The Marriage of Sam Gamgee and Rosie Cotton

Tolkien gives the unmarried women of his story something that he did not give to his own wife. When critics sneered at what they regarded as the bachelor atmosphere of Tolkien’s work, a kind of Drones Club (the club in which P.G Woodhouse’s, Bertie Wooster was a member) in a heroic tale, Tolkien replied that it would be irresponsible for an unmarried man to marry before going to war. A husband is one who, in Old English, is bonded to his house and land and cannot leave them.

Tolkien did not follow this principle. As he wrote to his son, Michael in 1941:

“On January 8th I went back to her [Edith Bratt], and became engaged, and informed an astonished family. I picked up my socks and did a spot of work… and then war broke out the next year [July 28th 1914], while I still had a year to go at college. In those days chaps joined up, or were scorned publicly. It was a nasty cleft to be in, especially for a man with too much imagination and little physical courage. No degree: no money: fiancee. I endured the obloquy, and hints becoming outspoken from relatives, stayed up, and produced a First in Finals in 1915. Bolted into the army: July 1915. I found the situation intolerable and married on March 22nd, 1916. May found me crossing the Channel… for the carnage of the Somme.”

I will leave my readers who want to know more about the story of John and Edith to one of the excellent biographies of Tolkien. Here we are going to think a little about the story of Sam Gamgee and Rosie Cotton.

Sam joined up or, rather, was conscripted, in April 3018 in the Third Age or 1418 in the Shire Reckoning. He already had an understanding with Rosie Cotton and here I wish to express my admiration for Rosie. She was a farmer’s daughter. Her father owned his own house and land. Sam was only a the son of a land worker with no prospects that this might change. The heirs to Bag End were the Sackville-Bagginses and given their known reputation were unlikely to be overly generous to their retainers. Sam was only a servant and not a master. Rosie was the daughter of a master, and so, just like Gandalf, she must have seen something in him that others might have been slower to see.

Her judgement proved accurate. Sam may have left the Shire a servant but he returned to it as one of the lords of his people. Frodo says as much to the sceptical Gaffer in Rosie’s hearing. “He’s now one of the most famous people in all the lands, and they are making songs about his deeds from here to the Sea and beyond the Great River.” All of this is way beyond the Gaffer’s rather limited imagination and so he quickly puts it out of his mind but “Rosie’s eyes were shining and she was smiling at [Sam]”.

Rosie never quite understood in what way her man had become famous and so, unlike Arwen to Aragorn or Éowyn to Faramir, she never became a “soul mate” to Sam. As Sam said to Frodo, as far as Rosie was concerned, Sam had “wasted a year” in which they could have got on with the really serious business of creating a home and family.  Did Sam mind? I suspect that his reference to himself as feeling “torn in two” means that he did, at least in the half of him that longed for the life that Frodo represented. He became very close to his daughter, Elanor, and when, after Rosie died in a good old age, Sam made his last journey across the Sea to the Undying Lands, he gave the Red Book to her and to her husband, Fastred, Warden of Westmarch as he was leaving the Shire for the last time.

Rosie and Sam may not have had a deeply romantic relationship but they do not seem to have complained about the lack of one. Rosie had the satisfaction of seeing her husband become Mayor of the Shire and along with Merry and Pippin, Counsellors of the King in his northern kingdom, and Elanor become a maid of honour to the Queen.  The marriage of Rosie Cotton and Sam Gamgee was a good one and I hope that when the time came for Rosie to say farewell to this life she was able to do so in peace and in contentment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 thoughts on “The Marriage of Sam Gamgee and Rosie Cotton

  1. I think they had a very solid and loving marriage – the tremendous length of it and all those kids so dearly loved! I think Sam and Rosie were soul mates in a way that Rosie knows (without knowing what she knows or how she knows) that Sam survived his ‘waste of time’. She says she had expected him since the spring – and that is just when the Ring was destroyed. So on a deep connection these two hearts were one. We need more of these people to show us what marriage can be like!

    Namarie, God bless, Anne Marie 🙂

    • I think that there is much in their marriage that was very good indeed not least the many children who were born to them. In the letter to his son, Michael, that I drew upon in writing this post, Tolkien is doubtful about the whole idea of the soul mate although he is prepared to make an exception in his own case!
      But I think that Sam is “torn in two” and it is Frodo who tells him that he is meant to be whole and to say yes to one life, the one with his wife, his children and the Shire. Sam does say his yes, his “forsaking all others cleave only unto her” as the ancient English wedding service puts it (Sarum Rite 15th century) but when he has fulfilled his promises he sets off for the Grey Havens.
      God bless you ,Anne Marie. 😊

      • Yes, he is still torn in two, I agree – he loves two people so differently and so deeply. I am glad he found the Havens in the end – and Frodo too! We can certainly hope Frodo was there to welcome the other half of his heart as another letter says Frodo could choose his time of death and he certainly would have waited for Sam. One of my fanfic friend says the time in the West was like an Advent for Frodo, a joyful anticipation of seeing his Sam again. I thought that was such a cool way of saying it, but I’m getting ahead of myself here… 🙂

        Namarie, God bless, Anne Marie 🙂

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