Lord of the Rings Characters

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Frodo Baggins

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...

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The Lord of the Rings Characters

Tolkien has, on occasion, been criticized by mainstream literary critics for simplistic and stereotypical characterization and, when compared to the detailed characters of Henry James or Faulkner, his Gandalf and Aragorn do come across as thin. Such criticism, however, is largely a matter of condemning an apple for not being an orange. When examining Tolkien's use of character development, his technique should be compared not to that of the masters of the realistic tradition, but rather to that of the writers of the romance and epic, both medieval and modern. Within this context, Gandalf, Aragorn, and the rest seem surprisingly well rounded. Like most of the great heroes of romance, from King Arthur to Ivanhoe, from Captain Ahab to Sherlock Holmes, they have a vitality that induces the reader to care what happens to them. Similarly, in his comic portrayal of Sam Gamgee, although it has occasionally caused him to be accused of class prejudice, Tolkien has transcended the forelock-tugging stereotype of the British bumpkin and created a living, growing character, someone who is fully capable of both love and heroism.

Finally there is the matter of Frodo Baggins, Tolkien's protagonist. In Frodo, Tolkien does approach the complexity of character which one is accustomed to finding in the modern novel. The Hobbit's growth from good-hearted but shallow young country squire to suffering tragic hero is perhaps the novel's greatest triumph. Much of the latter half...

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The Lord of the Rings Character Analysis

The Lord of the Rings Aragorn

The last descendant of the kings of the west, Aragorn, named Estel (Hope) by his mother, was born in the northwest of Middle Earth. (Aragorn is variously known as Strider, Thorongil, Estel and Elessar.) There his kinsmen and people had dwindled to a small clan of hardy, relatively long-lived men and women. His father was killed soon after his birth; Aragorn was raised in Rivendell, the last secret hope of his people. He has spent his adult life, like the other men of his people, as a Ranger, protecting the northwest lands of Middle Earth (particularly the Shire, since the finding of the Ring) from the threat of Sauron. He has ridden under an assumed name with the riders of Rohan and fought under an assumed name—Thorongil—in Gondor.

Aragorn is not a fairy-tale hero. His hard, hunted life has made him grim and, at times, a little tart. His ability and experience have not left him without self-doubt. His personal life, particularly his love for Arwen, has been mothballed for decades. He hardly refers to that love, and only retrospectively do some of his actions, for example, singing the Lay of Beren and Luthien, reveal its true, almost painful intensity. Despite this, his capacity for true friendship defines him as much as his actions. He is capable of great tenderness and understanding, born of intuition honed by experience. Gandalf relies on him. Bilbo treats him with the avuncular fondness with which he treats his own young cousins. Eomer of Rohan...

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The Lord of the Rings Arwen

A half-elf and Elrond's daughter, like all elves, she is for all practical purposes immortal. Arwen (also known as Undomiel 'Evenstar') is called 'Evenstar' because of her resemblance to her great-grandmother, Luthien 'Morningstar,' who also renounced immortality for the love of a mortal man. She has waited for Aragorn through all his labors and marries him shortly after the end of the War of the Ring, assigning her right to pass over the sea to the uttermost west to Frodo should he wish. After Aragorn's death, she goes back to her mother's home of Lórien and, the elves all departed, dies alone.

Arwen's character and meaning are elusive, but in the end, hidden away in the Appendices, supremely tragic. The true female counterpart of Frodo, she is wounded by the necessary choice between father and lover, immortality and mortality, just as Frodo is by the experience of the Ring. Although she assumes mortality, she dies utterly elven in her attitude.

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The Lord of the Rings Frodo Baggins

Cousin and adopted heir of Bilbo, he is left a clearly magic ring along with the rest of Bilbo's property and warned not to use it. After a number of years, Gandalf comes to perform a final test that identifies the ring as the One Ring of Sauron, whose power and influence is so great and so corrupting that it cannot be safely used. Attempting to protect the Shire and his people, Frodo and three companions, Sam, Merry, and Pippin flee with it while being pursued by the Sauron's servants the Ringwraiths. At the Council of Elrond, he offers to take it to Mount Doom and destroy it. He struggles to perform the task, slowly being devoured by the power of the Ring until, at the edge of the volcano's crater, he chooses to claim the Ring for himself. At that moment, Sauron is aware of him and is distracted from the little army lead by Aragorn. Before he or Frodo can act, Gollum bites off Frodo's finger to steal back the ring and, dancing with glee, falls backwards into the fire, destroying the Ring. Frodo is doubly maimed by his sufferings while carrying the Ring and by his final failure to resist and destroy it. He can find no peace in his return home and takes up Arwen's offer to pass over the sea into the west in her place.

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The Lord of the Rings Denethor

The last ruling steward of Gondor. He is very much in the mold of the ancient men of the west. His resemblance to Aragorn is mentioned at more than one point. Nevertheless, he pays only lip service to the essential nature of the stewardship. It is clear he would not relinquish, with any good grace, his rule to the true king should he return. He is contemptuous when speaking of Aragorn. In the Appendices in the last volume of Lord of the Rings, there are suggestions that Denethor's attitude may have been affected by an earlier meeting of the two men. Aragorn, under the name of Thorongil, fought as a captain in the wars of Gondor under Denethor's father, Ecthelion II. Denethor resented Thorongil's ability, success, and his...

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The Lord of the Rings Other Characters

Bilbo Baggins
A Hobbit who accompanies a group of dwarves on an attempt to kill a dragon and reclaim their home and treasure. All this happens, although not quite the way they expected, and largely through Bilbo's growing self assurance and the help of a ring Bilbo finds, steals, or wins—actually a little of all three—that renders its wearer invisible. Bilbo brings the ring back with him and occasionally uses it, largely to avoid meeting his more obnoxious relatives. It has, however, other effects. He enjoys extended life and vigor, but also begins to feel it "growing on his mind." The ring is the Ring, the great ruling Ring of Sauron, holding a power that devours and corrupts sooner or later all that...

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