In The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, just after the One Ring was destroyed in Mount Doom along with Gollum, there is a scene in which Frodo says:

Sam, I could not have destroyed the Ring.

Why did he say that? Why was he unable to destroy the Ring?

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    Can you be a little more specific about how much of the entire storyline about Frodo (or everyone else) getting obsessed about (or even possessed by) the ring you followed so far?
    – TARS
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 15:01
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    I believe that he realises that the Ring had gained too much power over him and that he diid not have the will to destroy it anymore because of its corrupting influence. So not physically, but mentally unable to destroy it. Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 15:02
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    This question illustrates the problem with the so-called "Eagle Plot", namely, why not just fly an eagle to Mordor, elude Mordor's air defenses, and get the Ring to the fire in a few days instead of months of dangerous walking. The problem isn't getting the Ring to the fire. The problem is having the desire to throw it in once you get there, and the Fellowship never had a plan for that. Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 22:33
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    @Eric Lippert I don't think eluding Sauron's air defence would be that easy.
    – Fiddler
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 12:49
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    @EricLippert Your comment makes no sense. The "Eagle Plot" presents the question of why they didn't use an eagle instead of walking. Pointing out that there is some other issue that is addressed neither by flying nor walking is a complete non sequitur. Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 16:28

2 Answers 2


The complete quote from the book is:

'Yes,' said Frodo. 'But do you remember Gandalf's words: Even Gollum may have something yet to do? But for him, Sam, I could not have destroyed the Ring. The Quest would have been in vain, even at the bitter end. So let us forgive him! For the Quest is achieved, and now all is over. I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam.'

So, that line is supposed to mean that Frodo recognizes that in a way it was only by fate that The Ring was destroyed.

When the time came to actually drop the ring in the fire of the mountain, Frodo was on the point to fail, refusing to do what was needed. In the end, it was only because of Gollum that the ring was actually destroyed. If Gollum hadn't bitten Frodo's finger off and fallen into the volcano with the ring, the mission could have ended in a failure.

With that phrase Frodo is acknowledging that.

..and also saying that in the end Gollum fulfilled his last part in the story, just like Gandalf said he would.

As for the second part of the question - why Frodo wouldn't want to destroy the Ring after going on such an hard journey to reach Mount Doom... that is actually one of the central plot devices in the books. Without going in great detail, the Ring has the power (and the will) to corrupt its current bearer, and its hold on the bearer will only grows in power with time and its vicinity to its true master, Sauron. That is why when confronted with the final choice to destroy the Ring once and for all even Frodo in the end fails and only fate saves the day in the form of a creature that was once spared out of pity and now finally plays his last part in the story.

For more details about the Ring influence, have also a look at this question:

Why was the One Ring so fascinating?

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    @RyanfaeScotland Because Frodo was compelled to protect the ring by it's influence. He would have never destroyed it by that point. Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 11:34
  • @RyanfaeScotland I was trying to keep the plot spoilers at the bare minimum required to formulate an answer. It is still pretty unclear how much of the plot the original question asker is familiar with, but you have a point there. I will try to edit the answer to elaborate on that. Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 11:49
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    Well, "fate" doesn't save the day. Mr. Tolkien is pretty clear about that!
    – elemtilas
    Commented Dec 13, 2018 at 1:58
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    Consider Boromir falling for its power near the border of Mordor without ever having worn the ring. Commented Dec 13, 2018 at 11:40

The Ring protected itself. Each person who saw the Ring was drawn to it, sometimes quite out of character.

Isildur took the Ring from Sauron's hand and, even though he knew what it was and what harm it had done and with Elrond counselling him to destroy it, could not bear to destroy it which, physically, would have been easy, since they were already on the slopes of Mt Doom. He writes:

But for my part I will risk no hurt to this thing: of all the works of Sauron the only fair. It is precious to me, though I buy it with great pain.

Smeagol sees it and immediately lusts after it, kills his friend to get it and then hides in the mountains for many centuries muttering about his "Precious".

Bilbo was nearly unable to give it to Frodo (even with Gandalf's help). Destroying it would have been much harder.

The Ring takes over:

And if he often uses the Ring to make himself invisible, he fades: he becomes in the end invisible permanently, and walks in the twilight under the eye of the dark power that rules the Rings. Yes, sooner or later - later, if he is strong or well-meaning to begin with, but neither strength nor good purpose will last - sooner or later the dark power will devour him.'


He said that [the Ring] was "growing on his mind", and he was always worrying about it; but he did not suspect that the ring itself was to blame.

Gandalf says:

A Ring of Power looks after itself, Frodo. It may slip off treacherously, but its keeper never abandons it. At most he plays with the idea of handing it on to someone else's care - and that only at an early stage, when it first begins to grip.

And if it won't let itself be abandoned, it even more strongly resists being destroyed. Once he learns of the Ring's evil, Frodo asks Gandalf:

'But why not destroy it, as you say should have been done long ago?' cried Frodo again. If you had warned me, or even sent me a message, I would have done away with it.'

'Would you? How would you do that? Have you ever tried?'

'No. But I suppose one could hammer it or melt it.'

'Try!' said Gandalf. Try now!'

Frodo drew the Ring out of his pocket again and looked at it. It now appeared plain and smooth, without mark or device that he could see. The gold looked very fair and pure, and Frodo thought how rich and beautiful was its colour, how perfect was its roundness. It was an admirable thing and altogether precious. When he took it out he had intended to fling it from him into the very hottest part of the fire. But he found now that he could not do so, not without a great struggle. He weighed the Ring in his hand, hesitating, and forcing himself to remember all that Gandalf had told him; and then with an effort of will he made a movement, as if to cast it away - but he found that he had put it back in his pocket.

Gandalf laughed grimly. 'You see? Already you too, Frodo, cannot easily let it go, nor will to damage it. And I could not "make" you - except by force, which would break your mind.

When Sam and Frodo reach Mt Doom, Frodo is unable to destroy the Ring:

'I have come,' he said. 'But I do not choose now to do what I came to do. I will not do this deed. The Ring is mine!'

And after Gollum has destroyed it, he says:

'But do you remember Gandalf's words: Even Gollum may have something yet to do? But for him, Sam, I could not have destroyed the Ring.

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    A point I think you miss is that the Ring gives power (according to the power of its bearer), and it is in great part the desire for that power that corrupts. Frodo would have to invest great effort into training his will to use the full power of the Ring: those who already have power, like Gandalf and Galadriel, refuse the temptation to take it. But in the end Frodo yields to the temptation...
    – jamesqf
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 18:28
  • @jamesqf This question, one of my favorites of all time on this site, discusses the "power" of the ring, which I think is worth a read: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/48180/…
    – ZAD-Man
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 19:24
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    @ZAD-Man: That's absolutely incorrect, as my answer below the accepted answer incontrovertibly shows, with quotes from Tolkien's Letters. The first answer began with a movie bias (which is indeed different) and then misconstrued a single quote ("imaginations of supreme power") to mean that it didn't offer any real power at all - it does, just not supreme power. Unfortunately on SE, a well-written wrong answer can often garner more upvotes if it's posted before the right answer.
    – Shamshiel
    Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 0:25
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    @ZAD-Man: And indeed, I also quote two passages from the book itself showing Frodo and Sam using the primary power of the Ring - domination over other wills. Pay special attention too to the passage where Tolkien describes what would happen if Frodo was not attacked and used the real power of the Ring. I wish there was a way to put this myth to bed for good.
    – Shamshiel
    Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 0:27
  • @Shamshiel Ah! I appreciate you bringing that to my attention. I will be giving your answer a read-through and removing my "In short" comment above.
    – ZAD-Man
    Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 23:56

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