Gay Hobbits
December 29, 2003 7:06 PM   Subscribe

Yes, this is a dumb question, but here goes:

Is there anything I can do to convince my son that the hobbits in LOTR are not gay? (Not meant to slam gay mefites, but I doubt gay hobbits would be true to the books. Besides, he's sure he's right and I like to prove him wrong occasionally.)
posted by konolia to Media & Arts (67 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
hahaha... i dont think there was any conclusive mention of preference in the two times i read LOTR growing up.
posted by specialk420 at 7:10 PM on December 29, 2003

When I read the books, right up until Sam gets married, I assumed he and Frodo had hairy double backed beast time...but Tolkien was far to British to mention it. ;) And Pippin and Merri...oh, so gay...and quite happy as well. I think your son is right on this one.
posted by dejah420 at 7:10 PM on December 29, 2003

I'm afraid I don't know enough of Tolkien and the universe he created to comment too much on this topic, but were I you, I'd begin with these well-reasoned comments and follow the suggested links thereafter. Seems sensible enough to me.

For my part, I don't have an opinion on Samwise and Frodo except to say that it's entirely possible to be affectionate toward or even intimate with another man and not be/identify as "gay". But that's probably a semantic argument lost on a young boy, so we'll just leave it aside.

As long as we're all agreed Legolas is playing for the boys' team, we're good.
posted by bradlands at 7:15 PM on December 29, 2003

LOTR Secret Diaries
posted by birdherder at 7:29 PM on December 29, 2003

You could also tell him that it just doesn't matter whether or not hobbits are/were gay. Their sexual orientation doesn't impact the stories in any significant way, from what I understand, so it truly doesn't matter, AFAIK.
posted by davidmsc at 7:35 PM on December 29, 2003

From this thread, there's this PDF which rather conclusively argues Sam & Frodo's friendship is platonic.

I tend to agree with the comments in the article bradlands linked to, echoed in the linked PDF. People think "Frodo and Sam have got to be a couple.... What other interpretation could there be? Maybe they haven't done anything about this smoldering romantic passion, but, jeez, there's no denying the devotion between them" because there's this big, blind spot in our cultural concepts of friendship and love. "Our culture doesn’t have a model for that kind of love. It’s like not having a word for some concept in your language. What does it do to us not to be able to express an idea? Or imagine such a relationship? Perhaps our problem is that we use the same word, “love”, to describe many forms of affection, quite a few of which are completely non-sexual."

I've experienced this kind of friendship directly. I'm probably about as straight as they come, but I've had at least one male friendship that I've wept as bitterly over the dimishing of (as he married and that relationship and other things became his focus) as most breakups with a girlfriend. At its height, that friendship was close, intimate, and sustaining in much the way that close relationships I'd had with women were -- minus any sexual component.

Of course, no one misinterpreted that one, because we spent so much time chasing girls, but a number of people were quite bemused at the difficulty I had letting that one go -- it was like there was no concept of that kind of loss. And I have to admit, a few years earlier, I would have been exactly the same way, because I didn't realize that close friendships could fill that kind of spot.

I also got made fun of a bit growing up, because for a while my parents put my brother and I in the same bed, and he and I were pretty close. Before we could have even understood the concept, there were a number of people who had us both labeled as gay (and likely to die of AIDS).

Ultimately, Sam and Frodo's relationship reminds me quite a bit of childhood good buddies kind of relationship, a la Disney's The Fox and The Hound, in conjunction with Metagrrrls observation about class-seperated but close relationships. Hobbits, in many ways, are supposed to have the purity of children, which is why they're so important in the story. That their relationships should be a bit more like childrens makes a good deal of sense.
posted by namespan at 7:46 PM on December 29, 2003 [1 favorite]

Well, to a nineteen-year old "manly man" it seems to matter.

To me it matters because I think same-sex friendships could and should be able to be affectionate without being labeled gay. I'm trying to tell him-Look, this is an incredibly hard and stressful journey these hobbits were on- I honestly cannot imagine them being any other way considering the intensity of the situation.

Besides, Samwise DID get married, after all.
posted by konolia at 7:47 PM on December 29, 2003

It doesnt matter, but when I was in the movie theater watching the new Lotr, when sam and froto were staring at each others eyes near the end of the film, I yelled "Just kiss him and get it over with!" To which just about everyone in the audience started laughing. Then Froto kissed Sam.
posted by Keyser Soze at 7:48 PM on December 29, 2003

Oh, and what namespan said. Thanks for the info!
posted by konolia at 7:49 PM on December 29, 2003

more "homosocial" than homosexual i think, but they're welcome into the club if they want...i've heard rumors about Elijah for years, so maybe he played it that way. Lots of folks think they are.
posted by amberglow at 7:54 PM on December 29, 2003

It's not hobbits that're gay.

It's late-19th / early-20th century men that are. Were. Whatever. Kinda like when we all liked Alan Alda. You get the idea.

Elves are very pretty, though.
posted by WolfDaddy at 8:16 PM on December 29, 2003

From a spam I got, Lord of the Dings .. Very, very NSFW.
posted by crunchland at 8:26 PM on December 29, 2003

Merry and Pippin aren't gay?
posted by dobbs at 8:43 PM on December 29, 2003

You could also tell him that it just doesn't matter whether or not hobbits are/were gay. Their sexual orientation doesn't impact the stories in any significant way, from what I understand, so it truly doesn't matter, AFAIK.

You could also tell him that it just doesn't matter whether or not hobbits are/were gay, because hobbits don't exist. Their sexual orientation doesn't impact reality in any significant way, from what I understand, so it truly doesn't matter, AFAIK.
posted by quonsar at 8:48 PM on December 29, 2003

They're hobbits, a totally different species from mankind. Therefore, they will behave differently. Besides, if your son wants to go off on something truly offensive, how about Aragorn marrying that elf, which is akin to fucking his horse? ;-P
posted by mischief at 8:51 PM on December 29, 2003

Hobbits are like VW beetles. Was Herbie gay? Why does one care? Can Herbie even "get it on"? Can hobbits?

This is bewilderingly wacky.
posted by shepd at 8:52 PM on December 29, 2003

near the end of the film, I yelled "Just kiss him and get it over with!" To which just about everyone in the audience started laughing.

This was not phrased as a question, but the answer is "Don't shout things out in the movies anymore".
posted by thirteen at 9:23 PM on December 29, 2003

I agree with thirteen, but the second half of the answer is "and get lives."
posted by anapestic at 9:29 PM on December 29, 2003

Piling on here... yes, if you want to yell things at a movie do it at home. The other people in the theater will not appreciate your wit nearly as much as your friends and relatives.

And on a pedantic note: actually Aragorn has elf ancestors. He's descended from Elros, the brother of Elrond (and the father of Arwen).
posted by bshort at 9:45 PM on December 29, 2003

Hobbits are not gay. They are simply very confident in their sexuality and can be themselves around other men without feeling threatened or intimidated or uncomfortable or... alright hobbits must be gay. I'm only speaking about hobbits in Tolkein's books, of course. The hobbits that exist in real life might be straight or they could be gay; it all depends on their upbringing, the environment, genetics, diet, personal lifestyle choices and whether or not the people who think they're real have been taking drugs or are just insane.

Now, Tolkein dwarves (not to be confused with actual dwarves) may or may not be gay. Since both the men and women grow beards and wear seventy pounds of armor and weaponry over their short stocky forms, it's kinda hard to tell even among themselves. They honestly don't know when they're gay or straight. Besides, everybody knows Tolkein dwarves sprout fully grown out of the ground. This is because they can't ever have sex the conventional way what through all that armor and hair.

Elves are lesbians trapped in androgynous bodies.

The humans in Tolkein's books are secretly androids but this isn't revealed until after the creature jumps out of John Hurt's chest and then Sigourney Weaver has to... Woah waitaminute.

It's important to remember that it is impolite to toss a dwarf, unless he specifically asks you to toss him, at which point it becomes impolite not to toss a dwarf. If there's money involved, that gets very complicated. Check with local city ordinances and then flip a coin.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:14 PM on December 29, 2003 [1 favorite]

Tell me something I don't know. I just didnt care at the time, and it wasn't crowded.
posted by Keyser Soze at 11:01 PM on December 29, 2003

Have him read some good British WWI-era history, especially diaries. People who try to find some hint of homosexuality in Tolkein amuse me in much the same way that people who try to prove that Lincoln was gay based on the fact that he shared a bed for a year with Joshua Speed amuse me. They just don't have an appreciation for the customs and perceptions of a culture different from their own.

The relationship between Frodo and Sam is, as I understand it, more or less based on the sorts of relationships you'd see between upper-class British Officers in WWI and their 'servants' (often called 'batmen' for reasons that are obscure to me here in America, but which I presume have something to do with boys boarding schools and cricket). Its a relationship from a different era and a different culture, and if he can't understand that then perhaps he simply doesn't have the life experience to understand that as of yet. Don't worry. He will.

I'm wondering, also, has he actually read the books, or is he basing his interpretation solely on what he sees in the films?
posted by anastasiav at 11:04 PM on December 29, 2003

What if it turned out that they were gay?: Would this be a bad thing?
posted by Space Coyote at 12:22 AM on December 30, 2003

Check out the family trees in the appendices. Sam gets married, has little-hobbits. Also point out something along the lines of it being a shame that we live in times when open expression of love or compassion has to be interpreted sexually...

Alternatively, if this isn't affecting his enjoyment of the book, then don't sweat it. If it is affecting his enjoyment of the book, address why it is, and that it shouldn't.
posted by nthdegx at 12:54 AM on December 30, 2003

I agree about Tolkien being from a different era, when signs of tenderness between males had different connotations than it has today.

This link (found on Metafilter) might show something of that.
posted by rjs at 2:40 AM on December 30, 2003

i'm with anastasiav here. hobbits aren't gay any more than prince charles is. and i thought our discussion here on that decided that being given manual relief by your servant was completely normal heterosexual behaviour.

thanks for the info on lincoln - suddenly the electric six video makes a lot more sense

and, on the making pointed observations about society front, i was of the impression that this kind of thing really didn't matter any more - especially on mefi. until i read this thread. it's just sexuality, folks.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:40 AM on December 30, 2003

He has indeed read the books, and can quote to me from the appendices. As to Sam marrying and providing the world with a number of new hobbits, he counters that Sam eventually joined Frodo in the Grey Havens.

Anastasiav, do you have any books in particular to recommend? I am interested in following up on your recommendation.
posted by konolia at 3:46 AM on December 30, 2003

RJS, I just went to your link-perfect!

Andrew, sexual identity does matter, as that is a very large aspect of one's personality and being. But maybe that isn't what you meant.
posted by konolia at 3:53 AM on December 30, 2003

“I always hear, ‘Oh, they’re so gay together,’” Clifford Broadway (a writer and Tolkien expert who pens a regular column under the name Quickbeam for, the most popular Tolkien fan site) continues. “My response is: ‘No, they’re just affectionate. You need to deal with your own issues.’ American men cannot deal with two literary characters supporting and loving each other in a time of dire need, so it becomes a gay issue when it never really was.” “It would be OK if they were gay — but they’re not,” Broadway counters....Gay actor Ian McKellen tells fans on his Web site that the relationship between Sam and Frodo in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy is ‘a close interdependent relationship’ that some interpret as gay. ...[Link is SFW]

Mind you, the British are well versed in situational homosexuality...
posted by dash_slot- at 4:02 AM on December 30, 2003

The only way you're going to convince him that the "Jumping / hugging / prancing" behaviour from LOTR is not gay is to send him and a friend on a hazordous and difficult mission across the plains of Mordor to destroy the one true ring.
posted by seanyboy at 4:05 AM on December 30, 2003

sure, sexual identity matters, personally. but when it's other people, unless you're worried about your advances being turned down because they don't swing that way, what's the big deal? you worried that your kid's going to make a pass at a hobbit only to hear "sorry, big boy, but i prefer elves"?

[maybe i'm being hypocritical - i'm happy to use it as a stick to beat charles. as far as i can see using almost anything to take a whack at the monarchy is ok and if they're fucked up enough to care then i'll run with it.] it's 2003 - almost 2004 - and the sexuality of other people is not a big deal. the sexuality of hobbits even less so.

you need to deal with your own issues

i can't see how saying that the hobbits "act gay" is an issue. if it's used as a pejorative, then sure, what's the negativity for?. but if it's a simple observation, what's the harm? that the label is being misapplied? doesn't that imply a whole pile of issues on the side of those that are concerned? that the label matters? that if they show affection to someone of the same sex they're somehow tainted because society now calls that (shudder) gay?

you don't need to have a big sign that says "we're not fucking" before you hug another man. that's true whether that action, these days, is called gay or not. because fucking another man is not an issue any more. or so i thought.

christ this is so predictable. sorry. stating the obvious. will shut up.
posted by andrew cooke at 4:30 AM on December 30, 2003

Read a biography of Tolkien. He spent his entire life (as most men of his class did) in the company of men. He loved his wife, but it was in the various clubs (the TCBS, the Inklings, etc) he was a member of throughout his life that made him happiest. He loved his friends in the same way Frodo and Sam love each other. It isn't gay. If homosexuality existed in Middle Earth, it wasn't recorded in the Red Book of Westmarch, and since Bilbo, Frodo and Sam were pretty detailed about most aspects of Middle Earth, I think we can assume that they aren't gay.

Oh, whoops, for a second there I thought The Lord of the Rings was real. Tolkien didn't write them as gay, so they aren't, its that simple. If your son wants to see it another way, thats fine, but hes wrong ;)
posted by Orange Goblin at 4:35 AM on December 30, 2003

Sam gets married, has little-hobbits. : Proves nothing.

"Jumping / hugging / prancing" behaviour : Also quite common in endzones each Sunday, especially prancing. ;-P
posted by mischief at 5:05 AM on December 30, 2003

Sam gets married, has little-hobbits. : Proves nothing.

This is true, because gay people have straight sex, and vice-versa. Not to mention bi folks. I would imagine that the same may be true for Hobbits.

Except that they are virtually asexual.

Konolia - it's about your son's search for certainty. Maybe he'd do well to ponder that sometimes, things are unknowable.
posted by dash_slot- at 5:26 AM on December 30, 2003

Dearest konolia: whether or not it's true or plausible, I think your son should be encouraged in his analytical ability. I smell a budding literary critic. Unlike AskMe, it's all about the questions and how interesting they are, rather than about the answers.

Though it is troubling that gay is sometimes used by youngsters to mean "lame" or "not up to standard", it's a passing phase. The only possible pedagogical damage I can see is if you and your husband are seen to deny his analysis too vehemently, thus reinforcing the notion that being gay is somehow bad.

Good questions should be followed not by answers but by other questions: "Why do you say that?"; "What leads you to believe such a thing?"; "How does this affect your enjoyment?"; "How important do you think this is?", etc.

Hell, he made a lot of us think! :)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:43 AM on December 30, 2003

actually Aragorn has elf ancestors. He's descended from Elros, the brother of Elrond (and the father of Arwen).

Hang on a minute! Aragorn and Arwen are first cousins? That's just wrong! And we're debating how light the hobbits are in their loafers?

Sam and Frodo are even more affectionate in the book, by the way. Lots of kissing of brows and laying of heads on manly hobbit chests and naked prancing on Mt. Doom.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:25 AM on December 30, 2003

I've always held the position that when someone says, "Phft, they're acting so gay!!" what they really are saying is, "If I was gay, that's how I'd act."

I don't think they are gay but I do think that form of male, physically affectionate friendship has largely disappeared from US male culture. If Sam and Frodo were, say, Samantha and, err.....Frodilia, who we auto jump to the assumption that they were lesbian lovers? It's fecking Lord Of The Rings, not Mulholland Drive.

What we are seeing is a byproduct of the homophobia in the US. In a desire not to be called gay, the examination of what *is* gay becomes almost an obsession.

I would ask you son if anyone has ever thought of him as being gay. My gut tells me that his answer will be yes.
posted by Dagobert at 6:31 AM on December 30, 2003

I believe Sam is following the time honored tradition of British explorers such as Bruce Chatwin, who married but then had secret gay lives.

All silliness aside, ROTK was pretty rife with images of Frodo suffering under the burden of the ring and he and Sam gazingly earnestly at each other. Sam's marriage at the end, in its cinematic representation, seemed almost dreamlike, an "antidote" to homo-queasy contemporary audiences.

Michael Quinn, in "Same Sex Dynamics Among 19th Century Americans: A Mormon Case Study " discusses our social construction of what constitutes being gay.

As we "speak," hundreds of graduate students are probably writing papers about this.
posted by mecran01 at 6:46 AM on December 30, 2003

I would like to add to the chastisement of Keyser Soze. PLEASE don't shout, talk or even whisper at movies. I don't see what the theatre being crowded or not crowded has to do with it. It's rude if there's even one other person there.

Now I'd like to offer Keyser Soze a cheese cracker as a peace offering.

Something that gets ignored for the most part in the film versions of LOTR, is that Sam is Frodo's SERVANT. There is a long tradition in the UK of this sort of close relationship between servants and masters, in which servants serve with total devotion. This is probably more of a fantasy of the ruling classes than a reality.

In the film version, the servant/master thing gets way toned down, because it's not pc and it's unfathomable to most americans.

Now, this doesn't preclude some homosexuality or homoeroticism, but you'd just have to say (if you want to interpret things that way) that the whole servant/master tradition is homoerotic. Which it may be on some level. (Much like the british public school system.)

Tolkein's fiction is drenched in the british class system. If you read the books with this in mind, it hard to not notice it rearing it's head.
posted by grumblebee at 7:05 AM on December 30, 2003

FWIW, mark me down as 'shouldn't matter one way or another if they are gay'.
posted by tcaleb at 7:51 AM on December 30, 2003

It's obviously a homosexual allegory. The ring is a "Burden almost too heavy to carry". Sauron's eye represents Hetrosexual anger and the need to keep the ring / the burden hidden. Smeagol (as a Quentin Crisp character) represents the true wasting evil of homosexuality, and the danger of older, camper gay men.

It's obvious really. Of course all the Hobbits are gay. That's why they're shorter and less useful than the "race of men".

And why they've got hairy feet.
posted by seanyboy at 8:26 AM on December 30, 2003

OK, digging in the appendices, Sam may indeed end up in the Grey Havens, but not before he and Rose have thirteen children. Also, Rose dies before Sam goes to the Grey Havens so it isn't like he's leaving her. Sure, Sam and Frodo embrace at times of need, but I don't see how that can be suggestive on the one hand whilst Sam having sex with a female at least thirteen times is dismissed as proving nothing. Of course it isn't proof, but I think it is, at the very least, suggestive. Pippin also marries and has children.
posted by nthdegx at 8:58 AM on December 30, 2003

I would ask you son if anyone has ever thought of him as being gay.

Not that I know of.

Incidently, my two girls also think the hobbits are gay.
posted by konolia at 10:03 AM on December 30, 2003

One word: bi. Move along.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 10:03 AM on December 30, 2003

One thing I am wondering-obviously the director knew what kind of reaction Americans would have to that much same-sex affection, which does make me wonder if he meant to imply same-sex romaticism on purpose, and if so, why?

I figure other cultures would not get that subtext. In Thailand for example, same-sex friends holding hands are not uncommon, and no one thinks of it as sexual.
posted by konolia at 10:09 AM on December 30, 2003

Dunno about Sam and Frodo,
but Elijah Wood is Very, Very Gay.
posted by *burp* at 10:30 AM on December 30, 2003

It's in the books. Perhaps Peter Jackson didn't want to betray the nature of the relationship between Sam and Frodo as written by Tolkein in response to American homophobia?
posted by sudama at 10:30 AM on December 30, 2003

Sorry. That was a wisecrack.

But I do think the argument could be made that this version of The Lord of the Rings was deliberately created to (among other things) leave some viewers asking the very question that this thread is about. My suspicion (regardless of whether "Elijah Wood is Very, Very Gay" or not) is that Elijah Wood -- along with the rest of the "hobbits" (and many others involved in the film) -- is happy to be playing around a bit with cultural preconceptions of what constitutes a "proper" male/male relationship.

(On preview: I never noticed it in the books, but it's been a long time since I read them, and I may have missed it when I did.)
posted by *burp* at 10:43 AM on December 30, 2003

Here, here, sudama. He's just being true to the book. It's a beautiful relationship (I say this speaking as a perfectly straight man), and it amuses me to no end that in our modern culture we just can't accept it at face value.

Dagobert- If Sam and Frodo were, say, Samantha and, err.....Frodilia, who we auto jump to the assumption that they were lesbian lovers?

EXACTLY! Actually, we'd be hoping they were rather than being uncomfortable with the prospect.

Konolia- If you really want to throw your son for a loop, have him read The Iliad.
posted by mkultra at 10:58 AM on December 30, 2003

Why the Iliad?

He read about half of it when he was 11.
posted by konolia at 11:07 AM on December 30, 2003

Achilles. Patroclus. LOVVVVVVVERS!
posted by WolfDaddy at 11:20 AM on December 30, 2003

Dolphins are bi.
posted by Blue Stone at 11:40 AM on December 30, 2003

Incidently, my two girls also think the hobbits are gay.
Sounds like we have different interpretations by their generation.
posted by thomcatspike at 11:40 AM on December 30, 2003


Wouldn't it be more sadistically fun to let your kids run with this impression and then, a few years later, when they get over it, tease them about it? In front of friends? Isn't that what parents are best at?

I know, delayed gratification and all that.
posted by adamrice at 11:54 AM on December 30, 2003

More discussion
posted by COBRA! at 1:12 PM on December 30, 2003

No, thom, when it comes to hobbits they mean GAY gay, not lame gay.

Adamrice, i'll be doing that anyhow. ;-)

And wolfdaddy, he informs me he is well aware of ancient Greeks' view of the subject of homosexuality. Jaded, he is.
posted by konolia at 2:45 PM on December 30, 2003

No, thom, when it comes to hobbits they mean GAY gay, not lame gay.

What I meant is you as a person from an older generation see the Hobbits as Cobra! linked them: showing their true emotions to all. As your generation wouldn't associate friendship with sex. Have a similar problem with an younger brother. Whenever I mention "his girlfriend", his immediate reaction is, no she is not, just a friend. As he explains they are not having sex or living together which to me doesn't make a girlfriend. Then I notice his friends' girlfriends are, so he wants to make it distinguishable.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:41 PM on December 30, 2003

As your generation wouldn't always associate friendship with just sex. Not that all generations do, yet the younger generation have a term called: f-ing friends. [looks at post, hopes not generalizing]
posted by thomcatspike at 3:58 PM on December 30, 2003

ps, older: your views may be young & inocent.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:00 PM on December 30, 2003

i agree with seanboy.
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:46 PM on December 30, 2003

Love knows no bounds. (If you like that line, then find my runaway best seller on Amazon titled "1001 of the most polished and sterile quotes in the History of Mankind".)
posted by Keyser Soze at 7:36 PM on December 30, 2003

"Remarkable! One of the Best Books of the Year!"
--from the reviews of Keyser's book ; >

Does thinking that they're gay stop people from seeing the movie or reading the books?
posted by amberglow at 7:45 PM on December 30, 2003

Amberglow, the only way I have convinced my son to go see the movie is if I actually give consideration to the "gay hobbit" theory. That and I have to stay in my seat for the Shelob part.
posted by konolia at 8:02 PM on December 30, 2003

"...not that there's anything wrong with that."
posted by ZachsMind at 9:30 PM on December 30, 2003

Konolia - try pointing out that non-gay male-male interaction varies dramatically among human cultures and that US male-to-male interaction is close to the most hung-up on the planet.
posted by troutfishing at 11:22 PM on December 30, 2003

Did you ever consider that your son might be saying this to get a rise out of you? It certainly seems to be working.
posted by agregoli at 8:39 AM on December 31, 2003

I can't believe this thread has over 65 comments... that's a lot of attention being paid to hypothetically gay fictional characters.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:46 AM on December 31, 2003

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