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PostPosted: Thu Mar 04, 2010 1:34 pm 
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Tolkien seemed to think - in my very humble and unlearned opinion - that he had to justify or explain a lot that he would have been wiser to leave be.


There's an article floating around online that someone or other :P, I think, linked to on Facebook that touches on this topic. I think his motivation for doing so is twofold: he felt obligated to defend his work as an artist to some extent, not to his critics but to his peers, and he felt a need especially to justify it theologically. This last is very much tied into the question of Gollum and redemption, a subtle treatment which really does stack up well against the likes of Graham Greene, the other major Catholic English writer of the mid-century. interested in such matters.

*corrected attribution*

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 04, 2010 4:03 pm 
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"he felt a need to justify it theologically" is what I was driving at. But I veered away for various reasons.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 05, 2010 2:30 am 
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Well, it's in the Letters too IIRC, so it's hard to miss. It was important to him that the work not be perceived of as heretical or even objectionable.

As far as Sam's characterization in particular goes, it's easy to look at a character you've created after the fact and say all sorts of silly things about him or her. :P Maybe he was connecting Sam with particular people he may have drawn on, people who did fit the bill. Although I can actually see Sam's conceit in a way...he is doggedly certain that his grasp of things is not only the best one but the only one that makes any sense at all. He is often right, of course, but that doesn't make the POV any less conceited. :)

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 05, 2010 7:17 am 
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Sass, I have written extensively in the past about that letter about Sam, and particularly how Tolkien expressed so well feelings that I long had about Sam before I ever read Tolkien's Letters, or discussed Tolkien with anyone, or read any scholarly works about Tolkien's writings. I firmly believe that nothing in that letter actually contradicts what you said. But I'll have to wait until I get back from vacation to say more, because my time is limited.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 05, 2010 1:45 pm 
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Found the link:

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v23/n22/jenny-turn ... ng-tolkien

2001, and many of you have no doubt seen it, but it's thoughtful and touches gently on some tender areas.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 05, 2010 6:44 pm 
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Voronwë_the_Faithful wrote:
Sass, I have written extensively in the past about that letter about Sam, and particularly how Tolkien expressed so well feelings that I long had about Sam before I ever read Tolkien's Letters, or discussed Tolkien with anyone, or read any scholarly works about Tolkien's writings. I firmly believe that nothing in that letter actually contradicts what you said. But I'll have to wait until I get back from vacation to say more, because my time is limited.


Hurry back!

I very much look forward to your reasons for saying that nothing contradicts
the points I think that I made.

*Off to read Ax's link/ watch the World Champion NY Yankees ST game: Multi-tasking at its best.*

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"Too many Fingolfins, not enough Sams."

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 3:53 am 
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Sass - I'm responding to your first post, here, as if you just made it, and I just read it. So I'm disregarding, for the moment, the insight that followed in your thread in the four pages it spans.



My first few readings of LOTR, I didn't really care for Sam as a character. Of course, I was only a child, and what Sam was went right over my head. He didn't fit my thought for an important character in a work of fiction: I expected more ... nobility, heroism - the kind of things that sets "them", the people who are worthy of being important characters in stories, apart from "us". Us ordinary people.

So, based merely on that, I would say that yes, indeed. Sam is us. He's everyone that's ever quietly worked away at their task, in the background and unpraised for much of their labour, yet essential to some larger whole.

As for falling into the story: I am fond of recounting that LOTR is the only book, ever, that I disappeared into to the extent that a sudden, startling happening in the narrative caused me to, quite literally, drop the book in surprise and fright when first I read it!

And now, to mention the elves. For years I read books ( and I may still read them like this ) because they allow me to step into a world that is not the one I have to live in every day. I scoffed at the thought of reading modern novels set in modern settings - why do I want any more of that? I can step outside my door, or read the paper, or talk to any number of people, and take in much of that. But books - now, books I want to be that rare escape from this world. I want books to grip me and draw me in and remove me from the world. Because of this desire, LOTR has always held a special place in my bookshelf. Heck, about a dozen special places. I have many copies of LOTR, and I enjoy reading them all. Reading includes the volume one reads from, whether it is my 1971 edition, without anything but the prologue and Aragorn and Arwen's story, or one of my special editions printed in three colours of ink or with Alan Lee's illustrations. But I digress. The elves. I enjoy the elves. There's a part of me that thinks it would be pretty special to be able to watch the ages pass by and yet not be affected by them in terms of aging and dying. That's the part of me that wants no part of dying, that wants to stay in this world until I am ready to pass on. But - that said, I don't have that ability, and the elves are remote to me because I do not, and therefore cannot identify clearly with them. They certainly fulfilled that childhood desire for characters that are more than me and my life. And I still enjoy reading about them. They are a very important part of Middle-Earth to me: they provide history, gravitas, a sense of depth that Hobbits and Men cannot provide on their own. ( Of course, there are also the Dwarves! Book dwarves, please, not what Gimli was made into. )

Now, back to Sam. His old Gaffer, who are not mentioned much but nonetheless occupies another dearly held corner of Sam's heart, says of Sam: "Crazy about stories of the old days he is, and he listens to all Mr. Bilbo's tales. Mr. Bilbo has learned him his letters - meaning no harm, mark you, and I hope no harm will come of it."

Sam is not schooled in the sense that Frodo and other Hobbits of higher gentry is, but he is no uneducated commoner, either. He's drunk in what Bilbo had to say, and though we do not know exactly what stories Bilbo told, I would wager that Samwise picked up a great deal about Elves and what they are right there, listening to Bilbo speaking.

All that said, Sam is nowhere near what Frodo, or Bilbo himself, understands of Elves. He knows only the bit he was told, and what his own experience and wit tells him.

More importantly, what Sam is near to is his garden, his hobbit-sense, and his uncomplicated way of looking at things. I'll tell you what, I think Sam being a gardener is essential to his actions on the quest. If you are to grow a good garden, there's nothing but plugging away at it to get to your goal. You can throw up your hands at the snails eating your lettuce, but they're going to eat anyway. If you don't want them there, it is up to you to remove them. And in this way, Sam knows nothing but to go on and get the job done. And I think it is this simplicity, and this ability to keep things simple, that helps to save the quest. Instead of pausing to contemplate what he's up against, Sam pretty much finds the thing that needs doing and does it. There's courage in that: to not think about a challenge beyond what is necessary, in the moment, to overcome it. Is there, maybe, a form of cowardice in it also? To not think much about what lies ahead, to instead just get on with it? To not look for trouble and possibilities, less one be overwhelmed by them? Well, no. No, I don't think so. It is always harder to do a hard thing than to shy away from it. When you get on with it, you're set on a path. When you shy away from it, you are likely harbouring some small hope that someone else will be along to fix things up. And Sam did not shy away from what needed doing. Maybe his job was made easier, in Mordor, by knowing that he was "it", so to speak. But he didn't hesitate to follow Frodo to Mordor, either. He could have waited for the stronger and better prepared members of the Fellowship to return, but he did not. When the chips are down, Sam was right there to plunge in. That's his courage. Indeed, he was steadfast.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 5:07 am 
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Wonderful post, Griffon64.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 6:13 am 
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Wonderful indeed. :love:

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 11:56 pm 
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Sass, I very much enjoyed your latest post, though I will respond to it now with mostly disagreements, I fear. But before that, I want to say that Sam's faults do not make him any less worthy.

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* Faramond reminds me that Sam is not very wise about Strider. And says he is right to be cautious. And so he is. Once again his initial caution is intrinsically connected to his concern for Frodo's safety. You will have to prove yourself before Sam will let down his guard. I do call that a sort of wisdom.


Sam is still has suspicions of Strider even later, when Sam wonders why Frodo's wound troubles him so, when Strider had clearly proven himself. I think Sam is proud to be Frodo's helper, and maybe a little jealous that Strider has usurped that role.

I do think that Sam mostly trusts Strider at this point. He knows, in his rational mind, that Strider is not an enemy. But Frodo is wounded, and suffering, and he does not understand why it is so dire, that small closed wound, cannot possibly understand why. His master, his friend, is succumbing to something completely outside his experience. His fear has to have a target. Instinct tells him blame should fix upon the foreign element in their midst. That is Strider.

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Smug?


I don't think so. Tolkien errs here, or my reading of LOTR is very differnt from his intent. If he meant for Sam to be smug, he should have written him differently.

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Is he more likely to be smug, or mentally myopic, in his treatment of Gollum? Sam's dislike of Gollum is palpable. He does not, for one single instant, ever even approach trust and never, ever relaxes his guard, nor does he ever forgive Gollum: only close to the very end do Pity and Mercy enter Sam's emotional 'Gollum lexicon.'


Take this from a different perspective. Make it about Frodo, instead of Gollum. Sam never really considers Frodo's point of view on Gollum. For all that Sam admires the wisdom of Frodo, he never asks the question, "Could I be wrong about Gollum, and Frodo correct?" Do he ever realize that as ringbearer Frodo has a unique perspective on Gollum? This is Sam's mental myopia. He never considers a different perspective in this case, not even Frodo's. Tolkien clearly states that Sam has contradictory ideas of Frodo in his mind, a belief that Frodo is both very wise and far too soft-hearted concerning Gollum. Sam wants it both ways. His certainty is precious to him.

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(I'll touch on the missed opportunity later) I share in the distaste and the distrust, it is my opinion but Sam is both right and correct in those feelings.


Well, distaste and distrust are not quite the same as vigilance. Vigilance is needed, and let us not forget that Frodo IS vigilant concerning Sméagol. He warns Sméagol that he will never have the ring, and that he will be held to his promise in the end. As for distrust, well, distrust is impossible, since Sam and Frodo clearly put their trust in Sméagol when they followed him. Distaste? Too much like hostility.

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Gollum is not trustworthy.


He is not. But they put their trust in him anyway.

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Not under any circumstance, and pragmatic Sam has a sworn duty and an innermost need to protect Frodo from any perceived harm.


Then he should have prevented Frodo from going on the quest. And THAT thought never entered Sam's head. Which I give Sam great credit for! Twice Frodo thought that Sam was trying to stop him, once in Crickhollow, once on the banks of the Anduin. But Sam did understand that Frodo needed to go on, and Sam would go with him. But there is more. Sam needed to go on as well, for his own sake. This is something he rarely realized and probably never really thought about, though he did put it into words, which you quoted, Sass:

“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.”

Here is a gentle rebuttal to the idea that Sam was merely a servant to Frodo, motivated only by his love for his master.

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Sam cannot afford the luxury of forgiveness (that is in Frodo's province …. mercy is left to Frodo, who need not worry about the daily trivialities of survival because Sam has taken on that particular burden ) Sam cannot afford to forgive because to forgive Gollum entails risk.


What does Sam have to forgive Gollum for? Things he meant to do, perhaps. But before Shelob, Gollum never once sins against Sam, if you will forgive the use of that word. He would like to, of course. But the question of forgiveness does not yet apply, unless Sam is to take on the role of justice-giver. And I do not think it is wise for qualities such as mercy and vigilance can be distributed piecemeal through a company, as if they might all add up properly.

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An enormous risk to the quest (not for the personal growth of the forgiver) The path of the quest is a straight and narrow one. It has to be. “Stray but a little” …................


But this I will say to you: your quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little and it will fail, to the ruin of all. Yet hope remains while all the Company is true.

In what way may they stray? How are we to take Galadriel's words? I do not take her words to mean that there is only one successful path ( real or metaphorical ) that the quest must follow. I think the way they may stray is to fall to the temptation of the easy path. The temptation of expedience. Taking the ring and making direct war on Sauron. That was Boromir's way. It was not Frodo's way. Putting their trust in Gollum was not the easy path.

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They must plod their weary way to Mordor one foot in front of the other without the emotional deviation required of Sam to forgive Gollum. Deviation is perilous. I do believe that the rigid mistrust Sam holds is a defensive armour; it is expedient, it is proper for it allows them the best chance of completing the task.


Armor may hinder in the crucial moment. It is burden, a weighting down that closes off paths that might be tried by the more nimble. The ability to deviate from the path that you can see may be the only thing that saves you.

So, I am sorry Sass, but I do not agree. One thing I have learned from Jnyusa's posts is to mistrust expedience, which is how you identify Sam's rigid mistrust. The best chance for the quest is to not cut off the chances that may come before they happen. This is Sam's failing. But there is more. ( There is always more! )

Sam's great triumph comes from his choices after Gollum's betrayal. I have written some about this already. There is more to be said, but I will let it pass for now.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 10, 2010 9:12 pm 
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So very pleased you have come to join the party, Griff! I'm not eleventy-one today, but I am, on this very day, turning sixty-seven. :shock:

Now then:

Griff wrote:
Quote:
My first few readings of LOTR, I didn't really care for Sam as a character. Of course, I was only a child, and what Sam was went right over my head.


I first read LotR in 1965 when I was 22. I can't really remember what I thought about Sam other than as a necessary appendage to Frodo …. but his absolute necessity to the quest certainly eluded me. Eluded me until now, I am ashamed to admit.

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So, based merely on that, I would say that yes, indeed. Sam is us. He's everyone that's ever quietly worked away at their task, in the background and unpraised for much of their labour, yet essential to some larger whole.
 

I'll shout agreement from the rooftops or failing that, I'll repeat myself until I bore us all! This was such an enormous revelation, it quite changed my understanding of the book as a whole. No, what I should say is that it augmented my understanding; it added yet another dimension and I am the richer for it.

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As for falling into the story: I am fond of recounting that LOTR is the only book, ever, that I disappeared into to the extent that a sudden, startling happening in the narrative caused me to, quite literally, drop the book in surprise and fright when first I read it!
 

I still remember my exclamation of utter dismay when Gandalf fell to the Balrog, and plunged into the bottomless depths of Moria. It felt like my heart stopped for a second and I remember I could not believe it:
I was heart-broken.

Can you recall any other book, on initial reading, that affected you so strongly or involved you so completely? I can't. Not a single one and I've read many, many books.


Quote:
But I digress. The elves. I enjoy the elves. There's a part of me that thinks it would be pretty special to be able to watch the ages pass by and yet not be affected by them in terms of aging and dying. That's the part of me that wants no part of dying, that wants to stay in this world until I am ready to pass on. But - that said, I don't have that ability, and the elves are remote to me because I do not, and therefore cannot identify clearly with them. They certainly fulfilled that childhood desire for characters that are more than me and my life. And I still enjoy reading about them. They are a very important part of Middle-Earth to me: they provide history, gravitas, a sense of depth that Hobbits and Men cannot provide on their own.


Of course, Elves in the Third Age have essentially become passive and are transformed into ethereal creatures, so unalike to the passionate, life-affirming, inspired First Age Elves who stride through the pages of the Silmarillion boldly going where no Elf has gone before. :D Their lives are an adventure in contrast the Elves of the latter days who seem preoccupied with deep sorrow and with fading. Taking the straight road to Elvenhome does not seem to be anticipated as a joyous affair as one might think it should, but instead an air of defeat permeates it all. Going home for some, or to the ancestral home of Elves born in Middle-earth, is presented as the journey of last resort instead of another new beginning. (But that's another topic for another day, still, I find it interesting.)


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I would wager that Samwise picked up a great deal about Elves and what they are right there, listening to Bilbo speaking. 

All that said, Sam is nowhere near what Frodo, or Bilbo himself, understands of Elves. He knows only the bit he was told, and what his own experience and wit tells him.
 

I have to disagree a little bit with some of this, Griff. My feelings says that Sam is a conduit for intuition:
he very much understands the core of T.A. Elvishness without needing book knowledge. What Sam has is so much closer to the Truth of Elves than any learning could possibly impart. It's an intuitive knowledge that is difficult to express ( for us as well as for Sam himself although I think his attempts are admirable and extremely close to the mark)

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More importantly, what Sam is near to is his garden, his hobbit-sense, and his uncomplicated way of looking at things. I'll tell you what, I think Sam being a gardener is essential to his actions on the quest. If you are to grow a good garden, there's nothing but plugging away at it to get to your goal. You can throw up your hands at the snails eating your lettuce, but they're going to eat anyway. If you don't want them there, it is up to you to remove them. And in this way, Sam knows nothing but to go on and get the job done. And I think it is this simplicity, and this ability to keep things simple, that helps to save the quest.


Yes. Exactly. And I think you're right in equating Sam's gardening talents with his ability to simply the complex and 'just get on with the job'. Would the results have been the same if he were, say, a blacksmith or a miller? Probably. Although, were he an accountant or a banker ........... one shudders to consider the consequences. :D


*******

I'll post my answer to Faramond separately and after that (if appropriate) I'll post the final installment of my thoughts about Sam.

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"Too many Fingolfins, not enough Sams."

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 10, 2010 10:37 pm 
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Sassy, my dear, dear friend. I just now found this thread after V pointed it out to me in the Party Tree thread in Bag End. I was wishing you a happy birthday and saying that I missed you, and now here you are! And now ... my stomach is in a knot and my heart is stuck in my throat and I don't know what to say. I have missed you, terribly, and I am thrilled to see you again, but your news ... :( :hug:

I haven't had time to read much beyond your first post, but it was beautiful and poignant and wise. Brought a tear to my eye, it did. Thank you. You are amazing.

Happy Birthday!

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First off Sass :hug:

Second this thread has been a complete wonderful and moving thing to read.

And third I see Sam as the every man. Most of us can relate to him, there are cultures we can't understand, we or most of us work for someone or something else. Most of us have a significant other (husband, wife, child, friend, family) that we would go to the end of the world with, even if we didn't understand their reasoning. There are (as Manwë threads can attest) many opinions we hold onto. I know for myself there are many things I don't understand and most of the time I am only concerned with my small corner of the world and miss the big picture a good deal of the time. I believe this is why Sam resonates so well to many people and also why he irritates at times, because he brings out what most of us really are, both our best and our worst traits.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2010 2:42 am 
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Faramond said:
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Take this from a different perspective. Make it about Frodo, instead of Gollum. Sam never really considers Frodo's point of view on Gollum. For all that Sam admires the wisdom of Frodo, he never asks the question, "Could I be wrong about Gollum, and Frodo correct?" Do he ever realize that as ringbearer Frodo has a unique perspective on Gollum? This is Sam's mental myopia. He never considers a different perspective in this case, not even Frodo's. Tolkien clearly states that Sam has contradictory ideas of Frodo in his mind, a belief that Frodo is both very wise and far too soft-hearted concerning Gollum. Sam wants it both ways. His certainty is precious to him.
 

That is an intriguing point of view, Faramond, although
I'm not at all sure that Sam is capable of such sophisticated mental gymnastics. For a start I doubt that he grasps much more than the fact that the Ring is BAD........... the subtleties of its evil probably elude him. After all, all Sam knew is that Mr. Bilbo had owned it for years and years and for all Sam knew it conferred invisibility and Gandalf has said it must be destroyed. I don't think it's fair to accuse Sam of mental myopia when a thing is totally outside of his realm of experience. And I doubt that Critical Thinking was taught in the one-room schoolhouse in Hobbiton (did they even have school?) We know Sam is not much given to speculation and that his imagination is limited (other than flights of fancy concerning Elves or the old tales) I intend no criticism here. Sam is largly a product of his environment and that environment is limited to provincial, small town mentality in every way. So again, my sense is that a disservice is done when he is held accountable for a lack of philosophical perspective he could not possibly know. It's fair to say, however, that he was lacking imagination, but it's not fair to label him mentally myopic because he has not the intellectual requirement for turning an attitude on its head and asking a hypothetical 'what if'.

We admire( I admire) Sam for his level-headed, common-sensical, practical way of dealing with problems.

I take your point about the duality in which Sam thinks of Frodo; but still I don't really believe that 'wise' on the one hand and 'soft-hearted' on the other are mutually exclusive. In short, I fail to see an inherent contradiction here. May a wise person not be too kind-hearted? Does soft-heartedness make them less wise?
I say it 'aint necessarily so. What Sam wants from Frodo concerning Gollum is a little less obvious trust and a little more suspicion. All I can do is put myself in Sam's place as much as possible and I've got to say that I would also be annoyed (wrong word, say,concerned) that Frodo's apparent willingness to trust Gollum because he must, because no other known choice exists if he wants to find a path to Mordor, might very easily get one, or both, maimed or killed. Sam wants a bit more watchfulness and a bit less willingness.



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Sass:(I'll touch on the missed opportunity later) I share in the distaste and the distrust, it is my opinion but Sam is both right and correct in those feelings.


Faramond:Well, distaste and distrust are not quite the same as vigilance. Vigilance is needed, and let us not forget that Frodo IS vigilant concerning Sméagol. He warns Sméagol that he will never have the ring, and that he will be held to his promise in the end. As for distrust, well, distrust is impossible, since Sam and Frodo clearly put their trust in Sméagol when they followed him. Distaste? Too much like hostility.
 

Sorry, Faramond, I disagree with this. They, Sam rather, does NOT trust Gollum. They may agree to follow where Gollum leads because the alternative is pointless, directionless, exhausting wandering. One grasps at any alternative which might, might, be a better choice. He gives way to Frodo because of loyalty, love and he does trust him! But I don't think that trust is blind to the practical problems inherent in the situation and there are instances where Sam thinks his master may be wrong, but he trusts himself enough to be sufficiently vigilant to prevent any catastrophe

Distaste equals hostility? Well, Sam, on the whole, is hostile toward Gollum. He can, and does, try to hide it for Frodo's sake and for the sake of not provoking a slippery adversary into outright violence, but his hostility is there in his thoughts. I mean thinking to commit murder is about as hostile as one can get!


Quote:
What does Sam have to forgive Gollum for? Things he meant to do, perhaps. But before Shelob, Gollum never once sins against Sam, if you will forgive the use of that word. He would like to, of course. But the question of forgiveness does not yet apply, unless Sam is to take on the role of justice-giver. And I do not think it is wise for qualities such as mercy and vigilance can be distributed piecemeal through a company, as if they might all add up properly.
 

Hmmm. Yes, right you are. Forgive was a bad choice of word. In the actual literal definition of forgive (which, as you say, implies committed sin) pre-Shelob there is nothing for Sam to forgive. I should have been more clear and said something about tolerance. I think what I meant was that Sam could not afford to soften his attitude toward Gollum because that would mean letting his guard down; a relaxing Sam was not prepared to do.

Quote:
Sass:They must plod their weary way to Mordor one foot in front of the other without the emotional deviation required of Sam to forgive Gollum. Deviation is perilous. I do believe that the rigid mistrust Sam holds is a defensive armour; it is expedient, it is proper for it allows them the best chance of completing the task.

Faramond:Armor may hinder in the crucial moment. It is burden, a weighting down that closes off paths that might be tried by the more nimble. The ability to deviate from the path that you can see may be the only thing that saves you. 

So, I am sorry Sass, but I do not agree. One thing I have learned from Jnyusa's posts is to mistrust expedience, which is how you identify Sam's rigid mistrust. The best chance for the quest is to not cut off the chances that may come before they happen. This is Sam's failing. But there is more. ( There is always more! ) 

Sam's great triumph comes from his choices after Gollum's betrayal. I have written some about this already. There is more to be said, but I will let it pass for now.


No apologies necessary, Faramond. Once again your perspective is far less rigid than mine and I can see that your view might very well be more, how shall I say it, spiritually open? Less deterministic? Either, both?
Widening my vistas and not cutting myself off so abruptly is desirable, I see, though I do claim the excuse of allowing my writing to get ahead of my thinking ( I do this a lot) :D Still, and although I am not intending to defend this final point as an absolute you have shown me there are other ways to look at this. I still maintain that Sam's rigid, and yes mistrustful, vigilance in concert with Frodo's more merciful approach created a synergy which allowed the quest to succeed, or be completed. Sam, as Sam, was absolutely necessary; he complimented Frodo and the two halves made a whole. For the sole purpose of staying alive! while using Gollum as a guide in getting the Ring to Mordor.


Addendum: I would like to hear more from you on Sam's truimph. You mean The Choices of Master Samwise, I assume?

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2010 3:24 am 
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Sam's triumph is that in the end despite everything (including and especially his own, yes, mental myopia -- his wilful refusal to see things from any point of view other than his own limited experience, as shown for instance by his refusal even to accept Galadriel's own judgment about the wisdom of her refusal to take the One Ring) he shows Gollum pity and mercy, and therefore allowing the quest to succeed despite Frodo inevitable failure.

Sam is a "Jewel among Hobbits" (as Tolkien calls him in an early letter to Christopher), precisely because all of the wonderful things that you and others say about him in this thread are true despite the fact that the faults that Tolkien describes are so very real. Tolkien says in another letter to Christopher that "Sam is the most closely drawn character, the successor to Bilbo of the first book, the genuine Hobbit." Tolkien adds that Frodo is less interesting because of his inevitable ennobling. His "Elvish air" marks him from the beginning as a special case, but Sam is an ordinary, (highly) flawed person who becomes a hero (perhaps even a Hero) precisely because he is able to transcend those flaws.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2010 5:58 pm 
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Voronwë wrote:
his wilful refusal to see things from any point of view other than his own limited experience, as shown for instance by his refusal even to accept Galadriel's own judgment about the wisdom of her refusal to take the One Ring


I would say that exchange between Sam and Galadriel is more about Tolkien reinforcing for the reader what Galadriel has just said with all those fancy Elvish metaphors. I think that her words, even though they are conveyed so powerfully, represent her speaking to herself, not to the hobbits (certainly not to Sam).

Quote:
I wish you'd take this Ring. You'd put things to rights. You'd stop them digging up the gaffer and turning him adrift. You'd make some folk pay for their dirty work.


Aren't those words pretty representative of what readers (especially first time readers) are thinking as well? Notice that Sam doesn't say, "You should take this Ring", but rather "I wish". Sam has just seen his own father destitute and his beloved home ruined, and yearns for justice. He speaks from the heart. I can absolutely empathize with Sam here. I'd be wishing the same thing. It's an honest, human reaction. To me it has little to do with a willful refusal to see things from another point of view. It is more a way for Tolkien to illustrate the temptation of expediency - probably the most difficult for us to understand.

It is Galadriel's answer that really hits home; that really, IMO, is more illuminating to the reader than her dramatic refusal of the Ring, just because it's so starkly simple and straightfoward:

Quote:
"I would," she said. "That is how it would begin. But it would not stop at that, alas."

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2010 6:57 pm 
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Phooey! Athrabeth got here first. :D

Voronwë said:
Quote:
his wilful refusal to see things from any point of view other than his own limited experience,


I was about to register a strenuous objection to willful. If you said instead that he was (at that point in the journey) unable to step outside of his own experience, and look critically, objectively at a situation ......... I would agree. Because, yes, Sam's thinking can be limited and yes, he is a flawed hobbit. I object to willful because, imo, it is indicative of refusal and I don't believe that Sam was so small-minded or so petty.

I continue to object to mentally myopic for a similar reason. We must have a very different conception of the meaning of myopic because, again, to me the implication is that Sam deliberately refused to
broaden his perspective: I say that he had not (yet) the intellectual tools to do so. The journey progresses and Sam as Everyman, as pilgrim, grows and changes while his horizons expand ...... just as, we, Everyman, can hopefully change and grow.

I don't even want to get into how I feel about the word smug! Bah! :x

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2010 7:05 pm 
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I am with Athrabeth and Sassafras on this business of Sam being mentally myopic or wilful.

Sam began the Quest as a very common Hobbit indeed. So "common" that he was the servant/gardener of a gentlehobbit. Lettered, yes, but what would Sam have been a-reading of?

How could Sam have been anything other than what he was? The whole point of Sam is, what he became. The book could easily have been called The Education of Master Samwise.

And at the end, the King of the West bowed his knee - not only to Frodo, but to Samwise, as well. :)

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2010 7:27 pm 
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One thing about Sam that fascinates me, and which, I think, bears on the discussion, is that of the major characters in LOTR, the hand of destiny seems to press the lightest on him. The Ring was "meant" to go to Bilbo, and to Frodo, but one suspects, not to Sam. We also get a better look inside his decision-making process, especially as regards what to do with the Ring. The feeling one comes away with is that his free will may be a trifle freer than his master's.

I think JRRT's description of Sam can be applied to Hobbits as a general broad stroke (and Concerning Hobbits supports this), which makes what Sam becomes all the more remarkable. He STARTS very much as JRRT describes, save for the redeeming quality of having listened to Bilbo's tales...and could that have made all the difference? Think about the centrality of story-telling to LOTR, not only as narrative form, but as trope. Without those stories, does Sam go? I don't think so. I think he remains just as JRRT describes him. His education is indeed one of the main threads in the story, and it started when he was a child.

One other thing...more than the other three hobbits, Sam carries a bit of the Shire, as it were, wherever he goes. Diction-wise of course he's more representative than Frodo, Merry, or Pippin, but the sensibility and the insular sense of propriety come along too. Witness the scene where he splashes himself with water before eating at Henneth Annun...Frodo feels like an untutored rustic, but Sam, seemingly, is unperturbed.

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Reading this thread has been a delightful revelation for me. I have never really thought that much about Sam as a central figure in the story, nor as the hero per se. I guess that, like so many others, I saw Sam as an accessory, a necessary companion to the main character, but never gave him much thought beyond that. No more! My eyes have been opened to the full potential of Sam as a character, as an inspiration, and as an archetype for what is best in each of us. Thank you Sassy, and thanks also to Ath (:wave:) and V and vison and Faramond and everyone else who has spoken so eloquently about him.

I will say this though - I have always considered the apogee, if not the climax of the story to be those chapters at the beginning of Book VI where Frodo and Sam are making the final push to Mount Doom, downtrodden and without hope. The revelations of Samwise, that the grand schemes of the world are not for him, that he is not cut out to be a hero (even though he is one), that all he has to drive him on is his love and loyalty for his master and his home, even after he is certain to loose both, those are the things that have always resonated most with me. Odd that I never paid much attention to Sam when it is he, not Frodo, who is at the center of those chapters.

For me though, the thing that has always struck me the most about Sam, that Ax and vison have touched on here, is the transformation that he goes through, from simple Hobbit, gardener and servant, to Master Samwise, indefatigable and indomitable, faithful companion, hero. And lest we forget, he later becomes one the leading citizens of the Shire, Mayor, progenitor of a new family line (Gardner), Master of Bag End and ultimately colonizer of a new district of the Shire (the Tower Downs, I think, I’m doing this from memory, it’s been a while since I read any of this).

The reason why this transformation stands out for me is because Sam really is not a transformative figure. At least not the way I look at him. I see him as immutable, so firmly rooted in the soil he tends that nothing can change him, not even an epic journey to save the world. And in the end I think I am right: Sam doesn’t change. Oh, his world view certainly expands - how could it not - but the core characteristics that make him who he is are still there. Not so, for instance, with Merry and Pippin who pursue their connections with Gondor and Rohan, Sam is content with the Shire and Rosie.

No, in the end I think it is the world that has changed, not Sam. It has become a world where simple gardeners get respect from kings and the Ted Sandyman’s of the world alike. Where the definition of hero has fundamentally changed (remember in The Hobbit where the dwarves settled for hiring a burglar because there were no Heroes for hire?). And it is not the transformation of Sam Gamgee that we rejoice in but our own transformation for having known him.


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