Analysis of Lord of Rings Using Hero’s Journey and Propp’s Functions


Hero’s journey is a term coined by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which describes a basic pattern  found in many narratives  around the world. I will be using this methodology to analyze Lord of the Rings trilogy. Enjoy!

  1. ORDINARY WORLD-Frodo, his best friend (Sam) and his two cousins (Merry and Pippin) live merrily small village of Shire.
  2. CALL TO ADVENTURE-Gandalf urges Frodo to set out a quest to destroy the ring.
  3. REFUSAL OF THE CALL-Frodo is initially reluctant to leave his comfortable life in Shire, but when he is almost killed by the Ringwraiths (Sauron’s minions) he realizes his life will always be at risk as long as the ring exists.
  4. MEETING WITH THE MENTOR- Frodo meets the Fellowship, a group of trusted allies of Gandalf that have pledged to help Frodo in his quest to destroy the ring.  The Fellowship consists of Frodo’s hobbit companions, Aragorn, Gandalf, Gimli the Dwarf, Legolas the Elf, and the man Boromir.
  5. CROSSING THE FIRST THRESHOLD-Frodo begins his quest with the aid of the Fellowship on his long journey to the volcano Mount Doom, the only place where this ring can be destroyed.
  6. TESTS, ALLIES, ENEMIES-Frodo encounters many obstacles, allies, and enemies along the way. He journeys over the mountain pass, merely escapes the wrath of Balrog, he becomes allies with the elves, he is almost captured by the forces of Saruman, he is attacked by Gollum, and he is nearly eaten by a carnivorous Spider (Shelob).
  7. APPROACH TO THE INMOST CAVE: Frodo departs from the Fellowship alone with Sam to continue his long journey to the fires of Mount Doom. The Fellowship cannot continue with Frodo, because they must help defeat the forces of Sauron that are growing more powerful with each passing. Frodo and Sam use Gollum as a guide to travel the secret back paths to reach the entrance of Mount Doom.
  8. SUPREME ORDEAL: Whether or not Frodo will achieve his goal of reaching Mount Doom to destroy the ring and whether or not the cumulative prowess of the Fellowship and its’ allies will defeat the forces of Sauron.
  9. REWARD (SEIZING THE SWORD): The destruction of the ring in Mount Doom and the victory of the cumulative prowess of the Fellowship and its’ allies over the forces of Sauron.
  10. THE ROAD BACK: Frodo is falls unconscious to the floor after extreme mental exhaustion of finally getting rid of the ring. Sam and Frodo are rescued by Gandalf and his eagles.
  11. RESSURECTION: Several weeks later the Frodo awakens from his unconscious exhausted state just in time to witness Aragon’s marriage to his longtime love Arwen and his ascent to the throne of the realm.  Simultaneously all the members of the Fellowship are knighted by Aragon, with exception of Gandalf.
  12. RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR: Frodo returns to Shire with more powerful relationships.  Eventually Frodo journeys to the Undying Lands to live peacefully for the rest of eternity.

 7 Functions Commonly Performed By a Character Analysis for Lord of the Rings

Vladimir Propp described 8 functions commonly performed by characters of a story.  For this post I will assign 7 functions to characters of Lord of the Rings trilogy.

  1.  HERO: The main hero is Frodo, while the secondary hero is Aragon.
  2. MENTOR: The Fellowship is Frodo’s mentor.
  3. THRESHOLD (GUARDIAN): Gollum and Saruman are the main guardians, the minor villains of the story that test the hero.
  4. HERALD: Gandalf is the herald, the character that urges the hero to begin his quest to destroy the ring.
  5. SHAPE-SHIFTER: Aragon by the end of the movie transitions from a ranger to the king of the realm.
  6. SHADOW: The forces of Sauron and Saruman.  The shadow can also be the temptation of the ring on Frodo’s conscience and sanity. Furthermore as Frodo approaches Mount Doom the ring’s corruptive influence mentally weakens Frodo considerably.
  7. TRICKSTER: Frodo’s cousins Merry and Pippin can be considered tricksters. Their characters presence in the storyline has minimum impact on the outcome of the events of the story; they are present mainly for comic relief.  The same can be said of the dwarf Gimli.

Here is a little video from youtube just for showing fun behind the scenes shooting of the set of Lord of the Rings

Thanks for reading,  you can follow me on  Twitter at DemelioU or  you can subscribe  to my RSS feed the little orange button in the left hand menu.

Demelio U.

Signing OFF


2 responses to “Analysis of Lord of Rings Using Hero’s Journey and Propp’s Functions

  1. Great post. I’m absolutely checking out Campbell’s book, and I really like your Propp assignments. I love how the “hero” of modern lit starts in an ordinary world, whereas traditionally a hero had to be a prince (or, even better, born from the gods!). I agree with your #7 – #12, but could it be argued that “crossing the first threshold” was his initial dangerous business of stepping out the front door, his acceptance to take the ring out of the shire?

  2. Pingback: Analysis of All Fur Using Hero’s Journey and Propp’s Functions | demeliou·

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