I watched a lecture once on how Samwise the Brave was the true hero of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and perhaps I imagined this, but the lecturer had hard proof that JRR Tolkien intended it that way. I can’t find that lecture to verify this statement, but I have myself to verify it.
Frodo sucks. His bravery ended in Rivendell when he offered to take the ring. Props Frodo, that’s bold. But what did he do with it? We’ll get to that in a second, but spoiler alert—he sucks.
When Frodo nearly puts the ring on outside of Bree, Sam stops him. When Frodo gets stabbed on weathertop, Aragorn saves him. When Frodo is whinging and dying, Glorifindel saves him. Frodo gets “skewered like a wild boar” in Moria, Bilbo saves him. Frodo falls into the dead marshes, Gollum saves him. Frodo gets panged by Shelob, Sam saves him. Sam has a rare mishap, lets the orcs take Frodo, then saves him again. Sam saves Frodo from Gollum, Sam saves Frodo from falling. Sam. Saves. Frodo. From life, death, and probably taxes too.
What does Frodo do for Sam? Okay, credit where it’s due. He pulls him out of the river. But Frodo benefited just as much from that as Sam because Frodo would have died about fifteen feet from the other shore if he didn’t have Sam with him.
The point is, and say it with me this time—Frodo sucks. Middle Earth would be a fiery death pit if Frodo had been allowed to be himself. Sam did everything. He didn’t carry the ring but he carried Frodo the entire journey, not just in the moment when he physically carried him up the mountain.
There are theories out there that the true heroism is in his empathy and subsequent “taming” of Gollum, but what good did that do? If Frodo had actually tamed Gollum, Frodo would have kept the ring and the quest would have failed. Wild and crazy Gollum, completely untamed, fresh off biting off Frodo’s fat finger, destroys his untamed self and would have taken Frodo with him.
If not for our boy Samwise.
Frodo isn’t a hero. He’s a hero in thought, maybe, but that doesn’t make you a hero. If I say I’m going to cook my wife dinner, burn the whole meal, set the kitchen on fire, and then she has to order takeout, I can’t claim credit for that dinner. I mean, maybe in a ridiculous, “you wouldn’t have had that lo mien if I hadn’t burned the kitchen down” kind of way. That’s Frodo saying, “I’m going to save the world” and then leaving it a fiery wasteland for Sam to pick him out of. Sam gets the credit, not Frodo. Thank you. That is all.
Josh Sippie: I’m the Director of Publishing Guidance at Gotham Writers. My work has appeared in McSweeney’s, I have an ongoing Fiction series (about Yoda!) at Hobart and a forthcoming humor column at Points in Case.