Happy Tolkien Reading Day! Today is the day to celebrate with your favorite passages and works by the late and great J. R. R. Tolkien.
The theme this year is friendship, which I think is really appropriate considering friendship is an important theme throughout his works, not to mention the movie about the famous friendship between Tolkien and C.S. Lewis comes out April this year.
The theme of friendship in Tolkien’s works has been studied by critics who have debated whether or not his friendships are based on his own personal relationships and if there is homo eroticism in his works.
When I think about friendship, the Fellowship of the Ring immediately comes to mind, but the theme of friendship appears in Tolkien’s other works as well. You don’t have to read an entire book to celebrate Tolkien Reading Day (impossible to do in one day). Just read passages that focus on friendship. Here are some of my favorites.
Sam & Frodo
This is probably the most famous and controversial friendship in Tolkien’s writing. A friendship founded by loyalty and love, this friendship could easily have been based on the bonds he formed during his military career.
This friendship stands out because of the extreme devotion Frodo and Sam have for each other, but also because of the accusations of their relationship being homoerotic (a theory that was made even more popular after the release of Peter Jackson’s adaptations). Stroking and kissing doesn’t necessary mean they are romantic, though the idea they are romantic is supported by the philosophy of C.S Lewis as outlined in his book,The Four Loves. Without going into great detail about the four love types, Frodo and Sam fall into the romantic category.
I think it’s open to interpretation whether or not their relationship is platonic or homoerotic. I like it either way. The friendship is based on values that we can all agree relationships should have. To borrow a little from Thorin’s quote, I think if we all valued friendship as much as Frodo and Sam, the world would be a merrier place.
Another friendship that may or may not have been based on personal friendships. Critics have argued that the Fellowship is based on the Inklings, a literary group Tolkien was a member of with C.S. Lewis. The group was founded in friendship instead of the goal of gaining power (cough, cough Boromir). The members of the group became friends through the shared quest of writing. The members of the fellowship become friends through the shared quest of destroying the one ring.
Like the members of the Inklings, the members of the fellowship divulge very little information about themselves. Hence why no one knows for the longest time that Strider is the lost heir Aragorn. They focus on the common goal, not personal commonality.
Legolas & Gimli
Probably one of my favorite friendships because they start off hating each other. If you want to read about their friendship, it really doesn’t start until after they leave Lothlorien. By fighting with each other Gimli and Legolas form a bond out of mutual respect. This friendship could also have been based on his military relationships or even his Oxford days.
Thorin & Bilbo
You have to love the friendship of Bilbo and Thorin. Their’s is a friendship founded in trust and loyalty. I’m still reading The Hobbit, so I haven’t gotten to the end. I like how Peter Jackson’s films portray the friendship, but I wished he would have played it up a little bit more like he did with Sam and Frodo. I wanted more of that.
Túrin & Beleg
A lesser known friendship. This one is from the Silmarillion. It’s about Túrin, also known as Neithan, Gorthol, Turambar (you get the picture). While he was known as Túrin, he was the adopted human son of the elvish King Thingol and brother-in-arms with the warrior Beleg. Essentially Túrin is accused of murder and is exiled. His friend Beleg is extremely loyal to him. He gets permission from Thingol to go in search of him. In a series of reunions, he begs him to return, but Túrin won’t go back with him. Since Túrin won’t return, Beleg ultimately decides to stay with him. Eventually Túrin is captured by orcs during a raid that leaves Beleg gravely wounded, but he is a great warrior and an even better friend, so he goes after Túrin. His loyalty, love, and devotion aren’t exactly repaid when Túrin accidentally kills him while he tries to free him from the orcs. If you think this friendship sounds one sided, it’s not. Túrin does love Beleg. He grieves his loss and sings a song for him called “The song of the great Bow” in honor of his friend.
This Tolkien Reading Day, celebrate the friendships in Tolkiens works as well as the ones in your personal lives. My best friend is my sister. We do everything together, even write together like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. We often joke that we are Lewis and Tolkien reincarnated because of our bond and our writing styles. Today I will celebrate with my sister by watching The Battle of the Five Armies and reading The Hobbit.
Whose your best friend? What is your favorite friendship in Tolkien? How will you celebrate Tolkien Reading Day?