Yesterday, I spoke about the various Ring-Bearers of the Silmarillion, the Hobbit, and the Trilogy of the Rings. I mentioned that Tom Bombadil is an exception to the stories of those who handled the Dark Ring. He was apparently not in the least affected. Four of the remaining five were seriously affected. But, if you read closely, there was one Ring-Bearer who was not apparently affected, Samwise Gamgee. When necessary, when he thought that Frodo was dead, he took the Dark Ring in order to ensure that the mission continues. At this point, there is no difference with the other Ring-Bearers, each one came in contact with the Dark Ring. The difference happens when he returns the Dark Ring to Frodo. Unlike Bilbo, when Gandalf asks for the Dark Ring, and unlike Frodo, when it is brought up to him by Gandalf, Samwise neither resists, nor seems to be troubled by handing the Dark Ring over. So, why is Samwise the only one (save Tom Bombadil). Well, there is actually a hint why in something that Samwise says.
Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. 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.
Frodo: What are we holding on to Sam?
Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.
Samwise was able to resist the Dark Ring because he was filled with the tales of those who had gone before. He knew them and he loved them. This would be the equivalent of someone who knows the Scriptures, Holy Tradition, and the lives of the Saints. They gave him a foundation on which to build his hope that told him to continue and to resist. “They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.” Samwise was holding onto the idea that the great stories were correct, that what he had heard about the way in which the world really works was true, and that, even if he lost, that the truth was worth fighting for because even if the battle were lost, the war would be won in the long run. But, Saint Anthony the Great makes a comment about what he calls “discretion” that gives us some additional input.
“Often men are most strict in fasting and in vigils. Often they nobly withdraw into solitude and aim at depriving themselves of all their goods so that they do not suffer even one day’s supply of food or a single penny to remain to them. Often they fulfil all the duties of kindness with the utmost devotion. Yet even such men are sometimes suddenly deceived. They cannot bring the work they have entered upon to its fitting close, but bring their exalted fervour and noble manner of life to a terrible end. In these men, though the virtues I have mentioned abound in them, yet discretion is wanting, and they are not able to continue unto the end. There is no other reason for their falling away than that they have not obtained discretion, that spiritual wisdom which, passing by excess on either side, teaches a monk to walk always along the royal road. It does not suffer him to be puffed up on the right hand of virtue, that is, from excess of zeal, in foolish presumption, to transgress the bounds of due moderation. Nor does it allow him to become slack and turn away to vices on the left hand, that is, under pretext of duly managing the body, to become lukewarm. For it is discretion which is termed in the gospel the “eye” and “the light of the body” according to the Saviour’s saying, because as it discerns all the thoughts and actions of men it sees and overlooks all things which should be done. But if in any man this be “evil,” that is, not fortified by sound judgment and knowledge, or is deceived by some error or presumption, it will make the whole body “full of darkness.” It will obscure all our mental vision, and our actions will be involved in the darkness of vice and the gloom of unpeacefulness. No one can doubt that when the judgment of our heart goes wrong and is overwhelmed by ignorance, our thoughts and deeds must be involved in the darkness of still greater sins.”
Saint Anthony would say that Samwise is full of discretion. That is, Samwise has his priorities in the right place. If you re-read the parts that tell us about Samwise in the Lord of the Rings, you will see that he desires no power. He is a Hobbit of the earth. His ideal is not power, but rather to do his work, to marry, to have a family, and to live appropriately. Throughout the book, he wants nothing more than to return to the simple life, with his Rosie, and his dwelling. He exercises the discretion that enables him to resist the pull of power and the pull of betrayal. He is, in fact, a spiritually wise person, steeped in the ancient tales and desiring nothing but what is appropriate. Thus, the Dark Ring is unable to have any significant hold on him. His focus on the ancient tales and on living a simple life of service to Frodo and love of Rosie make him immune to the Ring.
That is the sense in which I call him Samwise the Blessed.