LOTR: Is Samwise Gamgee the real hero of the books?

I was reading the comments in a recent Reddit thread about this and figured I’d get a better discussion on this here (for a variety of reasons but particularly because the format is more amenable to discussion here).

In short the premise is that while Frodo is the ring bearer he could not possibly have made it without Sam. Not just a little help, Sam carries the day repeatedly.

More than that, and most interesting and something I never thought of before, Sam is one of only two characters to ever willingly give up the One Ring (the other being the enigmatic Tom Bombadil). All other characters who possess the One Ring never willingly hand it over to someone else. Not Bilbo. Not Frodo. Gandalf and Galadriel know better than to even touch it for a second.

I know Samwise was crucial to Frodo in getting him there but I never considered that in many ways he was the one most responsible for their ultimate success in destroying the One Ring. That it was Samwise who possessed the stronger constitution that not even Frodo had when it came to resisting the One Ring.

All that said it has been years since I have seen the movies and decades since I read the books so opinions?

Relevant discussion here

Is Bilbo’s resistance to the Ring stronger than Frodo’s?

Upon completing one of my re-readings of the book, what I took away from it was that Gandalf did way more heavy lifting than any other single character. He even became an army general of sorts, which is a fairly far departure from his usual public image. He actually spent more narrative time as an action hero than as a magician or scholar, especially in Books IV and VI.

Popular demand focuses on those little hairy foot guys who fit the classic English heroism mold of the common man/“little man” (so called) displaying indomitable pluck that ultimately saves the day. So analyses like the OP take it for granted that a hobbit character is the top protagonist. But J.R.R. himself seems to have had his heart more in the saga of the mythological ages deep in the background, and Gandalf was a direct connection to the Undying Lands and the Valar in a time and place where such direct experiences of the numinous were few and far between. So no wonder he got a huge role.

As to the OP: Yeah, I’d have to agree that the very nature of the plucky little hobbits, who have more to them than meets the eye, pretty much automatically foregrounds them as dramatic heroes (as distinct from narrative big wheels like Gandalf). My take on your OP question is that the Frodo-Sam team is the real core of this heroism. You can’t really break up a winning team when it’s the teamwork that saves the day.

Yes, for what you said. Sam is the plucky little Tommy who, in his thousands, selflessly fought for king and country. He’s Frodo’s batman, dragging his officer along when Frodo grew tired.

However, it turns out that Wikipedia agrees so I may be wrong.

Not seeing that as a good discussion.

They claim Bilbo willingly gave up the ring which Bilbo most certainly did not.

He was not as beholden to it as Gollum to be sure but when Gandalf tries to get the ring from him Bilbo never quite manages to hand it over. Gandalf has to get rather forceful with him IIRC.

The only two people in the books to hold the One Ring and hand it back are Tom Bombadil and Samwise (and even Samwise is a little slow to hand it back but manages it…Tom seems utterly unaffected).

Books 4 and 6 of a trilogy???

LOTR is three books (the Hobbit not being a part of LOTR).

I am missing something here.

Yes, he certainly did.

You remember incorrectly. Persuasion, not force. No force was used.

What you’re missing Whack-a-mole, is that this morning George Lucas optioned three new LOTR movie prequels, complete with a Timothy Zahn novelization for each movie, so now the original books are numbered 4, 5, and 6. :eek:


No, he didn’t give it up willingly and maybe we can call it forceful persuasion:

Yes, this annoyed me about the LotR movies as well as the Harry Potter films: the supposed main character (Frodo and Harry) actually do nothing but get dragged around by other people and stand around doing Keanu Reeves impressions. (Dear Keanu: One day, I’d like you to look into the camera with an expression that says you’re not shocked and surprised by what just happened.) I’d say the way the movies treated the LotR franchise, Aragorn was actually the main character and the other stuff was the B plot.

Not really.

Gandalf was one of the Istari. He was of the Maiar. As one of the Maiar he was only surpassed in power by a few others in Middle Earth.

For all his power he keeps a pretty low profile. He is an advisor mostly. He only really wields his true power in special circumstances (e.g. fighting the Balrog which is another Maiar). He steps in there because absolutely no one else has a chance in hell against it.

Beyond that, despite great power, he leaves most of the heavy lifting to everyone else. One would think he could go all Rambo and toss fireballs and lightning willy-nilly blasting anything that gets in their way but he doesn’t.

This misses a subtle point.

The One Ring was hugely powerful and utterly corrupting. The ONLY creatures that could possibly carry it to its destruction were the Hobbits (and even then in particular Frodo…not just any Hobbit would do). Aragorn would be utterly ruined by the ring. For all of the ass kicking Aragorn does it would come to nothing if the ring is not destroyed.

Yeah the Hobbits are not as bad ass when it comes to mass carnage but they are not supposed to be. Aragorn is holding the line while they sneak in. It’s akin to everyone else busting their ass so Luke can sneak in and shoot the exhaust port on the Death Star.

But they all do. Apart from Boromir. :slight_smile:

Frodo gives it up at the Council of Elrond. He also offers it to Galadriel.

Samwise wasn’t taxed by carrying the Ring.

Not really. Samwise wasn’t close enough to the Ring for long enough. In the films, at least, the task is split: Frodo carries the mental burden; Samwise the physical.

Well, we do not know what would have happened if Galadriel said, “Really? I can have the Ring? Awesome, hand it over!”

Bilbo is at first amenable to giving the ring to Gandalf when asked but when it comes to actually having to hand it over he can’t…not without prodding.

Is there anyone in Middle Earth who can so much as touch the Ring and not become beholden to it? Even Gandalf and Galadriel (who both have substantial power) refuse to touch it for even a second.

Samwise was holding the Ring and gave it back (as did Bombadil…the only other character to do so). Isildur couldn’t give it up after defeating Sauron.

I also though that while the Ring Bearer suffered the worst effects of the Ring it still happened that the Ring exerted an effect on those nearby (to wit Boromir). Although admittedly I am not sure if it was the Ring or Boromir being Boromir.

The Fellowship of the Ring is Book 1 and Book 2
The Two Towers is Book 3 and Book 4
The Return of the King is Book 5 and Book 6

Book 1 covers the journey to Rivendell and everything before it
Book 2 runs from the Council of Elrond to the Breaking of the Fellowship
Book 3 follows everyone who isn’t Frodo and Sam from Boromir’s death to Gandalf and Pippin’s arrival on the borders of Gondor
Book 4 follows Frodo and Sam from the Emyn Muil and the taming of Smeagol to Shelob’s lair and the capture of Frodo
Book 5 covers the war in Gondor and ends with the last Army of the Free being swamped by Sauron’s forces before the Black Gate
Book 6 begins with Sam’s rescue of Frodo and covers all the subsequent events up to Frodo’s departure into the West.

All of this you can confirm by reaching down your copy of LotR from the bookshelf. :wink:

LOTR was originally meant to be published as a single-volume work (divided into 6 ‘books’). Traditionally, the series has been published in 3 “volumes”, with each volume divided into 2 “books”.

Books I and II - The Fellowship of the Ring
Books III and IV - The Two Towers
Books V and VI - The Return of the King

ETA: missed it by that -><-much!

Cool although to be fair I read the books about 30 years ago and my copy is in a box under a shitload of other boxes in my storage locker so I’ll take your word for it. :slight_smile:

The main difference with Luke though is that his decisions actually drove the plot, his actions actually had an effect, and other characters had to react to what he did. The story of Star Wars is Luke’s story, beginning to end (I’m currently denying the existence of the prequels.) Frodo, on the other hand, was literally dragged along to the inevitable conclusion. In character development terms, the key factor is does the character learn, grow, and change between the beginning and end of the story? I would argue that Frodo did none of those, and actually of all the characters in all the books, he did them the least of any of the characters. It actually makes more sense if Frodo was changed to Bilbo, where the character growth and development had already occurred in The Hobbit, and then he could just trundle along in the next three books. When I read the series, I got this really odd feeling that for some reason, Bilbo was supposed to be the Frodo character, but was replaced at the last minute.

That’s right and I mistyped. I should have said G. is an action hero in Books III and V. I counted wrong. :smack:

I think that’s shown in the film: she’d become a dark and terrible queen.

Well yes, but I’m talking about Frodo, who handed over the Ring at the Council of Elrond.

Boromir was most susceptible, possibly due to his pride.

And Frodo offers the ring to Aragorn, who refuses; Faramir has the opportunity to take the Ring and also refuses.