Frodo Carries Sam to Mordor

All who know the story of The Lord of the Rings know that without Sam Gamgee Frodo Baggins could never have reached Mordor so that, in other words, Sam carried Frodo to Mordor. But this week we are going to think about the way that Frodo carried Sam to Mordor and we will show how Sam could never have made the journey he did without Frodo or become the person that he did without him. It was Sam’s relationship with Frodo that enabled him to grow into someone who could inhabit this story that is far too big for him even though he is never really aware that this is what is happening to him.

In the very first scene of The Lord of the Rings we meet Sam’s father, Gaffer Gamgee, sitting in The Ivy Bush on the Bywater Road talking over the news with the assembled gathering there as the Shire prepares for Bilbo Baggins’s great party. As they talk the Gaffer ruminates aloud over his anxiety that Sam is being taught how to read and write by Bilbo and that he loves to listen to Bilbo’s stories.

“Elves and Dragons! I says to him. Cabbages and potatoes are better for me and you, I says to him. Don’t go getting mixed up in the business of your betters, or you’ll land in trouble too big for you, I says to him.”

Of course the Gaffer’s words are prophetic because the stories of Elves and Dragons in which Bilbo had been a participant draw Sam right into the heart of the Quest of the Ring and a trouble that is indeed far too big for him. When some years later Sam overhears the discussion between Gandalf and Frodo  on the true nature of Bilbo’s ring and how Frodo would have to leave the Shire it is his love for tales of “dragons and a fiery mountain, and- Elves, sir” that draws him to the window then through the window as Gandalf drags him through it. It is his longing to see Elves that leads Gandalf to say to him, “I have thought of something… to shut your mouth, and punish you properly for listening. You shall go away with Mr. Frodo!”

Sam’s love for the tales he has heard will take him straight to Mordor but there is another love that will take him there too and that is his love for Frodo. It is when Sam hears that Frodo is leaving the Shire that he chokes and so gives away his hiding place outside the window. It is his love that first awakens his imagination in a way beyond anything that the Gaffer could ever conceive and would fear to do so and it is through the awakening of his imagination that Sam longs to see and to know for himself.

This is what I meant when I said that Frodo carries Sam to Mordor. This is what happens when one person awakens the imagination of another. The Gaffer, fearful of the unknown, deliberately tries to keep his son within the known world of cabbages and potatoes. Bilbo, and then Frodo after him, takes Sam into an unknown, fearful and wonderful world. I look back now with the deepest gratitude to the teachers who read wonderful stories to me, who introduced me to beautiful music and who taught me wonder. But even as my heart was opening to beauty I was already aware that most of my playmates were making different choices. And who can say which was the right one? Sam’s drinking partners in the pub laugh at his dreaminess and so it is that they never go to Rivendell; but then neither are they attacked by Ringwraiths or, wracked with hunger and thirst, stagger through the hell of Mordor to the fiery mountain. It is both a wonderful and a fearful thing to have our imaginations awakened. And it is both a wonderful and a fearful thing to truly love another. Sam is carried to Mordor by Frodo. His life would have been safer but also poorer if he had stayed at home. If we choose safety then we must also choose poverty. But if we choose wonder then we must also choose fearfulness.

17 thoughts on “Frodo Carries Sam to Mordor

  1. Stephen
    This really resonated with me, as so often with your blog.
    Love and fear, Joy and Sorrow, Hope and Anxiety… Always two sides of the same coin – or six sides of the same cube!
    Funnily enough I was discussing Joy and Sorrow with someone last week… And we agreed that one would never trade away the sorrow if it were to mean never having experienced the Joy…

    Your post brought immediately this hymn to mind

    These, though we bring them in trembling and fearfulness,
    he will accept for the Name that is dear;
    mornings of joy give for evenings of tearfulness,
    trust for our trembling and hope for our fear.

    It is wonder and love … And determination and grit that spring from these, that seem, to me, often to carry us all along life’s path.

    I agree with what you say about the Arts and those teachers (official or otherwise) who offer open doors through which we may glimpse and explore wonders. How blest we are!

    • What a delight to hear from you again on the blog. If I remember rightly the hymn was written by Faber & I agree that he wonderfully expresses the relationship between joy and sorrow. I fear that there are those who flatten out their emotional life for the sake of security.

  2. It’s O worship The Lord in the Beauty of Holiness. Words: John Samuel Bewley Monsell, 1863. Music: Was lebet.

    It’s a great epiphany hymn of course, so apt in a few ways!

    • Thanks, Victoria. The link to the Epiphany is definitely worth exploring. Thank you so much for sharing it. T.S Eliot’s great Journey of the Magi comes to mind with the big question, Was it all worth it? That definitely links to Sam’s journey.

  3. Pingback: Happy Tolkien Reading Day | Stories & Soliloquies

  4. “If we choose safety then we must also choose poverty. But if we choose wonder then we must also choose fearfulness.” Well put. I struggle with this, as part of my nature is very Hobbitish, wanting to nestle down and enjoy growing things in peace. Not that that, in itself, is bad. It’s just that it would be seeking comfort instead of trying to make a difference. What a dreadful (in the archaic sense) choice… and one that has to be made constantly, too.

    • A choice that is full of dread is not one that we willingly make. I sometimes think that if someone willingly chooses dread then it is not dread to them. I think that is the difference between Frodo’s choice in Bag End and his choice in Rivendell. All the leagues of Eriador lie between the two. My idea of an adventure is a good walk “There and Back Again”. Sometimes I am called out of my comfort to something more.

      • Dread in the old sense, or dread in the new? For “dread,” in the new sense seems to mean something like “horror,” something with very negative connotations, but in the old, it is something like “very much not to be taken lightly.” God, in this older meaning, is dread. Utterly good, full of joy, love, and mercy, and yet dreadful. It is in this context that I come anywhere close to understanding “fear of God.” Awe is another word for it, but doesn’t seem to cover the whole of it, for me.

      • I was thinking of Sam when he says that adventures are not things we choose but things we fall into. I don’t know how close that is to your idea of dread. I think that Carl Jung said something similar when he said that he always associated God with the unexpected that crosses our paths. Perhaps I cannot bring all of these ideas within the orbit of dread as you use the word but I hope you see what I mean.

  5. I confess, I am a little confused, now. I think we may be talking about different things? Or perhaps different angles of the same thing?

    I’m not talking about the events that come upon us and about which we must make choices. I am talking about the choice inherent in the quote from your post. The choice between safety and wonder. Surely that is a “dread choice” in the archaic sense of the word? Whether to try to stick to cabbages, or to take a chance to see elves even if it means one might encounter dragons?

    • I think you are right and that all confusion is my fault! I sometimes have a tendency to wander off onto to new ideas that grab my attention and to leave what I started with behind. You are right when you remind me that I began with cabbages and dragons. I’m so sorry!

      • Lol! You know that I am the queen of rabbit-trails, so I understand. I also have a tendency to misunderstand, or worse, think that I do understand when I really don’t! For instance, I misunderstood where you were going with your reply.

      • I like rabbit trails! There are so many around my cottage. My dog likes them too! He has so much fun chasing up and down them. May be we should just enjoy where they take us and I enjoyed our conversation!

      • ^_^ I recently watched a nest of cottontails grow up beside my porch. That level of cuteness should not be allowed. It’s not fair.

  6. Pingback: The Hero’s Journey of Sam Gamgee | Wisdom from The Lord of the Rings

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