So, a while ago, I was scrolling through Facebook – something that I’ve been trying to do less and less of late – when I saw a picture of a tweet that addressed something called “Lord of the Rings Masculinity”. I mean, any sort of reference to the greatest trilogy of books ever written and the greatest films ever produced is bound to get my little nerdy heart beating faster, so I read the whole tweet with expectations soaring high. Sadly, what I read wasn’t really what I was truly looking for. I mean, it had the bare bones of what I think was a well thought out argument and had some amazingly helpful recommendations, but it really didn’t address what made those suggestions sort of “revolutionary” in the sense that people could really take them to heart.
It was sort of the same thing as when you’re going to church – if you don’t, then I’m sure you can appreciate it nonetheless – and the pastor standing on the stage goes so far into the theology of whatever point he’s trying to make that he completely forgets to add why such deep theological knowledge – and the advice is prescribes – is useful in any sort of way to a person’s life. This tweet was essentially the same thing. And I guess its sort of my job to dissect and expand upon the points that the tweeter (twriter?) made in his original tweet so that it makes some sort of applicable sense. I’m going to attempt to take those points that he made and explore how the concepts expressed make a man a more powerful version of who he ought to be.
Looking at you Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas. Y’all set the standard.
I should provide a bit of a disclaimer before moving any further with this article. I’ve read all the books and seen all the movies (including The Hobbit Trilogy, which I could rant about, but no one wants to hear that) and I’ll be the first to admit that the model of masculinity proposed by Lord of the Rings is not all-encompassing. What I mean by this is that the model still has some problems when it comes to the depiction of the relationship between men and women. I’m not saying that this is ok, in any sense of the word, but that is how the books are written and the movies faithfully portray it. What I attempt to do in this article is write about the male-to-male relationship.
Now that that’s all said and done, let’s move on to the tweet itself. The words, verbatim, are as follows:
- We’re going on long journeys with the guys
- We’re swearing oaths to our buddies
- And if you say goodbye without a soft forehead kiss, then buddy you fucked up.
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
I mean sure, the first point should be something that you’re doing anyways. Get the car packed up, go for a drive, enjoy each other’s company. You haven’t really lived till you’ve – for example – camped out in a Jeep Patriot for three nights in Shenandoah National Park with a guy that you barely know after a 14-hour drive.
Side Note: he ended up being the best friend I’ve ever made at college.
Just spending time with each other opens this sort of “clam-like” exterior that most guys these days seem to feel is the correct way of going about life. So I guess the first part of this tweet rings true. Go on road trips, go out to dinner together, visit each other at college when you haven’t spoken in months, do exciting things with the guys in your life because they’re going to provide one of the best networks for support.
“A declaration that one will do or refrain from doing something specified”http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/promise
The second point of that tweet seems to go a bit further into the action that is implied by the first point. So, let’s face it, we live in the 21st century and swearing oaths is usually reserved for the stage at someone’s wedding – this is especially relevant if you’re marrying one of your buddies, but we’ll address sexuality later. We aren’t fighting hordes of orcs (at least, I hope), meeting reborn wizards in the forest or casting out evil spirits that are possessing kings anymore, so the implications have changed somewhat. Regardless, an oath is a promise, a vow to another person that shouldn’t be broken.
I mean, if I promised a group of friends that I’d be their dd on Saturday night, I need to fulfill that promise. Honor being such an important part of anybody’s life, it makes sense that vows hold a significant portion of our lives together. We are called, when we make a promise, to see it to the end. And if, for some reason, that promise cannot be fulfilled, we ought to own up to our mistakes. A promise isn’t made lightly, with the expectation of something to be completed.
So when he says “Swearing oaths to our buddies”, he really isn’t implying that this is a drastic change from what we already do. There is however a call to not abandon promises in the same casual way that our generation tends to. The three main “bros” of Lord of the Rings (Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas) would view it as the height of dishonor to back out of a promise, and that’s the challenge that this tweet implies.
“I never thought I would die fighting side by side with an elf.”
“What about side by side with a friend?”
“Aye… I could do that.”Gimli and Legolas, Return of the King
And so, the final point. The one about the soft forehead kiss before we say goodbye. I don’t know about y’all, but if you kiss someone on the forehead you might be looked at pretty strangely. So let’s sort of adjust the expectations before progressing.
The way that I read that is “show each other that you love one another before separating”. So just show your buddies, guys or bros that you truly love them. Give them a hug, cry on their shoulder when you need it, make eye contact with them, make them understand that they occupy a place in your life for a reason. Let them know that you like their outfits, their hair, their eyes. Give them firm handshakes, give them quality hugs, buy them coffee randomly and make dinner together every once in a while. Show them, rather than tell them, that you love them and would miss them if they left.
So for the longest time I thought I really just needed a dedicated cadre of “Gay Best Friends” because I was convinced that they would be the most uplifting friends I’ve ever had. I never ended up finding that anywhere, no matter how hard I looked. I mean, it was horrendous trying to find that shallow sort of verbal validation from people I didn’t invest any sort of time into. I needed people in my life who cared about me, who would miss me if I left, who would comment on my outfit instead of just barely look up from their phones and grunt to show they knew I was there.
Then I found a circle of friends – some of the best that I’ve made at college – and they opened my eyes, and I finally saw what I needed. I needed love from my friends. I had spent so long cutting myself off from the people in my life that I hadn’t even realized I was missing it. My best friend reminded me of that feeling without warning. We were hanging out at his apartment when he turned his head – we were watching some Indycar race on a sleepy Sunday afternoon – and he said that he liked my outfit. That casual affirmation changed things drastically for me. Then nearly a year later I got to stand in his wedding and as he was about to leave for his honeymoon, he gave me the most passionate hug anyone has ever given me and said “I’m going to miss you.”
So yes, go on road trips with the guys, swear vows towards them, and love them with all of your heart. Don’t do the selfish thing and keep them at arm’s length because they can’t walk beside you there. Let them love you, love them back and understand that they’re in your life for a reason. Be gentle with your friends, love them, and let them know that you’d miss them.
Lord of the Rings masculinity has nothing to do with leather, swords or being “tough”. It has everything to do with love. Love those guys around you. Let them know.