|Tolkien's legendarium character|
|Aliases||Samwise Gardner, Sam, Samwise the Brave,
Mayor of the Shire
|Book(s)||The Fellowship of the Ring (1954)
The Two Towers (1954)
The Return of the King (1955)
Samwise "Sam" Gamgee / / (later known as Samwise Gardner) is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. Samwise is one of the main characters of The Lord of the Rings, in which he fills an archetypal role as the sidekick of the primary protagonist, Frodo Baggins. Sam is a member of the Fellowship of the Ring, which also includes Frodo Baggins, Merry Brandybuck, Pippin Took, Legolas Greenleaf, Gimli, Boromir, Aragorn, and Gandalf.
At the beginning of the story, Sam is Frodo's gardener, and is drawn into Frodo's adventure by Gandalf while eavesdropping on a private conversation. Throughout the story, Sam is Frodo's steadfast companion and batman/servant, portrayed as both physically and emotionally strong, often pushing Frodo through difficult parts of the journey, and at times physically carrying him when Frodo was too weak to go on. Sam even serves as ring-bearer for a short time when Frodo is captured; Sam's emotional strength is again on display as he willingly gives the ring up when Frodo is capable of carrying it again, the only character besides Bilbo Baggins known to resist its pull. Following the War of the Ring Sam returned to the Shire, and returned to his role as gardener, helping to replant the trees which had been destroyed during The Scouring of the Shire. He was elected Mayor of the Shire for seven consecutive terms, and in his old age was one of the last denizens of Middle Earth to be transported to The Undying Lands, an honour accorded to him as one of the ring-bearers.
Samwise Gamgee is first introduced in The Fellowship of the Ring. Sam is Frodo Baggins' gardener, having inherited the position as Baggins' gardener from his father, Hamfast "Gaffer" Gamgee. At the time of the War of the Ring, Sam was living in Number 3, Bagshot Row with his father.
As "punishment" for eavesdropping on Gandalf's conversation with Frodo regarding the One Ring, Sam was made Frodo's first companion on his journey to Rivendell. They were joined by Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took, Frodo's cousins, and journeyed together to Rivendell, where the Council of Elrond took place and Sam joined the Fellowship of the Ring.
When the Fellowship was split up at the Falls of Rauros, Sam insisted on accompanying Frodo. Sam protected and cared for Frodo, who was growing weaker under the Ring's influence, as they moved through the dangerous lands toward Mordor. Sam distrusted Gollum, who became their guide into Mordor. His suspicions were proven right when Gollum betrayed them to the giant spider Shelob. After Shelob apparently killed Frodo, Sam drove her off. When a band of orcs approached, Sam was forced to leave the apparently dead Frodo and take the Ring himself, and briefly became a Ring-bearer. He was momentarily tempted by its promise of power, but did not succumb to it, subsequently rescuing Frodo (who had only been paralysed) from the Orcs who held him captive. Sam also returned the Ring to Frodo, making him the only Ring-bearer to freely give up the Ring without intervention. The two then journeyed alone through Mordor and into the heart of Mount Doom, where Gollum attacked Frodo and reclaimed the Ring, only to inadvertently destroy both it and himself by falling into the mountain's lava.
After the hobbits' return home and the Battle of Bywater, Sam travelled the length and breadth of the Shire replanting trees that had been cut down during Saruman's brief reign. He used the gift of earth given to him by the Lady Galadriel, which caused the saplings he planted to grow at an accelerated rate. The small amount remaining he took to the Three-Farthing Stone (roughly the centre of the Shire) and cast into the air, prompting the bountiful period of growth starting in the spring of the year 1420 (Shire Reckoning). The greatest wonder was a young mallorn tree sprouting in the Party Field: "the only mallorn west of the Mountains and east of the Sea" (grown from a nut included as part of Galadriel's gift).
After the War of the Ring, Sam married Rose "Rosie" Cotton and moved to Bag End with Frodo. Sam and Rosie had 13 children: Elanor the Fair, Frodo, Rose, Merry, Pippin, Goldilocks, Hamfast, Daisy, Primrose, Bilbo, Ruby, Robin, and Tolman (Tom). Sam was elected Mayor of the Shire for seven consecutive seven-year terms and came to be known as Samwise Gardner.
After Sam and Rose's first child was born, Frodo told Sam he would leave Middle-earth, along with Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf and most of the remaining High Elves, for the Undying Lands. Before Frodo left, he gave the estate of Bag End to Sam, as well as the Red Book of Westmarch for Sam to continue, hinting that Sam might also be allowed to travel into the West eventually.
After the death of his wife in the year 62 of the Fourth Age (Shire Reckoning 1482), Sam entrusted the Red Book to Elanor and left the Shire at the age of 102. He was not seen again in Middle-earth, but Elanor and her descendants preserved the tradition that he went to the Grey Havens and sailed into the West. As the last of the Ring-bearers, he was entitled to sail across the Sea and be reunited with Frodo in the Undying Lands.
At the start of The Lord of the Rings Sam, typically for a hobbit, had never before ventured far from the immediate area where he lived. Unusually for a hobbit, however, since childhood Sam was fond of legends and other fantastical stories. Sam was particularly interested in the Elves, and always hoped to one day see one. Sam was literate, having been taught by Bilbo and Frodo, which was unusual for most hobbits given their rustic culture. Sam often showed a talent for poetry; after Gandalf's apparent death, Sam added to the poem that Frodo had written about him.
Tolkien called Sam the "chief hero" of the saga in one of his letters: he places special emphasis on Sam's "rustic love" for Rosie, a union that serves to establish a family in which allusions to Elvish wonders (embodied in Sam's daughter Elanor) are combined with the best qualities of traditional Shire-life. Sam and his descendants also became the keepers of the history of the War of the Ring (in the form of the Red Book of Westmarch) and upheld the memory of events that most 'ordinary' hobbits took little interest in.
Relationship with Frodo
During the journey to destroy the ring, Sam's relationship with Frodo exemplifies that of a military servant or batman to his assigned officer in the British Army, in particular in the First World War in which Tolkien had served as an officer, typically with his own batmen at different times. As John Garth has written:
"The relationship between Frodo and Sam closely reflects the hierarchy of an officer and his servant [in the First World War]. Officers had a university education and a middle-class background. Working-class men stayed at the rank of private or at best sergeant. A social gulf divides the literate, leisured Frodo from his former gardener, now responsible for wake-up calls, cooking and packing... Tolkien maps the gradual breakdown of restraint [through prolonged peril] until Sam can take Frodo in his arms and call him "Mr Frodo, my dear." "
Tolkien wrote in a private letter:
"Sam was cocksure, and deep down a little conceited; but his conceit had been transformed by his devotion to Frodo. He did not think of himself as heroic or even brave, or in any way admirable – except in his service and loyalty to his master." (letter to Mrs. Eileen Elgar in September 1963)
The term "servant" had fallen somewhat out of favour by the era in which the The Lord of the Rings was published (the 1950s) and does not appear in the text, however in the precis of the story that appears in The Silmarillion, Tolkien writes:
"For Frodo the Halfling, it is said, at the bidding of Mithrandir took on himself the burden, and alone with his servant he passed through peril and darkness and came at last in Sauron's despite even to Mount Doom..."
Of course, the "servile" connotations that we might associate with the term today would have appeared less so in Tolkien's era, where indeed the position of batman would have been considered quite desirable (see also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batman_(military)#United_Kingdom).
Names and titles
In the appendices of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien says the "true" or Westron form of Sam's name is Banazîr Galbasi (also spelled Galpsi). As with "Samwise", Banazîr comes from elements meaning "halfwise" or "simple". Galbasi comes from the name of the village Galabas. The name Galabas uses the elements galab-, meaning "game", and bas-, corresponding somewhat to "-wich" or "-wick". In his role as "translator" of the Red Book of Westmarch, Tolkien devised a strict English translation, Samwís Gamwich, which develops into Samwise Gammidgy and eventually comes to Samwise Gamgee in modern English.
Frodo affectionately dubbed him "Samwise the stouthearted". The appendix of The Return of the King says that in F.A. 7 (S.R. 1427), Sam was elected Mayor of the Shire for the first of seven consecutive seven-year terms.
Concept and creation
Tolkien admired heroism out of loyalty and love, but despised arrogance, pride and wilfulness. The courage displayed by Samwise Gamgee on his journey with Frodo, his subjection to dangers and the preparedness to die out of loyalty for Frodo is the kind of spirit that Tolkien praised in a number of essays on the Old English poem "The Battle of Maldon". Likewise, Sam's rejection of the Ring is a rejection of power, but can also be seen[who?] as a "desire for renown which the defeat over Sauron will bring".
Tolkien took the name "Gamgee" from a colloquial word in Birmingham for cotton wool. This was in turn derived from Gamgee Tissue, a surgical dressing invented by a 19th-century Birmingham surgeon named Sampson Gamgee. Tolkien originally used it as a nickname for a man living in Lamorna Cove, England before adapting it into his stories:
"There was a curious local character, an old man who used to go about swapping gossip and weather-wisdom and such like. To amuse my children I named him Gaffer Gamgee... The choice of Gamgee was primarily directed by alliteration; but I did not invent it. It was caught out of childhood memory, as a comic word or name. It was in fact the name when I was small (in Birmingham) for 'cotton-wool'. (Hence the association of the Gamgees with the Cottons.) I knew nothing of its origin."
Tolkien claimed to be genuinely surprised when, in March 1956, he received a letter from one Sam Gamgee, who had heard that his name was in The Lord of the Rings but had not read the book. Tolkien replied on March 18:
"Dear Mr. Gamgee,
It was very kind of you to write. You can imagine my astonishment when I saw your signature! I can only say, for your comfort, I hope, that the 'Sam Gamgee' of my story is a most heroic character, now widely beloved by many readers, even though his origins are rustic. So that perhaps you will not be displeased at the coincidence of the name of this imaginary character of supposedly many centuries ago being the same as yours."
He sent Gamgee a signed copy of all three volumes of the book. However, the incident sparked a nagging worry in Tolkien's mind, as he recorded in his journal:
"For some time I lived in fear of receiving a letter signed 'S. Gollum'. That would have been more difficult to deal with."
After publication of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien traced the origin of the name back to Gamgee and, eventually, the earlier English surname 'de Gamaches'.
In Ralph Bakshi's 1978 animated version of The Lord of the Rings, Sam was voiced by Michael Scholes. Billy Barty was the model for Sam, as well as Bilbo, in the live-action recordings Bakshi used for rotoscoping.
In the Peter Jackson movies The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), Sam was played by Sean Astin. The batman relationship and class differences between Sam and Frodo are somewhat subdued, though Sam still refers to Frodo as "Mr." (but not "Master").
On stage, Sam was portrayed by Peter Howe in the 3-hour long Toronto, Ontario, Canada stage production of The Lord of the Rings, which opened in 2006. In the United States, Sam was portrayed by Blake Bowden in the Cincinnati productions of The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002), and The Return of the King (2003) for Clear Stage Cincinnati. In Chicago, Dale Inghram played Sam in the Lifeline Theatre production of Fellowship of the Ring in 1997 and The Two Towers in 1999, and by Scott Hamilton Westerman in The Return of the King in 2001.
Sam appeared as a playable character in Lego The Lord of the Rings as well as Lego The Hobbit despite not appearing in The Hobbit films. Sam appears as a non-playable character in Lego Dimensions and is voiced by Sean Astin once again.
Notes and citations
- Appendix C to The Lord of the Rings
- In the long summary-letter sent to Milton Waldman, an extract of which was published in the Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien as #131 and was reproduced in its entirety in The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion. It read "I think the simple 'rustic' love of Sam and his Rosie (nowhere elaborated) is absolutely essential to the study of his (the chief hero's) character, and to the theme of the relation of ordinary life (breathing, eating, working, begetting) and quests, sacrifice, causes, and the 'longing for Elves', and sheer beauty." - J. R. R. Tolkien letter dated 1951
- Carpenter, Humphrey (1977), Tolkien: A Biography, New York: Ballantine Books, p. 89, ISBN 0-04-928037-6
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954), The Two Towers, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), ISBN 0-395-08254-4
- Solopova, p. 40–42
- Solopova, p. 42
- Carpenter (ed.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, #257
- Carpenter (ed.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, #184
- Carpenter, Humphrey (1977), Tolkien: A Biography, New York: Ballantine Books, pp. 224-225, ISBN 0-04-928037-6
- Ben Schott, Schott's Miscellany Calendar 2009 (New York: Workman Publishing, 2008), March 21.
- UGO Team (January 21, 2010). "Best Heroes of All Time". UGO Networks. Archived from the original on August 25, 2012. Retrieved April 3, 2011.
- Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 0-395-31555-7
- Solopova, Elizabeth (2009), Languages, Myths and History: An Introduction to the Linguistic and Literary Background of J.R.R. Tolkien's Fiction, New York City: North Landing Books, ISBN 0-9816607-1-1