I realize this is not new information to anyone, but what struck me so hard this time I read the Lord of the Rings was the sense of melancholy. Like it’s painfully obvious to the reader that this world is Not As It Once Was. All of the characters we meet reference this feeling of loss in one way or another.
The elves are the most obvious - with their fading light and their ships sailing away. Treebeard talks about how the woods aren’t as they once were, about the ents who are falling asleep and withering to nothing. The dwarves lust after the glory of their forefathers, be it in mountain fortresses or caverns of mithril - now empty and echoing. Old Tom Bombadil remembers a race of great men and women, reduced simply to trinkets in cold tombs.
And even men, the race set to inherit this new age, even they are experiencing this sense of melancholy, of losing hold of something great. We see their great cities reduced to rubble on riverbanks, or possessed by evil. Aragorn longs to return to his throne to restore the glory of ages past, to somehow rejuvenate that which is dying in the race of men.
And hobbits? At first we see them as living in the present, with no great glory of the past to tie them down. Yet when Frodo returns to the Shire, it is…Not As It Once Was. And I think while the other hobbits are able to shake off this feeling and return to their love of life and the present, maybe Frodo’s true burden is to inherit this sense of loss from the rest of Middle Earth.