Samwise Gamgee Introduces Himself

The arrival of Samwise Gamgee into the story is not designed to earn our respect and admiration. That will not come until much later. Gandalf becomes aware that Sam has long since stopped any pretence of working in the garden outside the window by which he and Frodo have been talking and then:

“With a dart he sprang to the sill, and thrust a long arm out and downwards. There was a squawk, and up came Sam Gamgee’s curly head hauled by one ear.”

Actually I am sorry to say that it took me a long time before I was willing to give Sam any respect at all. When, at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo attempted to continue the journey to Mordor alone, the fifteen year old version of myself was delighted that at last he was free of the ludicrous Sam. I was furious when Sam came splashing through the water in search of Frodo. And when Frodo hauled him out of the river into the boat and greeted him with the words, “Of all the confounded nuisances you are the worst, Sam!” I fear that I agreed with him. I was only able to think of Sam as some kind of encumbrance and certainly not as the one without whom the task could never have been accomplished, without whom Frodo would not have got very far.

You see, I am back to the journey of discovery that I wrote about last week. Back to the place where Tolkien was himself when he described himself as “immensely amused by hobbits as such, and can contemplate them eating and making their fatuous jokes indefinitely.”

Oh dear, fatuous jokes. At first this was all that Tolkien expected of hobbits. Clearly, Frodo became an exception to this low expectation, and a remarkable exception at that. But as for the rest of the race of hobbits little more was to be expected of them except an enjoyment of food and drink and a rather dull sense of humour. And at this point in the story I doubt if any more was to be expected of Sam.

And yet he had to go with Frodo. And surely the reason why he had to go was because of the Elves. By this we do not mean that the Elves wanted Sam to go. They had no more knowledge of Sam than of any other hobbit, except Bilbo of course. It is not their knowledge of Sam but it was Sam’s longing to see them.

“I heard a deal that I didn’t rightly understand, about an enemy, and rings, and Mr. Bilbo, sir, and dragons, and a fiery mountain, and- and Elves, sir. I listened because I couldn’t help myself, if you know what I mean. Lor bless me, sir, but I do love tales of that sort. And I believe them too, whatever Ted may say. Elves, sir! I would dearly love to see them. Couldn’t you take me to see Elves, sir, when you go?”

Elves in the Woody End, by Ted Nasmith

Sam has to go on the journey because of his longing. The language that he uses to express it is clumsy, naive and childlike but Gandalf can recognise genuine longing when he meets it. “Whatever Ted may say,” says Sam. Sam and Ted are total opposites to one another. Ted Sandyman, the young miller, longs for nothing more than making a profit and on spending it in The Green Dragon in Bywater. Sam longs for that which appears far beyond him, even outside his grasp. And he will find it. For those whose hearts are shaped by Yearning can never be satisfied until they find what they seek and they will find it. As St Augustine prayed,

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.”

4 thoughts on “Samwise Gamgee Introduces Himself

  1. I agree that Frodo, at times, does not seem to act like a hobbit at all. But Frodo wouldn’t have even gotten through the Old Forest without Sam. Sam and Pippin do also play the roles of comic relief in the story, I think, although they are very different characters. What did you think about Pippin at the time if you disliked Sam?

    • I don’t know if you have read the piece that I wrote last week on Sam’s reflection on his first encounter with the Eldar, the High Elves, but even before he leaves the Shire he is already beginning to grow. Please forgive the prejudices of my teenage self. I have learnt much since then.
      Thank you for your question about what I thought about Pippin. I don’t think that I thought much about him at all but he did not irritate me in the way that Sam did. In my defence I would say that Pippin made Gandalf very cross indeed! And yet Gandalf loved Pippin very much and wanted to keep Pippin with him after the affair with the Palantír not just to keep Pippin out of trouble but to keep him close by. When he introduces Pippin to the guards at the Pelennor Fields as a very great man there is no irony. He means what he says.

      • Not “technically” but I think Gandalf chooses his words with care as he always does. He is introducing a hobbit to the “Men of Gondor” for the very first time. They might be forgiven for judging him by what they see and not according to the greatness of his heart. Gandalf just gives them a little bit of help to look at Pippin’s heart.

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