Tuesday 21 September 2021

Sam's character was transformed by encountering the High Elves of Woody End, much as was Frodo's

I tend to think of the character of Sam Gamgee as being stable throughout the Lord of the Rings; but that is not really true. 

When the quest begins, Sam has been instructed by Gandalf to accompany Frodo - but he agree mainly because he wants to meet with elves. In the early phase of the quest - before setting-out and for the first day of the journey; Sam is not explicitly and obviously devoted to Frodo, in the complete and self-sacrificing way he was later. He seems more like a normal, faithful domestic servant. 

But the encounter with High Elves in Woody End seems to have had a transformative effect on Sam - much as it did on Frodo; after Gildor named him 'Elf Friend'

He looked at Sam Gamgee, and discovered that Sam was watching him. ‘Well, Sam!’ he said. ‘What about it? I am leaving the Shire as soon as ever I can - in fact I have made up my mind now not even to wait a day at Crickhollow, if it can be helped.’

‘Very good, sir!’

‘You still mean to come with me?’

‘I do.’ ‘It is going to be very dangerous, Sam. ‘It is already dangerous. Most likely neither of us will come back.’

‘If you don’t come back, sir, then I shan’t, that’s certain,’ said Sam. "Don’t you leave him!" they said to me. "Leave him!" I said. "I never mean to. I am going with him, if he climbs to the Moon, and if any of those Black Rulers try to stop him, they’ll have Sam Gamgee to reckon with", I said. They laughed.’

‘Who are 'they', and what are you talking about?’

‘The Elves, sir. We had some talk last night; and they seemed to know you were going away, so I didn’t see the use of denying it. Wonderful folk, Elves, sir! Wonderful!’

‘They are,’ said Frodo. ‘Do you like them still, now you have had a closer view?’

‘They seem a bit above my likes and dislikes, so to speak,’ answered Sam slowly. ‘It don’t seem to matter what I think about them. They are quite different from what I expected - so old and young, and so gay and sad, as it were.’

Frodo looked at Sam rather startled, half expecting to see some outward sign of the odd change that seemed to have come over him. It did not sound like the voice of the old Sam Gamgee that he thought he knew. But it looked like the old Sam Gamgee sitting there, except that his face was unusually thoughtful.

‘Do you feel any need to leave the Shire now - now that your wish to see them has come true already?’ he asked.

‘Yes, sir. I don’t know how to say it, but after last night I feel different. I seem to see ahead, in a kind of way. I know we are going to take a very long road, into darkness; but I know I can’t turn back. It isn’t to see Elves now, nor dragons, nor mountains, that I want - I don’t rightly know what I want: but I have something to do before the end, and it lies ahead, not in the Shire. I must see it through, sir, if you understand me.’

‘I don’t altogether. But I understand that Gandalf chose me a good companion. I am content. We will go together.’

So; Sam is not named an Elf Friend, but he is changed by the experience of conversing with the Elves; perhaps when the Elves said "Don't you leave him!" - this was partly an enhancement of what he already felt, partly a clarification; and perhaps also the injunction was also taken as an order from those of greater wisdom and authority. 

At any rate, from then onwards - and permanently, Sam put Frodo first.   


No Longer Reading said...


It looks like the elves have the capability to ennoble other beings, to bring out good qualities that are latent within them, like how they awakened the Ents.

Bruce Charlton said...

@NLR - Yes, I think so - but especially the High Elves who were born in Valinor (and had lived with the gods). Galadriel had a similarly ennobling effect on Gimli.

Of course, it does not necessarily happen (Boromir was not ennobled by meeting Galadriel, nor Pippin by Gildor); and some of the High Elves mentioned in the Silmarillion became evil in nature and effect - such as Feanor, the greatest elf of all; who also corrupted most of his sons.

Anonymous said...

Very good - thanks! And your attention to these details has got me wondering if it is, in part, a deliberate if quieter, more intimate analogue to the effects of Finrod's encounter with the kindred and followers of Bëor The Old.

David Llewellyn Dodds

Bruce Charlton said...

@DLD - I think that much the same was implied in that episode - on its larger scale.

It strikes me now that it was partly because they had chosen to cease to interact with Men, that the Eldar became tired and disillusioned and left Middle Earth: they were failing to perform their role, and might as well give up.

Brick Hardslab said...

We've discussed this before on this blog. I believe that the act of naming Sam as elf friend would be rejected out of hand by Sam as getting above himself. He's plain Sam and not given to meddle in the affairs of his betters. He would probably consider it silly to name plain old Sam an elf friend even though they clearly had a profound effect on him