Though Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films didn’t explicitly pair Frodo and Sam together romantically, the sizable amount of subtext presented on the screen naturally fed into the fandom’s already-established interest in the idea of shipping the two characters. All it takes is a cursory search through the fanfic site of your choice to see that a lot of people think about Frodo and Sam boning.
None of this is news to folks who’ve kept up with the Lord of the Rings franchise over the years, but a fresh wave of buzz about the possibility of a Frodo/Sam romance is making the rounds on social media thanks to Cameo, the service where fans pay celebrities to record short, customized videos in which they talk about...things and stuff. In one of his latest Cameos, Sean Astin explains how Rachel, the person who paid for the video, specifically asked him to use a “kidding” tone while talking about Sam and Frodo kissing, something that he muses might have happened as “it’s a long trek to Mordor.”
Obviously, Astin’s statements in a video commissioned by a fan have no bearing on Lord of the Rings’ hard canon, and there are almost sure to be naysayers who come out of the woodwork to insist that Tolkien, a devout Catholic, would abhor the idea of two hairy little men getting it in on beside an active volcano. But Astin did elaborate that at the time of the films’ initial release, he personally embraced the the fandom’s interpretations of the characters.
“We loved the gay fanfiction when it came out,” Astin said. “Anyhow, our instinct when the movie came out was to just love how the fans embraced the movie and the characters. And so, whatever people want to conceptualize with them is fine with us.”
In addition to being a high fantasy epic and a reflection on how the allure of power blinds people to its corrupting influence, Jackson’s Lord of the Rings series was also an interesting exploration of the different kinds of intimacy that can develop between men, especially when they’re put into emotionally taxing situations. You could see the variety of ways in which characters like Viggo Mortensen’s Aragorn, Orlando Bloom’s Legolas, and John Rhys-Davies’s Gimli come to resent, trust, and ultimately put faith in one another as their adventures push them to form powerful bonds.
This was particularly true of Astin as Sam and Elijah Wood as Frodo in The Return of the King, where the two characters are at their most vulnerable, both physically and emotionally, as they struggle to destroy the One Ring. There are countless things about Frodo and Sam’s entire dynamic that makes their scenes on Mount Doom read as deeply romantic, but the important thing to understand here is that the idea of the two men sharing a love that’s more than platonic is pervasive enough to make it feel like a solid interpretation of their feelings.
There was never any stopping Lord of the Rings’ fandom from dreaming up alternate, more queer character arcs for the series’ cadre of protagonists, and as we look to Middle-earth’s future, it’ll be fascinating to see whether creative teams attempt to actively tap into any of that energy.
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