Friday, February 11, 2011

K.I.B.A. Honorary Member, November 2010 - Samwise Gamgee

*info for this profile is gathered from both the books and the films, but where there is conflict the books are considered canon

At first glance, Samwise Gamgee seems like an ordinary hobbit.  A gardener by trade, Sam is a hobbit of simple speech, however, he is set apart from other hobbits by his love of the elves, gift for poetry and belief that there are greater wonders in the world that hobbits are aware of.  It should come as no surprise that all of those qualities were nurtured by another hobbit set apart from the rest – Bilbo Baggins.  Sam, alongside his father Hamfast Gamgee, also known as the Gaffer, tend the gardens at Bag End and are on good terms with Bilbo and Frodo.

It was not until 14 years after the disappearance of Bilbo that Sam really comes into the story.  As Gandalf and Frodo sat inside Bag End discussing the Ring, how it came to Bilbo (and later Frodo), Sam was outside tending the garden, and listening to the conversation inside.  It was not Frodo made the decision to leave the Shire that Sam’s presence (and silence, for he had long since stopped working) was discovered by Gandalf.  To punish Sam for eavesdropping, Gandalf decides to send Sam along with Frodo on his journey.  Sam, however, is overcome with joy rather than despair.  In his own words (from Chapter 2 of FOTR): “Me go and see the Elves and all!  Hooray!”

As part of Frodo’s cover story for leaving the Shire, it was announced that Sam would be moving to Buckland “to do for Mr. Frodo and his bit of garden.” (Ch. 3)  Frodo and Sam, along with their friend Pippin, traveled to Buckland.  It was on this leg of the journey that the group first encountered and hid from a black rider, and also encountered the elf Gildor and two of his companions.  The hobbits stayed briefly with Farmer Maggot and his family, and then continued on.

They did not stay long at Frodo’s home in Crickhollow.  Shunning the main road, the four hobbits (as Merry Brandybuck had now joined the party) made their way through the Old Forest.  It was here they met Tom Bombadil and Goldberry, and got captured by the Barrow-Wights and Old Man Willow (and rescued from both by Tom Bombadil). The hobbits eventually made it out of the Old Forest and came to the village of Bree, where they sought lodging at The Prancing Pony.

Sam’s roles thus far in the story is largely subdued, or at least, unremarkable, save for one part that I believe stands out more than any other: “If you don’t come back, sir, then I shan’t, that’s certain,” said Sam. ‘Don’t you leave him! they said to me.  ‘Leave him! I said.  I never mean to.  I am going with him, if he climbs to the Moon; and if any of those Black Riders try to stop him, they’ll have Sam Gamgee to reckon with, I said.  They laughed.” (Ch. 4)  Already Sam is showing extreme devotion and loyalty to Frodo, even though he is unaware just how dangerous their journey is going to get.

The group’s journey from Bree was marred by the wounding of Frodo by the Witch King of Angmar on Weathertop.  Sam continually worries about Frodo, but is unable to do much more than take part of Frodo’s share of supplies and assist Aragorn when he has need.  They continue to journey to Rivendell and along the way meet Glorfindel the elf.  Danger came upon the group when they were overtaken by Black Riders.  Sam was forced to watch as his master sped away on Glorfindel’s horse, followed closely back the Black Riders.

They made it successfully to Rivendell, and once Frodo had been tended to, Sam hardly left his side – which must have been difficult to do, considering how badly Sam has wanted to see the elves.  Sam accompanied Frodo around the many rooms and halls of Rivendell, even when Frodo found the one individual he desire most to see – his uncle Bilbo.  Sam even accompanies them to the Council of Elrond, though he remains silent throughout the meeting, except at the very end.  When Frodo announces his choice to take the ring to Mordor, Sam jumps up in exclamation:

“But you won’t send him off alone surely, Master?” cried Sam, unable to contain himself any longer, and jumping up from the corner where he had been quietly sitting on the floor.  “No indeed!” said Elrond, turning towards him with a smile.  You at least shall go with him.  It is hardly possible to separate you from him, even when he is summoned to a secret council and you are not.”  Sam sat down, blushing and muttering,  “A fine pickle we have landed ourselves in, Mr. Frodo.” he said, shaking his head. (Book II, Ch. 2)

After this, Sam’s prominence in the story takes a step back.  Only when the Fellowship reaches the gate of Moria do we return our focus to Sam, who is forced to leave his beloved pony Bill behind, as the group prepared to enter the Mines of Moria.  When Frodo is caught by the Watcher in the water, Sam is quick to leap to his master’s aide, slashing at the tentacle that has hold of Frodo.  The Fellowship quickly enters the Mines, and slowly makes their way through the dark depths.

From the halls of Moria to the woods of Lothlorien, Sam begins to show more bravery and courage, as evidenced by the brief battle in Balin’s tomb.  Another example comes when Sam is invited to look in the Mirror of Galadriel.  The things that Sam sees in the mirror provoke a strong desire within him to return to the Shire and right the wrongs he saw being done, but after some words from Galadriel and sitting a moment to collect his thoughts, Sam says that he’ll “go home by the long road with Mr. Frodo or not at all.” (Book 2, Ch. 7)

And a long road it turns out to be.  It is on the slopes of Amon Hen that Sam, guessing his master’s mind after Boromir revealed he tried to take the Ring, caught Frodo as he tried to sneak off and make the rest of the journey alone.  Frodo is at first disappointed in being found out, but is soon glad to have Sam accompany him.

“It would be the death of you to come with me, Sam,” said Frodo, “and I could not have borne that.”“Not as certain as being left behind,” said Sam.“But I am going to Mordor.”“I know that well enough, Mr. Frodo.  Of course you are.  And I’m coming with you,”(Book 2, Chap. 10)

That right there is one of the finest examples of bravery, courage, loyalty and devotion I’ve ever read in any book.  Faced with certain danger, possibly death, and yet Sam is so devoted to being with Frodo that he is willing to put himself into the same danger that Frodo is walking into.

The two hobbits slowly make their way towards Mordor, but without guidance, they quickly find themselves lost among the barren slopes of Emyn Muil.  It’s only after they encounter Gollum, and get him to swear by the Ring that he will obey Frodo, that they are able to make their way out of the rocky maze and closer to Mordor.

Sam is very suspicious of Gollum, only giving way at times on Frodo’s insistence.  He rarely speaks to Gollum, but keeps a close eye on the creature throughout their journey.  Out of Emyn Muil, through the Dead Marshes – all the way to the Black Gate itself.  It is here that we get more insight into Sam’s suspicions and thoughts.  When Gollum speaks of a way into Mordor besides the Black Gate, and begins to describe it, warning bells start going off in Sam’s head.  He begins to think that Gollum may be in communication with Sauron, or fraternizing with Orcs, in order to know so much about how to get in and what sort of things guard the way.

Sam and Frodo get separated from Gollum in the glades of Ithilien, when a group of Rangers from Gondor discover them and take them to Henneth Annuin (The Window of the Sunset).  In the midst of all these trials and dangers on the road, Sam receives an unexpected surprise – along the way, they come across a group of Southrons…and an Oliphaunt, something Sam (to this point) had only dreamed of seeing.

Here the quest comes perilously close to falling into ruin.  Sam lets slip that Boromir tried to take the Ring from Frodo,  and Faramir believes this his chance to show his quality...but does the honorable thing and resists the temptation to claim the Ring.

“Good night Captain, my lord,” he said.  You took the chance, sir.”“Did I so?” said Faramir.“Yes sir, and showed your quality: the very highest.”Faramir smiled.  “A pert servant, Master Samwise.  But nay: the praise of the praiseworthy is above all rewards.  Yet there was naught in this to praise.  I had no lure or desire to do other than I had done.”“Ah well, sir,” said Sam, “you said my master had an elvish air; and that was good and true.  But I can say this: you have an air too, sir, that reminds me of, of – well, of Gandalf, of wizards.”

From the time when they leave Ithilien to when they arrive at the foot of the stairs leading to Cirith Ungol, little happens to speak of.  Neither of the hobbits gets much sleep and Gollum frequently wanders off when they do manage to sleep.

It’s at the threshold of Minas Morgul that a rarity occurs – Sam actually agrees with Gollum on something.  Frodo, at some unseen will or bidding, begins to make his way towards the bridge leading to the gate, despite the cries of Gollum.  Sam manages to catch hold of Frodo and pull him back, and the three begin to make their way towards the stairs leading to Cirith Ungol.  Unfortunately, their presence had not gone unnoticed – blue flames spring up from the tower at Minas Morgul into the clouds, accompanied by a long, piercing screech.  The hobbits and Gollum manage to evade further detection; slowly but surely, they make their way up the long, winding staircase.

When the hobbits stop to rest, Sam wonders about their quest and if they’ll ever make it through:

“And we shouldn’t be here at all, if we’d known more about it before we started.  But I suppose it’s often that way.  The brave things in the old songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them.  I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of sport, as you might say.  But that’s not the way of it with tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind.  Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually – their paths were laid that way, as you put it.  But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t.  And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten.  We hear about those as just went on – and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end.  You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same – like old Mr. Bilbo.”

“…And then we can have some rest and some sleep,” said Sam.  He laughed grimly.  “And I mean just that, Mr. Frodo.  I mean plain, ordinary rest, and sleep, and waking up to a morning’s work in the garden.  I’m afraid that’s all I’m hoping for all the time.”

Sam goes on to wonder if they’ll ever be put into a story or song, and Frodo reminds him about one of the chief characters – himself.

“…And Frodo wouldn’t have got far without Sam, would he, dad?”“Now, Mr. Frodo,” said Sam, “you shouldn’t make fun.  I was serious.”“So was I,” said Frodo, “and so I am.”

The hobbits reach the entrance to Shelob’s Lair without further incident.  The slowly make they way through the dark passages, but when Sam trips and falls, they are forced to abandon stealth and make their way as quickly as possible.  But things go wrong rather quickly: Frodo is confronted by Shelob, and Sam is attacked by Gollum.  By the time Sam is able to fend off Gollum and get away, both Frodo and Shelob are nowhere to be seen.

When Sam finds Frodo, he is inert on the ground, bound in cords and being dragged away by Shelob.  Without pausing to think about what needed to be done, Sam takes up Frodo’s sword at attacks the giant spider.  After Sam seriously wounds Shelob and she retreats into her lair, Sam returns to Frodo only to see that he was not moving and his face was very pale, as if dead.  And indeed, Sam believes that Frodo is dead.  He begins to fall into despair, and wonder what’s to be done next.  He realizes that there is only one thing left to do: finish the quest alone.  So he removes the Ring from Frodo, and, already having the Phial and Sting in his possession, continues on.

This had to have been one of the most difficult choices for Sam to make.  Being so devoted to Frodo, yet having to tear himself away lest the quest fail and the world fall into ruin…one can only imagine the anguish and pain Sam must be feeling at this point.

It isn’t long before Sam hears approaching orcs, and in order to not be discovered, he puts on the Ring.  The orcs pass him by, and he gets ready to go on, but quickly changes his mind when he overhears their discovery of Frodo.  Quickly, Sam pursues the orcs, but is too late to prevent Frodo from being taken into a guard tower; the double doors clang shut just as Sam hurls himself forward at them.

When Sam comes to, he is unaware how much time has passed.  Unable to go further, he retraces his steps to where Frodo had been discovered, and starts to look for the main entrance to the tower.  Sam soon crosses over into Mordor and sees Mount Doom for the first time.  Here, he is tempted to take the Ring for his own, but it is a combination of his love for Frodo and good old hobbit-sense that enables him to resist.  Continuing on, he soon reaches the main gate of the tower where Frodo is held.

Fortunately for Sam, once he gets inside, nearly every single orc inside is dead.  He encounters a live one on the stairs, but it quickly retreats up the stairs, leaving Sam behind.  He follows, and soon hears the voice of a second orc.  The two get into a scuffle, which ends when one runs off into another passage.  Sam keeps making his way upwards, searching for Frodo.

Sam finds Frodo in the topmost chamber, being whipped by the orc he had previously encountered on the stairs.  Sam attacks, and in the struggle, the orc trips and falls through an open trap door in the middle of the floor.  Sam unties Frodo and the two have a somewhat joyful, albeit brief, reunion.  After returning the Ring to Frodo, Sam collects some clothing and other gear for the two of them (to help keep them from being discovered), and after a very brief meal (for Frodo), the two escape the dark emptiness of the tower, setting off an alarm which attracts the attention of a Nazgul.

They manage to get out of sight before the Nazgul arrives, slowly making their way across the wastes of Mordor.  At one point, they are ‘drafted’ into a passing company of orcs, but manage to escape when a company of Uruk-Hai picks a fight with the orcs.  They continue to make slow progress towards Mount Doom, shedding their orc-gear along the way.

Near the foot of Mount Doom, Frodo collapses, unable to continue.  Sam, once again showing strength, courage and resolve, takes Frodo upon his back and begins to climb the rocky slopes, stopping a little more than halfway up.  The two crawl for a short while, and then Sam once again takes up his master upon his back, but it isn’t long before they are set upon by Gollum.  Sam watches as Frodo shakes off his attacker and goes into the mountain.  Sam warns off Gollum and then follows Frodo, finding him standing at the brink of the chasm within; the very Crack of Doom.  Sam has no chance to cry out, as Gollum has followed them both and attacks Sam from behind, causing him to fall and briefly black out.

When he comes to, Sam sees Gollum fighting with the invisible Frodo.  He watches as Gollum bites off Frodos finger and take the Ring.  But almost immediately he falls over the brink and into the fires below.

Sam and Frodo make their way back out onto the rocky slopes, onto a small ashen hill and there they stop, as Mount Doom spews out fire, ash and lava.  Even with the Ring destroyed and the quest fulfilled, Sam continues to be a strong, devoted companion.

“I am glad that you are here with me,” said Frodo.  “Here, at the end of all things, Sam.”“Yes, I am with you master,” said Sam, laying Frodo’s wounded hand gently to his breast.  “And you’re with me.  And the journey’s finished.  But after coming all that way I don’t want to give up yet.  It’s not like me, somehow, if you understand.”

Oh, how I understand.  Sometimes I feel like I understand him all too well.  There are times when I wonder how other people would function in the same role, without any kind of foreknowledge of the events ahead; if any of us would or could find, or even have, the devotion, courage, fortitude and determination to do the things Sam has done throughout the course of his journey.

It’s not until the hobbits return to the Shire that Sam gets irked to the point of action.  Almost immediately upon their return, the hobbits discover that things are drastically different from the way things were before they left.  Once they’ve had enough of the new “rules” (which happens quickly) and decide to raise the Shire (gather everyone who hates the way things are), Sam goes to Cotton’s farm to help get things started (and check on Rosie).  The biggest blow to Sam during this time is when he finds that the Party Tree, the place where Bilbo had made his farewell speech, is lying lopped and dead in the field – it proves to be too much to handle, and he bursts into tears.

After the Shire has been reclaimed, Sam takes on the task of helping restore much of the damage done to Hobbiton, with some focus on special trees that had been cut or torn down.  He visits many spots, and spreads a little bit of earth from Galadriel’s box at each one.  The nut that remains, he plants at the spot where the Party Tree once stood.  He later helps direct the cleaning up and restoration of Bag End.

There is not much more to tell about Sam.  He later marries Rosie Cotton, and they move into Bag End with Frodo.  He accompanies Frodo to the Grey Havens, where the Ring-Bearers depart Middle Earth.  If you have read the appendices after the end of the story, you will know that Sam also departs from the Grey Havens after the death of his wife Rosie.

* * * *

To date, and I know that we’ve not done very many Honorary Member profiles, I would have to say that Sam is one of my favorite characters.  If I had to choose someone to be (go through their experiences as they did, with all the worries and wondering and everything), I would pick Sam.

Sam shows incredible devotion to Frodo, even when he knows the road ahead is extremely dangerous.  He shows all the qualities of a knight in battered armor: strength, courage, bravery, loyalty, devotion…I have all these words at my disposal, yet I feel like I cannot do justice to the intensity of each quality that Sam exhibits.  Imagine caring so much about someone that you were willing to go through absolutely anything to keep being with them.  That’s Sam.  Maybe some of you will be able to describe his qualities better than I, and that’s fine.  Things like that have happened before.

I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that even though Sam hasn’t messed up drastically or done something terrible (i.e. Boromir, and how he tried to take the Ring), he is willing, without question, mind you, or needing to be asked, to go with Frodo through thick and thin, into any amount or kind of yet-unknown danger, and do that which needs to be done and is worth doing – the hard and difficult quest of destroying the One Ring.

I’ve said numerous times, used it as a quote in writing, and I’ll use it again here: wherever you go, whatever you do – return with honor.  Throughout the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I firmly believe that Sam does precisely that.

Welcome to the ranks of KIBA, Sam.

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