Do you remember "Frodo Lives!"?
The unassuming hobbit became a rallying counterculture cry in the Sixties and Seventies.
In the 1960s, counterculture was the word. Some icons of the movement are self-explanatory: flowers, the Beatles, long hair. Turn on, tune in, drop out.
But some counterculture icons were less likely than others. And in fact, there was one that was downright fantastical — from a fantasy book series, that is.
"Frodo Lives!" The slogan, talking about Lord of the Rings protagonist Frodo Baggins, sprang into existence in the 1960s and soon became associated with the hippie movement and anyone pushing back against authority. In the 1960s and 1970s you could find "Frodo Lives!" on graffiti, buttons, shirts, and more.
The fanlore article on "Frodo Lives" says that the phrase came into being as a debate of Frodo's ultimate fate at the end of the book series. Some thought that he traveled with Gandalf and the elves to become immortal, others insisted he remained mortal until the end of his days. But it soon became much, much more.
A 1966 Time Magazine article on Lord of the Rings on college campuses wrote "The hobbit habit seems to be almost as catching as LSD." (Perhaps Joe Friday will catch Blue Boy of "The LSD Story" fame passing out Tolkien books in some future Dragnet episode.)
The article goes on to say "On many U.S. campuses, buttons declaring FRODO LIVES and GO GO GANDALF—frequently written in Elvish script—are almost as common as football letters."
A cracked article explains that "Apparently, popular opinion among readers of the era was that Frodo was totally hardcore and a lucid metaphor for '60s hippies who felt held down by 'The Man'." The writer speculates that hippies found a kindred soul in Frodo, who was given duties by more powerful authority figures who sent him to do the dirty work.
The fanlore article suggests that '60s and '70s youths connected with him because "Frodo was seen as an "everyman" who accomplished the task no one else could: also, men who were drafted to fight in Vietnam were for the most part working class, ordinary fellows, as sons of rich families could buy their way to an easier spot to complete their service, or get out of it altogether."
It's likely that like a lot of culture icons, eventually people who had never read the books were parroting this phrase. It had become something bigger than Tolkien.
While the phrase lost popularity with the waning of the hippie era, it still pops up from time to time. The 2000s Lord of the Rings movie trilogy even used it in advertising, likely stirring some memories of parents who had now become "the man".