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Samwise Gamgee

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Samwise Gamgee
Anna Kulisz - Sam Gamgee.jpeg
"Samwise" by Anna Kulisz
Biographical Information
Other namesBanazîr (H)
Perhael (S)
TitlesMayor of Michel Delving, Ring-Bearer (for a short time)
PositionGardener, Ring-bearer
Location3 Bagshot Row, Hobbiton
Bag End, Hobbiton
Tol Eressëa
AffiliationFellowship of the Ring
Birth6 April T.A. 2980[note 1]
The Shire
RuleFo.A. 6 - 55
Sailed westAfter Fo.A. 61 (aged 102)
Notable forBeing counted among the Fellowship of the Ring and following Frodo Baggins into Mordor.
FamilyGamgee; founded the Gardner family
ParentageHamfast Gamgee and Bell Goodchild
SiblingsHamson, Halfred, Daisy, May and Marigold
SpouseRose Cotton
ChildrenElanor, Frodo, Rose, Merry, Pippin, Goldilocks, Hamfast, Daisy, Primrose, Bilbo, Ruby, Robin, and Tolman
Physical Description
Eye colorBrown[1]
WeaponryDagger of Westernesse, also Sting
GalleryImages of Samwise Gamgee
"I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam"
Frodo in The Return of the King, "Mount Doom"

Samwise Gamgee, commonly known as Sam, was Frodo Baggins' servant and the only original member of the Fellowship of the Ring to remain with him to the very end of the journey to Mount Doom.


[edit] History

[edit] Early life

Samwise 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.

A gardener by trade, Sam seemed to be a simple Hobbit of plain speech. He helped his Gaffer tending the garden of Bag End and was taught the art of rope making by his grandfather and his uncle Andy. In his work at Bag-End, he was acquainted with Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo taught him letters, and nurtured love for Elves, poetry, and his belief that the world contains greater wonders than most hobbits are aware of. This set him apart from the beginning, to the Gaffer's dismay.[2] Sam often wandered outside Hobbiton and knew well the area twenty miles around.[3]

On 12 April Sam was in The Green Dragon and discussed with Ted Sandyman the strange rumours he heard around the Shire, including his cousin Hal seeing a "Tree-man", and the Elves who leave Middle-earth. Ted called his cousin crazy and dismissed all rumors. At the evening he returned to the Hill thinking about the hard work he has to do, when he saw Gandalf arriving to visit Frodo, after many years.[4]

[edit] Eavesdropping on Frodo and Gandalf

Sam was one of the "Conspirators" who were summoned by Merry Brandybuck in order to watch over Frodo Baggins and the Ring inherited by Frodo from Bilbo. Being the closest to Frodo, Sam was their "chief investigator" who was to eavesdrop on his talks with Gandalf the Wizard.[5]

He eavesdropped at the discussion discussion between Frodo and Gandalf while working at the garden of Bag End. It was when Gandalf revealed to Frodo that Bilbo's ring is Sauron's One Ring, and on the mention that Frodo must leave the Shire, Sam choked. Initially suspected as a spy, Sam feigned innocent curiosity. Sam begged Gandalf not to turn him into anything "unnatural". Sam then immediately asked to be taken to see Elves when they went away. Gandalf decided to make Sam Frodo's first companion.[4]

[edit] From Hobbiton to Crickhollow

Sam joined Frodo on his journey to Bree and Rivendell, as to outside appearances as Frodo's gardener. He lied that he had the lightest baggage after Frodo complained about the weight of his, and he offered to take more. Sam and Pippin Took followed Frodo to his new house at Crickhollow and when they were encountered by Black Riders Sam mentioned that one of those was asking his father about Frodo. Later they met one of the Wandering Companies of Elves; the experience of meeting Elves the first time left him speechless (although they were different than he expected, "so old and young, and so gay and sad, as it were," as Sam described them[6]); the hobbits camped with them and Sam was like in a living dream, mentioning it as one of the most important events of his life. He was enchanted especially by their singing.[3] The Elves warned him not to leave Frodo on his journey, which Sam denied he would ever think about it.[6]

The next day Sam insisted that Pippin should leave some elven bread for their breakfast. That morning Sam felt changed, feeling that he had to fulfill a role that lies beyond the Shire, something more important than meeting Elves or dragons or seeing mountains.[6]

At Crickhollow where his and the Conspirators' role was revealed. Merry joined the travelers on their way to Bree.

[edit] Crickhollow to Bree

The hobbits decided to risk traveling through the Old Forest to avoid Black Riders. There Old Man Willow put a spell of sleepiness on the four hobbits. Once Merry and Pippin slept by the tree and Frodo bathed his feet in the Withywindle, the willow tree tried to drown Frodo and swallowed Merry and Pippin, but Sam proved the most resistant. He saved Frodo from drowning and tried to start a fire to frighten Old Man Willow but the tree threatened to squeeze the hobbits in two if he did not put it out. They were saved by Tom Bombadil and stayed in his house for two days. Sam was the only hobbit who slept contentedly.[7]

They passed through Barrow-downs and came to the Prancing Pony at Bree where they were joined by "Strider". Sam did not trust the ranger at first, but Frodo accepted his help as they could not get to Rivendell otherwise. Sauron's spies had opened the stables of the inn and all the mounts went loose, therefore before leaving the village, the company purchased a pony from Bill Ferny. Sam loved and tended the animal, and named him Bill, after his owner.[8]

[edit] Fellowship of the Ring

When they reached Rivendell, Sam was beside Frodo's bed while he was recovering from the Morgul-wound he was inflicted on Weathertop. Sam eavesdropped on the Council of Elrond and revealing himself insisted that he accompany Frodo on his quest to destroy the Ring.[9]

Watcher in the Water by John Howe

Sam insisted on bringing Bill along on the journey, saying he would pine, if he did not come.[10] He was dismayed that they had to send him away when they entered Moria. Sam saved Frodo's life as the Watcher in the Water tried to seize him by one of it's tentacles. Sam received a scratch along his scalp for his first orc-kill in the mines.[11]

In Lothlórien, Sam made a verse in honor of Gandalf's fireworks. He, along with Frodo, looked into the Mirror of Galadriel where he saw trees being felled and that the Old Mill had been replaced by a large red-brick building. Sam considered going back to help those at home, but, being warned by Galadriel not to let the mirror decide his choices, Sam decided to finish his task with Frodo. At their parting from Lórien, Galadriel gave Sam a box containing earth from her orchard.[12]

[edit] Journey to Mordor

At the Falls of Rauros Frodo tried to leave the Fellowship secretly by boat, but Sam pursued him and leaped into the water although he could not swim. Thus after the Breaking of the Fellowship, Sam was the only member of the Fellowship to remain with Frodo.[13] When Gollum joined up with them, Sam remained distrustful of his loyalty to Frodo, and treated him with disdain, and partially (though unintentionally) pushed Gollum to betray Frodo in Shelob's Lair.[source?]

As Sam, Frodo, and Gollum travelled, Sam began to worry about their food supplies running short and he, unlike Frodo, still thought of the return journey.[14] In Ithilien, he decided to risk a fire and stew rabbit, but he accidentally let it smoke which attracted the attention of Faramir and his rangers who were also in that region. There, to Sam's delight, he got the chance to see an oliphaunt. Faramir took the hobbits to Henneth Annûn where Sam accidentally revealed the purpose of their quest, but Faramir did not hinder it and Sam judged his quality to be "the very highest.", saying he reminded him of Gandalf.[15]

Gollum led the hobbits to the Stairs of Cirith Ungol, where Sam, in a conversation with Frodo, reflected on whether their adventure would be put in tales and songs to be told by a fireside and noted that they were part of a greater tale than themselves.[16] Gollum betrayed the hobbits in Shelob's lair, hoping to find the Ring among Frodo's bones once Shelob had eaten him. However, Sam pierced Shelob's flesh, being the first person ever to have done so, but not before Shelob seemingly killed Frodo.

Sam and Shelob by John Howe

Grieving for Frodo, Sam took the Ring. At first he was tempted to go on a quest for revenge on Gollum but instead chose to complete the quest. However, upon learning that Frodo still lived, he rescued him from the Tower of Cirith Ungol and returned the Ring to him. Because he held the Ring for a time, he is considered one of the Ring-bearers.[17]

Together, Sam and Frodo crossed Mordor to Mount Doom. Sam himself carrying Frodo up the slope for part of the way. There Gollum tried to attack the hobbits and Sam spared his life now he had an idea of what it had been like for Gollum to be Ring-bearer—a choice which soon led to success their quest. After the destruction of the Ring, both Sam and Frodo were honored by King Elessar for their deeds. [18]

[edit] Later life

Sam and Rosie Cotton by Ted Nasmith

After the War of the Ring, and the Scouring of the Shire, Sam planted saplings in all the places where specially beautiful and beloved trees had been destroyed, and he put a grain of Galadriel's soil at the root of each. He was especially dismayed that the Party Tree was cut down and planted a silver nut in the Party Field where it had once been, and the nut grew into a Mallorn tree.

He married Rose "Rosie" Cotton on 1 May S.R. 1420.[19] In honor for restoring the Shire his family was given the name Gardner.

They had thirteen children: Elanor the Fair, Frodo, Rose, Merry, Pippin, Goldilocks, Hamfast, Daisy, Primrose, Bilbo, Ruby, Robin, and Tolman. When Frodo sailed on the White Ship, at the end of the Third Age, Sam inherited Bag End and was entrusted the Red Book of Westmarch.

After Will Whitfoot resigned his post as Mayor of Michel Delving (the largest town in the Shire and the "unofficial capital"), in Fo.A. 6, Sam was elected Mayor of the Shire for seven consecutive 7-year terms, during which time King Elessar appointed the Mayor as a Counsellor of the North-kingdom. In S.R. 1436 he met King Elessar on the Brandywine Bridge and was awarded the Star of the Dúnedain. In S.R. 1442 he left Tolman Cotton Junior as deputy Mayor so that he rode to Gondor with his wife and his daughter Elanor, maid of honour to Queen Arwen, to spend a year there. When Elanor married Fastred of Greenholm, he requested from Thain Peregrin to make him Warden of Westmarch in S.R. 1462.[20]

After his wife died in Fo.A. 61, on 22 September Sam left Bag End, and went to the Tower Hills where he was last seen by Elanor, entrusting to her the Red Book; according to her, he went to the Grey Havens to sail across the Sea[20] and be reunited with Frodo in the Undying Lands.

[edit] Characteristics

Sam has brown eyes. At some points his hands are described as brown.[21][22] This could indicate he belongs to the Harfoots, as they are described as having browner skin than the Fallohides, to which breed Merry, Pippin and Frodo belong.[23] Or it could simply be a tan from years of working outside.

[edit] Etymology

Samwise means "simple minded" or "half-minded". Gamgee is explained as a corruption of the name Gammidgy, a village in the Shire. Both names are presented as translations of the Westron form of Sam's name Banazîr Galbasi (also spelled Banazîr Galpsi) (q.v. for more information).[24]

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

The Sindarin version of Samwise is Perhael. In the King's Letter, contained in the unpublished "Epilogue", King Elessar refers to Sam as Perhael (i sennui Panthael estathar aen), Sindarin for "Halfwise (who should rather be called Fullwise)."

[edit] 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: Letter 184

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

[edit] 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 Rosie.[25] 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 only two 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. 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.

[edit] In other stories

In the illustrated short story Mr. Bliss, the local police officer is a Sergeant Boffin who - at the behest of Gaffer Gamgee - seeks to lock up Mr Bliss as a thief for failing to pay for his car. Sergeant Boffin also has a son named Sam.[26]

[edit] Portrayal in adaptations

Samwise Gamgee in adaptations
Sam as a Lego mini figure  

1955: The Lord of the Rings (1955 radio series):

Victor Platt provided the voice of Sam.

1978: The Lord of the Rings (1978 film):

Michael Scholes was the voice of Sam, and Billy Barty played him in rotoscoped footage.

1979: The Lord of the Rings (1979 radio series):

The voice of Sam is provided by Lou Bliss.

1980: The Return of the King (1980 film):

Roddy McDowall provided the voice of Sam.

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

A young William Nighy portrays Sam as a warm and caring person. No dialectical or social difference was made.

1992: Tales from the Perilous Realm:

In the two episodes of "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil", Jonathan Adams portrayed Sam with a very rustic accent.

2001-2003: Pán prsteňov (2001-2003 Slovak radio series):

The voice of Samwise Gamgee is provided by Stano Dančiak. Dančiak, though a slightly older actor than the other actors portraying the four hobbits, was well-known for his convincing "smart everyman" roles. This is utilised in the series to emphasize that Sam comes from a more ordinary family and humbler social standing than Frodo, Pippin and Merry. Sam is portrayed as resourceful, honest, loyal, caring, capable of finding bravery when he least expects it. He is also very curious about the world outside of The Shire, including Elven and Dwarven culture and lore. He is addressed almost entirely by his abbreviated name, Sam.

2001-03: The Lord of the Rings (film series):

Sam is played by Sean Astin.

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

Scott Menville provided the voice for Sam in all but the X-box version; there, Cliff Broadway took over. The role of Sam is greatly diminished: after being caught eavesdropping by Gandalf, Sam is to be Frodo's companion, but he does not appear again until Frodo reaches Farmer Maggot.

2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (video game):

Sam is a playable characters in several missions: escape from Osgiliath, Shelob's Lair, Cirith Ungol and the Crack of Doom.

2004: The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring:

Samwise only makes a single appearance in the Lothlorien mission.

2004: The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth:

Unlike most other characters, Frodo and Sam make no appearance in Skirmish battles - they only appear in the storyline campaign.

2006: The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II:

Sam and other Hobbits are no longer permanent units, they are now a temporary power boost available to Free People forces.

2007: The Lord of the Rings Online:

Samwise is first found in Rivendell, preparing for the departure. Later, he is found on Cerin Amroth in Lothlorien, alongside Frodo. A series of session plays depicts Sam, Frodo and Gollum's journey through the Dead Marshes, the Pass of Cirith Ungol and Mordor. The player later meets Sam and Frodo again at the Field of Cormallen.
The game's "Guardian" class ("Tank" in MMO terms) is based on Samwise due to the dedication he showed Frodo. Sawmwise insists that he is no Guardian and not fit to be one - because his heroic deeds have not happened yet. The player has to double-check and discovers that whoever talked of Sam as a great Guardian, apparently had misheard the word "Gardener".

2010: The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest:

Samwise appears in the game as a non-playable character, with Sean Astin reprising his role. He narrates the story of Aragorn to his children, when the latter is to come to the Shire.


  1. 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. 2983. 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, p. 716.


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Breaking of the Fellowship"
  2. 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 Two Towers, "The Taming of Sméagol"
  3. 3.0 3.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "Three is Company"
  4. 4.0 4.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Shadow of the Past"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "A Conspiracy Unmasked"
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "A Short Cut to Mushrooms"
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Old Forest"; J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "In the House of Tom Bombadil"
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "At the Sign of the Prancing Pony"; J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "Strider"; J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "A Knife in the Dark"
  9.  ; J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond"
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Ring Goes South"
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "A Journey in the Dark";J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Bridge of Khazad-dûm"
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Mirror of Galadriel";J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "Farewell to Lórien"
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Breaking of the Fellowship"
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit"; J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The Window on the West"
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The Stairs of Cirith Ungol"
  16. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The Choices of Master Samwise";J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Tower of Cirith Ungol"
  17. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "Mount Doom";
  18. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Chief Days from the Fall of Barad-dûr to the End of the Third Age"
  19. 20.0 20.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "Later Events Concerning the Members of the Fellowship of the Ring"
  20. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The Stairs of Cirith Ungol"
  21. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Tower of Cirith Ungol"
  22. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, "Prologue", "Concerning Hobbits"
  23. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix F, "On Translation"
  24. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 131, (undated, written late 1951)
  25. J.R.R. Tolkien, Mr. Bliss (2011 edition), p. 62
Samwise Gamgee
Gamgee Family
Born: 6 April T.A. 2980 Died: After Fo.A. 61
Preceded by:
Frodo Baggins
13-14 March, T.A. 3019
Followed by:
Frodo Baggins
Preceded by:
Will Whitfoot
Mayor of Michel Delving
Fo.A. 6 - Fo.A. 55
Followed by:

Attendees of the Council of Elrond
Aragorn · Bilbo Baggins · Frodo Baggins · Boromir · Elrond · Erestor · Galdor · (Samwise Gamgee) · Gandalf · Gimli · Glóin · Glorfindel · Legolas
Members of the Fellowship of the Ring
Frodo · Sam · Merry · Pippin · Gandalf · Aragorn · Legolas · Gimli · Boromir
Ring-bearers of the One Ring
Sauron (S.A. 1600 - 3441) · Isildur (S.A. 3441 - 25 September, T.A. 2) · Déagol (c. 2463) · Sméagol (c. 2463 - 2941) · Bilbo Baggins (2941 - 22 September, 3001) · Frodo Baggins (22 September, 3001 - 13 March, 3019) · Samwise Gamgee (13 March, 3019 - 14 March, 3019) · Frodo Baggins (14 March, 3019 - 25 March, 3019) · Gollum (25 March, T.A. 3019)
Also briefly held the Ring: Gandalf (13 April, T.A. 3018) · Tom Bombadil (27 September, T.A. 3018)