By Bernie Bell
I was having a conversation with a young person of my acquaintance, about how hard it is to choose which is your favourite film. She unhesitatingly said ’Lord of the Rings.’ I asked had she read the books, the answer was no – and I went off on one, about the way the films played fast and loose with the books of ‘The Hobbit’, and ‘Lord of the Rings’. When I first saw the films, I was furious, then decided to watch them as films, as entertainment – pretty much divorced from the books – which they are. That’s another ramble. One thing, I said how the interminable slog of Frodo and Sam Gamgee through the Badlands, got right up my nose, including Sam’s dog-like devotion to Frodo.
My young chum said, that Tolkien said, that the true hero isn’t Frodo, it’s Sam. I question this, and here’s why……
Maybe it’s just my personal reaction to ways of behaving, but….I do find Sam to be an annoying little ****. He’s probably not to blame – constant putting down by the grouchy old scrote, Gaffer Gamgee, won’t have given the lad much reason to find himself and his own worth, hence the hero worship of Frodo.
The other, main thing which angers me about Sam is – he has no compassion for Gollum. Gollum deserves compassion – he’s been eaten alive by something stronger than himself – you could say the same is true of Sam – he’s been eaten alive and worn down by the constant criticism of the Gaffer. There are different ways in which a character can have their strength of will taken from them. Gollum is also very annoying, but he has very good reason to be the way he is.
Gollum is very much deserving of compassion. When Frodo says he should have killed him, when he had the chance, Gandalf answers – “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement”.
Just so – and poor Gollum, didn’t stand much chance – it was only the Hobbit blood in him, that gave him the strength that he had, to withstand the will of The Ring. The men had succumbed, and become Wraiths. Gollum is a scrawny little devil, but he’s not a wraith. There is some strength in there – and even still some strength of will – it’s what’s keeping him going, towards the end.
Sam has no compassion for him – which is something I always find questionable in people – lack of compassion.
And then there’s the jealousy. He’s jealous of Gollum, because of Frodo’s interest in him, and his connection with him, through the Ring. The Ring consumed Sméagol, it tried to consume Bilbo – nearly succeeded – it’s there in him and with him, right to the end. And, it tries to consume Frodo – they are all linked, and Sam resents this link, this deep, deep connection between his beloved ‘master’ , and Gollum. It’s a strong link. A very, very strong link.
And, what’s with the ‘Mister Frodo‘ business? It’s always ‘Mister Frodo’. Ok, Sam was Frodo’s gardener, then, on the journey, surely they become more like companions and equals? Yet Sam, I believe, chooses to see Frodo, and refer to Frodo, as his Master, because he has a naturally servile disposition – thanks to the odious old Gaffer again.
Presumably, Tolkien did say this about who is the ‘hero’, but I question why – the man was a genius, he wrote books of great understanding and compassion – understanding of the ways of Men, and Hobbits, and many forms of Being. Sam as the true hero? I simply can’t accept that – would I dare to argue with Tolkien? Yes, if he was here, I would, or, at least I’d ask him why he said that, and what he meant by it.
For me, The Hobbits are the heroes – and the race that Sméagol is from, had Hobbit blood in them – it’s those tough little creatures, that are the heroes, who just keep going and get on with what needs to be done. They don’t think of themselves as heroes, as many of the other ‘bigger’ characters do, and so, are maybe more essentially ‘heroic’? https://theorkneynews.scot/2017/11/05/keep-on-keeping-on/.
Sam is a Hobbit, but a very cap–tugging kind of one. Alright, he’s prepared to even stand up to Elrond , and insist that he will accompany ‘Mister Frodo’ on the journey – because of his devotion to Frodo – which is a good thing, and shows that he can have strength of character when he feels the need to – in the service of his ‘Master’.
But Sam Gamgee the true hero of the tale? A big question mark. It could even be said, that Gollum is the ‘true hero’ in that …he survived carrying the ring, for so long, he persisted in following the Ring, against all odds, and, ultimately, he destroyed it. The Hobbits are the heroes, Sméagol was some kind of a Hobbit related being – Gollum ultimately got rid of the ring. Though I suppose it could be said that part of his, almost un-natural, strength, was from the Ring.
I’m put in mind of those who damn Judas Iscariot, and just damn him, without considering what happened – without him, the tale could not have unfolded – the necessary ending to the life of Jesus, would not have happened. https://theorkneynews.scot/2018/03/26/easter-musings/
Some of Sam’s behaviour, is prompted by petty jealousy of the link between Frodo and Gollum. The murder of Desdemona by Othello, is brought about by the petty jealousy of Iago – a relatively minor character, who’s jealousy did great harm, by acting on the weakness of his….master. Jealousy can eat a person up, and cause mistaken actions, and ways of seeing, as much as other ways in which a character can lose their better, stronger ‘self’, to an influence from outside them.
And, I suppose, having said all that – Sam had to play his part, too – as, I think, Tolkien is also said to have said – Frodo wouldn’t have got far without Sam.
I’m afraid he just annoys me though, and the idea of him as the true hero – wellllllllll…………………….
Right then, that’s my ramble/rant. It will probably bring down coals of fire on my head – but, well, I’m just throwing some ideas out there, to see what folk make of them.
It’s good to talk – keeps the ideas flowing.