Being quite the youngling, I wasn’t introduced to the wonderful realm of Middle Earth until the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings films came out when I was eleven. My dear old dad, who is absolutely and hilariously terrified of orcs, promptly banned me from seeing any of the films. It wasn’t until I was thirteen that I finally managed to watch The Fellowship of the Ring round my friends house. I immediately fell in love with Orlando Bloom as Legolas (my very first crush!) and begged my mum to let me watch the rest. She conceded, took me to the cinema, bought me the books, and thus my obsession began.
I’ll always have a soft spot for Tolkien’s works as they marked my transition into adult literature. Until I read The Hobbit and subsequently LOTR, I had been clinging to my Harry Potters, TinTins and Jacqueline Wilsons like security blankets, or some sort of Peter Pan metaphor. The world of Middle Earth broke the mould for me, and ended up being the exception to every book rule I have ever had, that’s how good it was. I do not like epic fantasy. I do not enjoy a massive cast of characters, often with ridiculous names that are difficult to remember. I don’t like a period setting. I don’t like a whole host of things that are included in Middle Earth, but all of those rules go out of the window where Tolkien’s concerned. His remains the only book series that has taken so many things I do not like, slapped ‘em together and said “fuck you and your book prejudice, you’re going to love this anyway”.
I’ve spent a heck of a long time trying to accurately pinpoint exactly why Tolkien simply knocks my socks off. I’d love to be able to break it down like a fraction but my mind just screams “IT’S JUST SO GOOD, GUY!” and that’s really all I can get out of it before it flashes back to the Legolas-stair-boarding-at-Helm’s-Deep scene. Wasn’t that a bit of terrific?
One thing I have been able to pinpoint though, is something that has stayed with me for a long time. It has influenced my own writing and how much I enjoy the books I read now. And that is my love for Frodo Baggins.
He’s not a lot of people’s choice for best hero EVAR but he’s always been close to my heart. Why? Because he’s not your typical hero, or not a hero at all if you’re of the camp Sam-was-the-true-hero. Frodo isn’t special, he’s not some sword-wielding, arrow-shooting saviour; he’s just your average Joe who goes on a quest because it’s the right thing to do. He doesn’t want the power the Ring could give him. He doesn’t want the glory he earns when he destroys it. And he manages to evade the Ring’s power because of this.
True to form, he doesn’t try to live up to his status as a hero. Sure he learns a few basic sword swipes in order to survive, but he doesn’t try much harder than that. He doesn’t envy the skills of the other members of the Fellowship. He doesn’t marvel and Legolas’s hair, or take one look at Gimli’s beard and decide to grow a majestic facial shrubbery now that he’s the ever-loving Ring Bearer with a capital R B – NO! Frodo is happy being a regular guy, with no discernable skills or talent apart from he’s a good egg. He takes a brief pause from his unassuming life to carry out an epic task (like the friendly neighbourhood Hobbit he is) before he bitch-slaps Hero life in the face and gets right back to The Shire.
Not only that, he totally keeps failing. He makes a bunch of mistakes, puts the Ring on all the time, and ends up claiming the Ring after all that anyway! If it weren’t for Gollum slipping into the fires of Mount Doom, Frodo may well have become the villain! He’s imperfect. He didn’t fail, but he didn’t exactly win either. But we still love him. He’s still a hero that I will worship for the rest of my life because that’s exactly the point.
“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”
To this day I still groan at a Special Snowflake hero. I will chose not to read a book if the protagonist “always knew they were different” or some crap like that. My kind of hero, like so many people, will always be every guy, the girl next door, but the one who accomplished the most amazing things anyway. That’s the kind of hero I want to see, and that’s the kind of philosophy I apply to my life: you don’t have to have all of these amazing skills and talents to still be an incredible person.
That’s why Rose Tyler is one of my favourite Doctor Who companions (aside from my childhood love of Billie Piper’s music): she’s a chavvy girl from a shop with no skill whatsoever yet the Doctor chooses her. It’s why I love Harry Potter to bits and always will do: there is nothing special about The Chosen One, but he goes and defeats the Dark Lord anyway because fuck yeah.
And that’s why Frodo Baggins will stay with me forever and ever, because he showed me what a real hero is.
Originally posted on BookSnobbery