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Oh Sam

May 15, 2005

“Do not be too sad, Sam. You cannot be always torn in two. You will have to be one and whole, for many years. You have so much to enjoy, and to be, and to do.” – Frodo

I finished Return of the King today, and even though I’ve known the story for longer than I’ve been able to read, it made me cry again, just like it always does. Every time I find more to love about these books. This time I found myself rejecting the common criticsm that the books are too long and detailed. Perhaps it is because I read quickly, but I enjoy the fact that the story takes time to play out. It’s richness, depth of color, and vast landscape play across my mind more vividly than any movie. Tolkien had a gift to describe both the beautiful and the terrible, and that makes the books more enjoyable. It doesn’t make sense to me to want to rush through the story, and miss the landscape and the people that live there. I’d rather stop and enjoy it all as I journey with the characters. But that’s just me.

More than that, though, I got out of it what I always do, and that would be the wonderful theme of friendship. Merry and Pippin are childhood playmates who grow up together and cling to each other against a world so large they can hardly comprehend it. Legolas and Gimli cross the barrier of feuding races to find a truer friendship for their hardship. All love and respect Aragorn and Gandalf, and those two return the sentiment. The members of the fellowship show selfless friendship and love for their companions, and none moreso than Samewise Gamgee. If I could be like any one person of my choosing, I believe I’d choose Sam’s characteristics.
Some people spend their lives working for God, or some other higher power. Not finding myself a believer at the moment, I find that I want to work for my friends. Perhaps I’ve just read about Sam too much. In Fellowship we met Sam and Frodo, and find Sam simply a good servent to his master. By the end of the book, though, we begin to get a glimmer of how deeply Sam really cares for Frodo. He can’t bare to watch his master go off alone, without his Sam there to help. Two Towers continues to expand on this friendship. Sam realizes slowly, telling the reader as it happens, how much Frodo means to him, until at the end in Cirith Ungol, he decides to abandon the quest to save Frodo. Finally, in Return of the King, all pretense is put aside and Sam’s simple, total, platonic love for Frodo shines through. “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you, and it as well” he cries halfway up Mount Doom and does carry Frodo, until he is too exhausted to do so any longer. As the world falls down around them, after the distruction of the ring, they lie down beside each other, holding hands, just content to die together if that is how it must end. “I’m glad you’re with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam” says Frodo, and they close their eyes.
Much to their suprise, they do wake up again, saved by the eagles. Their adventures come to an end, and Sam believes that they will pass out the rest of their days, master and gardener, quietly in Bag End. Unfortunately, Frodo has been too sorely hurt, and instead sails to Valinor, the Undying Lands, the only place where he can actually be healed. Sam at first is hurt by this, but realizes that it is better for his master, and freely lets Frodo go. Their parting is wonderful and yet one of the saddest things I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Frodo sails away into a beautiful land, and Sam is left with Hobbiton.
“Well, I’m back.” He said to his wife as he comes home from seeing Rosie off. After journeying so far with Frodo, not letting his master go on alone ever, Sam can finally let Frodo go, because in Sam’s mind it isn’t about himself, but Frodo. To serve the one he loves, that is the highest calling Sam has in his life, and defines the role of true friend, at least to me, to perfection.
So yes, I’m a sucker for Samwise Gamgee. A more beautiful person has never graced the pages of any book I’ve read. And if, perhaps, some will tease about the relationship Frodo and Sam have, well perhaps now they can understand why I would get upset at hearing this right as I am saying goodbye to some of my closest friends. Maybe some day, though, I’ll be able to live up to Sam’s standard, and finally be a friend worthy of those I really care about.

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