Tolkien Reading Day is tomorrow. It’s on March 25 because that’s the day the One Ring was destroyed in The Lord of the Rings. (At least, I assume that’s the reason.) According to the Tolkien Society, the theme this year for Tolkien Reading Day is friendship.
Coincidentally, a couple friends and I were recently talking about the friendship of Frodo and Sam in The Lord of the Rings. It’s really quite fascinating; it’s one of my favorite things about the book.
Sam is the sort of friend I have always aspired to be. He’s kind of summed up by this picture (which I know is hard to read; it says, “I would follow you to the ends of the earth with only mild complaining”). He’s willing to let Frodo know when he doesn’t approve of Frodo’s choices, but he’s completely dedicated to his friend.
Sam spends the entire book carrying things for Frodo. At the beginning, when he sets out on a (supposedly) simple walking tour with Frodo and Pippin, Frodo good-naturedly complains about how much he has to carry. “‘I could take a lot more yet, sir. My packet is quite light,’ said Sam stoutly and untruthfully.”
Before the Fellowship leaves Rivendell, Sam thinks about what he had packed, including “various small belongings of his master’s that Frodo had forgotten and Sam had stowed to bring them out in triumph when they were called for.”
When Sam thinks Frodo is dead, he takes the Ring to carry it to Mount Doom in order to finish the quest for Frodo. “[A]t once his head was bowed to the ground with the weight of the Ring, as if a great stone had been strung on him.” He gives it back after he finds Frodo alive, though he offers to continue carrying it.
Eventually, Frodo and Sam have to throw away most of their gear because they don’t have the strength to carry it any longer. As they’re struggling along in the last days of the journey, Sam tells himself, “‘I’ll get there, if I leave everything but my bones behind…. And I’ll carry Mr. Frodo up myself, if it breaks my back and my heart.'” Then, as they’re climbing Mount Doom, Frodo, long past the end of his strength, falls to his knees and begins crawling.
“Sam looked at him and wept in his heart, but no tears came to his dry and stinging eyes. ‘I said I’d carry him, if it broke my back,’ he muttered, ‘and I will!’
“‘Come, Mr. Frodo!’ he cried. ‘I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you and it as well. So up you get! Come on, Mr. Frodo dear! Sam will give you a ride. Just tell him where to go, and he’ll go.’
“As Frodo clung upon his back, arms loosely about his neck, legs clasped firmly under his arms, Sam staggered to his feet; and then to his amazement he felt the burden light.”
So much of friendship is about carrying things. At first it might just be grabbing something for your friend when their hands are full. But as trust develops, it deepens into sharing the hard parts of your life and helping each other carry them. You might find the burden light; you might not. But light or heavy, in a good friendship, it is certainly worthwhile.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2