To many, Tolkien’s epic tale is one of wizards and magic and battles, but if you dig even a little beneath the surface, the genuine complexity and depth of his characters, and the individual traits that we can relate to, are so clear to see.
The main character, if such a multi-layered series can even have one, is Frodo Baggins, who is tasked with destroying the Ring and bringing an end to the evil in Middle Earth. Frodo is joined on his journey by Samwise Gamgee, and it is in Sam that people can see the warmth and humanity they can so relate to. The general agreement is that Frodo would not have gotten very far without Sam. Whether it’s his musings on spuds “boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew,” or other more deeper thoughts, Sam represents everything that is good about hobbits, and humans. His loyalty and friendship is steadfast throughout the series, shown in his final quote at the end of The Two Towers:
“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer… There’s some good in this world Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”
Sam knows that despite how bad things appear to be, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. It’s incredible how we can apply this to our lives today. Everyone goes though dark times, troubled times and hard times, but there is always, always a way out.
Then there is Gandalf. One of the greatest ever figures in literature, the venerable wizard acts as a mentor to Frodo and pulls the strings on events in Middle Earth. His knowledge and wisdom guides the heroes through the dark days and sees them through to the other side. Gandalf understands the importance of regular people to the world: “Some believe that it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I’ve found it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love.” How true is this? Small deeds can change the world, and acts of random kindness every day can do so much for someone even if you don’t see it.
Sam and Gandalf happen to be my two favourite characters in the series, but it is the overlying themes of The Lord of the Rings that make it what it is. That of friendship, loyalty, love and courage through some of the most difficult times. It’s an undoubted masterpiece, one that’s been read for years and will be read for many years to come.