Who is Sam Gamgee?

wiseGEEK Writer

Sam Gamgee is a hobbit, and the loyal servant of Frodo Baggins in the The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. In hobbit society, Sam or Samwise (his full name) is of a different class than Frodo, a gardener and part of a servant or laboring class. Though Frodo and Sam are friends at the beginning of the book, and both Bilbo and Frodo tend not to consider class distinctions, as Tolkien’s novel (novels) progresses, Sam is not just servant but invaluable and best friend to Frodo, and ultimately has almost as much to do with the destruction of the evil Lord Sauron’s ring of power as does Frodo.

Gollum was portrayed by Andy Serkis in Peter Jackson's film version of "The Lord of the Rings".
Gollum was portrayed by Andy Serkis in Peter Jackson's film version of "The Lord of the Rings".

Many readers consider Sam Gamgee to be one of the most endearing characters in The Lord of the Rings. Though a worker, he’s drawn to the high things in Middle Earth, and sometimes secretly composes a bit of poetry and dreams of elves and their magical and mystical qualities, and tales of the past. He also has a love of the beauty of simple things, like pretty flowers in a meadow, and he’s anchored to the earth and earthly things much more than is Frodo. He is, for example, in love with Rosie Cotton, though he leaves her to go with Frodo first to Rivendell and then Mordor to destroy the enemy’s ring.

Hobbits are a small race of people in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Ring series who live in underground hideaways.
Hobbits are a small race of people in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Ring series who live in underground hideaways.

Some even argue that Sam Gamgee is the central character and the emotional anchor of The Lord of the Rings. A psychological reading of the book could suggest that Frodo and Gollum represent the worst and best (id and superego) qualities of Sam. Like Frodo, Sam has a love of all things high and good, and a certain nobility; yet, like Gollum, he has a suspicious nature at times, and can be easily angered or frustrated.

Of the three thrown together, when Gollum agrees to lead the hobbits into Mordor, it is Sam who ultimately is able to survive and thrive in Middle Earth after the destruction of the ring. Gollum dies, and Frodo leaves for the havens, but Sam remains with his furry feet strongly planted on the ground in the Shire, with a future career as mayor, and with children to raise who will learn to love both small beauties like bountiful gardens, and also be aware of the much larger Middle Earth and their father’s role in saving it.

A reader can also observe the dominating factor in the life of Sam Gamgee: his strong and abiding love for his companions, especially Frodo. He is also a ringbearer for a very short period of time, and like Bilbo, he voluntarily gives the ring back to Frodo when he rescues him from torture in Mordor. Sam also gets the ring to Mount Doom, since Frodo is fading and must be carried part of the way, so he can be interpreted as essential in the quest to destroy evil.

Sam can also be viewed as the restorer of the Shire, more strongly than any other character. He returns home to a Shire nearly ruined, and with the gift of Galadriel is able to restore beauty and renew growth. His character develops significantly in Tolkien’s book, and he returns to the Shire with a full knowledge of the greatness and goodness that exists outside it, but also retains his love of the peace within it, and how important it is. In his journey with Frodo, Sam Gamgee clearly misses the Shire, but his suffering and his experience of the world do not taint him for return to the Shire, instead they extend his many fine character attributes by adding wisdom.

Sam’s story is also a common one in some respects: the theme of the servant rewarded for fidelity with eventual riches and a rise above his station. This rise does not affect Sam one whit except to make him more generous, more loving and more willing to serve the people of his homeland. Moreover, he, in a parallel story to that of Aragorn, gets the girl. Sam Gamgee returns home to Rosie Cotton and to a happy marriage with her. His and Aragorn’s marriages are the only two dwelt on with much detail in the book (though the marriage of Eowyn to Faramir gets a bit of mention).

If you’re a fan of the books, it’s hard not to love Sam Gamgee. He is given some of the funniest and most poignant speeches in Tolkien’s masterwork. It is his words that end the novel as he returns home from the Grey Havens after bidding goodbye to his master. “Well I’m back,” Sam says as he holds one of his children.

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