Conventionally characters in fantasy fiction develop very little, with almost none of the personal evolution one expects in literature. They tend to be stereotypical "goodies" and "baddies," the handsome, courageous heroes and the cruel, ugly forces of evil. They are the epitome of the force for which they fight. Over the past few decades very few fantasy fiction writers have escaped from this rut.
The Lord of the Rings and the Wheel of Time are linked by the fact that none of their major characters remain static. There are also very few stereotypical characters present in each text. The ways in which character development is achieved and what causes it, will be explored in this essay.
The characters that show the most development in the Lord of the Rings are undoubtedly the hobbits. From being "absurd, helpless hobbits" at the start those in the company are "Fearless hobbits with bright swords and grim faces" when they return to the Shire. While "there was a note in the voices of these [hobbits] that they [the bandits in the Shire] had not heard before. It chilled them with fear." Even Mr Butterbur, who sees them only twice, says "You have come back changed from your travels, and you look now like folk as can deal with troubles out of hand."
Frodo's development begins when he is told the history of the ring by Gandalf. He had never before suspected that such evil could exist. How could he? In the Shire there is no real evil because of the Ranger's unceasing vigilance. Furthermore Bilbo's tales1 would have skimmed over bad times and concentrated on what the hobbits wanted to hear about, Big People, dragons and mountains of treasure. The stench of the dead and the terror that Smaug the dragon caused would not have been mentioned.
In the Wheel of Time it is the three ta'veren that show the most change. They start out as simple village boys knowing almost nothing of the world beyond the two rivers. Perrin becomes a wolfriend, Mat commands the Band of...