It’s Debate Day here on Trope and Dagger! This week we’re picking sides on the very best sidekick to ever grace the silver screen! To read up on Andy’s utter nonsensical pick, go here: Chewbacca: The Best Sidekick in All of Film. But enough about that silliness, let’s get on to the real deal.
The sidekick: often overlooked, almost never praised, many times tied to a chair. The sidekick is almost never thought of as anything more than the shadow of our main hero. They are often the annoying second fiddle to an action dynamo. Sometimes they are even less than that, simply comic relief used to add a little levity to an otherwise dramatic story. But the best sidekicks aren’t any of those things. The best sidekicks make their own mark and help the hero even more than they realize. And one stands shorter than the rest, but heads and shoulders above them at the same time.
That’s right, the unassuming gardener from the Shire, Samwise Gamgee, is the greatest sidekick in all of film.
So why does Sam outrank the likes of Goose, Robin, Short-Round, and Chewbacca? If you have to ask that question, you obviously didn’t watch the movies. But let’s go ahead and examine the character that is Samwise Gamgee.
First off, Sam didn’t ask to be Frodo’s sidekick. He heard raised voices coming from Bag End, and decided to investigate, to make sure that everything was OK, and Gandalf decided that Sam was going to make sure that Frodo got to his destination. So even from the get-go, we know that Sam is willing to shoulder responsibilities that have no bearing upon him personally. He’s asked to do something, makes a promise, and will not break that promise, no matter what. That is a stalwart spirit, right there. He basically swears Chewie’s life debt to Frodo, but without Frodo having to do anything to earn it, save for being his friend. He’s honorable and loyal, right from the outset.
Secondly, despite (or because, I can’t decide which) of his loyalty, Sam is willing to speak out against what Frodo wants to do. For example, at the end of Fellowship, Frodo decides that it’s best to go into Mordor alone, but Sam knows that it’s best if he goes with him. Frodo tells him to stay behind, but Sam is adamant that he’s going with Frodo:
Frodo: “I’m going to Mordor alone!”
Sam: “Of course you are, and I’m going with you!”
Sam almost drowns in the effort to stay with Frodo, and they wind up going to Mordor together. All because Sam knew what he had to do to help Frodo. He made a promise, a promise!
Sam additionally is one of the bravest creatures to walk Middle Earth. Granted, this could be said for all four of the hobbits, but that doesn’t make it any less true. When Frodo is taken upstairs by a stranger at the Inn of the Prancing Pony, Sam wastes no time in charging after them to help Frodo. He bursts in the room with Merry and Pippen in tow, armed with only his fists, shouting:
And that’s not the only time that he displayed his bravery. He crossed swords with the Ringwraiths, a feat not many can lay claim to. He slew orcs as though he were a miniature Ranger of Gondor. And for fuck’s sake, he battled and successfully defeated Shelob! Shelob, in case you had forgotten is a creature so vile and dangerous that Sauron simply allowed her to exist in order to protect an entrance to Mordor on her own. And this is what that match-up looked like:
But possibly even more important than his loyalty or his bravery was his ability to help Frodo. The One Ring took a massive toll on Frodo’s mind and will, and in those darkest of moments Sam knew how to pull Frodo out of trouble. This is different from loyalty, because loyalty alone doesn’t give one the insight of how to help the one you are loyal to. But Sam knew how to help Frodo. When Sam and Frodo are taken to Gondor and Frodo is almost grabbed by the Witch King, Frodo doesn’t even recognize his Sam anymore, but Sam gives an amazing speech that pulls them both from the despair they are feeling:
Sam : I know. It’s all wrong By rights we shouldn’t even be here.
But we are.
It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered.
Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end.
Because how could the end be happy?
How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened?
But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow.
Even darkness must pass. A new day will come.
And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.
Those were the stories that stayed with you.
That meant something.
Even if you were too small to understand why.
But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now.
Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t.
Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo : What are we holding on to, Sam?
Sam : That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.
It’s a beautiful and moving speech, and it brings a tear to my eye whenever I hear it. He’s right, they’ve had many moments when they could have turned back, only they didn’t. They’re just two little hobbits, after all, why should they be burdened with this great responsibility? But we know that’s not the point. The point is, and Sam understands this, that it is their responsibility now. They have to continue on and complete their epic quest, even though they are just two small hobbits. Sam realizes that they aren’t doing this for themselves, they are doing it for all the good in the world, because it is still there. And when Frodo falls, Sam is right there to pick him up again and carry him along.
Sam isn’t glamorous. He isn’t appreciated. He is considered by some to be whiney. But that’s OK. He doesn’t need everyone to appreciate him. He knows his value. He knows how important his job is. He knows that Frodo needs him. He knows that he will do whatever he has to do to help get the Ring to Mount Doom. He would cook po-tay-toes or lay his life down for Mr. Frodo, it’s all the same to him. He would even fight the entirety of Mordor to save him, including a giant spider from hell.
There are many great sidekicks, but not one of them measures up to the giant that is Samwise Gamgee.
Hey thanks for reading my article on why Sam is the greatest sidekick in all of filmdom! But what do YOU think? Am I the one Ring to rule them all, or is Andy? Be sure to let us know in the poll down below!