Characters: Sam (and Frodo)

squire: Our first topic is a doozy: Sam. He gets all the lines in this chapter, as they say. So Sam gets two posts, just to keep from wearing everyone down.

 

Sam encounters Ithilien.

 

the hobbits breathed deep, and suddenly Sam laughed, for heart's ease not for jest.

squire: A. Why does Sam laugh? Why not Frodo? Have you ever laughed “for heart’s ease”? Who laughs in Tolkien, and why?

drogo_drogo: Quick thoughts on Sam's hobbit nature and the F/S bond. Sam's reaction is a very hobbity response to being once again in a natural setting, even if it is one in transition. It is analogous to the hobbits' responses to Bombadil's house earlier in the book.

Dernwyn: [modded up!] Laughter! Who laughs in Tolkien, and why?

Not the hissing "laughter" of Saruman, or the Nazgûl, or the harsh "laughter" of the Orcs, but genuine, heartfelt laughter:

Laughter is the response of Gildor and the Elves to Sam's remark that if the Black Riders try to stop Frodo, "they'll have Sam Gamgee to reckon with".  I don't think they're laughing at him: they're laughing for delight at the stalwartness of this simple Hobbit.

Laughter marks the unwariness of Frodo, Sam, and Pippin after drinking that strange brew Gildor left for them: "Very soon they were laughing, and snapping their fingers at rain, and at Black Riders" - until they hear one wail.

Laugher is Frodo's joy at realizing Mrs. Maggot's gift: "Suddenly Frodo laughed: from the covered basket he held, the scent of mushrooms was rising."

Laughter is the delight at the reaction to a long-held secret: "Frodo opened his mouth and shut it again. His look of surprise was so comical that they laughed. 'Dear old Frodo!' said Pippin.  'Did you really think you had thrown dust in all our eyes?"

Laughter is the release of tension: "'You are a set of deceitful scoundrels!'  [Frodo] said, turning to the others.  'But bless you!' he laughed, getting up and waving his arms, 'I give in.  I will take Gildor's  advice.  If the danger were not so dark, I should dance for joy.  Even so, I cannot  help feeling happy; happier than I have felt for a long time.  I had dreaded this evening.'"

Laughter is the delight in the "little things" of life: "Bilbo smiled and laughed happily.  Every item of news from the Shire that Frodo could tell - aided and corrected now and again by Sam - was of the greatest interest to him, from the felling of the least tree to the pranks of the smallest child in Hobbiton."

Laughter is jesting with friends:  "Bilbo got up and bowed.  'I am flattered, Lindir,'  he said.  'But it would be too tiring to repeat it all.'  'Not too tiring for you,' the Elves answered laughing.  'You know you are never tired of reciting your own verses."

Laughter is the Entish love of simple nature:

"A little stream escaped from the springs above, and leaving the main  water, fell tinkling down the sheer face of the wall, pouring in silver drops, like a fine curtain  in front of the arched bay...For a moment Treebeard stood under the rain of the falling spring, and took a deep breath; then he laughed, and passed inside."

"[Treebeard] strode to the archway and stood for some time under the falling rain of the spring.  Then he laughed and shook himself, and wherever the drops of water fell glittering from him to the ground they glinted like red and green sparks."

"[Quickbeam] reached down two shapely arms and gave a long-fingered hand to  each of the hobbits.  All that day they walked about in the woods with him, singing, and laughing; for Quickbeam often laughed.  He laughed if the sun came out from behind a cloud, he laughed if they came upon a stream or spring: then he stooped and splashed his feet and head with water; he laughed sometimes at some sound or whisper in the trees.  Whenever he saw a rowan-tree he halted a while with his arms stretched out, and sang, and swayed as he sang."

Why does Sam laugh?  Release of tension, delight in fresh, aromatic air, the loveliness around him after witnessing the desolation before Mordor - Sam's laugh is eucatastrophe, the sudden joy of a simple Hobbit gardener.

Modtheow: What a great list! Thanks for all those examples of laughter.  Strangely, I feel happier after reading through it.

an seleichan: and to break the spell Great list!

Laughter is also used in the face of evil "spells" (used loosely to mean the hold of evil on the attention of a character). For example:

So great was the power that Saruman exerted in this last effort that none that stood within hearing were unmoved...Then Gandalf laughed. The fantasy vanished like a puff of smoke.

It's an active force: laughter on the lips of a good person can counteract the workings of evil, if only momentarily, in LOTR.

Dernwyn: Of course! Laughter as a weapon of peace: to break the charm, and disarm!

squire: Don't forget the Incredible Tulk!

"Greatest in strength and deeds of prowess is Tulkas, who is surnamed Astaldo, the Valiant. He came last to Arda, to aid the Valar in the first battles with Melkor. He delights in wrestling and in contests of strength; and he rides no steed, for he can outrun all things that go on feet, and he is tireless. His hair and beard are golden, and his flesh ruddy; his weapons are his hands. He has little heed for either the past or the future, and is of no avail as a counsellor, but is a hardy friend. ...

Oromë is a mighty lord. If he is less strong than Tulkas, he is more dreadful in anger; whereas Tulkas laughs ever, in sport or in war, and even in the face of Melkor he laughed in battles before the Elves were born." - Valaquenta

"But in the midst of the war a spirit of great strength and hardihood came to the aid of the Valar, hearing in the far heaven that there was battle in the Little Kingdom; and Arda was filled with the sound of his laughter. So came Tulkas the Strong, whose anger passes like a mighty wind, scattering cloud and darkness before it; and Melkor fled before his wrath and his laughter, and forsook Arda,  and  there  was  peace  for  a  long  age." - Silmarillion, Chapter 1, Of the Beginning of Days

Whenever someone laughs in LotR, I like to wonder if Tolkien was doing the god-thing.

N.E. Brigand: earlier comments here on Tulkas Those who missed the last Silmarillion discussion here may be interested to see earlier comments on Tulkas's laughter as compared to that of Húrin.

squire: Thanks but Modtheow from the same thread is more interesting, since she ties Tulkas directly back to the hobbits - and thus to Sam here in Ithilien.

"Heart's ease" is a baffling phrase, to me. Laughter is certainly a release of tension, which God knows the hobbits are experiencing (or at least Sam is, right?), but it is usually triggered by something.

Tolkien mentions no incident that might have triggered Sam's laugh -- the merest sight of a bird or rise of a breeze would do it -- so I never quite feel for Sam here.

I guess I think Tolkien's having one of his schmaltzy moments -- not my favorite part of JRRT.

Dernwyn: "Heart's ease" can also be looked at in another light.  They've just come from a dead land into one very much alive; from an odorous place into an aromatic one; and where these three filthy, stinking travellers can finally get themselves washed!  No wonder Sam laughed.  Ithilien itself and its amenities were the "trigger".

(Then, that raises the question: how often did they do a laundry?  How did they manage to dry the wet clothing?  What did they have for spare clothes?  What about hair-washing?  We make jokes about Strider's appearance, but these guys must have been really ripe by the time they arrived here.)

squire: Well, what I meant was entering Ithilien is the "trigger" as far as Tolkien is concerned, I guess. But that took hours of walking through a gradually changing landscape: they never passed a gate and got their hands stamped.

I meant by 'trigger', a real discrete event, one that would make someone laugh. Sam obviously experiences one -- perhaps a sudden mental jump, when he realizes how different things seem to be -- but I'm annoyed that Tolkien does not make it explicit. It seems too generic, stagey, and fake to me.

Dernwyn: Ah, I see what you mean. I guess it never bothers me, since I find it's like a sneeze that builds up and then explodes: this laugh has been "building up" in Sam ever since they came to Ithilien, and he's finally released it.

an seleichan: except that he was a soldier and a teacher, and a person who often drank with friends in a pub. A social being used to stress, good and bad, and aware of the place laughter takes in social relationships. And in self-reduced stress as well.

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine. Proverbs 17:22

Laughter is a tool of social discourse and has been consistently shown to reduce stress hormones in both the person laughing and the person listening to the laughter. Even a purposeful laugh (one produced not in response to a joke or amusement, but done in isolation and on purpose in an experimental situation, or randomly shown to a research subject out of context) induces the same reduction in stress hormones (Link) although there is some question as to whether it is laughter itself or the social interaction that is facilitated by that laughter, that reduces the hormones and produces healthful effects (Here).

I know to reduce stress around my office (I have a very stressful job working with clients who have multiple problems), when a coworker is stressed out, the rest of us find a way to produce laughter. Because stress is contagious, and a coworker in distress causes a buildup of stress. And so, consciously or unconsiously we will find a way to laugh.

Nurses and doctors do this in the ER, for instance, and produce that morbid humor that outsiders find so disconcerting but that anyone who has been in a similar repeated place of trauma and stress can recognize as battlefield humor. I've never been a soldier, but I bet it's the same there as well.

Sometimes it is necessary to simply find a way to laugh, which humans instinctively know will reduce stress ("for heart's ease"), deepen breathing, loosen muscle tension, and invoke positive reponse in a partner or witness.

I think Sam just instinctively laughs as he feels the tension subside as they walk deeper into Ithilien, and furthers that feeling of loosening tension by self-induced laughter.

But I understand your point, since there is no apparent "joke" or anything "funny" that occurs to trigger the laughter.

FarFromHome: I imagine something more like a shout, almost a whoop, of sheer pleasure. I can understand that reaction, suddenly bubbling to the surface and needing to be expressed. Tolkien calls it a laugh, but not a laugh 'for jest' - so I imagine a "Ha!" of pure pleasure and relief.

Modtheow: Laughter and Love

I’ve wondered before about those moments in LotR when someone laughs for heart's ease.  I think it often happens at very low moments of hopelessness, and then, as if out of nowhere, the laughter just bubbles up.  It somehow seems to be connected to an unexpected feeling of hope in hopelessness or a moment of joy amidst sorrow -- a mini eucatastrophe?  I keep playing with the idea that a laugh can be connected to song or music and that it's a very distant echo of the music of the Ainur.  I’ve just noticed that there’s another laugh at the end of the previous chapter: “Frodo stood up.  He had laughed in the midst of all his cares when Sam trotted out the old fireside rhyme of Oliphaunt, and the laugh had released him from hesitation.”  The laugh there has a positive and powerful effect; it breaks the frustrating sense of hopelessness and indecision.  That was Frodo’s turn to laugh; now it’s Sam’s turn in this chapter.  And it makes sense that he would be the one to laugh in this setting – with herbs, trees, flowers growing all around him.

And yes, I'm sure I've laughed for heart's ease before, although there hasn't been much of that going around recently (*grumble*whine*@#%%$!workload!*).

N.E. Brigand: Eating and sleeping. Frodo laughed after the Oliphaunt song, and will again on the steps of Cirith Ungol.  Why not here?  Hmm.  Laughing for “heart’s ease” almost seems like nervous, tension-breaking laughter.

 

 

 

Sam found it difficult to do more than doze, even when Gollum was plainly fast asleep, … Hunger, perhaps, more than mistrust kept him wakeful: he had begun to long for a good homely meal, ‘something hot out of the pot’.

Sam had been giving earnest thought to food as they marched…., and after bathing and drinking, he felt even more hungry than usual. A supper, or a breakfast, by the fire in the old kitchen at Bagshot Row was what he really wanted. An idea struck him and he turned to Gollum. …‘Could you find anything fit for a hungry hobbit?’

squire: B. Why does Sam feel the need for real food now, and not in the previous days? Is he thinking of himself, or Frodo, at this point?

drogo_drogo: I don't see his sudden thought of food as a selfish act; if anything, it is part of the hobbit culture to treat food as a means of bringing people together and celebration. In that sense, he's fallen back into his old hobbit ways for a moment, and thus will recall this episode when they are on Mount Doom.

Modtheow: They’ve left behind “the despair of the impassable Gate”; they’re in the middle of the sweet-smelling “garden of Gondor” – why not think of something more pleasant for a change? This chapter gives us another one of those resting places along the way, although they can’t rest there for as long and as securely as in Rivendell or Lothlorien.  Still, the chapter offers a bit of humour and wonder and even the relief of having something a little more substantial to eat. Sam may be the first one whose thoughts turn to food, but providing food is also one of the ways in which he can care for Frodo.

Owlyross: In a more practical sense They're in the first place where it is possible to get some food that is "hobbity" and normal. The unforgiving rocks of the Emyn Muil, the Dead Marshes and the Gates of Mordor are not the sort of places where you can get the sort of food they're used to. Sam's being very practical, he knows where they're going, and if they can get a good meal, then Ithilien is the place to find it.

Elostirion74: Sam's love for Frodo He's thinking of both, I suppose, but most of all of Frodo. After all his devotion to Frodo is a major reason that he is on this journey, and he sees it as his role to give Frodo all the practical assistance and emotional support he can to keep him going. At the same time Sam knows that without some proper food he won't be able to help Frodo on the worse days of the quest yet to come.

N.E. Brigand: Sam is more practical than Frodo, and now that they’ve put off the end, and have actually entered a land a little more homelike than the desolation at the gate, he’s able to think of less grim matters.  Sam’s being kept awake by hunger while Gollum dozes reminds me of his realization two chapters earlier, when Gollum thought he was asleep, that Gollum had more on his mind than eating the hobbits.

 

Sam cares for Frodo.

 

Sam looked at him. … he saw his master's face very clearly, and his hands, too, lying at rest on the ground beside him. … [Frodo’s face] looked old, old and beautiful… Not that Sam Gamgee put it that way to himself. He shook his head, as if finding words useless, and murmured: `I love him. He's like that, and sometimes it shines through, somehow. But I love him, whether or no.'

squire: This is the first and only time Sam says he loves Frodo, though Faramir and then the narrator will remind us of it several more times.

C. Why does Tolkien introduce this explicitly at this point in the story? In what way does Sam love Frodo? And what does he mean by “whether or no?”

Nefisa3: whether or no... I think Sam is caught here between whether he loves the old, familiar frodo of the shire, the hobbit, the pre-Ring Master. Or whether he loves the frodo that has changed, become something "old and beautiful", otherworldly, perhaps even scary; the Ring-bearer master.

Sam is the most perceptive of this "other" frodo; he's the one who had the visions of him as a tall, powerful figure, talking to gollum.

And isn't it Sam who senses transparency about frodo way back in FOTR (or was that Gandalf, i can't remember).

So i think Sam is here saying whether or no, to whether in fact frodo is the frodo he is familiar with from the shire, or the new frodo, and that he loves them both.

Finding Frodo: I like your interpretation I've also read somewhere that maybe Sam's subtext is "whether or no (Frodo loves me back)".  I like that too.

N.E. Brigand: It was Gandalf... who commented on the light shining through Frodo in Rivendell, one of our few moments in Gandalf's head.  And as Elanoria notes above, something similar to what's said of Frodo here is said of Aragorn in the appendices.

FarFromHome: But Sam saw it too Although we don't hear of it at the time, we find out when Sam thinks back to Rivendell at the start of this scene: "Then [i.e. in Rivendell] as he had kept watch Sam had noticed that at times a light seemed to be shining faintly within; but now the light was even clearer and stronger."

squire: Nice catch Of course, both Gandalf and Sam must have noticed the light within Frodo at Rivendell. I never quite put that together before you pointed it out. I wonder if Tolkien himself remembered that he had had Gandalf, not Sam, do the noticing back at Rivendell?

Gandalf seems to imply that not everyone sees this 'light' (or 'transparency', as Gandalf perceives it at the time): "to the wizard's eye there was a faint change, just a hint as it were of transparency...'He may become like a glass filled with clear light for eyes to see that can.'"

I think it's interesting that even back at Rivendell, Sam had achieved a kind of spiritual power of perception himself, at least with regard to Frodo, that others did not have.

Nefisa3: thanks, and i think there's another... place too, where Sam saw frodo's "light", but i'm sure i won't find it till this discussion has dropped from the page.

Elostirion74: I can see several reasons. First thing Sam is now aware of Frodo's lack of hope, the burden of the Ring and Frodo's increasing weariness. Probably this will have increased both Sam's concern for Frodo and nurtured his already strong devotion to his master.

Second thing: Sam has seen Frodo from a different angle in the previous chapters. He has seen Frodo as a figure shrouded in white and as a commanding and stern person. Probably even more than in Rivendell when Frodo's recovering from the deadly knife wound, Sam can now see beneath Frodo's appearance and see his spirit shining through. Tolkien is telling the reader about Frodo's spiritual growth and the increasing closeness of the relation between them.

What Sam's love for Frodo is? Hmm, I see it sometimes as that of a caring and devoted friend, but a friend in a more traditional sense where people are willing to sacrifice something for each other, not only enjoying each other's company and providing (purely) emotional comfort. All the practical care Sam shows Frodo could point to the love of a parent to a child.

N.E. Brigand: Whether or no the light shines through?  Not only because Frodo has that transcendant quality?

 

 

squire: Tolkien often uses the word ‘love’ to describe feelings between non-related men, for instance: Merry of Bilbo; Aragorn of Theoden, Eomer and Merry; Legolas and Eomer of Aragorn; Gimli of Pippin; and of course Sam of Frodo. Also, here is an article that discusses (at length) the question of the meaning of same-sex love in The Lord of the Rings.

D. Why do so many critics and fans seem to ignore the other frequent expressions of love between various men, and focus on Sam’s loving relationship with Frodo?

drogo_drogo: I wish I had more time to explore this, but I liked the article's discussion of how World War I affected the attitudes toward male intimacy in Tolkien's society. The wartime experiences in the trenches helped, at some level, to create bridges between classes, something that was not too common in Edwardian and Victorian England before that time. The trenches also fostered close male-male bonding, though the sexuality implicit in that bonding is a matter of debate. The term "homosocial" has been used to characterize non-erotic forms of male bonding/relationships. I'd suggest that should be applied both to Frodo and Sam, and to the other close male-male pairs we see in LOTR. Eroticism is too narrow a category to encompass the true nature of these bonds.

Modtheow: eroticism. I’ve been thinking about what you said about eroticism since yesterday – that eroticism is too narrow a category to encompass the true nature of Frodo and Sam’s bond.  As a quick response, I would say yes, I agree.  You don’t have to see Frodo and Sam as gay in order to understand the love between them.  But the idea that eroticism is too narrow a category has been bugging me ever since, especially when I think of some recent historical research or even some of the fanfics written about F/S (I mean the really good fics that are attempts to seriously explore the story), because those writers, I think,  are trying to show how eroticism is not narrowing but can lead to an opening up of categories.

If (as most people see it) erotic desire is used to define someone as gay or straight, then it is a narrowing of categories to say that Frodo and Sam have a homoerotic relationship; it tends to reduce Frodo and Sam’s relationship to one explained by sexual identity only – they’re gay. For one thing, this view doesn’t allow for the idea that same-sex friends can love each other without having any sexual desires for each other – and I wouldn't want to forget this possibility.  But here’s where the historians and writers start nagging me about my conclusions.  I can hear them saying, isn’t it just as narrowing to say that Frodo and Sam are straight and that eroticism has nothing to do with their closeness?  Why not open up the category of heterosexuality and say that physical gestures of affection or loving looks or intense feelings of love (all of which we can find in LotR) can have some erotic potential?  In other words, eroticism doesn’t have to be contained by modern categories of homosexual or heterosexual.

That’s why I find recent historians of WWI so interesting.  They can point to examples from letters and diaries, like the one I read recently in which a soldier who, with a fiancee at home and who definitely thought of himself as a heterosexual, on the eve of battle very deliberately kissed his male friend and then described to his girlfriend the secret thrill of this moment. He would never have dreamt of dragging his male friend off into the bushes to engage in any further sexual activity; I doubt he would ever have thought of himself as gay; and he would return home and marry his girlfriend.  But what was that kiss?  Was that gesture gay?  Was it straight?  It’s at moments like that that it seems to me that categories of gay or straight are too narrowing, but the eroticism of that moment is still there.  If it’s recognized, then there isn’t that kind of narrowing that occurs when you simply say “they’re gay”; instead, there’s an opening up of possible behaviours that defy categorization. 

I’m throwing out these exploratory thoughts here, with no time to go on to say how I think this applies to Frodo and Sam – I really should stop thinking about this and get back to more pressing work.   Anyway, everyone can now tell me I’m crazy or shred my ideas to bits – feel free.

an seleichan: possible behaviours that defy categorization is, I think, a very good way to look at the relationship, if forced to try to define it. I always prefer to NOT define it. Is that due to my innate inability to really examine the issue, or is it simply that I knew the characters a long, long time before I ever stopped to consider their erotic relationship or lack thereof?

Or it could be due to prejudice on my part, I'm willing to admit to that, except it doesn't really bother me to think that they had an erotic relationship. :-) I don't think it matters to the story that I read, which I would call the deep story or the underlying moral story going on. I have long since stopped reading LOTR for the plot. So I don't care if Frodo and Sam had sexual relations or even unfulfilled yearnings.

At least, I don't think so, when I examine my conscience. :-)

But I don't really and truly think Tolkien INTENDED them to be homosexual, or if he did he certainly went to great pains to paint Sam as longing for Rosie, and as sexually potent with Rosie (all those children).

It's less clear, maybe, whether he intended Frodo to be homosexual; that is, there are less overt clues given. I never think of him that way, but that could just be long acquaintance.

So perhaps the question I would ask after reading your thoughts is: does it matter? I mean, to the reader? Can't I view them as heterosexual and another reader as homosexual without interfering with the story? I guess one answer to that would be that understanding a relationship between lovers is not the same as understanding a relationship between friends; it puts another spin on things.

But maybe your hint that they fall into an uncategorized category (hmmmmm...what a doubtful phrase there!) is a better way to think about them. It certainly gives a more real picture of the full range of human relationships then simply trying to "prove", one way or another, their sexual orientations.

a.s. (also just thinking)

Nefisa3: it's a sexless world... that tolkien makes, at least, not overtly sexual.

sex is too omnipresent to not be there, but it is defintely way in the background or between the lines.

that makes it easy to not really bother one's head too much about Frodo's preferences in the bedroom.

It doesn't matter to me either way, and it doesn't matter for the story either.

And thank goodness Tolkien left so much of his character's personal lives a blank, or what in the world what fanfic writers do?

Modtheow: Thinking along the same lines I don't think it really matters to the story if you think Frodo and Sam are heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual -- have I forgotten anyone? -- or transgendered!  Love is love, and that's the main point.

I don't think Tolkien intended them to be homosexual at all.  It just seems too far from what would be acceptable Catholic behaviour for him to even contemplate it.  And yet, I know of at least one writer who has argued that Tolkien did describe Frodo and Sam in terms that are analogous to a husband and wife or to a male and female pair:  in the rejected epilogue, Sam compares Frodo to a treasure like Galadriel was a treasure to Celeborn (have I got the details right from my memory on this one?), and in another part of LotR (I think at Weathertop), Sam stands protecting Frodo like an animal protecting its mate. These are examples that can be used to argue that Tolkien may have unconsciously described Frodo and Sam in the terms usually reserved for heterosexual couples.  I think it could be counter-argued that even if Tolkien did so, he didn't intend to suggest any sexual desires between them.

Does the question of sexuality matter to the reader?  The story stands without us having to analyze Frodo and Sam's sexuality, I think. But what I find really interesting is that the question of sexuality is always hanging around discussions of Tolkien, and I'd like to figure out why.  There are those early critics who ridiculed LotR as a boys' story. With the movies, we have a whole other development along these lines:  all those moviegoers and reviewers who would ask if the hobbits were gay or make jokes about it.  Why? What does that say about our culture right now?  And what about all those people who want Frodo and Sam (and Merry and Pippin and Legolas and so on) to be gay, or at least to be sexual beings in one way or another, in the fanfic that they write?  What's that all about?  And if it's so easy to see Frodo and Sam as not being sexual at all, then how come Peter Jackson's movie didn't include scenes like the one in the tower of Cirith Ungol where Sam holds Frodo (who is naked) in his arms and he thinks about never wanting to let him go?  If their relationship is clearly nonsexual or "straightforward," could that have been conveyed on screen?

Come to think of it, that's more skin and more contact than Tolkien shows any heterosexual couple having, as far as I can recall.

And yes, Sam has 13 children with Rosie, but don't forget that he was torn in two between love of master and love of wife for a brief period in the Shire.

In the end, I think that thinking about these questions is just one of the ways that LotR can tell us a lot about ourselves -- and sometimes challenge the assumptions that we automatically make about ideas like sexuality.

Linkinparkelf: Leaving Shelob's Lair "No onslaught more fierce was ever seen in the savage world of beasts, where some desperate small creature armed with little teeth, alone, will spring upon a tower of horn and hide that stands above its fallen mate."

Nothing really to add to your excellent discussion, but I remembered where the term 'mate' is used in conjunction with Sam and Frodo.

Can two people be mated in life without there being a sexual component to their relationship? Or do all our relationships have some degree of sexual attraction, buried in varied layers of our subconscious based on our upbringing and social norms?

Lucia: "mate" in Tolkien's England is a common word for 'friend' so that line can be read with two meanings..

an seleichan: a "boy's story" what I find really interesting is that the question of sexuality is always hanging around discussions of Tolkien, and I'd like to figure out why.  There are those early critics who ridiculed LotR as a boys' story

I may not understand that criticism in context...does it have something to do with veiled homosexuality? Does "boy's story" allude to that?

If so, that explains something to me I never understood about that initial criticism! (I love the RR, to learn these little things after so many years. Keeps me humble, for one thing).

Before the internet, when Tolkien fans connected in person and by mailed newsletters, etc, was this also a common discussion among fans?

Sometimes I wonder myself if Tolkien was working out some fantasies of his own, in the Frodo-Sam relationship. But on the other hand, part of me says he experienced his only true depth of intimacy (of the non-sexual variety) in male-male relationships, despite his long marriage. At least, from the hints in biographies, etc.

Maybe he just saw the world that way: he was sexually interested in females but looked to other males for intellectual bonding and intimacy. That by itself could explain the male focus of the relationship at the heart of LOTR.

I think.

squire: Ah, those good old days of reading "boys stories"! I remember particularly enjoying "boys stories" when I was a boy. They're generally adventures with two buddies, or a group of buddies, whether grown men (in the original genre, aimed at inspiring boys to become men) or boys (in imitative incarnations, where youth became an object in itself). The quality can vary greatly, but if I remember, it wasn't ostensibly about relationships, it was about excitement and danger and achievement. Some older examples might be the H. Rider Haggard books, Jules Verne, Kipling, even true tales of exploration like Endurance and Lewis & Clark which are written in adventure narrative mode.

I think their primarily appeal is to boys in pre-adolescence, when girls are very much not part of one's life. Boys' friendships with other boys are closer in those years than ever after, in my opinion. The desire to be a grown man, and have manly adventures, is gratified by reading this kind of tale.

A superficial reading of Tolkien can certainly conclude that he is just writing another "boys story", since some of the same ingredients are there -- and frankly, who am I to say that wasn't its primary appeal to me when I first read the trilogy, as a pre-adolescent? I think it surely was.

an seleichan: "The Shire Boys and the Mystery of The Ring of Fire"?? Something like that? :-)

That's kind of what I thought the initial critics meant by "a boy's story". But then I wondered, after Modtheow's post, whether that term "a boy's story" was some kind of veiled reference to a story about homosexuality? Were the critics who said it was a "boy's story" trying to say that Tolkien was writing about homosexuality?

If so, if it alludes to that, I never understood the criticism from that point before. I just thought they meant it was so much Hardy Boy-ish (or whatever the English equivalent is) pulp fiction.

squire: A little out of my depth, but... I agree with you: I think the early critics who Modtheow cites as calling LotR a "boys story" were just putting it down as juvenile literature of the Ripping Yarns variety.

But (and I hope Modtheow will pitch in here, I haven't actually read much in this area) I suspect that the next wave of critics who detected homosexual undertones in Tolkien's writing would claim that "boys stories" themselves are in fact sublimated expressions of the homosexual feelings that all men have to a greater or lesser degree.

Boys stories -- or their adult manifestation, all-male adventure fiction and narratives -- remain a popular genre. The more the sexes are isolated in society or culture, as they often are now and certainly tended to be in Tolkien's life and in many other lives in his England, the more people will turn to their own sex for the universal human requirements of affection, companionship and love, whether they can admit that's what they're doing or not.

I'm guessing that those critics claimed to be making explicit what earlier critics ignored or would not acknowledge due to social prejudices: any all-male or largely-male fictional setting has a homosexual aspect to it.

Now here in this discussion, a generation after the first gay-themed Tolkien criticism, I think we're seeing there's a richer and subtler set of distinctions to be made about his fiction, such as using the broader and probably more accurate term 'homosocial' to keep from focusing on the erotic or physical aspects of homosexuality--which, unlike in LotR, you generally don't find any hint of in boys stories. Or, if you do, you didn't when you were reading them at age 13, I can tell you.

Penthe: illustrations I think you're both right about this. Boy's story is definitely used as a put down, placing LOTR in the action/adventure genre. But I think it definitely refers to a certain eroticised view of young(ish) men and boys. The illustrations of young men, and the physical descriptions in boy's own tales are frequently extremely (how do I say this nicely) physical.

Tolkien doesn't tend to compare his male characters, as far as I have noticed, to stallions preparing to run races and so on in quite the same way as many other boy's stories do, though. The relationships are almost completely cerebral and emotional (or you could argue sentimental) rather than based on physical admiration. Tolkien describes height and eye colour, occasionally hair colour, rather than musculature, skin tone or feeling and so on. The boy's own tales do tend to focus on these rather more than might be strictly necessary to set the scene. The physical presence of the heroes is at the very least fetishised in these books.

What I'm trying to say is that I think the critics might have been making the kind of allusion that a.s. and Squire talk about, but that the analogy between the two kinds of texts doesn't hold up. So stupid critics: Tolkien one, critics nil.

When it comes to villains, however, you could argue for more profound similarities. The savages, evil-doers, kidnappers and so on of the boy's own tales are described in very similar terms in Tolkien & in various 19th century boy's stories.

*hops of hobby horse and goes to make some sandwiches*

an seleichan: Thanks!

Nerdanel_50: [modded up!] Sexuality and difference  ;-) I apologize if this is covered elsewhere in the thread--actually reading through all parts of this discussion is like participating in dozens of excellent seminars all on the same day!

It seems to me, theoretically at least, that homosexuality can be a closer relationship than heterosexuality. Two men (here, Frodo and Sam) begin with more common ground than do a man and a woman (Sam and Rosie, JRRT and Edith) physiologically and this disparity is hugely emphasized by culture. So even if a heterosexual relationship is as deep and intimate as it can be, it is rooted in the "hetero" part, the difference between the two people. A homosocial relationship begins without this structural difference--there is less standing in the way of two men or two women being one soul in two bodies. But the taboo on homosexuality introduces a distance, a prohibited union. In exploring the relationship between Frodo and Sam, JRRT seems plainly to have been interested in collapsing the distance between them--eventually, Sam becomes Frodo--bearing his ring, bearing his weight, living in his house, taking over his job as Mayor, taking on all Frodo ever had or was, and even fathering Frodo, Jr. To the extent that "erotic" is a narrowing concept its limitations cannot withstand the pressure pulling Frodo and Sam together. As to whether F and S act on any erotic impulse, there is no opportunity. When they are alone together one is always on watch. But no artificial distance (I regard a categorical affection for one gender to the exclusion of the other, regardless of the qualities of the individuals involved, as an artifact of culture) survives between Frodo and Sam by the end.

I wonder if JRRT, in creating the FrodoSam, was acting out a longing to achieve the intimacy of homosociality with his beloved Edith. The fact that he told his son in a letter that no such intimacy with women was possible may indicate that he had yearned for it himself.

Nefisa3: "homosocial" is a great word... because i think that does cover it well; something beyond what we might call friendship, but short of erotic love.

i also think some of the difficulty people have with this F/S homosocial relationship is a product of Western or american or English culture.

Many other cultures have a higher tolerance and comfortableness with friends saying "I love you"; with men holding hands together, or women hugging each other or other physical signs of same sex intimacy, that is not in fact erotic intimacy.

squire: For another point of view on sexuality in Tolkien, see above. N. E. Brigand has provided us with a link to the essay "Warm Beds are Good", a fine review of sexuality in Tolkien's works overall. It includes a consideration of Sam and Frodo's relationship, taking the approach that Tolkien's intent is of primary importance in reading it as non-homosexual.

Modtheow: [modded up!] Thanks for all those examples of The Love that Dares to Speak Its Name, which illustrate how often non-related males in LotR say they love each other.  There’s the love that’s like that of a child for a father in Merry’s love for Theoden. Then there’s all that love that Aragorn inspires – is that love for a true king and leader?  Love of warriors for their lord?  Aragorn’s and Gimli’s love for the hobbits – is that a kind of fatherly love or love between warriors?  Is the love between Frodo and Sam different?  (I’m only asking these questions because I’m still thinking of the answers.)

I think that more attention is paid to Frodo and Sam by the critics because the Frodo/Sam relationship is portrayed in so much more detail and their love is essential to the success of the quest.  I also think that their love binds them more closely than the others – the father-child relationship and the king-warrior relationship link characters with a strong bond, but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that makes me think Frodo and Sam’s love transcends those examples.  It must have something to do with the way they give up all of themselves to the other: Sam willing to sacrifice everything for Frodo, becoming his eyes and ears and legs, even, near the end, and then Frodo giving himself over entirely to Sam’s care and, by the end of the story, leaving Sam everything he has. 

The word “love” comes easily to Tolkien.  It never seemed unusual to me when I first read the books, but maybe that’s because I had already been reading medieval literature where love and loyalty between male warriors was a common theme.  Now that I’ve read criticisms of the book from the 1950s and 60s, however, I get the impression that one of the reasons some of those critics responded negatively to the books was that they were uncomfortable with all this male love everywhere on the quest.  They called the characters "adolescent," "prepubescent," "infantile," and complained that they were essentially boys who knew nothing about women.  What else could that have been about? It's a criticism that you can still hear today.

lucia: "but I can’t quite put my finger on... what it is that makes me think Frodo and Sam’s love transcends those examples." I think that a bond that is strong enough to pull two people to hell and back together is a bond that can be within any of the above listed relationships, but is clearly above and beyond the usual call.

Elostirion74: Because the love between Sam and Frodo is described in greater detail and in my view with more intimacy involved.

The love that others feel for Aragorn seems to be a similar love to the one between Sam and Frodo, but this love appears at times to be coloured by reverence for something higher, like Merry's feelings for Theoden (see Houses of Healing) and Eomer's for Aragorn.

N.E. Brigand: Because Frodo is the central character?  Because he and Sam spend the most time together, in close and arduous quarters?  Interestingly, Pippin and Merry don't explicitly "love" each other (some people have praised the movies for emphasizing their feelings when they are separated after the Palantir episode).  I agree that it's careless of readers to ignore the other statements of love.

 

 

 


Frodo and Sam by Eiszmann

 

He was not going to leave Frodo alone asleep even for a few minutes.

 

While Gollum was away Sam took another look at Frodo. He was still sleeping quietly, but Sam was now struck most by the leanness of his face and hands. 'Too thin and drawn he is,' he muttered. 'Not right for a hobbit. If I can get these coneys cooked, I'm going to wake him up.'

 

When he thought all was ready he lifted the pans off the fire, and crept along to Frodo. Frodo half opened his eyes as Sam stood over him, and then he wakened from his dreaming: another gentle, unrecoverable dream of peace.

‘Hullo, Sam!’ he said. ‘Not resting? Is anything wrong? What is the time?’

‘About a couple of hours after daybreak,’ said Sam, ‘and nigh on half past eight by Shire clocks, maybe. But nothing’s wrong. Though it ain’t quite what I’d call right: no stock, no onions, no taters. I’ve got a bit of a stew for you, and some broth, Mr. Frodo. Do you good. You’ll have to sup it in your mug; or straight from the pan, when it’s cooled a bit. I haven’t brought no bowls, nor nothing proper.’

squire: I read Sam’s relationship to Frodo here as that of “mother” rather than “friend or lover.”

E. Do you find Sam’s tone endearing, or cloying, or just right?

Modtheow: Sam’s tone in the chapter always makes me laugh.  I like it.

N.E. Brigand: Why would “endearing” not be “right”?  For me, Sam's occasionally slips to “cloying.”

 

 

squire: But Sam is Frodo’s junior in age, experience, education, rank, and class.

F. In what way, if any, is Sam “senior” to Frodo? How would Sam answer this question?

Modtheow: I imagine that Sam would think himself "senior" to Frodo in that Sam takes care of practical matters, thinking ahead about food rations, for example. Also, he thinks of Frodo as sometimes being too kind-hearted, as if he, Sam, has a more realistic view of life.

Lúthien_Rising: Sam & Frodo in social structure Yet in the common social structure of Tolkien's time, it is precisely this practicality that marks Sam as beneath Frodo. He might be more right (at times) because of his practicality (and I would argue that in the end, he is not) - and it certainly makes him essential - but he is not senior because of it, nor do I think he would think himself so.

Modtheow: Sam is very sure of his social position, and I agree that he would always think of Frodo as his superior.  I was partly thinking of some lines from the previous chapter:

It had always been a notion of his that the kindness of dear Mr. Frodo was of such a high degree that it must imply a fair measure of blindness.  Of course, he also firmly held the incompatible belief that Mr. Frodo was the wisest person in the world (with the possible exception of Old Mr. Bilbo and Gandalf).

I thought that possibly Sam's beliefs about Frodo's blindness due to his kindness suggested that Sam occasionally thought of himself as knowing better or as seeing more clearly than Frodo.

I extrapolated from there that Sam's cooking and rationing would be another way that he thought he could see things more clearly than Frodo, but I hadn't taken into account the way those common tasks would mark Sam as, well, common and inferior in the social structure of Tolkien's day. 

So, do you think that Sam thinks of himself as "senior" to Frodo in any way?

Lúthien_Rising: no, I don't think he does I think there's always a deference there, even when he comes to accept his role as caring for Frodo in more than physical ways.

Frodo's face was peaceful, the marks of fear and care had left it; but it looked old, old and beautiful, as if the chiselling of the shaping years was now revealed in many fine lines that had before been hidden, though the identity of the face was not changed.

In caring for Frodo, Sam remains significantly the younger: it his an Elder he is caring for. He may be in charge, effectively - taking a decision-making role, a sort of day-to-day authority - but it's never a position of superiority. That very position is being necessitated by Frodo's superior (Elder) status.

squire: For god's sake don't tell PJ! It's one thing to say that Elijah Wood was too young to play Frodo, because book-Frodo is pushing 50 at the beginning of his adventure, not 33. It's another to point out that in the book, as we see in this scene, Frodo distinctly 'ages' in a spiritual way due to his ordeal - and should have been made up by the end of the movie to look (attractively) antique, say about 70. I bet the movie audience would have 'got' it. It also would have built a clear parallel with Aragorn, which the movie avoids.

I like your choice of "Elder" to characterize Frodo. It's not a term Tolkien uses (perhaps because he focuses on Elf-culture) but it seems very appropriate.

N.E. Brigand: Old, or ageless? At 50, Frodo still looks like a hobbit "just out of his tweens," I think it says in the FotR, and since hobbits live on average to 100, I always thought that 33 on a hobbit looks younger than 33 on a person.  So Elijah Wood's youth didn't bother me as much as a lack of "mastery" that Tolkien says Frodo had come to enjoy in the 17 years he lived alone at Bag End (and possessed the Ring).  But if he's like Bilbo, at the destruction of the Ring he would quickly assume the looks proper to his 50 hobbit years -- probably 35-40 for a person (the same age that Bilbo looked at the start of the story; I love Ian Holm but he looked much too old before RotK).  I like your idea that Frodo's exceptionally difficult experiences would add some years to that, but I wonder if his transparent quality doesn't suggest that he's more like an elf, like Glorfindel at the Fords with the light shining forth -- not old but ageless, as the elves are sometimes described.

an seleichan: Sam would answer Sam might say, "When it comes to gettin' along in the world, I knows best what needs doin'. Mr. Frodo here, he might know a thing or two about books and such; but it's my cookin' that'll see us to the next part of the journey, if you take my meanin'".

:-)

Sam is displaying a characteristic of "mental myopia", or the shortsightedness of those with limited knowledge and insight but multiple and obvious practical skill. He thinks he knows best; therefore, he knows best. In practical matters, Sam considers himself far superior to his master. And, likely, he is correct in this regard.

As recently discussed, Tolkien talks about this trait in letter 246, when he says: "He is a more representative hobbit than any others that we have to see much of; and he has consequently a stronger ingredient of that quality which even some hobbits found at times hard to bear: a vulgarity-by that I do not mean a mere 'down-to-earthiness'-a mental myopia which is proud of itself, a smugness (in varying degrees) and cocksureness, and a readiness to measure and sum up all things from a limited experience, largely enshrined in sententious traditional 'wisdom'."

Sam is going to understand things better later on, particularly when he has possession of the Ring and realizes his own limitations. But we're not there yet!

  nefisa3: but Sam is not more practical... I agree with a lot of what you are saying here, but in fact i think the mental myopia was rooted even deeper.

Frodo is in fact the much more "practial" one. I think he could fare for himself quite well in the wild, and he is practical enough that on his own, he would never have risked a fire just to cook some food. And he is practical enough to know all the things sam worries about don't matter, 'cause this is a one-way trip.

it always rather amuses me how Sam *is* very blind to just how practical, and "unblind" his master is.

I also think this is a natural trait of servants or anyone in rather a lowly position; they tend to inflate the incompetence of their employer. It's a minor ego-building thing, but i think Tolkien nails it dead on wiht Sam, yet in a very forgiving, loving way.

an seleichan: good point :-)

N.E. Brigand: one-way trip I've never read Robinson Crusoe, but I remember a description of Crusoe rescuing money from the sinking ship--he was probably never going to be able to use it, and yet...

nefisa3: but is that practical or not?.. I would say no: a truly practical person would realize the money was no good, and could be a liability if it dragged him down or meant he didn't carry other things.

It's only the impractical, always hope for a miracle, "something will turn up" types, like Sam, who would take the money to a desert island, or worry about the return trip.

and remember, Frodo was proved right: they did not *need* extra food or water for the return trip they did get.

N.E. Brigand: What about sparing Gollum? Crusoe eventually gets off his island, I think, so the money came in handy.  If Sam acknowledges that this journey is likely to include no return trip, still I think he's right to try and think beyond the end.

But on another point, surely Sam's idea of leaving Gollum tied up at the feet of the Emyn Muil is more "practical" than Frodo's pity (in his letters, Tolkien emphasizes that the pity for which Frodo is rewarded wouldn't be genuine if it had any practical intent).  It seems that at different times Frodo and Sam both show themselves as the more practical hobbit.

nefisa3: Mordor Without A Map... the most practical move Frodo makes is sparing Gollum. Having a guide gives them a chance of making it to Mt Doom, where without one they would need to depend on truly blind luck.

It's is a finely-calculated risk; your guide is also your enemy. But it is Frodo's practicality that they need gollum that stands clear versus Sam's emotional response: kill him.

Pity of course comes in there too.... but then again, the case could be made that pity and mercy *are* often the most practical choices. Use mercy, and that way you don't create enemies and dead-ends with every move you make. In the long run, Pity is usually not half as dangerous as ruthlessness.

N.E. Brigand: Sam wouldn’t think of himself as “senior;” he’d say that Frodo had more important things to worry about, and that’s why he deals with the regular details.

 

squire: G. How common would it be, in the English country society that Tolkien is evoking with his hobbits, for a manservant to be cook, butler, and landscape gardener, as Sam apparently is?

N.E. Brigand: I don’t know much about class and the master-servant relationship beyond what I read in The Remains of the Day.  Sam was going to Crickhollow to “do for” Frodo.  How many hobbits are rich enough to afford a cook, butler and landscape gardener?    Or is it a matter of an idealized master-servant relationship?  No decent hobbit would be so ostentatious as to have multiple servants?

FarFromHome: Cook, butler and gardener Cook and valet (not butler, which is something else) would be roles that WWI batmen provided for their officers. Gardener, of course, is all Sam really is before the start of the quest. There's no evidence in LotR that Sam cooked for Frodo at home - in fact the details given in this chapter suggest otherwise. It's made clear that Sam knows how to cook because it's a normal skill of ordinary hobbits, and that he's done some camp-cooking, but without any implication that he's the designated cook.

Also, think of Bilbo in The Hobbit and at the start of LotR. He does his own cooking and serving and washing-up (and dusting the mantel!), and it's hard to imagine Frodo would have departed so greatly from that pattern.

I think it's important to remember that in WWI, soldiers changed from doing their "job at home", as Sam refers to his gardening, and took on other roles. Robert Graves, for example, tells the story of his batman who was a silversmith by trade, and returned from leave in England with a silver cigarette case that he had made and engraved as a gift for Graves. So Sam takes on a new role when he sets off on the quest, which may have something to do with Pippin's teasing about breakfast and bathwater - it's all new to Sam, and Pippin's trying to catch him out while he's still half-asleep.

Although the roles may change, though, the class distinction doesn't. Working-class men became privates and batmen in WWI; educated, middle-class men (some of them little more than boys) became their officers, and were assumed to have leadership skills just because of their superior education. Class and education were closely linked, and in fact it's only since free education, right up to university level, was made available to all in the UK after WWII, that class distinctions have largely broken down. I think a very important detail in LotR is the fact that Bilbo has taught Sam his "letters". He's allowed him to take that first step towards understanding the "affairs of his betters", and to having the finer feelings (longing for Elves, love of stories) that allow him to become the leader and hero he's destined to be.

Nefisa3: not sure roles so defined... I don't mean that Sam was officially also the cook and cleaner of bag end. but i think with small establishments, the "gardener" may often take on all kinds of odd jobs. And Sam definetly seems to have been an "inside" helper, or at least someone who had the run of the house.

also, isn't there some mention of Sam pulling the curtains for frodo in the morning and calling him to breakfast? I think Frodo imagines it or something when Sam wakes him up at one point on their journey...

that certainly indicates Sam was sometimes doing more than gardening (unless all those slash writers are right).

FarFromHome: Fanfic or not I think Frodo's memories of being woken by Sam are more likely to be childhood memories - while Bilbo was still around and the child Sam was "in and out of Bag End". I can imagine Sam turning up early with his dad, and being given little errands around the hobbit-hole by Bilbo - including going to wake up the tweenage Frodo if he failed to appear in time for breakfast.

But I find I can't imagine the adult Sam waking the adult Frodo, without changing the implied setup we see with Bilbo much earlier, and Frodo and Sam's initial relationship in LotR. The intimacy only comes over time, and doesn't seem to be part of a pattern they brought from home.

I agree that in a small household, someone like Sam would still be in and out, maybe bringing in the wood, lighting the kitchen stove and so on. But not preparing food, or waking his employer. That seems to me to be a different job entirely.

Nefisa3:  I don't see any evidence in the text... for your theory that it was only a tweenage thing, that sam would have been in to wake frodo.

not saying it's not possible, but it seems a lot of extrapolation. and therefore, just on a par with my theory. they're both uut's. :)

however, I still think it slightly more likely that frodo is imagining something that was a regualr part of his routine, not a random scrap of childhood memory. And again, from what i've seen and experienced of small households with servants, i think it would not be uncommon for a gardener like sam to be doing such tasks.

Squire: To 'do for' Mr Frodo means just what, exactly? When Frodo is paralyzed by the power of the WitchKing near Minas Morgul, Sam calls to him to snap to:

"Then at a great distance, as if it came out of memories of the Shire, some sunlit early morning, when the day called and doors were opening, he heard Sam's voice speaking. `Wake up, Mr. Frodo! Wake up! ' Had the voice added: `Your breakfast is ready,' he would hardly have been surprised."

Later, Sam says to Frodo after rescuing him at the top of the Cirith Ungol tower:

"'Come! Wake up Mr. Frodo!' he said, trying to sound as cheerful as he had when he drew back the curtains at Bag End on a summer's morning."

Both of these cases pretty clearly suggest that Sam was indeed Frodo's valet and cook in Bag End -- I don't think Tolkien invites us to imagine a stretched scenario that this is a memory of Sam as a boy occasionally waking Frodo as a favor to Bilbo.

This does seem to conflict with earlier information that Sam was just the gardener at Bag End. That his status was changing when the quest began is telegraphed by his statement that he is moving to Crickhollow 'to do for Mr. Frodo and look after his bit of garden'. "Do for" I think here means cook and keep house, which is allowed for by the fact that the garden is evidently to be much smaller than Bag End's. Now, certainly Sam had the 'run of the house' at Bag End, due to the close relationship between the Gamgees and the Bagginses. But did he ever come into Frodo's room, pull open the curtains, wake him, and announce breakfast? I don't think so. [Among other things, Sam was a very late invention in the first book. We learn from HoME that the Hobbiton/Bag End sequences in FotR were composed by Tolkien early on -- Sam did not exist when Frodo's home life was first invented.]

I think Tolkien must have forgotten this in the midst of constructing the very close relationship that Frodo and Sam develop in the later books.

FarFromHome: At Crickhollow 'doing for' Frodo would presumably have meant doing more than the gardening, I agree. At this point, Sam might well have become a sort of valet and companion to Frodo, since they would have been living in the same house (unlike the situation at Bag End/Bagshot Row). But we know that's just a fiction anyway (and on the one night they spend in Crickhollow, Merry and Fatty do the cooking and bathwater-heating, not Sam - although he makes breakfast next morning IIRC, while others prepare the ponies and so on).

I had those two quotes you mention in mind when I wrote my post. I agree there's nothing there to say that they're childhood memories, but they've always sounded like childhood memories to me - I have similar memories from school vacations in my own childhood, and as a parent of waking my own kids that way on summer mornings. Whether Tolkien consciously meant them that way, of course there's no way to tell. Perhaps he just didn't want to take out these little moments in his revisions, despite the fact that he'd made Sam just the gardener after all, and someone that Frodo apparently doesn't really know all that well at the start ("I'm learning a lot about Sam Gamgee on this journey.")

Another consideration that suggests childhood memories to me is that I sometimes wonder if Tolkien, in writing these chapters to send to his son at the front line, is thinking very much of the parent-child bond as he writes Frodo and Sam. I imagine him reliving his own bitter experiences of WWI, and writing the story as 'consolation' to his son who he imagines in the same situation in the next war. So, whatever Tolkien might have been imagining in Frodo and Sam's past, perhaps hints of the parent-child memories of waking to innocence and peace are what inspires him here.

Clearly, whatever we come up with is no more than a theory. But I find I just can't see Sam as a valet in Bag End. It doesn't compute for me. I can see him helping himself to beer from the cellar, maybe making tea in the kitchen for the two of them at break-time, doing odd jobs and so on, but nothing more formal than that. The childhood idea is no more than a UUT, but at least it has the advantage of not conflicting with other information in the book (I'm not claiming that Sam, in having 'the run of the house', took it upon himself to wake Frodo, as I'm sure you understand, but that Bilbo might have been in the habit of asking him to do so.)

squire: What's interesting about your idea is that it reinforces my feeling that Sam is becoming Frodo's "Mother", not his "Wife" in this part of the book. I do see the "memory of childhood" feeling that you refer to, in how Frodo hears Sam calling to him; but I take that metaphorically or emotionally, not literally.

Hobbits as a race are rather juvenilized and spoiled in Tolkien, and their growing up is one of the themes of the book.

Sam sees Frodo ageing in his vision in Ithilien. But in these other ways Frodo is regressing to a childlike dependence on Sam.

Makes me think just a little, of the ageing astronaut in '2001: A Space Odyssey', who in the end becomes a glowing, transparent baby...filled with light for those who can see.

Nefisa3:  but since this is all made-up... why should the reality that tolkien gives us earlier (that sam stays in the garden) be more "real" than the reality he describes later: that sam was valet and cook as much as gardener.

I'd say the reality presented last trumps the reality presented first, as being a reflection of more time spent writing the characters.

squire: I think consistency is important to Tolkien Between the two, I too vote that these scenes are more important in defining what Sam's relationship to Frodo has been, no matter how "un-English-real" a combined gardener/valet/cook role might be.

But usually Tolkien doesn't let the ball drop like this. He likes his made-up reality to be seamless, or seamless-feeling.

 

 

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