a reflection on Samwise Gamgee

Is there any literary character greater than Samwise Gamgee from the Lord of the Rings?

I think not.

He begins as a simple gardener, a hobbit who is not the best or brightest. He’s too shy to talk to Rosie and scared to take the step past the cornfield, because “if [he] takes one more step, it’ll be the furthest away from home [he’s] ever been.” But his bravery is evident, even at the beginning, because he takes that step anyway. Gandalf asks him to watch after Frodo and Sam takes his charge very seriously. At all steps, even when others in the Fellowship falter, Sam keeps Frodo’s safety as his first priority, even over his own. When he sees Frodo sailing away, he chases him through the water even though he can’t swim. When things seem hopeless–and the poor hobbits have no idea how much more hopeless they’ll feel later–Sam inspires Frodo to keep going, with his speech:

“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.” (Frodo asks) “What are we holding onto, Sam?” “That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.”

Okay, he’s mean to Gollum/Smeagol, but he trusts his gut and his gut says (eat second breakfast and) that Gollum has ill intentions, which we all know is true. He complains a bit, but hobbits are used to comfort and he’s a far ways off from his hobbit hole–I can’t blame him too much for that. He’s devastated after the Shelob incident, when he believes Frodo has been killed, but he doesn’t let despair drive him to inaction; he overcomes the grief and does what is required. He takes up the ring and vows to finish the mission to destroy it by himself, because he understands the extreme importance of this task.

And then, when Frodo is alive but overwhelmed with the power of the ring, Sam has his great line: “Mr. Frodo, I may not be able to carry the ring for you, but I can carry you.” He picks up his hobbit friend and the ring and carries them up Mount Doom. Epic battles fill Middle Earth during this time period, but it all hinges on the two tiny hobbits and the Gollum-creature trying to destroy a horrible, powerful ring.

So after the whole Nazgul/orc/Mount Doom adventure, Sam finally has the courage to talk to Rosie, and they have thirteen baby hobbits together.

I love it! Sam is so brave despite his fear, which is the best example of bravery. He grows so much over the course of the books in manners big and small, even though he is in no way a conventional hero. All of the characters are important in their own way, but I like to think that Sam is the most important in the long run.

I know this post is really random, but it’s on my mind… I cheated a little because Jeff and I are currently re-watching the movies, instead of re-reading the books, but Sean Astin did a great portrayal of Sam, so that’s okay. I really like Samwise and I wanted to try to put into words “why.” :)


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