Elijah Wood as Frodo

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The following was the first essay on the original version of this site (from sometime in early 2001), and the one that still explains it the best (including why it's on a brick wall):

Title: Frodo Lives
(Sweet!)

One of the fringe benefits of the upcoming Lord of the Rings movies has been the chance to communicate with some of the teens who frequent the related message boards.  (Let's just say my age equals about three teenagers' added together.)  And I recently received what all us old codgers long for--a chance to talk about the old days.

Poster of Elijah Wood as Frodo
(Picture: New Line Cinema;the official LotR movies site)
It started when a 14 year old announced he was going to get one of the really big movie posters (see left) that were being made as ads to be put in bus shelters.  (He said this was "sweet," while his word of choice in previous posts had usually been "awesome.")  One of the other kids knew her history well enough to joke that maybe the ad would be "Frodo Lives" written on a brick wall.

I responded to those two postings by saying that, as someone who remembers "Frodo Lives" written on walls, I wondered if there was a technical difference between "awesome" and "sweet."  The 14 year old replied that, no, they meant the same thing, "...but what's this 'Frodo lives' stuff?"

The "brick wall" girl replied that its main point had been that most people didn't know what it meant, so those who did could feel in-the-know.  Then she asked - ASKED - if anyone knew any old stories about it.

I believe this is what we elders call a teachable moment.  I used it to not only tell a personal story related to the "Frodo lives stuff," but to try to put into words what LotR meant to some of its readers in the 60's and why it was a cult book, which went far beyond, "I know something you don't know."

Regarding the actual phrase "Frodo Lives," I've kind of gone full circle.  In the old days, when I (and most other readers) had only  The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings itself to go on, I held the common belief that going into the West was the equivalent of dying, and that Frodo really was going to a form of eternal life at the end of the book.  This could be one reason the phrase was especially popular in those days.  I also had the chance recently to explain this to a younger person who wondered why the clothing items being sold by New Line Cinema say specifically "Frodo Lives," instead of naming any of the other characters.

As the years went on, more background material became available. The Silmarillion gave us a better idea of what "the West" was all about, and Tolkien's published letters told us that, being mortal, Frodo would still die one day.  After I read that, the phrase kind of bothered me, as it seemed counter to Tolkien's intent.

Now I appreciate the words again, but I interpret them differently.  I believe each time someone makes the journey from Bag End to Mount Doom to the Grey Havens, Frodo lives.  My biggest hope for the upcoming movies is that (even though they won't be perfect), they'll entice a lot of people into taking that first step onto the Road, and that those people will get swept away by it--right into the pages of the book.

There's evidence this is happening even before the first movie opens.  Sales of the book for 2001 in the U.S. are running at 300% of what they were in 2000; it's 400% in the U.K.  Those figures make me think about the guy who ridiculed my desire for a "Frodo Lives" bumper sticker in 1969 because he said anyone still interested in Tolkien was "out of it."  I've been happily "out of it" for the last 30+ years, but whenever I see the phrase today on a shirt or bumper sticker, I have to admit it's pretty "sweet."    

I want to thank members of my generation who've passed their love of Tolkien on to their children (the majority of the teens who've mentioned how they were introduced to his writing have attributed it to their parents).  

I hope some members of that new generation are reading this, too, as I also want to thank them for keeping Frodo alive by becoming his companions on the journey.  The world still needs him.  Through today's resurgence of popularity, some who are searching for a way of life beyond the lure of power and self-interest may have a glimpse of it through him, as so many did in the 60's.  As long as we continue passing on what we've found to the people who come after us, Frodo--and Tolkien--truly may live forever.  Awesome.

Books mentioned:

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Copyright 2001 by Trudy G. Shaw
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Later note: That was written before the release of the first LotR movie, at a time when I was already happy, thankful and relieved that Elijah Wood had been cast as Frodo.  But the reality was more than I expected.  To quote SciFi Magazine's reason that Elijah Wood deserved one or more Oscars for best actor:  The phrase "Frodo lives" is finally true.