Male Friendship in The Lord of the Rings: Medievalism, the First World War, and Contemporary Rewritings
Smol, Anna?(Mount Saint Vincent University)
The Ring Goes Ever On: Proceedings of the Tolkien 2005 Conference: 50 Years of The Lord of the Rings?Ed.Sarah Wells. 2 vols. Coventry, UK: The Tolkien Society, (2008) I. 320-26.?
My paper explores continuities in the institution of male friendship from the Middle Ages to the First World War and then looks at contemporary explorations and understandings of the central male friendship in The Lord of the Rings, that of Frodo and Sam. I look at some examples of medieval forerunners before examining the nature of male friendship in World War One through the perspectives of critics such as Sarah Cole, Santanu Das, Joanna Bourke, and Allen Frantzen. I focus my discussion of The Lord of the Rings on the Cirith Ungol scene, in which Frodo and Sam sleep together, and on the Mount Doom scene, in which Frodo asks Sam to hold his hands, a gesture that I argue mimics the medieval ritual of swearing fealty to a lord. I then examine the contemporary reception of the Frodo ? Sam relationship in the Peter Jackson films and in reactions to them. I conclude by considering slash fan fiction and its version of male friendship.
One could argue that the heart of The Lord of the Rings is the relationship between Frodo and Sam, and it is that male friendship that I would like to focus on in my presentation. Marion Zimmer Bradley identifies their friendship as the most intense love relationship in the book, akin to classical ideals of friendship in heroic literature, while David Craig in a fairly recent Mallorn article suggests a more modern mode of friendship experienced in the First World War, comparing the bond between Frodo and Sam to the homoerotic relationships represented by some First World War writers. Craig?s conclusion is that the Frodo?Sam relationship is basically a homosexual one, but I would like to modify this view by looking at recent work by First World War historians and literary critics such as Paul Fussell, Joanna Bourke, Sarah Cole, and Santanu Das to suggest that the concept of sexuality and gender in this situation was not as clearly defined as Craig indicates.
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