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Lord of the Rings, An Opposing Opinion

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I re-read the Lord of the Rings, and I realized why I didn’t like it very much. I don’t hate it, I just have some problems with it.

I loved the Hobbit. I loved Bilbo and the elves and dwarves. But when I was a kid [12 or 13] I just didn’t like Rings as much, but I couldn’t decide why.

Part of it is Frodo. He’s just too serious. That’s one thing I didn’t like when I was a kid. When I read it again I understood why he was more serious; he was on a more important mission and Bilbo was just goofing around.

But, then I started seeing the subtext.

Sam is Frodo’s ‘servant’ all through the books he’s the servant. Even after he saves Frodo’s life a few times and they go through a lot of shit together.

It’s so old world. No matter how many times Sam saves Frodo’s ass he’s never more than a servant. If Tolkien had been American then Sam might have started out as a servant but it wouldn’t have been long before they were partners. Equals. But that never happens in LOTR.

This made me think about the quintessential American film, the buddy picture. Butch and Sundance, Bonnie and Clyde, Top Gun, True Romance, Lethal Weapon, even Thelma and Louise. Maybe not all of those are great movies, but the partnership theme is in a lot of American movies.

But, in Lord of the Rings, it never happens. Sam can’t rise above his class because he was born a servant and the son of a servant. He should be able to rise above his station his these modern times. He even bore the ring, but does that matter? No. All that matters is that he is a servant and always will be while Frodo is the lord of the manor.

Also, on another note, Frodo and Sam are gay. That whole British tradition of the ‘bachelor lord and his loyal manservant’ thing. They’re just way too close.

About H. Wayne Nix

  • SNovak

    Oh come on. It’s an allegory about the second World War.
    Sad that you pick your way through a marvelous tale in search of pimples on it’s ass, blind to the beauty of the body of the work.
    Sam and Frodo gay? I guess you must know something the rest of us do not assume.

  • jadester

    i can understand where you get the “gay” subtext from, but i disagree with it.
    And anyway, throughout the book Sam always CHOOSES to be Frodo’s “servant”. He is never, ever forced into it. TBH, you can’t blame him for his choice – he knows that should frodo falter, there needs to be another there who knows the quest and can possibly carry it through. That this doesn’t really happen is simply a coincidence of tolkien’s storytelling, rather than anything else. Tolkien himslef said that he didn’t really have an analogy in mind when he wrote it, it’s just a story using fantastical characters and places. Any resemblance of the real world is purely coincidental, and i have to wonder why so many people seem to think it so important to analyse the story to the last detail. WHy can’t someone write a story that is simply fiction and nothing more? is it not possible?

  • Taloran

    Nicely said, Jadester.

  • Eric Olsen

    I think you’re all “right.” H. Wayne is simply examining why he felt the way he did when he read it as a kid – this is what he came up with. In the context of our highly sexualized world the subtext is rather glaring, but this doesn’t mean Tolkien meant anything by it. Nothing is ever written independent of the “real world” – all writers live in a place and time and there will always be parallels to history. This may or may not have any bearing on what the writer “intended,” but neither does what the writer intended make a reader’s interpretation any more or less valid.

  • Particleman

    S Novak, it is not allegorical with WW2. From the Preface of Part 1, as written by Tolkien:

    “As for any inner meaning or ‘message,’ it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical.”

  • Sh0t

    It is not an allegory for WWII.

    I always found LOTR to be quite vapid.

    Check out the Song of Fire and Ice series by George R.R. Martin.

    Very mature, very character driven.

  • Rachel Lapbook

    You can’t judge a trilogy like Lord of The rings by 21st century standards. Middle Earth though imaginary reflected a medieval world of Lords Ladies, servants, Kings, peasants adnd warriors…..As much as some in the modern world would like to be politically correct this is how it was in the middle ages.

    “And anyway, throughout the book Sam always CHOOSES to be Frodo’s “servant”. He is never, ever forced into it.”

    Exactly Sam wasn’t Frodo’s slave, and how about this for revolutionary thought…Aragorn was a heir of Kings, entitled to the throne of Gondor yet he “served” the hobbits but guiding them safely from Bree to Rivendell. They all became friends in the books, if Tolkien was a snob he never would have allowed royalty to hobnob with hobbits :)

  • Matt

    I fully agree with you about LOTR. I’ve seen all three movies, and they were all disappointing. If the directors literally shortened the movie by 50%, eliminated all the silly, sappy melodrama, got rid of the irrelevent hobbits, made the “evil” element as interesting and complex as the good side, reduced the overacting, eliminated some of the needless side plots, made the battles have meaning and appear more plausible, and…….. if the whole movie simply had a point… but it didn’t. I will say that there haven’t been movies of this scale for a long time… but people should know the difference between the masterful work of the Star Wars trilogy, The Godfather 1 & 2, Superman 1 & 2…. compared to LOTR. As a huge fan of fantasy, folklore and sci-fi, I’m ashamed to be lumped together with the many “limited thinkers” out there who in error think of this movie as one of the greatest of recent times, or even a decent movie. What a pointless snooz saga..

  • Natalie Davis

    Sam eventually became mayor of Hobbiton. No servant then. :)

  • duane

    Actually, Matt, it turns out that there was this series of three books, also collectively called “The Lord of the Rings,” upon which these movies are based. No, really! Check it out.

  • conor

    Wow, Matt, I only have one question for you. What grade are you in? Huh? Are you in junior high yet, or just elementary school. There are three classic books that the movies did a pretty good job at retelling through film. If you had any idea what the books contained, then I’d really hope that you would try and think a little harder on this one. I must apologize that the film didn’t have quite enough “cool special effects and awsome fight scenes.” Its so hilarious reading your response. I don’t even know why I’m writing this thing. I’m just bored I guess. Please, go take some Ridelin, sit down, and think about the word “plot” or “depth” while you watch the movie. Ok? haha, thanks

  • loor

    What is your problem? Who cares what it is about. It is a story full of adventure and suspense. WHo cares what it means that is not the point of the story. It is meant to entertain and intrugue people. Why does everybody look so much into it. If Tolkien wanted it to be thought as an allegorical writing he would of said so. THis can be seen because Orwell told the world what it was about so why wouldnt he. I mean come on.

  • Queenie

    Class is an incredibly important element of British society, just as equality is in the USA. And much as equality is not really that extant in the US, really, class differences are not really that extant in Britain.

    Where class did become incredibly important as an issue for writers and intellectuals was during the First World War, when the upper classes were the officer corps of the British army and the working class were the gun fodder. Bad generals walked thousands of British, Irish and other colonial men to their deaths. Literally.

    Tolkien fought in WW1 and was profoundly affected by it, particularly as two (I think) of his three university buddies were killed in action.

    If you want to understand his possible take on the relationship between Sam and Frodo better, I suggest you look at the poetry of Siegried Sassoon and the other WW1 poets (Wilfred Owen too), or read Pat Barker’s excellent trilogy Regeneration.

    As to the films, they rock. Peter Jackson for President I say.


  • Eric Olsen

    for me the series has only grown in stature – all three extended DVDs are vastly better than the theatrical versions, much better at fleshing out the characters and little telling moments. I have come to look at the series as something of a miracle.

  • Eric Berlin

    In my recent interview with Robert B. Parker, he talks about implications of homosexuality in fiction, in this case the inter-racial friendship between Spenser and Hawk:

    RBP: Did you ever read Leslie Fiedler’s Love and Death in the American Novel?

    EB: No.

    RBP: He talks about this at length and he says that it is repressed homosexuality, that the companionship is so close and loving that to cut it down it has to be with a different race so that the homosexual implications won’t be apparent. I frankly think that’s bullshit, but it’s a whole hypothesis that starts back with D.H. Lawrence and is studied across American literature. I just think that it is what it is: a friendship among men, despite race or beyond race, who understand the same things.

    I agree with Parker, applied to same race relationships between men. The implication of homosexuality between close male friendships only helps to stir up paranoia in men in developing platonic relationships with one another.

    Moving on, I don’t LOTR is an allegory for anything, and if I’m not mistaken, that was Tolkien’s feeling as well.

    I also disagree with the assertion that Bilbo was “fooling around” in The Hobbit. It’s more of a children’s story (though in the scary, old school tradition of children’s story) than LOTR, but Bilbo’s life is constantly in danger, and watching him scramble to save himself and his new friends is the fun and drive of the story.

  • Victor Plenty

    Alas, Peter Jackson can’t be President, because he was not born in the United States.

    He could become governor of California, though.

  • Eric Olsen

    it’s like dessert that Jackson is going to do The Hobbit as well – a prequel to the trilogy. I am certain it will come out better than the Star Wars prequels, which have all the energy of old dogs in the summer

  • Victor Plenty

    We can sneer at Star Wars prequels (and I do, often enough) but we might not be hearing any talk of The Hobbit being made into a major feature film if it hadn’t been for these recent box office successes for the Lucas moneymaking machine.

  • Eric Berlin

    Victor — That might be true of the original Star Wars trilogy.

    Old dogs in summer… nice, Eric.

  • Eric Berlin

    Oh: And yeah, I’ll be as excited to see Jackson’s The Hobbit as anything else I can think of (save Whedon’s Serenity, of course).

    God, I hope they get Ian Holm back for the lead role. I could watch him as Bilbo all day.

  • Queenie

    Peter Jackson cannot be President of the USA, but there are a few other countries with functioning democracies in the world. You did know that, right?

    Ah, I’m only slaggin’ ya…..


  • Victor Plenty

    The original Star Wars trilogy weren’t prequels, so my thesis above cannot apply to them in any way, shape, or form.

    Hollywood doesn’t care about quality. It cares only about profits. The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, for all their many and varied flaws, showed Hollywood there could be profit in prequels.

    This, I speculate, may explain why Hollywood is willing to bankroll a prequel to Jackson’s LOTR trilogy.

  • Eric Berlin

    Victor – Ah, there’s money in prequels, I see. I still don’t see the direct correlation between the “new” Star Wars trilogy and the greenlight for The Hobbit. The latter is Tolkien’s remaining major work (save The Silmarillon or whatever it’s called), and off the heels of Jackson’s smashing, lights out success with LOTR, I’m pretty sure he’s in a position to push through whatever he wants at the moment…. though we’ll see if that still holds post-King Kong.

  • Victor Plenty

    Queenie, yes, the USA is not the only place with a democratically elected government. However, in most of the other such places, the presidency has a largely ceremonial role, and the real governance is done from the office of the prime minister.

    That was why I assumed you meant you wanted Peter Jackson to be president of the United States.

    Although, now that you mention it, maybe he could do more good as the president of Russia.

  • Queenie

    Nice save, Victor!

    I was thinking of France. But Russia, there’s a thought. He could turn it into one big Weta Workshop. Cool idea.


  • Victor Plenty

    Does Peter Jackson speak French? I can’t imagine they’d let him be their president if he doesn’t.

    Then again, he could learn it easily enough. He seems to be a quick learner. Unlike certain other presidents we could name.

    So let’s see, that’s two of the five permanent members of the Security Council that might be able to benefit from a Peter Jackson presidency.

    The UK has no president, so they’re out. The US could use his help, but not without a constitutional amendment first. And China has a president, but not an elected one, and I’m not sure how much real power they give to that office anyway. Many observers seem to think the head of the Communist Party is still the de facto leader of the People’s Republic, last time I checked.

    But hey, France and Russia, that’s a start.

    Peter Jackson for President!

  • Eric Olsen

    I don’t know about French, but rumor has it that Jackson does indeed speak sheep

  • Eric Berlin

    I was amused to learn that Jackson owns Bilbo/Frodo’s hobbit home (round door and all) and is planning on living in it in New Zealand one day. Kind of cool, kind of oddball, just like Jackson.

  • Eric Olsen

    that’s cool – I love that house. Speaking of underground homes – right near where we live there is a cult, I mean “religious community” whose main building is built into the side of a hill – supposedly very energy efficient. Fucking Utne Reader readers

  • Victor Plenty

    Well, Asimov predicted everyone will live underground in the future, and our descendants will all develop a severe phobia of the open sky. Except the ones who leave Earth, of course.

    As for Jackson speaking sheep, that rumor may be even more controversial than the one about Frodo and Sam being gay.

  • Eric Olsen

    almost all New Zealanders are bilingual that way

  • Tom Donelson

    Your take on Sam and Frodo is entirely wrong. Is a Sam a mere servant or good friend? Frodo is given the task of essentially saving mankind or should I say human kind by delievering the ring. Sam volunteers to go with Frodo on his quest.

    As for rising, if you read the back of the book, you will find that Sam does indeed go beyond just being a servant. As for the homosexual angle, can’t any man just be a friend to another without some sexual context put in?

  • Eric Berlin

    You bring up a good point, Tom, in that Sam was aiding the ring bearer, so in a sense all the “good guys” were Frodo’s servants.

    And really, all were a slave to the ring, which plays in kind of nicely.

  • Ayu

    Sam was quite an unsung hero on the movie, but in the book it was well told that indeed in the Shire he (along with Pippn and Mery) was more famous than Mr. Frodo though he knew nothing about it. And in the end Frodo left Bag-end for Sam, which made him no longer servant; but Sam felt he was torn to two: a half of him wanted to come with Frodo, and the rest wanted to stay with his family…and he made the right choice, as he always did. Faithful as he had been, there’s always time to meet and there’s always time to part for everyone.

  • Big Time Patriot

    I don’t know about Sam being unsung in the movie. I think he comes off as much braver and with much deeper convictions and emotional strength than Frodo does. I really thought that Sean Astin should have gotten an Oscar, really a great acting job.

  • Ayu

    I agree with you, and I wouldn’t surprise if it’d be every movie goer’s impression upon Sam on the movie, but what I meant is on the way he was treated. In the end, others seemed only to glorify Frodo’s valor for succeeding the quest and forgetting that Sam had been there all the time to help him..that was as far as I could catch, since I watched the movie which was dubbed in Hungarian (a foreign language to me). Sadly it’s difficult to get English movies here where I live.

  • Ayu

    Just wanted to add, despite my criticism toward the movie, I’m a big fan of LOTR and I think so far it (represents both movie and novel)is a work in which I felt a constant reluctance upon reaching the end.

  • Eric Berlin

    I thought the third film really showcased Sam as the hero. That said, I don’t think anyone cared who was the hero after the ring was destroyed — they had accomplished their mission. And, really, all the principles were equally heroic (even Boromir, who is kind of resurrected and bolstered in flashback scenes throughout TTT and RoTK).

  • Evan

    im gonna read the Lord of the Rings books after im done with the Hobbit

  • Evan

    im already on the Fellowship of the Ring

  • HablleMash291

    This is so judgemental and homophobic it’s unbelievable.

    Just because it’s British, you automatically think that it’s having specific stereotypes and that Sam will never rise above his class. And you compare it to MODERN American films as if it’s a shining example of equality.

    You really want to get into stereotypical issues? At least in Britain people used to be divided by class, instead of being discriminated and lynched for their race. Yeah, I said it. I’m sure there are PLENTY of American films that can be perceived to have racial undertones.

    ALSO, you practically accuse the characters of people gay as if it’s a bad thing. They are good friends. Nothing more. But that you basically insult the characters and insinuate homosexuality is wrong is as backwards as the owner/slave relationship you hinted at between Sam/Frodo.