|"Gaffer Gamgee and the Black Rider" by Stephen Hickman|
|Other names||Gaffer, Old Gamgee, Ranugad Galbasi|
|Birth||S.R. 1326 |
|Death||S.R. 1428[note 1] (aged 102)|
|Siblings||Andwise Roper, May and Halfred of Overhill|
|Children||Hamson, Halfred, Daisy, May, Samwise and Marigold|
|Hair color||In later life, grey|
|Gallery||Images of Hamfast Gamgee|
- "No one had a more attentive audience than old Ham Gamgee, commonly known as the Gaffer. He held forth at The Ivy Bush, a small inn on the Bywater road; and he spoke with some authority, for he had tended the garden at Bag End for forty years, and had helped old Holman in the same job before that. Now that he was himself growing old and stiff in the joints, the job was mainly carried on by his youngest son, Sam Gamgee. Both father and son were on very friendly terms with Bilbo and Frodo. They lived on the Hill itself, in Number 3 Bagshot Row just below Bag End."
- ― The Fellowship of the Ring, "A Long-expected Party"
Hamfast Gamgee, better known as the Gaffer, was a Hobbit of the Shire, and the father of Samwise Gamgee of the Fellowship of the Ring. He was the gardener of Bag End before he passed the title onto Sam.
He entered the service of his relative, "Cousin Holman", 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 frantically tried to keep the garden in order during the auction of the presumed-dead Bilbo Baggins.
Hamfast became a gardener in his own right in about T.A. 2961, and a local expert on potatoes and other roots; "Master Hamfast" (as Bilbo called him) appreciated Bilbo's politeness and respecting his knowledge. He married Bell Goodchild, and they had six children: Hamson, Halfred, 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".
Prior to the Farewell Party, the younger hobbits sought information about the legendary Mr. Bilbo Baggins at the Ivy Bush. Always a man of loquacity and knowledge, he argued with Sandyman, Old Noakes and Daddy Twofoot about the Bagginses and the Sackville-Bagginses. After the party, Bilbo left him two sacks of potatoes, a new spade, a woolen waistcoat, and a bottle of ointment as he suffered from creaking joints. By T.A. 3018 he also began to lose his sight.
In T.A. 3018, his new neighbor, Frodo Baggins decided to leave the Shire, and Gandalf had obliged Sam to go with him. Frodo pretended to be moving to Buckland, and sold Bag End to Lobelia, for which Hamfast was not so happy. He allowed Sam to go with Frodo to help and tend the garden of his new house, as he said.
On 23 September, the night of the departure of Frodo and Sam, Khamûl, one of the Nazgûl rode up the lane as the elderly hobbit was taking his air, and asked about "Baggins". The Gaffer told him that he had left for Bucklebury and it's not their business to know why, and refused to leave any message. The stranger hissed, making Hamfast shudder. Soon after the Nazgûl left, Sam arrived to give Hamfast the keys to Bag End before leaving. Surprised by Sam's arrival, the Gaffer told Sam about the stranger.
When Lotho and eventually Sharkey took over the Shire, the Gaffer was evicted from Bagshot Row. After the Battle of Bywater, in which he had only a marginal role, he moved back into the newly restored Bagshot Row, the "New Row." He was looked after by the Widow Rumble, which Frodo uses to comfort Sam about moving into Bag End. After his granddaughter is born, Sam calls his father to decide upon a name. Gaffer tells him to stick with the tradition of naming hobbit-girls after flowers and Frodo gives Sam the name "Elanor". The Gaffer lived for another 7 years and died in Fourth Age 7.
The name Hamfast is a modernization of Old English hám-fæst, meaning "Stay-at-home", or literally, "Home-fast". It is a translation of his Westron name, Ranugad Galbasi. In the King's Letter, the name (referring to Hamfast Gardner, the fourth son of Sam and Rose, not the Gaffer) is translated into Sindarin as Baravorn.
"Gaffer" is a colloquial word for "old man". It is a contraction of "grandfather."
In other stories
In the illustrated short story Mr. Bliss, there is a resident in the village named Gaffer Gamgee who struggles to listen to the discussion between Mr Binks and Sergeant Boffin about whether Mr Bliss should be locked up for failure to pay for his car. Sergeant Boffin also has a son named Sam.
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, whilst in the Black Country dialect cotton wool was referred to as "gamgee". The Gamgees were notorious surgeons - years later, Dr. Leonard Gamgee tended those war-wounded, including Lieutenant Tolkien.
Portrayal in adaptations
- The Gaffer does not appear in the film; but is mentioned to have been thrown out as Sam looks into the Mirror of Galadriel.
- John Church plays Gaffer Gamgee. He used a thick peasant accent for the role. He is included in early episodes including a full dramatisation of his encounter with the Nazgul. He also features towards the end of the adaptation when he admonishes the returning Hobbits for wearing "ironmongery."
- Hamfast "Gaffer" Gamgee is played by Wolfgang Reinsch.
- Gaffer appears in the film's 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.
- 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.
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix C, "The Longfather-tree of Master Samwise"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "A Long-expected Party"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "Three is Company"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "Many Meetings"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Great Years"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Scouring of the Shire"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Grey Havens"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix F, "On Translation"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Sauron Defeated, "Part One: The End of the Third Age: XI. The Epilogue"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Mr. Bliss (2011 edition), p. 63
- J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 72, (dated 31 May 1944)
- "Black Country Dialect", The Ancient Manor of Sedgley (accessed 9 September 2014)
- John Garth, Tolkien and the Great War, "Part Three: Castles in the air", p. 206