Study Guide

The Fellowship of the Ring Strength and Skill

By J.R.R. Tolkien

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Strength and Skill

There are many varieties of skill in <em>The Fellowship of the Ring.</em> The most obvious skills come from the different characters' races: Legolas is an Elf, so he can run on top of snow. Gimli is a Dwarf, so he can find his way around underground. And the Hobbits are expert smokers, because all Hobbits love their pipe-weed. But some characters have skills <em>in spite of</em> what they are: for example, Frodo is a good talker, especially for a Hobbit. Sometimes, Tolkien uses these contrasts between a character's abilities and his race to make jokes, like when Sam blushes in self-consciousness as he recites the beginning of the Elven song <em>The Fall of Gil-galad</em>. Frankly, if we were Hobbits (in our dreams!), we would start to feel insulted that the norm everyone assumes for Hobbits is complete, bumbling stupidity. Every time a Hobbit shows any kind of skill with language or storytelling, everyone else stares at him like he's a talking fox. But Tolkien seems to be making a point here: anyone can excel and become better, regardless of their natural strengths and talents. After all, <em>Frodo</em> is our hero. No offense, Frodo.

Questions About Strength and Skill

  1. What strengths or skills do the Hobbits have that the other characters may not expect? How might it be advantageous for Frodo not to <em>look</em> strong or skilled on the outside?
  2. How does Boromir's strength affect him? What problems are there in relying too much on your own strength to get you through difficult times?
  3. How might Gandalf's strength and skill interfere with the development of the narrative of <em>The Fellowship of the Ring</em>? Why does Tolkien remove his character so early in the novel?

Chew on This

Gandalf's skills make him a better leader than Aragorn.

Strength is more important than wisdom when it comes to fighting evil.

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