I recently read Kelly’s post on not breaking your word a few days ago and now I can’t stop thinking about friendship. What set me off on my maniacal thinking spree, and you can see from my comments on her post, was the relationship between Samwise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Now, I know I’m a Tolkien Purist and I’ve come to admit it on this site, though I was in denial for a long time. But overall, I loved what Peter Jackson did with the Lord of the Rings movies. I think he did a great job.
The one thing that extensively pissed me off (other than the elves coming to save the day at Helm’s Deep, but that’s for another day) is a minor change he made to Sam and Frodo’s relationship. Sam is the most loyal friend to Frodo and when he made the promise to Gandalf that he wouldn’t leave Frodo’s side, he meant it.
There are tons of scenes in the movies that exemplify this, but there is one scene that strongly contradicts it. In Return of the King, Gollum frames Sam by making it look like he ate the last of their food and Frodo gets so angry that he tells him to leave. And Sam leaves.
What? In the books, Sam never left Frodo’s side. NEVER. Frodo treated Sam like dirt at times, due to the Ring, but Sam still saw Frodo through to the very end and never once turned around. I love that perfect model of friendship.
Of course, my thoughts turned to Star Wars and I was curious to know if any of the friendships in Star Wars could pass the Sam/Frodo test. And I realized that, wait a minute, there are not many friendship relationships throughout the saga that are not impaired by romance. (N.B. I would love to go into Ahsoka and Anakin’s relationship, but I try to stick generally to the movies in this blog)
The closest relationships that passed the Sam/Frodo test were Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan and Han/Chewie. Sure, Obi-Wan and Anakin were good friends, but they would not have stood the Sam/Frodo test because Anakin did something like betraying his best bud and murdering a bunch of people.
Out of both remaining friendships, I am leaning more towards Han and Chewie for passing the Sam/Frodo test. Chewie had a life debt to Solo, so in a way he was kind of forced upon him. Sam was required to follow Frodo and stick by him on orders from Gandalf. Where Han went, Chewie went. Their quest was to help rid the galaxy of the Empire, whereas Sam and Frodo had to rid Middle Earth of the One Ring. When Han was put into carbonite, Chewie fought to keep him “alive”, but Han asked him not to start a fight that he knew they would lose, but instead to protect Leia. This order is different from the one Frodo gave to Sam in the ROTK movie. Whereas Frodo’s order was said out of hatred because he thought Sam betrayed him, Han was giving Chewie an order to stay behind out of love for both him and Leia. Different motives, big difference.
Even though Han and Chewie come close and pass the Sam/Frodo test, I’m not sure their relationship has the extra oomph that Sam and Frodo’s has. A big difference is the fact that throughout 2/3 of LotR, we see Sam and Frodo interact by themselves (okay-Gollum showed up, but I’m not counting him), but other characters constantly surround Han and Chewie, so we don’t exactly know the depth of their friendship. It’s much too…well, “real” for that extra level. It’s Sam/Frodo taken down to our everyday lives. They bicker at times and get frustrated with each other, but they still bounce ideas off of each other and lean on one another to help get through the tough times.
But the more I thought about different kinds of loyal friendships, the more I got to thinking: am I Samwise Gamgee to any of my friends, my ultimate idea of friendship perfection?
I think I was, once. Similar to how Frodo and Sam lived near each other, I grew up in the house next to a girl who was adopted at age 7 from Brazil. Our parents basically forced us upon each other: she needed a friend her age that could teach her English. Our friendship grew exponentially after the first year of language struggles to the point where I could tell her anything. Her parents moved her to a more “Brazilian friendly” (their words, not mine) community when we were 14 because they thought she was not making enough friends in our hometown. In her new community, the Brazillians rejected her because she could no longer speak Portuguese and the Americans rejected her because she didn’t fit in with them. At age 16, she tried to kill herself and was hospitalized. At 17, she dropped out of high school and left her adoptive parents home swearing never to talk to them again. At 18, she was a stripper and living with a guy where all they did was smoke a bunch of pot. By 21, she had cleaned up a little and was no longer a stripper, but nevertheless had trouble holding a job and still was not talking to her adoptive parents. At 23, she had found a new boyfriend and was moving to Rhode Island to be with him.
I have no idea what happened to her after that. I stayed close with her all the way up until the end. She was my Frodo, and I wanted to stick it out with her no matter what. Because at the end of the day, though we seemed so different, my loyalty to her and our friendship was unparalleled.
But from ages 21-23, I was engaged to my now husband. I told her I wanted to marry him before we were even engaged. Somehow, I just knew he was the “one” for me. Her reaction, however, was not what I expected. She said, “But there’s still so much we need to do together. How can you get married so young?” I told her we could still do stuff together; being married wouldn’t make a difference. I thought I had pacified her fears and insecurities.
Once I was engaged, I asked her to be my bridesmaid and she accepted graciously. She was going to be first in line after my sister. And then 6 months before my wedding, she stopped contacting me. Last I talked with her, she was moving to Rhode Island. I called her cell so many times, called her sister (the only person from her family she still kept in touch with), emailed her, called her ex-boyfriend…but all to no avail. She does not have facebook, so that was no help either. Eventually she changed her number and the cell number I would call said it was disconnected. To this day, though, I still have that number in my phone and refuse to delete it. I keep hoping that maybe she will reach out again and find me.
Did she think I was betraying or leaving her by getting married? Did she just not have enough money to pay for being my bridesmaid? Did she think that we were now on two different life paths and felt it better just to cut me off? Maybe all of these answers, maybe none.
Since then, I have never felt the Samwise loyalty that I felt towards her for any of my other friends. The closest person would probably be my husband, and even that’s different since it’s a romantic relationship. My friendships now reflect a galaxy far, far away, more than those in Middle Earth. I don’t think it’s sad that my friendships are now closer aligned to those in Star Wars, because I love the real relationship between Chewie and Han. But I do mourn the strength and bond of my former Middle Earth friendship that I have never experienced since.
“It would be the death of you to come with me, Sam,” said Frodo, “and I could not have borne that.”
“Not as certain as being left behind,” said Sam.
“But I am going to Mordor.”
“I know that well enough, Mr. Frodo. Of course you are. And I’m coming with you.”