The Wisdom of Samwise the Brave
The Lord of the Rings is a series of fantasy novels written in the 1950s by British author J.R.R Tolkien. They revolve around a conflict between the free races of the land of Middle Earth and the Dark Lord Sauron and his legions of monsters. They also received film adaptations in the early 2000s. In the story, Sauron fashions himself a ring that grants incredible power to the one who wears it, but others who try to wield it become overcome with greed and obsession towards it to the point of madness and, in some cases, murder. The ring was cut from Sauron’s hand and he was seemingly killed, however, he had bound his soul to the ring, giving it a will of its own and keeping his spirit intact. The ring causes those around it to lust after it. This caused the King of Mankind to take it for himself, but he fell to its devices shortly after and the ring disappeared. Thousands of years later the ring was discovered again and ended up in the hands of a Hobbit, or Halfling, named Frodo Baggins. Frodo displayed the ability to resist the influence of the ring so he volunteered in its delivery into the volcano of Mount Doom in the dark land of Mordor, the place of its creation and the only place where it can be destroyed. He sets out with nine companions, but the party ends up getting split up. This leaves Frodo’s gardener and fellow Hobbit, Samwise Gamgee, as his sole companion on a treacherously long journey across the wilds of Middle Earth and into the heart of Sauron’s country. The series is packed full of great characters who all develop so much by the end of the story. One of the most impressive characters is Samwise, the little Hobbit gardener who wound up on a journey to save the world. One of the most pivotal moments in Sam’s story is a speech he gives to encourage Frodo when he hits rock bottom and begins to give up. The novel version and the version that appears in the film are similar but also very different, thus resulting in some different feelings and thoughts that can be extracted from each.
The original scene from the novel takes place on a treacherously steep and high pathway called Cirith Ungol. The hobbits are using the pass to slip past the enemy city of Minas Morgul so that they could enter Mordor from a discreet angle. The Area is described as dark, evil feeling, dangerous. Frodo has been carrying the burden of the ring for months now and it weighs heavy upon him and he begins to despair. “I don’t like anything here at all.’ said Frodo, `step or stone, breath or bone. Earth, air and water all seem accursed. But so our path is laid.” (Tolkien) Having Frodo claim that “all seem accursed” even the basic elements around him, hammers the point home that Frodo has hit the absolute bottom here. Samwise, charged with the care of his friend Frodo, tries to encourage him and give him hope. Sam begins by acknowledging that Frodo is right, everything does seem awful and it would be foolish to try to convince him otherwise. He states that they shouldn’t even be the ones having to take this journey. But he doesn’t stop there. “But I suppose it’s often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo…” (Tolkien) He says that he believed that most folks in those tales sought out their adventures looking for sport or something that they wanted. He then says, “But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually – their paths were laid that way, as you put it.” (Tolkien) He makes a comparison between their situation and the situations that often befall heroes in the tales that “really matter.” Sam states that people in those stories have many chances to give up, just like them, but they didn’t. He makes another comparison to their situation and tells of those who push through and never give up. Sam then makes the reality of the situation clear by explaining that not all of the people in those tales find a happy ending, “mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same – like old Mr. Bilbo.” (Tolkien) He makes another comparison to their own lives by mentioning Frodo’s Uncle, further driving the idea home that they are now folk in the same kind of tale as those that came before. Sam asks himself and Frodo what kind of story they think that they have become a part of. Frodo says that he also wonders, “And that’s the way of a real tale. Take any one that you’re fond of. You may know, or guess, what kind of a tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending, but the people in it don’t know. And you don’t want them to.” (Tolkien) This passage gets a little Meta in a way. From the outside of a story you may be able to tell how it may end, but those living the tale can’t know and won’t until the tale is finished. This passage kind of connects the reader with Frodo in a way. Frodo acknowledges that in real life you can’t tell how your tale is going to end, whether it will be happy or sad. Sam responds in a very matter of fact manner. He says that you absolutely don’t want the heroes to know how their story will end. The struggle and resolve to pull through seemingly impossible situations are what make the greatest heroes great. Sam gives an example of a hero of old who never gave up on his quest even though he didn’t believe that he had the power to complete it. After much pain and anguish, he achieved his happy ending, though years after the happy ending he would ultimately meet his end. Samwise then remembers that Frodo received a very important gift on this journey called the Light of Eärendil which derives its power from a source that was pivotal in that story. “…you’ve got some of the light of it in that star-glass that the Lady gave you! Why, to think of it, we’re in the same tale still! It’s going on. Don’t the great tales never end?’ ‘No, they never end as tales,’ said Frodo. `But the people in them come, and go when their part’s ended. Our part will end later – or sooner.’” (Tolkien) The great tale of existence has no knowable ending and those within the tale simply come and go in the telling. Sam’s speech is meant for the reader just as much as Frodo. Trials and tribulations will come and sometimes you will be offered the chance to give up and turn back, but hopefully when you reach those moments you will muster the strength to carry on through the tale that is your life. Even when it comes time for your part in the tale to end, it goes on through the lives of others and your influence and impact on them.
The film adaptation of the speech is especially impactful and is considered one of, if not the, greatest and most powerful scenes in the Lord of the Rings films. Instead of the speech taking place in Cirith Ungol, the director took a step back in the timeline and set in the battle ruined city of Osgiliath, the city they depart from to go to Cirith Ungol. At the beginning of the scene Frodo’s resistance towards the rings influence proves to be waning fast as he almost hands it over to Sauron’s forces. Sam rushes towards Frodo, tackling him down a set of stairs while human forces drive the enemy away. Frodo lashes out at Sam and puts his sword to his throat. Sam pleas with him saying, it’s me, it’s Sam! Frodo’s mind becomes his own again and he falls back and drops his sword. “I can’t do this Sam.” (Jackson) The scene is eerily quiet, Frodo’s eyes are looking down and he’s shaking his head gently. He believes that he cannot finish his task and he has clearly given up. He almost killed his friend. The light sounds of sad music come over the scene as Sam stands up. “I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here.” (Jackson) He says, his voice trembling and his eyes watering. This journey has taken much from these two and their emotional tension is dying to break free. Sam looks out over the ruined city and thunder booms in the background. “But we are.” (Jackson) He leans on a wall and tries to steady his breathing as he watches the enemy retreat. He breathes deeply, “It’s like the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered.” (Jackson) The music begins to pick up and sound less sad, but still somber, adding perfectly to the tone of the scene. The camera goes to Frodo, still sitting against the wall, breathing heavily, and eyes still downcast. “Full of darkness and danger they were and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy.” (Jackson) More instruments join into the music as the camera shifts to the battle where Frodo and Sam’s other companions are fighting their very hardest. Their forms are just barely visible through the hoard of orcs. The white color of the wizard Gandalf’s cloak is just barely visible through the black and filthy armor of the orc army. The light and all that is good in this scene appears overpowered by the darkness and a sense of dread envelops the viewer. “How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened?” (Jackson) More orcs seem to spill and overflow onto the scene. It seems like all is lost, but then Théoden, King of Rohan, shouts victory and you realize that the orcs are, in fact, desperately running away. Sam’s tone becomes gentle. “But in the end, it’s only a passing thing. This shadow.” (Jackson) The music takes a hopeful and victorious turn, Gandalf makes a full appearance, his cloak shining bright as he strikes down the forces of darkness, and Aragorn, destined King of mankind, lets out a sigh of relief as he looks onwards toward the battlefield. Light is overcoming darkness in this scene, solidifying Sam’s words. “Even darkness must pass. A new day will come and when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.” (Jackson) The war forges of Sauron are destroyed by a flood of water caused by a militia of rebelling tree creatures called Ents. Fighting alongside them are Merry and Pippin, two other Hobbits who were separated from Frodo during their journey. Not only does this major victory build on Sam’s point about darkness passing, it also shows just how much even the smallest and seemingly least important of people can do which is a recurring moral in this series. “Those are the stories that stayed with you, that meant something, even if you were too small to understand why.” (Jackson) The dark wizard Saruman hides away in his tower at the sight of the flood and the camera turns to show the entire area wiped clean of all enemy devices. “But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now.” (Jackson) The camera goes back to Sam, still leaning on the ruined wall. “The folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding onto something.” (Jackson) Sam’s face turns sterner. His expression becomes determined. Frodo replies, “What are we holding onto Sam?” (Jackson) He still refuses to look up. He has tears in his eyes and his voice still trembles. His question shows that Frodo still is at a loss of why he should even go on. Sam turns to Frodo, hoists him up by the arm, grabs his shoulders, and looks him right in the eyes. “That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.” The familiar theme of the Hobbits plays, Frodo’s expression softens, and he fights back his tears.
This speech not only gives encouragement and hope to Frodo, but to the audience as well. The version in the novel was written as a general message of positivity to its readers, but the director of the films used this speech in a much more specific way. It’s shocking, but the speech was originally not included in the script of the movie. It was added later during a reshoot. The first Lord of the Rings movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, came to theaters in December of 2001, mere months after the attack on the World Trade Center. The second Lord of the Rings movie came out a full year later and was, unfortunately, titled The Two Towers. The crew went back and found Sam’s speech and decided that this was a message of hope that the world needed to hear during these troublesome times. Lines from the speech were altered slightly to push the idea of fighting through darkness and never giving up. Samwise Gamgee is an incredible character in an incredible story. His words of encouragement and wisdom mean far more to the fans of the series than Tolkien or Jackson ever thought it would. It gives a message of light and perseverance in a world where it is all too easy to succumb to darkness and despair.
Rhetorical Analysis Annotated Bibliography
Anderson, Caitlyn. Sam’s Speech. 22, September, 2014.
I chose this essay because it is literally a Rhetorical Analysis on the same subject that I have chosen. This poses some challenges however, as I must work extra hard to make sure I’m not plagiarizing her work. I’ll be doing my own research and putting in my own thoughts and ideas about the Subject of Samwise Gamgee’s Speech, but I can use her essay to find her personal ideas as well as her own research.
Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel. The Two Towers, Allen & Unwin, 11 November, 1954.
I will be comparing the novel version of Samwise’s speech with the film version. I’m going to analyze the description of character emotions, interactions, tone, and other details that Tolkien felt were necessary to describe and try to figure out what each of them contributes to the scene and its message.
The Two Towers. Directed by Peter Jackson, performances by Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, Sir Christopher Lee, WingNut Films,5 December, 2002.
As stated, I will be comparing the novel and movie versions of Samwise’s speech from The Two Towers. With the film version, I’m going to be analyzing the visual details of the scene, such as facial expressions, camera angles. I will also be paying attention to the audio details, such as the tones of speech used and the choice of music.
Pop Studies and Rhetoric. (2012). Sam’s Speech from The Two Towers. [online] Available at: https://english104winter2012.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/sams-speech-from-the-two-towers/ [Accessed 30 Jun. 2018].
I chose this source because it is another short Rhetorical Analysis on my subject. By looking at how others analyzed my subject I can get a great variety of views and ideal that it brings to light in people.
Evans, N. (2018). The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers Almost Didn’t Feature Sam’s Big Speech. [online] CINEMABLEND. Available at: https://www.cinemablend.com/news/1750330/the-lord-of-the-rings-the-two-towers-almost-didnt-feature-sams-big-speech [Accessed 30 Jun. 2018].
I chose this source because it sheds light on some of the reasons why Sam’s speech was added to the film. It gives a bit of insight into the mind of Peter Jackson, the Director, and explains what it means for him.