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The Return of the King

J. R. R. Tolkien
Quotes

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Quote 3

In that hour of trial it was the love of his master that helped most to hold him firm; but also deep down in him lived still unconquered his plain hobbit-sense: he knew in the core of his heart that he was not large enough to bear such a burden, even if such visions were not a mere cheat to betray him.

This insight into Sam’s thoughts about the Ring at Cirith Ungol in Book VI, Chapter 1, explains the key virtue of the hobbits as Ring-bearers and members of the Fellowship. Frodo’s and Sam’s small statures—both in terms of physical size and force of authority and personality—grant them a perspective that does not suit the Ring’s overwhelming power. The small size of the Hobbit race also functions as a metaphor for their measured attitudes, their humility, and their unadorned goodness—attributes that appear to make them less vulnerable to the lure of the Ring. The Hobbits and the Shire are little known in Middle-earth; throughout The Lord of the Rings, the races of Men and Elves are surprised to learn that Hobbits actually exist. Frodo, by accepting the Ring, enters a history of war and conflict between Men and the forces of evil in which the Hobbits have had little part. As the symbol of that conflict, the Ring always seems like an awkward fit on a Hobbit hand.

Despite the seeming incompatibility of the Hobbit race as a whole with the lure of the Ring, we still get the sense that Frodo and Sam are exceptional Hobbits, with a strength of character that makes them less vulnerable to the Ring’s power. After all, we know that Gollum, though once a Hobbit-like creature, was still corrupted by the Ring, and we have seen that the Ring is able to elicit erratic behavior and sudden fierceness in Bilbo. Frodo and Sam, on the other hand, are evidence that Hobbit virtues are only virtues insofar as one exhibits them. At Cirith Ungol, Sam proves that he has developed from a slightly dim-witted youth to a mature hobbit with a deep capacity for discernment and reflection. Deeply influenced by Frodo’s experiences with the burden of the quest, Sam analyzes the Ring and immediately realizes and respects its subtle, destructive potential. Perhaps most important, Sam’s desire to use the Ring himself springs only from his love for Frodo and his attempts to save his master. In this sense, Sam’s affection for Frodo acts as a corrective to the Ring’s power. Sam muses that, even if the tantalizing benefits of the Ring were an actual possibility rather than a false promise, they would not really be benefits if they involved losing his hobbit sense and his affection for Frodo. In this regard, Sam’s resilient love for his friend precludes his fascination with the Ring’s power.