On my desk at work, I have a hand crocheted figure from my wife. One she hasn’t shared on her blog. The pattern can’t be found online. It is mine alone, and it means a lot to me that it is only mine. The figure is Samwise Gamgee, one of my favorite characters in all of literature and film and stories in general. There is just something sweet and pure about him that I love, and I love looking at they little figure on my work desk and remembering him and what he means to me.
Sam means hope, to me. He is so full of hopefulness and optimism, even in the very dark trials and times he goes through. He never gives up, and it’s a big reason Frodo even makes it to the end with the ring and is able, eventually, to let it go. Sam is who I want to be as I face different trials and dark times, either in my personal life, or in a global situation like we find ourselves in now. I find myself turning to and leaning on his example, among others, to get me through. One of the most powerful speeches in the whole trilogy, is the one he gives toward the end of The Two Towers:
Frodo: I can’t do this Sam.
Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights, we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because, how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going, because they were holding onto something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.
There is so much to unpack in this speech, and it is something that has stayed with me over this year. There is a lot of darkness in this world right now. A lot of fear and a lot of suffering. A lot of fighting and division. It is hard to see how any of this will end happily. And there is no way the world is going to go back to the way it was. In these stories, though, the ones that mattered, I suppose, the world doesn’t go back to the way it was. And it shouldn’t.
I, like Sam, believe there is a lot of good in this world, and I do believe it is worth fighting for. I see it all around me, though sometimes it can be hard to find. But I am hanging on for that new day that he talks about, when the sun will shine all the clearer. That’s the day I am holding out for. Things will get better. We will make it through this. And on the days when I forget that, I look at my Sam, and it helps me remember.
The Two Towers may be my favorite of the three Lord of the Rings movies. The world is plunged into more and more darkness, but there is so much hope in this film. The people of Rohan at Helm’s Deep, Gandalf arriving at dawn, the Ents marching on Isengard, all of these things represent hope for the people of Middle Earth. And of course, at the end of the whole story, the happy ending, Sauron is defeated, Aragorn is king, the hobbits return home and begin their lives, but nothing goes back to the way it was. These stories never end with things going back to the way they were.
It doesn’t work that way in the real world either. So many instances of hardship and trial, and it has ended happily, but it was a new world. Looking back on the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War II, all of these conflicts that were huge trials and burdens with much suffering, they all ended happily, but the world had changed. Hopefully for the better.
I believe we are in one of those times now. The world will never return to what it was pre-2020. Too much has happened and too much has changed. We are going into the dusk of the old day and into the night, but the sun is going to rise on a new day. It will shine all the clearer. I don’t know what the rest of 2020 or 2021 has in store for us, and I don’t know how long the night will last, by I do know it is a passing shadow. Even this darkness must end. And I can’t wait to see what the new day will be like.
So, when I find myself feeling lost in all of this, I look at my Sam. I think of him and this speech. I think of him rationing out the food so they would have enough for the return journey. I think of him carrying Frodo the rest of the way up the mountain. And I think of him returning home and marrying the girl of his dreams and starting his family. I think of Sam, and I think of hope. Of all the languages and histories and mythologies and everything else Professor Tolkien created, Sam was his greatest creation, because Sam was a never ending source of hope and optimism that has helped to carry more that just Frodo through Mordor. He’s carried all of us at one point too. Maybe that’s a bit much, but I know he has helped cary me through some rough times.
When I look at the characters in Lord of the Rings, I often see Aragorn being similar to Jesus Christ, being a king, having that noble birthright, literally saving mankind. Aragorn in many ways could be like the Savior. Sam, though, to me represents the relationship on a personal level, that I want with the Savior. That friend that is always there to lift me up and carry me at times. Not in an overly simplified way like the Footprints poem. But in a real, constant way. Yes, at the very end, Sam literally picks up Frodo and carries him the rest of the way, but the reality is, he was a support to Frodo every step of the way. And I love him for that. And that is the very real and personal relationship I want with the Lord.
So, today, as I thought about what I wanted to write, I looked at my Sam, and I knew. I needed to write about Samwise the Brave. Because like Frodo, I couldn’t have gone far without Sam.