The High Fantasy track at Dragon Con launched its 2023 schedule in the track room (Marriott L401-403) Friday at 10AM with an examination of moderator Jim Wert’s favorite Lord of the Rings character: Samwise Gamgee. Joining Jim were Alicia Fox-Lentz, Violette Meier, and Frank Morin. Ranging from representations of Sam across media and film, to the complexities of his character and the role he played in Tolkien’s epic tale, this panel sought to unpack and explore Frodo’s companion and loyal friend.
The panel spent a great deal of time reflecting on the virtues embodied in Sam. He was first a gardener and rustic who found great satisfaction in his home and in the produce of the good earth. He had a wisdom rooted (if you will) in the values and traditions of his people and the Shire. Because of that, throughout the quest Sam not only represented the shire but maintained a link to it.
A student of the past and fascinated with seeing the elves, Sam was, in the words of one panelist: “continuously astonished.” Further, as Fox-Lentz pointed out: Sam had a poetic soul. Focusing her analysis on the reaction of the elves to the loss of Gandalf, Sam identified with and participated in the sadness they felt and the gravity of the moment. He empathized with the elves and engaged in those feelings of loss.
While much was said of Sam’s virtue, some of the most interesting conversation occurred when the subjection of jealousy came up. The focus here was on the bond Frodo and Gollum shared as ring bearers. Those who bore the ring shared a common experience and injury. That was a bond that Frodo and Sam would never have. Part of Sam resented the fact that Gollum shared something with his master that he could not.
That panel’s analysis of Jealousy then led to a consideration of Sam’s discernment. They focused on the pivotal moment on the stairs of Cirith Ungol when, upon his return from scavenging, Gollum encountered a sleeping Frodo. Gazing upon the hobbit and reflecting on Frodo’s desire to help him, Gollum approached a moment of redemption. Sam shattered that, however, when he woke up to Gollum touching his master. Startled by what he saw, Sam lashed out. In that moment the possibility of Gollum’s redemption was lost. Sam never forgot the violent and deadly potential of their guide.
As the conversation wound down, Wert pointed out that as we consider Sam’s role in The Lord of the Rings it is important to remember that while he may have been everything from pack mule to hero, Sam was the work’s “Bilbo Baggins.” Forces beyond his control swept him off his feet and onto an adventure, All the while, no matter what happened, he always maintained a connection to home. Sam reflected that same sentiment. Bilbo titled his adventure “There and Back Again.” Sam, upon his return from seeing Frodo off to the Grey Havens quietly stated, “well, I’m back.” JRR Tolkien’s Samwise Gamgee is a fascinating character, and this panel did an excellent job showing that.