The LOTR Movie Site
October 15, 2000

The Truest Hero
Eric F.

An earlier essay states that Gandalf was the true hero of the trilogy. Certainly, he is a heroic figure in Tolkiens history, as is Aragorn and many others. The truest hero, however, is surely Sam.

Gandalf is sent from the Valar to aid in the war against Sauron. It seems to me that a mere man (or hobbit) that remains true and good deserves more accolaides than an angel. We should expect the Valar to remain good, though many did turn from thier calling. It seems that Gandalf did not want this challenge, but went begrudgingly at the command of Manwe. Sam has never had a vision of the gods or goddesses, yet he takes his burden upon himself willingly. Tolkien said that Gandalf completed his task because he sought a reward, to return to the Valar and to his home and to his spiritual state. Sam seeks only to do what he feels is right.
Certainly Gandalf sacrifices himself in Moria. Tolkien himself stated in "Letters" that this was a real and meaningful sacrifice. However, Gandalf still had a fighting chance against the Balrog. It was far from suicide. Sams plunge into Mordor was rather hopeless, and far more heroic in my mind. He doesnt have the knowledge of the eternal afterlife that Gandalf does. Its more of a sacrifice, and one made not in the heat of battle. Could Gandalf really flee from the Balrog? Did he have a choice? Sam could have turned back any time. And truely, how can Gandalf verses the Balrog be more heroic than Sam verses Shelob?

Gandalf did resist the ring, but it was very tempting for him, and he never allowed himself to touch it. He said himself that he couldnt be trusted with it. SAM TOOK IT. SAM WORE IT. And yet, even at the doorstep of Moria with the One on his finger ... HE WAS NOT TEMPTED. His thoughts were only for his friend. His heart was always true.

Sam represents an untarnished, simple goodness. He fought Sauron not because he was commanded to by Manwe, not because he wanted to establish a kingdom, not to win the girl, not to get fame, not for riches, not for power... he did it because it was simply the right thing to do.

Frodo is quite a hero as well. But his part isnt as pure as Sams. Frodo was tempted, and he lost. Sam remains as the most selfless and untarnished character in the books, and he isnt Maiar or Elven or even of Westernesse. He is just a plain ol' Hobbit, and in many ways very average for a Hobbit. Now that makes him the greatest hero of all. Could Sam have completed the quest without Frodo? Maybe, maybe not. But Frodo would certainly have failed without Sam. In fact, everyone would have failed without Sam. In the end, Gandalf didnt climb Mt Doom, Aragorn didnt climb Mt Doom, even Frodo didnt climb Mt Doom. Sam and Sam alone accomplished this feat. He is the true hero of the trilogy.