Throughout the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy written by J.R.R. Tolkein, the reader is tossed back and forth between the company of two hobbits and their fellowship with a wizard, a man, an elf, and a dwarf. While the fellowship is composed of various characters of noble statures who all make moral choices, Samwise Gamgee seems to take on one of the most interesting roles in the narrative. From the very beginning, he is shown as a sidekick character, devout follower, and the best example of what a “Hobbit” should be. But throughout the books, he shows that he is more than just this sidekick. He makes tough decisions during his quest with Frodo Baggins (soon joined by Gollum), and these ultimately affect the outcome of their quest. It is his love, devotion, hope, and loyalty to Frodo that helps get the little company to Mt. Doom to ultimately destroy the ring. All of these traits are extensively exemplified throughout the Bible as basic teachings and moral understandings, and Sam showcases these actions and feelings in a beautiful sense.
Sam’s character in the narrative plays the important role of companion to Frodo. He is Frodo’s support mentally, emotionally, physically, and even religiously, and he can also be considered a constant reminder of the past and the Shire, because even though Sam really wants to go home and plant in his little garden, he knows he has to fulfill his quest with Frodo. He goes wherever his master goes. However, what is interesting about his character is that he is an altruistic one and revolves his morals, emotions, and choices all for the benefit of Frodo. In this sense, it makes him very selfless. At the core, Sam is a very ethical character, but Frodo and the journey itself warp his ethical decision-making process at times.
In the very beginning, he choose to eavesdrop on the conversation between Frodo and Gandalf about the Ring, and this is what sets him up to be Frodo’s companion as punishment for listening. Then, by obeying it and leaving the boundaries of the Shire, all of these simple and basic choices illustrate, in the beginning, his devotion to both his friendships and the duties of the journey. When he goes against the nature and society of hobbits by venturing out of the Shire, the comfort zone. His choice to leave the Shire is, in Sam’s case, a prominent one since he is a gardner for the Baggins of Bag End and leaves all he ever knows for a greater purpose. During this entire journey, he becomes much closer to Frodo. In a religious sense, this could be reminiscent of the disciples and when they left not for their own benefit, but for the benefit of Christ and his teachings. Although Sam is not necessarily a disciple character, he exemplifies qualities seen in one which helps to further develop his role in the narrative.
As the fellowship continues on their journey, they become acquainted with Galadriel, the lady of Light, and she reveals the innermost desires of fellowship. Tolkein writes:
“If you want to know, I felt as if I hadn’t got nothing on, and I didn’t like it. She seemed to be looking inside me and asking me what I would do if she gave me the chance of flying back home to the Shire to a nice little hole with - with a bit of a garden of my own.” (Tolkein, 348).
Keeping in mind that the was naked in front of Galadriel, she visualizes Sam’s deepest desires inside the realm of his own mind. But Sam chooses to look away from the Shire because he knows that his calling is elsewhere. He has always wanted to get out to visit the elves and see other things, however, he choses to remain with the company of Frodo in hopes of seeing the quest come to fruition. This moment exemplifies the biblical premise that nothing is hidden from God, including ones deepest desires. Galadriel is the closest thing to any sort of divinity in Middle Earth due to her relationship with the divine Valar. When Sam is in her presence, he feels naked. This reflects upon Hebrews 4:13 and John 14:1, both of which state:
“Neither is there any creature invisible in his sight: but all things are naked and open to his eyes, to whom are speeches,” (Douay-Rheims Bible, Hebrews 4:13).
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me,” (NIV, John 14:1).
By Galadriel exposing Sam’s soul, she shows the troubles in his heart, but he chooses to selflessly set his own wishes aside in order to protect and support Frodo throughout the quest.
During The Two Towers, Gollum joins the little company of the Hobbits by submitting not only to Frodo, but more importantly the One Ring. His presence causes Sam to feel uncomfortable and almost as if he were a burden, and he does not even like Gollum to begin with. There is no trust, and neither character likes the other. While journeying across the marshes and up to Mt. Doom, Sam constantly battles within himself on whether or not to kill Gollum. He realizes that he has so many opportunities to do so, but he chooses to go against those thoughts, simply because he knows that his presence and knowledge of Mt. Doom will help in the long run. Sam truly portrays this choice once they meet Faramir and his company. Simply put, Faramir and his men spot Gollum and question whether or not to shoot:
“If Sam had dared, he would have said, ‘Yes,’ quicker and louder. He could not see, but he guessed well enough from their words what they were looking at,” (Tolkein, 669-670).
By Sam choosing to not voice this opinion, he essentially helps to preserve the pitiful life of Gollum. Preserving any sort of life in the Bible is evident with Christ sparing the life of a prostitute or even with bringing Lazarus back from the dead.
Everything that Sam does is for Frodo’s benefit, not his own, because he chooses to let go of his own wants and desires to solely focus on the needs of Frodo. This is also extremely prominent with his biggest decision in the trilogy which takes place in Shelob’s Lair. Frodo is injured by Shelob, a dark and nasty spider-like creature, and Sam believes him to be dead. So he then becomes the seventh ring-bearer because he wants to see the quest completed, simply because he knows it would mean that Frodo would not have died in vain. He chooses to bear Frodo’s burden by taking the Ring up to Mt. Doom. But once he learns that Frodo is alive by eavesdropping on orcs, he rushes to save him. He chooses to let go of everything to go back and save Frodo instead of moving on with the Ring to Mt. Doom by himself. The dedication that he shows towards Frodo is an inspiring one, and one that rings true with the bond between both Christ and Saint John the Baptist. Christ considered him his best friend, so to speak, and both became very close, with John even calling him “master.” With Sam taking on the burden of the ring, he essentially takes the burden of Christ by being martyred, which Saint John the Baptist was.
During his time in Shelob’s lair, Sam undergoes many moral changes and transfigurations, even if these transfigurations are only short lived. Tolkein writes:
“Sam did not wait to wonder what was to be done, or whether he was brave, or loyal, or filled with rage. He sprang forward with a yell, and seized his master’s sword in his left hand. Then he charged. No onslaught more fierce was ever seen in the savage world of beasts, where some desperate small creature armed with little teeth, alone, will spring upon a tower of horn and hide that stands above its fallen mate,” (Tolkein, 711).
Soon after this, he undergoes a transformation, although a short one, when he grasps the phial of Galadriel to help defeat Shelob. Although it does not last long, he accomplishes the task of destroying her. It is in this moment, this choice, where he musters up as much confidence and strength as he can (although fueled by rage) by taking the sword Sting from Frodo and slashing out at Shelob. In biblical terms, the action is similar to Luke 22:42:
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me, yet not my will, but yours be done,” (King James Version, Luke 22:42).
In a sense, it is reminiscent of Jesus making the decision to die without any doubts or reservations. After this, Sam goes back to his Frodo, and continues to say, “Master, dear Master,” (Tolkein, 713). It is here when he completely and totally gives up all will for himself and becomes completely selfless, choosing to live for Frodo and complete the quest for destroying the Ring.
Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings trilogy plays on multiple moral choices depicted in the Bible, but are each not specifically represented by a certain figure. Sam essentially represents loyalty, devotion, hope, stability, friendship, and the overwhelming power of love and a willing heart. These aspects are frequently taught as lessons within the Bible for creating a basic sense of morality. By Sam being composed of all of these essential elements, he pushes the quest forward and without him, it most likely would have failed. The choices he makes directly reflects upon the needs of Frodo, not of himself, and thus shows how selfless and devoted he is, especially when Galadriel exposes those to him and he turns the other cheek. Without Sam and these choices, the entire quest would have been doomed and Frodo would have never made it out of the Shire.