I have loved the Lord of the Rings novels for over 20 years. It’s a story that describes great battles, tremendous heroism, deep sentiment, and the immortal struggle of good vs. evil. Many of the characters for good or ill are larger than life-as is only right in an epic tale.
Throughout the book, however, there are a few characters which leave us unfulfilled. Fredegar Bolger is one such character who’s story is eclipsed by others. Fredegar, called Fatty by others, was also one of Frodo’s closest friends. He was so close to Frodo that he actually helped the guy move. If there is a greater indicator of kinship than that, I don’t know what it would be. It takes a special kind of friendship to choose to move someone’s dinette set—especially the heir to Bilbo, the rather eccentric and richest hobbit in Hobbiton. Could you imagine how much crap the Howard Hughes of hobbits might have?
Fatty was one of Frodo’s closest friends. He had the chance to join the hobbits on their journey to Rivendell. But he didn’t. Fatty was paralyzed by fear. Bear in mind that Fatty knew that the Black Riders were on their tail and soon would find him if he stayed. But Fatty was still afraid of the dark things rumored to live in the Old Forest. With hearsay as his only evidence, his fear of the unknown even came to outweigh his fear of the more than the terrifying ringwraiths despite their being altogether evil.
It wasn’t just fear that held Fatty. His love of the Shire bound him like strong chains to his home. The Lord of the Rings is a tale that celebrates adventure. It is an epic tale where ordinary people are compelled by events to perform extraordinary things. But to transcend conventional limitations, characters must risk, endure, strive, and sometimes lose. For most of us, home is familiar. Home is comfortable. Home is safe. It is unlikely that you will ever have to risk or endure from the comfort of your own couch. But opportunity rarely makes house calls. You have to get out there if you want to make a difference.
Fatty Bolger’s story gives us a clue as to what life could have been like for Frodo had his fear and his love for the shire overwhelmed his appetite for adventure. Frodo could have remained at home and enjoyed the last few days while he waited for the dark powers to capture him. It’s easy to forget that no day was quite as pleasant for Frodo once he stepped out his door on his epic journey.
But here too, Fatty’s experience still informs us. The Nazgul did come and Fatty narrowly escaped, but he was later imprisoned by Saruman and was so starved that no one could rightly call him Fatty anymore. Fatty’s fate shows that you can’t hide from history. For all of his hardship, what was his reward? He was so unremarkable that his story was eliminated from the screenplay.
Fatty, in the end, became a footnote in what may have been the greatest epic tale ever written. You can try to make your mark or you can remain at the mercy of everyone else trying to make theirs. There is nothing wrong with a humble life, but if you have a burning desire within you to make a difference, you need to aim higher.