Leaving the Shire
The Bag End was Frodo’s Home. An idyllic place where no worries reach its inhabitants, and the world remains the same. Notwithstanding feeling the urge for adventures and seeking something more, Frodo Baggins remained a happy man. He had his friends and his loving uncle by his side. And despite some rumours reaching the Shire of distant lands and trouble coming, hobbits lived in harmony.
Much like any significant event in history, Frodo’s journey began unexpectedly. Regardless of popular opinion, I believe it did not start with the Ring – foreboding of trouble that would come to the young hobbit. It started the moment our protagonist chose to leave home for his great mission.
24th September 3018 – Frodo, who left his home to deliver the Ring to Rivendell, encounters the deadly servants of Mordor and is nearly caught twice by one of the Nazgul.
24th February 2022 – I wake up from the sound of bombs destroying my homeland. It is 5 in the morning, and my life is changed forever.
Much like any significant historical event, the Ukrainian war was not born in one moment. It did not begin on the 24th with the full-scale invasion, just as the war in Middle Earth didn’t start when Frodo received the Ring.
In fact, this battle has been going on for many years. It is just that, much like Frodo Baggins, I was protected by my own Shire all this time. My Home.
Ukraine is my home. When Russia invaded in 2014, we gave the battle to protect our land. I was a child then, but I remember all the news about suffering and death. We were fighting with all our might, but it wasn’t enough. Russia stole our land and unconscionably proclaimed it theirs, much like the Dragon who invaded the Dwarf kingdom of Erebor and stole the dwarfs’ treasure. The conflict was frozen, with many Ukrainians from occupied territories forced to leave their home. People lost everything in one moment.
But it was just a tiny chunk of what was to come; for eight years later, on 24th February, Russia decided to invade and destroy everything it could reach. Thus, my story began. And just like Frodo, I have found myself unable to control my own fate.
We both start our journey uncertain and lost, unsure of what awaits us in the future. Frodo leaves his home to protect it, delivering the Ring (the source of all problems) to a safe place. I, too, left my home to go to a safe place (as I thought at that time).
Much like Frodo, later I learn there are no completely safe places at war. And we both, for a moment, selfishly wish for those challenges not to occur during our lifetimes.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
That is the lesson Frodo and I learned: we don’t choose when to live. But we decide how to live through it.
Journey to Rivendell
Our journey continued with leaving our home to reach safety. Just as Frodo, I am lost. The world around me appears cruel and cold, but the thought of home waiting gives me hope.
“I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wander more bearable,” says Frodo later in the book. You can tell the thought of home kept him going along other aspects of his journey. The dualistic relationship between the idealized version of home as an embodiment of sanctuary and the impossibility of returning there played a huge role in our paths.
“The Hobbits […] would soon be going forward into lands wholly strange to them, and beyond all but the most vague and distant legends of the Shire, and in the gathering twilight they longed for home. A deep loneliness and sense of loss was on them. They stood silent, reluctant to make the final parting…”. I, too, felt as if I was leaving lands known to me for the dark and unfamiliar world. And although geographically, I knew these lands, the change in them made them unknown to me – I was entering a country torn by war.
“The ground was rising steadily, and as they went forward, the trees seemed taller, darker, and thicker. There was no sound, except an occasional drip of moisture falling through the still leaves.” That is the description of the Old Forest, the first significant hostile environment the hobbits would go through.
When I left my home, freezing in the car and feeling as if the world suddenly got deprived of all colours, I, too, wandered through the forest. The world seemed dark and dull. My country, usually so bright and full of nature’s gifts, was silent with the arrival of spring. The soil was black; the sky was grey, and the air was full of piercing snow.
Both Frodo and I met many people on our way. All of them were tense and uneasy. Both the elves in the Woody End and law enforcement officers at checkpoints felt the dread that was slowly surrounding us.
“I know what I must do. It’s just… I’m afraid to do it,” says Frodo about his task. Fear is the thing that both pushes forward and holds back.
But as of the moment, neither he nor I can return home. So the only way to go is forward. Led by an illusion of safety and our naivety, we believe that by reaching a haven, we will be saved. In Frodo’s case, it’s the mystical Rivendell, where, he thought, mighty elves would protect him and lift his heavy burden. For me, it was a small village far away from the frontlines. Too insignificant to be cared for, to be bombed and tortured.
Destroying the Ring
Upon reaching our havens, Frodo and I learn that safety isn’t complete. For as long as Evil exists and clutches its hands to destroy the light, we all will be in danger.
Later we come to terms with reality. Frodo learns that the protection of Rivendell won’t save him from the eye of Evil; I realize that the war will not end fast and that Ukraine will have to give it all for our victory.
The hobbit and the human reach the peak of their growth when both accept there is no way back. All left is to go forward. But this time, not because of fear. Frodo and I obtain the purpose. Determination is born from coming to terms with reality and thinking about what we can do.
In Rivendell, Frodo accepts his destiny as a Ring-bearer – he has seen the Evil with his own eyes and knows that horrors will come to the innocent if he does nothing.
In my small village, I accept the atrocities of war. I see the news and hear of death and destruction every day. I understand that I cannot bear myself in fear. So instead of it, rage comes. I decide to fight for my future. If all Ukrainians give up, Evil will win. Both on the frontlines and in the civil zones, Ukrainians fight for our homeland. We do our part by spreading the news, donating to our army, and continuing to live with hope in our hearts.
I also chose to do my part and not let life stop. I finished my bachelor’s degree and worked hard to enroll in a university abroad, which I did.
Frodo and I learn to find hope even in the greatest darkness. Whether enjoying the evening in an inn with songs and dances or spending time with family over meals cooked together, we see things worth living for. In the end, no darkness, as horrible as it is, lasts forever.
And yet, this is not “the end”. Just as The Lord of the Rings has three parts, Frodo and Me merely reached the end of the first one.
A lot awaits us ahead for us to fight for and protect. And ultimately, to return. Return home.
I fell in love with books the moment I learned how to read and simply never stopped. For me, to live is to have stories to share and hearts to reach. I am a proud Ukrainian student of Anglophone literatures and cultures at the university of Vienna. Every day I learn about the world, its wonders and sorrows. And I wish to share it with my readers.