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The addictive aspects of ‘Lord of the Rings’

When people brought up “The Lord of the Rings” in the past, I used to laugh at the series. Why would I want to watch a bunch of tiny hobbits, dwarves and elves go on a journey over some fuss about a gold ring? It all sounded far too mythical and fantasy-like for me. In other words, I thought it was too nerdy.

However, this summer I decided to give the trilogy a go after hearing about the wisdom brought to life by the hobbits, dwarves, elves, orcs and other creatures in the series. Admittedly, it took me a little while to adjust to the oddities of the characters in the movies and especially long to not be creeped out by Frodo’s eyes, but with time, I became enamored with the series and its prequel, “The Hobbit.”

The first aspect of the movie that made me curious was the choice of Frodo as the ringbearer. Frodo was immature and had next to no life experience. He lived in the comfort of the Shire and knew very little about the violent history of Middle Earth and the sacrifices made to maintain the peace. Instead of giving the ring to a highly capable individual like Aragorn or Gandalf, a god-like figure, the future of Middle Earth hinged on a child-like hobbit. To highlight Frodo’s underdeveloped mind and will, the writers literally made him exceptionally small. Not only was he a mental-midget of sorts, but he was also physically tiny. As the four hobbits embarked on their journey to destroy the ring, Frodo showed his flaws after multiple near-death experiences which could have been avoided with better judgment. Luckily, with Aragorn at his side, Frodo and the hobbits survive and he grows from the experiences. 

At the Council in Rivendell, Frodo’s growth becomes evident. When the One Ring is put up for grabs, fighting breaks out over the best solution. Although Sauron is the only person that could unlock the power of the ring, the leaders of many races of Middle Earth wanted to use it to fight back against him and empower their people. This showed how ignorance, arrogance and greed can become oversights for the most talented and capable individuals. Simply put, superior ability does not translate directly to mental fortitude or wisdom.

After witnessing how the ring impacted these powerful people, Frodo took the lead and decided the bear the great burden of the ring. Frodo had questioned time and time again why he should hold the ring, but now he could see why he was as good as anyone else. Without aspirations for great power or wealth, Frodo did not want to use the ring for anything. He just wanted peace and tranquility back in his life and those he loved. Even though many of these great men and women wanting to bear the ring had positive intentions, as Gandalf said in the first movie, the power of the ring would be too strong. No man or woman was meant to have power that great, and corruption of the mind and ensuing actions are inevitable.

So with the ring in hand, Frodo and the fellowship of the ring began the trek to Mordor with seemingly insurmountable challenges in the way. Even with knowledge of the ring’s effect and Gollum as a physical symbol of where it could lead him, Frodo could not overcome the temptations it presented. After seeing countless friends and allies die in the hope of destroying the ring, Frodo is finally given the opportunity to end it once and for all on top of Mount Doom.

Then came the moment that frustrates me to no end every time I see it. In a moment of immense weakness, Frodo places the ring on his finger. After all the suffering he and Middle Earth endured, Frodo could not throw the ring in the fire. He could not think even slightly outside of his immediate desire, and just drop it. Luckily, Gollum’s obsession with the ring saved the day, but that ending always leaves me so disappointed. After Boromir’s death, Gandalf’s battle with the Balrog, Sam’s loyalty through Frodo’s insanity and the deaths of so many in war, Frodo still cannot muster up the courage to close his eyes and chuck that ring in the fire.

Over time, I have come to appreciate how poetic that scene is and determined it’s a main driver for why I continue to rewatch the series. Even though Frodo had grown tremendously from his time in the Shire, he still makes the fatal mistake he knows he absolutely cannot do at the very end. He had every reason in the world not to give in, and he still did it. As a third-party observer, I was most frustrated by his giving in out of all scenes of the movie. However, this is also when I started to see Frodo as the perfect ringbearer.

Frodo was not some crazy, mystical creature with unreal powers. He was just like any other human. He was a small blimp in the universe with the same weaknesses we are all susceptible to. Even though you would never expect it, the decisions of this little, immature hobbit were crucially important. It goes to show you that the choices we make everyday matter. It may be difficult to see on a grand scale, but every action we take means something.

Every time we hold onto the ring, we fail. We fail ourselves and all those around us. Now we don’t hold some powerful ring of sorts, but we all have flaws and harmful habits that hold us back from doing what we know is right. Every time we choose to give in to temptation, we choose an immediate desire without giving mind to the ramifications of the action. Ultimately, we all strive to live up to our highest respective ends. In order to move towards those ends, we must identify our habits and decisions that represent the ring and push back against them. In other words, develop key virtues and set clear objectives as Frodo did over time, then bear down and chuck the ring in the fire when familiar temptations do their best to veer you off your path.

Mikey Colgan is a sophomore from Boston majoring in finance and ACMS. He can be reached at mcolgan2@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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