by Ian Spelling
New York Times Special Features
“Frodo is a hobbit,” Elijah Wood says. “And to describe Frodo I think it’s best to first describe hobbits.”
Wood, whose credits range from “The Ice Storm” (1997) to “Deep Impact” (1998) and “The Faculty” (1998), knows from hobbits.
The actor spent 16 months in New Zealand portraying Frodo Baggins, the heroic hobbit in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy that will kick off on Dec. 19 with “The Fellowship of the Ring.” Frodo leads the Fellowship — an assemblage of humans, elves, wizards and hobbits — on a treacherous trek to destroy the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom.
“Hobbits are about 3 feet 6 inches to 4 feet tall,” Wood, 20, says in a telephone interview from his Los Angeles home. `They’ve got big, hairy feet and big ears. But they’re quite human. They’re not really fantasy characters. They’re steeped in humanity, and they actually occupy the space of humanity that’s at its most pure and unaffected.
“Hobbits generally love life, love friendship, love food. . . . They love their land, the Shire, as well. The Shire, in the `Lord of the Rings’ books, is sort of a metaphor for a perfect, peaceful existence, and they don’t want to go outside the Shire because there are dangers and the loss of innocence outside the Shire.
“Most hobbits want to stay close to what’s comfortable and associate only with their own kind, but Frodo, in terms of being a hobbit, is actually quite curious and worldly,” Wood continues. “Frodo grew up listening to his uncle Bilbo’s stories about his adventures outside the Shire. So Frodo actually became quite familiar with what was in the outside world and he fell in love with the idea of adventure and leaving the Shire.
“I’d say there’s a real massive innocence to Frodo,” Wood adds, “but also a certain courageousness that the other hobbits don’t have.”
Frodo must summon every possible ounce of courage after Bilbo, played by Ian Holm, hands him the One Ring, for the Ring corrupts all who possess it. Worse, the minions of the evil lord Sauron are in pursuit of the Ring and will stop at nothing to get it.
“The Ring is incredibly powerful and seducing,” Wood says. “Its influence, its magic is that once it’s in the hands of a new person, it becomes the most beautiful and wonderful thing to that person, for a while.
“Even to the most discerning of people, like Gandalf [played by Ian McKellen], who knows it’s evil and wrong, there’s something quite enticing about the Ring. It’s just got a power over people.
“It’s a deception that it’s seemingly very beautiful and wonderful and could be very positive,” Wood adds. “Personally, I think the Ring deceives. It’s evil.”