Happy Downfall of Sauron Day, 2024!

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Happy Downfall of Sauron Day! In the LOTR-verse in my head, this is anniversary 44 if I do my math aright.

In universe I actually inhabit, I’m in the home stretch of completing my book on relationship cutoff, Being Cut. In honor of ramping up for publication, I’m going to use this DS Day post to address a question that comes up repeatedly in this book, the question of friendship. Warning for references to relationship cutoff. Also spoilers for LOTR.

We have a strong cultural belief that friend cutoff isn’t a big deal, because friendship isn’t a big deal. I can’t count the times I’ve heard variations of “What’s the big deal? Most friendships end,” “Friendship isn’t a commitment,” “Friendship isn’t a serious relationship,” “Friendship is just based on whether it’s working for each person.”

Some friendships are like that, yes. We often use the word to mean “person I share a hobby with” or “amicable coworker I don’t really talk to outside of work” or “kid I played with twenty years ago.” But my book focuses on serious relationships, and capital “F” Friendship is serious.

Whenever I hear friendship dismissed in this way, the first place my mind goes is The Lord of the Rings. That book understands Friendship. For example (note: I’m vacation without my LOTR so I’m going to para-quote from memory), as Merry remarks to Frodo, “You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin to the bitter end, but you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone and go off without a word. We’re your friends…” Two of them are his cousins, too, but they are with him because they’re his friends. When Frodo calls Sam, “friend of friends,” he’s talking about going off to die together.

Or consider when Frodo tells Faramir and crew that Boromir was his friend. Now, he’s with people who are not necessarily his allies and is having to be strategic in what he says, but there’s strategic and then there’s lying, and that is not a lie, even though his last experience of Boromir is being physically attacked by him. Our pop-psychology today would probably call that a toxic relationship and dismiss Boromir as a “garbage person” who deserves nothing but dismissal and avoidance. And Frodo is avoiding him, yes, but within a very particular context that Frodo, as Ringbearer, understands perfectly well. Boromir was still his friend, and had he lived, I do not doubt they would have fairly quickly mended their fences. That doesn’t mean that no scar would remain, but there’s a difference between a scarred relationship and a destroyed one. Their friendship was not and would not have been destroyed. That is what true friendship is.

I don’t say that no serious friendship should ever end, just as I’d never say that no couple should ever get divorced. I don’t mean cutoff is never the best answer. I do mean that real friendship matters, like marriage matters. It is committed and loyal and willing to endure some hard times. It is at least as selfless as it is selfish; it does not stop at a facile assessment of “what’s working,” and, as a concept, it deserves much better than our current society gives it.

Happy DS Day! May your friends stick to you through thick and thin.

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About the author

Arwen Spicer
Arwen Spicer

Arwen Spicer is a science fiction writer and writing teacher raised in the San Fransciso Bay Area, and Northern California will hold her heart forever, even if it turns into a desert. She wrote her doctoral dissertation on ecology in utopian science fiction and is an educator on the concept of workable utopias. Her novel The Hour before Morning was hailed as “A carefully paced, rewarding sci-fi debut” by Kirkus Indie.

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Arwen Spicer

Arwen Spicer

Arwen Spicer is a science fiction writer and writing teacher raised in the San Fransciso Bay Area, and Northern California will hold her heart forever, even if it turns into a desert. She wrote her doctoral dissertation on ecology in utopian science fiction and is an educator on the concept of workable utopias. Her novel The Hour before Morning was hailed as “A carefully paced, rewarding sci-fi debut” by Kirkus Indie.

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