To cry out, “I’m coming Mr. Frodo!” is one thing. Most of us have made promises in a moment of passion that we have regretted later in the cold light of day. It can be one of the bravest things that we ever do in life to keep such a promise long after the initial ardour has gone.
For Sam reality strikes home very soon as he looks out across the plains of Mordor beyond its mountainous defences towards Orodruin, the very mountain that he and Frodo have been trying to reach. It is clear that the task that lies ahead is way beyond his strength and ability. And to enter the Tower of Cirith Ungol is just as impossible. Unless…
There is one thing that he holds that might enable him to defeat his enemies and that is the Ring. Even as he ponders the possibility, “Wild fantasies arose in his mind; and he saw Samwise the Strong, Hero of the Age, striding with a flaming sword across the darkened land, and armies flocking to his call as he marched to the overthrow of Barad-dûr.” Observant readers will note that there no place for Frodo in this fantasy. That is the nature of the Ring. Those who possess it have no heart room for any but themselves. Sam’s fantasy reminds us of Boromir’s, the desire to be the hero of the story and not to share that with anyone else. A moment later and we are reminded of Gandalf and Galadriel and the desire to do good.
“And then all the clouds rolled away, and the white sun shone, and at his command the vale of Gorgoroth became a garden of flowers and trees and brought forth fruit.”
It is a beautiful vision and who is better qualified than Sam to achieve it? Of course when Frodo offered Galadriel the Ring in Lothlórien it was Sam who encouraged her to take it and to put things right. Surely it is the desire of all good people to want to put things right and an obstacle to belief in God for many whose desire is to do good that God does not seem to be interested in putting things right. Well, not as interested as Sam Gamgee and people like, well, me…
Then Tolkien offers us all wise counsel as he describes the inner debate within Sam. It is striking how strong Sam is at this moment as he resists the Ring. Such strength does not come in the moment of crisis for the one who has done no inner work. When Sméagol murdered Déagol in order to take the Ring for himself we are not aware of any inner conflict. Sam’s inner work comprises two spiritual disciplines, one consciously practiced and delighted in, the other so long practiced that he is hardly aware of it even being a moral choice. The one is Sam’s love for Frodo. We noted that Sam’s fantasy had no place for Frodo but as soon as Sam becomes even half aware of this he sends the fantasy packing. The other is more complex, even controversial, and Tolkien calls it “his plain hobbit-sense”.
Sam’s upbringing has had two major influences. One has been the kindness of Bilbo who drew him into the world of imagination and delight. To have received such an invitation has been the greatest joy in Sam’s life and his love for Frodo is an act of gratefulness made deeper by all that they have endured together. The other influence has been the ungentle and highly critical voice of the Gaffer. It is a voice that comes to mind at those points in the story when Sam wants to berate himself for some mistake. The Gaffer’s guiding principle in life is to be satisfied with his lot although it also means defending his small territory, the garden at Bag End and his role in keeping it, with all the strength that he can muster.
Perhaps Sam needed both voices in his head and in his heart. They give him strength in his “hour of trial”. Perhaps too they give us a greater appreciation of what we may have regarded as negative influences as well as thanksgiving for all the love that we have received in our lives.
16 thoughts on “Sam Gamgee Finds Strength to Resist The Ring.”
Thanks for your comments about Sam. Hobbits are the real heroes in LOTR. This is why I think Tom Bombadil is a hobbit. They are the only people who have been able to resist the ring’s power. Because they have made peace with their relationship to the world. Thanks for your writings.
Thank you so much for leaving your first comment on my blog. I agree that the hobbits are a wonderful creation. I suppose the only thing that I would add is that we must remember that Lotho Sackville Baggins and Ted Sandyman are hobbits too and the behaviour of some of the Shirrifs is rather poor as well.
Lots of people seem to just want to defend their little territory: the Gaffer, Galadriel, Tom Bombadil, Treebeard, Ghan-buri-Ghan…
Elrond and Gandalf must get tired of dragging people out of that attitude, but in this case it’s good that they didn’t.
Many thanks for a thought provoking comment! I think that there is a bit of a difference between the Gaffer and Galadriel but I take the point that you are making. It makes me think about Gandalf as the true pilgrim, the one who has no place to lay his head except the one that another is prepared to give to him. Frodo becomes a pilgrim in that sense from the moment Gandalf tells him that he must leave the Shire. Unlike the other hobbits there is no real homecoming for him and Bag End becomes a staging post on his journey into the West.
I cannot excuse my own experience from this reflection. My wife and I are trying to make our Worcestershire cottage into something beautiful. It is a kind of Crickhollow except we get to stay here a little longer. Even better, perhaps, given your reference, we would like it to be a little like the house of Tom Bombadil! Once you have a nice place to call home, even for a little while, it is hard not to give some thought to its defence. A determined effort needs to be made to keep the doors open to passing travellers. Who knows, maybe Gandalf will knock on the door with his staff one day!
I had hoped Gandalf would come to my door at the same age he came to Bilbo and Frodo. Alas he did not. 😦
I wonder how widely this longing is shared. I used to take my older daughter to a riding lesson on a Saturday morning when she was in her teens and then take my dog for a walk along the narrow lanes of Worcestershire getting back in time to see her take on the jumps at the end of the lesson. There was a particular bend in the lane that I would walk towards down a gentle descent and a high hedge that would obscure my view of the lane beyond the bend. One morning as I came towards it I was suddenly gripped by the conviction that Gandalf was about to come around the bend from the other side towards me and call me to an adventure. It was a thrilling moment and in many ways my decision to begin to write about The Lord of the Rings began at that moment.
Another great post! I don’t care for the Gaffer berating Sam, so glad he has Bilbo and Frodo to show him he has worth. The Ring obviously didn’t know who it was dealing with when it tried to seduce Sam, though it would have overcome even him if he held it long. Still love gives him the strength to do the impossible in so many ways. Go Sam! Go hobbits!
Namarie, God bless, Anne Marie 🙂
Thank you so much, Anne Marie! It is a joy to write about Sam once again. I agree that the Ring would have overcome Sam eventually but a key element of Sam’s ability to resist is that he knows this. The Gaffer made sure that he did not have too high an opinion of himself but Bilbo taught him to seek after beauty. God bless you!
I’m glad at least you share my longing to see those in Middle-earth. They are such inspirations!
In Leaf by Niggle the artist does meet his creation, completed and wonderfully improved by the prime artist. I wonder what we will meet one day?
I love that book! The Professor and Niggle are kindred spirits to me. I can’t remember who said it, but someone said I have always imagined paradise to be a kind of library, which would be perfect heaven for me. Who knows who we will meet among those shelves, perhaps some little shining beings – one missing a finger, perhaps my own sub-creations. I wrote a fanfic some years ago about the Professor going to heaven and meeting his.
Namarie, God bless, Anne Marie 🙂
Some beautiful thoughts 😊 God bless you.
First, you surely know that Gandalf did indeed come round that blind bend in the road: He called you to embark on the adventure of your blog, of course.
Second, I hope you will assemble these thoughts into a book… They deserve a permanent and wider audience.
Many thanks for leaving your first comment on this blog, Timothy. In one sense I do know that Gandalf came around the corner. In another I am still waiting for it to happen. It represents not just an invitation to me but a fulfilment too.
Thank you too for your encouragement about my writing. I am working on this material in order to turn it into something for publication.
Great — looking forward to reading it!
It is remarkable how well thought out LotR really is, far beyond even its famous verisimilitude and the languages! An example is the Frodo Watch Conspiracy by Merry and Pippin of Chapter 5 in FotR. Prof. Corey Olsen at Mythgard.org has unpacked the chronology of Sam’s involvement in two recent podcasts.
Indeed, the story is the fruit of a lifetime’s subcreation and spiritual practice. It could not come into being for less work than that.