“But I have been too deeply hurt, Sam. I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: someone has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.”
Frodo speaks these words in his final farewell to Sam in Book VI, Chapter 9—the final chapter of The Lord of the Rings. Frodo is about to depart for the Grey Havens, where he will sail to the uncharted West with the other Ring-bearers, in search of paradise. As Frodo mentions, the quest has wounded him in an irreparable way. He assumes that the safe deposit of the Ring in the Cracks of Doom will save the Shire. The Shire does live on, but more so because of the bravery of Merry, Pippin, and Sam in overthrowing Saruman’s destruction of the Hobbit lands. Though no one but Sam has witnessed Frodo’s deed, it has saved Middle-earth and has allowed the Fourth Age to dawn and the kingdom of Men to take root in Gondor. Such accomplishments, however, have little bearing on Frodo or on the Shire. On the whole, his quest has been a negative one, a burden from the start. It has centered around giving things up: not only the Ring, but also Frodo’s innocence and mental energy. Frodo has offered an absolute sacrifice, giving up a large part of himself with minimal thanks from the hobbits for whom he cares the most.
In a sense, Frodo himself becomes a mythic character. As a hobbit, he is an everyman of sorts throughout the novel, experiencing the events of his quest in wide-eyed, somewhat disbelieving fashion, as if they are a fantasy story or a fairy tale. Frodo remains detached from the Elves and the Dwarves, as they are beings whom Frodo has encountered only in tales as a child. Now, Frodo’s own greatest deeds in life live on only in story and legend, symbolized by the bound volume of tales he presents to Sam. It is fitting that Frodo sails away into obscurity with the other Ring-bearers, whose fantastic lives in the coming age of Men will also attain a mythic, unreal status.