage to risk their life for others? What motivation do they need? What great story or great powers? Well... they don't need any of that, do they? While it seems as if all the great stories are centered around these larger-than life personalities, that's not really how it works, does it?

Everyday people are doing the right thing every day. They are sacrificing, they are taking the harder road.

We don't need to know Frodo, because he is the same as the people we see every day. He's just this guy who happened to find himself with a ring. What would you do?

Response by Varda:

Thanks April,

That is the paradox of Frodo, as with Hamlet; he seems ordinary, normal, everday. But he isn't. There are not people with that kind of moral and physical courage all around us. If there were, April, the world would be a better place. Frodo just seems ordinary, but actually he is one of a kind.

There are many Sams, who will support and love and sacrifice, but the kind of heroism of Frodo is very rare, that not only does but perceives, that volunteers, not only goes away but realises he can never come home, but does not cry because he can't, and yet mourns what he has lost.

I certainly never said Frodo had no inner strengths; that is just what I said he *did* have!! and that he got it from himself, not from any ideology or orders from another.

Frodo is not just a hero. I agree there are heroes everywhere, but not like him. But it is not just what Frodo does that marks him out from all the heroes of literature, but what he is, what he thinks, and in the end what he hides from us.

Thanks for your reply.