LOTR--The Books This Time--Frodo

I have covered Galadriel, Boromir, Orcs, Fatty Bolger et al., poetry, war, and even the ring! It is now time to turn to Frodo.

This extremely clever pastiche or tribute
by Mechtild portrays Frodo the way
Tolkien appears to have seen him.

Let me get Elijah Wood out of the way first: I think physically he was the perfect choice for Frodo. Overall, I enjoyed his performance in the LOTR movies. I am very glad he has shown up in the latest trilogy even if his appearance in The Unexpected Journey proves that men gain considerable breadth in their shoulders after their early-20s.

He doesn't quite capture the Frodo of Tolkien's trilogy, though it is hard to say if this is due to the script, Jackson's direction, or Wood's youth at the time.

Tolkien's Frodo is almost exactly like Wood's Frodo with one exception: Tolkien's Frodo has an almost otherworldly air right from the beginning. Where his uncle is down-to-earth, even a little vulgar (in the old meaning of the term), Frodo is more . . . refined, for lack of a better word. Where Bilbo goes on little jaunts for the sake of adventures and to meet up with friends, Frodo seems to go for the sake of being alone; like the Arthurian poets, he seems to want to be captured by fairies and dragged underground.

Bilbo, on the other hand, always likes to return home to his books and his pipe.

Frodo's more refined, "princely" nature means that unlike his uncle, he assumes leadership/authority over his traveling companions. Where Bilbo is willing to join a group (and then leave it when it becomes tiresome), Frodo is destined to be a group's leader or prophet. Sam is his best friend--but also his servant. Even Gollum/Smeagol swears allegiance to Frodo "on the ring".

Frodo Accepting Gollum's Oath: "The Ring will hold you to your word."
Throughout their journey, Sam and Gollum defer to Frodo's wishes and higher status, including when they encounter outsiders, who behave accordingly. Faramir, for example, assumes Frodo is in charge; in response, Frodo falls back on an almost stern authority/composure that his milder uncle never exhibits.

This status (and the noblesse oblige behavior that comes with it) is partly forced on Frodo but also part of his intrinsic nature. The otherworldly part of Frodo--the saint-like part--becomes more and more pronounced during his journey to Mordor. He isn't merely exhausted (as Wood ably portrays). He is almost exalted, his more comfortable, human characteristics burnt away. Perceiving this, Sam reflects that Frodo will eventually become as clear as glass, a comparison associated with saints, poets, and other rare beings. 

Like the Fisher King, Frodo is permanently wounded by his trials. Like Joseph Campbell's monomyth hero, he returns home so changed, he can never settle back into his previous life. Bilbo is granted a place on the ship to the Undying Lands out of respect and kindliness. He could just as easily stay. Frodo, however, must go. He has become too remote, too otherworldly to rest easy in Middle Earth.

Wood does capture some of Frodo's kingly, mystical attributes--as when he deals with Gollum. However, perhaps by necessity, the final movie dwells mostly on Frodo's weariness. Hints of Tolkien's approach are there; I can't help but wish there were a few more. 

1 comment:

  1. When I was in Wales, some classmates and I were talking about The Lord of the Rings movies. Eventually we got into favourite characters."So who's yours?" "Frodo." "How can you like Frodo?" they replied, "He's so angsty."

    I'm on the second DVD of Return of the King on my Lord of the Rings re-watch and while I've actually been more interested in Boromir and Faramir this time around, Frodo and Sam are still two of my favourite parts.