Years ago, my husband and I attempted to watch the first movie in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Unfortunately, we made the mistake of watching The Fellowship of the Ring late at night and both fell asleep before the credits rolled. A few years later, we made another attempt so that we could soon watch the newly released second movie, The Two Towers. This attempt was equally unsuccessful aaaannnnd… we snoozed again. We didn’t dare try to watch either movie again and as such, have never seen the third movie, The Return of the King.

Until the end of last summer…

We set a few of ground rules that would allow us not only to watch this fantastic trilogy but to absorb the truths woven throughout. Our plan was threefold:

1.) Do not start movie past 9 pm.
2.) Watch only 60-90 minutes at a time.
3.) If eyes begin to close, immediately stop movie.

These guidelines proved very effective and I highly recommend them if you struggle to keep your eyes open during epic movies exceeding two hours. We finally finished the trilogy in October. Hey, don’t judge us. We know we’re only a decade behind the rest of our culture. But that’s okay because we took our time and let the nuggets of truth in each movie sink into our minds, creating some great dialogue in our home and beyond. We continue to chat about our favorite characters, quotes, and scenes and marvel at how some of the people and places mirror our current lives.

While I have thought often about the various scenes throughout each movie, I have spent more mental energy processing the characters. My favorite (for now) is Samwise Gamgee, played by actor Sean Austin. Samwise represents the ideal friend, the sidekick to the main character, Frodo, whose mission is to return to Moldor, where the powerful Ring can finally be destroyed. Throughout each movie, Samwise proves to be loyal, trustworthy, honest, strong, kind, and perhaps above all, the daily giver of hope to the burdened Frodo, especially as they struggle to survive.

In many ways, I could relate to both Sam and Frodo. Glendon & I traveled some very dark roads in our personal lives late summer/early fall, a dreadful season that left us feeling abandoned in ways we did not foresee. I desperately needed a Sam in my life, someone loyal, someone I could trust implicitly, someone who would put her arm around me and help me along. My Sam looked differently than I expected during those months but I am grateful for the few who walked with me, as best they could. (You know who you are.)

The two scenes that I cannot shake are found in the second and third movies. In The Two Towers, Sam offers his hobbit wisdom to Frodo, reminding him of the deeper purpose and hope beyond their present circumstances:

“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something. That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.”

The second scene that meant a great deal to me is found in The Return of the King. Sam and Frodo have suffered great loss, separation from their friends and co-warriors, betrayal, hunger, thirst, total exhaustion, and at times, delirium. They reach a point where Frodo, overwhelmed by the deceitful villain, Gallum, and the power of The Ring, can no longer go on. Sam picks up a severely injured Frodo, hoists him over his shoulder and says to his friend,

“I can’t carry it {The Ring} for you but I can carry you.”

That scene sent me over the emotional edge. I cried. HARD. I cried because those words spoke to my own sad, burdened soul. I cried because I needed a Samwise to say those words to me.

“I can’t carry this heavy burden for you, Katie, but I can carry you.”


It’s February now. We’re nearly 7 months beyond those shadowed summer roads and I’ve learned a few lessons from this amazing trilogy. No matter what your journey looks like in this season, maybe you’ll find these to be useful along the way.

Lesson #1: Everyone needs a Samwise. You need a trusted friend (or relative) who is willing and able to venture into your darkness WITH you. This someone is committed to you, knows your strengths and weaknesses, walks with you, helps you as you bear your burden, and points you to the destination beyond the darkness.

Lesson #2: Samwise will probably fail you. There may be times when your most trusted friend can only journey so far into your pain or circumstance. Even Sam admitted that he could not carry The Ring for Frodo. I don’t know what that failure looks like for you. Maybe you hope for more time with that person, more conversations, greater depth. I have found that when I adjust my expectations and extend grace where necessary, my emotional health thanks me. (I know, I know, easier said than done.)

Lesson #3: Some burdens are meant for only you to carry. For all of the stories and quotes I’ve read on this topic of friendship, the only Friend I know who is “always there for me” is the One who died to give me life. And on my best days, He is enough. On my insecure days, I need someone dressed in skin. The burden I carried this summer could only have been carried by Him. I’m thankful that He gave me a Samwise (or two), as well. They were not able to carry my burden but they helped to hoist my wide load over the emotional obstacles and point me to the Truth:

“Even darkness must pass. A new day will come.”

I hope that you have a Samwise in your life. And perhaps more importantly, I hope that you are a Samwise.

Or at least you’re on your way toward becoming one.



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2 thoughts on “Samwise

  1. This was so incredible, Katie. I’ve been down that road, and having a Samwise is incredible. ❤

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