Frodo is the main character of The Lord of the Rings. He is a young hobbit, well to do, and considered eccentric for a hobbit, like Bilbo, his uncle. He comes from the higher echelons of hobbit society and is a gentle caring soul. He is no older than Bilbo was during his great adventure (as told in The Hobbit) yet he appears more mature because he is burdened by the knowledge of the truth about the Ring he carries. In the course of his quest he is shown to be a Christ-like figure, suffering for the benefit of others; sacrificing himself so others can live. He does not wish anyone else to be harmed during his quest into Mordor, which explains why he tries to leave alone and unnoticed, on the banks of the Anduin by the Falls of Rauros.
Sam is Frodos gardener, man-servant and closest friend. He loves Master Frodo dearly and would die for him. He is a determined type of hobbit, in that once having started something, he will see it through to the bitter end. He follows his master willingly on his quest into Mordor, for he has sworn to himself that he would look after Frodo until their deaths if necessary. Sam does not see himself as a hero, only as someone as doing what needs done. Yet, as in all epics, there are often unrecognised heroes and recognised ones. When Frodo is supposedly killed by Shelob in the dark passages beneath Cirith Ungol, Sam takes up the Ring and carries on the quest, prepared to sacrifice himself, just as willingly as Frodo.
Also known as Strider. He is a grim, reticent man with a determined and forceful personality. Aragorn is a member of the Race of Kings. He is a descendant of Isildur, and heir to the throne of Gondor, even if no-one, aside from his closest friends, knows this fact. He is an honourable man with a strong sense of duty and protectiveness to those placed under his care. He is faced with many hard decisions during the quest, and is unsure at the time whether his choices are correct or not. He, too, is willing to sacrifice himself and ultimately those around him, to ensure the quest is achieved, and Sauron is prevented from subjugating all of Middle Earth in the reign of dark terror foretold.
Gandalf, like Frodos Uncle Bilbo was first encountered in the prequel to the Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit. We are introduced to him from Bilbos viewpoint.
All that the unsuspecting Bilbo saw that morning was an old man with a staff. He had a tall pointed blue hat, a long grey cloak, a silver scarf over which his long white beard hung down below his waist, and immense black boots [...] Gandalf looked at him from under long bushy eyebrows that stuck out further than the brim of his shady hat.(10)
Gandalf is a very secretive and reticent Wizard. He has many of the qualities of Aragorn as a protector, steward and defender of Middle-Earth. This is not surprising as he too carries an air of Númenór about him. He is considered to be one of the leaders of the Council of Wizards (the White Council) and indeed assumes the responsibility of Head of the White Council after Sarumans fall from grace, becoming Gandalf the White.
In his eulogy for Gandalf, (after his supposed demise at the hands of the Balrog) Frodo describes him thus:
A deadly sword, a healing hand,
A back that bent beneath its load;
A trumpet-voice, a burning brand,
A weary pilgrim on the road.
A lord of wisdom throned he sat,
Swift in anger quick to laugh;
An old man in a battered hat
who leaned upon a thorny staff. (11)
The previous owner of the Ring. The readers first encounter with Gollum is in The Hobbit, where he meets Bilbo and after a game of riddles loses the ring to a very frightened Bilbo. Tolkien states in the prologue to The Lord of the Rings:
[Gollum] was a loathsome little creature: he paddled a small boat with his large flat feet, peering with pale luminous eyes and catching blind fish with his long fingers, and eating them raw. He ate any living thing, even an orc, if he could catch it and strangle it without a struggle.(12)
Before he found the Ring and lived his secret, vile life beneath the Misty Mountains, Gollum was supposedly a member of a hobbit-like folk that still lived on the banks of the Anduin, a tribe of great fishers and swimmers. (Unlike their western counterparts descendants who were generally averse to water.)
Sauron is the Enemy. He resides in the dark tower of Barad-Dûr in Mordor and plans to overrun the world with his dark powers. In the First Age he was the servant of Morgoth, whose designs were similar, and who was defeated by the combined might of the Elves and the Valar. Sauron once again rose to power in the Second Age, and was overthrown by the armies of Men and Elves under the leadership of Gil-Galad and Isildur. Towards the end of the Third Age he once more planned his rise to power, but lacking the Ruling Ring, Isildurs Bane, which had been removed from him at the end of the Second Age, he was hindered until it was found. This gave rise to the quest for the destruction of the Ring.
After receiving the Ring from Bilbo, Frodo is counselled by Gandalf some years later to make his way east to Rivendell. For the Magic Ring, the Ring Bilbo found on his adventure with the Dwarves is the One Ring created by Sauron. He and his three companions, Merry, Pippin and Sam are pursued by nine black riders, later known to be the Nazgûl, the leaders of men who accepted Saurons fey offer of power. At Rivendell, the Council of Elrond decides to send the Ring to the cracks of Orodruin to be cast therein and destroyed. Frodo is appointed the Ring-Bearer and Sam, Pippin Merry, Aragorn, Boromir of Minas Tirith, Gimli the Dwarf, Legolas the Elf and Gandalf are appointed his companions as a representation of the Races of Middle-Earth. The nine walkers of the Company of the Ring were set too match the nine Riders, the Nazgûl.
In the depths of the Mines of Moria under the Misty Mountains they are confronted by Orcs and a Balrog. Gandalf seeks combat with the Balrog and falls into the dark depths under the Mountains. He is thought dead by the Fellowship who continue on with the quest, under the leadership of Aragorn into Lothlórien. From there they make their way down the Great River to the Falls of Rauros, where the Fellowship is broken. Frodo and Sam make their way to Mordor alone whilst, Boromir is slain protecting Pippin and Merry, who are taken prisoner by marauding Orcs from Isengard, home to Saruman. Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas pursue the Orcs and their small captives across the Plains of Rohan, after the hard choice of Aragorn as to whether to desert the Ring-bearer or not.
On the Plains they meet a band of Rohirrim returning from the pursuit of the Orcs, and find that the orcs were all slain. They receive no news of the Hobbits and when they arrive at the scene of the battle, they find no further signs of them. Meanwhile, Pippin and Merry have managed to escape the clutches of the Orcs during the battle and make their way into the depths of the forest of Fangorn. There they meet Treebeard, an Ent of great age and standing. An Entmoot is called and the Ents decide within three days - a very short period of time for them - that something must be done about Young Saruman of Isengard. Gandalf who survived the conflict with the Balrog reveals himself to Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli at the edge of Fangorn. They leave the Hobbits in the care of the Ents for the time being. The four friends then return to the Edoras, the capital of Rohan and with their aid King Theoden decides to move against Isengard too. It is shown that Saruman had poisoned the Kings councillors mind and that much of the recent advice given had been a false deception, aiding Saruman.
Arriving in Isengard, they find the Ents have already destroyed the fortress and have Saruman locked in the Tower of Orthanc. They also find Pippin and Merry functioning as guards on the perimeter, and all are joyfully reunited.
To the east of the Great River, Frodo and Sam meanwhile are making their way to Mordor. They capture Gollum, who had been following them since their passage through Moria. He becomes a reluctant guide leading them to the gates of Mordor, and when it is revealed that they cannot pass that way, he shows them the back-door; the pass behind Minas Morgul, the city of the Nazgûl. Passing through Osgiliath, they encounter a force of men from Minas Tirith, led by Boromirs brother Faramir. Given shelter for the night, Frodo learns of Boromirs death, and is reluctantly allowed to carry-on in his quest by Faramir. In the dark tunnels beneath Cirith Ungol, Gollum betrays the hobbits to Shelob, a great spider, set there as a guardian by Sauron. Frodo is supposedly killed and Sam takes up the Ring and carries on. Frodo is found by Orcs and imprisoned in their fortress. Sam overhears some Orcs talking about their prisoner and realises that Frodo is alive and kept prisoner there. When fighting breaks out between the Orcs in the guard tower, Sam is able to release Frodo and return the ring to him. Disguising themselves as Orcs, they make their way down into the wasteland of Mordor.
Pippin and Merry become liege men of Gondor and Rohan respectively. Merry fights at the Battle of Helms Deep, where the Rohirrim win a great victory over the Orcs of Isengard. There Theoden is re-instated as a warrior king and Merry is released against his will from his oath of allegiance. This is because he is considered to be too small for a rider and the impending battle of Gondor too dangerous for him. He follows King Theoden secretly, aided by an unknown knight to Gondor. Meanwhile Aragorn confronts Sauron with the Palantir and travels south to the aid of Minas Tirith, through the Paths of the Dead. Aragorn reminds the oath-breakers of Isildurs day that they are still bound by their oath to aid Isildurs heir. Followed by a great army of shadows and ghosts, they ride south from the Stone of Erech, defeating black armies of men allied with Sauron that come from the south. After the battle of Pelargir, Aragorn releases the dead from their oath, and the shadows depart.
The living make their way north by ship to Minas Tirith, where the armies of Gondor and Rohan are fighting against the black forces of Mordor on the Pelennor Fields, before Minas Tirith. After Merry and Eowyn, the daughter-heir of Rohan (who was the unknown knight with whom Merry rode) killed the king of the Nazgûl, of whom it was said he could be killed by no living man; the armies of good could defeat the evil forces.
Ten days later, after a council held by Aragorn and Gandalf, the combined armies attempted to distract Sauron from Frodos desperate mission within Mordor at the Black Gates of Mordor. They are initially deceived into thinking that Sam and Frodo have been taken by the Enemy and that all has been in vain. However, realising that the Mouth of Sauron may have lied they are willing to sacrifice themselves as bait to give Frodo a last chance to succeed.
In Mordor, meanwhile, Frodo and Sam have been able to make their way to the Mountain of Fire, where they find the Cracks of Doom. Frodo has become so seduced by the power of the ring that he would proclaim himself Lord of the Rings. Sam is in deep despair and can do nothing, but Gollum saves the day by biting off Frodos finger with the Ring upon it and falling into the pit of fire. This then destroys Sauron and all of his power and he is banished into nothingness. Mordor is in turmoil, with volcanoes erupting and the ground breaking beneath them. Frodo and Sam are ready to die in the knowledge that they have succeeded against all the odds, but they are picked up from the sides of the mountain by Gwaihir, the King of the Eagles, and Gandalf and taken to safety.
They are celebrated as heroes and taken in honour to a verdant island in the midst of the Great River Anduin, Cair Andros, where they hear of Merrys and Pippins great deeds. Aragorn is crowned King and Faramir is proclaimed his Steward and Prince of Ithilien. Upon returning to the Shire, the hobbits find that Saruman, who was released from Isengard by Treebeard, has instituted a reign of terror and destruction. The hobbits, no longer used to just bowing their heads and accepting everything put upon them, organise a rebellion and Saruman is killed by his own companion. The Shire is once again a haven of peace. Sam uses a gift of magic earth given to him by Galadriel, the Lady of the Woods from Lothlórien, to remove the scars of Sarumans doing and to restore the Shire to its former beauty.
Frodo is never totally healed of his wounds and is plagued by nightmares. After two years he institutes Sam as his heir, and accepts the offer of the Elves to sail west across the sea to Elvenhome to find healing and happiness.
The Rings of Power were created by Elven smiths during the Second Age. Sauron aided the smiths with the making of the rings, and created the One Ring to rule all the others. The Elves were not deceived so they hid the three Elven Rings from him. The rings in whose making Sauron had had hand in, were despite this, poisoned and subject to the One created by Sauron. One of the side effects for those of mortal race was that the Ring rendered the wearer invisible.
The Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die(13) passed into his keeping and the nine men who wore them became the nine Nazgûl, the Ringwraiths. They are able to feel the One Ring when it is used and they can be commanded by the one wearing it to some degree, depending on the strength of the wearer. In the Silmarillion, it is said of the Ringwraiths:
They had, as it seemed, unending life, yet life became unendurable to them. They could walk, if they would, unseen by all eyes in this world beneath the sun, and they could see things in worlds invisible to mortal men; but too often they beheld only the phantoms and delusions of Sauron. And one by one, sooner or later, according to their native strength and to the good or the evil of their wills in the beginning, they fell under the thraldom of the One, which was Saurons. And they became for ever invisible save to him that wore the Ruling Ring, and they entered into the realm of shadows. The Nazgûl were they, the Ringwraiths, the Enemys most terrible servants; darkness went with them, and they cried with the voices of death. (14)
The Seven for the Dwarf-Lords in their halls of stone were the base for the wealth of the Seven Hoards of the Dwarf-Kings of old, but these hoards were devoured by dragons and of the Seven Rings some were consumed by fire and some Sauron recovered.(15)
When Sauron was defeated by the armies of Gil-Galad and Isildur at the end of the Second Age, Isildur cut the One Ring from Saurons hand and claimed it for his own. Thereafter it was named Isildurs Bane, for, fleeing from a band of Orcs, he placed it upon his finger to become invisible and swam across the River Anduin. Part way across the Ring slipped from his finger, and Isildur was slain by the arrows of the Orcs, once he was invisible no longer.
It was found many years later by Gollum, then named Sméagol, who claimed it as his birthday present by killing his friend Déagol for it. When Bilbo met Gollum under the Misty Mountains, the Ring had already passed from Gollum to Bilbo, enabling Bilbos escape from the depths of the Orcs tunnels. Elrond affirmed that the Ring of power was meant to find him, and that it was the Ring which left Gollum, not Gollum that had lost it.
The Ring is a symbol of something dark and seductive, something infinitely more powerful than once believed. It is feared and respected by the Council of Elrond, which is why they send it to the Cracks of Doom to be destroyed. The qualities of the Ring are best summed up in the words of a young Tolkien fan:
Once youve got the Ring, youve like fallen in love with it; its just attached to you, you cant get away from it but youre desperate not to lose it as well.(16)
The power of the Ring is so great that even if it were to be used for the purpose of Good, the user would inevitably be seduced and corrupted by the power in his hands. For this reason all of the Wise of Middle-Earth refuse to take the Ring into their keeping for fear of releasing this power, thus creating a new and terrible Dark Lord or Lady (as when Frodo offered it to first Gandalf, then Elrond and finally Galadriel) or in Legolas words to Gimli about the possibilities had Aragorn been tempted by it.
Strange indeed, said Legolas. In that hour I looked on Aragorn and thought how great and terrible a Lord he might have become, on the strength of his will, had he taken the Ring to himself. Not for naught does Mordor fear him.(17)
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