I just finished reading the books and I've come to the conclusion that I actually really like that Sam married Rosie and Frodo left?
Before reading the books, the ending to ROTK used to lowkey upset me, because Sam and Frodo love tf out of each other! But Frodo leaves and Sam stays behind to get married to someone we don't know and is happy in the Shire without Frodo?? It bugged me. But after reading the books, I've come to the realization that in order for them to get the happy endings they deserve, Frodo needs to leave and Sam needs to stay. And Sam's life with Rosie is essential to his happy ending and completed character arc and is entirely separate from Frodo and Sam's love for one another. The reasons behind why I think their endings are perfect for them have to do with autonomy and the difference between choices made selflessly vs. choices made in self interest.
TLDR; Frodo and Sam’s endings are perfect for them (imo) because they get to choose them for themselves. Both hobbits spend the entire trilogy sacrificing everything they are for the Good of Middle Earth. Frodo leaving is The Good Ending for him because he is suffering the traumatic effects of the Ring; Frodo isn’t happy in the Shire and chooses an adventure of his own to Valinor so that he can heal. Sam staying and getting married and becoming part of the community is The Good Ending for him because he is invested in the Shire; from the moment he returns to the Shire, he chooses to pour his time and love into its restoration and abundance. Sam is a gardener and he chooses the Shire because it brings him happiness, but Frodo can’t find happiness there and so chooses to leave because that’s what’s best for him. (And then eventually, after Sam’s lived his happy ending in the Shire, he sails to Valinor to live with Frodo, and they both get that happy ending, too.)
There’s a little mini essay on Frodo and Sam that I put under the cut because it’s just me rambling, but if I didn’t make my reasoning clear enough above, it might clear it up. (Forewarning: These notes are probably uncoordinated af, because they were jotted down in my phone while I sat on the floor of my kitchen for 3 hours in a feverish ADHD-med-fueled determination to wrap my head around the LOTR ending.)
Frodo and Sam have the same goal (destroy the Ring), but their jobs differ. Frodo is tasked with the actual job of carrying the Ring (the metaphorical weight of the world) to Mordor. On top of physical, Frodo suffers through enormous mental and spiritual anguish to complete this task. Sam, meanwhile is tasked with protecting the Ring Bearer, and every decision he makes is in Frodo's best interest before anything else. He handles the Ring very little and his suffering is mainly physical, but he spends the entire time as Frodo's second, and defers to Frodo's choices and well-being above his own the entire time.
When they return home to the Shire, of the two of them, it's Sam who takes the lead in the resistance against Saruman. Afterward, it's Sam who spreads the dirt and plants the mallorn from Galadriel. It's Sam who takes an active role in saving and restoring the Shire. Of the four hobbits, I noticed that Frodo seems to be the one most affected by the Scouring of the Shire. While they're all affected, Frodo is the only one who doesn't actively start rallying troops and planning attacks. Instead, he takes on advisory duties and then withdraws as soon as he is able.
All four hobbits come back physically changed, but the book makes it pretty plain that on top of this, Frodo is also experiencing chronic PTSD, depression, and withdrawal from the Ring. Frodo isn't completely present in his life because he's trying to cope. He tries to be there for Sam, he even lets Sam and Rosie move in with him after they marry, but on the whole, Frodo is really, really sick.
Sam explicitly states that he loves Frodo, and he tries to be there for Frodo through Frodo's sickness. But unlike the trek to Mordor, there's really only so much Sam can do for him. I think Frodo is aware of this, and it's why he encourages Sam to actively pursue happiness (Rosie, a home, a family, social standing, etc.). Frodo loves Sam and wants him to have the happy ending that Sam wants, but Frodo can only give so much of himself as he is currently. Sam is in love with the Shire, but Frodo's happy ending isn't in the Shire. He's not happy there, and Sam is. Frodo can't give Sam what he needs, and vice versa. They have a conversation about this in "The Grey Havens" chapter. Frodo asks if Sam would be willing to travel with him, and Sam says of course, but that he can't go too far from the Shire. They love each other, but their needs are different, now. Frodo needs help with trauma recovery, and he can't stay in the Shire, but he's also not going to ask Sam to leave it behind to be with him while he recovers. Frodo doesn't need Sam to go with him, and he actually kinda needs to do this himself. And it's really important to Sam's character arc that Sam says he wants to stay.
Sam's life with Rosie is essential to his happy ending and completed character arc. Sam spends the entirety of the books looking after Frodo, caring for him, risking his life for him, and making sure they both go "There and Back Again." For 15(ish) months, Sam is on constant Frodo Protection Duty, and looking at how Sam addresses him and treats him beforehand and during the journey, Sam has honestly probably deferred to Frodo his entire life. But in order for Sam to really complete his character arc, he needs to choose his future for himself. When they get back to the Shire, he begins the process of self actualization, and Frodo helps it along. On the topic of Rosie, it doesn't matter that Sam marries HER necessarily, but it does matter that he settles down and gets to live a quiet life of gardening and family and community, because that's what he WANTS. And it's important that he himself chooses it, independently of anyone else's well-being.
For Frodo, it's both very similar and the exact opposite. He spends the journey to Mount Doom inside his head, facing things he can't physically fight, and he has to lean on Sam the entire way. Frodo DOES make the choice to take the Ring to Rivendell, and then to Mordor. It could be argued that every step he takes toward Mordor is a choice, but it's never his personal choice. It's a choice between Good and Evil. From the very beginning when Bilbo leaves him the Ring to a year later when he finally returns to the Shire, Frodo's one and only choice is the big picture question: Will you choose Good or Evil? Will you give up, or will you continue to put your mind and body through intense trauma so that your entire world doesn't burn? They're both terrible options, but they're the only ones he's given, and both are detrimental to him personally.
When Frodo returns to the Shire, he could go back to living quietly there for the rest of his life, and he actually does try to do that for a little while. But he has choices available to him now, and it quickly becomes clear to him that he's not happy there. He's been changed so much by the Ring and the experiences he's been through and the wider world around him that his journey can't end in the Shire. It's impossible for him pick up where he left off, because he's not that same hobbit anymore. He's unhappy and unhealthy playing that role, and it would be antithetical to his journey and the opposite of character growth. For Frodo, his happy ending looks like trauma recovery and a kinder adventure that he gets to choose for himself, and that's why Valinor is such a good ending for him.
Before he leaves, Frodo does as much as he can to put the Shire to rights and set Sam up to live his happy ending (he INVITES Sam to live in HIS HOUSE, did I mention that? I love them), and then Frodo leaves for Valinor to heal and find his own happy ending. And he gets it. He does heal, and after he's much recovered, Sam comes to live with him after he himself has lived a full happy life in the Shire.
OTHER (other) THOUGHTS:
(((This ending also makes sense, because if Frodo can't live happily in the Shire after going on a huge journey to save it, SOMEBODY better.)))
I also think it's nice that Sam and Rosie get to be in love, and that Sam is allowed to love multiple people. And I think it's lovely that his love for Frodo is not diminished in any way by his love for Rosie. "You're allowed to love multiple people deeply in your life, and that love is not made lesser because it's being given to multiple people" is SUCH a good message.
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