Thursday, January 12, 2017

Sam Gamgee Character Study

As you may know by now, I love Sam Gamgee. Out of all the characters in The Lord of the Rings, he is my absolute favorite. Indeed, I would go so far as to say he is my favorite character ever. From the moment he leaped up "like a dog invited on a walk," said "Hooray!" and promptly "burst into tears," there's been something about him, something that took a hold on me and hasn't let go.

And I'm not the only one who feels that way (although whether or not anyone can match my love of Sam remains to be seen). Recently, I've talked to several good souls who claim Sam as one of their favorite Middle Earth characters.

What is it about Sam that makes him so appealing? Why does he seem, to me at least, to embody the heart and soul of The Lord of the Rings?

While puzzling over this, I've put together a list of some of Sam's distinctive qualities. Here it is.


1. Simplicity

Sam by Soni Alcorn-Hender:

Sam is simple. His background is about as commonplace as it gets. He lives in Bagshot Row with his family, and now that "his old dad the Gaffer" is old and stiff in the joints, he takes care of most of the gardening.

The Lord of the Rings is primarily about simple folk -- the hardworking poorer classes, just toiling along day by day and trying to live life as best they can. It's against simple folk that Sauron has waged his war. It's they, the normal people, who are threatened. All the glittering heroes are only there to protect him, and they know it -- and that's what makes them so truly great. The heart of chivalry is standing up for the weak.

2. Love of Simple Things

Sam & Frodo in the Shire :3:

Sam not only knows he's simple, he loves being simple. There's nothing so dear to his heart as all the little things that make life in the Shire worth living. Flowers, mushrooms, beer, strawberries, trees, water, laughter. Sam loves these things. He sees beauty in them. This fascination with all good things, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is what makes him care about things other characters don't seem to -- like rope and Bill the Pony.

It's this love of everything good that gives Sam -- and everyone else -- the courage to do what needs done. One of Tolkien's great themes comes most clearly from Sam's mouth: "There's some good left in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it's worth fighting for."

3. Love of Great Things

by Soni Alcorn-Hender:

It might seem out of Sam's simplicity that he's so everlastingly interested in things most hobbits consider too highfalutin for them -- things like elves and poetry. (Sam not only memorizes poetry, he writes it!) But really this love of "higher" things is a natural result of Sam's love for "lower" -- that is, simpler -- things. We might almost say Sam is the simplest and therefore most hobbit-like of all the hobbits, and because of that perfect simplicity he has a better appreciation for poetry and such. Poetry and grandeur and magnificence are all very human (or very hobbit) things, as highfalutin as they might seem. There is a whisper in every human heart, as there is in Sam's, for something grand and glorious, something bigger than us.

That grandness is a huge theme in The Lord of the Rings. Good and evil are pitted against each other very clearly, and it is seen that there is no struggle more fierce and epic. There is nothing darker than sin, and nothing more glorious than Goodness.

4. Loyalty

Sam & Frodo:

You won't come across a character more loyal than Samwise Gamgee. It's his loyalty that really stands out to me, that seals his fate as my favorite character in the history of literature. He stands by Frodo like a dog by its master, and every time he grieves over Frodo's sufferings, or makes some little sacrifice for Frodo, or gives someone the evil eye for slighting Frodo, my heart melts. 

But why is that? What is it about loyalty that is such a desirable character trait?

If you think about it, there are a lot of virtues required to be as loyal as Sam is. 

Sam's focus on Frodo means he's not focused on himself. He knows he's not the top dog; he knows the story isn't about him. He's humble.  And because he's humble, he can find the strength to be selfless. He knows that in the big scheme of things, his own sufferings and trials and triumphs are insignificant. He never thinks about himself. When he and Frodo come across water in Mordor, he begs that he be allowed to drink first -- not because he's parched with thirst, but because he wants to be the guinea pig and test the water's safety. Sam's selflessness gives him a marvelous courage, one that gives him the strength to go on when things look blackest and bleakest. 

And on an allegorical note -- aren't we all supposed to be as loyal to Christ as Sam is to Frodo? Aren't we supposed to weep over His wounds? Give up comforts big and small for Him? Feel insults to Him more deeply than we feel insults to ourselves?

5. Cheerful Hope and Hopeful Courage

Sam, Lord of the Rings, by Soni Alcorn-Hender:

Sam's a cheerful character. If I ever find myself stuck in a barren mountain range cut off from the rest of the world by deserts and infested with crawling evil creatures, I hope I'll have someone like Sam with me to sing a song or tell a story or talk about strawberries. 

Sam's cheerfulness is the sign of a good heart. Anyone can be grim and grave in a tough situation. But it takes a mighty special person to smile in the shadow of Mordor.

To be sure, Sam can't always smile. There comes a time when even he feels the cold clutch of despair on his heart and glances at Sting's blade in frantic desire to escape. But because of Sam's deeply-held and delightfully simple belief that there's good in this world, he doesn't go through with suicide. He holds on. He holds on, even when Frodo seems dead and there's darkness all around and everything he sacrificed himself for seems utterly lost. Hope is the source of his courage. Even that grim, dogged courage he has to dig deep for in the very last stretch of the journey is a result of his cheerfulness -- his optimistic view of things, his belief that life is worth living and the world is good.

There is light and beauty up there that no shadow can touch Mr. Frodo.  *crying*:

That belief -- that there's good in this world, and it's worth fighting for -- is an incredibly simple one.Which brings us back to point 1. It's that simple goodness that's the source of everything wonderful and lovable about Sam.

So! There's my shortlist of Sam's best qualities. What do you think? Is Sam your favorite LoTR character?? What's your favorite part about him?

8 comments:

  1. Hahaha, Megan... *shakes head* I should have known you'd pick Sam... ;) While I have never personally liked Sam (quite the contrary in fact) I do appreciate how in depth this study of his character is. I might have to do one for Legolas.... ;) Haha, just joking...

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    1. Why, I would love to see one on Legolas! Seriously. I feel really bad for how low my opinion has sunk on him. (Not that it's really sunk....I've just gotten a little fed up with the in-general fangirling and felt the movie didn't portray him accurately.) But yes! If you ever feel so inclined as to do a character study on Legolas, I will be delighted. :)

      *sighs heavily* I was going to put some teasing little remark in the post about those certain people who for some reason can't seem to appreciate Sam.... Why do you dislike him so, may I ask?

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    2. What??!!!! They developed him a lot in the movies, and...! Oh, wait... You haven't seen the extended editions yet, have you...? Oh well. But, maybe I will someday. Only problem is, it probably won't be as popular as this Sam one, because most people don't like Legolas. :P
      No, I don't like Sam. It would take too long a comment and too cruel words, I'm afraid, for me to say why I don't like him.

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    3. That's true, I haven't.... But, Belle Anne! Most people not liking Legolas is a perfect reason to do a character study on him. :) And I don't know if it's true that most people don't like him.

      Well....if you aren't going to explain yourself here, then I must needs shoot you an email about it. Because this atrocity demands an explanation, m'dear. :)

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  2. This reminds me of a character study I did on Puddleglum. I think that one great thing about both Sam and Puddleglum is that they are 'anchor characters'- someone to keep the hero steady, because they themselves are well grounded.

    I've always loved Sam, especially his humility...and his love for good food and agriculture!

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    1. Oh, Puddleglum! He sounds like a great one to do a character study on. I'd like to read that. :) Puddleglum is a lovable one.

      Oh, Sam's humility! And good food and agriculture -- yes, yes. Herbs and stewed rabbits and potatoes! (The potatoes thing is in the book, too, right?)

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  3. Here's the link, if you'd like: https://tobeashennachie.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/my-marsh-wiggle-mentor/

    (I just looked it up now, and found it! Chapter 4 of the Two Towers!)

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    1. Oh, I love that character study, Blue! It made me want to read The Silver Chair again. :) Dear old Puddleglum...that speech he gives the witch has to be one of the best in Narnia. And it's so interesting, that mixture of pessimism and hope you pointed out -- I hadn't noticed that before.

      (Wow, you have gumption actually looking that up! I thought I remembered it being there, but I couldn't be sure. :) I'm glad it's in the book.)

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