The Patriot Resource - The Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings Insights:
The Virtues of The Lord of the Rings

     Lord of the Rings has a timelessness and agelessness that continues to appeal to new generations, not unlike fairy tales. Unlike fairy tales, it has different meanings to readers of different ages. For children, it is a morality tale about good overcoming evil and the virtues of positive traits like confidence and courage.

     For older readers, it is an escape to a more idealistic world, thus fantasy. The very basis of fantasy is the almost complete absence of "gray" and "fuzzy" material in the story. Fantasy is not populated by "gray" and thus more "realistic" characters, but instead has just "good" or "bad" guys. None of the "good" guys are beyond temptation and corruption, as shown by Boromir's succumbing to the lure of the Ring. None of the "bad" guys can or will just switch sides without consequences. Many of the "bad" guys were once "good" themselves, such as Saruman, but have given into baser desires and fallen.

                                             The only "gray" character is Gollum, who was corrupted by greed. Gollum is moved by Frodo's childlike willingness to forgive him, when none of the other characters, including Sam, will. Gollum slides between redemption and back to evil during the journey to Mt. Doom. Finally, he cannot overcome the temptation of the Ring that was his for so long. He forcibly takes it away from Frodo, meeting his final fate as a result, but this final act also saves Frodo from a similar fate. Frodo had nearly "crossed over" himself and only Gollum could save him.

     Gollum's character is the only "bad" guy that gains the reader's sympathy, but only because Frodo shows him some sympathy. Of all the main characters, Frodo is the only one to recognize that the two of them could easily trade places because of the effects of the Ring. Frodo wants to think someone would try to save him and forgive him if he were corrupted, so he tries to forgive Gollum.

     Redemption is offered throughout the story. Gandalf gives Saruman a chance to redeem himself, but he is happy in his "evil." Boromir admits having greedy motivations for joining the quest, but is redeemed by sacrificing his life in protecting the hobbits. Tolkien balances the possibility of forgiveness with paying for the consequences of one's actions. Boromir is redeemed, but he loses his life doing so.

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