41

There are two characters who seem to be able to handle and wear the One Ring without being affected by its power. One is the mysterious Tom Bombadil. Later in the book, another character seems to have a similar ability:

Sam, believing Frodo to be dead, takes the ring and vows to finish the job. Upon learning that Frodo is still alive, Sam hurries to him and willingly gives the ring back to him. He was able to do this despite being inside Mordor, and despite Sauron's actively seeking the ring bearer.

How was Sam able to resist the temptations of the ring at such a critical stage in the journey?

  • 6
    I don't recall if this was also true in the book, but in the movie I believe that character hesitated momentarily when returning the ring to Frodo, suggesting that he wasn't completely unaffected by it. – gnovice Nov 11 '11 at 5:15
  • 41
    There is a reason why he is the true hero of the book... – Joe Casadonte Nov 11 '11 at 13:17
  • 2
    Based on his portrayal in the movie, Sam wasn't intelligent enough for the ring, so it wasn't tempted to turn him. The ring likes a challenge. – Jack B Nimble Nov 11 '11 at 17:27
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    Don't forget that Frodo had the Ring for considerably longer than Sam, and even offered it up freely on at least two occasions (once to Gandalf and another time to Galadriel). Would he have actually given it away if they accepted? I do not know. But it is the thought that counts, right? – ssell Nov 6 '14 at 15:34
  • 2
    @JackBNimble I think Tolkien would have disagreed with "not intelligent." He intended Hobbits, and Samwise as consummately Hobbitish, to embody Tokien's (moral) ideals of agrarian England. Hobbits aren't Gondorians, to be sure, but again, there is a reason why the Hobbits are the central heroes of LotR, and why the Gondorians, including Aragon and other men of Numenorean descent bowed to them. I they are, to Tolkien's mind morally more intelligent than most. So Sam's "simple" mind is the strongest intelligence required to defeat Sauron et al. Just some thoughts. :) – Lexible Sep 17 '15 at 19:05
61

I think a few things contributed to his resistance:

  1. Hobbits are naturally more resistant to the influences of the ring than other races (Gandalf comments on this).
  2. Sam had only been carrying the ring for a short time, the longer the ring is in someone's possession, the more addicted they become to it.
  3. Sam's love for Frodo was too great for the ring to corrupt.
  4. The ring may have sensed that it had a greater chance of returning to its master through the already corrupted Frodo, rather than having to start fresh with Sam.
  • 21
    #3 is due to #2. I'm sure given time the ring would have corrupted the love – Xantec Nov 11 '11 at 12:40
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    I'll add #5: Sam is a metaphor for the Ideal British, so of course he keeps calm and carries on, oblivious to the temptations of the Ring. – Tom Leek Nov 4 '14 at 21:45
  • for many more details, see scifi.stackexchange.com/a/103048/8545 – New Alexandria Jan 6 at 17:05
49

The length of time that Sam had the ring was very small, from my memory, only a day or so. Everyone else either had it for longer, or had some power which they would have activated the full power of the ring, by which they would have turned more quickly. Sam, being a hobbit, and therefore somewhat immune to the Ring, not having any magic, having absolutely no desire to have power, and only having had the ring for a short period of time, was able to give the ring up relatively easily.

  • 28
    "having absolutely no desire to have power" being one of the key points. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Nov 11 '11 at 5:31
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    @DVK Exactly its hard to corrupt someone by offering something they do not want. – Chad Nov 11 '11 at 15:12
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    @TravisChristian: According to the book, he did indeed put the ring on. It never happened in the movie, however. – PearsonArtPhoto Nov 11 '11 at 15:50
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    +1 Also Sam was maybe simple but not dumb: He knew that the ring would try to influence him, so he was wary. – Aaron Digulla Mar 9 '12 at 9:37
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    I am not sure that he had no desire to have power. I don't have the book with me to get the quote but the ring did tempt him with the vision of turning Mordor into a garden. The ring tempts you by corrupting your natural inclinations, so I think Sam did desire the power to turn Mordor into a garden but he was able to resist it. – KennyPeanuts Sep 12 '13 at 11:01
49

He wasn't unaffected:

'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.

(Emphasis mine).

Sam had the Ring for only a short period of time, and had the natural Hobbit resistance to it, and even then was reluctant to give it up.

Sam offers to share the burden of the Ring twice after this - once immediately after returning it, and once later when Frodo is struggling. In all three of these situations, it's ambiguous whether Sam is motivated by pity and compassion, or by a desire to keep/regain possession of the Ring (the quote above reads more towards the latter, while the later incident more towards pity). It's likely that it was a combination of both.

  • 9
    The wonderful thing about books is that how we interpret them is left up to the individual reader. I read Sam's reluctance as less about giving up the power and more about not wanting to burden Frodo with it; in fact, that is how it is written. – Robert S. Nov 13 '11 at 3:42
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    "and burden his master with it again" - that's just the Ring being subtle. Of course Sam needs to keep the ring, for Frodo's own good. Just like Deagol should have just given the ring to Smeagol, because it was his birthday. – Mark Bessey Nov 13 '11 at 9:58
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    I have to agree with Mark here. The ring corrupts using the natural (and good) desires of the user. It tempts even Gandalf through his desire to do good; it gets Boromir through his love for Gondor. Naturally with Sam it begins by playing on his love for Frodo. "Look how tired he is; you can carry it just a little further for him..." – Tynam Jan 23 '12 at 0:12
  • 3
    Samwise during the short period when he was briefly the Ring-wearer was tempted with being "Samwise the Great", ordering everything "properly" and seeing the world as a Grand Garden but he consciously rejected that temptation. – Morgan Apr 21 '13 at 2:40
  • 1
    'and burden his master with it again' does this not show that Sam was true in his love and intentions. That he wasn't as corrupted (even if he did hold it for a brief amount of time) and put his love of his master before the taking the Ring for himself. He was shown a vision of a garden I think but rejected it. I think he was 'reluctant' because he just didn't want to see Frodo struggle with the burden again. – user17296 Sep 12 '13 at 9:31
13

The length of time you have the Ring for is not really relevant; Isildur had barely even taken it when he was ensnared, Smeagol didn't even have it yet when it got him.

It seems evident that Sam was affected by the Ring; aside from the evidence given in Tony Meyer's answer, Sam was acknowledged as a Ring-bearer:

"Though you too were a Ring-bearer, if only for a little while. Your time may come."

(The Grey Havens)

And it is said that he eventually left Middle-Earth via the Havens:

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.

(Appendix C)

Letters makes it clear that this was not some kind of "reward", but instead a time of healing:

Their sojourn was a 'purgatory', but one of peace and healing and they would eventually pass away (die at their own desire and of free will) to destinations of which the Elves knew nothing.

(Letter 325)

But healing from what? For a Ring-bearer there is only one candidate - the influence of the Ring!

10

As mentioned here, Sam does experience temptation, but is able to resist (just as other characters like Galadriel could at least temporarily resist its temptations, though none had to endure it as long as Frodo and Gollum and presumably would have had their will broken eventually). Note in particular this quote from The Return of the King, in the chapter "The Tower of Cirith Ungol":

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 except 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-dur. 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 his 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.

'And anyway all these notions are only a trick, he said to himself.

And as Tony Meyer's answer pointed out, it may have been the effect of the Ring that made Sam "reluctant to give up the Ring and burden his master with it again."

2

Sam did only carry it a short time but he also likely had the highest character out of everyone in my opinion. He was very honest and devoted to Frodo as well. If Frodo had died I do believe that Sam would have had the strength of character to destroy the ring though you never know. Also Sam was so intent on saving Frodo that he didn't have much time to think about the ring while it was in his possesion. Obviously the task would have never been done without Sam's help and I think many believe-including Tolkien himself, that Sam is the true hero of the entire story. People also mention Bilbo's ability to remain unaffected by the ring and he definitely used it more and carried it far longer than Frodo but Sauron was not nearly as strong at that time and therefore it was much easier for Bilbo. Sauron was also not ready to reveal himself so he could continue to gain strength in secret therefore Bilbo never felt the evil emanating from the ring that Frodo felt.

-1

Sam remains unaffected because he loves Frodo more than the ring itself.

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

-3

Let’s do something that will probably make Tolkien roll over in his grave: think of the Ring as sin and Frodo as Jesus, and it all falls into place from there. Sin has an effect on all of us, but if our hearts are full enough of Jesus, there’s no room for sin. To use LOTR vernacular, Sam already had a Precious; he didn’t have room for anything else. Tolkien even tells us as much:

“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 bare such a burden, even if such visions were not a mere cheat to betray him.” – the Tower of Cirith Ungol

Seriously, that sentence almost sounds like it’s from the Bible. From it I think it’s pretty clear that the Ring had very little effect on Sam both because he was a hobbit and because of his love for Frodo. If you think about it, their friendship is one of the fiew things the Ring doesn’t corrupt. Frodo has his outbursts, but those almost build the friendship, don’t they? (We’re talking Tolkien here, not Jackson.)

If we’re going to start speculating that the Ring is now encouraging Sam’s love for Frodo, we’ll probably just wind up confusing ourselves and start saying bizarre things like Rose was actually in love with Frodo and only married Sam because she’d get to live in Bag End.

  • 2
    While I agree with the ring as sin analogy, I disagree that Frodo is a Jesus type. Jesus, while tempted, never sinned or was in bondage to sin. Frodo was clearly in bondage to the ring. I also think it's important to clearly differentiate the 2 desires - the desire Frodo had for the Precious was a lustful addiction while Sam's desire for Frodo was selfless love. They weren't equivalent desires. – IanB Feb 3 '17 at 23:20

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