Tuesday, April 8, 2014

LOTR Read-Along: The Choices of Master Samwise (TTT Ch. 21)

How far we have come.  More specifically, how far Samwise Gamgee has come.  He began as a humble gardener, a simple hobbit, but now, thanks to his "indomitable spirit" (p. 713) and his rage over what has happened to his dear Master Frodo, he not only faces down a terrifying monster, he prevails against her with "a fury... greater than any she had known in countless years" (p. 711).

And yet, once Shelob disappears, so does Sam's sudden transformation.  "Sam was left alone," (p. 713) and as he kneels beside Frodo, he says what I think are the saddest words in this whole trilogy:  "Don't go where I can't follow!" (p. 713).  That gets to me every time.  I'm tearing up all over again as I flip through the pages to write this post.

One thing I never noticed before in this chapter, though:  that Sam briefly considers trying to follow Frodo.  "He looked on the bright point of the sword.  He thought of the place behind where there was a black brink and an empty fall into nothingness" (p. 715).  WHY did I never catch on before that, for a moment, Sam wonders if he's more an antique Roman than a hobbit?  Of course, he instantly sees that "[t]here was no escape that way" (p. 715) and starts figuring out what he should do next.

And another interesting thing I never noticed before.  When Sam puts on the ring, Tolkien says, "[c]ertainly the Ring had grown greatly in power as it approached the places of its forging; but one thing it did not confer, and that was courage" (p. 717).  How interesting that having power -- even awesome, earth-shattering power -- doesn't give you courage.  Power is not courage.  Such a cool observation.

And... we did it!  We finished The Two Towers!!!  I always feel like this is the hardest one to get through, so it's all getting more fun from here on out.  But, just like when we finished The Fellowship of the Ring, I'm going to take a break for about a week... and host a giveaway :-)  Go here to see what the prize is and enter, if you like!

Favorite Lines:

Sam did not wait to wonder what was to be done, or whether he was brave, or loyal, or filled with rage (p. 711).

"Will he?" said Sam.  "you're forgetting the great big elvish warrior that's loose!" (p. 724).

Possible Discussion Questions:

When Sam learns that Frodo is still alive, he reprimands himself with this:  "The trouble with you is that you never really had any hope" (p. 723).  What on earth?  Sam's the most hopeful character here!  Does he not see that himself?  What do you think this part's supposed to mean?


  1. That is a very insightful about how great power does not confer courage. I did not notice that upon my first reading either.

    This was a perfect ending to the book. Even though I knew was going to happen next having seen the movies multiple times, the ending still gave me chills and Sam's courage and dedication is admirable.


    1. Yes, way to leave us with a cliffhanger, Tolkien! Great ending from a writer's standpoint, but from a reader's, it's more like, "Wait, no, what? Hey!!!" :-D

  2. I love those lines! "Will he?" said Sam. "you're forgetting the great big elvish warrior that's loose!" That has to be one of my favorite lines from the entire book. :-) Some of the greatest humor in life can come at the darkest moments-or rather, it's thrown into high relief by the shadows.

    And another wild Sam question! I wonder if some of that is because Tolkien was making it up as he went along... But then he still chose to leave it in the final story. Hmmmm. I'm definitely going to need to study him (Sam) more particularly next time around.

    1. You're right, some of the funniest lines do come in dark moments, not just in this but in so many movies and books. Perhaps they just seem funny because they seem out of place and are unexpected? I know unexpected things make me laugh a lot.

      Yup, another Sam question -- it's like Sam's my second-favorite character and I pay lots of attention to him or something ;-) Tolkien had previously talked over and over about the hope Sam holds onto, so I think here he's more saying that Sam doesn't realize he's hopeful. It's his nature not to despair, so he's not consciously doing this. That's what I've come up with, anyway.

    2. Wow, that's a really neat point! I hadn't thought of it in quite that way before...that someone could deceive themselves even to the point of not knowing whether they were in hope or despair. What a tremendous way to add character depth. :-)

    3. I don't know if Sam is deceived so much as just un-self-aware. He says he never had "much" hope, not realizing that what he thinks of as not much is actually more than anyone else has.

    4. I see...good point. I wonder if being un-self-aware would tend to go with a servant-like character in general...like Sam. One who is so self-absorbed in service for another that he doesn't really have time to analyze himself.


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