No, Sam Gamgee Couldn't Lift Thor's Hammer
We asked readers which character from Lord of the Rings would make for the best roommate. A few characters did get multiple votes each (“d elf girl,” said Anton L., while James Wylder said “the elf girl”), but the winner by a wide margin was Samwise Gamgee.
That’s hardly surprising. Of course everyone loves Sam. Earlier in the year, we asked people which non-Marvel character could lift Thor’s hammer, and people answered “Samwise” to that question too. All this talk about Sam and Lord of the Rings, though, has us taking a step back and thinking about the surprising story the books told, and Sam’s place in it.
Back when the trilogy first came out, the idea of a weapon that only someone worthy could wield was an ancient trope. Besides Thor and his hammer, actual Norse myth had Sigmund and his sword Gram. Someone in The Ramayana is the only one who can lift a bow, and you’ve of course heard of young Arthur and the Sword in the Stone.
At the same time, related, was another trope: the quest for a powerful weapon that can destroy a mighty foe. The modern-day incarnation of Thor offers a version of this trope too, with Thor’s Infinity War quest to forge his new axe Stormbreaker, and while this quest ends unexpectedly (he does not slay his foe, or at least doesn’t do so in time), you can probably think of various other examples, in superhero stories and other myths, of heroes using science or magic to build the ultimate weapon.
The Lord of the Rings was a twist on both these tropes. For once, obtaining the all-powerful weapon was not some grand quest—the quest was to destroy the weapon. And for once, wielding the weapon took no special honor or strength—instead, strength and honor lay with whoever resisted the temptation to put on and use the One Ring. The story might sound very simple now, and countless imitators have used it as a template, but at the time, it was revolutionary.
So, we shouldn't ask the hammer question of any character from Lord of the Rings, as that plays into the definition of worthiness that the story mocked. It's absurd now to say Sam or Mr. Rogers or Paddington could lift Thor’s hammer due their purity, because their worthiness is very different from the worthiness of warrior cultures (i.e., whoever kills the most is the most honorable). Saying Sam’s specialness means he can wield that hammer is like saying Sam’s specialness means he should put on the ring.
Alternatively, the answer to “can Sam lift Mjölnir?” is “sure, if the writer wants him to, they’re both fictional, so whatever.”
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