Lord of the Rings - Frodo's drama

So I decided to just go for it, and see what people think.

This is about the Frodo/Gollum story, mostly referencing the movies rather than the books. No idea how different the storyform would be (if at all).

OS: Destroying the Ring
MC: Frodo - the ring bearer
IC: Gollum
RS: Guidance to (Mt.) Doom

Things I’m fairly certain about:

  • MC Approach: Do-er - Boromir gets too touchy? Run away and take a boat.
  • MC PSS: Linear - Best example is probably the moment when Gollum ‘reveals’ that Sam has eaten all the food. Frodo immediately believes and sends Sam away after he beats up Gollum. A holistic thinker probably would have noticed Gollum’s intentions there. Frodo doesn’t see things in relations. He takes Gollum with them, because he will lead them to Mt. Doom, ignoring his effect on himself and Sam.
  • OS Driver: Action - Find the ring. Gandalf dies. Get caught. Destroy the ring.
  • OS Limit: Optionlock - There’s no real time limit given and we don’t really know how long this took. (iirc, In the books this story took years). Who can carry the ring? How to destroy the ring? How to get to mount doom? Who destroys the ring?
  • OS Outcome: Success - The ring is destroyed. Sauron is defeated.


  • OS Domain: Physics - War, destroying the one ring…
  • MC Domain: Situation - Frodo is the ring bearer. He is the everyman (everyhobbit?), someone without real power, making him especially suited to carry the ring.
  • IC Domain: Fixed Attitude - Gollum’s fixation on the ring (and what it has done to him and his mind) has the most influence on Frodo. Frodo has pity for him, and fears that this is what he might become.
  • RS Domain: Manipulations - Manipulating Gollum to lead them to Mount Doom, manipulating Frodo to think that Sam betrayed them, manipulating Frodo to go into Shelob’s lair.


  • OS Concern: Obtaining - Destroying the ring/Sauron.
  • MC Concern: Future - Frodo is concerned about his future and the future of the shire.
  • IC Concern: Innermost Desires - the ring again. Gollum’s “precioussssss”
  • RS Concern: Becoming - Gollum clearly shows Frodo what he may become

And beyond that I’m not so sure.
I think it’s a Change/Bad story. Change, because he clearly adopts Gollum’s point of view, becoming utterly corrupted by the ring. Bad, because Frodo fails, and the 300 endings show him still struggling with his issues. The Bad makes this story different from its derivatives.

Looking at the theme browser under IC Concern, there’s the Conscience/Temptation/Help/Hinder quad, which seems to suit Gollum as well as Logic/Feeling/Control/Uncontrolled fits Spock. But if I choose this quad for Gollum, I get not-so-great combinations for MC and OS: OS is either “Issue: Attitude; Problem: Support/Oppose; Symptom: Help/Hinder” (MC Issue: Delay; Problem: Support/Oppose; Symptom: Pursuit/Avoidance; Unique Ability: Choice; Critical Flaw: Hope) or “Issue: Morality; Problem: Faith/Disbelief; Symptom: Conscience/Temptation” (MC Issue: Openness; Problem: Faith/Disbelief; Symptom: Consider/Reconsider; Unique Ability: Preconception; Critical Flaw: Closure). Neither of these configurations feel right to me… Neither Faith/Disbelief nor Support/Oppose seem to describe the problems of the story…

Any thoughts?

Failure/Good because Frodo fails to destroy the ring, but it turns out good when Gollum danced in ecstasy with it, going over the cliff and into the bubbling, molten doom lava. I guess that would make Gollum a be-er, and by default Frodo is the do-er.

Frodo has no power, but he is an innocent hobbit and so less affected by the ring. For that reason they picked him to carry it, and that was the reason Gandalf left it with his uncle in the book, The Hobbit. I guess that would be a “qualification”. Where would that come into play?

I see their story being the end of the film. just mho, of course. I’ll let someone else answer before I comment more.

I don’t know the story that well, so I’ll withhold from any direct comments. However, if the OS Goal is the destruction of the ring, it doesn’t matter if Frodo does it, or Gollum. The Protagonist is certainly the one most strongly pursuing the Goal, but what is important is whether or not the goal is accomplished.

Lord of the Flies has a similar ending. Ralph wants to have a fire to attract ships, but is unable to muster the troops to get it done. Nevertheless, Jack provides the fire – and the Success ending. Both endings drip with irony.

My guess is that Frodo’s innocence would show up as a Prerequisite or Requirement. But it could be his Unique Ability. It’s hard to say right now.

I agree with MWollager. And apart from the Goal being achieved, the Frodo story certainly doesn’t feel like a Personal Triumph. For me, Frodo’s story ends when he and Sam are sitting on those rocks, surrounded by lava. Everything after that is epilogue.

Could it be a triumph of Frodo’s compassion? Wasn’t the ring, ultimately, destroyed because Frodo had not killed Gollum, but felt compassion for him?

Whether it was pity or compassion… it ultimately helped solve the overall story much more than his own. I can’t watch the multiple endings without thinking that Frodo is still having problems with his situation. From Wikipedia:

Frodo, however, remains wounded in body and spirit after having borne the oppressive weight of the One Ring so long.

Several years later, accompanied by Bilbo and Gandalf, he sails from the Grey Havens west over the Sea to the Undying Lands to find peace.

This sounds like a bad judgment to me.

Prish, you have a tendency to think in vague terms when it comes to story. That can be a helpful trait when considering how an audience relates to a movie or story, but it interferes with how you think about objective measures like “do they achieve the OS goal?”

The OS Goal is a specific thing, and achievement is binary.

You are right! It was the overall story being solved. In the overall story, I guess he was everyone’s tool (wizard, elf, king) a vehicle to get the ring up into the mountain. In his personal MC story, he would be left with a feeling of failure, for all the aforementioned. However, all the powers that be were, obviously, feeling indebted to him and he was left a wreck. So, they took him to the elves’ magic land of healing and happiness. Could that make it a good, in spite of the failure? If he had tossed it in, as a hero, then he might have lived his life out as a happy hobbit like Sam, staying in Middle Earth. The film ends that way. And this story form is about the film, right?

Now, the book was special in that the elvish ships came back only one more time before disappearing forever, and that was to pick up Sam and take him to that elvish paradise, too, when he was very, very old, because he had been a ring bearer, also. That was one of the most special things about the book, and I always remembered that final paragraph as the big payoff. I was shocked it was not included in the film, but it might not have been possible to capture it, so I don’t consider that in the analysis.

I appreciate you pointing this out, over and over, in many different ways. I hang out to learn. We need a “specific thing and binary” workshop.

Alternatively, when you watch a movie or read a book, stop and ask yourself: “What was [some character] specifically trying to accomplish in that scene?”

It doesn’t take as long as watching an entire movie, and not all scenes have goals, but frequently a character has a specific goal in a scene. Train yourself to look for it. It will make thinking about entire movies easier.

Frodo and Company leave middle earth to the Sea of the Undying Lands to find peace. This indicates to me that he hasn’t found it yet, but may find it in the future. But as the story form is about Frodo’s journey in the films and not what comes after, I would consider the Story Judgment to be Bad. Frodo has not resolved his personal problems, right?

I feel like I’m making the same argument over and over again. Since I’m more interested in what everyone has to say about the thematic points of this story form (Domains, Concerns, Issues, Problems) anyway, I’d suggest we skip this point for now. But before we move on, would anyone agree that Frodo is a Change character?

Your answers help me to understand points better. Coming at it from different angles makes things more clear, and you have a good talent in supporting argument with explanations. I like reading your posts.

I would say Frodo is a Change character.

Gollum and Sam seem to trade off IC, and they are steadfast. But more expert users might not see it that way, I understand that, and I am ready to learn.

Let me add my voice to the growing consensus: Frodo is definitely the Change character in the film trilogy, with Sam as the primary Influence Character (Frodo becomes more like Sam, at the end).

I also concur that the Outcome is Success (the ring, Sauron and most of the Orcs are destroyed).

Finally, on the MC Judgment, I think it’s a “soft” Good. That is, while Frodo still feels traumatized and saddened by his own weakness, he is happy for Aragorn and Arwen and Sam and Rosie. And he is glad for contributing to Sauron’s demise.

To me, Frodo’s departure to the Grey Havens, along with redemptive companions like Bilbo, Gandalf and the transcendent Elves, seems fairly idyllic – especially given how pleasant the Elves had made Rivendell, and how much they looked forward to eventually moving to the Undying Lands.

So I took it that Frodo was much wiser at the end, and painfully self-aware… yet not, I think, filled with burning angst. And legend has it that Sam Gamgee also eventually got to visit the Grey Havens, where we can presume Frodo and the rest of the story’s heroes continued to thrive.

Pardon me if this comparison isn’t particularly well done, but I would draw connections to the Dramatica Analysis of Silence of the Lambs. I’m sure Clarice is happy that she caught Buffalo Bill and that she’s finally a full fledged member of the FBI… but apparently, the lambs are still screaming. Wouldn’t you say that this is similar to Frodo’s situation? It’s just that, if Frodo wasn’t filled with “burning angst” or whatever you might call what he’s feeling… why would he feel the need to go the Undying Lands? Why does he say “The Shire is saved…but not for me.”? Has he not become a stranger in his own lands because of his experiences?

While I still think that it is a Bad Judgment, I can buy the argument that it is a Good judgment but with huge costs. In my current configuration, that cost would be “Innermost Desires” (or Subconscious), which would fit…

But as I said, I want to move on from this discussion and head on towards more thematic story points. Story Judgment and the Catalysts/Unique Abilities and Inhibitors/Critical Flaws are linked, so maybe we’ll find our answers there.

It seems we agree on Frodo’s Resolve: he’s a Change character. I would say that the Influence Character spot is shared by Sam and Gollum, with Gollum having a stronger impression (although that may just be because of Serkin’s performance).

Does anyone have issues with my suggested Domains and Concerns? OS Activities/Obtaining, MC Situation/Future, IC Fixed Attitude/Innermost Desires, RS Manipulation/Changing One’s Nature.

Bob, I have re-watched the final scenes of The Return of the King, and I’m gonna assert one more time that the audience’s Judgment for Frodo will be GOOD.

Yes, I acknowledge that Frodo experiences a lot of sadness in his final seaside moments with Sam, Pippin and Merry. But I see that once Frodo boards the ship with Gandalf, then gives his final beatific smile back at Sam and the other two (and they smile understandingly back at him), the audience is called upon to feel GOOD for Frodo.

He has accomplished his task (with the help of Sam and higher powers), he has finished his course, he has kept the faith. He is going to that place where is laid up for him higher grace and glory, never yet to be found in the Shire.

While we may love the Shire, Frodo has moved beyond it to a higher love, and Sam well knows this.

As it seems that we’re not going any further without adressing the judgment, I want to make clear that I wasn’t completely sure whether it was Good or Bad, and I think the multiple endings are partially at fault. If the movie had ended at any point before this, I probably would’ve been more sure of my stance. Rewatching this scene makes me think “Yeah, he’ll be alright” and less “he is alright”. Does that make a difference? If Story Judgment is about “whether the Main Character resolves her personal angst or not” then… I don’t know.
I’m conflicted about this, and if you allow, I’d like to keep the Judgment unchecked for now.

No prob, Bob.

Because I understand that coming down to a single Dramatica storyform is always a matter of balancing and counter-balancing possible options to find the right combinatoin, and ofttimes one thing doesn’t come clear until you have other things clear, you may certainly “keep the Judgment unchecked for now.”

And indeed, because The Lord of the Rings trilogy contains multiple stories, and more than a couple of MCs in different places, I understand that by focusing on “Frodo’s drama” you are trying to keep some of the other MCs and their storyforms off the table for now.

A noble and courageous quest, and you are leading. But I’ll still maintain my “prediction,” okay? :slight_smile:

Well, then, does anyone have any opinions about the other story points?
We determined that Frodo is a Change character and that it is a Success story. Any thoughts on Approach, Problem-solving style, driver, limit, domains or concerns?

Hey, all. I’m kind of new to this, so I hope you don’t mind me butting in …

I’m a little confused on Frodo’s personal problem being the ring bearer. Isn’t the main character’s personal problem supposed to be something they would carry with them into a different story? Being the ring bearer seems more like an objective story role to me.

On the Limit, I’d say definitely an Optionlock. (Do they even have clocks or calendars in Middle Earth? If so, I don’t recall much, if any, reference to them.)

And while I say the Driver is Action, I don’t have the time to research out and cite all the pivotal actions that drive the story forward – but the trilogy are very definitely “action” films! Yes, there are a few moments of deliberation throughout. But overall, Actions both intricate and epic are what keep forcing the characters to decide what Actions they shall take in return.