Note: The Fellowship of the Rings contains a cast of characters too numerous to consider individually. These notes focus on those characters playing a significant role in the book’s action. Readers should remain aware that some characters not discussed here grow in importance over the course of The Two Towers and The Return of the King.
Frodo Baggins Frodo is the Hobbit given the quest of carrying the One Ring to its destruction in Mordor. Although Frodo enjoyed the simple, quiet life he lived prior to his quest, even then he experienced restless desires to seek adventure beyond the rustic borders of the Shire. Throughout The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo struggles against the temptation to wear the Ring; rather than interpreting this struggle solely as a character flaw, readers should understand that it also illustrates the Ring’s power to corrupt even the most gentle and innocent of souls. Frodo shows both reluctance and resolves with regards to his quest; he thus represents any ordinary person thrust, against their own choosing, into extraordinary events. He does not feel important enough for this mission, yet he strives to carry it out as best he can. The initial strength he shows, however, will wear away as The Lord of the Rings continues.
Samwise (“Sam”) Gamgee Sam is Frodo’s gardener, a loyal servant, and companion on the quest to destroy the Ring. Sam is more rustic in speech and behavior than Frodo; the differences between the two characters thus reflect the British social strata with which Tolkien was familiar. Sam loves the natural world-again, reflecting Tolkien’s passion for nature. He remains fiercely devoted to Frodo throughout The Lord of the Rings; he calls him by the title “master,” but also displays genuine affection for him. Sam has a particular fascination with Elves, indicating that, while he is more reluctant to leave the Shire than Frodo, he, too, feels the lure of the world beyond.
Aragorn Also called “Strider,” Aragorn is a Ranger, one of the last descendants of the Men who first dwelled in Middle-earth. He is equally at home among Elves, and is romantically linked to Arwen, daughter of Elrond. Aragorn is the rightful heir to the High Kingship of Middle-earth, though his appearance as a rough, weather-beaten wanderer belies his royal status. While brave and strong, Aragorn shows some uncertainty when he assumes leadership of the Fellowship following Gandalf’s fall in Moria. He is torn by the desire to aid Frodo on the journey to Mordor, but also responds with Boromir’s plea to aid in the defense of Gondor. In this ambivalence, then, he may function as a foil to Frodo; through both characters, Tolkien explores how people rise (or fail to rise) to unsought yet momentous occasions. As The Lord of the Rings progresses, readers will see Aragorn grow stronger as a leader, while Frodo increasingly falters.
Boromir The son of the Steward of Gondor, Boromir is a Man proud of his people and greatly concerned for their welfare as they struggle to stave off the armies of Sauron. He often expresses his pride in the Men of Gondor as disparagement or suspicion of others: for example, of the Riders of Rohan who no longer come to Gondor’s aid, and of the Elvish Lady Galadriel, whom he wrongly fears is an evil enchantress. Boromir’s pride becomes hubris at the end of Book II, when he seeks to take the Ring from Frodo by force; he believes only the Ring can save Gondor, and he thinks himself invulnerable to its corrupting influence. Boromir thus illustrates the danger of seeking noble ends through ignoble means.
Gimli the Dwarf and Legolas the Elf are perhaps best considered as a pair in The Fellowship of the Ring. Each is proud of his people, their histories, and their accomplishments; for example, Gimli alone is eager to reach the Mines of Moria, where a great Dwarf kingdom was once located. In their pride, they mirror Boromir. Yet, as Book II progresses, they are able to move past their pride in a way that Boromir is not. Gimli and Legolas begin a friendship unique among their peoples-in Lothlï¿½rien, Legolas often takes walks with Gimli, “and the others wondered at this change”-a friendship that deepens in the final two volumes. Perhaps the experience of entering Lothlï¿½rien blindfolded together creates empathy in Legolas for what Elven law requires of Dwarves. For his part, Gimli is in awe of the Lady Galadriel, whom he calls “fairest” of all; he carries strands of her hair as “a pledge of good will” between Dwarves and Elves in days to come. These two characters illustrate reconciliation between not only individuals but also entire peoples.
Gandalf the Grey Gandalf is the Wizard who embodies wisdom for the Fellowship. He is not, however, infallible; for instance, note his temporary befuddlement at the doors to Moria. Neither is his power infinite; he falls, apparently to his death, at the hands of the Balrog. Nevertheless, Gandalf proves a sure guide and a powerful defender. Unique among Wizards, he is intensely interested in Hobbits and Hobbit-lore; he thus illustrates one of Tolkien’s major themes, that true wisdom is often to be gained from the unlikeliest sources.
Meriadoc (“Merry”) Brandybuck and Peregrin (“Pippin”) Took are the two Hobbits who round out the Fellowship. They are Frodo’s cousins and two of his closest friends. They help Frodo arrange his “move” to Crickhollow, and insist on going with him to Rivendell and then to Mordor, displaying their loyalty to and affection for Frodo. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Merry and Pippin do not occupy “center stage” much of the time, and readers may be hard pressed to view them as anything but “typical Hobbits” who enjoy fun, food, and comfort. Merry does seem more knowledgeable in some respects (for instance, lore about the Old Forest) than Pippin, and Pippin, who is younger, seems more impulsive than Merry (for example, he almost reveals Frodo’s identity in Bree, and he tosses a stone down a well in Moria, possibly alerting the Orcs to the Fellowship’s presence). In the latter volumes, however, both characters are developed to a greater degree as they increase in importance.