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 Post subject: The Humanity Of Sam
PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2010 2:18 am 
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still raining, still dreaming
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By way of explanation:

(Here’s hoping this will not turn out to be too self-indulgent although I must confess to having doubts) I was diagnosed several months ago with terminal lung cancer and I’m told my time is limited. There is no reason to disbelieve my oncologist plus there is, besides, the indisputable fact that much of the time I just don’t feel very well. It’s the awful lack of energy that I find the most disturbing ….. And so, as you may imagine, everything has changed and the changes seem irrevocable. Still, despite all that, I've managed to find that there is a silver lining;
I now have the leisure to: ...........

sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago,
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.

But all the while I sit and think
of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
and voices at the door.”


I have been doing a great deal of thinking as the months progress and where better to find comfort than in a closest and dearest friend? Time to read Lord of the Rings, I think, because, maybe the chance wont come around again, so, you know ‘seize the moment’ and take it down from the Tolkien shelf …… and then, in reading, I discover that my perspective has changed, I am turning the pages of this most beloved book with new and different eyes.
The way in which I am devouring the words is quite new to me, if it is possible I am striving to imprint upon my brain and imbue upon my heart all of the moral goodness that is woven into the book.


More on this altered perception later, only first let me say that I don’t believe I’ve ever fallen quite so utterly into the world of Middle-earth. Fallen more even than the first time I opened the pages which was mostly read for the sheer joy of the story and far less for the joy of Truth (which, honestly I didn’t recognize as a moral truth so swept up in character and adventure with a capital A) So now, here I am with a cancer diagnosis and days to fill with chemotherapy and books ……. and in beginning LotR I determine this time to read every single word, yes, even every single word of verse! :shock: Putting aside my usual lazy entrance at ‘Shadow of the Past’, I read the Prologue and ‘A Long-expected party’ with the result that quite unexpectedly I am savoring every paragraph, every sentence, every word.

Did I make the claim I have fallen into Middle-earth? Why, it has almost become more real than the dreary world outside my window. And least you think that I’ve gone completely off my rocker I can assure you I have not and may still be considered sane. :D

You know of that shopworn, clichéd phrase about ‘pages springing to life’ or that other one about characters ‘stepping out’ of pages? Well, let me tell you that the spectre of an early death lurking around every corner has a way of separating the sacred from the profane and the sublime from the mundane. My contention being that LotR is both sublime and sacred and nowhere is this proved more to me than in its ability to keep the shadows away from my door and in its capacity to fill me with a rare and gentle joy. Only it’s not the same as it was before because one of the surprises is different focus: for years and years I always believed that my heart was given to the glittering melancholy of the Elves and the gravitas of The Long Defeat and the sorrow that they live only to fade into the Uttermost West ............ closely followed by an image of tall, stern, grim, grey-eyed Aragorn, he with broken sword and broken destiny..........Yet to my considerable amazement, this time, though still moved by Elves or enthralled by Aragorn, neither affect me so definitively, so profoundly as Sam. Dear, sweet, hasty Sam with his blunt honesty and his endless devotion........... Sam is teaching me how to accept what is meant by humanity. I hope in what follows I shall be able to say why.

Where to begin?


I have said that in all of my previous readings (many) it was the Elves who held me spellbound and I suppose I can be excused for falling headlong into the glamour of these enormously gifted, yet remote, beings who tower above and far beyond the humdrum reality of life in the later ages. The slightest thought of their immense tragedy takes my breath away and their beauty is incomparable ….. but that’s just it …… they are so infinitely removed from my reality and captivated though I might be by the very idea of, say, Galadriel or of Glorfindel as he appeared on ‘the other side...... ‘a shining figure of white light.......one of the mighty of the First-born’ they are too high for me, too removed, too majestic and too mythic.

Enter Sam. Steadfast, solid Sam. Always grounded, forever real, marching into the forefront of my consciousness. Before this read I doubt I had ever really considered Sam at all and when, in passing, I did consider him it was recognition of him as a necessary appendage to Frodo, or as merely another (albeit important) member of the fellowship. One among nine. Now, however, I think I can see that Sam is so much more. (And although I am not prepared to enter the argument of Sam as the true hero of LotR......... I most certainly could be cajoled :D) It is because of Sam, because of his moral certainty and because of his intrinsic humanity, that the quest succeeds at all. He is irreplaceable.


One of the first of Sam’s many qualities that struck a chord for me is his intuitive understanding of Elves. It is amazing, is it not, that this servant and gardener, unschooled, not particularly cultured and certainly unsophisticated is able to plummet the depths and cut through the mystery to arrive at the heart of the matter. One doubts that he could analyze (or cares to) any dynamic which has set the Elves on their inevitable path (what does Sam know of Míriel’s suicide or Fëanor’s compulsion or that awful, earth-shattering, world-bending oath which will lead to their doom?) A knowledge of fact does not equal understanding of the heart, says I. :)
But our Sam can negotiate the baroque, slice through the pith and sum up the relationship of Third Age Elves to Middle-earth with short and simple eloquence:

"They are sailing, sailing, sailing over the Sea, they are going into the West
and leaving us."


It is an early lament, intuitively spoken before Sam has ever even met an Elf (although he did believe he had seen one once in the woods near Hobbiton.) From the bits and pieces and fragments of the old tales, Sam has absorbed the essence of Elvish life in Middle-earth. And he can easily tell you how it feels to be in that timeless, magical place called Lothlórien ........ when all I know is that I would be inarticulate and stumbling and all reaching for words to describe the indescribable.

“It is sunshine and bright day, right enough,” he said. “I thought Elves were all for moon and stars: but this is more Elvish than anything I heard tell of. I feel as if I were
inside a song, if you take my meaning.”


Yes. Of course. ‘inside a song’ Makes perfect sense and Sam, as usual, is on the mark with astounding accuracy; reducing the complex to the beautifully simple. More and more, I begin to admire qualities in Sam that previously escaped me such as the ‘quality’
he asked of Faramir. Sam has ’quality’ in abundance and above all, Sam has humanity. It shines through darkness like that one small bright star high above the clouds of Mordor. He also, I think, shows a keen and penetrating intuition quite unlike the far-seeing of the Eldar or the Istari.


“Begging your pardon,” said Sam. “I don’t think you understand my master at all. He
isn’t hesitating about which way to go. Of course not ……

“Whoa, Sam Gamgee!” he said aloud. “Your legs are too short, so use your head!
Let me see now! Boromir isn’t lying, that’s not his way; but he hasn’t told us everything.
Something scared Mr Frodo badly. He screwed himself up to the point, sudden. He made up his mind at last ---to go. Where to? Off East. Not without Sam? Yes, even without his Sam. That’s hard, cruel hard.”


Nor can it be said that it’s hobbit instinct allowing Sam to understand Frodo’s motivation and consequent action: Merry and Pippen are just as wrong as Aragorn or Gimli in guessing which path Frodo will take. They might even know Frodo better being social equals and spending more time in his company. Whereas Sam can usually be found in the garden 'trimming the verge' not hobnobbing in the parlour. It’s with flash of insight that Sam able to puzzle out the answer. Not all foresight is created equal, I suppose. There is the grand vision of prophecy wielded by Galadriel, or of many others counted among the Wise and then there is Sam Gamgee, closer to the ground, much more immediate, much simpler, more concerned with the here and now and far less (if at all) concerned with the grand destines of races or the fate of the world (unless it impacts himself or Frodo). Sam’s visions involve humanity. Even in Mordor, when he is Ring-bearer for a brief while, even then as the Ring raptures him and wraps him in the stuff of fantasy, Sam dreams fleetingly of ‘Samwise the Strong, Hero of the Age‘ far more telling is his dream of turning the Plains of Gorgoroth into................ a garden, A Garden! Of that dreadful place grown green and restored to the pristine loveliness before Sauron came. The Ring would find it hard to corrupt Sam, I think, not impossible, but one senses that resistance would be fierce and that it would be a struggle to the end.........In any event Sam is quickly saved by love for Frodo and his by his innate hobbit-sense which somehow understands that such visions are too large and too bold for him. Yet if he could, out of desolate waste Sam would create a new Eden. Astonishing!

Where I am now.

Reduced to tears.
I have for the moment left Sam slumped to the hard cold ground outside the tower door. :( Gollum’s treachery has been endured and Frodo is taken. Sam is forced to assume a burden beyond his capabilities because he must and because he loves:

“What shall I do? What shall I do?” he said. “ Did I come all this way with him for nothing?” And then he remembered his own voice speaking words that at the time he did not understand himself, at the beginning of their journey: I have something to do before the end. I must see it through, sir, if you understand.”

and yet somehow despite the hopelessness which gnaws and promises nothing but pain and no ending but bleak he can still refuse to capitulate to despair. Where does he find the courage to go on?

I surmise, or I guess....... Sam's refusal of despair lives by the moral rightness of his actions. He does not kill an unarmed Gollum ( I probably would!) and although he dithers, it is right and it is moral that he take the Ring and go on. And so he will. And because he will go on we may (or rather, I may) come close enough to understand at the very core of himself, there is courage; the courage of ordinary common decency. It is to that decency which Sam must go, not to displace his broken heart (that is impossible) but to take hold of a strength which will allow him to
take up Sting and the One Ring and go on in the face almost certain defeat.

There is a great deal to learn from Sam about enduring the unendurable. I hope against hope that I may learn to absorb a little of his wisdom. I do know this though, while I have been traveling from Hobbiton to Mordor with Sam, I have learned that the ripples made by his actions are the ripples of Everyman. He is me. He is you. Samwise is us.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2010 3:29 am 
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My dear, dear Sassy. I will pass over the sadness to say this: that is simply the most beautiful, most insightful post that I have ever read.

I will be back.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2010 3:48 am 
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Sam has long been my favorite fictional character. Anywhere, ever. I always say I have a crush on him and only half-jokingly. I genuinely suspect that subconsciously part of me falls for RL men based on their "Sam-mishness". :) There are many forms of beauty, but there's a beauty in him that is far more resonant to me than all the others human's possess.

I'm glad you are seeing that beauty now and I'm glad you chose to share it with us.

:( :hug:

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2010 4:44 am 
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Oh, Sass. I hoped to see you here again, but never imagined either the sad news you would bring, or the incredible gift of that post. I'm caught. Tears in my eyes but I don't know what caused them.

I too will be back. Let me just say that you saw things in Sam that I never saw or articulated in years of loving him best of all. I'll be back.

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2010 5:11 am 
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A beautiful post, Sassafras. Thank you.

I always thought Sam was like my Dad. I can't praise any man or hobbit more than that. Thanks.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2010 5:36 am 
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I am so glad to see you back here, although I wish with all my heart it hadn't been with that news. You have always been someone I wished I knew better.

That post was simply lovely. Sam's power as a character and as a person seems to me to be in his unfailing faith that "above all shadows rides the sun, and stars forever dwell." I could say I'll be back, but it will only be to read. I couldn't think of a single thing to add to what you've said. What else is there?

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2010 5:37 am 
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One of the things that I learned from reading LOTR as a kid was that life wants to be lived on more levels at once than just one. Even LOTR contains many different levels -- the everyday, the mythical, the High, the Low -- but the way it lets us fall into it is the real gift. Ever since then I've always felt somehow depressed or broken when I don't have another world to live in, whether the world of a book or some world I'm spinning in my own mind. And when the other world IS there, I'm somehow OK in this one, no matter what.

I'm so very glad that Middle-Earth is harboring you, Sassafras!! You certainly have a place there.

:hug:

I love Sam, too.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2010 5:50 am 
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I don't know what exactly to say, although this is among the most poignant, eloquent writings I have ever yet. I'm so sorry to hear your news, but I am glad that you have come back. :hug:

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Can't write my story
I'm beyond the archetype
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'Cause my roots, they run deep, oh

When, when the fire's at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They're whispering, "You're out of time,"
But still I rise
This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in, think again
Don't be surprised, I will still rise


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2010 6:24 am 
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Oh, Sass, I've been missing your presence and could never imagine the reason for it. :hug:

What a lovely, lovely, thoughtful post. I will need to come back to it, more than once, I suspect.

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‘No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.’
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2010 10:00 am 
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Like the others, I don't know what to say, except to thank you for that exceptional post, and to wish you strength. Like Prim, I'm not sure whether these tears are for you or Sam, but my thoughts are with you.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2010 11:24 am 
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This is such a beautiful post, Sassafras, it has brought tears to my eyes.

You have caught it exactly - Sam's intuitive understanding of what is real, what is important, what is the correct order of things. I'd always thought this was a sign of his connection to the earth. He knows things, or understands them without needing to reason them out. A little like plants who know when to bud, or seasons know when to change, if you like. In a hobbit-like, but particular 'Sam' way, he sees straight through to the heart of things. He has faith.

I don't know what to say otherwise.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2010 3:05 pm 
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Sam sees things as they are. He doesn't have some ideal in his head of how things ought to be, and so even when the worst happens, when Frodo as he thinks dies, we don't see it knock him down for long. He doesn't spend his strength railing against what is and ought not to be if the universe were fair. His universe isn't fair, that's not what it's for. It's for living in, and that means getting on with the job no matter what, getting up and dusting himself off and going as far along the way as he can. One foot in front of the other, head down. And that's what saves him, and thus Frodo, and thus (incidentally to Sam) Middle-earth.

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2010 3:38 pm 
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If you had asked Sam if he were willing to kill Gollum before it came right down to it, I think he might have answered differently than he eventually acted. Which is another way of saying I think you've got more Sam in you than you think, Sassy, strength and all. :hug:

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2010 4:28 pm 
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:hug:

Sassy, this is the most wonderful post I've read. It has filled in me a longing to leave my current book, leave my laptop and dive headlong into the Lord of the Rings. Again... and try and see what you have. Thank you for giving us the gift of your understanding. And more than ever, like Sam, thank you for giving us the gift of your courage.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2010 5:02 pm 
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I'm moved beyond words. I can't come up with a response worthy of your post, Sassafras. May God be with you.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2010 8:08 pm 
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Thank-you Sass. :hug:

Heartbreakingly deep and beautiful.

Just dropping in to tell you that I'll be back soon with my thoughts. It will be so nice to talk Tolkien with you again.....especially about Sam. :love:

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2010 9:48 pm 
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I guess I read the post. I mean I read the words, but the only thing I can remember about it is
Quote:
I was diagnosed several months ago with terminal lung cancer
.

At some point I'll try and go back to understand what you wrote and respond, but for now all I can come up with is :hug:.

It is nice to see you and 'Beth about again, but I certainly wish the circumstances were better.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2010 10:05 pm 
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Ah me,

how do I begin to express my reactions on reading your lovely replies to my post? It was an emotional one, wasn't it?

To merely write“Thank you all” sounds so perfunctory and so damned inadequate but I don't know how else to say how touched I am.

:hug:

Thank you, then; and here let me say that I really hope to engage some sort of discussion, mostly about Sam, but also concerning Hobbits, or Elves, or Dwarfs, or Men be they Númenórean or less High, the Men in the middle, as Faramir might say of the Men of Rohan. (though he would be the first to point out that Gondor has fallen and Rohan has risen so that those two, once separate classes of the Edain, have mingled and become middling-high, as it were :D )


Here's my main reason for returning to Hall of Fire after a long a self-imposed exile: Since my diagnosis, as I said, I've been thinking a great deal about mortality and the fragility of life and the odd, random chances which alter direction in the blink of an eye. Been thinking about that old causal chain and finding no new answers ......... so I've sought hearts-ease in the ways I know best which, of course, leads me on the straight road to the works of Tolkien. I had no more than opened “Fellowship of the Ring' at the Prologue when I was struck with a longing to go home again:

But all the while I sit and think
of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
and voices at the door.


Yours were the voices I was longing to hear again. Yours Prim, yours Alatar, yours Yov and vison and Teremia, your voice Frelga and yours too, Ax and Voronwë, and you Mossy, nerdanel (always TP, to me :D) and Mahima, samaranth, solictr..........and it is your (metaphorical) footsteps I listen for ........... because there is, you see, this huge and compelling urge to continue the conversations we have had over five, going on six, years and three message boards. With you, my friends, I have learned much and shared much and I wish to continue while I still can. It seems important (to me) that I take hold of
this and trek my own journey through my own Middle-earth within the parameters of this fellowship and may we all, as Elrond said “find friends along the way …..........”

I'll be off then, to Minis Tirith with Pippin and Gandalf to meet with Denethor while the white city prepares for war and so I must wait before rejoining Sam and Frodo in Mordor for the last arduous stumbling steps of the journey. I expect there will be tears and lots more to say as I follow the two bravest of Hobbits. I hope you will not all be thoroughly fed up with me by then because (fair warning!) I fully intend to bludgeon those of you who have said you will 'be back' with further thoughts. Yes, I am looking at you Voronwë! :D


Fake edit:

Ath!!!! I am so pleased, so pleased that you have come. I greatly look forward to hearing from you and sharing conversation with you again.

Real edit: Because I'm an idiot, I misspelled Pippin. Not once (which is forgivable) but twice! (which is not)

Second real edit: Holby! I have missed you! A lot. Especially last October/November! :twisted:

Wampuskitty :hug: Thank you. I should love to read anything about Sam you write.


Last edited by Sassafras on Fri Feb 26, 2010 12:23 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: The Humanity Of Sam
PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2010 10:58 pm 
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Sassafras wrote:
Steadfast, solid Sam.


It is strange that I, who have used the the tag-line "the Steadfast" myself in one incarnation, never really associated the term with Sam. And yet it is as obvious as the computer screen in front of me. Indeed, Sam does in fact have quite a bit in common with the faithful Voronwë, who helps to lead Tuor to Gondolin, just as Sam helps to lead Frodo to the Crack of Doom. Obviously the details are different, but he had the same self-less dedication to the needs of another.

Quote:
One of the first of Sam’s many qualities that struck a chord for me is his intuitive understanding of Elves. It is amazing, is it not, that this servant and gardener, unschooled, not particularly cultured and certainly unsophisticated is able to plummet the depths and cut through the mystery to arrive at the heart of the matter. One doubts that he could analyze (or cares to) any dynamic which has set the Elves on their inevitable path (what does Sam know of Míriel’s suicide or Fëanor’s compulsion or that awful, earth-shattering, world-bending oath which will lead to their doom?) A knowledge of fact does not equal understanding of the heart, says I. :)


This is just a lovely observation.

Quote:
But our Sam can negotiate the baroque, slice through the pith and sum up the relationship of Third Age Elves to Middle-earth with short and simple eloquence:

"They are sailing, sailing, sailing over the Sea, they are going into the West
and leaving us."


I don't know that I have ever really consciously noted how important this seemingly casual observation by a character whose crucial role we can't even begin to imagine at this stage. This balancing between the humble, rustic every-Hobbit and the remote, majestic, bittersweet fate of the Elves is truly the definition of what makes the Lord of the Rings such a uniquely brilliant work.

It is an early lament, intuitively spoken before Sam has ever even met an Elf (although he did believe he had seen one once in the woods near Hobbiton.) From the bits and pieces and fragments of the old tales, Sam has absorbed the essence of Elvish life in Middle-earth. And he can easily tell you how it feels to be in that timeless, magical place called Lothlórien ........ when all I know is that I would be inarticulate and stumbling and all reaching for words to describe the indescribable.

Quote:
“It is sunshine and bright day, right enough,” he said. “I thought Elves were all for moon and stars: but this is more Elvish than anything I heard tell of. I feel as if I were inside a song, if you take my meaning.”

Yes. Of course. ‘inside a song’ Makes perfect sense and Sam, as usual, is on the mark with astounding accuracy; reducing the complex to the beautifully simple.


I must repeat that phrase. "Reducing the complex to the beautifully simple." That is one of the most profound elements of Tolkien's work, and Sam is most definitely is most successful vehicle at bringing it about.

Quote:
There is the grand vision of prophecy wielded by Galadriel, or of many others counted among the Wise and then there is Sam Gamgee, closer to the ground, much more immediate, much simpler, more concerned with the here and now and far less (if at all) concerned with the grand destines of races or the fate of the world (unless it impacts himself or Frodo).


Again, you have absolutely nailed the beautiful juxtaposition of the two poles of Tolkien's creation. And yet, it is Sam's down-to-earth here-and-now cleverness that is decisive in the determination of the fate of the world, and the grand desties of races.

Quote:
Where I am now.

Reduced to tears.
I have for the moment left Sam slumped to the hard cold ground outside the tower door. :( Gollum’s treachery has been endured and Frodo is taken. Sam is forced to assume a burden beyond his capabilities because he must and because he loves:

“What shall I do? What shall I do?” he said. “ Did I come all this way with him for nothing?” And then he remembered his own voice speaking words that at the time he did not understand himself, at the beginning of their journey: I have something to do before the end. I must see it through, sir, if you understand.”

and yet somehow despite the hopelessness which gnaws and promises nothing but pain and no ending but bleak he can still refuse to capitulate to despair. Where does he find the courage to go on?


The same place that you find it, my dear friend. I think that you find such resonance in Sam's character in this reading because you recognize at long last a kindred spirit.

Quote:
the courage of ordinary common decency.


Blessed is Sam. Blessed is Sassy.

:cry: :love: :cry:

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 26, 2010 12:00 am 
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Truth shines in your words, Sassy.

I've no time to respond at length right now, but that was my immediate response to your post. Along with a sad longing that I cannot adequately explain.


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