One tiny Hobbit against all the evil the world could muster. A sane being would have given up, but Samwise burned with a magnificent madness, a glowing obsession to surmount every obstacle, to find Frodo, destroy the Ring, and cleanse Middle Earth of its festering malignancy. He knew he would try again. Fail, perhaps. And try once more. A thousand, thousand times if need be, but he would not give up the quest.
― J.R.R. Tolkien,
It was once said by Ralph Waldo Emerson that “We walk alone in this world” and that friends are merely “dreams and fables”. Perhaps one of the things that we all search for is a friend with whom we can trust completely. One who we know will never let us down, and even though we don’t deserve it, will continually stay by our side. Maybe the best way to find a friend like this, is to be the friend that we need. There is no better person who exemplifies the spirit of true loyalty and friendship than Samwise Gamgee from J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy, The Lord of the Rings. When asked who the hero of this saga is, many quickly reply with Frodo Baggins. It only makes sense. Yet for the most part, when asked who their favorite character is, many have told me without hesitation that Samwise Gamgee takes the place as the true hero of their hearts. There is something about the character of Samwise Gamgee that deserves vast admiration. He gets to the heart of what it means to be a true champion of good, what it means to never falter in one’s belief, and what it means to be a stalwart friend in times of extreme difficulty. As far as fiction goes, there is nobody I personally try to emulate more than Samwise Gamgee.
What immediately strikes me about Samwise is he represents the forces of good. Not necessarily in a way that Aragorn does with daring heroics and mastery of combat; and the mantle of knighthood resting upon his shoulders with Howard Shore’s heroic brass section signaling his return. No, to me Samwise represents best what Gandalf meant when he said that some people “. . .believe that it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I have found it is the small things. Everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love.” Sam represents simple righteousness that is steady and consistent. When I hear Howard Shore’s theme for the Shire I can’t help but think of Sam. Gentle and reassuring, as a true friend and hero should be.
At the beginning of the trilogy we see Samwise Gamgee, as the gardener of his dear friend Frodo Baggins. Upon overhearing Gandalf’s plot to safely smuggle Frodo out of the Shire and on to Rivendell he is straightly charged by Gandalf to never leave Frodo’s side on his journey. Thus they were hurled on a quest that spanned the entire continent and through thick and thin Sam never left Frodo’s side. During the breaking of the fellowship Frodo decides to set off alone and Sam reaffirms his promise to Gandalf. “I made a promise Mr. Frodo. A promise. ‘Don’t you leave him Samwise Gamgee.’ And I don’t mean to.” Even though Gandalf’s charge for stewardship over Frodo was only meant to last until Rivendell; Sam took his responsibility as Frodo’s servant with utmost seriousness, never faltering in his beliefs.
As Frodo, Sam and Gollum wait for the battle at Osgiliath to die down, there is a moment where Frodo begins to lose hope. “Why did we do this?” he asks. “Why did we ever leave the Shire?” Upon seeing the dismay and hopelessness in his friend, Sam give one of the most rousing speeches of the trilogy and perhaps the greatest line uttered in the film:
“I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. 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. . .and that’s worth fighting for.”
This is what gives Frodo yet another boost to carry on with his burden and move onward to their destination. It’s precisely this wisdom, the wisdom of “ordinary folk”, that inspires people the most. One can envision a young little hobbit, listening to tales of valor and heroism with wonder in his eyes; hoping for a chance to do something noteworthy. Before Sam and Frodo leave the Shire there is a big moment in Sam’s life that goes seemingly overlooked in the cascade of story later to come. Sam stops on the trail and declares that if he takes another step he will have gone further than he had ever been away from home. To stop and bring this up must show that Sam had probably envisioned this moment, envisioned himself leaving the Shire and wanted to document this for himself. He had the courage, and the bravery to seize his dreams and follow his friend on the hardest journey any of the fellowship would make; yet it was Sam’s romantic and idealistic view of life that gave him and Frodo the inspiration to take yet another step towards Mordor. Never once did Sam doubt his own beliefs about their quest.
Sam’s loyalty is tested when Frodo is utterly deceived by Gollum, and with the Ring’s influence stronger than ever, he tells Sam to go home. It is one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the entire trilogy. And though Sam loves Frodo, and knows that he is being deceived; he simply obeys his wish. Yet like a great friend, like a stern sentinel of truth, Sam does what any worthwhile friend should do and that is to always be there when Frodo needs him most. Upon uncovering Gollum’s nefarious plan to get rid of Frodo, Sam returns in the nick of time in order to save Frodo from Shelob the spider and oust Gollum out of their lives. And even then, when he thinks Frodo is dead, Sam takes the Ring; something he knows is so evil and nearly destroyed his best friend, and forges onward towards Mount Doom. In the book, When Frodo asks Sam to give the Ring back, there is a moment where Sam is tempted by the ring. He envisions himself as a great wizard like Gandalf covering the world in a beautiful garden with the power of the ring. Then he remembers, Frodo is my master, I promised never to leave him. He then gives the ring to Frodo and they move onward.
The crowning moment of Sam’s devotion to Frodo is when they are at the foot of the hill and Frodo cannot press on any further. He lies upon the withered ground of Mordor and hasn’t the strength to continue. So Sam, in all of his simplistic splendor, exclaims: “Come on Mr. Frodo. I cannot carry it for you, but I can carry you.” He lifts Frodo and carries him to the doorway of Mount Doom. With the remaining strength of Sam and the utmost care in the world he displays all of his qualities in this one moment: loyalty, perseverance, and exceptional charity.
And finally, when all is riding on Frodo, he fails to destroy the Ring and with a broken heart Sam watches as Frodo and Gollum tumble over the edge of the precipice. And once again, Sam is there to catch Frodo and run with him outside of the mountain and sit with his friend as they wait to die. We see another glimpse into Sam’s longing to return home and marry Rosie Cotton, yet still a tremendous amount of relief as he sits with his master whom he loves at the end of all things.
Once rescued by Gandalf and the eagles, Frodo wakes up in Rivendell. This is the moment where you know who Frodo’s true friend is, his own true hero. As the original fellowship funnels into Frodo’s bedroom we see a distinct moment with each of them. A chuckle with Gandalf, the loud mirth of Merry and Pippin, a stern shout for joy coming from Gimli, a regal nod from Aragorn, the comely grace of Legolas smiling at Frodo; and then, almost like an afterthought, Sam peaks his head in from the door and Frodo forgets about everybody else. Much like Sam’s life he goes unnoticed by the rest, yet is still there; steady and constant. Frodo phases everything else out because he knows that Sam is his absolute and undying loyal friend. That moment is why I strive to be like Samwise Gamgee. It is his silent diligence and quiet fortitude that drives everything. Without Frodo, Middle Earth would be in ruin, yet without Sam, Frodo would have never made it to Mordor and all would be lost.
I feel like I can relate to Samwise Gamgee on a personal level because deep down Sam is a very normal person thrown into a world that he isn’t quite ready for. Yet with simple and true principles, Sam comes out of his experience as a changed person. Isn’t that our own lives? Aren’t we all just people wandering in a world that seems so full of evil and bad things? Haven’t we all dreamed of a better place to be? Don’t we all long to have some semblance of satisfying meaning in our lives? To live like Sam would be to fulfill these dreams of ours. To be persistent and outstandingly loyal, to never falter in one’s beliefs and to champion the way of truth and right are the qualities of a person that I want to be, and it is Samwise Gamgee who inspires me to be that person.