As the Ring-bearer and then principal protagonist of The Lord of the Rings, Frodo is endowed with a temperament well suited to resist evil. He is brave, selfless, thoughtful, wise, observant, and even unfailingly polite. Unlike the common run of provincial, self-satisfied Hobbits, Frodo is curious about the outside world and knowledgeable about the traditions of the Elves. As everyone from Bilbo to Gandalf to Aragorn notices, there is something special in Frodo, something that sets him apart from the rest of his race—a fineness, perhaps, or an inner strength. Frodo’s goodness, wisdom, and generally impeccable character might make him seem one-dimensional if he were not so frequently wracked with doubt and faced with obstacles he feels unable to surmount. Frodo is not Elrond, nor even Aragorn; he has no otherworldly powers or even physical prowess. Frodo is initially so weak he can barely even get out of the Shire without the help of Farmer Maggot and then Tom Bombadil.

The Hobbit, small and furtive, is a clever inversion of the typical epic hero—an Odysseus or Beowulf—whose strength and bravery equip him in his struggles against monsters and angry gods. In this sense, Frodo can be seen as a very Christian protagonist. Christianity celebrates the power of humility: it teaches that strength of character triumphs over strength of arms, that the path to salvation lies through sacrifice—even self-sacrifice—in the face of a greater power. Frodo’s stewardship of the Ring and his heroism, which consists largely of resisting the temptation to use the Ring, exemplify these ideas.

Perhaps what distinguishes Frodo more than any other quality is the sense of remote sadness and reluctance that surrounds him. Unlike Aragorn or even Gandalf, there is no particular glory associated with Frodo. He has a great task, but it is to him simply a burden—one that grows heavier as the quest progresses. While in the Shire, Frodo dreamed of adventure; on his quest, he simply longs for home. In this sense, Frodo is again a different hero than the traditional sort. His great adventure does not feel like an adventure to him; it is simply a task, and an impossible one at that. Frodo does not long for the thrill of exploration or battle or timeless deeds of heroism. As such, his willingness to go ahead with the quest speaks much about the sort of strength of character Tolkien values.