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Lord Of The Rings: 10 Differences Between Sam In The Books And The Movies

Jan 23, 2024

Sam Gamgee Is One Of The Most Beloved Characters In The Franchise, But The Films Made Some Major Changes To His Story

Amazon's new series The Rings of Power has fans buzzing about Middle-Earth again, and many are preparing by re-watching Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. Though the films still have their detractors, they are widely acknowledged as a singular technical achievement and a visual splendor even after twenty years.

As with any adaptation, the films made significant changes to the source material, including changes to the characters themselves. Samwise Gamgee is one of the franchises' most adored figures, and the films preserve his indomitable spirit and plain courage in the face of danger. Nevertheless, Sam underwent major changes in the process of bringing him to the screen.

In the films, Sam's relationship with the Hobbiton miller Ted was never mentioned. In fact, Sandyman only appears in one scene in the extended edition of Fellowship of the Ring, in which he, Frodo and Samwise discuss current events.

Related: 10 Things The LOTR Movies Did Better Than The Books, According To Reddit

In the books, however, Ted and Sam's adversarial relationship helps establish Sam's adventurous spirit. He's intimidated by the wider world, but he's not dismissive of it like Ted. They have parallel but opposite journeys, as Sam goes on an adventure and justly earns fame, whilst Ted stays home and goes groveling to the servants of Saruman who invade the Shire. The character was cut for time in the films, but without him a part of Sam's character is also missing.

The film trilogy never explores the social relationship of Frodo and Sam. They are portrayed as friends and social equals, and it's that friendship (and a helping hand from Gandalf) that causes Sam to accompany Frodo on his quest.

That is a stark contrast to the novels, in which Sam is essentially Frodo's manservant. To understand Sam's social status in the books, it is important to factor in the time in which they were written. Lord of the Rings was first published in 1954, and the Shire employed an almost Victorian caste system, though with much less strict rules. Sam calls Frodo "Master" often in the books and is clearly his subordinate. Frodo and Sam's moments of friendship lend such emotion to the movies that perhaps this change was for the better.

Hamfast Gamgee, also referred to as the Gaffer, is Sam's aged but wise father. Much like Ted Sandyman, in the films, he is consigned to a single scene only available in the extended Fellowship.

Related: 10 Things Fans Still Can't Let Go Of On The Fellowship Of The Ring's 20th Anniversary

The Gaffer doesn't think much of adventuring and quests, but he does play an important role in Frodo's journey in the books. A Nazgul arrives in Hobbiton on the very night Frodo intends to depart and asks the Gaffer his whereabouts. Wisely, a frightened Hamfast sends him away. It gives Frodo the chance to slip away from Hobbiton and gives the reader a hint that danger is following the quest closely.

Sean Astin was actually one of the oldest members of the Fellowship cast, being 28 when the movies were in production. Even at this "advanced" age, however, he was no match for his counterpart from the novels.

Hobbits in Tolkien's world don't reach adulthood until thirty-three, and frequently live to be ninety to one hundred years old. Frodo doesn't set out on his adventure until he is already fifty, and Sam is in his forties. It contrasts how young Tolkien himself was when he left home to fight in the First World War, though the author was always quick to dismiss most comparisons between the story and his own life.

The Fellowship's faithful beast of burden, Bill the pony is acquired in Bree in both versions of Fellowship. The film gives a hint at Bill and Sam's close relationship when they must part ways at the entrance to the Mines of Moria, but in the novels, it's much sweeter and more tragic.

In the first book, Bill is clearly mistreated and underfed by the evil Bill Ferny of Bree, from whom the Hobbits acquire him. Sam takes personal charge of his care, and the creature's health immediately begins to improve. When the Fellowship eventually reaches the Mines of Moria Sam protests vehemently that Bill could still come with them, and only his commitment to Frodo keeps him from turning back with Bill.

Frodo's visions in the Mirror of Galadriel are similar in the novels and movies. He is so shaken by what he sees if he continues his quest that he nearly falters, offering the Ring to Galadriel, who ultimately refuses it.

What the films do not show, however, is Sam also getting a turn to see what might be in his future. He is also deeply disturbed and saddened, but unlike Frodo he remains steadfast in his commitment to the deed at hand. It foreshadows how important he will be in the accomplishment of their goal, and again demonstrates Sam's loyalty to Frodo.

In The Two Towers film Sam's gift of a coil of rope certainly comes in handy in the Emyn Muil, and even comes unknotted when called for just as it did in Tolkien's work. However, it's not his official gift in the books, and it signifies a much larger change to the ending of the story.

In the written version of the story, Sam is given a small box of Elvish soil and a seed. When Sam and the other Hobbits return to the Shire in the book Return of the King, they find the trees cut down and much of the land destroyed. Sam uses the soil to rejuvenate the Shire, and it grows back more beautiful than ever. The replacement was a surefire signal that the Scouring of the Shire would be cut from the films, a change that many fans still dislike.

As Sam, Frodo and Gollum climb the stairs of Cirith Ungol in the third film, Gollum contrives to drive a wedge between the two Hobbits. He succeeds, and though Sam protests, he is banished from Frodo's side, only returning in the nick of time to defeat Shelob.

This separation of Frodo and Sam is purely an invention of the films. It is one of the most controversial changes from Tolkien's canon, and for good reason. It strikes at the core of the relationship between the two, the idea that they can rely on each other when they have nothing else and no hope left. It's a bond that keeps both Frodo and Sam from giving up the quest several times in the novels, and a critical change for the films to make.

After driving off Shelob, Sam finds Frodo comatose and poisoned, thinking him dead. In the book and movie versions, this drives him to take the Ring lest it be found by Orcs from the nearby tower of Cirith Ungol.

Related: 10 Quotes That Prove Sam Is The Best Hobbit In The Lord Of The Rings Movies

Desperate to hide from the approaching Orcs, in the RotK novel Sam puts on the Ring to become invisible. While wearing it the Ring tries to tempt him, showing him a vision of himself throwing down Sauron and turning Mordor into a huge, lush garden. His plain Hobbit sense takes hold and reminds him that it's only a trick. It's a fascinating insight into Sam's character, and a shame it was cut from the films.

The third film ends with Sam's return from seeing Frodo off from the Grey Havens, where he took a ship to the Undying Lands of Valinor. In the scene, Sam lifts his daughter into his arms and looks lovingly on his family, sighing happily "Well, I'm back."

This is not the end of his story as Tolkien wrote it, however. Sam is acclaimed as the best Hobbit who ever lived by the residents of the Shire, but after living a long life he sails into the Uttermost West to spend his final years with Frodo. It gives closure to the most important relationship in the books and underscores the grave responsibility of even briefly bearing one of the Rings of Power.

Next: 10 Canon Events From Lord Of The Rings Fans Need To See On-Screen

David (He/Him) is new to professional writing, and eager to show his contributions to the Screen Rant team! He loves science fiction and fantasy (Star Trek and Lord of the Rings to the front of the line), and is a known burrito enthusiast.