6. Frodo Baggins
Frodo considers the missing wizard, the Ring in his pocket, the Riders already searching the Shire, and the Conspiracy gathered in the little house at Crickhollow—determined, brave, and loyal to a fault; he is surely the most fortunate hobbit in the world.
Thanks to Bilbo and Tom Bombadil, Frodo knows something about the northern war against Angmar and a little more than something about the Barrow-downs; but when its haunted echo springs to life only hours after his farewell to Goldberry, Frodo wonders how much he truly knows of these strange lands, their histories, and just what he's dragged his friends into.
"Sheer accident" is how Frodo explains the incident with the Ring in the Common Room of the Prancing Pony, and he holds fast to that story despite Strider's doubts; the only other explanation involves a Ring that is no longer a passive object but an active agent seeking Its own preservation and Its enemies' destruction.
When morning comes to Bree and they find their bedroom littered with overturned mattresses and slashed bolsters, Frodo cannot speak for a moment; the inhabitants of Bree are simple folk and to see what fear is capable of rousing in such people greatly alarms, for he senses this fear will follow him into the Wilds.
In the lonely dell beside Weathertop, Frodo receives a taste of the Enemy's true power as the dark figures overwhelm his fear, his hesitation, his common sense, and even his ability to turn his head and look at Sam; the command to put on the Ring is the only thought that finds purchase in his mind and with no choice save to obey, he slips the One onto his finger.
The only clear sight for Frodo's dimming eyes are the Riders atop their steeds compelling him to wait, and as at Weathertop, Frodo cannot disobey; he reins Asfaloth to a halt but draws his sword, not yet completely the Riders' thrall, and so defies them until Glorfindel's curt elven words send Asfaloth galloping into the Bruinen.
Sometimes Frodo wonders if he shouldn't make more of his time in Rivendell by exploring with Merry and Pippin or studying maps with Aragorn and Gandalf; then he looks at Bilbo reading snippets of verse to Sam and decides he has found the best Rivendell has to offer.
During the Fellowship's initial journey south, there is a moment—albeit a brief one—in which Frodo discovers frost on the hair of his feet and seriously contemplates the virtues of boots.
Frodo springs to his feet in the cavernous halls of Moria, certain he fell asleep and dreamed of eyes in the darkness, and he remains standing and staring until Legolas takes his place as guard; he retires to his blankets determined to believe it was all a dream, but it is difficult to relax when Legolas's attention snaps to the same place Frodo saw—or thought he saw—two pale lights watching him from the safety of the shadows.
White meets red, flame descends into darkness beyond mortal senses, and parting words echo through the caverns: "Fly, you fools!"; the Fellowship runs as hope falls behind them, weeping, stumbling, hewing down the last orcs to stand between them and the light of day, and Frodo collapses when they stop in the Dimrill Dale, feeling the sun on his face and thinking it paler than the staff Gandalf held aloft to guide them through Moria.
Frodo can't say much for the glimmering rope ladder the elves lower from the talan on the borders of Lothlórien and is frankly amazed when Sam makes the climb behind him and even more amazed when Merry and Pippin manage to bring up all their blankets later.
Galadriel's explanation of Nenya and its empowerment of Lothlórien causes Frodo to understand how both success and failure in his Quest will doom the elves and their golden lands; Galadriel accuses him of returning test for test when he offers her the Ring, but in truth, Frodo needs to know if those who will lose the most are willing to trust him with the sacrifice of all they hold dear.
Having spent his early years around the Brandywine, Frodo has no trouble eating while they float down the Anduin, but Sam turns a sickly green at the very thought of food and diagnoses himself as seasick; this results in a strange look from Legolas and a hasty explanation from Aragorn that "seasick" carries a vastly different meaning among the elves.
When Boromir falls to the Ring, Frodo perceives he is but the first stone in an avalanche, and turning East is suddenly no longer a matter of taking the Ring to Mordor but rather of taking the Ring as far from the Fellowship as possible.
Gollum grovels before him, pitiful and wretched, pawing at Frodo's knees in desperation for even a glimpse of the Ring, and feeling a swell of sudden power over this creature, Frodo binds him to his oath and finds he must struggle to keep from doing more.
Sam and Gollum are somewhere ahead speaking in hushed whispers, but Frodo's only thoughts are for the faces in the Dead Marshes; almost he is one of them, and his hands sink into the slime that coats the water's surface, drawn to the flickering lights of elves, men, and orcs trapped by Sauron's terrible power and doomed to linger just beyond reach of the living.
Frodo stares at the towers filled with black windows, stares at the single gate in the wall that stretches across the only pass into Mordor, and stares at the pacing sentinels above the gate, knowing he will never avoid being seen; he steps forward, fey in his resolve, until Gollum paws at his knees and whispers of a different path into the darkness.
Faramir's demeanor and mannerisms are so like his brother's that Frodo is amazed he did not see the likeness at first; only later does he realize his last moments with Boromir cloud his memories until he recalls not the noble Captain who followed a dream into uncharted wilds but rather the Captain's desperate, Ring-twisted echo.
Despite what Sam thinks, Frodo is not ignorant of Sméagol's darker whispers and sidelong looks, but he dares not respond, fearful that some of his responses will come from the same world of half-heard mutters and mumbles.
A great hulking mass is upon Frodo so quickly he has only a brief impression of many limbs and many eyes before something sharp thrusts its way deep into his shoulder; he falls, paralyzed, wrapped in a nightmare of legs and webs, and wonders if it should concern him that the Ring is his last waking thought.
Trapped in a tower filled with foul smells and fouler orcs, addled by spider venom and a loss too great to contemplate, Frodo's most horrifying moment comes when Samwise Gamgee stands before him holding the Ring, for in that moment, one of them becomes an enemy and Frodo cannot discern which one of them it is.
Sam keeps pressing lembas upon Frodo as they stagger across Mordor's cracked and barren plains, saving little for himself, and Frodo cannot quite work up the words to tell Sam that his only appetite is for the Ring.
When Frodo places the Ring on his finger and claims it as his own, he is instantly aware of the swelling hosts at the Morannon, the winged Nazgûl racing for the heart of Mordor, and the terrible power thrumming through all the Dark Land as Sauron pins him beneath the fiery gaze of the Eye; Frodo is nothing before the might of all who now oppose him, will fall in terrible agony, and on some level understands this, but he does not care so long as he is able to claim the Ring as his own.
Frodo feels Saruman's shadow throughout Bag End, but though he and Sam scrub every inch of his home until he can scarcely feel his hands, he cannot wash away the sense of lingering darkness; only later does he realize the taint is not in the hobbit hole but rather in the hobbit he has become.
Merry, Pippin, and Sam managed to safeguard their memories of the Shire and thus find a home when they return, but Frodo sacrificed everything of himself to the Ring and cannot so easily reclaim what was lost; the Shire is safe, but Frodo has become as the elves—a fading steward that must pass his land to those who still have something to offer it.