Archetypes in Lord of the Rings

In this article you will learn about the archetypes in Lord of the Rings, the famous fantasy by JRR Tolkien, which contains examples of various archetypes commonly seen in literature throughout the ages.

What are the Archetypes in Lord of the Rings?

Tolkien uses numerous literary archetypes in the Lord of the Rings.

Frodo is an archetypal underdog and everyman, the character the majority of readers will relate to because he is the most like them.

He seems unlikely to achieve greatness at the beginning, just a normal individual with no outstanding or seemingly heroic qualities but who goes on to prove themselves by the completion of their archetypal quest against all odds.

Aragorn, by comparison, is the archetypal literary hero and warrior.

He possesses heroic qualities of courage, physical strength, and determination which he uses regularly in physical combat in battle. Combined with qualities of moral and ethical rectitude, Aragorn is seemingly perfect in every way and is rewarded with power and the heart of the woman he loves.

Gollum is the archetypal trickster, willing to use deceit and manipulation for his own benefit despite the overwhelming cost his machinations bring to those around him. He is also an archetypal outsider, shunned by society and living on it’s margins in isolation.

Gandalf is an archetypal wise old man, mentor and wizard all rolled into one character.

As an older person he has gained great wisdom through life experience which he uses to mentor and guide all around him. He also uses his powers as a wizard to help accomplish the quest and fight against evil.

However, he is not the central hero as he is not always present, appearing only when needed and acting only when absolutely necessary.

The Lord of the Rings Book Summary

  • Bilbo Baggins gives his mysterious ring to heir Frodo. Wizard Gandalf realises it is a Ring of Power and tells Frodo it was lost by the Dark Lord Sauron, advising him to take it away from the Shire.
  • Frodo leaves with Sam, cousin Pippin and friend Merry. Gandalf reports their betrayal by chief wizard Saruman, who wants to become a Sauron-like power.
  • The Ring must be destroyed by the fire of Mount Doom in Mordor.
  • The Fellowship of the Ring undertakes the task (Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, Aragorn, Gandalf, Gimli the Dwarf, Legolas the Elf, and the Man Boromir).
  • The Fellowship travel through the Mines of Moria, pursued by Orcs and a Balrog.
  • Gandalf faces the Balrog and they fall into the abyss.
  • The others find refuge and are counselled by Lady Galadriel, who tests their loyalty and gives gifts to help them on their quest. She allows Frodo and Sam to see visions of past, present, and perhaps future. Frodo tries to go to Mordor alone but Sam guesses and goes with him.
  • Orcs sent by Saruman and Sauron kill Boromir and capture Merry and Pippin. Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas decide to pursue the Orcs, tracking them to Fanghorn where they meet Gandalf.
  • He explains that he killed the Balrog and was killed himself, but was returned to Middle-earth to complete his mission as Gandalf the White, chief of the wizards.
  • Gandalf brings an army and defeats the Orcs, before finding Merry and Pippin safe. Gandalf offers Saruman a chance to turn away from evil but strips him of his rank and power when he refuses. Frodo and Sam head for Mordor and capture Gollum, who has been watching them.
  • Frodo makes Gollum serve him as Ringbearer and guide them to Mordor.
  • Gollum, as his alter ego Sméagol, is tempted to steal the Ring. He betrays Frodo to the great spider Shelob. Believing Frodo dead due to a wound from the spider, Sam takes the Ring to continue the quest.
  • Sauron sends a great army against Gondor and Minas Tirith is besieged.
  • Aragorn transports men to Minas Tirith just in time to turn the tide of battle. Together, Gondor and Rohan defeat Sauron’s army. Aragorn enters Minas Tirith and leads men to the Black Gate to distract Sauron from his true danger, his army for the Battle of the Morannon vastly outnumbered by Mordor.
  • Sam realises Frodo is alive and rescues him. Frodo cannot resist the Ring any longer, putting it on his finger.
  • Gollum bites off Frodo’s finger with the Ring on it. While celebrating he falls into the Fire, destroying the ring and Sauron’s power.
  • Aragorn’s forces are victorious.
  • The hobbits return to the Shire but find it taken over by men directed by Saruman. Merry leads a rebellion and Saruman is killed.
  • Frodo is still wounded and mentally drained from having borne the Ring, leaving a few years on to find peace.

The Hobbit Archetype Examples

  • Everyman
  • Underdog
  • Hero
  • Warrior
  • Trickster
  • Outcast
  • Wise old man

Want more literary archetypes?

Go check out our extensive list of archetypes in literature to find out more about the characters seen in literature throughout the ages.

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