At roughly page 277 (I'm reading a translation) of The Two Towers, where Gollum is talking to himself as Frodo is sleeping, it says:

Sam had lain still, fascinated by this debate, but watching every move that Gollum made from under his half-closed eye-lids. To his simple mind ordinary hunger, the desire to eat hobbits, had seemed the chief danger in Gollum. He realized now that it was not so: Gollum was feeling the terrible call of the Ring. The Dark Lord was He, of course; but Sam wondered who She was.

Huh?! I was fully convinced that Sam had been extremely aware of this threat since long before they ever met Gollum. How is it possible that Frodo did not think it was necessary to even mention this to his trusty companion and only friend, facing such extreme dangers? It seems downright idiotic by Frodo and putting them in an even worse danger.

In fact, in spite of the explanation that Frodo feels pity and mercy toward Gollum, I found it baffling how careless they both were in handling Gollum. Not even having his foot tied to the rope, allowing themselves to go to sleep both at the same time, etc. Even if Gollum didn't desire the Ring, or even knew about it, he is such a weird and sketchy figure that this alone should make them far more careful and cautious. They seemed to trust him for absolutely no good reason.

What on Earth did Sam think that Gollum was? Why was this weird creature following them around for so long and repeatedly tried to stab/suffocate/bite/attack/flee from them? Just some crazy guy who happens to have found them and is looking for "hobbit meat"? Even if that had been the case, Sam's behaviour is absolutely bizarre to me. And Frodo's is even worse.

Why exactly did Frodo (apparently) not tell Sam about this extremely important detail? Why did Sam never question or ask about it?

I also find it strange that Tolkien says "simple mind", as if Sam was some kind of mentally challenged hobbit. Maybe that's what's implied... But he seems very capable to me, albeit strangely submissive to Frodo in a way which I don't quite understand. But for him to think that this Gollum person was following them around to Mordor just to kill and eat them makes zero sense to me. Sam doesn't appear even nearly that stupid/ignorant in the rest of the story to me. To me, he just seems "slightly less sophisticated" than Frodo, and presumably relatively poor since he worked for Frodo back home.

I also don't understand why Sam would hold Frodo's hand and almost kiss it and cry over it sometimes. That doesn't seem like normal hobbit behaviour. Or even something that a servant would do.

This part actually made me uncomfortable, way more than the environment/setting of the story. It makes me feel as if I've missed some major point of the whole story. Maybe I am too stupid to realize that Sam has been described throughout the whole story to be a real "simpleton"?

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    Side note: Sam’s name means “half wise” = fool, so etymologically he is a simpleton. How far Tolkien intended this to be taken, well, let’s see what people come up with in the answers. – Charles Sep 4 at 1:09
  • I think it was already obvious that Gollum desired the Ring (remember how they made him "swear on the Precious" when they first captured him), but maybe Sam didn't see that as a danger to them until then. – Rand al'Thor Sep 4 at 8:00

The Nature of Hobbits

I'd start with 'Concerning Hobbits':

Hobbits are an unobtrusive but very ancient people, more numerous formerly than they are today; for they love peace and quiet and good tilled earth: a well-ordered and well-farmed countryside was their favourite haunt. They do not and did not understand or like machines more complicated than a forge-bellows, a water-mill, or a hand-loom, though they were skilful with tools. ...

... Their faces were as a rule good-natured rather than beautiful, broad, bright-eyed, red-cheeked, with mouths apt to laughter, and to eating and drinking. And laugh they did, and eat, and drink, often and heartily, being fond of simple jests at all times, and of six meals a day (when they could get them). They were hospitable and delighted in parties, and in presents, which they gave away freely and eagerly accepted. ...

At no time had Hobbits of any kind been warlike, and they had never fought among themselves. ...

The only real official in the Shire at this date was the Mayor of Michel Delving (or of the Shire), who was elected every seven years at the Free Fair on the White Downs at the Lithe, that is at Midsummer. As mayor almost his only duty was to preside at banquets, given on the Shire-holidays, which occurred at frequent intervals. But the offices of Postmaster and First Shirriff were attached to the mayoralty, so that he managed both the Messenger Service and the Watch. These were the only Shire-services, and the Messengers were the most numerous, and much the busier of the two. ...

I've only put in the most relevant of the passages which I believe illustrate what it means when Samwise is a "simple" person. Namely, there is no duplicity in him (as there is not in most hobbits). Also, they essentially did not know about politics because such a thing did not take place in the Shire. Hence, Sam could not understand something as complex as an 'ever-burning desire for the One Ring' because it was so far out of the (simple, i.e., straightforward) world that he had experienced.

Sam, Frodo, & Sméagol

Sam knows of Gollum originally from Bilbo and then their mutual wanderings; when Bilbo discusses Gollum, then his intention had been to eat Bilbo. Hence, Sam's first knowledge of Gollum is as someone who eats hobbits.

Now, of course Sam has also been aware of the effects of the Ring on Bilbo and Frodo, but it seems to me that throughout the story nearly everyone (except for Cirdan, Gandalf, Elrond, and Galadriel) underestimate the true power of the Ring—and the hold it takes on its owner, and, especially, on Gollum who had it for such a long time.

Regarding what Frodo mentions or doesn't mention, I think it's quite apparent that he knows a lot but lets on little: there are other times as well when he could talk and expand on subjects, but does not do it. As odd as it is, this sounds to me as an aspect of politeness—and, again, though Frodo knows more about the Ring than Samwise does, he still underestimates the depths to which it takes ahold of the wearer.

However, this small understanding also made Frodo think that swearing on this symbol would be enough to keep Sméagol truthful: which it actually was, more or less, for a very long while. This worked a lot better than the rope which actively hurt Sméagol, at the very least, and it also gave the hobbits a basis for trusting him.

Frodo & Sam

Regarding your last question... The behaviour—of Sam holding Frodo's arm—may seem quaint to us in the 21st century, and could even be the aspect of the book which has aged quickest as modern male gestures have shirked away from intimacy.

But, Sam is Frodo's servant and gardener—more than that, they are also close friends, though Frodo is a few years older than Sam. Sam clearly cared about Frodo enough to depart the Shire and to help him on his journey, along with Merry and Pippin, because they felt they couldn't allow their friend to embark on that journey alone.

We're now months on into the expedition, and Frodo and Sam have been travelling together, Sam mostly helping Frodo on because of how weak he is. I think it's human (hobbit?) to show concern and care for someone in such a situation, and Samwise displays the strongest empathy when he does do so. The same applies in the "If I can't carry it, I'll carry you" situation.

I also think Sam can see (to his greatest regret) a situation where only he has the strength to make it back—and that makes him even more regretful of the circumstances they find themselves in. He clearly wouldn't want to come out himself.

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