A Friend Who Knows You Better Than You Know Yourself

As I begin to finish the examples of friendships in literature, I also want to cover the subgenres of fantasy and adventure. Although there are certainly differences between these two genres (as I explain below), I’m using an example that fits into both categories. J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is a multi-volume fantasy piece about two friends who knew each other better than they knew themselves.

Since The Lord of the Ring was successful in both book and film formats, I considered using this friendship earlier in my series, New Year; New Types of Friends as an example from the movies. However, I chose to include it in this subset of literature since the books are often better than the film version. It also fits my belief that men need more authentic and emotionally-intimate friendships to help them through the adventures of life, despite how close friendships between men are often misunderstood.

Fantasy vs. Adventure Literature

According to Wikipedia, there is a distinct difference between fantasy and adventure literature. There are also some similarities. Both subgenres enrich the readers with knowledge of love and sacrifice, a sense of morality, and the theme of good and evil. Both feature lessons that can apply to life today, regardless of whether the setting or characters are real or fictional. 

Fantasy literature is generally set in an imaginary universe, often but not always without any locations, events, or people from the real world. Magic, the supernatural, and magical creatures are common in these imaginary worlds. Fantasy is a subgenre of speculative fiction that encompasses elements that do not exist in reality, recorded history, nature, or the present universe. Fantasy is distinguished from science fiction and horror by the absence of macabre; those disturbing and horrifying images that depict death or major injury. 

In addition to Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, other works of fantasy include Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.

Conversely, Adventure literature is a type of fiction that usually presents a danger, or gives the reader a sense of excitement outside the course of the protagonist’s ordinary life. It features a fast-paced, action-packed plot in which the hero has to complete a quest or a task in a short amount of time. The adventure story often uses maps, intriguing backgrounds, and antiquities to interest the reader with an epic journey that culminates in a thrilling climax.

Some of the best adventure novels of all time include The Odyssey by Homer, Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, Moby-Dick by Herman Melville, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, and Raiders of the Lost Ark written by Campbell Black. Some adventure fiction also satisfies the literary definition of romance fiction, like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Several fantasy novels also fit in both fantasy and adventure genres. Many works of fantasy and adventure that were originally written for children and adolescents have attracted an adult audience. Since the 1960s, many have taken the form of films, television programs, video games, music, and art. For instance, The Lord of the Rings has made millions of dollars in multiple formats.

About The Lord of the Rings

Although often called a trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien intended The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) to be one volume of a two-volume set. For economic reasons, it was published over the course of a year from July 29, 1954, to October 20, 1955, in three volumes titled The Fellowship of the RingThe Two Towers, and The Return of the King. Those pieces are divided internally into six books, two per volume, with several appendices of background material. 

The LOTR books are epic tales of struggle through darkness; both personal and military. They describe the quest of the Hobbits to destroy the one remaining Ring of Power created by the main antagonist, the Dark Lord Sauron, for his campaign to conquer all of Middle Earth. 

As with most literature, LOTR is an allegory of our struggle with darkness and connection to sin. As I wrote in A Friendship that Transforms about Tolkien, Lewis, and The Inklings, its easy to see the parallel between the temptations of sin and the pursuit of good in Tolkien’s writings.

The Friendship of Frodo and Sam

The series features the adventures of Frodo Baggins and his gardener, Samwise Gamgee; two members of a fictional race of small people with hairy feet called Hobbits. They live in Middle Earth, the setting of much of Tolkien’s fantasy literature. 

Modern eyes may read LOTR and question the relationship between Frodo and Sam. Their emotional connection and intimate interactions have driven many people to suggest homosexual undertones to their friendship. This view ignores true biblical sexuality and God-given masculinity. It also misses the beauty in Frodo and Sam’s platonic bond. Regardless of your viewpoint, everyone can benefit from an examination of this friendship.

Attributes of Their Friendship

According to this post by Rev. Garrick Sinclair Beckett, the friendship of Frodo and Sam can teach us a lot. After his initial rant about the theories that the Hobbits are gay, Beckett explains that their friendship demonstrates biblical masculinity where the men carry each other’s burdens and are not afraid to show their love for one another. Beckett says that society has created a “false masculinity” in which hairy men grow bushy beards and belittle those who cannot grow them, wrestle each other to show their domination of the opposite sex and over each other, and yell at sports while drinking beer. It’s a type of masculinity that hides all emotions. Some call that “toxic masculinity.”

Most importantly, Beckett provides several attributes of biblical masculinity based on the friendship of Sam and Frodo. I agree with him that true biblical masculinity is when men make sacrifices, speak up for the benefit of their fellow man, persevere through the troubles of all relationships, and are not afraid to show their love for their friends.

So with proper credit given, here is an edited version of these attributes that also applies to your GodBuddy friendship. 

Friendship is about Sacrificing

One of the marks of being a true friend is the willingness to sacrifice. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). Nothing Jesus did was from an ulterior motive, but in His humility. He became nothing for us so that we might be something. He performed the greatest sacrifice we need but don’t deserve.

Frodo sacrificed his comfort and safety by taking the burden of destroying the evil ring. He counted himself as nothing in order to help Frodo. Sam also sacrificed his comfort and safety in order to help carry Frodo’s heavy burden. His friend needed him. He could have easily chosen to stay behind in the relatively safe confines of Rivendell. Instead, Sam chose to accompany Frodo on the adventure. 

Friendship is about Speaking Up About Sin

When a friend is sinning and is unrepentant, being silent is not being a good friend. We often remain silent when we see our friends sinning because we’re afraid to offend them and lose their friendship. But if you lose their friendship, they’re clearly not being a “true friend” who is worth keeping. Not only should true friends be willing to call out each other’s sins, they must also be open to constructive criticism and admonishment.

Jesus called the disciples out all the time. For example, Luke 18:15-16 says: “Now they were bringing even infants to Him that He might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him, saying, ‘Let the children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.’” Jesus called them out and rebuked them by demanding they allow the children to come to Him in order that they may receive the kingdom of God.

Likewise, Sam called out Frodo when he was trusting Gollum to bring them through a secret passage to Mordor. Sam was aware of Gollum’s possible betrayal. He wanted Frodo and admonished him about his blind trust in this deceitful creature. Frodo wouldn’t listen and even banished Sam from continuing on the journey with him. But Sam was a good friend and stuck with Frodo. He also helped Frodo see the danger in his actions. 

Friendship is about Perseverance

In his article, Beckett distinguishes between individual perseverance and relational perseverance. A true friendship perseveres through the challenges of any relationship. Disagreements and betrayals will arise. It requires work and effort whether it’s a romantic relationship or a friendship. 1 Peter 5:8-9 tells us “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood around the world” ). Not only must we be on the lookout for the devil’s attempts to send spiritual attacks on our friends, but the evil one may attack the friendship itself. 

Although Frodo threw Sam out of their friendship, Frodo eventually realized his foolish behavior after Gollum inevitably betrayed him. Once they found each other again, Frodo sought Sam’s forgiveness. This takes humility on both sides. Frodo humbled himself once he realized he was wrong. Sam also humbled himself in order not to be angry at Frodo. The same humility forgives rather than staying angry in our pride. 

Friendship is about Loving

Emotions are not exempt from friendships, even between two men. Beckett also says we never question two women’s sexuality when they say they love each other, hug each other, or even give a non-sexual kiss. When men do that, however, people often immediately question their heterosexuality. Beckett says people theorize that Sam and Frodo are gay because they don’t hide their love for each other. They have deep emotional conversations with tears. They share intimate hugs. Frodo even gives Sam a kiss on the head before he departs for Rivendell at the end of the trilogy.

Love is not about being sexual; it is about showing genuine care and compassion for a human being. Paul says to “greet one another with a holy kiss” (Romans 16:16). A holy kiss was an ancient Christian tradition as a sign of greeting to men and women alike. It’s much like our handshakes today. A holy kiss was simply how the early Christians greeted each other, like the cheek kissing commonly associated with European aristocrats. 

True friendships show a willingness to communicate openly and show emotions. This also allows your friend to know you better than you know yourself which keeps you from

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GodBuddy Focus

Frodo and Sam show us a great deal about friendship. They show how two friends sacrifice to keep each other safe during their journey. They demonstrate how friends persevere together when pursuing something bigger than themselves. Their friendship also shows how to call each other out when one of you is misled by evil desires. Sam knew Frodo better than Frodo even knew himself. He helped Frodo overcome his fears and beat the temptations caused by his pursuit of the ring. It was a close, intimate friendship that worked because they spent a lot of time together.

Men, you also need good friends who are by your side for life’s adventures. You need friends who know you better than you know yourself. You need a GodBuddy who knows about any weaknesses that can cause you to betray yourself, betray the love of others, and betray your relationship with God. A close, emotionally-intimate friendship with another godly man helps you love others as Jesus loves us; by knowing us well but still loving us, despite our flaws.

My next post is about friendship in fantasy and adventure literature is about a famous trio: Harry Potter, Ronald Weasley, and Hermione Granger.

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