(NOTE: This post is a follow-up to a comment I made on a great post by a good blogger friend Star Wars Anonymous. This is a little different than my typical blog post—more of an essay, about Samwise Gamgee as a Christ figure in Lord of the Rings. The only reason I didn’t write a paper on this in high school is that I wrote one on women in LotR instead. Read on for literary analysis, and here are some other thoughts on the topic found via Googling)
Tolkien was famously Christian, so it’s not surprising to see Christian imagery and themes pop up in Lord of the Rings. Unlike his also-famously-Christian friend C.S. Lewis, however, he did not favor straight allegory, so scholars often debate where and to what extent these allusions appear in LotR.
It’s commonly discussed that Frodo Baggins appears as a Christ figure. As the main character, he sacrifices himself to save Middle Earth/humanity by carrying the Ring/cross to Mount Doom/Calgary. It seems very simple when you put it like that. The Wikipedia article for “Christ figure” even lists Frodo Baggins in the “Literature” category.
But that article also lists Gandalf, under the “Film” category. This is very clear is the way Gandalf is resurrected after his duel with the Balrog as “Gandalf the White.” It is also shown through his guiding role in the Fellowship; he is the one the party looks to for direction and wisdom.
Aragorn also has Christ-like qualities. As the returning King, he is seen as a savior and a healer. And in Peter Jackson’s The Two Towers, he has his own resurrection sequence before the battle at Helm’s Deep (this may be the dumbest change the movie made to the source material, but it’s not the most egregious–that distinction goes to stripping Faramir of his integrity)
But my favorite embodiment of Christ in LotR is Samwise Gamgee. By way of explanation, I would like to put forward this hymn by Richard Gillard:
The Servant Song
Will you let me be your servant
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I might have the grace
To let me be your servant too
We are pilgrims on the journey
We are trav’lers on the road
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load
I will hold the Christ-light for you
In the night-time of your fear
I will hold my hand out to you
Speak the peace you long to hear.
I will weep when you are weeping
When you laugh, I’ll laugh with you
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we’ve seen this journey through.
When we sing to God in heaven
We shall find such harmony
Born to all we’ve known together
Of Christ’s love and agony
Here is the author singing his song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QL3vStmoMDw
Doesn’t this sound exactly like Sam speaking to Frodo? To break down a few of the lyrics:
- The opening stanza directly describes Christ as being a servant, like Sam
- The second stanza describes Sam and Frodo’s difficult journey to Mount Doom, and how it was only possible because they had each other. “Bear the load” is reminiscent of Sam’s asking to take the Ring for a bit to help “share the load.”
- “I will hold the Christ-light for you” reminds me of when Sam protects Frodo from Shelob by wielding the light of Eärendil
Sam represents Christ the servant, who washes his friends’ feet and serves them bread. He is not powerful like Gandalf or Aragorn. He has no great destiny like Frodo. What he does have is love and a humble heart, and this is something we can strive for in our own lives as well. Sam is one of my favorite characters in LotR and truly an inspiration on my path to Christ.