Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Frodo Baggins, the principal protagonist. Frodo is a hobbit, a member of a diminutive, peace-loving race that inhabits the Shire, a rural area in the northwest of Middle-earth. From his Uncle Bilbo, Frodo inherits a magic ring that confers the power of invisibility upon its wearer. Although he at first regards it as merely a useful toy, he comes to learn that it is in fact the Ruling Ring, an enormously powerful talisman created and lost by Sauron, the malevolent Dark Lord, ages before. Should Sauron recover the Ring, he will become powerful enough to plunge Middle-earth into an age of darkness. The Ring is a potent weapon that enables its wearer to control the wills of others, but it is inherently evil, inevitably corrupting its possessors. Rather than attempt to use it to defeat Sauron, therefore, Frodo seeks to destroy it. This, however, can be done only where the Ring was made: in the volcanic fires of Mount Doom, in the heart of Sauron’s kingdom. Pursued by Sauron’s emissaries—including monsters such as Orcs, Trolls, and the terrifying Ringwraiths—Frodo and a handful of companions undertake the apparently hopeless quest of carrying the Ring to Mount Doom. Along the way, Frodo bears the colossal burden of the Ring, which exerts an inexorable pressure upon his mind and spirit. He yields to its temptation only when he is on the point of accomplishing his quest, claiming the Ring for himself as he stands by the fiery fissures of Mount Doom. He is saved at the last moment by Gollum, who bites the Ring—and a finger—from Frodo’s hand and falls into the abyss, destroying the Ring and vanquishing Sauron. A small, unassuming member of an obscure race, Frodo is outwardly ordinary, an unlikely hero in a titanic struggle for world supremacy, yet his simplicity and essential goodness give him the ability to resist the Ring’s pull far longer than a seemingly more powerful character could. Although he is terribly worn, Frodo is ennobled by his long ordeal. A somewhat bourgeois and self-interested country squire at the story’s beginning, he becomes a saintlike figure by its conclusion.
Samwise (Sam) Gamgee
Samwise (Sam) Gamgee, Frodo’s faithful servant and companion, who accompanies him for the duration of the quest. Like Frodo, Sam begins the story as a cheerful but simple character and unlikely hero; he too gains in dignity and stature over the course of the tale. Although he leaves the Shire as a working-class gardener’s son, he returns vastly broadened by his adventures. He becomes the mayor of Hobbiton, the Shire’s principal community.
Meriadoc (Merry) Brandybuck
Meriadoc (Merry) Brandybuck, a young hobbit, one of Frodo’s companions. Merry earns renown by helping to kill the chief Ringwraith during the major battle of the War of the Ring. Upon returning, he leads the hobbits in freeing the Shire, which has fallen under the control of a band of evil men.
Peregrin (Pippin) Took
Peregrin (Pippin) Took, another of Frodo’s companions, also a young hobbit. In Gondor, Pippin helps to save the life of the Lord Faramir; in the climactic battle, he kills a huge Troll and is nearly killed himself.
Gandalf, also known as Mithrandir, a wizard, an old-looking but seemingly ageless man with various magical skills, notably a control over fires and lights. Accompanying Frodo and the others, he is pulled into an abyss by a powerful demon and apparently killed. He returns from death with heightened powers, and it becomes clear that he is in fact an angelic emissary sent to Middle-earth to oppose the forces of darkness. The leader of the resistance to Sauron, Gandalf is the principal architect of the allied victory in the War of the Ring.
Aragorn, initially known to the hobbits only as Strider, a wandering man expert in the ways of the wild. After Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin flee the Shire with the Ringwraiths in pursuit, Aragorn leads the terrified hobbits through the northern wilderness to the safety of Rivendell. There, they learn that he is in fact the heir of the ancient kings of Middle-earth. After Gandalf’s fall, Aragorn again leads Frodo and his companions on the quest to destroy the Ring. His lineage is revealed to the world when he arrives in Gondor, the principal kingdom of the southwest and the chief bulwark against Sauron’s forces. Although Gandalf is the spiritual leader and grand strategist of the allied campaign, Aragorn becomes its military and tactical head. After Sauron’s defeat, he is crowned under the name King Elessar, and he works to restore the former glory of his kingdom.
Gimli, a Dwarf, one of a race of short, tough people expert in mining and metalwork and noted for their use of axes in battle. Gimli is one of the nine members of the company that sets out from Rivendell on the quest to destroy the Ring.
Legolas, an Elf, a member of an ancient race of tall, beautiful, and supremely talented people who live in near-perfect harmony with nature. An expert bowman, he is another member of the company. Although Elves and Dwarves are historical enemies, he and Gimli become close friends.
Boromir, a nobleman of Gondor who joins the company in Rivendell. A valiant, powerful warrior, he nevertheless is unable to resist the corrupting force of the Ring, which he wants to use as a weapon against Sauron. Boromir’s attempt to take the Ring from Frodo by force leads to the splitting of the fellowship. When Frodo flees from him, he repents; shortly thereafter, he is killed defending Merry and Pippin from a band of Orcs.
Gollum, also known as Smeágol, a pathetic, shriveled, formerly hobbitlike creature who long possessed the Ring, which has...
(The entire section is 2414 words.)
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Sources for Further Study
Birzer, Bradley. Tolkien’s Sanctifying Myth. Wilmington, Del.: ISI Books, 2003. Argues that The Lord of the Rings is a “sublimely mystical Passion Play” in which myth is “sanctified” by expressing eternal (Christian) truths.
Caldecott, Stratford. The Power of the Ring: The Spiritual Vision Behind “The Lord of the Rings.” New York: Crossroad, 2005. Suggests that Tolkien’s Catholic spirituality “illuminates” his writing, and the Christian virtues of the heroes in The Lord of the Rings purify the reader without proselytizing.
Pearce, Joseph. Tolkien: Man and Myth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998. A biography of Tolkien emphasizing the role of his Catholic spirituality in developing his myth.
Wood, Ralph C. The Gospel According to Tolkien. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003. Explores Tolkien’s fiction as an “embedded gospel” providing an answer to the moral dilemmas of the twentieth century.