I have always preferred The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Consequently, I’ve always preferred Bilbo to Frodo, but it is only recently that I’ve been able to figure out why this is so. I was watching the Hobbit on HBO, refreshing my memory in preparation for the next installment coming out soon, and one scene struck me as a pivotal moment for Bilbo. He’s invisible, having just escaped from Gollum and the goblins, and he overhears Thorin saying Biblo has probably deserted them and run back home—that’s why he’s missing. Bilbo could do that. He could leave at that point and go back home. He’s invisible and they would never see him. He knows Thorin has always doubted him. He’s no hero and he’s not a thief. He feels out of place and floundering. The dwarves are so strong and good at what they do and Bilbo feels like all he knows how to do is live a quiet life and tend his garden. But it’s at that point that he choses fully to commit to the quest. When he first decided to join them it was more from a sense of adventure and fun. But this time he truly wants to help them. He takes off the ring and reveals himself. When asked why he hadn’t left he tells Thorin that he’s right. He misses his home. He misses his books and his garden. That’s where he belongs. And that’s why he had to come back. They (the dwarves) don’t have a home. Someone took it from them. But he will help them take it back if he can. Bilbo chooses his path and commits to it. He doesn’t have to do it. He’s not even sure he’ll be able to do anything when the time comes. But he has to help them because it’s the right thing to do.
Frodo, on the other hand, never really has a choice about what he has to do. He’s the only one who can withstand the ring’s power. It’s his fate to carry the ring to Mordor. He says over and over that he is the one who has to carry it when other people offer to carry the ring for part of the way. He knows the ring will corrupt them. He can barely withstand it’s power and the ring grows more powerful the closer they get to Mordor. Frodo knows he doesn’t have a choice. If the ring is to be destroyed, he’s the one who has to do it. That part I can accept—the reluctant hero and all that. What truly pisses me off (sorry there’s no other word for the way I feel) is when Tolkien betrays his own character and has Frodo succumb to the ring’s power at the end. After all Frodo went through, he can’t take the final step. Again, okay I could accept that IF after Gollum bites the ring off his finger, Frodo had come to his senses and returned to his task of destroying the ring. But he doesn’t. He still wants the ring for himself and it’s only by a fluke that when he fights Gollum for it, Gollum falls into the river of lava clutching the ring and it’s destroyed. What a crap ending. I can barely stand to watch it. I would never betray a character like that. It negates everything that Frodo went through. It denies him any character arc and makes him Fate’s fool. By making Gollum the vehicle for destroying the ring, it brings it back to Bilbo. Bilbo is the one who let Gollum live. So it’s almost as if Bilbo is again the hero. By letting Gollum live he sets him up to play his part at the end of the trilogy. And that also weakens Frodo’s sacrifice.
I am looking forward to the next installment of the Hobbit. Bilbo is a great character and I look forward to seeing him go against Smaug. I know I won’t be disappointed in the ending.