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Is Samwise Gamgee, one of the four hobbits in the fellowship, one of the three to be the last bearers of the one ring of power, one of the two hobbits who alone infiltrated mordor and brought the ring to Mount Doom, ... an orphan?

Data:

  • He works as a gardener for Frodo. He doesn't work on his own farm, or for his family. This is a strong contrast against the non-working Frodo, Merry, and Pippin.
  • The only relationship mentioned is "gaffer" which is short for either "grandfather" or "godfather" etymology gaffer in the same way that "gammer" is short for either "grandmother" or "godmother" etymology gammer.

Thoughts:

  • I can't recall his mentioning his parents in the books or mother.
  • Sam missed "Rosie Cotton" on mount doom when he thought he was going to die. Most young men at the edge of death remember their mother. The lack of a mother, and the motherly attributes of Rosy, might allow her to be a proxy for a missing mother.[ A,B,C,D ]
  • In the "scouring of the shire", the chapter of LOTR/Return of the King where Saruman and his henchmen are evicted from the Shire, there is (as far as I can recall) no mention of Sam looking up his family except for the "gaffer".

Extensions to the question:

  • Is there a reference to Sam's extended family (mother, siblings, etc) outside of "gaffer"?
  • Is there anything to support or refute that Sam was an orphan or foster?

I consider primary content being Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, or JRR Tolkiens writings about them. Secondary but still valid would be evidence that gaffer, while derived from "Grandfather" or "godfather" was used frequently enough as "father" to mean that.

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    Since gaffer is a general term, I assumed that Sam's dad was just old (he was 53 or 54 when Sam was born), and everyone just called him Gaffer like any old man might be called grandfather out of "respect" (at least in Tolkien-y language), so Sam started to do it too. – Quasi_Stomach Jan 8 '18 at 18:32
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    Just out of curiousity, how do you know what most young men on the point of death think of? And how do you manage to ascribe "motherly" attributes to Sam's girlfriend Rosie? – jamesqf Jan 8 '18 at 19:15
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    @jamesqf - I was able to interview a founder of a business that equips and gives access to expertise, air-med?, so less skilled folks can effectively deal with cases way beyond their typical training level. She had a number of young persons die during transport and was impacted (motivated) by their often confusing her or other women for their mothers as they were dying. It also comes up in a few writings of veterans, how dying men (boys at the time, really) cried out for their mothers. link – EngrStudent - Reinstate Monica Jan 8 '18 at 22:20
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    "Samwise Gamgee, one of the four hobbits in the fellowship, one of the three to be the last bearers of the one ring of power, one of the two hobbits who alone infiltrated mordor and brought the ring to Mount Doom" Oh, that Samwise Gamgee. I thought you meant someone else... – The Dark Lord Jan 9 '18 at 17:26
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    Just an aside, in the UK "gaffer" is also a term used in reference to a boss or manager. For example, football managers are often referred to as "the gaffer". I'd expect that's why he refers to his dad that way, as he works for him. – iain Jan 10 '18 at 4:02
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The "Gaffer" that Sam's refers to is his father, Hamfast "Ham" Gamgee. They appear to be living in a rented Hobbit hole on Bagshot Row, presumable one owned by the Baggins family given its proximity to Bag End.

No one had a more attentive audience than old Ham Gamgee, commonly known as the Gaffer. He held forth at The Ivy Bush , a small inn on the Bywater road; and he spoke with some authority, for he had tended the garden at Bag End for forty years, and had helped old Holman in the same job before that. Now that he was himself growing old and stiff in the joints, the job was mainly carried on by his youngest son, Sam Gamgee. Both father and son were on very friendly terms with Bilbo and Frodo. They lived on the Hill itself, in Number 3 Bagshot Row just below Bag End.

The Fellowship of the Ring.

His mother is briefly mentioned in LOTR: Appendix C (The Longfather-Tree of Master Samwise) as being one Bell Gamgee (née Goodchild). She doesn't appear in the book and is most likely dead.

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His brothers Hamson and Halfred aren't mentioned in the text and neither are Daisy and May. Marigold gets the briefest of mentions from Sam in the final novel.

"But I would dearly like to see Bywater again, and Rosie Cotton and her brothers, and the Gaffer and Marigold and all."


Interestingly, in Letter #72 (to his son Christopher) Tolkien mentioned the etymology of all of the family names and indicated that he didn't like the name Gamgee and wanted to change it to Goodchild, the name that he would ultimately choose as Sam's mother's maiden name.

Sam by the way is an abbreviation not of Samuel but of Samwise (the Old E. for Half-wit), as is his father’s name the Gaffer (Ham) for O.E. Hamfast or Stayathome. Hobbits of that class have very Saxon names as a rule – and I am not really satisfied with the surname Gamgee and shd. change it to Goodchild if I thought you would let me.

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    Am I reading it wrong or Sam has 9 children ? – atayenel Jan 8 '18 at 12:52
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    @atayenel 13 actually, the chart just gets cut off there. – hobbs Jan 8 '18 at 13:03
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    @hobbs - I cropped it because it's unreadable in the large format. You can see the full thing by clicking the link – Valorum Jan 8 '18 at 14:37
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    "Samwise (the Old E. for Half-wit)" -> TIL – Jay Jan 8 '18 at 19:19
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    @eirikdaude - Because Sam doesn't mention her when he's talking about returning to the Shire and she isn't mentioned in the passage about Sam's living situation. It's highly unlikely in Tolkien's rural fantasy that she would be divorced so hence dead. – Valorum Jan 9 '18 at 12:23

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