- Lord of the Rings Fan Site - Lord of the Rings Fan Site - Lord of the Rings Fan Site - Lord of the Rings Fan Site - Lord of the Rings Fan Site
[an error occurred while processing this directive]


A Coming of Age Tale
by Rosie Lass

There are many different ways to read The Lord of the Rings. I think that one of the reasons why it is so enduringly popular and why so may people read it over and over again is because there are so many different themes in it. Perhaps the truest way to read the book is simply as a great story, Tolkien himself said that he did not intend it to be an allegory of anything. Sometimes however it is interesting to look at some of the themes of the book in more depth. I think that The Lord of the Rings can be read as a coming of age story, a story about growing up. The Hobbit is an out and out children’s story but The Lord of the Rings bridges the gap between childhood and adulthood. I expect that many people like myself first read the book as a child and continued to read and love it after they had grown up.

At the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring the hobbits exist in a very childlike state. They live in an idyllic protected world without any real cares or responsibilities. There is never any suggestion that Frodo, Merry and Pippin actually have jobs and although Sam works as a gardener he obviously doesn’t need the income to support his family as he can afford to take off for a year. They are also unknowingly being looked after by the Rangers who keep the dangers of the outside world away from them. When the four hobbits first embark on their journey they are relatively helpless. When they get in to danger they have to be rescued by stronger beings like Bombadil and Aragorn. Although they begin to experience something of the outside world they do not really become independent until the end of The Fellowship.

At the end of the first book Frodo takes the adult decision to break out on his own and take his responsibilities on his own shoulders. Admittedly Merry and Pippin do not make the decision to leave the company but the fact that they are separated from their companions means that they are forced to take their lives in to their own hands. Once there is no one else to look after them they prove their independence by escaping from the orcs on their own. Throughout the second and third books the four hobbits face increasingly difficult challenges especial when they are separated from each other as they all are at some point. The reader really feels for their loneliness and courage as they individually face death far away from their homes. At some point all of them make difficult decisions; Sam to take the Ring when he thinks that Frodo is dead, Merry to stand up to the Lord of the Nazgûl, Pippin to defy Denethor and try to save Faramir and Frodo among many other things to spare Gollum.

The change in the hobbits happens gradually throughout the book so you hardly notice it but it is thrown into shape relief at the end when they return home. Gandalf actually says to them "you have grown up….you don’t need looking after anymore". It is intensely satisfying to see the hobbits stand up to the ruffians (the embodiment of the schoolyard bullies) and reclaim their homes all on their own. Suddenly we see them, through the eyes of their own kind not as small, frightened creatures but as strong brave heroes. After having been out into the world and had their adventures they set about the new challenge of building homes and families. For Frodo the journey through life is taken one step further with his metaphorical death at the end of the book. The hardest lesson of all is that no matter how hard you fight there are some battles which just cannot be won.

–Rosie Lass

  BACK TO FAN ESSAYS & REVIEWS HOME Go to Fan Essays & Reviews Home

home | contact us | back to top | site map |search | join list

This site is maintained and updated by fans of The Lord of the Rings. We in no way claim the artwork displayed to be our own. Copyrights and trademarks for the books, films, and related properties mentioned herein are held by their respective owners and are used solely for promotional purposes of said properties. Design and original photography however are copyright © 2000 ™ .

Do not follow this link, or your host will be blocked from this site. This is a spider trap.