While I don’t get to delve into it very often here, there are very few things on this plane of existence that I love more than The Lord of the Rings. Well, Middle-Earth in general, but I am never far from my dear Bagginses and Boffins, Tooks and Brandybucks, so when I get to combine my love for Tolkien with my action figure hobby, I am always happy. Sometimes to do so, you have to throw it way back.
I own very few action figures that pre-date me. Like, not that pre-date my collecting hobby, but me in general. My collecting is admittedly built around a lot of nostalgia, so with the exception of the MEGO Fantastic Four, original Kenner Chewbacca, and a few other odds and ends, my collection doesn’t generally go back further than the mid-1980s. However, and you knew there was going to be a “however” here, I have had my eyes on the Lord of the Rings line by the now-defunct Knickerbocker toys for a very long time. Based on the 1978 Ralph Backshi film, these figures have been popular and expensive grails ever since I was made aware of their existence.
I have been hesitating for long time to take the plunge with this line. It is relatively small, consisting of six figures (Frodo, Sam, Gollum, Gandalf, Aragorn, and Ring Wraith) and two horses (“Frodo’s” and the Wraith Steed), but money and patience are most certainly required to piece it together. Fortunately, I am not a carded figure collector (those prices move into INSANE territory), and I don’t even really need all of the accessories or for the figures to be in perfect condition, but I would like to have a set that is not overly worn, and Gandalf’s hat is a must. So, with finally coming to grips with my required parameters, I decided to do a “treat yo self” moment on my birthday last week and finally jump in.
The stars aligned to make Frodo my first for the collection, which is what I have always wanted to do. Now, the Bakshi film is most certainly not without many faults (he didn’t even get to do a sequel to finish the story), but I still love it. The movie is undoubtably strange with some of its designs and animation techniques, but it does have a lot of heart at times, and some parts actually do the best job of representing the book of any other media interpretation. I am not one who always says the book is better than the movie, but in the case of LotR, that is undoubtably true, so I have come to find joy in the movies on their own merits, and not just against the pages.
While Samwise gets a bit too folksy at times during the movie, I mostly enjoy the Frodo portrayal. The character designs work in a way that are not too cute (Tolkien was NOT a fan of Disney’s Snow White to put it mildly), but still have fantastical elements. Like the Jackson live-action designs, the Hobbits in the film are mostly trim and fit (aside from Sam), but I like the looks of them, and for figures that are well past 40 years old, the line does a pretty darn good job with the onscreen likenesses.
As a hobbit, Frodo is one of the smallest figures in the line, coming in at just under three inches tall. He has the standard for the times five points of articulation (neck, shoulders, and hips), and originally included Sting and a scabbard, but my figure’s blade has been lost to ages. I find all of Frodo’s cues to be interpreted well here. His face and expression are bit more dour than in the movie, but it is not at all bad, and the figure is still instantly recognizable if you know the movie. I have to say though, Frodo is a good example of what is pretty recognizable about this little line on the whole, and that it is very detailed when stood next to its contemporaries. The Wraith shows this off the most, but Frodo’s facial details, collar, belt, and toes all have a crispness about them that makes this a great figure for any time and place.
All that said, I love this figure because of its inherent charming quaintness. I know, that is a terrible thing to say, but I mean it with only positive intent and connotations. Frodo endured one of the most challenging quests of any fantasy character ever, but at his base, he is still a hobbit, and this figure is very “hobbity” so to speak. It is small, it is not flashy, but it has so much personality, and that is why I love it. Even if I never add another piece from this line, I am so glad to have this dear Frodo Baggins, and I already treasure him as a part of my overall collection.
I would not necessarily recommend jumping into collecting this line due to the commitments it requires and the amount of contemporary things out there to collect, but I sure am glad I finally took the plunge. As I said, Middle-Earth means a lot to me, so having this Frodo feels like I now have an essential piece of its history that just happens to play to my action figure sensibilities. My wallet will be crying as move through this journey, but I now know it will be worth it, and I can take my time. I certainly did not need another line to collect, but there are a lot special things about this piece of Knickerbocker history, and so the roads go ever ever on.