The Mystery of Frodo
by Varda, with responses
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
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
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
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
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
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
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:
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.