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I recall an exchange early in "The Lord of the Rings" regarding heroes. One character laments that there is not a hero available to handle the task laid before them, and another character replies something to the effect that when no heroes are available non-heroes must accomplish the task.

Do I recall correctly, is this exchange in the story? If so, where is it?

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    I looked for a [quote-identification] tag but couldn't find it, I think "quotes" would suffice – Edlothiad Sep 10 '20 at 19:27
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    So, which one of the three possible quotes Edlothiad posted is the one you were actually looking for? – elemtilas Sep 15 '20 at 21:21
  • @elemtilas, thanks for prompting this. I added a comment below the answer. – Mark Harrison Sep 16 '20 at 6:34
  • @elemtilas LOL! You didn't show enough confidence in your own search! – Edlothiad Sep 16 '20 at 11:06
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Could you possibly be misremembering this rather famous quote from Gandalf about deciding what to do with the time that is given us?

“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.”
The Fellowship of the Ring, Book 1, Chapter II: The Shadow of the Past

While slightly different, it has Gandalf suggesting Frodo needs to be the hero even if he wishes not to be.

Another possible quote is the following by Gandalf to Elrond, discussing the inclusion of the Hobbits in the Fellowship over a great Elf-lord:

“It is true that if these Hobbits understood the danger, they would not dare to go. But they would still wish to go, or wish that they dared, and be shamed and unhappy. I think, Elrond, that in this matter it would be well to trust rather to their friendship than to great wisdom. Even if you chose for us an Elf-lord, such as Glorfindel, he could not storm the Dark Tower, nor open the road to the Fire by the power that is in him.”
The Fellowship of the Ring, Book 2, Chapter III: The Ring Goes South

Gandalf suggests if it isn't possible by the power of the mighty to succeed then Elrond should trust to the Hobbits and their close bind through friendship.

Otherwise the only quote that rings a bell (and is near the only instance of the word 'hero' in The Fellowship of the Ring) is the following from Elrond:

‘I think that this task is appointed for you, Frodo; and that if you do not find a way, no one will. This is the hour of the Shire-folk, when they arise from their quiet fields to shake the towers and counsels of the Great. Who of all the Wise could have foreseen it? Or, if they are wise, why should they expect to know it, until the hour has struck?
‘But it is a heavy burden. So heavy that none could lay it on another. I do not lay it on you. But if you take it freely, I will say that your choice is right; and though all the mighty Elf-friends of old, Hador, and Húrin, and Túrin, and Beren himself were assembled together, your seat should be among them.’
The Fellowship of the Ring, Book 2, Chapter II: The Council of Elrond

I have emboldened any of the parts I think I might be relevant. If you can think of any other details should neither of these be correct I would be happy to search more deeply for you.

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    I believe what I recalled was an amalgamum of the "I wish it had not happened in our time" and the "If these hobbits understood the danger" quotes. – Mark Harrison Sep 16 '20 at 6:33
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    I'm glad I could help! Look forward to hopefully helping you answer more questions! – Edlothiad Sep 16 '20 at 11:05
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There are many parallels between the two stories but the specific word "Hero", in the context you require, I believe only occurs in "An Unexpected Party", chapter one in The Hobbit:

Thorin & Gandalf are back-and-forthing about the various difficulties that lie along the way when Thorin eventually talks about heading up the river towards Dale and the Front Gate. Gandalf says:

"That would be no good," said the wizard, "not without a mighty Warrior. Even a Hero. I tried to find one; but warriors are busy fighting one another in distant lands, and in this neighbourhood heroes are scarce, or simply not to be found. Swords in these parts are mostly blunt, and axes are used for trees, and shields as cradles or dish covers..."

Of course the mighty hero is contrasted with a humbler character, a light footed "burglar" (who is really no thief at all!) but is certainly about as common a fellow as can be found to accomplish the task, namely:

"...And here is our little Bilbo Baggins, the burglar, the chosen and selected burglar."

  • Re, "really no thief at all." I'm pretty sure that somewhere in the text—maybe the same chapter—somebody says that "burglar" does not necessarily mean "thief." I.e., that "burglar" is a valid synonym for treasure hunter. (Not that Bilbo had any experience in that department either....) – Solomon Slow Sep 12 '20 at 15:03
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    @SolomonSlow well, legally, "burglary" doesn't refer to theft... it refers to the illegal entry that usually precedes theft :) – hobbs Sep 14 '20 at 0:43
  • @hobbs -- and absent any competent legal authority in the regions of Erebor, one might say, nullum-crimen-sine-legewise, that indeed Bilbo was no thief, and really no burglar either. – elemtilas Sep 14 '20 at 13:32
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Towards the end of the Council of Elrond there's a dialog which seems like it fits your question. First, Elron says (my emphasis):

...'The road must be trod, but it will be very hard. And neither strength nor wisdom will carry us far upon it. This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.'

When Frodo volunteers,

Elrond raised his eyes and looked at him, and Frodo felt his heart pierced by the sudden keenness of the glance. 'If I understand aright all that I have heard,' he said, 'I think that this task is appointed for you, Frodo; and that if you do not find a way, no one will. This is the hour of the Shire-folk, when they arise from their quiet fields to shake the towers and counsels of the Great. Who of all the Wise could have foreseen it? Or, if they are wise, why should they expect to know it, until the hour has struck?

Later, when the makeup of the Fellowship is being discussed, Gandalf says:

Even if you chose for us an elf-lord, such as Glorfindel, he could not storm the Dark Tower, nor open the road to the Fire by the power that is in him.'

It's all not one paragraph or even a single dialog, but I think it makes the point.

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Another possibility is the conversation between Sam and Frodo in the chapter The Stairs of Cirith Ungol:

The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually – their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on – and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same – like old Mr. Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we’ve fallen into?’

And a few lines later:

‘No, they never end as tales,’ said Frodo. ‘But the people in them come, and go when their part’s ended. Our part will end later – or sooner.’

‘And then we can have some rest and some sleep,’ said Sam. He laughed grimly. ‘And I mean just that, Mr. Frodo. I mean plain ordinary rest, and sleep, and waking up to a morning’s work in the garden. I’m afraid that’s all I’m hoping for all the time. All the big important plans are not for my sort. '

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    And later on, when Sam talks about Beren, and realizes that he and Frodo are part of the same tale. – jamesqf Sep 11 '20 at 3:25
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    These recurring exchanges between Sam and Frodo were what the question brought immediately to mind, for me. They seem much more on the money than the currently-top answers about Elrond and Gandalf. – PLL Sep 12 '20 at 10:45

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