What is true courage? To some it may be the heroics of soldiers on the battlefield, to others it may be defined as the actions of a police officer in the line of duty. There are several characters in the novel, and subsequent movies, The Lord of the Rings, that display great acts of bravery. Certainly Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Theoden, Faramir, and Eomer all fight valiantly against the enemy, Sauron and his armies. However, since they have been trained to fight and are already soldiers of sorts, this is not what I would define as true courage. Gandalf certainly contributes greatly to the fight, but he is, after all, a wizard so his acts are not especially courageous, but innate in his character. Eowyn, while not trained as a soldier, is a warrior at heart. She is actually more afraid of being left out of the fight than the fight itself. To me true courage is more than just acts of bravery. Truly the most courageous of the characters are the ones who, although completely foreign to their character, through necessity, loyalty and friendship display courage and act heroically. I believe that true courage is bravery in the face of fear. In the novel, there are several characters that display this type of courage.
The first character that shows true courage is Frodo. Although he is fearful and unsure of how he will be able to complete the task of destroying the One Ring, he nevertheless volunteers to take the Ring to Mordor. Without thought as to how he could possibly make it and without knowing if anyone would be going with him, he steps forward knowing that it has to be done. Frodo again shows courage when he chooses to leave the protection of the Fellowship to continue on alone to Mordor. It would have been much easier for him to stay with his new friends, but he knows that neither his friends nor their mission would be safe if he did. Therefore Frodo knows that his only choice was to go on alone. Although afraid, he continues on the path he knows he must take.
Another to show true courage is Merry. He chooses to accompany Frodo on his journey, which to a hobbit is a very courageous thing. Once he is part of the Fellowship, and although much smaller than any of the other Rohan warriors, he bravely rides into battle with Eowyn. His loyalty to Theoden spurs him on and leads him to help defeat the leader of the Ringwraiths. His courage continues as he helps lead his people against Saruman and the orcs upon returning to the Shire.
Pippin shows his courage as well by joining the Fellowship. He also risks his life to try to escape the Uruk-kai in order to leave clues as to his and Merry’s fate for Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli, although he did not know if they were indeed following them. He again shows courage when defying Denethor’s orders he goes in search of Gandalf in order to save Faramir’s life. Finally his newfound courage shines through when the Shire is threatened by Saruman.
Finally, the character that I believe shows the most true courage is Sam. His loyalty to Frodo enables him to courageously remain with Frodo after he leaves the Fellowship. He decides to follow Frodo into Mordor without any thought to his personal safety. He only knows that if Frodo is going, so is he. He also displays great courage when faced with the life and death struggle with Shelob. When faced with a creature many times his size, his courageous actions, save Frodo and enable him to finally best Shelob. Sam again shows his courageous character by walking into an orc stronghold to save Frodo. His love for his friend spurs him on through impossible odds. Finally Sam’s courageous actions culminate on the final steps of their journey to Mount Doom, when Sam literally drags and eventually carries Frodo along in an effort to complete their mission. His heroic deeds outshine all others in courage, loyalty, friendship, and love.
I believe that it is the hobbits that display true courage throughout The Lord of the Rings. They were not trained for warfare. They were used to the peaceful living in the Shire. However, when called upon to make a choice they had the strength of character, indeed the courage, to step forward and do what had to be done. This I believe is what makes true heroes.