I was always a very curious, some would say nosy, child. I was always trying to understand why things happened or why people made the choices they made. I was a big fan of “reading into” things ever since I discovered it as an activity. While this tendency led me into hot water many times, I had not yet learned to dull this passion by the time I read LotR. One of the activities I “read into” the most was Sam’s constant attention to Frodo’s needs and comfort—don’t get ahead of me here, or maybe you will end up in hot water.
Perhaps the most notable example where I uncovered Sam’s motivation is when Sam attempts to cook a nice stew for Frodo in Ithilien. The reader hears Sam’s thoughts in this passage, which make some clear indications about the emotions that inspire him to make the meal:
‘I love him. He’s like that, and sometimes it shines through, somehow. But I love him, whether or no’ (TT, IV, iv, 652).
‘Too thin and drawn he is…Not right for a hobbit’ (TT, IV, iv, 653).
Sam’s compassionate nature in general, and his affection for Frodo especially, are not disguised in the tale. What is interesting is how those feelings manifest themselves in, essentially, attempting to care for Frodo as if he were Frodo’s parent—more specifically his mother, as foreshadowed by David Craig, but I would not have made this more specific observation as a child. Sam is attempting to preserve Frodo’s sense of security and his sense of comfort: trying to remind Frodo of home and the good things which life has to offer. This was an interesting observation for me when I first realized it. It was probably easier for me to notice than some others because I grew up in the American south—where the stereotype is that a mother expresses love through food. In any case, I always had a soft-spot for affection expressed through quiet moments of understanding and small gestures of love (I did mention that Call of the Wild was one of my favorite books, remember).
This deep friendship between Frodo and Sam was something which I cherished as a young reader. While I frequently compared my relationships to the ones in the book, I do not know if I ever considered if I had a relationship quite like the one between Frodo and Sam, I do not think so. While I did not have a relationship like this, it did not seem odd to me that they should be so close. Many fans have questioned the feelings between Frodo and Sam, and many scholars have pointed out that the overtones that readers notice to make such assertions are indicative of a type of friendship between men that existed in a different time. As a young reader, none of this occurred to me. I thought their fondness a perfectly natural thing. I realized that I did not have a friendship like theirs, but it was not until I started growing up that I realized that men in my culture do not tend to have such close bonds or at least express affection as openly and deeply.
Where Do We Go From Here?
I want to journey to the Black Gate, then visit with Faramir!
What Do You Think?
What did you make of Sam’s tendency to, essentially, nurture Frodo?
How has your reading of their relationship changed over time?
Did I miss anything? Let me know!
3 thoughts on “LotRFI Pt.34–Sam and His Creature Comforts”
This relationship is one well worth more consideration. I planned a paper for last July’s Mythcon about how Sam grew from gardener to Mayor, but it ended up being more about how Frodo’s perception of Sam changed and the changes in their overall relationship. (Frodo is, after all, the one who ‘bequeaths’ Sam the role of Mayor.) After I had my own children, I began to see the ‘Ithilien’ part of their relationship in a very maternal light. I’d love to read the relationship in light of Lewis’ “Four Loves.” Sam certainly embodies storge and philia throughout, touching agape on the climb up Mount Doom. And it just came to me that at the Grey Havens, it is Frodo who has become Sam’s parent.
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I remember your Mythcon paper! Are you going to try and publish it anywhere? I think an examination of Sam using the Four Loves would be fascinating!
David Bratman very generously encouraged me to submit it, and then he also asked me to review some 2016 articles for Tolkien Studies, which, on top of unexpected Parrish life emergencies, has pushed my own work off to 2019.
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