People hold hands a lot in LOTR and it’s really nice? It’s not just Frodo and Sam, but I never noticed before this reread. Pippin just now took Gandalf’s hand, and earlier he’d taken I think Bergil’s, a kid (ten, so old enough to walk around without help) he just met, as they walked around the city. So it’s apparently not weird, it’s just a Normal Thing.
Vaguely of relevance as well is the fact that Frodo says “he is very dear to me” of Aragorn after, what, about a fortnight of knowing him. I’m not saying he doesn’t have cause; it was a very crowded and busy fortnight. I too would probably call someone very dear to me if they had saved me from dying from stabbery and guided my friends safely through the wilderness.
It’s just all those ‘my dear Sam’ and ‘I love him’ that he and Sam do, even though they’re a product of extreme circumstances, aren’t even out of line with the culture they live in. They’re still just as meaningful, and I don’t think their power is decreased by that. I just think it’s notable that this isn’t even beyond the bounds of “propriety” for really close friends in high stress situations.
This isn’t where I meant this post to go, but I think this is why this story resonated with me so hard specifically as an aro and why I still don’t ship anything romantically in the Tolkienverse, because the world of Middle Earth is one where loving your close platonic friends and companions to the point of being physically and verbally affectionate is a normal occurrence. It’s just how things are. There’s a lot to be said about the cultural implications of that vs here and now, but I’m not really in a position to say it. But I think even before I knew How I Was, I knew that friends were much more important to me than romance seemed to be. And I feel, with the preponderance of love interests in most adult fiction, like Lord of the Rings was the first Grown Up Story where I saw that aspect of myself reflected.