Two characters I am constantly having to defend from being spoken against are Frodo Baggins and Edmund Pevensie. People will say they don’t like Frodo because Sam had to get him out of some tight spots, or because he wouldn’t throw the Ring into Mt. Doom when he finally arrived. Or they won’t look past Edmund’s attitude and actions at the beginning of his journey. They tend to look at their weak points and decide that these characters aren’t as heroic as their friends, like Peter or Sam. But I believe that ALL of these characters are examples we should follow and that Frodo and Edmund show us something about being a hero the others do not.
“I will take the Ring,” he said, “though I do not know the way.”
Right from the start, there was nothing in the mission for Frodo. He had agreed to take the Ring to Rivendell in order to save the Shire but ended up taking it all the way to Mordor. No one forced him into it, no one even asked him to. He volunteered to travel far in unpleasant conditions, leave behind all comforts, and go to the darkest, most evil place he knew of. The chances of returning were slim. That already shows how brave Frodo was, and how much he was willing to sacrifice to save Middle-earth.
Before even reaching Rivendell, he had been stabbed with a Morgul blade in the Black Riders’ attempt to get the Ring. He bore the tip of the blade in his flesh for seventeen days. For years after, it would plague him on the anniversary of that night. Frodo had already come close to defeat, and the real journey hadn’t even started. He had to always be on his guard, even around the members of the Fellowship, because the temptation of the Ring’s power was strong. He didn’t know who he could truly trust.
As he carried the Ring, it grew heavier with each step. No one else could take the burden of it away, even though they tried to help. Sauron’s eye was always on him, hunting him. Frodo could always feel it, even more as they drew closer to Mordor. Each time Sauron could see them, Frodo felt it; it hurt him and there was no relief from it. He was constantly in battle with him, as Sauron tried to get him to bring the Ring. Bilbo didn’t suffer that. Yes, the Ring still had power over him, making him choose to lie in order to keep it a secret. But Sauron’s attention wasn’t on the Ring then, he was focused on orchestrating the Battle of the Five Armies. He didn’t even know Bilbo had it. Frodo forgot the taste of good food, of the memory of the Shire. Frodo realized there would be no going back to the way things were. Sam was the only thing that kept him going when his hope had been drained. And he did keep going, even with the terrible burden of the Ring.
When Frodo finally, finally makes it to Mount Doom, he’s so exhausted, so dragged down by the Ring that he can’t walk up the mountain. At last, he has his chance to finish this and destroy the Ring forever, but he hesitates. The Ring is his, he says. Can anyone entirely blame Frodo for this? The Ring was unstoppable, it corrupted people, it ate at the one who carried it until they forgot who they were. Bilbo, Sméagol, Boromir, Isildur – the list of people who were overcome by the Ring’s power at some point is long and includes many of the bravest and strongest people. Even Gandalf would not agree to take the Ring, he didn’t even want to look at it. The same goes for Aragorn. Frodo was able to hold out against the Ring and Sauron’s power for an impressive amount of time. He’d had it for many years, locked in a chest, and never even touched it after all. Because he was so kindhearted, so stubborn against its power, he lasts longer than anyone could have. But in the end, Frodo was no match for the Ring’s evil power, and it finally won, even though he didn’t mean for it to.
“How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on when in your heart you begin to understand there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend, some hurts that go too deep that have taken hold.”
Upon arriving back at the Shire, Frodo realized that nothing was ever going to be the same for him. He had a kind of hurt that would never heal. Because of his sacrifice, the Shire was saved, but not for him. He had to give it up after all his bravery and perseverance. And he had peace with that. He went to the Gray Havens smiling, even though it wasn’t what he had planned to do with his life.
The first time we met Edmund, we get the impression that he’s a little grumpy, and can be a little rude. I personally think they made him slightly more disagreeable in the movie adaptions than in C. S. Lewis’ original books. He complains and is usually frowning. Pretending that he hadn’t really been to Narnia was an awful thing to do to Lucy. In short, Edmund had lots of room to grow over the course of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. When he met the White Witch, he was cold, lost, and afraid. She gave him the things he wanted and talked of giving him power, respect, things he felt he didn’t have as the third-oldest sibling. Tempting him with something that he wouldn’t easily forget, she planned to use him to put an end to Aslan. And there’s really no way around it: Edmund did make the decision to be deceitful and gave the Queen information that helped her. This led to Aslan having to sacrifice himself for Edmund. I think it’s pretty safe to say that everyone has given into selfishness before and caused some issues. We’ve all failed at some point or another.
But that never has to be the end of the story.
Before going to the Stone Table, Aslan talks with Edmund. We aren’t told what is said, but everything is cleared up, and Edmund is completely different afterward. He doesn’t listen to the Witch anymore, and he stopped thinking only about himself. Because of his betrayal, there must be payment, and Aslan takes the punishment for it. He dies in Edmund’s place. When Aslan comes back, he ends the Witch forever, and his power and love are revealed. Aslan uses Edmund’s failure and the Queen’s schemes in his plan. Without Edmund’s betrayal, we wouldn’t have seen that.
During the battle with the Witch, before Aslan’s arrival, Edmund fought valiantly. Peter said: “It was all Edmund’s doing, Aslan. We’d have been beaten if it hadn’t been for him. The Witch was turning our troops into stone right and left. But nothing would stop him. He fought his way through three ogres to where she was just turning one of your leopards into a statue. And when he reached her he had the sense to bring his sword down on her wand instead of trying to go for her directly and simply getting made a statue himself for his pains.” He was badly wounded, and Lucy had to use her cordial’s liquid to heal him. He was healed of not only his physical wounds, but of his shame, pride, and selfishness.
“He had become his real old self again and could look you in the face. And there on the field of battle Aslan made him a knight.”
Edmund can be called “King Edmund the Just” because he has experienced the need for mercy along with judgment.
Sometimes, people think that because a character messes up, or needs help, they’re less of a hero. But that is not true. Yes, Frodo wouldn’t have been able to succeed without his friends, but they would not have had victory without him. Edmund did fall, and there were consequences, but he got back up as a different person. I believe Frodo and Edmund show us something about heroes that we don’t always see: Heroes aren’t perfect. They’re not super strong people who can do everything all by themselves. But they do keep going no matter what. They do learn from their mistakes. They make sacrifices. And they don’t always win, at least not always the specific heroes themselves. What makes someone a hero is when they realize they can’t win by their own power. Frodo and Edmund do these things and demonstrate what a real hero is.
Are there any characters you often find that people dislike for no good reason? What is one thing a fictional hero has taught you?