It’s almost comical how little play the action of The Lord of the Rings gets in the text of The Silmarillion. Everyone comes to the latter text after reading the former and, knowing it to be something of a history or legendarium, looks forward to seeing the exploits of their favorite hobbits written down in the high-style of the elves.
And then, there are only a few sentences about the War, and about the entire quest of Frodo and Sam, we get only this:
For Frodo the Halfling, it is said, at the bidding of Mithrandir took on himself the burden, and alone with his servant he passed through peril and darkness and came at last in Sauron’s despite even to Mount Doom; and there into the Fire where it was wrought he cast the Great Ring of Power, and so at last it was unmade and its evil consumed.
This comes 377 pages into my edition. This casts the rest of the Silmarillion in a proper epic light. If the entire action of the Lord of the Rings can be summed up in under a page, then the rest of the history of Arda and Middle Earth stretches on into the horizon of the past seemingly endlessly. Tolkien deliberately used these kinds of devices to create depth. Names of heroes and long-lost places and epic tales are dropped into the text, as if the reader knew what they referred to. It creates the illusion of distance. Of course, often it wasn’t illusory. Tolkien as we know developed his world to astonishing levels of detail.
One thing Cory Olsen mentions is how “Sam fans” might dislike this passage for the short shrift it gives to Frodo’s “servant.” After all, it’s Sam who saves Frodo’s life time and again, and Sam who carries Frodo up the slopes of Mount Doom. He doesn’t even rank getting named? He’s just some servant? He’s Sam! He’s important!
This brings up another thing that makes some people bristle: the very fact that Sam is Frodo’s servant. This makes many modern people uncomfortable, especially Americans. [The film versions only vaguely reference Sam’s social status, casting him more as the somewhat more rustic version of Frodo. In the books it is explicit: Sam is from a lower social class and he “works for Frodo,” who is the hobbit equivalent of a landed gentleman.]
My Tolkien-loving fellow American friend told me he really dislikes how subservient Sam is. But Cory Olsen points out why this is so. The LOTR is a story about humility (among many other things, of course). Only Frodo is humble enough to carry the ring and only Sam is humble enough to carry the carrier of the ring. Gandalf does not ride into Mordor on the back of Shadowfax, staff blazing with light. Aragorn does not lead a mighty army of Gondor up to Mount Doom. It is the smallest, the least-likely and the most humble that must journey the hardest road, and who have the only chance of succeeding, and who in the end do succeed. Sauron’s might is unequaled; and yet Sam’s humility is mightier.
Modern propaganda tells us there is no such thing as happy humility. Modern brainwashing tells us that the poor are miserable. Anyone with lower status than anyone else is by definition unhappy and unfortunate. It is impossible to live a fulfilled life as a humble, poor person. Etc.
The idea of the virtuous poor used to be a noble and respected trope in European society.
Now it is considered impossible. Anyone who is poor, virtuous, humble and happy … must be a fool. Marxist ideology teaches that any poor person who claims to be happy is being fooled. He is brainwashed by the economy’s superstructure (or whatever). He is so unhappy that he doesn’t even know it! It is the job of all educated, enlightened and right-thinking people to remove the ignorance of this person … to destroy his illusions and remove his false happiness.
So that he can have gadgets, cable television, air conditioning, an iPhone. His way of life must be destroyed. If he protests that he is happy — he must be browbeaten until convinced how wrong he is.
In fact, while Marxism claims to fight for the poor, it works tirelessly to stamp out any happiness the poor have.
So Samwise Gamgee sticks in the craw of the modern. [And what is the average modern but a Marxist of one kind or another? We are, on average, well-trained in the arts of resentment, destruction, and hate … all in the name of progress, equality, and abstract love.] My friend loves Sam, but then cringes when he’s reminded that Sam is a servant.
My friend might assume that it’s just a reflection of Tolkien’s place and time. That Sam’s lower status is not essential, but merely incidental. But this would be to suggest that Jesus could have been born at the Four Seasons… that whole manger business was incidental.
Incorrect assumption. It’s the very point of the whole story! So all this makes me like Sam even more. He’s still stabbing Sauron in the eye — rubbing our Marxist sensibilities the wrong way, being a defiant example of how true happiness springs from the heart and not the ballot box or the balance book spouting rustic colloquialisms — long after the departure of the elves and deep into our modern Age of Men.