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Question #26505 posted on 02/28/2003 midnight
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,
In "The Two Towers" by J.R.R. Tolkien, on page 699 why does Sam want Frodo to fall asleep in his arms like that? I know the reasons Sam gave, but they seem a little unnecessarily intimate. Is there something about Sam that might disqualify him from coming to BYU?
- Hobo
p.s. if you're still not convinced, read on a little until Gollum finds them in a lovers embrace propped up against a rock!

A: Dear Hobo,
To give an adequate answer to this question, we'll need to make a foray into historical criticism and look at JRR Tolkien's background. Tolkien grew up in England in the early 20th century, and for almost all his life attended a private boys' school called King Edwards School (it's still in operation in Birmingham, where Tolkien attended). He was left fatherless at the age of 4, and his mother died when he was 16. So for most of his early life, his closest friends were those he had at school, and his younger brother Hilary. Other than his wife Edith, throughout his life the majority of his closest friends were male.

Tolkien's situation wasn't uncommon in early 20th-century Britain, especially among the well-educated upper- and middle-classes (though Tolkien himself wasn't exactly in this class, he just went to school with those who were). The all-boys school system prevalent at the time encouraged close male bonds that endured for years, certainly much closer and longer-lasting than the male-male friendships you'd find today in an average American high school. These close friendships in no way imply that homosexuality -- to use the word that you, Hobo, were too afraid to use -- was a prevalent ingredient in the relationship. Though some scholars have tried to make that case, the fact is simply that in Tolkien's experience, for two men to be close enough friends that they devotedly care for each other and even show a little affection towards each other was not at all regarded as "queer" or even especially effeminate.

The relationship between Sam and Frodo does seem a little too close for comfort to our late-20th-century minds. However, to Tolkien, it wasn't. At this point in the Lord of the Rings saga, Frodo is obviously suffering from the great weight of his task, and Sam's heart goes out to him, offering comfort, love, and nurturing protection to assuage his burden. Homophobia -- largely unknown in Tolkien's time and all-too prevalent in ours -- has obviously affected the way men interact with other men, and one could make a strong case that the affect has been detrimental. Paranoia of being labeled "gay" has effectively banished friendships between men to sterile relationships where any expression of love -- even in a brotherly, platonic fashion -- is forbidden except when delivered with so much irony that the expression becomes a mockery of what love really is.

As for Samwise Gamgee's qualifications to attend BYU, if selflessness, devotion, and love expressed towards another human (of the same sex or not) would disqualify a man from attending BYU, then I, as a male, wouldn't want to be here.

PS -- Thanks for researching your question well before you submitted it.
- La Almeja
A: Dear Homo,
That's not all, what about in Rivendell where Sam is stroking Frodo's arm? Or where all the hobbits go running around nekkid on the Barrow? Why did Bilbo 'adopt' a cute male 78 years younger than himself? Even better, why did they pick Sir McKlellan (an avowed homosexual) to play Gandalf? And what's up with that scene (Meduseld) in the second movie where Legolas (played by Orlando Bloom, who's bisexual) is escorting Gandalf by the arm? Speaking of Legolas, what about he and Gimli? Don't forget the whole phallic-ness of the titular "Two Towers." Even better, how about the acid trips that are "The Tempest", "Alice in Wonderland" & "Through the Looking Glass", anything by George Orwell, and "Gulliver's Travels"? I'd suggest you just get your brain outta your pants and (as my bishop once put it) "Start thinking with your big head."
-Brit Boy
A: Dear Hobo,
I think you have fallen prey to one of the major pitfalls of literature. It is not okay to judge the actions of people in the past by the standards of your own time. Nor is it kosher even to judge another culture by your own culture, even if the cultures are contemporary. In some countries (today) men hold hands while they talk to each other without any romantic implications whatsoever. In olden times men would kiss each other on the cheek when they greeted each other (this practice continues today in countries such as France, and Italy). These social mores follow similar waves of change as words. The word "gay" has a nominally different meaning to people today than it did even forty years ago. I suggest you take a long look at English literature, and therefore also at Tolkien who was one of the great minds of English literature, and try to understand the culture that the work comes from. Furthermore, this is a story about made-up creatures in a made-up world, and their culture can be whatever the heck it's made up to be. In that case, we can't judge anything they do as culturally significant in rapport with our own cultural traits. Our world is not so easy to understand and judge, so don't impose your culture on others.
~Les Frogs
posted on 03/03/2003 midnight
Dear 100 Hour Board,
This is a comment on the question by Hobo posted on 28 February, Board Question #26505. The Philippines is also much like the culture Tolkien grew up in, i.e. it's not taboo to show affection for fellow males. In fact, as a missionary there, many of us adopted the Filipino culture in addition to the language. Many missionaries became more expressive with each other than we would have been in the states. We greeted each other with a hug, and said goodbye with a hug. Many was the elder that threw his arm around his companion's shoulder in district meeting. And you know what? We all got released honorably and most of us are now sealed to our spouses. In light of those experiences, I don't find Sam's experiences odd at all.
- Anonymous
posted on 03/03/2003 midnight
Dear 100 Hour Board,
In support of the Board's answer, Board Question #26505, Tolkien also knew and *believed* the Bible. (That's evident from comparing ideas in LOTR with certain ideas from Old Testament prophets) And the Bible says homosexuality is bad. Homosexuality will get a person destroyed quickly.
- Clinton King