‘Your Legs Are Too Short, So Use Your Head’ – Sam Gamgee (to Himself)

It’s not often that I look to fiction for advice. If I’m honest, I tend not to look anywhere. It’s not a good habit, but it is what it is. Tolkien’s words have often been used for inspiration, and I suppose there’s really nothing wrong with that.

“All that is gold does not glitter” is probably the most used, with “Not all those who wander are lost” being a close second. There’s “Short cuts make for long delays,” and “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

But for me, being 5’4″, there’s hardly a quote more handy than that said by Sam to himself as he chased after Aragorn when looking for Frodo after he disappeared near Amon Hen:

‘Whoa, Sam Gamgee!’ he said aloud. ‘Your legs are too short, so use your head!’

Brilliant, no?

Just prior to this, Boromir told the Fellowship the very briefest and friendliest (to him) outlines of the conversation he had with Frodo not too many moments before. After Boromir told them that Frodo put on the Ring, Aragorn asked him if that was all he had to say. It was.

Sam was immediately suspicious, but, like the rest of them, was freaking out. The Fellowship divided into pairs to search for Frodo, with Aragorn telling Sam to come with him. He was going to the top of Amen Hen.

Poor Sam simply couldn’t keep up, his mind racing much faster than his feet. He stopped, spoke those wonderful words and then sussed out the situation.

Boromir wasn’t lying, he concluded, “that’s not his way; but he hasn’t told us everything.” He knew Frodo better than any of them, and knew that he must have been forced into making up his mind to go East, to Mordor. “Not without Sam? Yes, with even his Sam. That’s hard, cruel hard.

Sam, of course, was right. Frodo had made up his mind: “I must go now or I shall never go.” He even telling himself that Sam would understand.

And Sam did understand. He understood exactly what this meant. Frodo had been pushed by Boromir and could take no more. The decisions Frodo made in that moment were reckless, cruel and hard.

Once he slowed down to consider the situation, it wasn’t long before he figured that Frodo, without supplies, would have to head back to the boats. So rather than stumbling his way with Aragorn to the summit of Amen Hen, he circled back to the landing, where he saw a boat which seemed to slip into the water all on its own.

Our Sam, running towards the river, had little time to think and fell into the water, nearly drowning himself. But if he had stopped this time and used his head, Frodo would have gotten away. And so he led with his heart and found his dear friend.

The scene that then transpired between the two is one of my favorites. Frodo knew (best he could) what the trip to Mordor would mean for Sam – in all likelihood, death. And Sam knew that without him along to see after Frodo, his friend would certainly die. While Frodo’s fear seems more understandable, Sam’s is closer to the mark.

In the end, Frodo was happy to have Sam with him. But I’m glad, Sam. I cannot tell you how glad. Come along! It is plain that we were meant to go together.”

This line always gets me. It seems to echo Elrond’s own at the council: “‘If I understand aright all that I have heard,’ he said, ‘I think that this task is appointed for you, Frodo; and that if you do not find a way, no one will.'”

And I’ve always considered that line to be a sort of ripple of Yavanna saying to Manwë, “Yet it was in the Song.”.

Not that Elrond had heard the Music of the Ainur, or that Frodo even knew what that was, but that there was something greater at play going on – some larger story. Later in Lord of the Rings, Sam will reference this: “Why, to think of it, we’re in the same tale still! It’s going on. Don’t the great tales never end?”

So take Sam’s advice – your legs are too short, there’s no real way that you can keep up with the insanity of what’s going on around you. Pause and take a moment to collect your thoughts. Use your head. Everything will be clearer then. You are small part of a larger story, and though it’s small, it’s significant. And though your legs are too short, that’s okay, the role you are playing is essential.

Camera: Holga 120N  Film: Kodak Ekachrome 64, xpro as C-41, expired in 1989.

Camera: Holga 120N
Film: Kodak Ekachrome 64, xpro as C-41, expired in 1989.

A Few Notes

  • This was a really fun post to write before diving into the Silmarillion!
  • I think I’m taking Monday off, and will start the Silm posts on Wednesday. Of course, we’ll not start with the actual start of the book, but a bit of an introduction. See you then!

About the Photo
Little arms – little legs, what’s the difference as long as we’re together, right? Right! This was taken with my first film camera after getting back into film – The Holga. I’ve not used this in years, having moved on to exclusively vintage cameras, but I still really like a few of the photos I took with it. This was at Dinosaur Park in Rapid City, South Dakota. Wonderful place that maybe we’ll hit again someday.


  • Miles today: 0
  • Miles thus far: 1309 (389 miles since leaving Lothlórien)
  • 470 miles to Mt. Doom

Book II, Chapter 8, Farewell to Lórien. Drifting down the Anduin, February 26, 3019 TA. (map)

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20 thoughts on “‘Your Legs Are Too Short, So Use Your Head’ – Sam Gamgee (to Himself)

  1. Sagest of advice. Here is one fellow who’s got his feet firmly planted for sure – the Gaffer raised him all right.

    (And I always liked book!Sam much better than his movie avatar.) 🙂

      • There has to be a Samwise saying about the Gaffer not raisin’ no fools or some such. “The Gaffer didn’t raise no Tooks” – something like that.

        Slow cooker is cookin’

        • But the Tooks are all right… right? Somewhere in the Gaffer’s mathom hoard must be a plaque of that very quote, ostensibly undisplayed in deference to Bilbo, through whom the Gaffer prolly softened his opinion of Tooks (somewhat) 😛

          • It’s sad to say, but I think the Gaffer saw Bilbo as one of the model Tooks. But he was of the older generation, so it’s understandable that he wouldn’t be as progressive as we’d like. 🙂

  2. This part of the book made me cry!
    I have very long legs, but still think this advice is good advice… perhaps I’ll tell my short dad this one day.
    I love the poem “The road goes ever on and on”… I got that line tattooed in Tengwar down my arm. Keeps me remembering that I must keep going down the road even though I don’t know where it’s going right now… it’ll lead me to somewhere great 🙂

    • It’s such a sweet part of the book. For some reason I totally forgot about the short legs line until this recent reading. I wasn’t even sure what to write about until I saw that.

      Though I’ve got a few tattoos, I don’t have anything Tolkien related. I’d like to sometime, but am at a real loss.

      • There’s so many subtly sweet parts, that’s definitely one of them. Lucky it was there then!
        I had to think about it for a while, I didn’t want anything too common. There’s loads of Smaugs, Trees of Gondor and Aragorn prophecies out there…
        I’m bridesmaid for my best friend in September and we’re wearing evenstars for jewellery… I’m sure no one will notice that we’re a bit obsessed

        • Oh nobody will notice! 🙂 Of course not!

          I’ve thought about the tattoo for a long time and really just can’t wrap my head around it. I really don’t want something common, but I’m at a dead end. I’ll probably end up not doing it at all. I do like some of the illustrations from one of the Japanese editions of the Hobbit. Especially the Riddles in the Dark.

          But who knows.

  3. The only Sam line that beats it is his speech to Faramir later about proving his quality. I literally am unable to read that without weeping. It’s a reflex!
    Again all this proves again and again that Sam is the hero. He even gets the girl! He gets the Odysseus back in Ithaca moment!

  4. Perhaps no miles were covered but what a giant leap of the heart! I loved your reflection on the bigger story of which Frodo and Sam are a part. My own sense is that they have to be together and that one is not greater than the other.
    Looking forward to The Silmarillion!

    • Thanks so much!

      Frodo and Sam absolutely needed each other, but they also needed Golum. All three were essential, and without any one of them, the mission would have failed. That just makes me really happy.

      I’m also really looking forward to the Silm. I hope I do it as much justice as I can.

  5. Another well crafted post Eric. Brava!

    I think I may start reading The Sil when you do. It may be fun to follow along with you. After at least 5 readings you’d think I know it by heart. But each time I do read it there I get more “aha!” moments.

    • Thank you so much!

      That would be great, really. I’ll be starting with a bit of a two part introduction on Wednesday and Friday. With a little luck and some spare time, I’ll have to first actual post up on the following Monday. Here’s hoping.

    • Ack is right! Those lines hit me so hard. Sam is so freaking sincere. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a reference or two to the Ainulindale around here.

      Thanks so so much!

  6. And this is why I love Sam! I’m short as well (all of 5 foot 2), and while it does have some disadvantages (like I can’t reach anything in my mom’s kitchen cabinets), our hearts make up for where our legs fail us. 🙂

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