The world of Middle Earth is vast and complex, with 4 books released by Tolkien himself charting the story of one of its grandest tales and many more released posthumously, with his son Christopher editing them.
It is one of the best-selling books ever written and has inspired the modern fantasy books and genre to this day.
The complexity of the story and the characters has meant that many people who have read ‘The Lord of the Rings’ saga – and ‘The Hobbit’ too – continue to discuss the meaning and symbolism behind certain actions and certain events in the books.
One event that is discussed ad nauseam is one of the defining – and last, so spoilers ahead – events of the entire series. That is when Frodo leaves Middle Earth. But why does Frodo leave Middle Earth and everything he has known behind?
Today, we are going to explore and see whether we can provide an answer.
Brief Overview Of This Event
So, before we dive into this, we should take a moment to look at the background and provide a brief overview of this event.
At the end of the books, after Sauron has been defeated, the ring has been destroyed, and the power that darkness held over Middle Earth has been shattered, everyone makes their way home.
Aragorn becomes King of Gondor, Eomer is crowned King of Rohan, Galadriel, Celeborn, and Gandalf say their goodbyes to the men of Middle Earth – though it is not revealed why yet.
The Hobbits make their way to the Shire and free it from the very last evil to cling to Middle Earth – Saruman – finally bringing about peace.
At some point after this period, Pippin became Thain or leader of the Shire, Merry became Master of Buckland, and Sam married Rosie as well as becoming Mayor of the Shire (for seven consecutive terms).
However, only a couple of years after they defeated Sauron (and a bit before his friends gained these titles) Frodo decided to leave from the Gray Havens across the sea to the Undying Lands, where all the Elves were departing to.
This was an offer given to all the ring bearers by the Elves, but the question is why did Frodo take it?
Bilbo took the offer because he was old and didn’t have much time left, so he probably wanted to live out his time in peace, but Frodo was fairly young and all his friends and compatriots lived in Middle earth, including his best friend. So, why did Frodo go?
The Toll On Frodo
You see the reason is tied deeply into the one ring and the cost of carrying it. While many will succumb to the ring’s power, those who resist or do not pay a terrible price.
No mortal was ever intended to carry such a weight of power, and it is all but stated in the books that it is one of the greatest burdens a person can suffer.
The psychic toll of the Ring constantly using its power to coerce him beat down on Frodo like a drum. It attacked him spiritually and psychically, until at the very end he broke on the edge of Mount Doom.
The Ring was still destroyed, though by accident, and Frodo always felt the sting of that failure as well as the PTSD from the constant carrying of such a burden.
Other wounds were also sustained in his journey, including him being attacked by the magical blade of the Witch King, which not only skewered his body, but his soul – a wound that could not, would not heal, and killed a part of his soul.
Frodo returned to the one place on Middle Earth where he had known peace – the Shire – hoping to recover and resume his life. But it didn’t happen. Some wounds cannot be healed by time or peace, and Frodo despaired over not healing his body, soul, and mind.
There was only one place that Frodo could find this peace, or at least where peace was guaranteed to him: the Undying Lands, a magical realm across the sea.
Tolkien And Frodo
While this is a sad situation, where home no longer is safe from pain, this is not something that is just a good end to a story. In a way, it mirrors Tolkien’s own experiences in fighting in the First World War, particularly his haunting experience of the Battle of the Somme.
Both returned home after brutal conflicts, where their bodies, souls, and minds had been shattered with many of their friends dead. They went home seeking peace and recovery, but were never able to heal or shrug off what they had been through.
In a way, the Undying Lands are the fantasy stories that Tolkien himself created.
For Tolkien, these magical fantasy stories were a complete divorce from the pain of reality, and it helped him heal, much like Frodo leaves the Shire to a magical place that can heal him, even if it means leaving his world behind.
Does This Fate Extend To Samwise?
Bilbo and Frodo are the most prominent ring bearers, but they weren’t the only ones. There were others including Gollum, Isildur, and of course Samwise Gamgee.
While the other ring bearers were dead or corrupted, Samwise did bear the Ring for a short time and remained steadfast in his resolve.
Originally, Samwise did not travel to the Undying Lands with Frodo, instead staying in the Shire, extending its borders, marrying Rosie, having a large family, and making it an amazing place to live.
But over time he did yearn to leave and once his wife died, he passed down the red book that chronicled ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ stories and sailed for the Undying Lands to reunite with Frodo.
Being a Ring bearer and proving to be one of the deciding factors in the Ring’s destruction through his steadfast loyalty and bravery, he was granted passage.
Frodo leaves for the Undying Lands, because it is the only place that he can heal from his journey, wounds, and time with the corrupting power of the Ring.