The Return of the King

by: J. R. R. Tolkien

Frodo Baggins

Frodo’s role as the main protagonist of The Lord of the Rings changes significantly in the novel’s final volume. Frodo no longer leads the quest, but is increasingly led by others and by circumstance. We wonder in what sense Frodo remains the true Ring-bearer if he himself must be borne by others in order to carry on his quest. For a brief time at the opening of Book VI, Frodo does not even possess the Ring. Lying naked in the tower of Cirith Ungol, Frodo appears a lifeless shell with little control of the Ring’s movement toward Mount Doom. After the quest is completed, Frodo looms in the background of the events in Middle-earth and slips into irrelevance in his home, the Shire. Frodo explains to Sam in the last chapter that he is “wounded” in a way that will never heal. Certainly, Frodo is far from morbid or pitiful. His once-youthful nobility now appears a weathered reticence. Rather, Frodo is wounded because all the experiences after Mount Doom seem like a trite footnote. More important, Frodo feels wounded because he has completed a grand quest in which the goal—to get rid of something—was distinctly negative. In this, Frodo remains the true hero, for he has succeeded in a task that no one really wanted. The quest is both futile and yet the most important deed of all. Frodo’s loss of vigor and identity after such a strange accomplishment propels his desire to sail away to the paradise of the West.