Of the Ring-bearers since Isildur, we have:

  • Gollum, on whom the Ring's influence was strongest: it caused him to murder his best friend almost as soon as they found it, and turned him into a wretched creature that lived only to serve/possess the Ring; it also extended his lifespan to several hundred years

  • Bilbo, who was extremely reluctant to give up the Ring to Frodo's care, and always desired to see it again; it also enabled him to become the longest-lived hobbit ever

  • Frodo, who felt irrational dislike towards each of Bilbo and Sam when they tried to 'take' the Ring, and who ended up claiming it for his own rather than destroying it as promised; in later years, its burden never seemed to leave him

That leaves Sam, who bore the Ring for a relatively short time, but did so - and even wore it - on the boundary of Mordor itself. This question deals with the issue of why Sam was less affected by it than the others. My question is to what extent was he affected at all: is there any evidence of the Ring either corrupting him by its addictive influence, or unnaturally extending his lifespan, or any other Ringly effect?

  • @ThorstenS. No, that question is about how he was less affected, not whether he was affected at all. I mention this specifically in my question. – Rand al'Thor Sep 17 '15 at 11:04
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    While you mentioned the question, I think it is still a duplicate because the answers make it clear that the ring was carried only a very short time and every passage where an influence was felt was cited. – Thorsten S. Sep 17 '15 at 11:05
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    Further effects could also not be proven because Sam did not die normally but left Middle-Earth to Valinor after Rosies death, so we do not know if he would have an extended lifespan. – Thorsten S. Sep 17 '15 at 11:08
  • @ThorstenS. How do you know it's every passage? There was no reason for anyone answering that question to go through searching for every passage, so some may well have been missed. – Rand al'Thor Sep 17 '15 at 11:08
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    This answer shows that he wasn't unaffected, so this question would indeed be a duplicate. – SQB Sep 17 '15 at 11:31

The addictive aspect of the Ring

It's left slightly ambiguous, but for my money the answer is yes (bold is my emphasis, italic is Tolkien's):

'They've taken everything, Sam,' said Frodo. 'Everything I had. Do you understand? Everything!' He cowered on the floor again with bowed head, as his own words brought home to him the fullness of the disaster, and despair overwhelmed him. 'The quest has failed Sam. Even if we get out of here, we can’t escape. Only Elves can escape. Away, away out of Middle-earth, far away over the Sea. If even that is wide enough to keep the Shadow out.'

'No, not everything, Mr. Frodo. And it hasn't failed, not yet. I took it, Mr. Frodo, begging your pardon. And I've kept it safe. It's round my neck now, and a terrible burden it is, too.' Sam fumbled for the Ring and its chain. 'But I suppose you must take it back.' Now it had come to it, Sam felt reluctant to give up the Ring and burden his master with it again.

Return of the King Book VI Chapter 1: "The Tower of Cirith Ungol"

It's worth comparing this to a much earlier scene between Frodo and Bilbo (emphasis mine):

'Have you got it here?' [Bilbo] asked in a whisper. 'I can't help feeling curious, you know, after all I've heard. I should very much like just to peep at it again.'

'Yes, I've got it,' answered Frodo, feeling a strange reluctance. 'It looks just the same as ever it did.'

Fellowship of the Ring Book II Chapter 1: "Many Meetings"

There are basically two ways to read Sam's reluctance:

  1. The possessive nature of the Ring is working its hold on him
  2. Sam is just legitimately concerned about Frodo, and doesn't want him to suffer

There's definitely truth in the second one, but for my money that's also exactly the sort of feeling that would be twisted by a desire to retain the Ring.

However, personally I suspect that Tolkien disagrees with me. We do see Sam get explicitly tempted by the Ring, and he rejects the temptation utterly (emphasis mine):

Only too clearly Sam saw how hopeless it would be for him to creep down under those many-eyed walls and pass the watchful gate. And even if he did so, he could not go far on the guarded road beyond: not even the black shadows, lying deep where the red glow could not reach, would shield him long from the night-eyed orcs. But desperate as that road might be, his task was now far worse: not to avoid the gate and escape, but to enter it, alone.

His thought turned to the Ring, but there was no comfort there, only dread and danger. No sooner had he come in sight of Mount Doom, burning far away, than he was aware of a change in his burden. As it drew near the great furnaces where, in the deeps of time, it had been shaped and forged, the Ring’s power grew, and it became more fell, untameable save by some mighty will. As Sam stood there, even though the Ring was not on him but hanging by its chain about his neck, he felt himself enlarged, as if he were robed in a huge distorted shadow of himself, a vast and ominous threat halted upon the walls of Mordor. He felt that he had from now on only two choices: to forbear the Ring, though it would torment him; or to claim it, and challenge the Power that sat in its dark hold beyond the valley of shadows. Already the Ring tempted him, gnawing at his will and reason. Wild fantasies arose in his mind; and he saw Samwise the Strong, Hero of the Age, striding with a flaming sword across the darkened land, and armies flocking to his call as he marched to the overthrow of Barad-dûr. And then all the clouds rolled away, and the white sun shone, and at his command the vale of Gorgoroth became a garden of flowers and trees and brought forth fruit. He had only to put on the Ring and claim it for his own, and all this could be.

In that hour of trial it was the love of his master that helped most to hold him firm; but also deep down in him lived still unconquered his plain hobbit-sense: he knew in the core of his heart that he was not large enough to bear such a burden, even if such visions were not a mere cheat to betray him. The one small garden of a free gardener was all his need and due, not a garden swollen to a realm; his own hands to use, not the hands of others to command.

Return of the King Book VI Chapter 1: "The Tower of Cirith Ungol"

I've found nothing in History of Middle-earth to clarify Tolkien's meaning; all of his drafts gloss over the actual giving-up of the Ring, and Christopher Tolkien left no notes on the subject. Ultimately, there's enough room for it to go either way.

Enforced longevity

It's hard to say definitively if the Ring had any effect on Sam's lifespan. Since Tolkien never followed the Hobbits across the Sea, we don't know exactly how long he lived, but we do know how long he was in Middle-earth: 102 years. Appendix B tells us that Sam was 96 in S.R. 1476:

1469 Master Samwise becomes Mayor for the seventh and last time, being in 1476, at the end of his office, ninety-six years old.

Return of the King Appendix B: "The Tale of Years" (iii) Later Events Concerning the Members of the Fellowship of the Ring

And he left over the Sea in S.R. 1482:

1482 Death of Mistress Rose, wife of Master Samwise, on Mid-year's Day. On September 22 Master Samwise rides out from Bag End. He comes to the Tower Hills, and is last seen by Elanor, to whom he gives the Red Book afterwards kept by the Fairbairns. Among them the tradition is handed down from Elanor that Samwise passed the Towers, and went to the Grey Havens. and passed over Sea, last of the Ring-bearers.

Return of the King Appendix B: "The Tale of Years" (iii) Later Events Concerning the Members of the Fellowship of the Ring

So, 102 years. It's hard to say how unusual that age would be for a hobbit; 111 is said to be a "respectable" age:

Twelve more years passed. Each year the Bagginses had given very lively combined birthday-parties at Bag End; but now it was understood that something quite exceptional was being planned for that autumn. Bilbo was going to be eleventy-one, 111, a rather curious number and a very respectable age for a hobbit (the Old Took himself had only reached 130); and Frodo was going to be thirty-three, 33) an important number: the date of his 'coming of age'.

Fellowship of the Ring Book I Chapter 1: "A Long-Expected Party"

However, the fine fellow who runs LotrProject.com calculated the average life expectancy of a hobbit as 96.9, and he considers this a fairly reliable number:

The Hobbit lifespan of 96.8 years is most likely a very good estimation. There is a relatively large and well-documented sample size and most of them died from natural causes.

For whatever it's worth, Merry had a similar lifespan; Appendix C, the family trees, gives his birth year as S.R. 1382. Although the exact year of his death isn't recorded, Appendix B notes that he's definitely alive in S.R. 1484 (when he's 102 years old), and suggests that he died a few years after:

1484 In the spring of the year a message came from Rohan to Buckland that King Éomer wished to see Master Holdwine [the name given to Merry by the Rohirrim] again. Meriadoc was then old (102) but still hale. He took counsel with his friend the Thain [Pippin], and soon after they handed over their goods and offices to their sons and rode away over the Sarn Ford, and they were not seen again in the Shire. It was heard after that Master Meriadoc came to Edoras and was with King Éomer before he died in that autumn. Then he and Thain Peregrin went to Gondor and passed what short years were left to them in that realm, until they died and were laid in Rath Dínen among the great of Gondor.

Return of the King Appendix B "The Tale of Years" Later Events Concerning the Members of the Fellowship of the Ring

Once again, it could go either way.

  • Nice answer! The humbleness of hobbits is what enables them to resist the Ring, and Sam is the humblest of all. Are these the only references to the Ring affecting Sam though? I'm interested not only in the possessive effect, but also whether it extended his lifespan (how does that work in the Undying Lands??) or left him with a feeling of burden, as happened to Bilbo and Frodo respectively. – Rand al'Thor Sep 17 '15 at 11:43
  • @randal'thor I don't recall anything about burden, but I've updated my answer to discuss logevity; unfortunately it's also not really conclusive – Jason Baker Sep 17 '15 at 12:24
  • Great answer! The question is worth reopening just so this answer gets more attention :-) – Rand al'Thor Sep 19 '15 at 15:12
  • This answer is far more substantive than the one on 'main question' that gets most traffic. – New Alexandria Jan 6 '19 at 17:06

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