Frodo and Sam’s Relationship in the Light of Aristotle’s Philia

By: Martina Jurickova

Rating: G

Word Count: 11600

Summary: The author looks at the Lord of the Rings and Aristotle’s works to flesh out the relationship between Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee

Frodo & Sam
Image Credit: New Line Cinema

NOTE:
In the text I use the following abbreviations:
FOTR – The Fellowship of the Ring
TT – The Two Towers
ROTK – The Return of the King
SIL – The Silmarillion
NE – Nicomachean Ethics

 

Introduction

The Lord of the Rings, the most famous work of J.R.R. Tolkien, is a powerful story consisting of multiple layers, so every reader can find in it something to his liking. And in its analysis it can be approached in as many ways. In my opinion, the one which in applicability comes closest to real life is the interpersonal level. The novel, with its quantum of characters, generates a complicated web of various relationships – from enmity, through purely political affectionless war alliances, to romantic love. But when I read The Lord of the Rings, I got a feeling that more than anything else it is a story of friendship. Not magical devices, nor fantastical creatures, nor the perpetual battle between good and evil, but friendship lies at its core. Even the subtitle of the first volume, The Fellowship of the Ring, suggests it. At the beginning of the quest, the younger hobbits decide to follow Frodo, not because of any family duty or curiosity and desire for adventures. It is their mutual love that makes them go. And as the story evolves, it is again the very same feeling that disallows them to leave him. When the fellowship is later formed, the new characters that are chosen to be its members are also supposed to be bound together by friendship to avoid possible betrayal. Though total strangers at first, in their struggles they soon become more intimate, and always act to save their fellows – their friends. Towards the end, it turns out that friendship is essential for the completion of the task. Apparently the power of friendship is what has made the book so appealing to generations of readers for the last sixty years.

However, being a fantasy book and moreover, a prototype of fantasy, the relationships in The Lord of the Rings are hardly ever seriously analyzed. And if they ever happen to be discussed, it is only to detect the resemblances with the author’s life (like in the case of Aragorn and Arwen’s love story representing that of Tolkien and his wife Edith). It is as if the mere fact that it involves unreal, supernatural characters such as elves, hobbits or ents make it impossible for people to relate to them and consequently study their behavior towards each other in strictly human terms. When I searched for the topic of friendship in Tolkien’s writings, I could not find any authorized academic research. Even though many readers do notice the importance of this kind of relationship in The Lord of the Rings, and it was also wonderfully depicted by the Peter Jackson’s movie adaptation, Tolkien scholars just seem to show no interest in it.

Therefore, in this thesis I would like to introduce a new insight on the interpretation of The Lord of the Rings that explores friendship as its major underlying motif. I will concentrate on the relationship of Frodo and Sam, which is the most central to the whole story, since Frodo is the Ring-bearer. I will examine its development and the nature of their friendship, in an attempt to find out whether it can be regarded as friendship according to Aristotle’s philosophical account, and if yes, what kind of friendship it is. Is it an example of an ideal one and can it function as a role-model of friendship?

Aristotle’s description of friendship as provided in books VIII and IX of his Nicomachean Ethics was the first recorded attempt to discuss friendship philosophically, being written down at about 340 B.C. In his book, the philosopher used the Greek term Philia [φιλία], usually translated as friendship for various kinds of relationships, just as was common for his contemporaries. Aristotle’s analysis, however, concentrated on more intimate forms of friendship, and it is definitely the most important description of this phenomenon, because all the following philosophers derived their accounts of friendship from this one, and that is the reason why it was chosen as the basis of the following analysis.

 

The Relationship of Frodo and Sam

The relationship between Frodo and Sam has always been the object of much discussion. Formally, it is a master-servant relationship, as Sam reminds us by constantly referring to Frodo as his “Master” until the very end of the story. However, there is something untypical about it, and that is the degree of their intimacy, which is not usually found in the master-servant bond. But can it be really regarded as friendship? In the following pages I will examine the nature and development of their relationship in three different stages of their acquaintance. The first one is the time before Frodo set off from the Shire; the second represents the time while they were on the journey; and the final one lasted from when he returned home after the completion of the quest until he left the Middle-earth.

 

Sam’s Relationship to Frodo before the War of the Ring

We do not actually have much information about Frodo and Sam’s relationship before the events described in the book, but we can get some idea about it, deriving from the relationship of their families, which doubtlessly had a big influence. Gaffer Gamgee, Sam’s father, had worked as a gardener for Mr. Bilbo Baggins, Frodo’s cousin (actually, Bilbo is the same generation as Frodo’s parents; Bilbo’s father and Frodo’s grandfather being cousins in the primary sense, their kinship is better described by the uncle-nephew relation), who adopted him, for over fifty years. They lived close to each other and “were on very friendly terms” (FOTR, book I, chapter 1). Old Gaffer was the only person who defended Baggins’s name when the Hobbiton folk badmouthed him, and Bilbo valued him very much for his gardening knowledge, and treated him and his family very kindly. He even taught his son Samwise to read and write.

By the time Frodo moved to Bag End, where Bilbo lived, Sam had already been a frequent guest in their house, fascinated by Bilbo’s adventures and stories about foreign countries. Sam was nine years old then, and Frodo was twelve years his senior. He could have viewed Frodo as an older brother or even idolize him – like young boys look to teenagers just because they are older, stronger and daring. And Frodo was all the more admirable for him because he was Bilbo’s nephew and shrouded in as much mystery as his uncle. Yet, since Sam, as the youngest son and with his older brothers already having left their birthplace, was soon supposed to take over his father’s job, he kept some personal distance from Frodo and acknowledged him as his superior.

Sam had already been working for Frodo for about twenty years (assuming that he has been in Frodo’s service at least since Bilbo’s 111th birthday party) when they left the Shire to get the Ring away. Tolkien never directly describes what his duties were, but from the later talk of his hobbit friends we can assume he did more than only gardening, which by that time had become only his minor job. This is suggested by the announcement about their pretended removal from Hobbiton to Crickhollow, saying that Sam was “to do for Mr. Frodo and look after his bit of garden” there (FOTR, book I, chapter 3), which puts the gardening at second place. This means that Sam tended to Frodo’s everyday needs, more like a personal servant. For example, since on their walk through the country Pippin once refers to Sam about the readiness of breakfast, it is apparent that preparing meals was also in his scope of work. Other evidence, as well as his anxiety about Frodo’s comfort later during their journey, implies that his duties might have included waking Frodo up in the morning or caring for all the things his master forgot. Simply put, Sam was a man of many parts – he did everything for Frodo, though not yet in as great a degree as later. Yet, all he did arose from his own will, rather than because of Frodo’s demands.

If we try to apply Aristotle’s ideas to Sam’s relationship with Frodo in this phase, it could be best described as friendship of pleasure, or at least this kind is closest to it in many aspects, though not all. Aristotle claims that the pleasure friendship arises from selfishness, and as the naming signifies, it is based on pleasure and beauty. It is born of physical or intellectual attraction and dies when the friend changes and ceases to be pleasant or nice to look at. The self-centeredness of such friendship means that I enjoy myself more when I am with my friend. Pleasure friendship is most closely tied to emotions. It is characterized by a quick start and a quick end. It is typically maintained by young people who are easily driven by their momentary feelings.

That Sam’s relation to Frodo is more than an ordinary servant’s devotion to his master has already been affirmed. But what is it that makes a servant, a mere gardener, so devoted to his master? It is love, his love for Frodo. And love is an essential sign of friendship, for as the philosopher claims, friendship is actually one of the different kinds of love. Therefore, Sam’s relationship to Frodo can be classified as friendship. Moreover, his admiration for Frodo is very similar to present day worship of the leaders of certain social groups by young people, and that is an exact example of friendship of pleasure as understood by Aristotle. The philosopher says that within this kind of friendship, people make friends with others because “they find them pleasant” (NE, book VIII, chapter 3). Likewise, Sam loved Frodo because his personality attracted him. He has ever thought him the wisest and kindest person in the world. He enjoyed serving him, because seeing Frodo happy made him happy, too.

However, here someone may object as to whether this is not also typical for the friendship of virtue – the true friendship. Yes, it is. But in spite of the fact that Sam’s relationship to Frodo already showed some signs of virtue—he loved Frodo so dearly, knew him so well and was even willing to “jump down a dragon’s throat to save [him], if he did not trip over his own feet”, as Pippin remarked (FOTR, book I, chapter 5)—it is not a true friendship yet. It may seem so, since even Aristotle claims that these two kinds of friendship are much alike (NE, book VIII, chapter 6), but it has not been put through any struggle yet to test its strength; in peace everything is easier. The friendship seemed rather one-sided. Moreover, Sam’s love for Frodo sometimes seemed almost blind, for he considered him to be perfect, which is in contradiction with the characteristic of true friends who view each other objectively, taking into consideration both their good and bad qualities. Therefore, the friendship of pleasure fits it better.

 

Frodo’s relationship to Sam before the War of the Ring

The relationship of Frodo to Sam is of a different nature. Frodo, being an orphan whose parents died when he was twelve years old, and who had been raised up by relatives who did not like him much because of his origin, must have felt lonely and neglected until his younger cousins grew up. The Brandybucks, with whom he lived until Bilbo adopted him, disliked him because he was a Baggins like his father, coming from the western part of Shire. For the Hobbits living in the east part, such as Brandybucks who belonged to the breed called Stoors (with a strong Fallohidish strain still to be noted within them, as they often claimed) found the Hobbits from the western part belonging rather to Harfoots, as the Bagginses presumably were ((1)), to be queer, and vice versa. Therefore, even the Hobbits from Hobbiton where Frodo moved, did not really accept him. And their distrust was even greater because of the strange behavior of his uncle and his adventures. In his youth, Frodo was considered to be “one of the worst young rascals” (FOTR, book I, chapter 4), for the Brandybucks probably did not pay much attention to his upbringing. In his later years, most folks thought him odd and cracked (FOTR, book I, chapter 2). In any case, it was not easy for him to make friends.

Consequently, he must have enjoyed the attendance he received in Bag End from Sam. He must have been pleased that for a change someone admired him, in contrast with the suspicion of others. Yet his relationship to Sam was cooler. Even though he treated him in a friendly way, from his point of view it was still more a master-servant relationship. This might also have been caused by the age gap between them, but when we consider the age of his other friends, most of them were even younger than Sam, so this could have had only a minor impact. More likely it was because of Sam’s own perception of their different social roles.

Anyway, at this stage Frodo did not openly acknowledge Sam to be his friend. Unlike Sam, who seems to have no other known close friends (except maybe the Cottons brothers, but we do not know how close they really were), Frodo had several. His dearest friend, whom he loved the most, was definitely Bilbo because they were so much alike. Another close friend was Gandalf the Wizard, whom he called “old friend” and “best of friends”. For Hobbits, there were Folco Boffin and Fredegar Bolger, but his closest friends were Pippin Took and Merry Brandybuck, in another place also referred to as “his special friends”. The latter four were in a certain degree Sam’s friends as well, for they formed a conspiracy with him. However, being from older and richer families, Sam recognized them as superior. But Frodo never named Sam as his friend individually, only collectively as a member of the conspiracy.

So Frodo’s understanding of their relationship mostly resembles the friendship of utility. The utility friendship is based on usefulness. A man makes friends with someone when he needs something from him. Its aim is primarily profit. Therefore, such friendship lasts only while the other person provides one with what is needed. Aristotle says that this type of friendship is most typical for young children or old weak people, who cannot care for themselves on their own and need others to help them. However, it is not restricted only to these ages. It can, of course, occur in other periods of human life, too.

That Frodo’s relationship to Sam is based on utility is obvious, since Sam is his servant. Frodo needs or merely accepts his services, even though some of them he would be able to do on his own. Sam is a useful helper. Described in Aristotle’s words, Frodo liked Sam because of the good he was getting from him. The philosopher exemplifies this kind of friendship by the relationship of host and guest (NE, book VIII, chapter 3), which is like a short-term equivalent of the master-servant relationship. The utility friendship is the lowest and most selfish kind of friendship, therefore Frodo did not need to acknowledge Sam’s status as his friend. For even if people who pursue friendship because of utility called the object of their need a friend, it would not be meant sincerely. But by this I do not want to say that Frodo was selfish, only that is was not necessary for him to call Sam his friend when his relationship to him was not so deep yet.

But in spite of his somewhat cooler attitude, sometimes Frodo already showed some deeper concern about Sam, as he did for his friends, which would not be expected from a master towards his servant were their relationship only formal. For instance, after their first meeting with Elves in the Shire, he doubted whether it was good idea to take him along when he knew his journey led only through peril. He did not want to expose him to any danger, even if he was willing to come (FOTR, book I, chapter 4). Well, after all those years spent with him around and knowing what a big affection Sam had for him, it was natural that his relationship to him grew into something more than only a utility friendship.

 

Development of Their Relationship during the War of the Ring

As the story proceeded, we see that their relationship slowly changed. Since they were bound to spend whole days together and rely on each other in pursuit of their quest, such change is natural and only to be expected. Their intimacy increased and their mutual affection was strengthened by all the struggles they went through. Yet the change is not the same on both sides.

 

Changes in Sam’s Attitude

For Sam’s part the change was not so big, because it only brought out what has already been deep in his heart. The journey provided an opportunity for him to show his care for his master in a new way, unlimited by the peaceful environment of their home and everyday duties. As has been explained, his relationship to Frodo was a friendship of pleasure, for he took pleasure in helping Frodo, being around him and serving him. Sometimes it may even seem that although younger in age, Sam cared about him like a parent cares for a child. From the very beginning he watched anxiously over his security and wellbeing. The purpose of everything he did was to help Frodo as much as he could, and this carried on throughout the story. As he said, he would never mean any harm to Frodo. So even if he did something that he first perceived as contradictory to his love, like when he joined the conspiracy with Pippin and Merry to spy on Frodo, or when he was eavesdropping on his talk with Gandalf, it was only with the best intentions. Though it was worry about his master that caused him do so, in both cases he feels guilty when Frodo discovers it, as if he has betrayed Frodo’s trust. This happened in the beginning because he was a simple, inexperienced person; until this time he had never traveled farther than twenty miles away from his home. But later, as he became more aware of life behind the borders of his little country, he realized that a merciful lie or concealment of the truth was harmless and even necessary if he did not want to trouble his master. So he often used it as they neared Mordor; for instance, when he did not speak the truth about their dwindling food or that he saved his share for Frodo.

But admittedly, his former feeling of guilt about participating in the conspiracy was caused by his promise to Gandalf, too, who commanded him not to speak about Frodo’s secret—the Ring and the real intentions behind his rehousing. After this he somehow felt responsible for Frodo. And partially from this promise, in combination with his devotion to his master, there results a determination to follow Frodo no matter what, and his already mentioned willingness to give his life for him, although yet he had no clear idea what peril may await them. Nonetheless, he made a pact with himself to never leave his master, motivated by some unidentifiable inner feeling that he has to do something before the end. He confessed it when Frodo, after considering that he should not lead his friend into unknown danger but rather go on his own because the Ring is his alone, indirectly offered him a chance to rethink his decision and stay in the Shire. Sam said: “Leave him! I never mean to. I am going with him, if he climbs to the Moon; and if any of those Black Riders try to stop him, they’ll have Sam Gamgee to reckon with” (FOTR, book I, chapter 4). Sam even implemented this literally when he actually accompanied Frodo everywhere he went. For example, he climbed a tree with him to meet the Elves, despite of his fear of heights; and woke up in the middle of the night and followed his master to Galadriel’s mirror or to the Forbidden Pool at Faramir’s secret hiding place in Ithilien.

This statement was the first open demonstration of his conviction, and though it is evidently a motivation of all his doings, it manifested itself in two more situations that were crucial for the subsequent development of the plot. First, when Sam entered Elrond’s council uninvited and so became the first member of the Fellowship after Frodo, and second, in the final scene of the chapter “The Breaking of the Fellowship” when he would rather drown himself than let Frodo go to Mordor on his own. In the former case, he could have stayed in Rivendell with Elves, since until now meeting them has been his greatest dream and also the original though only assumed reason of his coming with Frodo, or rest there for some time and then return to Hobbiton. But although he had already gained some notion of how dangerous this journey will be, he preferred to go on. Similarly, in the second case he had a chance for a better destiny than to plod through dying land, starving, straight into the hands of enemy. By now he was well aware of all the peril. He could have chosen an easier way and gone to Minas Tirith with Boromir and Aragorn (At this point of time Sam did not know what happened to the rest of the Fellowship until he was reunited with them after the completion of the quest, and believed that the remaining seven would go to Gondor, since at least the men intended so from the beginning). Nevertheless, he insisted on following his master, and when Frodo seemed to ignore him, he did not hesitate to jump into water to stop him, even though he could not swim.

But while in general his determination proved to be a lucky decision, in one instance it almost meant a definite end to the quest and an absolute disaster for the whole Middle-earth. It was in the passage of Cirith Ungol at the border of Mordor, when he thought his master dead after he had been poisoned by Shelob the giant spider. Had he lingered there over Frodo’s body a little longer, indecisive whether to take the Ring and continue the errand or guard the dead one so that no foul hands could smirch him, the orcs would have discovered and captured him, and consequently Sauron would take hold of the Ring. He knew that he had to resume the quest. “But he could not go, not yet.” And although he finally decided for the right thing, “what he was doing was altogether against the grain of his nature” (TT, book IV, chapter 10). But even more hazardous was his resolution to go to the orc tower full of enemies and save his master when he found out he was only paralyzed. Had he left Frodo to his own fortune and centered only on the task, the quest might have been completed earlier and maybe more easily. But his love for Frodo was bigger than his moral obligation to the Free Peoples of Middle-earth.

Another quality that the journey revealed in Sam, which is closely related to his overall conviction, is vigilance. He became watchful and suspicious of every stranger from the very beginning, and its level remained constant throughout the entire story. While the other two younger hobbits developed their sense of wariness only slowly, with Sam it seems to come up as soon as they left Bag End. And as for the suspiciousness, he was as distrustful of Farmer Maggot, who had beaten Frodo in his youth when he found him stealing his mushrooms, as toward Strider-Aragorn at the start of their journey, in spite of the fact that Gandalf’s letter affirmed him as their ally, and as toward Faramir almost half a year later. But he actually proved right with Gollum.

Further, his anxiety about Frodo also increased his courage, the demonstration of which is often quite unexpected and surprising for such a tranquil hobbit, even though it is said that “[t]here is a seed of courage hidden (often deeply, it is true) in the heart of the fattest and most timid hobbit, waiting for some final and desperate danger to make it grow” (FOTR, book I, chapter 8). The degree of Sam’s courage increased gradually, depending on the conditions endangering his master. It began with the stubborn resolution that if anyone meant any harm to Frodo, he should first fight with him. So he stood in front of Maggot’s carriage with his master in it, ready to face the possible enemy or reflexively draw his sword against Strider. But since it had not yet come to a direct confrontation with enemies, and there is no any evidence of them fighting with the Black Riders at Weathertop, it is not certain whether he would really be able to strike or give way to fear. But later, when Frodo was in immediate danger, he forgot his own fears or limitations, like in the scene at the Gate of Moria when Sam remained the only one with clear senses, not paralyzed by fear, and slashed the tentacle that grasped Frodo and tried to pull him underwater. And his courage reached its peak when he attacked Shelob, not thinking “whether he was brave, or loyal, or filled with rage”, just to revenge his master’s hurt (TT, book IV, chapter 10).

One of the last things to be considered here is the change in the blindness of Sam’s love to Frodo. It has been already noted that at the beginning he thought him to be the best and cleverest person in the world. However, by the time they reached Mordor, he admitted that Frodo was not always perfect and he not only found some of his decisions wrong, but no longer hesitated to show his disagreement openly. Certainly, their opinions differed the most regarding whether or not to keep Gollum as their guide.

But in spite of this change, they have become closer and more intimate than they were before the journey. Sam was still aware of the social difference between him and Frodo and recognized himself as inferior, yet even in this can be spotted a slight difference. While at the beginning he addressed Frodo “sir” along with “master” and “Mr.”, by the end of their journey he ceased to use “sir”. Until their stay in Rivendell, he used it more frequently than after the forming of the Fellowship of the Ring. After they left Rivendell, Sam referred to Frodo by using “sir” only on two occasions: first, when they talked about what would become of their story and whether anyone would ever read it to his children, and the other time when he was scared about Frodo’s reaction to the information that Sam has taken his Ring. This seemingly unimportant difference signals a change in Sam’s inner perception of his relationship to Frodo, although consciously he did not affirm it. For the address “sir” is derived from the original medieval title given to knights for special chivalry, therefore it implies a greater degree of honour and respect for the addressee and indicates that the speaker is humble in comparison. “Mr.”, which Sam later preferred to use, is a more common way of polite addressing, just a courtesy title applied to all men without regard to their social position. The only other people Sam used the title “sir” for were Gandalf and Faramir. So it is clear that his relationship to Frodo has developed from mere friendship of pleasure into a deeper friendship.

 

Changes in Frodo’s Attitude

For a reader unaware of the slightest indications, it may seem that the change in Frodo’s relationship to his loyal gardener was not any greater than that on Sam’s side, since it was not so apparent on the outside. Frodo, preoccupied by his burden of the Ring, did not much openly manifest what Sam meant to him, so it appears as if his attitude has not developed. However, the contrary is true. And considering that formerly his relationship was only a friendship of utility, this change is even more significant than Sam’s.

As it has been hinted previously, the change started with Frodo’s growing concern for his friends in general and Sam in particular. He knew that he might die in the attempt to accomplish the quest and he did not want this for his friends, including Sam. He did not want them to suffer because of him and his unfortunate heirloom. Therefore he tried to dissuade them from the journey twice before his departure from the Shire. First, it was during the earlier mentioned situation when he discussed it only with Sam, and then in the house in Crickhollow when the conspiracy was unmasked. Yet, he did not make much effort to deter them from coming with him. The reason for this is probably that he was afraid to go on his own. He was actually happy that he did not have to face the peril alone. This shows that the level of concern for his friends was rather low. Had he wholly apprehended how dangerous he and the Ring was for them, he would not trouble himself with explaining it and would rather steal out secretly in the night, probably even leaving Sam behind. But he did not. Moreover, after Sam’s explanation of his determination, Frodo began to understand his gardener’s feelings and became content with his companions.

However, a test of his affection for his friends came soon after, which he nearly failed. It was when the four hobbits were imprisoned in the Barrow-wight’s crypt and Frodo was the only one conscious. Initially it occurred to him that he could escape with the help of the Ring and leave the other three there. But then his love for his friends won and he did not abandon them. Indeed, he killed the Barrow-wight’s crawling arm that was trying to drag his friends into death, and thus saved them.

Another example of Frodo’s growing concern, now especially for Sam, can be found at the beginning of chapter 1, Book Two, “Many Meetings, when he woke up in Elrond’s house in Rivendell after he has survived the cut of the Ringwraith’s knife. The first thing he asked, after he realized where he was, was: “Where’s Sam?” (FOTR, book II, chapter 1). This may seem an insignificant exclamation, but following a month of journeying together, it reveals much about the development of his relationship to Sam and how important he has become to Frodo. The fact that the first thing he thought about was what happened to his friend, implies that he has started to worry about him.

Later, as his awareness of the danger he represents for the fellowship increased, he was becoming still more convinced that he must accomplish the task on his own. By the end of Book Two, when he had to decide which way to take from Amon Hen, he was already certain about it and Boromir’s attack only initiated his action. He was determined to leave instantly, without confronting any member of the fellowship. Therefore, invisible with the Ring on, he even pretended not to take any notice of Sam whom he must doubtlessly have seen running towards him to stop him. And when Sam’s attempt succeeded, he was angry with him for the delay. Again he tried to persuade him not to follow. He reasoned: “It would be the death of you to come with me, Sam, […] and I could not have borne that.” But again it is he who gave up the effort easily, just like at Crickhollow, and was happy that Sam would go with him. (FOTR, book II, chapter 10). This was actually the first time Frodo spoke about his feelings to Sam. Based on this, it is obvious that he no longer treated him as a mere servant, but that Sam has become very dear to him, so dear that he would feel guilty if he died because of him.

It is interesting that Frodo did not talk about his feelings and emotions much. This may be a result of being an orphan lacking the love and interest of his relatives who raised him in his childhood ((2)). Probably it was never easy for him to speak about his feelings, because the people he lived with did not understand him. And it remained a problem for him even later when he moved to the Bag End and was surrounded by such loving people like Sam. That is why he so seldom acknowledged how much Sam meant to him in comparison with this gardener who, being the simpler one, often told him how much he liked him. Instead, to show Sam how much he appreciated his services, Frodo preferred subtle but meaningful gestures. For example, when he learned that Sam hardly left his bedside all the time he was sleeping, recovering from the cut of the Ringwraith’s knife, he only held his arm as a sign of thanks. Or when Sam told him about how he saved him from the orc tower, “Frodo said nothing but took Sam’s hand and pressed it.” (ROTK, book VI, chapter 2) The truth is that sometimes there are not words good enough to express the deep impact a certain deed has on one’s emotions. But what is more, Frodo was aware that Sam knew him so well that he could usually guess his thoughts and understand him even without words, so he did not need to affirm his love orally. He did so only in two instances. One is the moment described above, and the other time it is after the Ring has been destroyed. Standing at the hillside of Mount Doom he said: “I am glad that you are here with me […] Here at the end of all things, Sam.” (ROTK, book VI, chapter 4)

Another important feature of Frodo’s perception of their relationship is that for Frodo, Sam became the only person whom he could trust in everything. In the past Frodo used to be very secretive, not only about the Ring, just like Gandalf had warned him, but he also used to keep all his personal affairs to himself. Just to mention one, he often used to wander the country without anyone knowing the reasons for it, which worried his friends. He only became a little more open about his plans and intentions with Sam, after he discovered that his servant knew about the Ring as much as himself, yet never spoke a word of it. When he realized that he could rely on him and sees his determination and love, he kept no secrets from him any longer. Anyway, it would be pointless since Sam knew him so well. So it is that Sam became the only confidante with whom he could discuss his worries and ideas. For instance, Sam was the only one to whom Frodo presented his very first piece of poetry inspired by his sorrow for the loss of Gandalf. However, in one matter regarding his secretiveness he always remained the same—that although the Ring started to gain ever greater power over him, he never complained, never spoke about what troubled him and how much he suffered.

Considering the degree of trust Frodo had for Sam, it is important to note that as he became still more and more absorbed in his own inner fight with the power of Ring, he became more and more dependent on Sam’s help and support. The nearer they got to Mordor and Mount Doom, the more Frodo was preoccupied with his burden and his diminishing hope of ever completing his quest. Were it not for Sam, Frodo would never have accomplished it, since he gave up hope completely soon after his rescue from the orc tower. Finally, he only managed it thanks to Sam’s effort and obstinacy ((3)) And Frodo was well aware of this, for he said: “Frodo wouldn’t have got far without Sam” (TT, book IV, chapter 8).

Last of all, but the most important indicator of the change of Frodo’s attitude is the way he referred to Sam. It has been pointed out that before the journey he never called him his friend. He did not consider him to be one, certainly not a close one, for his friendship with Sam was based on utility. There were other people whom he recognized as his best friends. But after what they have gone through and when Sam remained his only companion after the breaking of the Fellowship, their relationship changed. Although to Faramir he presented Sam as his servant and gardener, in private he once named Sam: “[…] my dear hobbit – indeed, Sam my dearest hobbit, friend of friends” (TT, book IV, chapter 2). So, finally he confirmed him to be his friend, moreover, the best of all his friends. That means that their relationship has evolved and turned into a deeper affection on Frodo’s part. And this also explains why I believe that the change in his attitude is bigger that Sam’s. It is because the friendship of utility, which Frodo had for Sam, is less similar to true friendship than the friendship of pleasure, which Sam had for Frodo; therefore it had to undergo a greater transformation to turn into a more valuable type.

 

Their Relationship after the War of the Ring

Now that the Ring was destroyed and the victory appropriately celebrated, the four hobbits returned home to their old lifestyles. Or at least Frodo and Sam tried to pick up the old life, although it would never be the same because of all the things they have experienced. While Sam aligned to his previous life more easily, Frodo was affected by the long influence of his burden. As a result, he again became withdrawn and did not speak about his feelings much, partially because he did not want to worry Sam. In addition, his own suffering has taught him how insignificant were many of the problems of his former life, or the current issues of his kinsmen. Consequently, he became almost a pacifist, for which Tom Shippey criticizes him (2000, p. 185). And after a time being a Deputy Mayor, he completely withdrew from public life. He never used to be extremely active, with the exception of his “rascal” years (typical of most hobbits), but now he became even more passive, as if the quest has drained off all his élan.

Yet, at least the relationship between him and Sam retained its recently gained dimension. Although the account of the War of the Ring in The Silmarillion mentions Sam as Frodo’s servant (SIL,  Of the Rings of Power), he was no longer treated or considered as one, definitely not by Frodo, nor by anyone else. To Old Gaffer, Sam’s father, Frodo expressed “[p]erfect satisfaction” with his son (ROTK, book VI, chapter 8), and as a sign of his gratitude he asked Sam to reside with him. So Sam now became an equal master of Bag End. Furthermore, in the end Frodo also named him his heir. Sam, who had become a respectable person, was happy because he could still stay near Frodo and attend to him. He even decided to name his first-born son after his master, as he still called him. His only trouble was Frodo’s recurring illness and he was pained by how little honour the hobbit folk showed to his master. And Frodo, despite the physical and psychological hurts, also considered himself lucky, “for there was not a hobbit in the Shire that was looked after with such care” (ROTK, book VI, chapter 8).

However, there appeared an unexpected interference with their relationship. Or not so much an interference; rather a division—a division of Sam’s love. For as soon as they returned home, his heart became “torn in two”. It came out that, apart from friendly love to Frodo, he kept a romantic love for Rose Cotton, a hobbit girl from his neigbourhood, and his childhood friend. This sudden romantic desire was quite surprising because he had never mentioned her until the third chapter of Book Six, when Sam remembered her for the first time. Presumably, it was the near-death experience as, thirsty and starving, he thought that he would certainly die even if the quest succeeded, that enhanced his love. Yet, Sam’s love for Rosie was of different kind than his love for Frodo. And when they finally came home and saw what a mess there was, it seemed that he was unable to decide which one was more important for him at that moment, since Rosie was evidently willing to repay his affection.

‘Well, be off with you!’ said Rosie. ‘If you’ve been looking after Mr. Frodo all this while, what you’d want to leave him for, as soon as things look dangerous?’
This was too much for Sam. It needed a week’s answer, or none. He turned away and mounted his pony. But as he started off, Rosie ran down the steps.
‘I think you look fine, Sam,’ she said. ‘Go on now! But take care of yourself, and come straight back as soon as you have settled the ruffians!’” (ROTK, book VI, chapter 8)

And this conflict of his affections is also the reason why Sam could not follow Frodo on his journey to the West, although he would like to. But Frodo knew that what Sam really desired was to live a peaceful life with his family, so he decided it for him. Nevertheless, Frodo’s departure from Middle-earth made Sam very sad.

 

Self-Sacrifice for a Friend

To determine whether Frodo and Sam’s relationship is a friendship of virtue, it is necessary to also consider one last significant characteristic of this kind of friendship. Self-sacrifice is the most virtuous demonstration of friendly love observable only within true friendship, and consequently every such friendship involves it at certain point, if the need arises. Since the definite end of true friendship is the well-being of one’s friend, it is a man’s duty to do what he can to comfort his friends, even if that means giving up some pleasures or things dearest to him and instead taking on the friend’s trouble. Such is the nature of friendship. And because good men naturally seek only what is virtuous, they do not mind this, for it is the greatest virtue.

Moreover, it is a way of gaining nobility. He who sacrifices himself for a friend’s sake assigns a greater good for himself, and the greatest honour is obtained by one who gives up his own life for his friend. Further, Aristotle says that only “the man who serves [friends] to the utmost of his power is thought to be a good man” (NE, book VIII, chapter 14). Therefore, a good man is not afraid to sacrifice his own interests or throw away all his possessions “on condition that their friends will gain more; for while a man’s friend gains wealth he himself achieves nobility… [T]his is noble and laudable for himself. Rightly then is he thought to be good, since he chooses nobility before all else” (NE, book IX, chapter 8).

However, the circumstances of Frodo and Sam’s journey forced them to some degree of involuntary sacrifice, as any perilous quest always does. Therefore it is important to investigate how relevant that self-sacrifice was for their friendship.

 

Frodo’s Sacrifice

Definitely, the first great sacrifice that Frodo made is the decision to set on a journey and take the Ring away from Shire. He feared going into unknown lands. He would have preferred staying at home, comfortable with his life, but he realized that the Ring presented too big a danger for his homeland and its people. Because of that fear, he first tried to give the Ring to Gandalf, but when the wizard refused it, Frodo began to understand that he had no other choice if he wanted to protect the Shire folk, even though he was not always on friendly terms with some of them.

I should like to save the Shire, if I could though there have been times when I thought the inhabitants too stupid and dull for words, and have felt that an earthquake or an invasion of dragons might be good for them. But I don’t feel like that now. I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.” (FOTR, book I, chapter 2)

So he decided to leave the Shire and took up the life of a tramp, sacrificing the comfort of his house: bed, regular meals, and other everyday pleasures as well as peace of mind, though he did not know yet how much this decision would affect his current life. By leaving his homeland, he gave up what had been dearest to him, since he had been “in love with the Shire” (FOTR, book I, chapter 1).

Similarly, later at the Elrond’s council what Frodo longed for was to remain in Rivendell with his uncle, but when he stood up and proclaimed that he would take the Ring to Mount Doom, it was because he felt responsible for it. (Although this idea was actually uttered first by Bilbo, not Frodo.) But Bilbo seemed not to wholly understand the seriousness of the situation, as is evident from the light-heartedness of his speech [FOTR, book II, chapter 2], since while he possessed the Ring he was not haunted by any Black Riders.  However, Frodo was, and so he must have felt the responsibility in his heart, unlike Bilbo. So he gave up even this opportunity to stay in the Elven house of healing, and continued his struggle for the good of the Free Peoples of Middle-earth. But in both cases his motives were rather general. As at the beginning, he decided to set out on the journey out of love for his homeland and his own kindred, for “he naturally thought first of the Shire, since his roots were there”, so later at Elrond’s counsel he reconfirmed his decision and undertook the quest “out of love – to save the world he knew from disaster at his own expense” (Carpenter, 2006a, p. 240, 327). Therefore, his sacrifice was not relevant to his relationship to Sam.

And as a matter of fact, all Frodo’s following sacrifice was tied to his original decision to take the Ring away from the Shire. All pleasures of his normal life were gradually replaced by pain and suffering, the psychological being worse than the physical. His mind was tormented by the will of the Ring; he constantly had to fight it. He was hurt by Morgul’s blade, a giant spider’s poison, and he got his finger bitten off. He lost his personal integrity. He actually sacrificed all his self in the quest. And when he returned back to the Shire, he found out that his life would never be the same, because he would never be the same. He was not able to enjoy what he had sacrificed his life for. The security of his homeland, which was supposed to make his wandering bearable, did not make him confident anymore. The impact of his decision was far greater than he expected. And although he would love to return to his previous life, to remain with friends and see them marry and raise children, it was impossible for him. So in the end he had to give up even this, and depart from Middle-earth forever.

 

Sam’s Sacrifice

Unlike Frodo’s, Sam’s sacrifice was not such a grand society-benefiting deed. His consisted rather of various smaller deeds performed for Frodo’s sake. It has been already noted that from the very beginning he had been determined even to die for Frodo in order to spare his master. But even though no such opportunity occurred  (Probably the closest he ever got to this was when Gollum attacked him after passing through Shelob’s liar), all his actions were inspired by this resolution. It started off with an unanswered offering to carry more load instead of Frodo, which just hints at his readiness to surrender his personal comfort for the good of his friend, but it gradually increased in intensity and relevance.

But comparatively, he too sacrificed the pleasures of his life as he set out on the journey with Frodo, exchanging it for whole day tramping, sleeping in the wilderness for weeks without a soft bed or hot bath, hiding, and lacking enough to eat. But since we are never told how big his affection for his homeland was, it is not certain whether leaving it meant any sorrow for him. For his contentment depended rather on the company of his master than on the environment; and his sense of security, which his native soil represents, was presumably higher than Frodo’s. He would rather come home “by the long road with Mr. Frodo, or not at all” (FOTR, book II, chapter 7). He only regretted leaving it when he came back and found all the nice places he liked in ruin. The actual sacrifice resulting from his departure was having to postpone his aborning love for Rose, leaving her there without admitting his feelings to her and without any credible hope that he might ever return and see her again.

His other sacrifices from the early stage of their relationship included, for example, sitting at Frodo’s bed all the time while he was recovering from being hurt by the Black Rider, when he could have enjoyed the healing atmosphere of Elrond’s house instead. But his sacrifices became more demanding after the breaking of the Fellowship. At this moment he gave up the prospect of soon reaching a comfortable, safe place – meaning Minas Tirith – that would end this strenuous plodding, and continued on the journey with Frodo, which became even more grueling and perilous. And after they entered Mordor, Sam sacrificed his sleep in order to keep watch over his master. He gave up his share of food so that Frodo could have more, and gave him most of the water, too, eating very little and thirsting. At one point he even had to drop his “chief treasure, his cooking gear” in the desert of Mordor plain, which was like a “death-knell to his heart” (ROTK, book VI, chapter 3).

However, he still kept in mind his willingness to lay down his life for Frodo and so, motivated by this, he offered to climb first down a cliff , in spite of the fact that he did not know how to do it, reasoning that in case it was too dangerous and he slipped with Frodo beneath him, it would be “no sense in killing two with one fall” (TT, book IV, chapter 1). And the same when they were escaping from the orc tower and had to jump from a bridge in order to hide from the Nazgûl. Or on a different occasion, he insisted on testing stream water they came upon in Mordor before Frodo could drink it, in case it was poisonous. But his sacrifice reached its peak in the last phase of their journey towards Mount Doom, when he carried Frodo up the slope of the mountain on his back. Doing so, he even tore the backs of his hands, protecting Frodo’s as he fell to the ground when Gollum attacked him.

In one other instance, his sacrifice also evoked a kind of miracle. It was when Sam had to decide whether to continue the quest or take care of Frodo’s seemingly dead body at Cirith Ungol. He decided to carry the Ring onward and leave his beloved Frodo there. He chose the right thing, so consequently, he was rewarded by Frodo’s quasi-revival and reconciliation with him. However, this reward was not without drawbacks. First, achieving the reconciliation was not effortless; Sam actually had to fight his way to save Frodo, although thanks to a strange turn of fortune, most of the enemies in the orc tower had been cleared off before he came there. And second, the award was only momentary and would soon result in much grief for Sam.

Yet the greatest sacrifice he had to undergo came only at the very end of the story. As it has been already noted, like Frodo had to leave what he loved and was fighting for—his country, Sam also had to leave and give up what he loved the most—his dearest friend, whom he had served so faithfully for so many years and for whom he suffered all this. The departure was not as much of a sacrifice for Frodo, since he was going to the Undying Lands, which was something like a paradise, a place of ease, where his wounds would be healed. So for him it was a reward, and unlike Sam’s reward, his was everlasting. However, Sam would bear his sorrow from their separation to the end of his life, which he had expected to spend at Frodo’s side. For since he had always been so devoted to Frodo, now he lost the purpose of his life. It left an empty space in his heart, as depicted in the scene when he was coming home from the Grey Havens accompanied by Merry and Pippin. For those two, Frodo’s departure was not a grievous loss; although they too would miss him, as they parted from Sam to go to their village, they sang happily again. But Sam was still low-spirited, and as an illustration of his sadness, he “drew a deep breath” (ROTK, book VI, chapter 9) when he reached his home and family. And although he too sailed to the West in his old age (ibid., p. 1097), it was not certain whether he ever reached it and met Frodo again, or whether Frodo, being much older, was not already dead by that time.

 

Is It True Friendship?

As it has been just evinced, the relationship between Frodo and Sam did, over the course of time, naturally change and evolve. It got perceptibly deeper, closer, and more intimate; it reached a new dimension. But what did it ultimately turn into? Aristotle distinguished three main types of friendship, the third being the friendship of virtue, also called the true friendship, which has so far been disregarded because the initial nature of their friendship did not fit it. However, we see that Frodo and Sam’s relationship was not a typical master-servant relationship, and neither did it remain what it used to be before the journey. It has developed into something more. But can it be now labeled as true friendship? Does it meet Aristotle’s definition? Now I will examine it, following the basic characteristics of true friendship that the philosopher provided.

There are some general characteristics of true friendship within Frodo and Sam’s relationship which need not be discussed in much detail, because they are obvious, such as the fact that their relationship was based on free choice. Neither Sam nor Frodo were compelled to become friends, nor did anyone command them to like each other. It was Sam’s own will to adore Frodo, and Frodo’s own will to accept it. And it was again their free choice to remain in the friendship, although in certain periods of time it was not very beneficial, especially for Sam. Their friendship also involved having similar personal characteristics, for they were both hobbits and all hobbits are much alike, preferring peaceful life, being often obstinate and unexpectedly courageous. They also had some common interests, for instance, liking adventurous tales about foreign countries and peoples, and enjoying food. And later they both had a shared the aim to destroy the Ring. Next, according to the “greatest marks of friendship” (NE, book VIII, chapter 6), they were also good-tempered towards each other and enjoyed each other’s company.

But there are some distinguishable characteristics of true friendship that are not so easily identifiable within the relationship of these two hobbits and require a longer comment. First of all, an indispensable feature of the friendship of virtue is that a man loves his friend for the friend’s sake, not for any advantage he may get from him. This seems to be true about Frodo and Sam’s relationship as well. It may be objected that in the beginning their attitudes to each other represented the lower kinds of friendship inspired by usefulness, which contradicts this essential characteristic. But it is actually in concord with Aristotle’s ideas. For, as he said, a friendship requires familiarity which, in turn, requires some time for the friends to know each other. And as they become better acquainted, their relationship can develop into a higher form of friendship. And this is what happened to Frodo and Sam. After nearly thirty years in close company, they have become so familiar that most of the time Sam was even able to guess Frodo’s thoughts accurately. And it was only during the quest that it became apparent that he loved Frodo for his own sake. It was definitely not any longer for pleasure, because the journey gave him none, apart from visiting Elves. He also had no advantage from coming with Frodo—only struggle, pain and the threat of death. Were the reasons for his friendship with Frodo different, he could have more easily stayed home and married Rosie. But it was his love for Frodo that prevented him from deserting his master. And similarly, if Frodo loved Sam only because of the help he provided for him, he would probably not have tried to deter him from following him, but rather forced him to it. But even earlier, when they lived in peace in Hobbiton, Frodo did not really need Sam’s help. Most of the things Sam did for him Frodo could do on his own as well, so he was not dependent on Sam. This and Frodo’s later declaration, that he could not bear it if anything bad happened to Sam, signifies that he loved him for his sake and not for any benefit.

The help and pleasure they provided for each other was then just a natural result of their friendship. It is because once you love someone for his sake, you wish him wellbeing and aim for it. It is a person’s natural urge to contribute to the wellbeing of a friend by helping and pleasing him. For “friendship depends more on loving” (NE, book VIII, chapter 8), on giving love rather than getting it, and so making one’s friend happy makes the other person happy, too. We see that Sam did exactly this. But the case of Frodo’s attitude was a bit more complicated. Of course, he cared for Sam. But his friendly deeds were not as numerous as Sam’s, which may imply that his love was weaker. Moreover, it seemed to violate another important characteristic of true friendship, and that is equality.

Equality in friendship can be understood in two senses. First, it is meant as equality regarding their social statuses. Aristotle says that true friendship is very unlikely between persons who are not on the same hierarchic level. That explains why at the beginning Frodo and Sam perceived their relationship differently, one basing it on utility and the other on pleasure. Being master and servant, they were contraries according to Aristotle, and followed distinct aims by their mutual interaction. But during the journey the social differences between them blurred. In an unfamiliar environment where no one knew them and where everyone they met could be their possible enemy, living exactly the same lives of tramps and undertaking the same troubles, they became still more and more similar, which reflected also on their social roles. Frodo stopped considering Sam as only a servant and treated him rather as a good friend. For example, when they met Faramir, he presented him as “Samwise son of Hamfast, a worthy hobbit in my service” (TT, book IV, chapter 4), providing his whole name, not only the shortened version, and using the phrase “in my service” instead of merely naming him “my servant”, which accentuates the respect he gave him. This is what caused Faramir to address Sam as “Master Samwise”. Furthermore, both being hobbits, they appeared to everyone equally strange and amazing, and without having them introduced, people could hardly tell they were not equals, because Frodo’s behavior to Sam provided no sign of his superiority. So it is that they were treated equally. For the first time it happened at Elrond’s feast a day before his council, when Sam was not allowed to serve Frodo, but recognized as “a guest of honour” (FOTR, book II, chapter 1). And after the accomplishment of the quest, they were both celebrated as the greatest heroes of the war. But the most relevant proof of the fact that they have by the end of the story become socially equal is Sam’s residing in Bag End as its co-owner. After the scouring of the Shire, Sam was no longer a gardener, but a respectable person who would eventually become a Mayor, voted into that office six times. So by this time it meets even this demand of true friendship.

But the second sense of equality is more important for true friendship. This other sense represents the same quantity of friendly deeds on both sides, and reciprocity. This means that “if we can we should return the equivalent of what we have received” (NE, book VIII, chapter 13); or in other words, that every good one receives from his friend he should repay in equal merit. But we clearly see that in the case of Frodo and Sam’s relationship, this merit was highly unbalanced. Sam did for Frodo a great deal more than Frodo did for Sam. So at this point their relationship fails to meet the demands of true friendship. However, in certain situations even such non-reciprocal behavior can be excused. Michael Stocker, a professor of Ethics and Political Philosophy from Syracuse University, explains it: “For those other things include many complex psychic structures, such as those of interest, energy, and mood. These structures can, if in certain states stop a friendly person from acting out of friendship. For example, when emotionally drained, or suffused with a general hatred, or filled with self-doubt…a friendly person may only too naturally not act out of friendship for even a very good friend” (published in Badhwar, 1993, p. 259). And this is the reason that constrained Frodo from appropriately repaying Sam’s affection. It was because of the possession of the Ring, which tried to subdue his mind and he must fight it. The power of the Ring became greater as they neared Mount Doom, until it became the only thing Frodo could think about. The Ring and the Eye, the potency of which beat upon him and dragged him to the ground as if he were loaded with a heavy burden. By the end of the journey he was psychologically ruined, drained of all life, moving mechanically just because he had to. In such a state he would be pardoned for not being conscious enough of his moral duty as a friend to return Sam’s careful concern. But what he could not repay during the quest, because at that time he was not able to do so, he made amends for when he transferred all his property to Sam as his heir.

So Frodo’s lack of performing friendly deeds for Sam was not in direct contradiction to the definition of true friendship. Instead, another significant characteristic of this kind of friendship is observable within his behavior, which manifests his goodwill towards his friend. While he could not do any good for Sam, could not make him happy, at least he avoided making him sad by not confessing about his own suffering. For in true friendship “every one shuns being a cause of pain to his friends” (NE, book IX, chapter 11). Therefore, as long as it was possible he showed no signs of how much his burden tormented him and seldom spoke about it even when its weight reflected visibly on his physical condition. Similarly, for this reason Sam concealed that he was giving almost all his share of food and water to Frodo, starving himself, not wanting to trouble his master with such “unimportant” things, because he knew it would make Frodo feel sorry for him. For the main goal of friends is to comfort each other, not to grieve each other. And comforting is what Sam was especially good at, since his hope for the success of their quest never died and he always cheered Frodo up.

Further, their attitude to each other is a perfect example of perceiving a friend as one’s other self or mirror, which is a feature detectable only within true friendship. Only thus could Sam’s almost parent-like affection and teenage-like admiration to Frodo be explained. He loved him and cared about him as he would for himself, or even more. So Frodo represented Sam’s other self. And on the other hand, Sam functioned as Frodo’s mirror because knowing him so well, he was able to precisely guess his thoughts. And despite his near worship, Sam saw some of Frodo’s personal characteristics more objectively and could point out his unwise decisions in hope of opening his eyes, as in the case of Gollum’s companionship. In addition, they learnt much from each other and brought out the good characteristics in each other, for instance, courage, kindness, mercy, and tenacity.

Yet another feature typical solely of true friendship, which is also inherent in Frodo and Sam’s relationship, is steadfastness. The willingness to remain friends in good and bad fortune as well, as one of the highest signs of virtue, does not occur within any other kind of friendship described by Aristotle. But for Frodo and Sam’s relationship it was essential, which indicates that their relationship was unmistakably a friendship of virtue. Or more accurately, Sam’s relationship to Frodo was of such a nature, since Frodo had no opportunity of showing his loyalty to Sam. They had been warned of the great danger long before the journey, but it did not prevent Sam from going with Frodo. Nor did he leave him when the struggles got really hard. But their steadfastness also manifested itself in their rather calm, moderate interaction, never showing any negative shift of their affections, apart from two cases when Frodo screamed at Sam because of his addiction to the Ring, which he was reluctant to give to anyone else. And this is in concord with Aristotle’s opinion that true friends seldom quarrel, even if they may disagree about some things (NE, book VIII, chapter 13). Indeed, a good friend is a source of trust, as Sam was for Frodo, and never lets his friend do wrong; therefore, even Frodo held Sam back from killing Gollum.

Lastly, true friendship involves generosity. Not only generosity in performing friendly deeds, but also in the material aspect of life. For friends, as the other self, “have all things in common” and “[furnish] what a man cannot provide by his own effort” (NE, book VIII, chapter 9; book IX, chapter 9). While Sam was better regarding friendly deeds, Frodo, being the richer one, gained a good point for sharing his wealth with his servant. From the very beginning Sam was at home in Frodo’s house and it is likely that he was also allowed to use much of its equipment freely, such as books to read or barrels of beer to drink (like the moment before their departure from Bag End). He might also have been taking his meals with his master. Later during the journey, they shared food and water. And after Frodo was been captured by the orcs and then freed by Sam, he wore Sam’s elven-cloak, and Sam in turn used Frodo’s sword. Yet Frodo’s greatest deed of generosity was transferring all his possession to Sam and making him the new master of Bag End.

Lastly, the perfection of their friendship towards each other is also signaled by the amount of self-sacrifice they underwent. Though again in this aspect Sam was better than Frodo, whose sacrifices were performed for the sake of all the Hobbiton and Shire folk, not specifically and solely for Sam. On the contrary, as it has been explained, Sam’s sacrifice was motivated directly by the needs of his friend Frodo.

And so it is that the friendship of Frodo and Sam seems to follow Aristotle’s ideas about the true friendship. And according to his definition, it even satisfies the condition that friendship of such a kind can be extended only to a few people, for neither Sam nor Frodo have any other friends who are so close, since it is very demanding on the mutual devotion of the persons involved. Based on all the characteristics already examined, it is evident that Sam’s relationship to Frodo is on a slightly higher level than that of Frodo to him, due to their circumstances. But it can be generally said that under these conditions, their friendship can be recognized as a friendship of virtue and can be understood as an almost perfect example of it.

Notes

(1) “It is not stated categorically, but we can assume that the Brandybucks were generally Stoors with a Fallohidish strain; according to the Prologue … [see Tolkien, 2011, p. 3, 6] We have no clear evidence at all about the Bagginses. We could assume they are Harfoots as Harfoots were the most common type of hobbits, most normal, and most likely to live in holes (and Bag End was the grandest of holes).” quoted from my Internet conversation with a member of The Tolkien Society web page.

(2) This may be Tolkien’s auto-characteristic observable within Frodo, since the author too was orphaned; actually at the same age as he prescribed it for Frodo. This resembles Lewis’s encouraging Tolkien in his writing. As he often said, were it not for Lewis, Tolkien would probably never finish The Lord of the Rings (Carpenter, 2006a, p. 362).

((3)) This resembles Lewis’s encouraging Tolkien in his writing. As he often said, were it not for Lewis, Tolkien would probably never have finished The Lord of the Rings (Carpenter, 2006a, p. 362).

Resources

Aristotle; Ross, W.D. (tr.), Nicomachean Ethics, [online], 2009, World Library Classics, 2009. 182 pp. ISBN 1-55742-770-4,                                                                                 
online available at: http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/nicomachaen.html

Badhwar, N. K. (ed.), Friendship: A Philosophical Reader, 1993, New York: Cornell University Press, 1993. 352 pp. ISBN 0-8014-8097-3

Carpenter, H. (ed.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, 2006a, London: HarperCollins, 1981. 502 pp. ISBN 978-0-261-10265-1

Helm, B., 2005. Friendship. In The Stanford Eancyclopedia of Philosophy. [online]. 2013, Fall 2013 edition, online available at: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/friendship/

Kraut, R., 2001. Aristotle’s Ethics. In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. [online]. 2010, Winter 2012 edition,                                                                                              
online available at: http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2012/entries/aristotle-ethics/

Shippey, T., J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century, 2000, New York: Houghton Miffin Company, 2000. 347 pp. ISBN 978-0-618-25759-1

Tolkien, J.R.R., The Hobbit, 2011, London: HarperCollins, 2011. 336 pp.
ISBN 978-0-261-10334-4

Tolkien, J.R.R., The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, 2011, London: HarperCollins, 2011. 424 pp.  ISBN 978-0-261-10357-3

Tolkien, J.R.R., The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, 2011, London: HarperCollins, 2011. 464 pp.  ISBN 978-0-261-10359-7

Tolkien, J.R.R., The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, 2011, London: HarperCollins, 2011. 352 pp.  ISBN 978-0-261-10358-0

Tolkien, J.R.R., The Silmarillion, 1992, London: HarperCollins, 1992. 480 pp.
ISBN 978-0-261-10273-6 http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0057%3Aentry%3Dfili%2Fa

 

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One thought on “Frodo and Sam’s Relationship in the Light of Aristotle’s Philia

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  1. The relationship between Frodo and Sam was for me the most beautiful and powerful thing about the LOTR trilogy, books and films. So I LOVED this powerful post!

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