Thursday, 19 January 2012

Why my Heart Belongs to Samwise Gamgee

Everyone knows that the true hero of Lord of the Rings is Samwise Gamgee, right? Frodo can be such a wet blanket, slouching around Mordor complaining that he can no longer remember the taste of strawberries. Sam is a hero for even putting up with him. Here's my thinking on it:

1. Frodo has an adventurous nature at the beginning of the trilogy, which is unusual for a hobbit. Samwise does not have an adventurous nature, but he goes with Frodo anyway, thereby already doing something he doesn't want to do. This trend then continues throughout the novel. Admittedly, Sam wanted to see the elves. But once he's seen an elf he still agrees to go to Mordor when he could just go home and marry Rosie Cotton. But no - off to Mordor. Bleuch.

2. And Frodo doesn't even want him to go to Mordor, which makes it even braver. Samwise nearly drowns trying to persuade Frodo to take him along. And Frodo looks in two minds about rescuing Sam, for which I can never forgive him. Horrible hobbit.

3. Sam knows Gollum is bad news and puts up with Frodo doubting him and eventually telling him to get lost. Then Sam single-handedly takes on the scariest evil creature of all Middle Earth to save Frodo, even though Frodo told him to nick off.

4. At this point Sam carries the ring himself and at no point does he moan about not being able to remember the taste of strawberries.

5. And when Frodo gives up like the little hairy nerk he is, Sam carries Frodo up the slopes of Mount Doom. Even though he's let Frodo eat all the lembas bread and drink all the water. So he's doing it without the aid of sustenance. And he carried the ring earlier too. Did I mention that?

6. So at Mount Doom Frodo decides to keep the ring. And Sam doesn't just push him in the lava and go home himself. I know I would have.

7. To top it all, after the whole thing is over, Frodo diminishes into the West with the elves for an easy eternity, while Sam stays, has kids, becomes Mayor for a seven consecutive seven year terms, then buries his beloved Rosie and only then takes a boat to the West. And I bet throughout that time he kept his garden beautifully.

Apparently Tolkien recognised that Samwise was the true hero of the novel, and in a private letter compared Sam to the English soldier during World War One, working so hard, so thanklessly, for those that he considers to be his betters. Tolkien saw this self-effacing bravery as the best characteristic of humanity.

For me, Samwise is the best thing about the Lord of the Ringstrilogy. Possibly this is because I do find Frodo to be a bit on the annoying side. I don't think I'm alone in this, am I?

Who is your ultimate literary hero?


Frances Garrood said...

Sorry sorry sorry...I'm afraid i'ts Mr. Darcy (but in my defence, it was long before Colin Firth and that wet shirt).

Aliya Whiteley said...

Is it the surly element, Frances? What makes Mr Darcy so great?

Maxine said...

All true, but for legions of readers it is Aragorn. They wouldn't have made it that far if it hadn't been....etc....

Aliya Whiteley said...

Yes, beefcake-hero-wise, Aragorn is top. I suppose I prefer the unlikely heroes, though. To be fair, LOTR bursts with heroes. Even Boromir is heroic at the end.

Len Tyler said...

Personally I was always rooting for Gollum ...

Difficult to say who my ultimate literary hero is. I certainly have a soft spot for Denry Machin, because nothing ever seems to daunt him or wipe the smile off his face for more than a few minutes. As Bennett says in concluding the book: "What's he done? Has he ever done a day's work in his life? What great cause is he identified with?" "He's identified," said the speaker, "with the great cause of cheering us all up". A character could do worse.

Aliya Whiteley said...

I hadn't heard of him before, Len - just downloaded it from Project Gutenberg!

Frances Garrood said...

Yes. Surly can be quite attractive. But if I can't have Mr. Darcy, then will Black Beauty do?

PS Am I the only person in the world who HATED the
Lord of the Rings?

Tim Stretton said...

As a teenage reader, super-cool Aragorn was my favourite LOTR character. These days, it's Boromir, who displays actual characterisation and development, all but unique in Tolkien's work.

Away from Tolkien, I always admired Ed Exley in LA Confidential. He is not a likeable character: a sharp careerist with a strongly moralistic core. But he holds on to his beliefs against the backdrop of a corrupt and corrupting LAPD.

Oh, and Jeeves, of course.

Len Tyler said...

Tim's post reminds me - I should have added Philip Marlowe to my list. "I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn't care who knew it."

I'd assumed everyone had heard of Denry Machin by the way - the hero of Arnold Bennett's The Card, for those who haven't. I'd recommend it to anyone.