The Two Towers
by J.R.R. Tolkien
Note: Before we jump into discussing Sam in The Two Towers, you might want to take a peek at Sam's "Character Analysis" for The Fellowship of the Ring for some background.
Who wouldn't want Sam on their side? In our The Fellowship of the Ring learning guide, we talked about Sam's epic friendship with Frodo. Obviously, Sam is devoted to Frodo, and in The Two Towers, he proves that devotion all the more by volunteering as sidekick for Frodo's journey to Mordor, the worst place on Middle-earth. The guy just can't bear the thought of Frodo going it alone.
Now, we like our employers, but we would not follow them into Mordor. So while Sam is technically Frodo's gardener, we think that their companionship has a lot more to do with enduring friendship than the fact that Sam is on Frodo's payroll. They seem, at many points, to be equals, although at times it may seem that Sam is more devoted to Frodo than Frodo is to Sam.
One thing is certain: Sam's love of Frodo proves to us that Frodo is something special—after all, Sam is such a stand-up guy himself that his admiration for his boss has to influence our feelings, too. We trust Sam's judgment, and if he remains faithful to Frodo, then by golly so will we.
But Sam isn't in The Two Towers just to reaffirm that Frodo is a great guy. He also gives an outsider perspective on Frodo's internal struggles. As we pointed out in our "Character Analysis" of Frodo, his fight against the Ring is, well, difficult to witness. It goes on all the time, throughout the book, but we see very few visible signs of it, because so much of it is taking place in his mind.
That's where Sam comes to the rescue. Since Frodo is in the middle of this intense internal fight with the Ring, he can't always see the toll it is taking on him. He is too close to the struggle to observe its effects. Often, it's Sam who reports how tough this whole carrying-the-Ring thing really is for Frodo. Having Sam around gives the reader some perspective on Frodo's progress against the powers of Sauron. Whenever Sam sees shadows pass over Frodo's face or lines of tension on Frodo's forehead (which happens quite a bit), we know that stuff is getting serious regarding the Ring.
An Everyday Hero
Of course Sam's role in The Two Towers is not just to moon over Frodo and cater to his every need. He also brings a lighter tone to the Mordor chapters, which makes them, well, readable. Don't get us wrong, we love Frodo. But he's not exactly a sprightly, light-hearted guy, even before he starts fighting against a Ring that is trying to twist his soul with its evil mojo. Sam's the one who cracks jokes and enjoys the daily rituals of life. It's these homey touches that keep Book Four of The Two Towers from being one big grim fest.
Take, for example, Sam's simple glee at finally getting to see an Oliphaunt (which is like an elephant on steroids). He's in Ithilien watching this huge battle between Faramir's guys and the Southrons, an evil bunch of people aligned with Sauron. Obviously, there is a lot of death and destruction laid out in front of Sam, and he finds it all very horrifying. But even in the middle of this terrifying scene, he manages to get excited about the big elephants running around the battlefield. The sight of the Oliphaunt makes Sam think back on the Shire:
An Oliphaunt it was! […] So there are Oliphaunts, and I have seen one. What a life! But no one at home will ever believe me. Well, if that's over, I'll have a bit of sleep. (4.4.103)
Check out this sequence: we go from Sam's excitement over his elephant-y experience to Sam's desire to tell the folks back home all about it and then to Sam's decision to go to sleep. Sam may be in the middle of unfamiliar surroundings, but he still thinks regularly of home and of his own comfort. This makes Sam much more relatable than poor Frodo, who is always thinking about huge issues of Good and Evil. That stuff is interesting, sure, but also a bit beyond the regular experiences of Tolkien's readers. Sam gives us a touchstone of ordinariness among all the weirdness that is Middle-earth. Frankly, Frodo needs a dose of normal every now and then.
Frodo and Sam are clearly a Dynamic Duo: as Frodo does the hard work of carrying the Ring, Sam increasingly becomes responsible for all the other important stuff, like finding food and shelter for his distracted master. And as Frodo turns further and further inward, Sam talks more and more, as though to pick up the conversational slack. Sam has way more lines of dialogue with Faramir in The Two Towers than he ever did with, say, Aragorn or Boromir back in The Fellowship of the Ring.
As Frodo's struggles with the Ring get worse, Sam comes into his own as a three-dimensional character with his own strengths (and weaknesses) to bring to the quest. After all, it's Sam who remembers the power of the Phial of Galadriel when the two hobbits start traveling through the dark of Cirith Ungol, and it's Sam who fights back against Shelob when Frodo has been wounded.
But it's also Sam who deeply resents Gollum, and contributes a time or two to Gollum's own resentment of the two hobbits (for more on this, see our "Character Analysis" for Gollum). Sam sometimes just can't understand Frodo's willingness to protect the creature, which we might see as a bit shortsighted. After all, we know from Frodo's "Character Analysis" that his mercy toward Gollum will prove to be hugely important. To be fair, though, Sam's hatred of Gollum is for a good reason, and is proven justified when the creature leads them into Shelob's pitch-black cave.
By the end of The Two Towers, Sam, in all his awesomeness, has become a temporary Ring-bearer until he can rescue Frodo from the orc tower at Torech Ungol. He has definitely come a long way from the young, bumbling gardener of Book One. Back then, he was afraid to leave the Shire! And of course, Sam is going to come into his own even more in the next book, but you'll just have to keep reading to witness it for yourself.