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Post The Choices of Master Samwise
on: November 08, 2016 04:56

Tolkien once remarked that Samwise Gamgee is the greatest hero of
Lord Of The Rings.

For me, one of the greatest moments in the book is the quiet moment
after Sam has successfully defended the seemingly dead body of Frodo
from the giant spider Shelob.

In itself, this is a mighty deed of valor, born of fealty for his
master and a righteous fury; to stay his great terror and despair
even for a moment.

After when Sam crumples to the ground, wailing as he mourns the loss
of master and friend, there are no mighty lords about. No fellowship,
no heroes, no great ones. There is no one left. Not even a single
witness. Only evil beings as far as the eye can see.

In the darkness there are words of wisdom in his heart: Sam must take
the One Ring by himself to the very heart of Mordor in a last effort
to destroy it.

Frodo's moment of accepting this quest, a moment of courage to be
sure, were done first in the presence of the mighty Gandalf to
protect the Shire, and then again at the Council of Elrond.

In this moment there is only Sam, alone in the dark and in great
despair. And he takes the ring. Not for himself, resisting the
temptation to claim it and save the Shire as the world's greatest
gardener. No, he takes it and continues the mission with zero
fanfare. No one knows. One of the great moments of the tale. And one
why I consider the book so superior over the films. 8 hours and it is
completely neglected.

It is easy to forget that Frodo actually claims the ring for himself
at the end, in a sense becoming evil, his own Gollum. If left
unchecked during what remained of his most likely very short life, he
would turn altogether wretched. But the Ring is ripped from his
finger by Gollum himself, and he returns to his senses. This is why
Frodo is so damaged afterwards, if left on his own, the whole world
would have been covered in darkness and the quest failed. And he
knows it.

But when learning that Frodo is alive, Sam voluntarily gives the Ring
back to him, the conclusion of a string of mighty deeds. In fact, Sam
battling Shelob over Frodo, continuing on alone with no fanfare and
then giving the Ring back to Frodo proves that he is the greatest of
all hobbits.

There are those even in the Shire and beyond in the world of elves
and men that are much more intelligent, possess a far greater
strength, are more beautiful and charismatic.
But Sam is the greatest because he has the least to work with,
his character sees him uncorrupted by the Ring,
and he does things when no one knew about them.

So, reflecting on a very interesting quote by Tolkien, this is my
reason why. Aragorn, Gandalf and Frodo are all great heroes in their
own right, but Samwise Gamgee is the greatest.

[Edited on 11/09/2016 by disco]

[Edited on 11/09/2016 by disco]
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on: November 09, 2016 12:23
A point well made, thank you Disco.

Unlike Frodo who could not return to happiness in the Shire, Sam was well rewarded eventually, as can be read in the “Epilogue” which was (unfortunately enough, I think) never published together with the last book.
'There’s something mighty queer behind this.'
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on: November 09, 2016 03:14
I don't think JRRT would have anything to add to your post, Disco, about Sam's life-or-death importance to the whole quest at Cirith Ungol. I would only add two other locations: Sam's determination to go with Frodo at the breaking of the Fellowship at Rauros, and his getting Frodo up Mount Doom when Frodo's strength failed him.

But in the end, it needed all three of the crucial Hobbits to finally undo the One Ring and Sauron. One aspect which may be overlooked is that Frodo as Ring-bearer protected Sam from the One Ring's evil influence - which, as we know, grew heavier and heavier on Frodo on the long struggle to the Cracks of Doom. Would Sam, had he hypothetically made it there alone, have been able to cast the One Ring in?

Which brings me to Sméagol-Gollum. Here, one could say that Frodo protected him from Sam, to a degree. Which echoes Bilbo's sparing Gollum in "The Hobbit". Without Gollum, they wouldn't even have been at Cirith Ungol, the whole quest could have been doomed at the Black Gate. And in this treatment of Gollum, Frodo, having a growing understanding of what the One Ring can do to you, kept Sam and his by necessity much more limited understanding in check until the point where Sam could "take over" from Gollum. But in the end, Frodo and Sam together might not have been enough to fulfill the quest, it is Gollum who causes the One Ring's destruction.

As you mentioned, Sam's despair and brief vision of grandeur, including that vision's quick dissipation by Sam's Hobbit common sense, is entirely absent from the films. One incident in the films where a very central premise of JRRT's gets short-changed (perhaps necessarily so for a film audience unfamiliar with the books): the supreme toughness of the Hobbits, in some sense exceeding the "merely heroic" toughness of the Dwarves. Frodo surviving 17 days with the splinter of the Morgul-knife which according to Gandalf would have caused strong warriors of the Big People to have been overcome quickly. That's why I'm so annoyed with PJ's showing Frodo as merely a junkie of sorts. Half right, the One Ring has terrible effects, but I see the suffering Frodo as being far grimmer in his ordeal. Or that, whatever the One Ring had done to Gollum over the nearly 500 years he possessed it, the One Ring failed in one crucial aspect: it never turned him into a wraith.

Surviving the Morgul-knife splinter and falling into the Cracks of Doom are more spectacular events. Sam's quiet, solitary heroism as you portrayed it above was probably much closer to JRRT's heart, as he had repeatedly likened Sam to the "batmen" enlisted soldiers who were assigned to officers as something of a valet or butler in the British army, which he experienced himself in WW I, and about whom he had stated that he recognized them as "so much superior to myself".
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