Friday, January 16, 2015

With Ribbons In Her Hair

I think the simple ’rustic’ love of Sam and his Rosie (nowhere elaborated) is absolutely essential to the study of his (the chief hero’s) character, and to the theme of the relation of  ordinary life (breathing, eating, working, begetting) and quests, sacrifice, causes, and the ’longing for Elves’, and sheer beauty. But I will say no more....."

As we discussed in the first post on women in Tolkien’s work, there are some female characters in particular who are important, but barely receive any time within the books. I think the above quote sums up the Professor’s opinions on this rather well, and makes it clear how he went about writing them. Rosie Cotton is the love interest, and, after the War of the Ring, wife of Samwise Gamgee. She “appears” in the books, but with only three lines; yet, although Tolkien was cleared he wished not to elaborate on her (and while I wish he would have, I guess we have to cut a little slack for someone who had a massive cast of characters to write), these lines are significant and powerful.

"Hullo, Sam!’ said Rosie. "Where’ve you been? They said you were dead; but I’ve been expecting you since the spring. You haven’t hurried, have you?” [2]

I particularly love her matter-of-fact phrasing. What a strong, confident woman--she believes that Sam will come back regardless, and in facts, expects him to come back to the Shire (can you imagine her telling him how much offense she would have taken if he’d dawdled along any longer?). It’s said in the books that the hobbits of the Shire all believed that Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin were all dead. The Shire is such a fascinating place; it’s appealing because it’s so isolated, innocent, and peaceful, but they also have a very narrow view of the world. For most of the hobbits, it’s the only place they’ve ever lived and been (remember Sam saying that the cornfields were the furthest he’d ever been, as he and Frodo started out on their long journey?). In The Hobbit, when Bilbo left, they all believed him to be dead as well, due to his long absence--an absence which hobbits like the Sackville-Bagginses took advantage of the opportunity to take over his house and possessions. The same is true for the hobbits in The Lord of the Rings; with no outside contact or communication, they were expected never to return.
Which makes Rosie all the more fascinating and wonderful for her unwavering belief that Sam would return. Despite being told that Sam and the rest were dead, she had begun looking out for his return since the spring. I would half believe that it was Rosie’s sheer willpower that got Frodo and Sam back, because she seems a force to be reckoned with. My favourite part of this whole dialogue, though, is the facetious last line, “You haven’t hurried, have you?.” Who says Tolkien didn’t have a sense of humor?

Frodo and Co. arrived back in the Shire as “The Scouring of the Shire” was taking place, a piece in the book not seen in the movie (which just showed an idyllic ride back into the Shire, peaceful as ever). The Shire had been industrialized, and Saruman and Wormtongue had taken over. Gandalf trusts the reclaiming of the Shire to the hobbits, who do an admirable job and Merry and Pippin themselves lead the ultimately successful Battle of Bywater. Rosie says to Sam, before he is to go aid the others in settling things:

“I think you look fine, Sam," she said. "Go on now! But take care of yourself, and come straight back as soon as you have settled the ruffians!” [3]

What is so admirable and the biggest attribute we see of Rosie in the books is her unwavering faithfulness. She is faithful to Sam, trusting him and believing he will come back, and she has faith that the Shire will be restored to what it was once and that evil will be vanquished. I think that’s exactly the kind of person Sam needed in his new life upon returning to the Shire; someone to support and trust him, to have confidence in him. Undoubtedly, Sam learned a lot and had so much more self-confidence after going on the quest to destroy the Ring, but even the strongest and most changed of people still need others in their life to encourage and support them.

Rosie, it seems, was written by Tolkien as a support role; but I don’t think that’s a negative thing whatsoever. As was said in the first quote, Sam and Rosie’s love was simple, and that gives a realistic dimension to the story; that some of us, after a grand adventure, go back to normality and comfort again (like Sam) and need that, and others, like Frodo, can never settle again. I think Rosie was the key to Sam being able to return to the Shire; as Frodo put it, Sam had so much to look forward to, and so much to live for. Rosie was definitely a woman who had the strength and compassion and the down-to-earth hobbit nature that would help Sam process and heal and begin life again, and she is so important for that fact alone. Furthermore, these character traits we’ve discussed--they make her her own person, who obviously thinks and feels and is real. It’s a pity that Tolkien could not write more on her, but I like that she is there for Sam and always has been; she is so many things, but she is life again for Sam. I’m reminded of a quote oft repeated--that home is sometimes not a place, but it can be a person. I think that describes Sam and Rosie perfectly, and that this down to earth, honest romance creates a home for two dear, courageous characters.

[1] J.R.R. Tolkien, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. Print, 2014.

[2] J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Print, original publication 1955.

[3] J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Print, original publication 1955.


  1. This was a wonderful and sweet post. I too wish we'd seen more of Rosie, but I love how much we can tell about her from the few lines she has. (-:

  2. Awww... this is so adorable. It's been some time since I read the books (in process right now) so I hardly remember Rosie aside from her appearances in the movies (which are short & even less developed than the books). But Sam and Rosie's love story always has a special place in my heart. <33 Especially after knowing Tolkien's own comments on their love story.