Like the other Hobbits in the novel, Frodo is not so much a born hero as one who has had heroism thrust upon him. Compared to the other heroes—the stout-hearted Gimli, the far-seeing Legolas, or the noble Théoden, for instance—Frodo appears almost absurdly underqualified for the pivotal role he plays in The Lord of the Rings. We never see him act with overt valor or fearless courage. Frodo’s bravery, on the rare occasions when we witness it, seems almost involuntary: his seemingly bold action of reaching for the Ring when he fears the Enemy has seen him in Mordor, for instance, is not really courageous, as his hand is described as reaching for the Ring on its own. The last image we see of Frodo in The Two Towers—paralyzed and comatose—is pitiable, a far cry from heroic. Furthermore, Frodo possesses a readiness to trust others, which, though perhaps a noble instinct, gets him into trouble in his dealings with Gollum. Frodo goes out of his way to prove to Gollum that the hobbits are trustworthy masters, only to be betrayed later when Gollum leads Frodo and Sam into the lair of Shelob. Frodo is a bit too unassuming and unintimidating to be powerful, but he is all the more endearing to us for that reason.

Despite his lack of heroic stature—or perhaps because of it—Frodo is well liked by those who know him intimately. His closest friend is his servant Sam, whom Frodo refuses to treat as a servant, always addressing him as an equal. When Sam gazes on Frodo sleeping, Sam’s feelings of fondness push him to tell himself how much he cares for Frodo—a private moment of genuine sentiment. Sam is quite simply devoted to his master. Even the wretched and untrustworthy Gollum displays what appears to be genuine affection for Frodo. Gollum caresses Frodo as he sleeps, not because Gollum is sneaking around his master (as Sam suspects), but simply because he likes Frodo. Frodo is a sympathetic character whose ordinary failings are our own, and whose goodness and steadiness make him undeniably likable.