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For fans of The Lords of the Rings film trilogy and the book and all of the other books and stories written by JRR Tolkien, one of the most iconic characters is the hobbit named Frodo Baggins because you cannot help but root for the underdog, who went through plenty of trials and tough situations as the most unlikely bearer of the One Ring just to see it destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom. But, in the end, when we all thought that he would have to live the rest of his life in peace while growing old with his own family and friends, we saw him leaving Middle-Earth on a ship to the Undying. But why does Frodo leave Middle-Earth in the first place?
Frodo Baggins had to leave Middle-Earth because he needed to live in peace from his injuries in the Undying Lands. He suffered plenty of wounds during the story but some of them took their toll on the hobbit. Frodo did indeed recover but he never healed physically and emotionally.
The wounds that were dealt to Frodo Baggins were important and pivotal moments in his story throughout the entire book and also the film series because they showed his resiliency and fortitude to push through and see his quest fulfilled. In the rest of the article, we will discuss Frodo’s story and how his injuries affected him throughout the rest of his life to prompt him to leave Middle-Earth. So, let’s get things started.
Why does Frodo leave Middle-Earth?
When we were introduced to Frodo Baggins, we came to see how he was one of the characters less likely to fall to the temptation of calling the One Ring his own. Knowing that the One Ring had to be destroyed at the fires of Mount Doom to save the world from disaster, he undertook the quest as its ring-bearer. This was in spite of the fact that he knew that he had to do it at his own expense and even when he was well-aware that, as a simple hobbit, he did not have the size, strength, and resources to undertake such a difficult quest.
As his journey continued, Frodo realized that the burden of being the ring-bearer was slowly and steadily growing heavier and heavier. One of the first physical injuries we saw him suffering was a stab wound at the shoulder from the Morgul-knife used by the Witch-King. The wound would never truly heal and it continued to sting Frodo even after the end of his quest. Another one of his first injuries was getting stabbed almost through his mithril armor.
But, over time, we also saw Frodo Baggins growing weary from such a heavy burden of carrying the ring. Through it all, he was always aware of the possibility of his death. It affected him to a point where he always seemed troubled, quiet, and distant to the point that he wanted to undertake the journey all by his lonesome when he saw how the One Ring also affected the rest of the Fellowship. Frodo did indeed power on with the help of his friend Samwise Gamgee but the dark temptation of the ring always clouded his mind.
Soon after, Frodo had to go through a lot more ordeals. He was impaled and poisoned by the giant spider Shelob, which nearly succeeded in killing him. In Mordor, he had to go through the ordeal of almost dying due to starvation and dehydration. Even the wound of Gollum’s betrayal was another painful sting that never truly left him.
And when Frodo finally got to the fires of Mount Doom, he soon realized that he was not willing to see the ring destroyed. He bore the burden of the One Ring’s temptations throughout his entire journey but he had grown too weak and vulnerable that the ring’s darkness finally got to him.
In the book, Samwise had to cut Frodo’s finger off so that the ring and Gollum would both get destroyed in the fires in the process. Meanwhile, in the film, Gollum bit the finger off, which prompted Frodo to try to take the ring back only to inadvertently push it and his rival off to the fires of Mount Doom, where the ring was ultimately destroyed.
The One Ring was destroyed and Frodo Baggins’ quest was fulfilled even though its completion was not entirely his doing. Still, we saw the most unlikely hero going through trials and tribulations that men bigger and more capable than a hobbit probably would not be able to survive. Frodo’s quest turned full circle when he went back home to the Shire together with the rest of his hobbit friends to try to live out the rest of his life in his home.
But even after Frodo had gone home, his injuries never faded and he would often feel the sting of the physical and emotional wounds he felt throughout his entire journey. At one point, he confided to Gandalf that a part of him regretted seeing the ring getting destroyed. This prompted the wise wizard to tell the young hobbit that not all wounds heal even with the passage of time. This all led to the decision of him leaving Middle-Earth to go to the Undying Lands.
Why does Frodo go to the Undying Lands?
For those who are not familiar with the Undying Lands in Tolkien’s lore, these are the lands west of Middle-Earth and where the Ainur and Eldar, basically god-like beings, lived as immortals together with the ring-bearers.
When the Age of Men began and immortal beings like Gandalf and the elves no longer had a place in Middle-Earth, they needed to depart to the Undying Lands. Arwen, who had become queen, made the choice to live out the rest of her life as a mortal instead of sailing west. So, in her stead, she allowed Frodo Baggins to sail to the Undying Lands along with his uncle and former fellow ring-bearer Bilbo Baggins.
The decision to go to the Undying Lands on Frodo’s part was for him to be at peace. He would never have lived his life peacefully in Middle-Earth because of the pain that his burden of being a ring-bearer had caused him. So, instead, he went on to sail west where he could heal his wounds and be at peace before the Gift of Men would ultimately take away all of his pain.
Can you return from the Undying Lands?
Based on Tolkien lore and in the stories of the ages that happened before the events of the Lord of the Rings, it was indeed possible for one to sail back and forth from the Undying Lands. After all, that was how the elves were able to go to Middle-Earth in the first place. And during the peak of Numenor, a kingdom of Men, it seemed possible for different beings to leave the Undying Lands and sail to the lands east of it.
However, after the fall of Numenor, it became much more difficult for one to be able to leave the Undying Lands unless given permission by the Valar. That was how the wizards were able to go to Middle-earth during the Third Age of Men in the first place.
But, as to the question of whether or not someone of mankind from Middle-Earth would be able to return from the Undying Lands, it is believed that it was impossible to do so. Generally, mortals such as men are not allowed in the Undying Lands unless given permission. That was how Frodo and Bilbo and, much later, Samwise and Gimli were able to sail there despite being mortals. But the permission to enter the Undying Lands probably came with the burden of being unable to leave it and return to Middle-Earth.
Does Frodo die in the Undying Lands?
It was never expressly stated that Frodo Baggins died in the Undying Lands but it can be implied that he did so. Remember that the reason why he left Middle-Earth was so that he can live out the remainder of his years in the Undying Lands in peace and less-burdened by the physical and emotional wounds he was dealt as the ring-bearer.
Also, it is notable to take into consideration the fact that, while the Undying Lands may indeed be where all of the immortal beings of the Tolkien-verse live, being there does not automatically grant a mortal immortality. Frodo still very much bore the Gift of Men when he went to the Undying Lands. He may have been able to live his life more peacefully there and had probably extended his lifespan but he was still very much a mortal when he got there.
Is the Undying Lands heaven?
So, if the Undying Lands are where the god-like immortal beings the Ainur and Eldar live, does that mean that it is basically heaven?
Well, for starters, it was never stated that it is heaven because the Undying Lands still very much belong in the same world as Middle-Earth even though the situation there was a lot less difficult than it was in the lands that men inhabited. It is simply where the Ainur and Eldar first established their settlements before they decided to venture out to the rest of the world.
However, what we can infer from what the Undying Lands symbolically represent is the biblical land of the Garden of Eden, a near-perfect and utopic realm where Adam and Eve were banished from. In that sense, you can think of the Undying Lands as a place of paradise where the immortal beings and the ring-bearers are allowed to live in peace free from all of the troubles they left behind in Middle-Earth.