Frodo versus Bilbo: Who Is the Greatest Hobbit Hero?

by | Mar 3, 2015 | Fantasy Commentary, Musing & Brain Teasers | 3 comments

Middle Earth has a curious habit of producing heroes from the most unlikely of sources: the Shire. A home for the homebody. Comforting to the comfort-loving. Yet two of the land’s great heroes were born therein, uncle and nehpew, Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.

But which of them should own the honor of being the greatest hero the Shire ever produced? Let’s look at the case for each.

Bilbo Baggins

Thorin Oakenshield hired him on as a burglar, at the suggestion of one Gandalf the Grey. Not an auspicious beginning for a hero, but not all endings match their beginnings. Chased out of his hobbit hole in search of adventure, he finds all he had hoped for and much that he hadn’t.

Pro: Defeats Gollum and makes off with the ring of invisibility (little did we know at the time). Finding the ring on the ground was luck, but the riddle contest was a battle of wits where Bilbo prevailed. A musing out loud turned into a dirty trick, but it worked.

Pro: Buying time for Gandalf to return and save the dwarfs from becoming a troll dinner.

Pro: Saving everyone from the spiders. Ring or no ring, it was a brave moment for a small warrior. He named a sword as a result, and that’s a pretty good line item for a heroic resume.

Pro: The jailbreak and subsequent barrel-based escape from the elves. He hid for weeks in the elven palace, remaining undetected and formulating the escape plan, then pulling it off.

Pro: Sneaks into an out of Smaug’s lair. He crosses words with the cantankerous old dragon, but gets the better in the end.

Con: He lies. A lot. This is excusable when dealing with dragons, but he lies to Gandalf about the ring (on more than one occasion) and to Thorin about the stone, and generally about his suitability as a burglar.

Con: He is indirectly responsible for the carnage in Laketown. While Smaug is truly the one responsible, Bilbo kicked a hornets’ nest and Laketown got the sting.

Con: In the Battle of the Five Armies, he was an onlooker. He neither stopped the friendly sides from coming to blows, nor joined when the orcs arrived. While he might not have changed anything, it was less than heroic to sit it out.

Frodo Baggins

He inherited a ring. Simple enough on the face of it, but what a ring he inherited. It set about an adventure that would change the landscape of Middle Earth. But what role did Frodo really play?

Pro: He agrees to bear the One Ring not just once, but twice. He could have walked away in Rivendell, but chose to continue on with it to Mordor. Not all heroic deeds and misdeeds weigh the same, and this one is heavy indeed.

Pro: He gets out of the Shire. Considering they’re being pursued by ring wraiths, that’s no small feat. Once the hobbits get to Bree, they often have help at staying alive.

Pro: Escapes Boromir when he goes mad for the ring. Even though it involved wearing the ring, he kept the One Ring out of Boromir’s hands.

Pro: Spared Gollum. Mercy is a heroic trait, and Gollum repays Frodo’s kindness with both aid and treachery. But would they have gotten to Mt. Doom without the broken Smeagol’s help?

Con: He is a burden to his companions at times. From being wounded by a ring wraith’s sword to needing Sam’s help to walk up the slope of Mt. Doom, Frodo does not stand on his own at crucial times.

Con: He relies on others to do his fighting. Merry and Pippin take up arms, so it’s not impossible for a hobbit. His uncle Bilbo fought, though rarely and mainly with the aid of the ring’s concealment. But Frodo does not fight to defend the ring, but rather runs and hides, or waits for someone else to save him.

Con: He falters at the end. If not for Gollum’s obsession, Frodo might have slunk away with the ring. At the heart of the fiery mountain, he changed his mind. The ring’s nature is insidious, so this is understandable, but far from heroic.


What history would say is that Frodo is the greatest hero that hobbit-kind has ever known. But the historians weren’t there at the edge of Mt. Doom. And who would believe the tales of an eccentric old hobbit puffing himself up in books? There and Back Again is Bilbo’s story in his own hand.

But when you look at the deeds and motives, Bilbo is the heroic adventurer. Frodo, for all his heart and bravery, is the martyr, not the hero. He gives up his easy life in the Shire for the sake of the world, and much of him never comes back. He succeeds less through his own doing and more from a weary stubbornness and the skill and devotion of the various members of the Fellowship, most notably Sam. I have always felt that if it came down to it, if Frodo had succumbed, Sam could have taken the ring and finished the quest. He had every bit as much heart as Frodo, if not more. Samwise Gamgee might well have made an able comparison to Bilbo, but it is the elder Baggins who ought to go down as the greatest of hobbit heroes.

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  1. rodriguesigor

    Just reminding you that “The Downfall of The Lord of the Rings” was written by planned and drafted by Bilbo and finalized and organized by Frodo (and Sam). XD

    So, not one reliable storyteller in this bout.

  2. Bjorn Cedergreen

    Um wrong. Frodo is the greatest hero of middle earth period. Why? The ring wouldn’t have been destroyed if he didn’t give Gollum mercy. They wouldn’t even have got to mordor without the help of Gollum as there guide because Frodo and Sam didn’t know how to get there in the first place. But that’s not even the most important reason he’s the greatest hero of middle earth. He knows what he’s walking into, he knows there’s a great chance of him dying and is given multiple chances to hand the ring over to someone else. But no he keeps it to bear so no one else has to suffer from its corruption. Yes he wouldn’t have made it without Sam but he incouraged to keep coming with him when he was thinking of heading back to the shire on there way to Bree. Frodo sacrificing everything that makes him happy for everyone he loves. Frodo is already the least likely to take the ring to mordor because he’s in a group with a wizard, a dwarf an elf and aragorn and Boromir yet he chooses to take on the challenge. He has the least happy ending than everyone, everyone else gets what they want in the besides Frodo. He was hurt deeply physical and mentally from the ring, Shelobs sting, Gollum biting his finger off, the nazguls blade, and the perilous journey to mordor alone must hurt your body. He sacrifices everything for the greater good at all times. The ring has a mind of its own so Frodo wasn’t scared when he hid from danger, he didn’t want the ring to get into the hands of the enemy. His parents are dead, dispite his problems he already has in life before the journey, he still sacrificed everything even though he didn’t have much in the beginning. He does this for the people of middle earth, the shire, his friends. He takes this journey on for everyone besides himself. He was corrupted by strictly the rings power and that’s why he couldn’t throw it in the fire. He didn’t change his mind, the ring made him change his mind, souron is one with the ring, the ring has a mind of its own. Anyone who would have gotten to the end including Sam would have been corrupted. The task was so hard that anyone would fail due to the rings corruption. So he spares everyone else from the corruption, the ring is destroyed due to his mercy he gave to Gollum so technically he didn’t fail he succeeded. Frodo saved middle earth entirely. Frodo is the best hero known to fiction because he sacrifices everything for middle earth and the people and things he loved. But even though he doesn’t have a happy ending in terms of what he gets to do, he is still extremely happy at the end, he is happy at the end but has an unhappy ending. He’s happy because he saved everything he loves and that has got to be the greatest hero of middle earth and greatest of hobbit heroes of the shire. Frodo baggins is the true hero of middle earth.

    • Grace

      Frodo is not the hero Samwise is, even J.R.R Tolkien himself stated this. In all reality both Bilbo and Frodo are won over by Samwise.


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