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 Post subject: Main characters in LotR
PostPosted: April 2nd, 2014, 5:09 pm 
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I recently had a discussion with Lembas about how characters in Tolkien's books are a bit different from characters in other, more contemporary, fantasy novels. For one, Tolkien's characters come from a far richer background, with detailed family histories and bloodlines that can be traced back to the First Age. But another difference is that Tolkien's main characters - such as the members of the Fellowship - actually lack a bit of character. As in, we know nothing of their motives, desires or hopes beyond destroying the Ring. And we also don't have a lot of information about personal characteristics, preferences or other information that makes a character interesting and likeable/loathable.

So now I wonder, has anyone else ever thought about this? And are there characters in LotR or the Hobbit that show a bit more personality than others?

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 Post subject: Re: Main characters in LotR
PostPosted: April 3rd, 2014, 11:44 am 
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YES! It always bothered me that Tolkien doesn't describe three dimensional characters. He is very destinct in using positive adjectives about his heroes. They are tall and fair, proud and well-mannered etc. whereas the bad guys are foul and dark and evil and rough. He takes more time describing the landscape than his characters.

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 Post subject: Re: Main characters in LotR
PostPosted: April 4th, 2014, 3:38 pm 
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Yeah, he certainly does! We know more about why the Brown Lands are called the Brown Lands and how they came to be the Brown Lands, than we do about why Gimli and Legolas decided to join the Fellowship.

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 Post subject: Re: Main characters in LotR
PostPosted: April 4th, 2014, 3:40 pm 
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Actually, I love the detailed description he gives of Shelob after she withdraws to her lair when she's been mortally wounded by Sam. Tolkien explains how she might be laying there in hiding for years, healing herself, what her thoughts might be and how her place in the world is. If only we got that much insight into our actual main characters!

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 Post subject: Re: Main characters in LotR
PostPosted: April 4th, 2014, 4:03 pm 
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^ Your post made me race over to my bookcase to see that particular part for myself :lol: And we also do get a bit of information about Tom Bombadil, about how he sees himself, how others see him, what he likes to do and what he wants to do. But again, Tom is only one of the many characters that don't take a prominent place in the story.

But it's remarkable that Tolkien's books still attract such a large fanbase, given that there is basically zero interesting personal information about the main characters. Most modern fantasy books are liked for their strong/angry/awesome main characters, because they are easy to identify with or easy to dislike. Might we conclude that sometimes the background story is indeed more important than every tiny snippet of information about a lead character?

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 Post subject: Re: Main characters in LotR
PostPosted: April 4th, 2014, 11:52 pm 
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I think you have a point there. I mean, I dont need to read Legolas's life story or anything to enjoy reading the story :lol: While background information does provide layers to the characters, I think the important thing was more how the characters worked together and affected one another more so than what they were like prior to the quest. Plus oh my, could you imagine how long PJ's movies would have been if Tolkien had put in a lengthy backstory to every character! :lol:

And speaking of the characters, the thought struck me today while watching the movie with my brother, who is the most important character in the story, if there is one? You first think of Frodo, of course, being the ring bearer and all, but what about other characters? Gandalf, who figured out what ring Frodo had? Or Bilbo, who found it? Sam, who helped Frodo along the way? Its like, gosh, if I got that as a question to turn in for a literature class, who on earth would I pick, if I could settle on anyone?

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 Post subject: Re: Main characters in LotR
PostPosted: April 30th, 2014, 3:43 pm 
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That's a very good question! My first thought would also be Frodo, because he's the first character we get to know a bit better (compared to the other Hobbits), but he isn't even in two of the six books.. But I think he does have the most important part to play; after all, if Frodo fails the Ring will not be destroyed and all other efforts at destroying Sauron would have been useless. So maybe his character in itself isn't that important, but the role his character has is the most important. Does that make sense? :p

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 Post subject: Re: Main characters in LotR
PostPosted: July 9th, 2014, 6:22 pm 
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That's why I think that Peter Jackson did a good job when making the movies, for the most part you kind of get the personality of all the main characters especially if you watch the extended editions.

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 Post subject: Re: Main characters in LotR
PostPosted: July 10th, 2014, 12:20 am 
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Lhunardaien wrote:
That's a very good question! My first thought would also be Frodo, because he's the first character we get to know a bit better (compared to the other Hobbits), but he isn't even in two of the six books.. But I think he does have the most important part to play; after all, if Frodo fails the Ring will not be destroyed and all other efforts at destroying Sauron would have been useless. So maybe his character in itself isn't that important, but the role his character has is the most important. Does that make sense? :p

Ah, but what about Sam? Frodo probably wouldn't have made it to the Mountain without him. That's what I mean, you go "oh well its gotta be this character because..." but then there's an instance like with Sam where its like "well crap..." :lol: But I can definitely see what you're saying as well, no one else in the Fellowship would have been able to carry the Ring, I think, so his role was very important. Which is kind of interesting in itself that Frodo was the best choice. What made him the best, out of all the other characters with their worthy intentions, why were the others like "oh you could resist its power way better than anyone else"

Captain Boromir wrote:
That's why I think that Peter Jackson did a good job when making the movies, for the most part you kind of get the personality of all the main characters especially if you watch the extended editions.

The movies helped bring out personalities I think, definitely. Though as I'm reading through Fellowship again I just thought to myself a few days ago after reading a part where Boromir was kind of 'snotty' "does Boromir have any parts that make him seem like an enjoyable or nice guy, aside from when he dies?" Dont get me wrong, I love Boromir, really I do. But I'm down to the final few chapters and its like every time he's had something to say he hasn't exactly been a cheerful or helpful person. Quite frankly, that bugs me a bit. Its like, is that why he was the only member of the Fellowship who died, or did Tolkien not do much with his character because he was going to die?

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 Post subject: Re: Main characters in LotR
PostPosted: July 10th, 2014, 3:11 pm 
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Yeah I don't know sadly I have yet to read the books but I have heard a lot of others say that. I don't know if that is why Peter Jackson had the scenes where he was training the Hobbits and the added scene where he was with his brother. Though he cut out a lot to do with him also. The interesting part is that even though you don't get much of his personality I've heard a lot of people say they identify the most with Boromir.

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 Post subject: Re: Main characters in LotR
PostPosted: July 20th, 2014, 11:41 pm 
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Its rather depressing that Tolkien made him a "difficult" character, always seeming to disagree with the others and what not.

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 Post subject: Re: Main characters in LotR
PostPosted: July 21st, 2014, 4:49 pm 
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Well, at least with Boromir it's kind of clear why he behaves the way he does: we know from the first pages concerning Boromir that he comes from Gondor, that he's fought in the continuing wars with Mordor, and that he's desparate to find a solution for Gondor's trouble. So he must surely feel torn between the hope to do something good, and the hope to bring back this weapon to his people, so they may survive the war. It's not hard to imagine that this would make him a bit grumpy at best. And that's probably why he keeps trying to direct the Fellowship to the gap of Rohan (so they can get to Gondor more easily), and therefore gets annoyed when they decide to take another path instead..

In that aspect Gimli and Legolas are more bland characters: I think their countries also suffer from Orc attacks, but nothing is ever said about that. So it's a bit unclear why they decided to join the Fellowship in the first place, and also what they hope to gain with it (apart from destroying the Ring).

So maybe Boromir is only a bit unlikable because he clearly shows what he wants to achieve, compared to the others who might have more hidden agendas during this quest? We usually regard people who speak their mind, and their exact intent, as a bit strange and unsocialized anyway :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Main characters in LotR
PostPosted: July 22nd, 2014, 12:23 am 
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I never actually thought of that, Legolas and Gimli never fully having a reason as to why they joined the quest, other than the "duh" reason of destroying the ring. Maybe they both secretly joined to keep an eye on the other one! :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Main characters in LotR
PostPosted: December 10th, 2014, 3:23 pm 
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I think Legolas and Gimli joined to represent the race of Elves and Dwarves. I find Merry and Pippin have the most personalities.


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 Post subject: Re: Main characters in LotR
PostPosted: February 21st, 2015, 2:35 pm 
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A back story usually does help a character come to life
in a pretty major way. But sometimes only a little back
story is needed.

After reading the books I find that every character seems
to not just feel alive but have a soul! Because they go through
so much you get to seem them in many different lights &
situations which creates more and more character developement
left and right! For me, this goes for every character. They
are all distinct have living personalities.

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 Post subject: Re: Main characters in LotR
PostPosted: March 11th, 2015, 5:21 pm 
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I think that the lack of character description might be a partial attempt to "show not tell."

This is one thing they are always telling writers to do. Why say, Frodo was young hobit with adventure in his heart," when you can SHOW it with the way the character behaves.

*shrugs* just my thoughts.

Though in the Hobbit I do think Bilbo is given a pretty good back story and reasons for why he is doing what he is doing.


Boromir is one of those characters that is better explained. In the movie he is kind of introduced over time and once you get to know him you get to like him. Perhaps it was intended to be the same with the characters in the book.

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