Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Critique I want to address

So this is also late, but it's something I wanted to talk about since I heard the group on criticism. There was the brief mention of the fact that Frodo had no discernable flaws before picking up the Ring. Which... the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to me. Then a terrible thought occurred to me.

Could Frodo be a Mary Sue?
[well... Gary Stu, technically, but I always thought that name sounded stupid]

For those of you who don't live on the internet like someone I could think of... *cough* a Mary Sue is a title given to a character created by the author as a self-insert. Some famous Mary Sues (of both genders) include: Bella Swan, Captain Kirk, Tom Sawyer, Scott Summers, and GI Joe. And now... maybe Frodo? D:

Now, according to TV Tropes, here are the traits of a Mary Sue: "It is a character that is intentionally made by the author to be overly positive. They almost never have any flaws that actually affect them in a way that truly matters, usually going for endearing traits such as "clumsiness" or naïveté, instead getting overloaded with overwhelmingly positive but largely passive traits (i.e. beauty, innocence, etc.). The character will usually be soft-spoken, have a pleasant voice, and be mild-mannered. Often, the traits verge towards the ethereal, with auras, non-human lineage, and other such things."


I would be very interested on your thoughts/feelings on the matter. This was one TYPE of Mary Sue, there are others, so don't get confused. But this is where my brain decides to go on a Wednesday night when I should be editing my paper. ^^


Miriel said...

It is interesting that although Frodo does not have a bad trait about him, he doesn't seem to be a very loved character by the reader. Although I might be wrong... but it seems like readers (including myself) like the other 3 hobbits a lot more. Do you guys? If so, why?

Thengel said...

Hehe...first off, when I think of Mary Sues, I think of all those wretched LOTR fanfics where some random girl is dropped into Middle-earth, but happens to be beautiful and witty and good with weapons, and captures the heart of someone in the Fellowship (usually Legolas...teenage girls just want Orlando Bloom, essentially...).

However, you do bring up an interesting point. If you translate a "Mary-Sue" into strictly literary terms, you'd be talking about a relatively flat character who is touted as perfect, but in that perfection is too passive to actually bring about any reaction from the reader.

I think that Frodo displays many good traits from the beginning of the tale, and that one might mistake him for a Mary-Sue because of his passivity in offering himself up for the quest of the Ring. However, whenever I read Mary-Sues, they bother the heck out of me because they can seemingly do no wrong. I'd argue that Frodo can and does make questionable decisions. When Frodo continually keeps Gollum around despite Sam's warnings, one might question his judgment. When he starts to succumb to the Ring in Cirith Ungol, one might question his resolve. Frodo is smart and knowledgeable, as we see when he diplomatically speaks to Faramir upon their first meeting, but he is also not the best at anything. Gandalf is wiser; Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and Boromir are more worldly and have experience in warfare. The other hobbits are more consistently cheery and lighthearted. So Frodo may not have many bad traits, but he's also not proclaimed as having amazingly good traits; he's more balanced, like most people are.

In Mount Doom and the Scouring of the Shire, we see many changes in Frodo, and I think that he does become less passive. I've always loved Frodo and I like him as a contrast to the other hobbits, because I can't picture Sam, Merry, or Pippin carrying the Ring. I believe that Frodo is a subtle character drawn into a weighty task, and that he is far less of a cookie-cutter character than a Mary-Sue would be.