How is friendship important in the novel Fellowship of the Ring?

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Friendship plays an extremely important role in The Fellowship of the Ring.  The hobbits' friendship with Frodo motivates Sam, Pippin, and Merry to join Frodo on his journey to The Prancing Pony and then ultimately to join the Fellowship.  The Fellowship itself is built on mutual respect and loyalty, but slowly develops into a very close friendship. 

What is a 'fellowship' anyway, but a friendly association of people who share common interests?  Tolkien's 'fellowship of the ring' becomes even more than that; the unlikely group of strangers, hobbits, wizard, dwarf, men, and elf, realize that they have more in common with each other than they ever dreamed possible.  In the chapter "The breaking of the Fellowship" at the end of the novel, Sam's friendship and loyalty reassures Frodo who feels that he must take the next stage of his journey alone:

"It's no good trying to escape you. But I'm glad, Sam.  I cannot tell you how glad.  Come along! It is plain that we were meant to go together" (397).

Friendship is a comfort and a blessing to the characters in the Fellowship, giving them strength to face even the most difficult tasks.

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