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Samwise Gamgee, later known as Samwise Gardner and commonly as Sam, is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. Samwise is one of the chief characters in Tolkien's novel The Lord of the Rings, in which he fills an archetypical role as the sidekick of the primary protagonist, Frodo Baggins.
Samwise Gamgee is first introduced in The Fellowship of the Ring. Sam is Frodo Baggins' gardener, having inherited the position as the Baggins' gardener from his father, Hamfast "Gaffer" Gamgee. At the time of the War of the Ring, Sam was living in Number 3, Bagshot Row with his father.
As "punishment" for eavesdropping on Gandalf's conversation with Frodo regarding the One Ring, Sam was made Frodo's first companion on his journey to Rivendell. They were joined by Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took, Frodo's cousins, and journeyed together to Rivendell where the Council of Elrond took place and Sam joined the Fellowship of the Ring.
When the Fellowship was split up at the Falls of Rauros, Sam insisted on accompanying Frodo. As Frodo became progressively weaker under the burden of the Ring, Sam carried most of the luggage, cooked, kept watch at night whenever he could, and rationed the food so Frodo had enough for the journey. He protected and took care of Frodo as they moved through the dangerous lands toward Mordor. Sam distrusted Gollum, who became their guide into Mordor.
After the giant spider Shelob apparently killed Frodo, Sam drove her off. When a band of orcs approached, Sam was forced to leave the apparently dead Frodo and take the Ring himself, and briefly became a Ring-bearer. He was briefly tempted by its promise of power, but did not succumb to it. He rescued Frodo (who had only been paralysed) from the Orcs who held him captive. The two then journeyed alone through Mordor and into the heart of Mount Doom, where Gollum attacked Frodo and reclaimed the Ring, only to inadvertently destroy both it and himself by falling into the mountain's lava.
After the hobbits' return home and the Battle of Bywater, Sam travelled the length and breadth of the Shire replanting trees that had been cut down during Saruman's brief reign. He used the gift of earth given to him by the Lady Galadriel, which caused the saplings he planted to grow at an accelerated rate. The small amount remaining he took to the Three-Farthing Stone (roughly the centre of the Shire) and cast into the air, prompting the bountiful period of growth starting in the spring of the year 1420 (Shire Reckoning). The greatest wonder was a young mallorn tree sprouting in the Party Field: "the only mallorn west of the Mountains and east of the Sea" (grown from a nut included as part of Galadriel's gift).
After the War of the Ring, Sam married Rose "Rosie" Cotton and moved to Bag End with Frodo. Sam and Rosie had thirteen children: Elanor the Fair, Frodo, Rose, Merry, Pippin, Goldilocks, Hamfast, Daisy, Primrose, Bilbo, Ruby, Robin, and Tolman (Tom). Sam was elected Mayor of the Shire for seven consecutive seven-year terms and came to be known as Samwise Gardner.
After Sam and Rose's first child was born it was revealed that Frodo would leave Middle-earth, along with Bilbo (Sam's old hero), Gandalf and most of the remaining High Elves (Wood Elves had no part of this exodus from Middle-earth), for the Undying Lands. Before Frodo left, he gave the estate of Bag End to Sam, as well as the Red Book of Westmarch for Sam to continue, hinting that Sam might also be allowed to travel into the West eventually.
After the death of his wife in the year 62 of the Fourth Age (Shire Reckoning 1482), Sam entrusted the Red Book to Elanor and left the Shire at the age of 102. He was not seen again in Middle-earth, but Elanor and her descendants preserved the tradition that he went to the Grey Havens and sailed into the West. As the last of the Ring-bearers, he was entitled to sail across the Sea and be reunited with Frodo in the Undying Lands.
At the start of The Lord of the Rings Sam, typically for a hobbit, had never before ventured far from the immediate area where he lived. Unusually for a hobbit, however, since childhood Sam was fond of legends and other fantastical stories. Sam was particularly interested in the Elves, and always hoped to one day see one. Sam was literate, having been taught by Bilbo and Frodo, which was atypical for most hobbits due to their rustic culture. Sam often showed a skill in poetry, one occasion being when in Lothlórien after Gandalf fell to his apparent death, Sam added to the poem that Frodo had made about him.
Tolkien called Sam the "chief hero" of the saga in one of his letters: he places special emphasis on Sam's "rustic love" for Rosie, a union that serves to establish a family in which allusions to Elvish wonders (embodied in Sam's daughter Elanor) are combined with the best qualities of traditional Shire-life. Sam and his descendants also become the keepers of the history of the War of the Ring (in the form of the Red Book of Westmarch) and uphold the memory of events that most 'ordinary' hobbits take little interest in.
Most of the hobbits' travels in Mordor are seen through Sam's point of view: including his spying on Gollum when the creature debates with himself; the battle with Shelob; Frodo's rescue from the orcs; and the final confrontation at Mount Doom.
Sam is extremely protective of Frodo and does everything he can to keep Frodo sane and moving forward even as the One Ring warps his mind.
Tolkien wrote in a private letter:
- "My Sam Gamgee is indeed a reflexion of the English soldier, of the privates and batmen I knew in the 1914 war, and recognised as so far superior to myself".
Names and titlesEdit
In the appendices of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien says the "true" or Westron form of Sam's name is Banazîr Galbasi (also spelled Galpsi). Banazîr comes from elements meaning "halfwise" or "simple". Galbasi comes from the name of the village Galabas. The name Galabas uses the elements galab-, meaning "game", and bas-, corresponding somewhat to "-wich" or "-wick". In his role as "translator" of the Red Book of Westmarch, Tolkien devised a strict English translation, Samwís Gamwich, which develops into Samwise Gammidgy and eventually comes to Samwise Gamgee in modern English.
Frodo affectionately dubbed him "Samwise the stouthearted". The Appendix of The Return of the King says that in F.A. 7 (S.R. 1427), Sam was elected Mayor of the Shire for the first of seven consecutive seven-year terms.
Concept and creationEdit
Tolkien was an admirer of heroism out of obedience and love but despised arrogance, pride and wilfulness. The courage displayed by Samwise Gamgee on his journey with Frodo, his subjection to dangers and the preparedness to die out of loyalty for Frodo is the kind of spirit that was praised by Tolkien in a number of essays on the Old English poem "The Battle of Maldon". Likewise the rejection of the Ring by Sam and other characters in the novel is a rejection of power but can also be seen as a "desire for renown which the defeat over Sauron will bring".
Tolkien took the name "Gamgee" from a colloquial word in Birmingham for cotton wool. This was in turn derived from Gamgee Tissue, a surgical dressing invented by a 19th century Birmingham surgeon named Sampson Gamgee. Tolkien originally used it as a nickname for a man living in Lamorna Cove, England before adapting it into his stories:
- "There was a curious local character, an old man who used to go about swapping gossip and weather-wisdom and such like. To amuse my children I named him Gaffer Gamgee... The choice of Gamgee was primarily directed by alliteration; but I did not invent it. It was caught out of childhood memory, as a comic word or name. It was in fact the name when I was small (in Birmingham) for 'cotton-wool'. (Hence the association of the Gamgees with the Cottons.) I knew nothing of its origin."
Tolkien claimed to be genuinely surprised when, in March 1956, he received a letter from one Sam Gamgee, who had heard that his name was in The Lord of the Rings but had not read the book. Tolkien replied on March 18:
- "Dear Mr. Gamgee,
- It was very kind of you to write. You can imagine my astonishment when I saw your signature! I can only say, for your comfort, I hope, that the 'Sam Gamgee' of my story is a most heroic character, now widely beloved by many readers, even though his origins are rustic. So that perhaps you will not be displeased at the coincidence of the name of this imaginary character of supposedly many centuries ago being the same as yours."
He sent Gamgee a signed copy of all three volumes of the book. However, the incident sparked a nagging worry in Tolkien's mind, as he recorded in his journal:
- "For some time I lived in fear of receiving a letter signed 'S. Gollum'. That would have been more difficult to deal with."
After publication of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien traced the origin of the name back to Gamgee and eventually the earlier English surname 'de Gamaches'.
In Ralph Bakshi's 1978 animated version of The Lord of the Rings, Sam was voiced by Michael Scholes. Billy Barty was the model for Sam, as well as Frodo and Bilbo, in the live-action recordings Bakshi used for rotoscoping.
In the 1980 animated version of The Return of the King, made for television, the character was voiced by Roddy McDowall.
In the 1981 BBC radio serial of The Lord of the Rings, Sam was played by Bill Nighy.
In the 1993 Finnish television miniseries Hobitit, Sam is portrayed by Pertti Sveholm.
In the Peter Jackson movies The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King, Sam was played by Sean Astin.
Sam has the Hobbit hair style in blonde and a face with a serious and freaked out expression. His torso is tan, with buttons, a belt, a bag, and suspenders printed on it. He has short dark brown legs and a short gray cape.