3 Reasons Why You Were Way Off About Samwise Gamgee

While I love Tolkien’s mythology and Peter Jackson’s subsequent trilogy, one argument that’s always bothered me is how dismissive so many people are of Sam’s character.  He’s a sissy.  He’s a fruitcake.  Aragorn’s way cooler. Yeah?  Aragorn?  Picking Aragorn is like choosing Jesus as your favorite Biblical figure.  Samwise Gamgee on the other hand, is a complex, fascinating character that doesn’t get the credit he deserves.  Get ready for some learnin’, Mr. Frodo.

3. You’re really just calling yourself a cry baby

Let’s put The Lord of the Rings into proper perspective.  On its surface, it’s great fantasy fiction.  But despite how awesome it might be to watch Legolas take down an oliphant by himself (and it is awesome), the story really isn’t about that sort of thing.  It’s no mystery that Tolkien hated allegory, however that doesn’t mean that his mythology is without its own recurring themes, namely war and death. When Frodo leaves with the Elves for the Grey Havens?  That may as well be a metaphor for dying.

It’s like how Saruman is a metaphor for “douche bag.”
Where am I going with this?  In an epic story with so much death and destruction, the importance of someone like Sam is crucial for the audience because his perspective is the most relatable.  So unless you’re a war-hardened ranger or a centuries-old wizard, you really have nothing in common with Aragorn or Gandalf.  Tolkien himself favored Hobbits, despite the inclusion of men in his mythology, which allows the audience to pull back and see the flaws of human beings.  Neat, huh?
Sam as a placeholder for the audience remains true throughout the films, too, even alongside the other three Hobbit companions; Merry and Pippin are much too devil-may-care, and Frodo gradually becomes less sympathetic.  Sam, despite no wartime experience or familiarity with the outside world, is a rational-yet-naive outsider.  Just like us.  This isn’t to say that Sam doesn’t change as a character, and I’m certainly not arguing that the most relatable characters are always the best ones, but if you rip on Sam for succumbing to hopelessness or crying when his best friend abandons him, you’re really just ripping on yourself.  Or, if you’d like to get all high-minded about this, you’re insulting what it means to be human.  In the Elvish tongue I believe they call that an “asshole.”
It’s a big reason why Tolkien gives the Hobbits all the fun human qualities (smoking and drinking) and all the crappy ones to men (selfishness, weak mindedness, preserving the existence of absolute evil).  Sam allows us to step back and see those flaws.  At the same time, those flawed characters are relatable because of their weaknesses.  Faramir, Boromir, and Theoden are fascinating because of the internal conflicts they experience.  But what changes does Gandalf undergo aside from a wardrobe upgrade?
More importantly though, why is despair such a bad thing?  Any student of fiction will tell you that the conflicted characters are the most interesting ones.  Maybe Faramir and Theoden don’t kick as much ass, but they’re much more interesting than Sauron or Elrond.  Should we take all emotion out of fantasy, you robots?  We already know what happens when you do that.
In the Name of the King A Dungeon Siege Tale movie image Jason Statham
You can have Burt Reynolds, Dungeon Siege movie.  I’ll stick with Sam.
2. Sam isn’t gay.  You just have bad friends.
Even if he was gay (he isn’t) who cares?
We’ll cut this section down and ignore the glaring homophobic implications with this complaint, because “Sam is totes gay for Frodo, bro” is complete bullshit.
From what we’re shown in the movies, there are exactly two male characters who tie the knot.  The first is Aragorn, and while it’s more of an implied matrimony with Arwen, you can be sure they’re honeymooning in Rivendell when the credits roll.  The other, of course, is big flamin’ Sam:
samwise gamgee wedding movie lord of the rings
Don’t do it, Rosie!  You’re marrying a man in denial!
This whole “Sam is gay” thing comes from confusing two kinds of love here: There’s love and then there’s love love.  In the same way that you love your father or that I love playing Final Fantasy naked, Sam loves Frodo.  That doesn’t mean that you’d smack your dad’s rear end or try having sex with a video- err.  That doesn’t mean that you’d smack your dad’s rear end because that’s love love.  I think.  And Sam doesn’t do any of those things.  In fact, he pretty much exemplifies all the qualities one could want in a best friend:
  • Makes dinner
  • Stays true to his word
  • Fights gigantic spiders

Above all else, Sam sticks with Frodo in spite of the fact that every day Frodo becomes an even bigger dick.  So if loyalty, dedication, and blind faith are “gay,” then I wish all my friends liked taking it in the Black Gate.

1. Sauron would have won.

That’s right.  If it weren’t for Sam, the Ring probably wouldn’t have been destroyed, and instead of Return of the King’s twelve endings, we’d have gotten a sad ass montage of Hobbit slaves.  Bear in mind that I don’t subscribe to the idea that the Fellowship was a gigantic waste of time and that Elrond could have just flown into Mordor on Gwaihir the Windlord and plopped the Ring back into Mt. Doom.  To illustrate just how essential Sam is in this, here’s a quick breakdown of every instance where he bails out Frodo:

  • Fellowship of the Ring
    • Sam stops Frodo from putting on the Ring during an encounter with a Ringwraith.
  • Two Towers
    • Sam stops Frodo from putting on the Ring during an encounter with a Ringwraith.  Again.
  • Return of the King
    • Despite Frodo telling him to go home, Sam decides to go back and help his friend, even if he does ditch him in favor of following Nicole Richie to Mordor.  It’s also worth noting that if Sam hadn’t swallowed his pride, none of the following would have happened either…
    • Sam kicks Shelob’s ass, insuring that Frodo isn’t slowly eaten alive.
    • Sam rescues Frodo after he’s captured by orcs and brought to a guard tower.
    • Sam literally puts da team on his back and carries Frodo and the Ring up Mt. Doom, doo.
    • Even after Frodo’s umpteenth “fuck you” where he claims the Ring instead of destroying it, Sam saves him from meeting Gollum’s fate.

In every one of those instances, the Ring could have easily escaped and found its way into someone else’s hands.  That isn’t a ridiculous claim.  Consider how easy it was for Bilbo to find the ring in The Hobbit.  He practically tripped onto the thing.

Despite its title, I’ll go ahead and say that The Return of the King is as much Sam’s story as it is Aragorn’s.  I get that Sam likely wouldn’t have fared any better if he were in Frodo’s position, but that involves way too many hypothetical scenarios to come up with. Obviously, the climax of the story is only achieved through an ensemble effort, however there are varying degrees of contribution here.  I can only imagine that first conversation between Sam and Pippin in Rivendell:

Wow, what an adventure!  I smoked my body weight in pipe weed and hung out with some talking trees.  What’d you do?

Oh, not much.  Just saved the fucking world.


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