Note: this is a pretty wild ride. it's long, but as I was writing, I went in a very unexpected direction with this. I feel a bit dazed!
Physical resiience, and even competence and dependability, have no effect against the Ring. I've been in a philosphical thread on the power of the Ring to corrupt and seduce its bearers which has ranged into some very deep, dark, frightening places. It's made me understand the power of the Ring much more.
The Ring doesn't really play with rational thought either. It stealis into the subconscious; that's its arena. The Bearer isn't aware of being changed, but is being changed from within, once the Ring takes hold.
Resistence depends on several things.
-- one's desires. It will tempt you with those, including the desire to protect your friends, home, etc. Even good desires can be the chink through which it steals into your subconscious. Anyone with a strong yearning for something would be vulnerable.
That rules out Aragorn, who wants to defend men, who wants to be worthy of Arwen and win her.
That rules out Boromir, and indeed we see what it does to him.
That probably rules out Gimli, who's less greedy than some dwarves, but still: he wants Moria to rise again. He wants to remain in Lórien. And he desperately wants to be near Galadriel, so much that he takes an elven-ship to find her.
I don't think the Ring would necessarily help them win their desires, so the Gimli/Galadriel idea need not make us shudder. I think that's simply one of its angles of attack. Its goal is to take over, not help, its bearer.
Oddly, innocence can be a slight protection. Bilbo has what I call the "idiots and little children" field, which lets him bumble through dreadful situations largely on luck. He does also become the party leader for a while, but in general he's like the Tom Simple archetype. The trouble is he could only get so far on luck and his own initiative. He's missing something.
--Sam understands pretty well, but still hasn't quite got it. He reacts to surface things: Bill frightened by the wolves, the sight of his dad being driven out of his home "with his bits and things in a barrow!", seeing the orcs dragging off his master. He reacts, and he's got sense and competence, but he doesn't have a deep level of understanding, in the area where the Ring operates. The one that whispers for you to put it on, to escape, to dominate, or whatever it is that it thinks will slip past you. Or, as with Bilbo, it bides its time and waits for his slow decay into corruption. It has time: it prolongs its bearer's life. It's like a parasite that deliberately keeps its host alive as food.
--the other hobbits may have their own strengths and weaknesses, but they're really like Sam: competent, sensible in the everyday world, but so comfortably "normal". Pippin gets drawn to the Palantir by touching it; obviously it wouldn't take long to get him. I don't think Merry is that different. These magical things are really, really dangerous. They work at your will to make you do irrational things, and you have no idea the object itself is causing the problem.
But more than anything else, there is something decidedly odd about Frodo. He's got a purity to him, at the beginning, a sort of nobility (for a hobbit) but never the almost ignorant innocence of Bilbo. Frodo sees the land beyond the boundaries of the Maps of the Shire. That's not just literal; that's psychological.
Before he ever left the Shire, he was speaking to Elves, keeping apprised of the goings-on in the outside world through Gandalf, dwarves, or from what sources he could manage. That's not very hobbit-like! And most of all, he's able to step outside of himself and the Shire and see his people for what they are: the simple, lovable, ignorant, kind hobbits so very sheltered from the world beyond. He understands them. He understands Sam.
Frodo has a very unique awareness of things.
The Ring grants power according to the stature of its bearer. With the Great, it tends to turn them into awesome rulers. With the weak and unethical, it turns them into slimy, corrupt, not very powerful creatures. With Bilbo, it just made him even more eccentric, but also restless (he couldn't stay still, the very problem that got him out of the Shire). Yet Bilbo's power, according to his stature, was mostly confined to getting out of sight of Lobelia. He couldn't do much to the Ring, and it couldn't do much to him beyond slowly eat him away.
I note also that Bilbo becomes the decision-maker for dwarves after getting the Ring. Probably just coincidence, but it opened up his Tookish side a bit more steadily.
But it granted Frodo some very strange powers, according to his stature, which it never granted anyone else. And I think that's because of his nature.
One thing the Ring does is yank people into the Wraith-world or spirit-world, if they're not there already. Gandalf calls it "the other side" when Frodo wakes up in Rivendell and tries to reconstruct his journey to the ford. Those who live in the solid world only get yanked across, making them invisible. Others, like Sauron and Elves and Maiar (and Tom, evidently) exist in both places.
Frodo sees into that world when he wears the Ring.The hobbits and Aragorn are very dim presences in that plane, but the wraiths are easy to spot, and Glorfindel is a blinding figure of light.
With Frodo, he seems to have an even greater awareness of things and people when he puts on, something not emphasized with Bilbo. Of course, Sam felt that too, fot his hearing definitely improved. But Frodo understands some things too well: his role, Gollum's psyche (in the books it is Sam, not Frodo, who pushes Gollum to the fore), Boromir's condition, even Galadriel's hidden desire ("you begin to see with a keen eye," she says). When Frodo puts the Ring on, he sees and senses people even more than he did already-- not to mention that he senses Sauron, or Gandalf shouting in the distance, "take it off, you fool!"
Most of Frodo's ring-incidents seem to involve supernatural awareness.
But there's something more. Aragorn said the Morgul-knife was drawing Frodo into the wraith-world, and that Frodo would become a wraith like them, under their control.
Gandalf seems to think differently,
Gandalf... took a good look at Frodo. The colour had come back to his face, and his eyes were clear, and fully awake and aware. [There's that awareness again: much is made of Frodo's eyes, even in the books.] He was smiling, and there seemed to be little wrong with him. But to the wizard's eye there was a faint change, just a hint as it were of transparency, about him, and especially about the left hand that lay outside upon the coverlet. 'But that must be expected,' said Gandalf to himself, 'He is still not half through yet, and to what he will come in the end note even Elrond can foretell. Not to evil, I think. He may become like a glass filled with a clear light for eyes to see that can.'
Almost the way Nenya, to Sam, is no more than a star he glimpsed past Galadriel's finger, but Frodo saw Nenya clearly.
Look back at this. I always assumed Gandalf meant where Frodo's journey would take him, geographically, But clearly that's not what Gandalf is thinking about. He's thinking about something almost spiritual, something definitely connected to the Other Side-- where Frodo is beginning to be pulled.
The Ring didn't do that to anyone else. Bilbo had it for years and never started going transparent -- i.e. crossing over -- nor did Gollum. "He is not half through yet" almost seems to have a double meaning here.
Where it really, really jumps out, though, is when Frodo masters Gollum. The scene is somewhat parallel to when Galadriel is tempted, briefly overmastered by the Ring's call. Frodo, on the other hand, shows mastery. He appears to Sam as a tall figure with a wheel of light, almost like a great Elven-lord. That also is utterly unlike anything the Ring has ever done to anybody. Frodo's not only going over to the Other Side; his appearance on that side, for a split second, comes into the solid world, so that even Sam can see it. Frodo is already starting to become what Gandalf described:
"for eyes to see that can."
Also I think it no accident that Gandalf is exactly describing Frodo's ultimate state as being like the gift Galadriel gave to Frodo, although I still can't quite put my finger on what this means, except to say that there is something in Frodo a little like the Silmarils, the phial of Galadriel, and things like Nenya.
At a guess, I'd say he was not only "meant to have the Ring", he was by nature suited to it in a way no one else was. He was born twenty years after the Ring was found. Tolkien did have Eru, God, the Valar at the back of his mind while writing this: a Power meant Frodo to have the Ring, a hobbit born after the Ring was found. Frodo was orphaned early on and Bilbo, the Ringbearer, took him in. I'm not saying that Tolkien's postulating Frodo's course is being steered altogether by divine will; his free will dictates his footsteps. But his nature is a factor in his successes and failures, his wants and desires.
Frodo wants to protect the Shire's innocence.
So does Gandalf.
After he casts the Ring away, Frodo can no longer access that part of himself on the "other side". He feels pulled to it. He has to go to Valinor to heal, like all the other Ringbearers, because there, I think, the barrier between solid and spiritual worlds collapse, and both are one.
What I'm getting at here is that while Bilbo had a Tookish side latent in him, Frodo, on whom Faramir detects an "elvish air", who observes patterns, people, and things as an outside observer more than most except Gandalf, has -- well, there's really no other word for it-- a latent spiritual side to him. Not with much power. But there is something in him that makes him able to straddle the boundaries of both worlds.
Something not very hobbit like.
Something like a Maia, but much, much weaker.
Yes, he was meant to have it.
[Edited on 4/24/03 by sepdet]