Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Friendship of Sam and Frodo

One of the topics we discussed (and one I'm sure everyone is going to be posting about at some point) is the nature of Frodo and Sam's friendship. Tolkien (initially) portrays their friendship more like a master and servant relationship, while Jackson makes seem like a "normal" friendship throughout the story. I remember Dr. Donovan said that many scholars think that in the stories, their relationship changes and becomes less of a master-servant relationship and more of a true friendship. Do you all agree with this, or do you think their relationship remains the same throughout the books?

Personally, I agree with this viewpoint. I think that the quest Frodo and Sam undertake and the adventures they have serve as kind of an equalizing force. (Not that Frodo ever acted like he was superior to Sam.) The dangers they encounter and the obstacles they conquer make Frodo and Sam rely on each other equally.

Do you think that Jackson was right to change their friendship dynamic for the movies? How do you think we would have received the movies if Frodo and Sam's relationship changed gradually as (I think) it did in the books?


Nienna said...

I agree with your point about the quest being an "equalizing force" for Frodo and Sam. While in the Shire they are subject to more concrete class roles. This type of relationship begins to deteriorate throughout the story, however. Initially, Sam is employed by Frodo, giving Frodo an inherent superiority by virtue of being employer and employee. However, throughout the quest Sam is no longer a mere employee to Frodo. He is motivated not out of duty to his job but rather out of friendship and camaraderie.
In reference to the movies however, I think Jackson probably did what he had to do to ensure that the movies were well received by a modern audience. The master/servant relationship is relatively foreign to us in modern times. The movies also don't quite have the luxury of taking hundreds of pages worth of material to showcase the evolution of their relationship. Given the constraints of film this decision was probably the best one to make the tale relatable to modern audiences.

Arien said...

I too agree with Nienna's comment above as well as the generally accepted theory that Sam and Frodo's relationship evolves as a result of their journey to destroy the ring. But while I was reading this discussion thread an interesting thought occurred to me, that the evolution of of Sam and Frodo's relationship has some interesting parallels to Tolkien's time in the military. Tolkien's standing in the military was largely because of his social status in English culture, Frodo's master role is the result of the station he inherited from Bilbo. As Tolkien serves in the trenches during WW1 he learnt to care about and appreciate to "grunt" soldier but because of his place as an officer was never able to actually become friends with the soldiers. Maybe the evolution of Sam becoming a true friend of Frodo's and even his heir was an act of fulfilling his desire to befriend those who were designated as his "subordinates".

Tulkas said...

I definitely see the evolution of their relationship from master-servant to friendship by the time they reach Mount Doom. However, I don't think this is the end of the evolution of their relationship. We can all agree that setting and circumstance play a large role in the nature of this relationship. In the Shire they are acting under the constraints of social norms. Outside the Shire their relationship is able to expand. However, in the end they return to the Shire and must again change to somehow fit their friendship their setting. Circumstantially, Frodo is also much older than Sam. As such, he is much more likely to die before him. From this viewpoint, Sam changes from best friend to heir. When Frodo leaves the Shire to go to the Grey Havens, he leaves his things to Sam. This new relationship is one that is able to incorporate elements of their friendship while still acquiescing to the constraints of their setting and circumstances.

Oromë said...

Part of the problem with the relationship between Frodo and Sam is that it doesn't make sense outside of its own time period. Although Frodo and Sam's friendship does grow and change, I don't think it's fair to say that it evolves from a master-servant relationship to a true friendship. This is not fair because Frodo and Sam are able to have a true friendship alongside the master-servant relationship. One does not diminish the other, and both are strengthened in Frodo and Sam's journey. They become more loyal to one another, with Sam seeing new reasons to look up to his master and Frodo relying more and more on Sam's constancy in service. At the same time, they grow closer as friends, struggling and suffering together equally.

However, this relationship, which romanticizes rather than destroys the master-servant bond, does not sit will with a modern audience. Today, people are uncomfortable with a master-servant relationship because it seems to imply the superiority of the master over the servant. While I don't feel like this is how Tolkien describes Sam and Frodo's relationship, it is understandable why Peter Jackson would choose to undermine this aspect of Frodo and Sam's friendship.

Nessa said...

Personally I feel that their relationship is never either Master-Servant or Best Friends. At the beginning, I always perceived Frodo and Sam as having some friendship already (how and why else would Sam defy him in telling Merry, Pippin, and Fatty Bolger about Frodo's plans?), but they certainly were not true friends. In my eyes, they had a sort of Employer-Employee relationship. I respect and would sacrifice time and energy for the sake of my boss not because she "owns" me but because she is wiser and more experienced than I am. She is a person worth following. This is, I think, how Sam and Frodo begin.

Throughout their journey, their friendship grows, but I do not think it becomes friendship the way we often think. As Tulkas says, Frodo is much older than Sam. Thus, even as they become close, their relationship is less a best-friendship and more a Father-Son/Master-Apprentice relationship. Sam still reveres Frodo, and they are still not equals due to the elevated status of Frodo's age, but the love has increased.