One man's obsession with furry feet and second breakfasts
Then as he kept watch Sam had noticed that at times a light seemed to be shining faintly within; but now the light was even clearer and stronger. Frodo's face was peaceful, the marks of fear and care had left it
Not that Sam Gamgee put it that way himself, he shook his head, as if finding words useless, and murmured: "I love him. He's like that, and sometimes it shines through somehow. But I love him, whether or no."
-- From The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
I recently saw a T-shirt for sale on some random website bearing the slogan "Pervy Hobbit Fancier." When I went back to buy it, it was no longer on sale, and I can't help but think that perhaps the Tolkien estate didn't approve of such language.
I admit it: I have an obsession with The Lord of the Rings, both in book form and in film adaptation. In fact, I could use an intervention -- a 12-step program, perhaps. I compulsively read film news online, and whenever I pass by Borders I have to stop in and check out the movie magazines, as well as the fantasy/sci-fi section, to see if any new nuggets have arrived. I celebrate Frodo and Bilbo's birthday on September 22.
When I was a young Hobbit lad, I checked my feet regularly for signs of impending furriness. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I'm definitely down with the Hobbit dietary plan of six meals a day, including second breakfast. And I'm in love with Samwise Gamgee. In short, I am a pervy hobbit fancier.
Now, I haven't gone so far as to have the Black Speech of Mordor tattooed around my bicep, but some people have pointed out that my Green Man tattoo is suspiciously similar to a certain talking tree. I'm constantly asked whether my full-torso dragon tattoo is a representation of Smaug, the ferocious fire-breather Bilbo Baggins faces in The Hobbit. It's not, but it might as well be for the number of times I've been asked about it. That question is probably second only to the perennial "Did that hurt?"
As this month's Academy Awards ceremony will surely demonstrate, I am not alone in my Hobbity habits. Peter Jackson's ultimate film of the novel, The Return of the King, is the most-nominated movie this year, with 11 nods including Best Picture and Best Director. This follows on 20 Oscar nominations and six wins for the first two films, The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, though neither won for Best Picture.
The Lord of the Rings is, in fact, the most nominated film series of all time, its 31 beating out The Godfather series (28) and Star Wars (21). Many are predicting that this is the year Rings will finally win the Best Picture Oscar; it's already picked up both Best Dramatic Film and Best Director Golden Globe Awards.
All three films in the trilogy, based on Tolkien's 1000-plus-page epic, are now solidly ensconced in the top-10 cinematic money-makers ever, and they've garnered heaps of critical praise as well. The films have rejuvenated sales of the original novel, returning its constituent volumes The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King to the New York Times best-seller list. The trilogy has even claimed the superlative "Book of the Century" in one British poll.
Tolkien himself was certainly never a sex symbol, but the film version of his signature work has catapulted many of his characters out of the geek-boy fantasy/ sci-fi realm and into an entirely different kind of fantasy. Elf warrior and blonde beauty Legolas, played by Orlando Bloom, seems to be the biggest hit with the pre-teen girls, while many older women I know lust after Viggo Mortenson, the studly Strider and eponymous King of the final film.
Not knowing many straight guys, I couldn't tell you how they feel about Liv Tyler's Arwen or Cate Blanchett's elven goddess Galadriel. They are certainly stunning in an archetypal, goddess-in-every-woman way, but I get the feeling that most of the straight guys out there probably care more about the battle scenes than the babes in this particular flick.
The queer guys in my social circle have tended to go one of two ways in their lustful thinking. They circle around winsome, doe-eyed Elijah Wood and his twinkie portrayal of Frodo Baggins (never mind that Frodo is 50 years old in the novel). Alternatively, they go straight for the woofy, muscular, furry presence of Sean Bean's Boromir, the Orc pincushion who dies dramatically at the end of the first film while attempting to save Hobbit friends Merry and Pippin from certain sado-masochistic torture in the dungeons of evil wizard Saruman. Boromir's death scene, with Aragorn lovingly holding him in his arms and kissing him goodbye, has got to be one of the more intensely homoerotic moments of recent cinema history.
I've started to refer to my ever-expanding collection of photos of Elijah Wood, Sean Astin (Sam), Dominic Monaghan (Merry), et al. as my "Hobbit Porn." I don't have any actual naked photos of any of them, but I do have a pic of Dom's butt. Oh, and one of Sean Astin's, too.
OK, maybe I do have actual Hobbit porn. Dom's butt is really cute. A boy can dream, can't he?
My personal queer fantasy revolves entirely around Sean Astin's Samwise Gamgee. I'm happy to leave the militaristic Boromir for my bear friends and the translucent Frodo for those who like their chicken. I want Sam to be my boyfriend. Gracious! Sam follows Frodo everywhere, into dark caverns filled with cave trolls and giant spiders. He cooks all the meals and carries the cast-iron pans around on his back. And just when everything is really going to hell, Sam rescues Frodo from the Orcs in time to carry his naked body down Mount Doom in order to get rescued by the eagles. You really can't ask for much more than that in the way of a good boyfriend.
Here's another excerpt from a point in the story where Sam is imagining Frodo being hacked to death by Orcs: "Faint as was the hope it was enough to rouse him. There might be just a chance. His love for Frodo rose above all other thoughts, and forgetting his peril he cried aloud: I'm coming, Mr. Frodo!'"
Charging into a dark tower filled with creatures that are trying to kill you definitely beats a reluctant agreement to pick up the dry-cleaning on the way home from the office.
Discerning queer fan-boys can feed their obsessions in any number of ways. For the straight-up information junkie, just go to http://www.theonering.net . Chock full of info, it's updated several times a day and their webmasters have just published a book called The People's Guide to Middle Earth. It even has a chapter on homoeroticism in The Lord of the Rings, although mostly it's about stating that Frodo and Sam weren't actually fucking in the antechamber to the Cracks of Doom. Nevertheless, the writers ably take to task the homophobic fantasy geek-boys who go rabid with dismay every time anyone suggests that love and affection between same-sex hobbits might be a good thing. And it acknowledges that, yup, same-sex love and affection actually is represented in the book.
LOTR fans who want more of a queer bent to their obsession should definitely visit http://www.bagendinn.com . The Bag End Inn has photo galleries galore, plus some good gossip (Elijah Wood is very, very gay), chat rooms for queer fans to talk to each other and bulletin boards for posting steamy fan fiction. The people behind the site spent much of last year lobbying Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema to keep Frodo and Sam's affection in the final film.
On the more serious side, Sir Ian McKellan, the out-and-proud actor who plays Gandalf in the film trilogy, has a fabulous website, http://www.mckellen . com, that talks about his queer activism in England. It includes question-and-answer sessions with fans who inquire about his politics, and lots of information on his gay-themed films, including Bent and Gods and Monsters.
As I get my popcorn ready for Oscar night and the triumph of The Return of the King, I'm re-reading the book for probably the twentieth time since the beginning of my adolescence. And I hold out hope that the four-hour extended DVD version of the final film will contain this scene:
"Frodo! Mr. Frodo, my dear!" cried Sam, tears almost blinding him. "It's Sam, I've come!" He half-lifted his master and hugged him to his breast
"I can hardly believe it," said Frodo, clutching him. "There was an Orc with a whip, and then it turns into Sam! Then I wasn't dreaming after all when I heard that singing down below, and I tried to answer? Was it you?"
"It was indeed Mr. Frodo. I'd given up hope, almost. I couldn't find you."
"Well, you have now, Sam, dear Sam," said Frodo, and he lay back in Sam's gentle arms, closing his eyes
Sam felt he could sit like that in endless happiness, but it was not allowed. It was not enough for him to find his master, he had still to try and save him. He kissed Frodo's forehead. "Come! Wake up, Mr. Frodo!" he said, trying to sound as cheerful as he had when he drew back the curtains at Bag End on a summer's morning.
Now, when does Sam get to be my boyfriend? Sigh.