Origins and History
Though the family name 'Gamgee' was only a few generations old at the time of the War of the Ring, the family itself was rather older, and was descended in at least a small part from the blonde-haired Fallohide Hobbits. The earliest recorded ancestor of the family (though he did not himself use the name 'Gamgee') was one Hamfast, born in the year III 2760 (or 1160 by the Shire-reckoning), who lived in the village of Gamwich.
This Hamfast had a son, Wiseman. Wiseman left his family home at Gamwich to settle in Tighfield, where he acquired a surname from his old home village, to become known as Wiseman Gamwich. The name was kept, in slightly altered form, by his own son Hob, known in fuller form as Hob Gammidge or (in his later years) 'Old Gammidgy'. This nickname of 'Gammidgy' was the origin of the family name 'Gamgee'.
The name 'Gamgee' appeared for the first time in the next generation, when Hob's son, Hobson, acquired the nickname of 'Roper Gamgee' due to his work as a rope-maker. This Roper Gamgee had four children, of which his second son, Hamfast Gamgee, moved to Hobbiton to assist his cousin Holman Greenhand as a gardener. He settled into Bagshot Row beneath Hobbiton Hill, and began work in the gardens of Bag End.
After Hamfast had been living in Hobbiton for some time,2 he met and married Bell Goodchild. In III 2965 (or 1365 by the Shire-reckoning), the two had a son, Hamson, and over the next eighteen years they would have a total of six children, three sons and three daughters. The two elder sons, Hamson and Halfred, both moved away from Hobbiton, but the younger, Samwise, chose to stay on Bagshot Row and follow in his father's footsteps as the gardener at Bag End.
Bilbo Baggins, who had been master of Bag End since before Hamfast's time as gardener, departed from the Shire in III 3001, leaving the smial to his favourite cousin Frodo. Years later, Hamfast's son Samwise was working in the garden when he overheard a dark conversation between Frodo and the Wizard Gandalf that would catapult him into adventure. A faithful servant and companion, he followed Frodo on a long journey from Bag End to Mount Doom in the land of Mordor, and thus helped to overthrow the Dark Lord Sauron.
To the Shire-hobbits, it was Samwise's exploits after his return to the Shire that had an even greater impact on history, at least within the borders of the Shire. As one of the four returning Travellers, Sam was instrumental in the defeat of Sharkey and the liberation of the Shire. In the time that followed, he used his gardening skills and a gift of earth from Galadriel of Lórien to help regrow many of the trees that had fallen during the dark times under Sharkey's power. In the Party Field below Hobbiton Hill, in place of the felled Party Tree, he planted a golden-leafed mallorn, the only tree of its kind to be found west of the Misty Mountains.
Over the coming years, Sam's importance grew within the Shire and without. In Shire-year 1427 (eight years after the War of the Ring) he was elected as Mayor of the Shire, an office he would hold for the next forty-nine years until his retirement at the age of ninety-six. During this time the Mayor was made a Counsellor of the North-kingdom, and in 1442 he and his family travelled south to Gondor to stay with High King Elessar for a year. Thus Samwise Gamgee, once the gardener of Bag End, found himself playing a role in the larger history of Middle-earth beyond the borders of the Shire.
In the year after his return from the War of the Ring, Sam Gamgee married Rose Cotton. The Gamgee family's legacy was assured as, over the next twenty-one years, Sam and Rose had no fewer than thirteen children. Many of these children showed the Fallohidish part of Sam's heritage, growing golden hair that was generally rare among the Shire-hobbits (this effect was said to be in some part due to the mysterious influence of Galadriel).
At some point in this period, the family name changed from 'Gamgee' to 'Gardner', though the details of this change remain unclear. We know that Samwise himself was at times referred to as 'Samwise Gardner', though it is unclear whether he passed this new name on to all of his thirteen children. We know for sure that Sam's eldest son, Frodo, did take the name Gardner, and went on to establish a line that continued to live on Hobbiton Hill through at least several generations.
Doubtless the many other children of Samwise and Rose left many descendants of their own, but beside Frodo, the only one for whom we have records is Elanor, Frodo's elder sister. She married Fastred of Greenholm, and when the Shire was expanded to include the lands of the Westmarch, Fastred was made the first Warden of Westmarch. The family removed to Undertowers on the Tower Hills, and through their son Elfstan Fairbairn established a line of hereditary Wardens with the family name of 'Fairbairn'.
We do not know how long the family name of 'Gamgee' itself survived past Samwise's generation, if indeed it continued to be used at all. Whether or not the old name survived, the family created not one but two important new lines of descent, the Gardners and the Fairbairns, who carried on its legacy into the Fourth Age.
This is the internal explanation of the name 'Gamgee' within the context of the story of The Lord of the Rings. Actually, 'Gamgee' is real English surname, though a rare one, and its meaning is obscure. One member of the real Gamgee family was Joseph Sampson Gamgee, a nineteenth century doctor who used cotton wool in his medical work. Because of this cotton wool became known for a time as 'Gamgee tissue', hence Tolkien's explanatory note in Appendix F II that '...no reference was intended to the connexion of Samwise [Gamgee] with the family of Cotton.'
As a fictional name, too, 'Gamgee' predated the writing of the Lord of the Rings. Influenced by 'Gamgee' as a then-common name for cotton wool, Tolkien invented the character of 'Gaffer Gamgee' to amuse his children (said to have been '...based on an actual old rustic met on holiday, fond of talking to anybody over his garden fence...', quoted in The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion I, A Long-expected Party). It was only later that Gaffer Gamgee found his way into The Lord of the Rings, thus giving rise to an entire family of Gamgees.
We don't know exactly when Hamfast and Bell married, but we do know that Hamfast moved to Hobbiton in III 2941, and their first child, Hamson, was born twenty-four years later in III 2965. The implication is that the two married quite some time after Hamfast's arrival in Hobbiton, and indeed probably twenty years or more after that time.
Banazîr, Daisy Gamgee, Frodo Gardner, Galabas, Galbasi, Galpsi, Gammidge Family, Gamwich, Gamwich Family, Gardner Family, Goodchild Family, Hamfast of Gamwich, Hob Gammidge, Hobbit-names, Hobson, [See the full list...]
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