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3 Accountability Lessons to Learn from Frodo and Sam

Last Updated: November 3, 2020

Bobby Angel
Bobby Angel

Bobby Angel is a campus minister and theology teacher at an all-boys' Catholic high school in California. He enjoys writing, surfing, and drinking too much coffee. He and his wife, Jackie, travel often and speak to youth and young adult audiences, sharing the Gospel and the call to a life of chastity. They have two beautiful daughters who won’t let them sleep. Connect with Bobby at jackieandbobby.com.

Great literature, film, and art can inform our souls and educate us in the school of virtue. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, voted “the greatest book of the century” by a 1997 poll in Great Britain, is rich in great themes and theological lessons pertinent for our modern time.  Of particular value for we travelers on the road of chastity is the virtuous friendship of the hobbits Frodo and Sam.  Their example can educate us in accountability and self-sacrificial friendship with three important lessons.


It may sound simplistic, but Sam was chiefly Frodo’s friend.  (Ok, well, Sam was Frodo’s gardener, but that’s beside the point.)  A good friend is committed to seeing the best for his companion and this friendship keeps Frodo and Sam marching onward in the face of all obstacles, especially when their endurance runs low.

You have to, at some level, enjoy being with your accountability partner and have a foundation of friendship. While your partner can certainly be a mentor or role model, if you don’t enjoy each other’s company and other activities together there is a risk of a purely “therapeutic” relationship emerging that can diminish a healthy companionship.

Tolkien understood friendship as a proper virtue in itself and source of great strength, not an unnecessary add-on to the human experience.

Perseverance—Even to the Point of Annoyance

Whenever Frodo tries to shake off Sam or leave him behind, Sam tenaciously finds his way back to the side of his friend. In the face of drowning, starvation, despair, and even against the face of evil itself, Sam never abandons Frodo.  If only we had such resolve when it came to our accountability!

Frodo also has to receive the friendship of Sam and understand that the perseverance of Sam ought to be seen as a blessing and not an annoying curse. Even when he wants to go it alone, Frodo realizes that his journey is too treacherous to muscle through on his own. Sam, likewise, surely knows he’s coming off as a pest, but he knows that safeguarding his friend overrides any discomfort Sam may experience.

I know that all too often life “gets busy” and accountability can be treated as a simple check-in and not treated as a life-threatening battle.

It’s tempting to brush off our partners or those who have entrusted themselves to us for oversight, especially when we enter the discomfort of bringing up matters of chastity.

But we must persevere.  We must not grow lazy or become so consumed with the rat race of our work that we neglect our responsibilities to our loved ones.  We must endure, even to the point of annoying those persons God has entrusted to our care.

Loyalty to Death

“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13

In one of the most moving scenes of the entire work, a beyond-exhausted Frodo collapses near the finish line along the banks of his Golgotha—Mt. Doom.  Sam looks upon his friend who has carried so much pain and agony with him, embodied within the Ring of Evil they have set out to destroy. His choice is clear: “Come, Mr. Frodo!  I can’t carry [the Ring] for you, but I can carry you!” Sam carries his friend up into the mouth of the volcano and to the climax of the story.

Do we take this battle with our lust seriously?  Do we recognize the spiritual realities at work, particularly those forces that desire our ruin?  Unable to remove the habits, addictions, or agonies of our friends, will we still journey with them to the point of carrying them through the dark patches and times of despair?  Will we allow ourselves to be carried when we’re too tired to fight? Will we abandon our friends to the shadows or lift them out into the light?

The Christian parallels and lessons for accountability are many within The Lord of the Rings, particularly in the steadfast friendship of Frodo and Sam.  May we all be blessed with such a friend who cares enough to accompany us there and back again on this journey of life.

  • Comments on: 3 Accountability Lessons to Learn from Frodo and Sam
    1. Calvin

      Hello, I have a friend who views porn, what should I do for him? I want him to stop watching porn and grow in the Lord, that he may be a good ambassador of Christ. I am trying to help him take steps, but I thought I’d ask you for your opinion. Thanks.

      • Chris McKenna

        Hi, Calvin, it’s admirable that you want to help your friend. Ultimately, he won’t make any progress unless he exerts significant effort of his own and depends on God’s abundant grace and forgiveness. You can’t “want” it for him. Porn is a monster and it’s only through a clear and effective decision about this sin that he will make progress.

        Peace, Chris

    2. Samantha

      Reading this article was such a blessing. The friendship of Frodo and Sam is truly the perfect parallel!
      It is no great shock that a wife suffers greatly due to her husbands sexual sins. However, it is my hope and prayer that these women will allow God to stengthen them so they are able to be the “Sam” to their husband’s “Frodo”. It is not an easy task and it isn’t meant to be. While a woman needs time to heal from the deep and excruciating wounds she is left with from this betrayal, she has a responsibility to help carry her husband through the heat of the battle they are facing together. Is a woman going to still be hurting while she is helping her husband out? You bet she is. But forgiving him, loving him and helping him out is her duty especially when he wants and asks for help. (I am not referring to situations where the husband has no interest in getting help and refuses help when it is offered over and over again. I personally don’t think it’s healthy for a woman to stick around in that kind of situation. I am only talking about situations where the husband wants or is open to help even when he is still struggling.)
      I truly believe that sacrificial love is the key to healing from wounds. It brings a person closer to the Father and the Son and helps us to understand the extent of God’s love for us and the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf. You begin to understand that you have no right to turn your back on a person that God deemed worthy to send His only Son to die for because He died for you as well. God loves us no matter where we are in our personal struggles and He will stay by our side no matter how heated the battle becomes. And that is the kind of perfect love we should be striving to have for our husbands when we see them struggling in any area of life.
      Thank you again for this great article!

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