‘He’s going out of harm’s way, I tell you,’ answered Shagrat. ‘See? He’s precious. I don’t trust all my lads, and none of yours; nor you neither, when you’re mad for fun. He’s going where I want him, and where you won’t come, if you don’t keep civil. Up to the top, I say. He’ll be safe there.’

‘Will he?’ said Sam. ‘You’re forgetting the great big Elvish warrior that’s loose!’ And with that he raced round the last corner, only to find that by some trick of the tunnel, or of the hearing which the Ring gave him, he had misjudged the distance.

The two orc-figures were still some way ahead. He could see them now, black and squat against a red glare. The passage ran straight at last, up an incline; and at the end, wide open, were great double doors, leading probably to deep chambers far below the high horn of the tower. Already the Orcs with their burden had passed inside. Gorbag and Shagrat were drawing near the gate.

What was Sam's plan here? It's not explained at all by the book. Was he really going to reveal his invisibility to the orcs and very likely get slain there and then? Just for basically what feels like the one "one-liner from action movie moment" from the entire book...

Is the idea that this is supposed to be a "comedic relief" of some sort? That he was going to act heroic and "cool", but the orcs are already gone and don't hear him? It just seems out of place without even so much as a hint of an explanation.

2 Answers 2


Psychology - Sam had managed, with a lot of effort, to convince himself to carry on with the quest:

'No, it’s sit here till they come and kill me over master’s body, and gets It; or take It and go.’ He drew a deep breath. ‘Then take It, it is!’

However, he remained entirely uncertain that it was the right choice:

‘I’ve made up my mind,’ he kept saying to himself. But he had not. Though he had done his best to think it out, what he was doing was altogether against the grain of his nature.

As soon as the Orcs came near to Frodo, his loyalty to his master overtook any rationalisation:

He knew now where his place was and had been: at his master’s side, though what he could do there was not clear. Back he ran down the steps, down the path towards Frodo.

He recognised that he had no realistic chance of winning the battle, but in his mind he had no choice but to try to protect Frodo:

'They’ll see the flame of the sword, as soon as I draw it, and they’ll get me sooner or later. I wonder if any song will ever mention it: How Samwise fell in the High Pass and made a wall of bodies round his master. No, no song. Of course not, for the Ring’ll be found, and there’ll be no more songs. I can’t help it. My place is by Mr. Frodo. They must understand that – Elrond and the Council, and the great Lords and Ladies with all their wisdom. Their plans have gone wrong. I can’t be their Ring-bearer. Not without Mr. Frodo.’

As long as the Orcs were in front of him with Frodo, he followed them with the intent of fighting until he couldn't - under no real illusions about how it was likely to end.

In the 'Return of the King' he becomes a bit more measured in his tactics, but not in his intent or his assessment of his chances:

He no longer had any doubt about his duty: he must rescue his master or perish in the attempt. ‘The perishing is more likely, and will be a lot easier anyway,’ he said grimly to himself, as he sheathed Sting and turned from the brazen doors.


I thought it was because he was under the influence of the ring at that point.

He saw himself as a great warrior.

(before clearing his head and remove the ring because he prefer seeing properly instead of the foggy vision he has when the ring is on).

  • 1
    Good point. I didn't even think about that. To me, it seemed like he was being sarcastic in a grim manner, referring to himself as "the great big Elvish warrior" as they had previously discussed.
    – D. Bergan
    Jun 30, 2022 at 19:07
  • 7
    @D.Bergan I always read Sam's attitude as being more "Aren't they going to be surprised when their 'great big Elvish warrior' turns out to be a lowly Hobbit."
    – TripeHound
    Jul 1, 2022 at 4:16
  • @TripeHound Right. Which is why it's irony when the Ring makes the 'joke' real and they really do see him as a looming figure of power and terror. Jul 1, 2022 at 14:18
  • Here is an oddity that I have not been able to resolve; Sam knocks himself out against the tower door at the end of Book 4 (when he is explicitly still wearing the ring). After "rousing himself" in Book 6 he leaves Shelob's tunnel, then puts on the ring again. The text does not seem to explain when he took it off in between those two incidents!
    – m4r35n357
    Apr 13, 2023 at 13:38
  • Never mind, it seems I am not alone: rec.arts.books.tolkien.narkive.com/4YpR3WNn/…
    – m4r35n357
    Apr 13, 2023 at 16:46

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