|Other names||Gaffer, Ranugad Galbasi, Baravorn|
|Birth||S.R. 1326 |
|Death||S.R. 1428 |
|Parentage||Hobson Gamgee + ?|
|Hair color||Possibly brown, later gray|
Hamfast was born in 2926, the third son of Hobson Gamgee, who was a roper by trade. His mother's name is not known.
He entered the service of his uncle, Holman Greenhand, and became a gardener. One of his first jobs was tending the garden of Bag End. On June 22, T.A. 2942, he and Holman tried frantically to keep the garden in order during the auction of the presumed-dead Bilbo Baggins. It is likely that at this time he already lived at Number 3, Bagshot Row.
Hamfast became a gardener in his own right, and a local expert on potatoes. He married Bell Goodchild, and they had six children: Hamson, Daisy, May, Samwise and Marigold. Sam became Hamfast's apprentice.
Sam took over most of his father's work, who had become too old for the laborous work. He became known as the "Gaffer", a name Sam uses more often than "Hamfast".
In the wake of the Farewell Party, the Gaffer entertained a crowd at the Ivy Bush. Always a man of knowledge, he argued with Sandyman, Old Noakes and Daddy Twofoot about the [[|Baggins Family|Bagginses]] and the Sackville-Bagginses. On September 22, T.A. 3018, the night of the departure of Frodo and Sam from the Shire, Khamûl, one of the Nazgûl rode up the lane, and asked the elderly hobbit about "Baggins". A week later, he was visited by Gandalf who also informed about Frodo's whereabouts.
When Lotho and eventually Sharkey took over the Shire, the Gaffer was evicted from Bagshot Row, and he moved in with Famer Cotton. After the Battle of Bywater, in which he only had a marginal role, he moved back into the newly restored New Row, while Sam moved into Bag End. He was looked after by the Widow Rumble, and died in Fourth Age 7.
"Gaffer" is a word for "foreman". Hamfast most likely got it when he stopped working himself, and started to become other people's boss. For the etymology of gaffer, see here.
In Letter 257, J.R.R. Tolkien recounts a holiday to Lamorna Cave in the early 1930's. To amuse his sons, he named a local Gaffer Gamgee. This "curious local character" was "an old man who used to go about swapping gossip and weather-fashion and such like". The surname was chosen because it alliterated with Gaffer.
Tolkien had several encounters with actual Gamgees, however. Gamgee Tissue, a word young Ronald considered comical, was named after J. Sampson Gamgee (1828-1886), a famous Birmingham surgeon. The Gamgees were notorious surgeons - years later, Dr. Leonard Gamgee tended those war-wounded, including Lieutenant Tolkien.
Portrayal in Adaptations
Gaffer appears in the Extended Edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, where he is played by Norman Forsey. The conversation in the Ivy Bush is moved to the Green Dragon Inn, though the dialogue remains much the same. He does not appear at Sam's marriage in The Return of the King.