5 Reasons Samwise Gamgee Is a Major LOTR Hero

By Shannon O'Toole

Since 2003, Tolkien Reading Day has been celebrated every year on March 25 to coincide with the destruction of the Ring in The Lord of the Rings. As it draws closer, we are celebrating the characters and themes that fans of Middle-earth continue to love.

When fans of The Lord of the Rings are asked who they think is one of the most heroic characters in the story, Samwise Gamgee is often the top answer. He is courageous, wears his heart on his sleeve, and never gives up on Frodo Baggins or their quest. Here are our top five reasons that Samwise Gamgee is one of the most heroic characters in The Lord of the Rings.

5. He is loyal to the very end.

The audience meets Samwise early in The Lord of the Rings trilogy as he and Frodo enjoy the festivities at Bilbo’s birthday party. Sam’s loyalty is first put to the test as he eavesdrops on a conversation regarding the Ring between Gandalf and Frodo. He is immediately charged with joining Frodo on his journey and goes along without complaint.

Together, they face many dangers and Sam has multiple opportunities to return to the safety of the Shire. Instead, at the Council of Elrond he volunteers to accompany Frodo on his quest to destroy the Ring. He knows that the journey leading there was dangerous and the road ahead promises more perils. Despite this, he refuses to let his friend go without him.

Sam Never Breaks a Promise

When Frodo tries to leave Amon Hen on his own after the Uruk-hai attack, Sam follows him. Frodo tells Sam that he is going to Mordor alone, to which Sam replies, “Of course you are … and I’m coming with you!” He follows Frodo’s boat into the water even though he cannot swim. When Frodo rescues him, he tells Frodo that he made a promise to Gandalf to not leave him, saying, “And I don’t mean to … I don’t mean to.”

Even when Frodo sends Sam away on the Stairs of Cirith Ungol, Sam ultimately returns to his best friend’s side and saves his life. There is no doubt that without Sam’s unwavering loyalty to Frodo, the quest to destroy the Ring would have failed.

4. He speaks up, even when it’s hard.

Between the Nazgûl, cave trolls, and hordes of Orcs, Frodo and Sam faced their fair share of danger even in the early days of their quest. As the two Hobbits break off from the rest of the Fellowship and draw closer to Mordor, they find themselves facing additional threats. Chief among these is the treacherous Gollum joining their small company in Emyn Muil. As their new companion guides them closer to Mordor, the Ring starts to take firmer hold of Frodo’s heart and mind.

Where Frodo’s compassion leads him to trust in Gollum, Sam remains wary. He sees how Gollum’s desire for the Ring makes him deceitful and discourages Frodo from trusting him. Eventually, Frodo realizes that Gollum’s betrayal was inevitable when he abandons him to Shelob. He simultaneously recognizes that Sam was the one he should have trusted all along.

True Friends Tell the Truth

Sam also expresses concern about the hold that the Ring has on Frodo on several occasions. Frodo’s reactions to these assertions are increasingly defensive as they draw closer to Mordor. For a time, Sam even goes so far as to offer to carry the Ring. He tells Frodo hard truths repeatedly that Frodo refuses to see. Even when Frodo reacts with anger at times, Sam persists in telling Frodo what he sees for his own well-being, which requires a courage all its own.

3. He is optimistic in the face of failure.

Sam’s prevailing spirit is one of his greatest strengths. It is a driving force behind his ability to persevere. Beyond this, it is a constant source of encouragement for Frodo as his strength wavers. In The Fellowship of the Ring, he speaks with great excitement about going to see the Elves as Strider leads them through the wild. He points out Bilbo’s trolls as Frodo lays wounded from the Morgul blade. He rejoices in seeing Oliphaunts, despite the giant elephant-like creatures carrying enemy soldiers.

Even after Frodo holds his sword to Sam’s throat, Sam delivers the most uplifting speech of the entire trilogy, telling Frodo that “even darkness must pass.” While it might not seem like it, he continues, there is good left in the world and “it’s worth fighting for.” Later, as they languish in the desolate lands of Mordor, Sam finds starlight shining through the bleak sky above. He marvels at it, telling Frodo, “There is light and beauty up there that no shadow can touch.”

Sam’s Hope Is a Gift

Sam eventually acknowledges that there likely will be no return journey to the Shire. Despite this resignation, he tries to call the Shire back to Frodo’s mind. He speaks of the birds and flowers and fields and strawberries in spring, trying to relieve some of Frodo’s anguish. In the face of peril, darkness, and even acceptance of their likely death, Sam’s ability to find light in the bleakest of conditions endures.

2. He is courageous when it counts most.

Sam and Frodo face their first real enemy at Weathertop when five Nazgûl surround them. Despite being half their size, Sam is the first to hurl himself at the cloaked wraiths. He follows Frodo’s boat into the Anduin despite not knowing how to swim. He tries to fight off Faramir and his men even though he is outnumbered and outsized. When he is called to action, even against unfavorable odds, Sam responds with bravery.

Sam’s most remarkable moment of courage, however, happens when he faces the giant spider Shelob. Armed with Sting and the Phial of Galadriel, he takes on the eight-legged terror to save Frodo. Although many had tried and failed to escape Shelob’s spindly grasp before, Sam emerges victorious. Shelob retreats, gravely wounded, back into her lair.

Towering Bravery

He first believes that Frodo is dead but learns that he is alive as Orcs take him back to the Tower of Cirith Ungol. In another feat of incredible courage, Sam enters the tower, fighting off the Orcs that are still there, and rescues Frodo. Sam faces astoundingly unfair odds with a frequency and fearlessness unmatched by any other character in the series.

1. Sam has an iron will to see things through.

Sam’s courage, optimism, honesty, and loyalty are all rooted in the strength of his will. He contends with exhaustion, fear, and disheartening odds yet still finds the drive to press on mentally, physically, and emotionally.

His greatest moment of strength happens on the slopes of Mount Doom. He recognizes that the chances of returning home are all but gone. He sees how weak Frodo is, and still tries to lift his spirits. As Frodo despairs and reflects on all the Ring has done to him, Sam summons what strength he has left. He tells Frodo, “Then let us be rid of it — once and for all! Come on, Mr. Frodo. I can’t carry it for you … but I can carry you! Come on!”

The End of All Things … Except Friendship

Sam hoists Frodo — and the considerable weight of the Ring — onto his shoulders. He set his mind, heart, and body to the task of freeing Frodo from his burden and saving Middle-earth. It is no wonder that once the Ring was finally destroyed, Frodo tells Sam, “I’m glad to be with you, Samwise Gamgee … here at the end of all things.”

As J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in The Lord of the Rings, “A sane being would have given up, but Samwise burned with a magnificent madness, a glowing obsession to surmount every obstacle, to find Frodo, destroy the Ring, and cleanse Middle-earth of its festering malignancy. Fail, perhaps. And try once more. A thousand, thousand times if need be, but he would not give up the quest.”

Frodo himself called Sam “Samwise the Brave,” recognizing that his ability to continue to go on was in large part because of Sam. Without Sam’s strengths and heroics, it is doubtful that Frodo would have survived and that Middle-earth would have been saved.

What’s your favorite thing about Samwise Gamgee? Share your thoughts with other fans at side.show/geekgroup, and don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow!