Frodo cannot resist the Ring, and only the forces of chance and circumstance can separate him from it. While some individuals are more easily and swiftly affected by the Ring, like Gollum, no one, not even Bilbo Baggins can fully divest themselves of the desires it sparks in their hearts. Even Sam, the most stalwart and stable of all of the characters knows: “He himself, though only for a little while, had borne the Ring, and now dimly he guessed the agony of Gollums shriveled mind and body” (Tolkien 955).
As Tolkien wrote the Lord of the Rings, the entire world was gripped in a struggle of good vs. evil, in the form of the Axis powers that were threatening the rest of the world. Tolkien resisted an easy characterization of his novel as a mere translation of the historical events of his age. “The Ring was not meant to symbolize the atomic bomb. Likewise, the characters Sauron and Saruman, although both tyrants, are imaginary characters and are not meant to represent Hitler or Stalin” (“The Lord of the Rings,” National Geographic, 2011). But the atmosphere of the age permeates the book. Not even most pure of heart can escape the terrors of the influence of the Ring.
Yet, even when he is most under the spell of the Ring, near the fires of Mount Doom, Frodo does not experience the burdens of power as pleasant. The Ring saps his energy, despite his attraction for it. “It is such a weight to carry, such a burden,” he says to Sam (Tolkien 947). And yet when Sam offers to carry it for him, he reacts violently. “It is mine, I say! Be off!” (Tolkien 947). No matter how hated the burdens of power may be, people are loathe to relinquish them, once they have them. The Ring is so mesmerizing it is impossible to destroy, and it protects itself by possessing those who hold it: “I do not choose to do now what I came to do! I will not do this deed!” cries Frodo (Tolkien 955). After losing the Ring, Frodo becomes himself again, in Sams eyes the same Frodo as when the two of them were friends at the shire.
However, Frodo is forever maimed and physically changed as a result of his action. The memory of possessing the Ring is written upon Frodos body, and he will never lose the scar of being so close to its power.
Of course, one possible argument against this reading of the almighty power of the Ring is that Gandalf and a few other people in the book seem to be immune to its power. But although Gandalf respects the Rings power, he never puts on the Ring or allows himself to get too close to its influence. Gandalf is a wise wizard, but he also knows his limits, and not even he is strong enough to allow himself to touch, much less use the Ring.
The Ring is a physical object, but much like absolute power itself, it has a strength that transcends material beings like hobbits. It can slip off the fingers of its wearers (which is why Frodo must wear it on a chain around his neck). When Frodo possesses the ring, he gains abilities that he normally would not have, such as being able to prophesize, to become invisible at will, and to move through space and time at a blink of an eye. But these are powers that the Ring grants to Frodo ensure its own survival. It seduces the holder with the promise that he or she will be the one to tame it. Until the very end it is the Ring who has power over the Ring-bearer, and the Ring eludes any attempt to use it for personal gain — or to use it for good.
“The Lord of the Rings.” National Geographic. [February 12, 2011]
Tolkien, J.R.R. The Lord of the Rings. [February 12, 2011]