Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings has many of the elements of a fairy tale
or legend. The story boils down to black and white, good versus evil. The heroes
are of such strong, untarnished character that both child and adult cannot help
but aspire to be like them. The unparalleled virtue of these heroes is impossible
to attain in reality.
The Lord of the Rings is admittedly a male-oriented
story and female characters are sometimes sparse. While the women who do appear
are beautiful, they are by no means damsels or feeble-minded. Tolkien's story
can be enjoyed by all, whereas some newer fantasy such as Robert Jordan's The
Wheel of Time is clearly for older teens or adults and only those who prefer
to do all their reading within the genre.
Tolkien used Frodo, a hobbit, as the main character
and three of his hobbit friends, Merry, Pippin and Sam, in strong supporting
roles. In the first chapter the hobbits are introduced as very childlike in
stature and personality even in adulthood as Frodo has just reached. Tolkien's
choice of the childlike Frodo as the main character makes the story appealing
to both adult and child. Adults can enjoy the awe, wonder and innocence retained
by Frodo that is usually dimmed by adulthood. Children can follow Frodo's simple
logic and identify with his physical stature and the lack of serious attention
given to him early on by the taller characters.
As the story moves along, Frodo gains experience
and maturity without becoming permanently hardened to the ups and downs of life.
He earns the respect of the other characters, who now recognize the abilities
and qualities of this pseudo-child. After he recovers from his extraordinary
and draining adventure, Frodo retains much of his childlike awe and joy over
new sights and experiences. This is a trait which has actually begun to rub
off on his fellow companions.
Through Frodo and to a lesser degree, Sam, Tolkien
shows that the awe and joy experienced as a child should not be outgrown, but
retained all through adulthood. At the beginning of their journey, the sight
of Rivendell provokes exclamations by Frodo. Midway through the journey Sam
is awed by Lathlorien. When their adventure is all but over, Frodo is giddy
at the sight of Aragorn resplendent as a king with his elven queen.