The love of Frodo Baggins’ life was one Mr. Samwise Gamgee. Nothing in the entirety of the Tolkien canon, even Sam’s wife, will ever dissuade me from this fact. Frodo and Sam’s story is about love, no matter how you see it, but for many of us who adore the world of Tolkien, they were queer. So too were Merry and Pippin. And Gimli and Legolas. And Aragorn and Boromir probably had a thing that one time. Also, let’s not forget whatever was going on with Bilbo and Thorin.
The point is that Middle Earth was and is, for many of us, a very very gay place and I would very much like to see that queer legacy reflected in some way, in Amazon’s new Lord of the Rings series.
Before we go into my hopes for the new series, let’s look a bit more deeply at the original and the huge place it holds in the history of slash shipping. Slash, in case you’re new around here, refers to a romantic relationship between two male characters. The term was first used in reference to fics about Kirk and Spock that were labeled Kirk/Spock. But even before those two, fans seeking queer representation had latched onto many of the relationships in JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, especially the one between Frodo and Sam.
The importance of this relationship to queer fans, and the obvious “maybe it’s more than friendship” love between Frodo and Sam specifically, was profound enough that on the set of Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings trilogy, Ian McKellan made sure that a moment from the book, where Sam takes Frodo’s hand, was preserved.
When I suggested to Sean that he take Elijah’s [Wood, who plays Frodo] hand… it was because I thought anyone who would care about the deep friendship (often of an innocent physical nature) … I thought that might be missed by two resolutely heterosexual actors who might not appreciate that gay people, like myself, saw in a touch something, perhaps, more meaningful than others might.
And we saw it. For countless fans, we saw Frodo and Sam, and more than just friends, we saw them as in love. Indeed most of the ships in The Lord of the Rings universe are male/male, though that’s bound to happen when you have like three female characters and several dozen male ones. Even so, Tolkien has a queer legacy. Even Tolkien himself, and his relationships with men, have been the subject of some speculation, most recently in the rather dull but passingly homoerotic biopic Tolkien.
All of this adds up to one thing: fans see and want queerness in this universe, and for the first time, maybe we have a chance of seeing it in the new series.
Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series will take place centuries before the events of The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring etc. (Boy do we need to get a more distinct name for the Amazing series by the way because I can’t keep saying “Lord of the Rings will take place before Lord of the Rings.”) And so we don’t have much hope of queering the characters we know and already ship, but that doesn’t mean that this series can’t honor the enduring queer legacy of the original.
And there certainly could be a chance for that. For one, we already have a massive cast that’s way more diverse than the Jackson films. And we also have word that the show may be more adult, or might at least include nudity. Is it really too much to ask that we get to see in this canon the queerness we always found in subtext?
Queer representation has evolved so much since the Peter Jackson films. Since then, LGBTQ relationships have moved far beyond hints, subtext, and fandom. Queer stories are advancing, slowly coming to have the same weight and importance as straight ones, and I think that should be reflected in this new chapter in The Lord of the Rings. Not only would it be a bold new chapter in the story of queer representation in media, but it would fit with the story we know and love already.
(Image: New Line Cinema)
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