Jump to content

Samwise Gamgee

This is a good article. Click here for more information.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Samwise Gamgee
J. R. R. Tolkien character
First appearanceThe Lord of the Rings (1954–1955)
In-universe information
AffiliationCompany of the Ring
SpouseRose Cotton

Samwise Gamgee (/ˈsæmˌwz ˈɡæmˌ/, usually called Sam) is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth. A hobbit, Samwise is the chief supporting character of The Lord of the Rings, serving as the loyal companion (in effect: "manservant") of the protagonist Frodo Baggins. Sam is a member of the Fellowship of the Ring, the group of nine charged with destroying the One Ring to prevent the Dark Lord Sauron from taking over the world.

Sam was Frodo's gardener. He was drawn into Frodo's adventure while eavesdropping on a private conversation Frodo was having with the wizard Gandalf. Sam was Frodo's steadfast companion and servant, portrayed as both physically strong for his size and emotionally strong, often supporting Frodo through difficult parts of the journey and at times carrying Frodo when he was too weak to go on. Sam served as Ring-bearer for a short time when Frodo was captured by orcs; his emotional strength was again demonstrated when he willingly gave the Ring back to Frodo. Following the War of the Ring, Sam returned to the Shire and his role as gardener, helping to replant the trees which had been destroyed while he was away. He was elected Mayor of the Shire for seven consecutive terms.

The name Gamgee derives from a local name for cotton wool, from a surgical dressing invented by Sampson Gamgee; hence Sam's girlfriend Rosie is from the Cotton family. Scholars have remarked the symbolism in Sam's story, which carries echoes of Christianity; for instance, his carrying of Frodo is reminiscent of Simon of Cyrene's carrying of Christ's cross. Tolkien considered Sam a hero of the story. Psychologists have seen Sam's quest as a psychological journey of love. Tolkien's biographers have noted the resemblance of Sam's relationship with Frodo to that of military servants to British Army officers in the First World War.

Fictional biography[edit]

Frodo and Sam guided by Gollum through the Dead Marshes. Scraperboard illustration by Alexander Korotich, 1984

As told in The Lord of the Rings, Samwise Gamgee was Frodo Baggins's gardener, having inherited the position from his father, Hamfast "Gaffer" Gamgee, who was Bilbo Baggins's gardener. 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.[T 1] They were joined by Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took, Frodo's cousins, travelling together to Rivendell. At the Council of Elrond there, Sam joined the Fellowship of the Ring.[T 2] In the elvish land of Lothlórien, Galadriel gives Sam a small box of earth from her garden.[T 3]

When the Fellowship split up at the Falls of Rauros, Sam insisted on accompanying Frodo.[T 4] 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, leading them through the Dead Marshes.[T 5][T 6] His suspicions were proven right when Gollum betrayed them to the giant spider Shelob. When Shelob stung Frodo, Sam drove her off.[T 7] When a band of orcs approached, Sam was forced to leave the apparently dead Frodo and take the Ring himself, and briefly became the Ring-bearer. He was momentarily tempted by its promise of power, but did not succumb to it.[T 8] Sam then rescued Frodo (who had only been paralysed) from the orcs who held him captive. Sam returned the ring to Frodo.[T 9] The two then journeyed through Mordor[T 10] and into Mount Doom, Sam carrying Frodo on his back for some of the way. Gollum attacked Frodo and reclaimed the Ring, only to destroy both it and himself by falling into one of the Cracks of Doom.[T 11]

So Sam planted saplings in all the places where specially beautiful or beloved trees had been destroyed, and he put a grain of the precious dust in the soil at the root of each. He went up and down the Shire in this labour; but if he paid special attention to Hobbiton and Bywater no one blamed him. ...
  Spring surpassed his wildest hopes. His trees began to sprout and grow, as if time was in a hurry and wished to make one year do for twenty. In the Party Field a beautiful young sapling leaped up: it had silver bark and long leaves and burst into golden flowers in April. It was indeed a mallorn, and it was the wonder of the neighbourhood.

The Lord of the Rings, book 6, ch. 9 "The Grey Havens"

The hobbits returned home[T 12] horrified to find the Shire under the control of "Sharkey" (Saruman) and his ruffians who had wantonly felled trees and despoiled the villages; the hobbits defeated them at the Battle of Bywater.[T 13] Sam travelled the length and breadth of the Shire replanting trees, using the elf-queen Galadriel's gift of earth from her garden, and one seed of the elvish mallorn tree, which he planted at Hobbiton. The saplings grew at an astonishing rate.[T 14]

Sam married Rosie Cotton and moved into Bag End with Frodo. The next year they had a daughter, Elanor, the first of their thirteen children. Frodo told Sam he and Bilbo would leave Middle-earth, along with Gandalf and most of the remaining High Elves, for the Undying Lands. Frodo gave Sam the estate of Bag End, and the Red Book of Westmarch for Sam to continue, hinting that Sam might also be allowed to travel into the West eventually. Sam returned to meet his family at Bag End, ending the story with the words "Well, I'm back."[T 14]



The character's name is from Sampson Gamgee, a Birmingham doctor who invented a surgical dressing; as a child, Tolkien knew the word "gamgee" as a name for cotton wool.[T 15]

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."[T 16]

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."[T 17]

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."[T 18] He later traced the origin of the name Gamgee to the Norman French surname "de Gamaches".[T 19]

In the fiction, Tolkien states that the "true" or Westron form of Sam's name is Banazîr Galbasi. 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 frame story 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.[T 20] In the year 1427 of the Shire Reckoning, Sam was elected Mayor of the Shire for the first of seven consecutive seven-year terms.[T 21] His descendants took the surname Gardner in his honour.[T 22]


Frodo has been compared to Christ, and Sam, who carried Frodo on the way to Mount Doom, to Simon of Cyrene, who carried Christ's cross to Golgotha.[1]

Tolkien intentionally avoided making Christianity explicit in his Middle-earth writings,[2] choosing instead to allow "the story and the symbolism" to convey his meaning.[T 23] Frodo finds the Ring a crushing weight, just as the cross was for Jesus. Sam, who carries Frodo up to Mount Doom, parallels Simon of Cyrene, who helps Jesus by carrying his cross to Golgotha.[1] Sam gains prominence as he is willing to be unimportant in doing his duty, echoing the Christian emphasis on the humble.[3] The ordeal of crossing Mordor, too, reflects the Christian theme of redemptive suffering.[4]


Tolkien called Sam the "chief hero" of the saga, adding: "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."[T 24] Tolkien admired heroism out of loyalty and love, but despised arrogance, pride and wilfulness. The courage and loyalty displayed by Samwise Gamgee on his journey with Frodo is the kind of spirit that Tolkien praised in his essays on the Old English poem "The Battle of Maldon".[5] Likewise, Sam's rejection of the Ring is a rejection of power, but also a "desire for renown which the defeat over Sauron will bring".[6]

Psychological journey[edit]

The Jungian clinical psychologist Robin Robertson describes Sam's quest as a psychological journey of love (for Frodo), where Frodo's quest is one of transcendence.[7] Robertson writes that "Sam's is the simplest yet the most touching of all paths: his simple loyalty and love for Frodo make him the single person who never wavers in his task throughout the book."[8] In his view, Sam always stays grounded in simple things like meals and the glory of a sunrise, while Sam ends as the happiest of the Fellowship, having seen the Elves, served as Frodo's companion on the quest, and back in the Shire that he loves, marries Rosie and is blessed with many children.[8]

The Jungian analyst Pia Skogemann views Sam as standing for one of the four cognitive functions, namely feeling, with the other three assigned to the other hobbits in the Fellowship: Frodo stands for thinking, Pippin for intuition, and Merry for sensation.[9]

Relationship with Frodo[edit]

Tolkien stated that the relationship of Frodo and Sam reflected that of a British officer and his batman during the First World War.[T 25]

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, with different batmen at different times.[T 25] His biographer John Garth stated:[10]

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."[10]

Tolkien wrote in a private letter: "My Sam Gamgee is indeed a reflexion of the English soldier, of the privates and batmen I knew in the 1914 war, and recognised as so far superior to myself."[T 25] and elsewhere: "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."[T 26]

Although Tolkien does not explicitly say so, Sam is in effect Frodo's self-appointed manservant, carrying out more mundane chores thus relieving his "master" of the necessity to do so, the term being used in (for example) Ishay Landa's essay "Slaves of the Ring: Tolkien's Political Unconscious".[11] Tolkien himself gets closest to this terminology, possibly inadvertently, when in the account "Of The Rings of Power" in The Simarillion he writes: "For Frodo the Halfling, it is said, at the bidding of Mithrandir took on himself the burden [of destroying the One Ring], and alone with his servant he passed through peril and darkness and came at last in Sauron's despite even to Mount Doom; and there into the Fire where it was wrought he cast the Great Ring of Power, and so at last it was unmade and its evil consumed."[T 27]


Sam in Ralph Bakshi's animated version of The Lord of the Rings

In the 1971 Mind's Eye radio adaptation, Sam was voiced by Lou Bliss.[12] In Ralph Bakshi's 1978 animated version of The Lord of the Rings, Sam was voiced by Michael Scholes.[13] In the 1980 animated version of The Return of the King, made for television, the character was voiced by Roddy McDowall.[14] In the 1981 BBC radio adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, Sam was played by Bill Nighy.[15] In the 1993 Finnish television miniseries Hobitit, Sam is portrayed by Pertti Sveholm.[16]

Sean Astin as Sam in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

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.[17] The batman relationship and class differences between Sam and Frodo are somewhat subdued, though Sam still refers to Frodo as "Mr." (but not "Master").[18] Entertainment Weekly called Sam Gamgee one of the "greatest sidekicks."[19] UGO Networks named Sam as one of their top heroes in entertainment.[20]

On stage, Sam was portrayed by Peter Howe in the Toronto stage production of The Lord of the Rings, which opened in 2006.[21] 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.[22]



  1. ^ Tolkien 1954a, book 1, ch. 2, "The Shadow of the Past"
  2. ^ Tolkien 1954a, book 2, ch. 2, "The Council of Elrond"
  3. ^ Tolkien 1954a, book 2, ch. 8, "Farewell to Lórien"
  4. ^ Tolkien 1954a, book 2, ch. 10, "The Breaking of the Fellowship"
  5. ^ Tolkien 1954, book 4, ch. 1, "The Taming of Sméagol"
  6. ^ Tolkien 1954, book 4, ch. 2, "The Passage of the Marshes"
  7. ^ Tolkien 1954a, book 4, ch. 9, "Shelob's Lair"
  8. ^ Tolkien 1954a, book 4, ch. 10, "The Choices of Master Samwise"
  9. ^ Tolkien 1955, book 6, ch. 1, "The Tower of Cirith Ungol"
  10. ^ Tolkien 1955, book 6, ch. 2, "The Land of Shadow"
  11. ^ Tolkien 1955, book 6, ch. 3, "Mount Doom"
  12. ^ Tolkien 1955, book 6, ch. 7, "Homeward Bound"
  13. ^ Tolkien 1955, book 6, ch. 8, "The Scouring of the Shire"
  14. ^ a b Tolkien 1955, book 6, ch. 9, "The Grey Havens"
  15. ^ Carpenter 2023, letter 257
  16. ^ Carpenter 2023, letter 257
  17. ^ Carpenter 2023, letter 184
  18. ^ Carpenter 1977, pp. 224–225
  19. ^ Carpenter 2023, letter 324
  20. ^ Tolkien 1955, Appendix F, II "On Translation"
  21. ^ Tolkien 1955, Appendix B, "The Tale of Years", "Later Events Concerning the Members of the Fellowship of the Ring"
  22. ^ Tolkien 1955, Appendix C "Family Trees", "The Longfather-Tree of Master Samwise"
  23. ^ Tolkien 1977, p. xii
  24. ^ Carpenter 2023, letter 131 to Milton Waldman, 1951
  25. ^ a b c Carpenter 1977, p. 89
  26. ^ Carpenter 2023, letter 246 to Eileen Elgar, September 1963
  27. ^ Tolkien 1977, p. 365 (paperback edition, 1999)


  1. ^ a b Pearce, Joseph (2013) [2007]. "Christ". In Drout, Michael D. C. (ed.). J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment. Routledge. pp. 97–98. ISBN 978-0-415-86511-1.
  2. ^ Flieger 2005, pp. 36–37.
  3. ^ Wood 2003, p. 165.
  4. ^ Olar, Jared L. (July 2002). "The Gospel According to J.R.R. Tolkien". Grace and Knowledge (12).
  5. ^ Solopova 2009, pp. 40–42.
  6. ^ Solopova 2009, p. 42.
  7. ^ Robertson, Robin (30 May 2007). "Seven Paths of the Hero in Lord of the Rings: Introduction". Psychological Perspectives. 50 (1): 79–94. doi:10.1080/00332920701319491. S2CID 143849565.
  8. ^ a b Robertson, Robin (27 May 2009). "Seven Paths of the Hero in Lord of the Rings: The Path of Love". Psychological Perspectives. 52 (2): 225–242. doi:10.1080/00332920902880846. S2CID 144447881.
  9. ^ Skogemann, Pia (2009). Where the Shadows Lie: a Jungian Interpretation of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Chiron Publications. p. 14. ISBN 978-1-888602-45-6. OCLC 318641399.
  10. ^ a b Garth, John (13 February 2014). "Sam Gamgee and Tolkien's batmen". Retrieved 17 May 2020.
  11. ^ Landa, Ishay (2002). "Slaves of the Ring: Tolkien's Political Unconscious". Historical Materialism. 10 (4): 113–133. doi:10.1163/15692060260474396.
  12. ^ Raggett, Ned (19 November 2018). "The Trouble With Ralph Bakshi's The Lord Of The Rings & Other Tolkien Misadventures". The Quietus. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  13. ^ "Sam". Behind the Voice Actors. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  14. ^ "Compare: Sam". Behind the Voice Actors. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  15. ^ Green, Willow (29 November 2001). "Lord of the Radio". Empire (Cinemas). Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  16. ^ Kajava, Jukka (29 March 1993). "Tolkienin taruista on tehty tv-sarja: Hobitien ilme syntyi jo Ryhmäteatterin Suomenlinnan tulkinnassa" [Tolkien's tales have been turned into a TV series: The Hobbits have been brought to live in the Ryhmäteatteri theatre]. Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish). (subscription required)
  17. ^ Jackson, Peter (2006). From Hobbits to Hollywood: Essays on Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings. Rodopi. p. 9 "Dramatis Personae". ISBN 90-420-1682-5.
  18. ^ See The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring dir. Peter Jackson, 2001
  19. ^ Schott, Ben. Schott's Miscellany Calendar 2009 (New York: Workman Publishing, 2008), March 21.
  20. ^ UGO Team (21 January 2010). "Best Heroes of All Time". UGO Networks. Archived from the original on 25 August 2012. Retrieved 3 April 2011.
  21. ^ Brantley, Ben (24 March 2006). "Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings,' Staged by Matthew Warchus in Toronto". The New York Times.
  22. ^ McDonough, Joseph (25 September 2001). "Fellowship of the Ring". The Cincinnati Enquirer. p. 24 – via newspapers.com. Faring the best are Mr. Bowden as sidekick Sam Gamgee