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Following on from my question What does Sam shout when he uses the Phial?, I was curious to know why those words came to him, and why they were in Sindarin specifically.

It would be more plausible for Frodo to know that phrase since Frodo knows some elvish (Quenya, at least, I can't remember if anywhere says how many dialects of elvish he knows) but Sam, to the best of my knowledge, doesn't know any elvish, which implies that the words were put in his head... somehow. If so, how, and by who? (At this point I'm just following tangents of speculation, so I'll stop here...)

So, how and why does he know to say those words?

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    Because he read the author's notes, obviously. – Valorum Apr 27 '18 at 16:31
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    I think there's an answer besides amflare's, but I need to look in The Fellowship of the Ring to see what Gildor is actually singing at Woody End. – Spencer Apr 27 '18 at 16:52
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    @Spencer. Gildor's company are singing of Elbereth when the hobbits meet them at Woody End, but the words are not the same. – Blackwood Apr 28 '18 at 13:36
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Remember how Galdriel corrects Sam when he speaks of elvish magic. I don't think that either Tolkien or the elves would think of Sam's words as "magic", as in say these words and this will happen.

Sam is saying a prayer to Elbereth (Varda) one of the two most powerful guardians living on Arda (the world). The words are in What does Sam shout when he uses the Phial? (which is linked to this question), and the translation is given in Edlothian's answer to that question. As a Christian, Tolkien believes that prayers are powerful, but the power comes, not from the actual words, but from the intention and the faith behind them.

How does Sam know the words? They are similar to, but not the same as, the words he heard when he met Gildor in the Shire. It is possible that he heard this version of the prayer while staying at Rivendell. We are told that he is thinking of the elves of Rivendell singing to Elbereth immediately before he utters the prayer.

‘Galadriel!’ he said faintly, and then he heard voices far off but clear: the crying of the Elves as they walked under the stars in the beloved shadows of the Shire, and the music of the Elves as it came through his sleep in the Hall of Fire in the house of Elrond.

Gilthoniel A Elbereth!

The Lord of the Rings Book Four, Chapter 10: The Choices of Master Samwise
Page 729 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Single Volume 50th Anniversary Edition)

What prompts Sam to say those words? I think we have to assume that his use of the words (and perhaps the words themselves) are inspired. So who inspired them? Tolkien often makes clear that something is meant to happen without explicitly saying who means it to happen. We may often feel that it must be Eru or one of the Valar, and I think we can do the same here. Not so much a case of Deus ex machina but more of Deus ex Deo.

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There appears to be some sort of magic involved, though this is never explicitly addressed in the books.

Even as Sam himself crouched, looking at [Shelob], seeing his death in her eyes, a thought came to him, as if some remote voice had spoken, and he fumbled in his breast with his left hand, and found what he sought: cold and hard and solid it seemed to his touch in a phantom world of horror, the Phial of Galadriel.

'Galadriel! ' he said faintly, and then he heard voices far off but clear: the crying of the Elves as they walked under the stars in the beloved shadows of the Shire, and the music of the Elves as it came through his sleep in the Hall of Fire in the house of Elrond.

Gilthoniel A Elbereth!

And then his tongue was loosed and his voice cried in a language which he did not know:

A Elbereth Gilthoniel
o menel palan-diriel,
le nallon sí di’nguruthos! A tiro nin, Fanuilos!

And with that he staggered to his feet and was Sam wise the hobbit, Hamfast's son, again.
The Two Towers - Chapter 10: The Choices of Master Samwise

(bolded emphasis mine)

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    He's speaking in tongues, essentially. – MissMonicaE Apr 27 '18 at 16:49
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    @Loki You mean the part about him knowing what the magic phrase was, or the part with the magic vial? :) – Jon Kiparsky Apr 27 '18 at 17:47
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    @Loki One of the plot points of the whole trilogy is that there is some larger force guiding the destruction of the Ring. So yes, there was literally a god in a machine in LoTR, if you consider the machine to be the plot. – Todd Wilcox Apr 27 '18 at 19:02
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    @Loki My interpretation of Gandalf's interpretation is that the god in question is actually Eru/Illuvatar. At one point Gandalf says something along the lines of, "All I know is somehow Bilbo was meant to find the ring. There's some larger force at work here". That's the gist of it anyway. Although i remember the word "meant" in italics. – Todd Wilcox Apr 27 '18 at 20:01
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    The quote also suggests that Sam could have heard the song (without knowing the meaning of the words) while staying at Rivendell. – Blackwood Apr 28 '18 at 13:33

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