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From within the Shire, an unlikely hero arises. Equipped with a golden ring forged from the fires of Mount Doom, assigned an adventerous quest to save Middle Earth, and accompanied by clumsy yet loyal gardener Samwise Gamgee, young hobbit Frodo Baggins assumes the role of ringbearer, journeying through various wordly realms in order to destroy an ancient evil force and restore peace to the land. Through the extraordinary and often unpredictable endeavors of Frodo and his companions, the Lord of the Rings films reveal numerous criteria essential to an epic, exemplifying the tendency for good to thrive in the face of evil. Crucial to their success as an epic, the iconic films depict a quest of grand importance. With origins explained in the opening scene of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, the trilogy portrays a continuation of a past conflict, wherein “a master ring to control all others” was created by the dark lord Sauron, and re-emerged years later as the cause of Frodo Baggin’s journey.
This backstory is the first epic criterion to present itself in the films, mimicking the thorough description of past events that is common to the genre, and first presenting the malicious force to be confronted in the expedition. Continuing in this vein, Sauron, as the main antagonist and root of Frodo’s mission, exemplifies the good versus evil element vital to an epic quest. Ruler of the flame-encompassed land of Mordor, occupied by ghastly orcs, Sauron stands in stark contrast to the benevolent and mild-mannered Frodo, a humble hobbit who has been chosen by the Council of Elrond to defend Middle Earth from corruption. Not only is this aspect of the quest essential in that it depicts conflicting forces of morality and maliciousness, but it also shows the vast importance of Frodo’s mission. Upon pushing the creature Gollum and the One Ring into to the flames of Mount Doom, Frodo ends a war that would have most likely brought about the death of his friends and allowed Sauron to assume control of Middle Earth, proving the extreme significance of his assigned task, and displaying the eternal triumph of good when faced with evil.
Frodo’s adventure, featuring an extensive back-story, moral individuals battling a spiteful force, and a paramount task, excellently fills the criteria of an epic quest. Yet alongside Frodo, characters such as Aragorn, Legolas, and Samwise present themselves as important defenders of good throughout the trilogy; each individual, in his actions and attributes, represents qualities essential to an epic hero. Frodo and Samwise, two righteous hobbits, Legolas, a wise elf, and Aragorn, a brave human, all display the values of their societies through their endeavors, a popular aspect of epic heroes. As the only individual out of the Council of Elrond capable of carrying the One Ring without experiencing corruption, Frodo exemplifies the good-nature of the hobbit species, and also reiterates the epic quality of good versus evil as he is a pure individual. This idea also presents itself in the actions of Aragorn, who represents the leadership qualities possessed by humanity as he guides Frodo and his friends away from the Nazgûl, servants of Sauron. Moreover, each of these characters is known to perform extraordinary feats in order to defend goodness, another essential quality of an epic hero. During the final movie, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Samwise attempts to help Frodo accomplish his journey to Mount Doom, exclaiming, “I can’t carry [the ring] for you, but I can carry you!” Thus, Samwise, a small hobbit, is able to carry Frodo up a mountain so that he may finish his task and save Middle Earth, displaying both an act of tremendous strength as well as a success of good despite discouragement from evil.
With an intriguing storyline, colorful characters, and a notable setting, The Lord of the Rings trilogy has found success as one of the most influential and popular film series of all time. Although unique in creation, many of the trilogy’s prominent aspects are deeply rooted in historical literary tradition. As the endeavors and ideals of Frodo and his companions unfold throughout the films, it becomes apparent that this series depicts qualities essential to an epic, and instills within the viewer the eternal message that in the face of evil, good will always be victorious.
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