Saturday, April 30, 2011

Writing Lessons from Sam

FRODO: I can’t do this, Sam.

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. 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.

[The actual speech from the movie can be found here.  It's a lot more emotional, so I'd encourage you to watch it first before reading the post.]


I love Sam's Speech.  It's one of my favorite scenes in Lord of the Rings (save for the Battle of Pelennor Fields).  Something about darkness, light, stories—they meld together and create something utterly compelling to me.  And Sam's speech—in the middle of the destruction of Osgiliath—expresses this perfectly.

Amidst this speech are some great points.  The speech is chock full of meaning, and it is especially  meaningful for writers.  I agree with Sam wholeheartedly: the best stories (like Lord of the Rings) are full of darkness. Danger.  The characters had a choice to go back, but they didn't.  And they held on to something.

But since I don't have time to write a full-blown post about the wonders of this speech (and believe me, I could write one), I thought I'd ask you a question, dear reader.  What do you see in this speech?  What moves you?  What do you think you can take from these words and apply in your writing?  What kind of stuff do you see regarding great stories?

Take a few lessons from Sam.  He knows what he's talking about.

By the way, if you haven't already, stop by my giveaway.  Good stuff happening over there. :)  It ends in less than a week, so hurry and enter!


Squeaks said...

Great post Jake! Sam is a great character (although I think Frodo is more meaningful to me). I do believe Sam has taught me many valuable lessons, with the most important being that encouragement and love will uphold a person no matter what. I adore his devoted attitude towards Frodo and how much he truly loves him in that caring way; if I could write a character as effective as Sam or Frodo I'd be quite pleased with myself. They're both just so real :)


Hannah Joy said...

My opinion seems small after what a great speech that is! But, you asked for it, so may I give my thoughts?

Sam speaks of darkness. And yet, many of us avoid it. I mean, the real, nitty gritty darkness. The real evil. In many books I read, darkness is avoided, perhaps to be able to call it a true "Christian" book. I'm not saying we should be totally explicit about all the evils of the world. Not at all. But sometimes, to tell the truth, we must tell it. In A. S. Peterson's books, The Fiddler's Gun and The Fiddler's Green, he shows the darker side. So does Tolkien. There is death, there is gore (though maybe not that into the gore...definitely not all about the gore...), there are bad choices, there is sadness, and, most of all, there is evil. And many Christians will shun a book (or maybe other media?) simply because it tells about evil. That is silly. Our Bible has evil in it, believe it or not. Our Bible has death, gore, sadness.... And it is the greatest truth isn't it?

Please don't misunderstand me. I don't believe in a super gory, sinful, explicit novel. I don't enjoy that at all, in fact, I hate it. But I do enjoy reading Lord of the Rings, The Fiddler's Gun, etc. etc. Because amongst the evil, there is good. There is what we Christians believe in. There is God.

We, as authors, must bring our readers through a battle, through a fight. We must exhaust our readers, make them weep uncontrollably, laugh until their sides hurt. We must give our readers (aka our characters) a chance to turn back. Over and over. We must show evil to be able to recognize the importance of good. We have to have a ring and show the evil of the ring or else the reader will find no good in the destruction of it.

Please forgive the length of this comment. I deeply apologize. Thanks for keeping my mind on its toes!

Jake said...

To write a character like one of Tolkien's would be a great feat indeed! I consider myself lucky when I find such a character in any book, published or otherwise.

You stole the words from my mouth. I would have said much of the same stuff had I the time to write a post about this. :) It is in the dark moments when you realize how precious life and light is. And when it triumphs, your heart triumphs as well.

Fantastic comment, Hannah, thank you. You have given me much to think upon. And such a comment is welcome! I have no size limit. ;)

Marian said...

This is one of my favorite quotes ever--it's really sad, but in an uplifting way. Part of what makes it stand out to me is Sam's reference to a child's understanding, "That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why." Oldfashioned, good-vs-evil fairytales are so underrated these days, but they're some of the most important books a person can read.

And even just the fact that Sam says this speech is poignant. He starts out in the trilogy as little more than comic relief, but now he's becoming a true hero. He's stayed so strong on this journey, even though he left so much behind him. And Frodo needed to hear this, too, at this point in the story, which is indeed one of their last chances to turn back.

Admin said...

I love that part in the movie. It truly is those stories that stay with you, where evil is displayed as what it is evil. Evil is bad (redundant), but many of us either don't want to know that, or don't see any point in knowing about it. Our Bible does have violence, it shows what sin and evil really is. We should abhor evil, but we should also face it, and face it bravely.

People feel uncomfortable when talking about certain types of evil. While it certainly is good to be nervous so that you can make good observations, evil is part of life.

When you can put evil in books as what it is, you have truly won a battle. Make your characters and readers face it. Make them triumph, make them fall into it. These things all add to making a realistic story like LOTR.

There are theological inferences that we can draw from this as well as writing lessons.

Thank You

Hannah Joy said...


Thanks! When something so thought provoking is presented, I must give my humble opinion. Actually, I had been thinking about things like this for some time...So it was good to get it out! Thanks!

Jake said...

Glad I can help! And thank YOU!

Aye. There's just so much you can pull out of this stuff, and Lord of the Rings in general. :) Great thoughts!

Very true. Thank you for your thoughts! Like I said above, there is a huge amount of stuff you can pull from Lord of the Rings. Theological points, writing stuff, and much more.

Elizabeth Eiowing said...

I LOVE this speech!! And I can never remember word for word which annoys me greatly!! One of the best parts EVER in the book and the movie!! :D

Jake said...

Indeed, Elizabeth! I've watched Lord of the Rings so many times I've practically memorized it.