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Samwise Gamgee

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Samwise Gamgee
Hobbit
Biographical Information
Other namesBanazîr
LocationHobbiton
BirthApril 6, T.A. 2980
DeathUnknown, after Fourth Age 61
Family
ParentageHamfast Gamgee and Bell Goodchild
Physical Description
GenderMale
"I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam"
Frodo to Sam at the downfall of Sauron.

Samwise Gamgee (Third Age April 6, 2980Template:Ref - Fourth Age 61; Shire Reckoning: 1380 - 1482; 99 years old when he sailed into the West) was Frodo Baggins' servant and the only original member of the Fellowship of the Ring to remain with him till the very end of the journey to Mount Doom.

Contents

History

A gardener by trade, Sam seemed to be a simple Hobbit of plain speech. However, his love for Elves, his gift for poetry, and his belief that the world contains greater wonders than most hobbits are aware of (all nurtured by his tutor Bilbo Baggins) set him apart from the beginning. It was Sam who first introduced the theme of the Elves' sailing from Middle-earth, a subtle foreshadowing of Bilbo and Frodo's final journey across the Sea. He lived with his father, Hamfast Gamgee, better known as "The Gaffer", on Bagshot Row in the Shire, close to Bag End. Sam's mother was Bell Goodchild; he had five siblings: Hamson, Halfred, Daisy, May, and Marigold.

As "punishment" for eavesdropping on Gandalf's conversation with Frodo regarding the dangers of the One Ring, Sam was made Frodo's first companion on his journey to Rivendell in the beginning of The Lord of the Rings. Sam saved Frodo's life more than once during the quest to destroy the Ring, and he accompanied him all the way to Mount Doom.

After Shelob attacked and seemingly killed Frodo, Sam took the Ring, intending to complete the quest. Because he held the Ring for a time, he is considered one of the Ring-bearers.

After the War of the Ring, he married Rose "Rosie" Cotton back in the Shire. They had thirteen children: Elanor the Fair, Frodo, Rose, Merry, Pippin, Goldilocks, Hamfast, Daisy, Primrose, Bilbo, Ruby, Robin, and Tolman. After Will Whitfoot resigned his post as Mayor of Michel Delving (the largest town in the Shire and the "unofficial capital"), in Fourth Age 7, Sam was elected Mayor of the Shire for seven consecutive 7-year terms.

After his wife died in Fourth Age 62, Sam entrusted the Red Book to Elanor and left Middle-earth to sail across the Sea and be reunited with Frodo in the Undying Lands, (though it should be noted that as they were both born mortals, they would still eventually die a mortal death).

Etymology

Samwise means "simple minded" or "half-minded". Gamgee is a corruption of the name Gammidgy. Both names are presented as translations of the Westron form of Sam's name Banazîr Galbasi (also spelled Galpsi) (q.v. for more information).

Tolkien's English translation, Samwís Gamwich, could have come to Samwise Gamgee in modern English.

The Sindarin version of Samwise is Perhael.

Inspiration

J.R.R. Tolkien took the name from Gamgee Tissue, a surgical dressing invented by a 19th century Birmingham surgeon called Joseph Sampson Gamgee. "Gamgee" became the colloquial name in Birmingham for cotton wool. Here, Tolkien describes why he had chosen that name for his character:

"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."
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

It is possible that Tolkien may have subconsciously recalled Dr. Gamgee (who died in 1886 but is commemorated by a plaque at the Birmingham Medical Institute, only yards from Tolkien's childhood home) but he 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."

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

He proceeded to send Mr 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."
J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography
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Commentary

Sam Gamgee is by many regarded as the "true hero" of Tolkien's story. Tolkien himself expressed this view in one of his letters: Sam is referred to as the "chief hero", and special emphasis is placed on Sam's "rustic love" for RosieTemplate:Ref. The quest to destroy the Ring only succeeds because of Sam, who repeatedly saves Frodo from disaster (such as rescuing him at Cirith Ungol and carrying him up Mount Doom). He was one of three Ring-bearers strong enough to surrender the Ring voluntarily.

The relationship between Frodo and Sam is, in many respects, at the center of The Lord of the Rings. To the modern reader, it seems archaic, as it is extremely class-oriented. Sam's humbleness and "plain speaking" is frequently emphasised in contrast to Frodo's "gentility", and he often shows deference to Frodo, calling him "Mister Frodo" or "Master". At the same time, a strong bond of love and trust grows between them, portrayed most poignantly during the events of Cirith Ungol, where Sam vows to return to his (apparently) dead master, to be reunited with Frodo in death.

Tolkienists regard Sam as Frodo's batman. In the British Army, a batman was an orderly who acted as the personal servant of an officer. It was a role with which Tolkien (who served as an Army officer in the First World War) would have been extremely familiar. Sam undertakes all of the typical roles of a batman — he runs errands for Frodo, he cooks, he transports him (or at least carries him), and he carries his luggage. Tolkien confirmed this interpretation when he wrote in a private letter that:

"My Sam Gamgee is indeed a reflexion of the English soldier, of the privates and batmen I knew in the 1914 war, and recognized as so far superior to myself"
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

Compare to the relation between Don Quixote and his squire Sancho Panza, and the gradual "Quixotization" of Sancho.

Notes

  1. Template:Note In the second edition of The Lord of the Rings, Sam's year of birth was added to The Tale of Years; it was, however, T.A. 2963. This contradicts both the Longfather Tree of Master Samwise and a later entry in The Tale of Years. The incorrect date has been corrected in the 50th anniversary edition. See also The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, page 716.
  2. Template:Note The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 131
Preceded by:
Frodo Baggins
Ring-bearer
March 13, T.A. 3019 - March 14, 3019
Followed by:
Frodo Baggins

Members of the Fellowship of the Ring
Frodo · Sam · Merry · Pippin · Gandalf · Aragorn · Legolas · Gimli · Boromir