My favorite characters from the Lord of the Rings – and why they matter to me

Asking someone to pick their favorite character from the Lord of the Rings is a little like asking someone to pick their favorite flavor of ice cream. There are so many good options to choose from — can’t I just pick them all?

However, if I have to choose a favorite, I can narrow it down to two characters who have meant something special to me personally: Sam and Éowyn. While these characters may not seem to have a lot in common with each other, they’ve inspired me in different ways over the years, ever since I became a huge Lord of the Rings fan as a teenager.

Samwise Gamgee – Hero and Friend

I wrote a lot about Sam last week in my post for the Story Geeks on some of the themes from the Lord of the Rings. His character is special to me because he seems, at first, to be an unlikely hero. He’s not a man of action; he enjoys his quiet life as a Hobbit in the Shire. He didn’t go out looking for a dangerous adventure involving ancient powers and magical rings. He was not born to be a warrior or a ruler.

No, Sam’s superpower is something much different: his greatest strengths are his loyalty and his compassion. When he promises to follow Frodo all the way to Mount Doom, he darn well means it. So many others probably would have given up or turned back when the going got tough, but not Sam. Even when the ring starts to corrupt Frodo, Sam refuses to leave.

A lot of times, fantasy stories celebrate the characters who are hardened survivors, and are masters of weapons like the sword or the bow and arrow. And too often, people look at a gentle heart and a tender spirit as a weakness. Real heroes have to be tough and stoic, right?

However, that’s absolutely not true, and I love that Sam is celebrated for his kindness. Physical strength and prowess in battle are not the only measures of a hero. Without Sam’s steadfast friendship, I believe Frodo wouldn’t have made it to Mount Doom, and the ring would have fallen back into Sauron’s hands, condemning Middle-earth forever.

If I had to pick one character from any fictional franchise that I most wanted to be like, it would definitely be Sam. I aspire to be the kind of friend that he is.

Éowyn – Healing and Purpose

In the past, Hollywood hasn’t always done a great job when it comes to portraying female characters. They’re either relegated to being the love interest, or are used solely as a plot device: i.e. the “damsel in distress” who needs saving.

That’s why Éowyn meant so much to me as a teenage girl who was just getting into geek culture. Éowyn wasn’t simply a background character whose presence was designed to move the plot along. She was an important part of the narrative, and she was given a complex character arc with realistic struggles and emotions.

Éowyn feels trapped by the world she lives in. She wants to be a warrior and she wants to help fight to save Middle-earth, but some of her peers treat her condescendingly because she’s a woman. She loves Aragorn, but he cannot return that affection because his heart belongs to another.

However, Éowyn refuses to be defeated. She suits up and rides into battle, and she ends up slaying the Witch-King, playing a key role in one of the final battles against Sauron. Later, she is taken to the Houses of Healing in Gondor, where her mind, body, and spirit are restored, and she finally finds peace.

As a teenager, Éowyn taught me that you shouldn’t let others define your limits. All of us have the power to be a hero, in our own way. It hurts when someone we love doesn’t return those feelings, but rejection from others shouldn’t define our self-worth.

Sometimes our life takes a different path than we planned, but the new path might turn out to be better than we ever imagined.

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The Story Geeks blogger Ashley Pauls responds with an additional perspective to the Story Geeks Star Wars podcast series. [Listen Here: AppleStitcherPodbean]