As a sort of New Years Resolution, I’ve decided to elliptical my way from Hobbiton to Mordor, following Frodo and Sam’s path from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Each day, I do a few miles and then read about the same miles the hobbits covered, before writing about the whole thing in the blog. Here’s today’s entry:
Our hobbits start their third day, and we’re with them for the first five miles. The crux of the writing is actually spent at breakfast. But soon Frodo decides to leave the road again, cutting through the woods toward Buckleberry Ferry. Pippin protests, but mostly he just wants to go to Stock and drink beer. It is good that they leave when they do, as Sam sees the Black Rider in their old campsite from a mile or so away. The woods and brambles are much slower going then Frodo figured.
Thoughts on the Passage – p 86-90 (of the 50th Anniversary Edition)
Today we learn a bit more about Samwise Gamgee. In the first part of the book, Sam is little more than Frodo’s gardener. Sure, they’re friends well enough, but mostly he’s not Frodo’s peer. Early on, we see a slight hint of what’s to come with Sam, however. Sam is in the Green Dragon with the miller’s son, Ted Sandyman (the Shire’s very own Scut Farcus). They’re talking about the Elves moving west and Ted is being a chump. Anyway: “‘They are sailing, sailing, sailing over the Sea, they are going into the West and leaving us,’ said Sam, half chanting the words, shaking his head sadly and solemnly. But Ted laughed.”
Sam, here, is nearly a poet. This is more than we might have expected. And in today’s passage, Sam is more, still. Frodo was thinking of what to do next, and trying to figure out how to dump everyone off at Crickhollow (where he was supposedly going to live) while he set off for Rivendell. Frodo said to himself: “It is one thing to take my young friends walking over the Shire with me, until we are hungry and weary, and food and bed are sweet. To take them into exile, where hunger and weariness may have no cure, is quite another – even if they are willing to come. The inheritance is mine alone. I don’t think I ought even to take Sam.”
For me, it was easy to recall the idea that Sam was merely going along to protect Frodo. That, like a good servant, friend and gardener, Sam would follow Frodo into Hell itself. But next I was reminded that there was something more.
Frodo then asked Sam if he felt any need to leave the Shire now that he had finally seen Elves for himself. Sam replied:
“Yes, sir. I don’t know how to say it, but after last night I feel different. I seem to see ahead, in a kind of way. I know we are going to take a very long road, into darkness; but I know I can’t turn back. It isn’t to see Elves now, nor dragons, nor mountains, that I want – I don’t right know what I want: but I have something to do before the end, and it lies ahead, not in the Shire. I must see it through, sir, if you understand me.”
Frodo did not, but concluded that “Gandalf chose me a good companion. I am content. We will go together.”
When I read this, it sort of took me by surprise. It’s easy to miss. Because of his nature, it’s easy to miss a lot of what Samwise Gamgee says. And I’ll admit, I missed this the first few times I read it. But if we’re smart, we’ll pay attention. Sam is no ordinary Hobbit and he’s not simply following his master. He’s not even just following his friend. Tolkien argued in a 1964 letter that Sam only becomes paternal after Frodo is injured at Weathertop (and we’re not there yet).
What drove Sam was never explained, and soon his love for Frodo would take over whatever selfish motives he had (I don’t mean ‘selfish’ in a nasty way). But it could possibly have been the same thing that drove Bilbo to have his adventure with the Dwarves. Maybe there was a line of Took in Sam’s blood, or maybe he was just influenced by Bilbo as Pippin and Merry were. But be watchful, there’s something more to our Sam.
“Shortcuts make long delays.”
Thoughts on the Exercising
I love this project. I’m feeling so great right now (I’m writing a few minutes after getting off the elliptical). Five miles hardly seemed like enough. And to be honest, before hopping on the machine, I seriously contemplated just skipping today. I felt sort of washed out. But now I’m quite the opposite. My thighs, which had been hurting a great deal, hurt a lot less. My arms are now what’s aching. But now it’s a good ache. I sprinted (well, “sprinted”) the last quarter mile, and now I think I’ll try to do that more and more each day. We’ll see how that works out.
- Miles today: 5
- Miles thus far: 51
- 12 miles to Farmer Maggot’s
- 84 miles to Bree
- 189 miles to Weathertop
- 407 miles to Rivendell
- 1,728 miles to Mt. Doom
Today’s stopping place: Walking south (but not too south) through the woods. (Map)