Thursday, April 28, 2011


Throughout The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and much of Tolkien's works, the theme of fellowship is pervasive. The quests which Tolkien's characters pursue are communal ones, undertaken with friends, without which friends they could not succeed.

The loneliest characters we meet come to bad ends; friendships are found in unlikely places; different ethnic and racial peoples are expected to band together in order to fight evil effectively; killing your best friend, even on accident, creates a grief that "never fades." Many of the medieval texts we dealt with also contribute to this idea (consider groups of knights and the comitatus).

And, of course, Tolkien himself had many close friends among the Inklings and TCBS who greatly influenced him.

Dr. Donovan and I strove to illustrate this important theme in our class through pub groups, in-class groupwork, blog discussion, and encouraging y'all to attend Hobbit Society functions. (Remember, even the teaching relationship between Dr. Donovan and myself is a communal one!)

What examples or anecdotes--either textual, or from your actual experience in the class--can you share to support (or contradict) (or complicate) this theme? Why is it so pervasive? Is it even important to focus on?


Aredhel said...

Reading this prompt the first example that stood out to me was Saruman and the bitter end he comes to BECAUSE he has no friends. He literally gets stabbed in the back by a so-called friend when he meets his demise. Saruman turns his back on and betrays everyone he is involved with: the White Council and specifically Gandalf when Saruman turns to helping Sauron; Sauron when Saruman gets greedy and wants power to himself; and Grima, well Saruman's just kind of a jerk to him all along.

Just the contrast Tolkien portrays between Gandalf - who's all about fellowship and friendship - and Saruman shows how much Tolkien values good, loyal companions. Gandalf ends up regarded with high honor even wearing a Ring of Power at the end, while Saruman ends up disgraced and dead.

Radagast said...

One thing I have noticed about this theme is that a lot of times (or maybe I'm just thinking of Lord of the Rings) the friends aren't likely friends. It's not always true, as with the hobbits, but a lot of Tolkien's friendships are with different races (Legolas and Gimli; Gandalf and Aragorn; Merry/Pippin and Treebeard) or people who didn't necessarily like each other (Niggle and Parish). I just think it's an interesting thing to look into. Like maybe Tolkien was saying that these ties can be even more binding because once you've made friends with them, you've kind of crossed a line. I'm thinking especially of Legolas and Gimli here, how they kind of went against what their races think of each other by forming a friendship, but maybe that made it stronger. Sorry if this post is kind of babbling; it seems that way to me.

Elwing said...

I think it is important to study the theme of fellowship/friendship when reading "The Lord of the Rings" because it is obviously one of the major themes in most of Tolkien's works. I think his own life experiences helped to enforce this idea. Both his parents died prematurely and all but one of his friends all well in WWI. This obviously had a huge impact on him. Also, the TCBS and the Inklings are basically fellowships in themselves that were important to Tolkien.

Thengel said...

It's interesting to note that Tolkien lets the theme of fellowship override so many of his other pervasive themes, such as the cultural divisions between races. He purposefully crafts a fellowship out of close friends (Merry and Pippin), total strangers, and people of conflicting races. For me, the most heartbreaking part of the end of the series was ALWAYS the moment when the Fellowship definitively comes to an end. I never wanted the Fellowship to end, and that is probably because the theme of fellowship and the brotherhood bond is one of the things Tolkien most wanted to emphasize among his characters.