As movie goers visit theaters nationwide to watch the final installment of the Hobbit series, few people recognize that there is a hidden story in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings masterpiece.
At the conclusion of The Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkien's author notes stated that he was not a believer in allegories and did not write his stories to have any allegorical meaning. However, elsewhere he wrote that, "The names come first and the story follows." Tolkien scholars have long seen parallels of the Shire of hobbits with the rural lands of England. They see the tie-in of the dead marshes with the killing fields Tolkien experienced as a soldier in World War I. Many of the names have roots with real locations familiar to Tolkien.
Perhaps the most interesting name choice in Tolkien's work is that of Samwise Gamgee. All the other main characters have creative names not to be found elsewhere in common usage. However, Sam, as he is normally referred to in the books, is a very plain and common name. It also has a very interesting meaning. Sam is short for Samuel, which in Hebrew has the meaning: Name of God.
This name choice is very interesting, coming from the very religious Catholic Tolkien. When you reflect on actions taken by Sam in the books, it is extremely easy to see that he is an obvious Christ figure. If you have not read the books in a while, here are some examples:
1. Of all the characters in The Lord of the Rings, only Sam is not drawn to or influenced by The One Ring. The Ring can be seen to represent evil or sin and Christ is not capable of either.
2. Sam has no desire for power. His focus is to be a servant. One of the main themes of the New Testament is that of the importance of serving others rather oneself.
3. Sam is ever faithful and never gives up on Frodo. Even when Frodo makes bad choices and listens to Gollum, Sam will not completely abandon him. A promise found multiple times in scriptures is that Christ is always their to support believers.
4. Gollum tries to convince Frodo that Sam wants to steal his ring. This can be seen as Satan trying to portray Christ and his teachings as our enemy.
5. Sam was there to support Frodo's journey, but Frodo needed to make all the choices. This is consistent with the Christian doctrine of free will.
6. When Frodo was exhausted and unable to move further, Sam was there to carry him and encourage him not to give up. Believers also credit their Savior with giving them much needed support in times of great trials.
"I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you and it as well."
The Lord of the Rings is a great set of books without this perspective, but having this understanding should give readers an even richer reading experience.
Tolkien is not the only well known writer to give us a message about Sam, The Name of God. So did Dr. Suess.
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