The Return of the King

by: J. R. R. Tolkien

Sam Gamgee

Characters Sam Gamgee

Sam’s remarkable heroism in Book VI consists of courageous action that is tempered by love and spontaneity. Aragorn and the Riders of Rohan fight without restraint, as though they have always done so and know little else. As a Hobbit, Sam tends merely to stumble into adventurous deeds, and his plodding pursuit to save Frodo echoes with the running self-commentary Sam performs in his head. We do not just watch Sam run through the gates of Cirith Ungol brandishing the phial of Galadriel; we hear Sam prepare himself and see him shrug his shoulders and fumble absentmindedly for the magic phial. We know that Sam is not really an imposing Elf-warrior, as the Ring’s power causes the Orcs to see him. Instead, we see the Orcs from Sam’s perspective, sharing his dismay when they turn to run from him in fear. Sam offers a model of the hero whose heroism lies not in impulse, but in the choices he constantly and consciously makes to perform heroic deeds. Sam’s heroism is comical, for he is consistently surprised by his success.

Sam’s playfulness as a surprised hero is tempered by his genuine devotion to Frodo. All heroes must have first principles—the -inspiration of their actions. Sam possesses such a strong tacit love for Frodo that he becomes united with the object of his service. As Sam climbs Mount Doom, carrying Frodo, the comrades appear to be only one hobbit climbing, not two. The ascent of Mount Doom is emblematic of Sam’s friendship with Frodo. Sam’s sacrifice produces true friendship, for he loses all thoughts of himself in his devoted care for his companion and master.