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I think the achievements of Sam and Frodo are hard to separate. Sam is more heroic in the traditional sense of the word. Whereas Frodo's heroism is deeper, he bears he unbearable and suffers the insufferable. But the heroism of one is dependant upon the heroism of the other.
After giving it a great deal of thought, I'd have to say that Frodo was the more heroic of the two.
I think that Sam's motives and Frodo's motives were quite different. Frodo's devotion to his friends was to leave (or at least, try to leave)them all behind at Parth Galen so that they would not suffer the torturous fate of Mordor that he knew was inevitable. Even though he had no hope of suviving such a quest, Frodo went into Mordor anyway because he knew that he had to at least try to save ME.
However, Sam's devotion to Frodo was truly remarkable and all of his acts of bravery were inspired by an effort to save or protect his master. Without Sam, Frodo could never had made it Sammath Naur and without Frodo, Sam would have never gone there to begin with.
Perhaps, in this situation mere heroism would not have been enough to accomplish such a goal. Had Frodo been a self-serving and thoughtless employer, I doubt that Sam would have been so devoted.
I agree with Turgon that it is quite difficult to seperate the heroism of Frodo and Sam. They both faced the same dangers. There are differences, however, and I suppose how one ways those differences might affect who you thought was more heroic. I think Frodo had a clearer idea of the dangers involved when they set out from the Shire and always thought of it as a one way trip, but he went nevertheless. Sam did not understand the dangers and hence for the most part did not think it was a suicide mission, but he was still willing to face the unknown dangers because of his friendship for Frodo. In Shelob's lair Frodo faced down Shelob in the dark with Galadriel's light, but he did not know what he was facing. Sam, on the other hand also faced down Shelob in defence of Shelob and did it when he could see the horror he was facing. Sam also made up his mind to "storm" Cirith Ungol to rescue Frodo. Frodo had to bear the ever increasing burden of the Ring as they both made the hopeless trek to Orodruin across Mordor, though of course in the end the Ring conquered Frodo. Back at the Scouring of the Shire, Sam takes a more martial role than Frodo, but Frodo tries to keep the situation under control. Frodo behaves here more as a commanding officer than one of the troops. I would say that Sam and Frodo are about equally heroic, just in different ways. The quest to destroy the Ring would have failed without the heroism of both of them.
I have always found Sam to be one one if not the most endearing and in some ways complicated character because he is almost an anomaly - we have Frodo who is the Ringbearer and therefore has a great deal of support and guidance from Elves and such and all of the other non-hobbits in the Fellowship are powerful in their own right - and then there is Sam and he goes to hell and back simply because of his love for his friend - no grand plan or master destiny.
And don't downplay Frodo's attachment to the ring - he may have volunteered to carry it to Mordor to be heroic and also because he would have trouble parting from it...
Sam is of a pure heart even right to the end and I think this is a more powerful heroism for me - he basically carries Frodo through Mordor at the end...
But, even in Sam's pure of heart-ness (huh?), he can't seem to find the compassion for Gollum that FRodo has until the very end when he spares his life when he understands a little of what Gollum went through. That's also after SAm had bore the Ring.
Clearly because the power of the Ring is only the most clear to the ones that have actually carried it. Sam had felt that for a short while and was only then capable of grasping the burden that both Frodo and Gollum had suffered.
I don't think he was more herioc or something, he had some strength left in the end, which he used to aid the quest and Frodo. Herioc enough I guess.
Frodo was fully aware of the dangers involved, after being hurt deeply by the Nazgul and all. I'd say it was pretty heroic to offer to go at the Council of Elrond. Willing to depart with the Ring or not.
Well, thinking not much about it I vote for some. I admit that attacking Shelob really surprised me. Such a brave act from a little Hobbit. So many huge and powerful orcs ended up being eaten by Shelob but still there he was: a small unimportand hobbit, fighting a huge and ugle beast, protecting his friend and finally being victorious. And if someone says that anger lead him to this act then think about his desicion to take the ring and finish the quest. Of course at the end thinks turned up differently. But it really surprised me that although he put on the ring himself, he still returned it to Frodo. Well whatever. I think Frodo was more powerful in the mind while Sam was not as clever as him. I don't say that Sam was stupid cause he wasn't.
I think Sam had also had it with Gollum - he had traveled with the wretch for days - weeks - with Frodo barely there - he had studied Gollum and had pitied him and had been disgusted by him - in some ways Sam was the Gollum expert - who else had lived with a free Gollum for that length of time?
And even after all of their time together Gollum still tried to ave them killed - Sam saw Gollum for what he was - absorbed and gobbled by the ring.
I also agree Sam lacked Frodo's intuitiveness and analytic mind - he was cut and dry - and that probably saved everyone in the end.
I have just joined this merry band, so please forgive me if I say something extreemly stupid.
On the question of Sam's heroism, I would say that he is a new kind of hero. There are three principal (mortal) hereos: Aragorn, Frodo and Sam. Aragorn is the heroic embodiment of past glory. With his ascendency to the throne, he restores the majesty of Gondor and the memory of Numenor. Frodo on the other hand restores or creates nothing, rather his actions prevent the downfall of man and the final victory of evil.
So where does this leave Sam? I see Sam as the "father of his country" so to speak. Sam is the first leader to emerge after the fall of Sauron and the exodus of the elves. As such, he helps to create a new "age of man". One that can recall the magic and glory of past ages, but is by no mean dependant upon them. So, Sam has to govern with out the aid of Elven magic or the advice of Wizards. I would say that even attempting that task would count as heroic.
Just my thoughts on the subject.
Thank you for allowing me to rant.