What Hobbits taught me about friendship

You’re not the only one who’s jonesing for an on-film Tolkien fix: This week, a crew member on the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films revealed that director Peter Jackson had a replica of Bilbo Baggins’ home Bag End made in his basement. In honor of Hobbit obsessives everywhere, we’re running this piece on what hobbits meant to one fan’s friendship.

Before Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, fourth grade in a small, Midwestern town was a simple time. In 2001, when I was going through elementary school, everyone was making friends and bonding over Disney shows and pop music. But while other kids were quoting The Princess Diaries and lip-syncing to Britney Spears’s “Lucky,” I was watching The Fellowship of the Ring for the first time with my best friend Jessica.

I was apprehensive at first. It seemed like an adult movie that would be way over my head and too long to keep my attention. But I have never been so wrong. Jessica and I were sucked into the tale of Frodo Baggins and his trusty hobbit companions. I was holding back tears every time Samwise proved to have the purest love for his dear friend Frodo. I remember turning to Jessica and wanting to thank her for being such a good friend to me in the year we had known each other. By the end of the movie I knew something had changed. I didn’t know it at the time, but Tolkien’s trilogy and these four hobbits would continue to have an impact on me for the rest of my life, especially in the friendships I made.

As the next two years passed and The Two Towers and The Return of the King came out, Jessica and I saw both many times in the theater and my appreciation of the four small hobbits grew more and more. This was partly because they’re awesome movies, but also because Jessica and I have both taken on the role of Sam though our fifteen years of friendship. I know I have not always been the easiest to be around—stress, sorrow, anger, and grief have been as present in my life as in hers—but neither of us have given up on the other.

When I was nine years old, my parents split up. The next few years were ugly (even post-divorce), but Jessica was there for me to cry with, to distract me, and to listen when I needed her. When my mom moved to Texas for a new job in 2013, I was forced to live on my own for the first time. I was confident I could handle myself in a new apartment, but I quickly became lonely and was swallowed by the stress of adult-life. Bills were expensive, my car died, and I faced financial scares. Jessica helped me through that time by simply being there for me. She would come over throughout the week, watch Netflix with me, and keep my mind from the looming shadow of adult responsibility that constantly lingered in my apartment.

We all face our own Gollum and our own tiring quests through life. We have that whisper in the back of our heads that says to put the ring on—give in to the negative feelings, but we should all have someone as brave and loyal as Sam to pull us away. Jessica has held me back from the darkest places, and I hope that I have done the same for her. The past seven months in particular, I carried her up the real-life Mount Doom that is the application process and first semester of college. I was with her every step of the way, from the FAFSA to finals week of May 2015, and it was wonderful to see how far she has come.

We might share the roles of being a Sam to the other’s Frodo in times of trouble, but in the good times we are the Merry to each other’s Pippin. Jessica and I can bring each other to tears by telling jokes and recalling good memories over a good meal. Granted, we have yet to dance on a table while breaking out into song, smoke pipe weed in a flooded pantry, or hang out with a talking tree, but we balance each other out and keep one another in check all while having a good time.

Hobbits are lovely little creatures who enjoy the simple things in life. They cherish food, drink, and stories, but more than anything else they cherish friendship. One doesn’t have to be faced with the deadly task of destroying a magic ring to need loyal friends, nor do they need to be captured by Uruk-hai to prove bravery for one another. In fact, if it were not for the bonds of the fellowship and the friendships they share and form through the story, none of the characters would have survived. Samwise always had Frodo’s back, even when Frodo turned away from his friend and gravitated towards the darkness. Just like I know Jessica will have my back, and I will have hers, no matter what crazy things happen in our lives Friendships go through ups and downs. Knowing that even when I am at my lowest, someone is still there who loves me? It’s as powerful as any ring.

Shyla Renee is a graduate student studying children’s literature and screenwriting. She is an avid Tolkien lover and a proud crazy cat lady. When she isn’t reading or lint rolling cat hair off of her clothes she is watching Netflix, writing, or planning her next adventure. You can follow her on Instagram for nerdy references and adorable cat pictures @Fraushyla

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[Image courtesy MGM]

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