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Frodo’s choice is a model for Christian life

Hobbits are an unobtrusive but very ancient people…they love peace and quiet and good tilled earth. – The Fellowship of the Ring 1:2

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. – Matthew 5:8

There are moments in life when you must take action, even if they are beyond what is comfortable and routine.

You may be leaving for college, walking into a job interview or buying a new home. You could be faced with forgiving someone you don’t like, or helping someone you don’t know. Despite your inexperience or discomfort with these important events, it’s up to you to act now and accept the outcome, whatever it may be.

Frodo Baggins faces just such a moment in The Fellowship of the Ring, the first film of the LOTR trilogy. Standing on the banks of the Anduin River, Frodo must decide if he should continue his quest, despite the overwhelming forces of evil bent on capturing him and the One Ring of Power. It is a very challenging moment for Frodo, one that goes against his Hobbit nature.

Most hobbits do not seek adventures or look beyond the Shire. A common sentiment heard in a Hobbiton pub is “keep your nose out of trouble and no trouble will come to you.” Frodo followed this sentiment as he grew up with his uncle Bilbo and friends Merry and Pippin, enjoying the simple things of life – a good meal with a hearty brew, fun times with friends and peaceful walks through the gentle, rolling hills of the Shire.

So it would seem ironic that the greatest task in the history of Middle-earth – destroying the evil One Ring of Power – would fall into the hands of a Hobbit. For as the Ring comes first to Bilbo and then to Frodo, these two Hobbits seem to be the most unlikely creatures to bear such an evil burden.

But it is not fate or mere coincidence that the Ring comes to them. The power of good in Middle-earth knows that Bilbo and Frodo are best suited for the task, even if they don’t realize it. Bilbo and Frodo have always lived with an uneasy restlessness, dreaming of adventures beyond the Shire. Bilbo’s mysterious disappearance on his 111th birthday party just confirms what other Hobbits really think – that the Bagginses are a bit odd, even by Hobbit standards.

There’s a wiser power of good at work that guides the Ring into the hands of the humble, peace-loving Frodo. His simple life, stout heart and uncharacteristic curiosity about lands outside the Shire make him a good bearer of the Ring. Weaker folk, such as men, would more quickly succumb to the temptation to claim the Ring and use its power.

As Gandalf explains while climbing through the mines of Moria, “there are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, in which case you also were meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought,” says Gandalf.

Just as in our world, the power of good is quietly at work through the hands of the meek and the humble. Are we one of those people who quietly look for opportunities to do good deeds? What motivates us to do good works in this world? Do we reflect on the life of Jesus and see examples of how we can make our world a better place in which to live?

Living such a life is very hard. We all have faults, which are shown not only in what we do, but also in what we don’t do. Boromir could have been talking to us when he says to Aragorn about the race of men, “Yes, there is weakness, there is frailty, but there is courage also, and honor to be found in men.”

When the moment calls for action, will you have the courage to act in a Christian way? Will you make up your mind to follow through with what is right, or will you shrink away and hope someone else will do it?

The courage to act may not come naturally. At first, Frodo wants to get rid of the Ring. When he learns that he has the One Ring of Power from Sauron, Frodo tries to give it to Gandalf. But Gandalf knows that he cannot use the Ring to do good deeds. The Ring would eventually corrupt his powers and turn them to the purpose of evil.

Understanding, Frodo makes a choice. He closes his hand around the ring and asks, “What must I do?”

Later in their journeys, when the road becomes difficult, Frodo struggles with the burden of the Ring. He has a strong desire to return to his comfortable life in the Shire and recounts his wishes to Gandalf.

“I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened,” he says. “So do all who live to see such times,” says Gandalf. “But it is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time given us.”

At three different times, Frodo finds the courage to choose the burden of bearing the Ring to Mordor. The first time is in his home at Bag End, when he asks Gandalf “what must I do?” as he closes his hand around the Ring. The second time is at the Council of Elrond at Rivendell. In the midst of mighty men, powerful Elves and hard-nosed Dwarves, the smallest of all steps forward to take on the task. “I will take the Ring to Mordor,” says Frodo.

Finally, as the Fellowship breaks apart from within (when Boromir tries to take the Ring) and from without (when they are attacked by the Uruk-hai Orcs), Frodo stands at the river’s edge with his final, troubling choice.

His decision goes to the heart of The Lord of the Rings storyline, that even one insignificant person can make a difference in the world. Frodo could throw the Ring into the Anduin River and sneak back to the Shire, though Gollum would probably find the Ring. He could stay with Aragorn and the Fellowship, though the Orcs would probably capture him and take him to Saruman. The hardest choice of all would be to leave his friends and attempt to fulfill the quest on his own.

Despite the enormous power of evil chasing him, and his Hobbit nature to avoid trouble, he realizes that he alone must find a way to fulfill this task. Frodo accepts responsibility for the evil One Ring of Power and decides to carry it to destruction, even if he has to die in the process.

Jesus faced a similar decision in the garden of Gethsemane, when he asked the Father to “take this cup away from me.” It was the part of his human nature that wanted to avoid the task at hand. But knowing that he alone must find a way to fulfill this task, Jesus accepted responsibility for the evil of our sins, bearing them to destruction, even if he had to die in the process.

Do you have the courage to accept responsibility and do good works in this world of ours? Even though there are many ways to be distracted and avoid the tasks at hand, will you decide to follow through with what you know is the right thing to do? Can you find the strength of God’s love in you that will help you act for good in this world?

If ever you doubt your abilities or don’t believe you have the experience for success, remember the words of Galadriel, the Lady of Light: “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”


First published in the November 7, 2003 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2003 Christopher Fenoglio.

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