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Gaffer Gamgee

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Hamfast Gamgee
Stephen Hickman - Gaffer Gamgee and the Black Rider.jpg
Biographical Information
Other namesGaffer, Ranugad Galbasi, Baravorn
BirthT.A. 2926
DeathFo.A. 7
ParentageHobson Gamgee + ?
Physical Description
Hair colorIn later life gray
GalleryImages of Hamfast Gamgee
"You can say what you like, Gaffer, but Bag End's a queer place, and its folk are queerer."

Hamfast Gamgee, better known as the Gaffer, was a Hobbit of the Shire, and the father of Samwise Gamgee.



Hamfast was born in 2926, the third son of Hobson Gamgee, who was a roper by trade. His mother's name is not known.[2]

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 22 June, T.A. 2942, he and Holman tried frantically to keep the garden in order during the auction of the presumed-dead Bilbo Baggins.[1] 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.[1] He married Bell Goodchild, and they had six children: Hamson, Halfred, Daisy, May, Samwise and Marigold.[2] 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 Bagginses and the Sackville-Bagginses.[1]

On 22 September, 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.[3]

When Lotho and eventually Sharkey took over the Shire, the Gaffer was evicted from Bagshot Row.[4] 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.[5]


The name Hamfast means "Stay-at-home", or literally, "Home-fast". It is a translation of his Westron name, Ranugad Galbasi.[6] In the King's Letter, the name (referring to Hamfast Gardner, not the Gaffer) is translated into Sindarin as Baravorn.[7]

"Gaffer" is a word for "foreman".[8]


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.[9] The Gamgees were notorious surgeons - years later, Dr. Leonard Gamgee tended those war-wounded, including Lieutenant Tolkien.[source?]

Portrayal in Adaptations

1981: The Lord of the Rings (1981 radio series):

John Church plays Gaffer Gamgee. He used a thick peasant accent for the role.

2001: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring:

Gaffer appears in the The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Extended Edition)

, 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.

2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (video game):

Gaffer appears twice; at first, he drinks at the Green Dragon, but during the night, he informs Frodo of the Ringwraith that stalks the Shire. He was voiced by an uncredited Jim Piddock.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "A Long-expected Party"
  2. 2.0 2.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix C, "The Longfather-tree of Master Samwise"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "Many Meetings"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Scouring of the Shire"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Grey Havens"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix F, "On Translation"
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Sauron Defeated, "Part One: The End of the Third Age: XI. The Epilogue"
  8. Etymonline, "Gaffer", accessed November 29, 2010
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 72, (dated 31 May 1944)