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Eryn Justice

 

“Frodo’s Batman”

 

In Mark T. Hooker’s essay “Frodo’s Batman,” he explores the many similarities between Samwise and the batmen of World War I.  As Tolkien himself admitted, Sam was “a reflection of the English soldier, the privates and batmen I knew in the 1914 war, and recognized as so far superior to myself.” (125)  During that time, batmen were the soldiers who acted as valets and servants to the officers of the gentleman class.  In his paper, Hooker recounts several stories told by two British officers of their batmen.  Although Tolkien may not have known of these particular batmen, they show the same loyalty and devotion to their masters’ welfare and comfort that Sam did and that the batmen Tolkien knew must have had.

Speaking of his batman, Pearson, one officer, Hodgson, said:

“Do you want a chair for the [Officers’] Mess?  You have only to mention it to Pearson.  Are you starving in a deserted village?  Pearson will find you wine, bread and eggs.  Are you sick of a fever? Pearson will heal you.  From saving your life to sewing on your buttons, he is infallible.” (126)

Indeed, the batmen seem to have been nothing short of extraordinary; once when Hodgson’s unit was in particularly filthy conditions, Hodgson found he had lice.  Without being pressed, Pearson told his master that he would need a bath and a change of clothes, and that he would see to it.  Hodgson made a joke of it, thinking such luxuries impossible while encamped in the trenches.  Within a short while, though, Hodgson returned to his dug-out to find a hot bath and the promised change of clothes waiting for him.

Another time, Hodgson had bet the President of the Mess that Pearson could find a carpet to be used in the Officers’ Mess by the next day at tea.  He dismissed Hodgson’s faith in his batman, remarking that “the boy is not a conjurer,” (127) but soon before tea the next day, Pearson produced a carpet and two rolls of linoleum.  He had gone to a nearby town that had been under daily enemy fire to find them, explaining that “I could not let you lose a bet, sir, for the sake of a little trouble.” (127)

Another officer said of his batman that he was “the best, most intimate friend man ever had,” (127) “a faithful servant, a friend and counselor, an ever-present companion to give me confidence in the darkness of a dangerous night, and good cheer, when fortune favored a visit to battalion headquarters.” (127)  He told of how his batman washed, dried and mended his clothes; prepared his food; seemed always able to provide him with small comforts; and fought by his side.

Over the course of Frodo’s quest, Sam shows nearly all of the qualities given in these officers’ descriptions and stories of their batmen.  Sam speaks to Frodo in the way that a servant would invariably have spoken to his master, calling him “Mr. Frodo” and “sir.”  He also takes responsibility for Frodo’s welfare and comfort (at least as far as that is possible) throughout their journey.  On the way to Rivendell, Frodo sleeps later than the others, and when he awakens, Pippin tells him that he would have eaten all the bread the Elves had left them if Sam had not insisted that he leave some for Frodo.  While they are on their journey, Sam seems to consistently carry more than the other hobbits.  When Frodo complains jokingly that they’ve put all the heaviest things in his pack, Sam says (untruthfully, as Tolkien notes to the reader) that he can carry more, and his pack is still  quite light.  Later, Aragorn notes that Sam’s pack in particular was “rather large and heavy.” (129)

His care is also evident in that when he packed, not only did he pack many of the useful things that are easy to forget, yet hard to live without, but also “a number of small things that Frodo had forgotten, that Sam planned to produce in triumph when Frodo asked for them on the trail.” (130)  Later, it was Sam who brought the elven rope, and even at the Breaking of the Fellowship, when he could hardly have been expected to keep his wits about him, he thought to grab “a spare blanket and some extra packages of food.” (130)  Later, when Frodo and Sam are traveling with Gollum, Sam cooked for his master some stewed rabbits.  Hooker notes that although Gollum was actually the one to catch them, Sam was the one who sent him to do so.  It wasn’t important to the officers who actually heated the water, from whose pack his change of clothes had come, or who took the eggs from the henhouse; it was his batman who took the initiative to arrange for the bath, the change of clothes, and eggs at breakfast.  Later, in Cirith Ungol, it is Sam who finds Frodo some clothes.

Just as a batman would have fought alongside his master in battle, Sam defended Frodo from danger, or stood ready to do so, innumerable times, notably from the Black Riders and Shelob.  As Pippin said of him, Sam is “an excellent fellow and would jump down a dragon’s throat to save you.”  After they returned home to the Shire, the same sort of changes happened to Sam as happened in England on a larger scale after World War I.  After World War I, the class structure became far less rigid, and back in the Shire, Sam became Mayor, was granted the privilege of keeping the Red Book, was made Frodo’s heir, and became famous among hobbits.  Tolkien said that Sam was consciously modeled on World War I batmen, and indeed Hooker is quite right in his assertion that Sam is very like them in nearly every way.

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