Unlike a lot of other stories, The Lord of the Rings doesn’t have one major hero who the entire plot revolves around, rather it has several who each take on a different role. There’s Aragorn, the hero on a journey to fulfill his destiny and take the throne of Gondor. There’s also Gandalf, who starts everything moving by getting Bilbo to leave behind the Ring and is a constant source of encouragement and knowledge. Then there’s Frodo, whose task it is to take the Ring to Mordor and see it destroyed. There’s one other character who could take the title of main hero, Samwise Gamgee. He might be an unlikely choice, but he’s no less worthy of consideration.
In fact, Sam might just be the most unlikely of heroes. He’s actually the Baggins’ gardener, and only ends up on the quest because he was caught eavesdropping on Gandalf and Frodo as they discussed what to do with the Ring. Once on the quest, he has to quickly learn how to survive in the world, having never so much as stepped outside the Shire in his life. This doesn’t sound like prime hero material, but Sam’s part in the story is one of the most important.
While the strong leaders like Aragorn and Gandalf organize the war against Sauron, always aware of what will happen to Middle Earth if they fail, Sam fights for the Shire, and the hope he’ll be able to go back there and live in peace when the fight’s over. He doesn’t get involved in the politics of the war, or join in any of the major battles like Merry and Pippin do, he really lets events take their course around him and tries his hardest to deal with whatever situation he finds himself in, always trying to make the best of it.
Being such a small part of a big venture, it would be easy for Sam to lose hope and simply give up, but there’s one big thing that motivates him: his determination to help Frodo no matter what. This is evident right from the start, when Gandalf sends him with Frodo to Rivendell. He has little idea of what the Ring is, or the importance of their journey, and it’s unlikely he would ever have left the Shire if Frodo hadn’t gone. He chooses to join the Fellowship at the Council of Elrond and sticks by Frodo when it breaks at Amon Hen, choosing to go with him rather than follow Aragorn.
This is really Sam’s personal reason for tackling the quest; he’s not in it to destroy the Ring or defeat Sauron, he’s there to see that Frodo finishes the task he’s been given, and to support him throughout. This is clear from their ordeal at Cirith Ungol. After Frodo has been stung by Shelob, Saw believes he’s dead and takes the Ring from him, planning to finish the journey to Mount Doom alone. When he has to leave Frodo to the orcs, however, he can’t bring himself to do it, and rushes after them, even though he knows that will probably end with Sauron getting the Ring. This is the only time on the quest that his drive to reach Mount Doom is shaken, not because he isn’t brave enough, but because his real motivation was always to see that Frodo was rid of the Ring and the terrible effect it had on him, and to back him up however he needed. Once that’s gone, his own reason for being involved in the whole affair is no longer there.
None of this goes to make his part in The Lord of the Rings any less important. In fact, it makes it all the more crucial, as he’s the only one Frodo can rely on during their long walk to Mordor. Without Sam, it’s likely he would have failed to reach the Black Land, or else Gollum would have taken the Ring from him. The fact Sam put himself through so much to help his friend is proof of just how strong and courageous he is. He proves as much when he literally carries Frodo the last part of the way, as he realizes it’s Frodo’s burden to carry the weight of the Ring, and he‘s made the choice to carry the burden of Frodo. It all goes to show how hardy and loyal hobbits are, and it’s what makes Samwise the Brave worthy of being called a true hero of Middle Earth.