I’m addicted to The Lord of the Rings (and all of Tolkien’s works, really, but especially LotR), so a post on this was inevitable.
My heart aches for Sam at the end of Return of the King.
He worked so hard. He did everything he possibly could, against impossible odds, facing his fear of leaving home, continuing on his journey to support Frodo, help and protect his dear friend. He fought evil, faced down monsters way bigger and meaner than he was. He always kept his hope, and did his best to keep it alive in those around him. Look at how many times his speeches are the ones that inspire those around him. He stayed. Even when he was sent away, which is still the most heartbreaking scene for me, by his best friend, he came back. Rejected and betrayed and heartbroken after everything he had sacrificed and suffered, when Sam realised Frodo was in danger he went back as fast as his Hobbit-feet could carry him.
He carried Frodo. He got him to the end of his journey. He did everything he possibly could.
And I tell you, while I do understand what Frodo was up against, when he looked Sam in the eye, standing on the edge of that chasm in Mt. Doom, and said he was going to keep the Ring, oh my gosh does that tick me off. How could he, after everything Sam had done, where Sam had given everything save his very life, although we’d seen more than once how willing Sam was to lay down his life for his friend, Frodo has one freaking job and chooses not to.
Again, I get what he was up against. But that is devastating. When you do absolutely everything in your power, everything you can think of, to support and encourage and help and carry and get that person to where they need to be to do the thing they need to do…and turn away. It’s gutting.
Now, thankfully, that wasn’t the end of the story. And there is a lot to be said about how there is only so much we can do, and many things that we cannot control, and that while we can do our best and even beyond what we ever thought we would or could do that does not guarantee a good outcome, but that’s for another post.
What really makes my heart break for Sam, is the Ring is destroyed. Frodo is saved from the power of the Ring and comes back to himself. They are surrounded by molten rock, but he finally has his best friend back. Finally, after all those nightmarish adventures. They are rescued, they survive even the aftermath. Frodo recovers. They are reunited with their friends. They get to go home.
They are changed, but they get to go home. And the Shire is safe, and Sam finally marries Rosie, and things are not the same (how could they be?) but it was all worth it. Sam has what he fought for. The Shire. Rosie. His family. His friends.
And then Frodo sails West with the elves. He realises he cannot stay in Middle Earth. He cannot be whole there, he cannot fully heal. He cannot stay with Sam. And he leaves him.
How brutally unfair is that? Sam did everything, and still, in the end, loses someone he loves so incredibly much. Frodo is alive and well, but he’s still gone, he still freaking left (trying so hard to cut down on swearing, it is not really working today). Sam has Rosie, his family, his friends. But he’s lost one of the most important people in his life. And I just…I don’t fault Tolkien for that ending at all, because it’s a true ending in the sense that I find it an accurate reflection of life in many instances. I’m not arguing with the ending. I just hate it. I hate that after all that love and sacrifice and toil and pain, the ‘happily ever after’ does not exist for Sam and Frodo together. Sam is left behind. Not left alone, which is something, but still his best friend leaves. Permanently. It’s heart-wrenching.
So when I hear these trite speeches and comments in films/tv shows about how a character shouldn’t put up walls to keep people out, how they need to learn to love again and let people in, and sure they were hurt before but that doesn’t mean everyone will hurt them (aside from every human experience in the history of the world, yeah, zero indication that someone will ever disappoint or hurt us at all), and they just need to open up their heart and let someone in…fuck that.
Yes, love is lovely and wonderful, but it fucking hurts.
And sometimes when you go through one of those brutal experiences (this is the analogy part, kids; I don’t actually think many people – not ruling anyone out all the same – lose one of their closest friends because he sails West with elves because magic jewelry has mentally and emotionally scarred him so deeply he actually has to leave the realm), when you lose someone that close to you, especially after you fought, and you sacrificed, and you dredged up hope in yourself and whoever else was involved, when you have prayed and cried and been wounded and still pressed on, even carried whatever and whomever you could, and you survive the nightmare of all that and have real hope and then still lose what you love…
You don’t just want to jump right back into a situation where you get to tour the more hellish corners of love again.
Some of us need a recovery period, for crying out loud. A recovery period which often is proportional to the depth of the hurt, so when you love someone that deeply and they leave or lose them, you don’t just ‘get back on the horse’. Furthermore, when you aren’t the one who is going through that, you don’t get to decide when is and is not the healthy or right time to choose to love someone like that again. I certainly don’t think anyone has the right to lecture them on it, in my humble opinion (which given the force with which I am now angry-typing, is perhaps coming across as less humble than it ought, and I apologise for that tone).
So kudos to Tolkien for a very realistic portrayal of the unfairness of life and how a victory does not necessarily mean hope fulfilled in every respect. Also, a sincere ‘bite me’ for making me feel things.