Tower of the Hand

Sam Sam the Marvel Man

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8/28/2008 8:35:00 PM ET

I like Samwell Tarly. That's the problem, because I suspect Randyll Tarly may be correct -- Sam is pretty pathetic. Sam has had some good moments, to be sure. Coordinating Jon Snow's elevation to Lord Commander of the Night's Watch was a significant accomplishment, and his rescuing and protection of Gilly were truly fine acts. But on the whole, Sam's earnest nature seems to excuse his general ineptitude. Consider the events in which Sam's fortunes depended on the help of others (or lucky timing).

Throughout the series, Sam was:

  • Teased by other Night's Watch trainees until Jon Snow persuaded them to lay off
  • Resigned to train with Alliser Thorne in perpetuity until Jon convinced Maester Aemon to take Sam on as a steward
  • Moments away from being killed by Chett before three horn blasts warned of an Other attack
  • Too weary to retreat from the attack on the Fist of the First Men, so Small Paul had to carry him
  • Paralyzed with fear after the rebellion at Craster's Keep until Craster's wives urged him to escape with Gilly
  • Cowed by wights in an abandoned wildling village, but saved by Coldhands
Not everyone can be a shining white knight during times of crisis, but Sam has consistently failed at his assigned tasks, as well. Were the Night's Watch be attacked, it was Sam's job to send ravens to the Wall of the news. Said Lord Mormont, "I don't care if you're so scared you foul your breeches, and I don't care if a thousand wildlings are coming over the walls howling for your blood, you get those birds off, or I swear I'll hunt you through all seven hells and make you damn sorry that you didn't." Sam set the ravens free all right, but he forgot to attach any message. Oops.

Later, Jon gave Sam the responsibility of seeing Maester Aemon and Dareon to Oldtown. Aemon died during the trip and Dareon deserted him in Braavos. Double oops. Perhaps this task was impossible to fulfill and the outcome out of Sam's control, but it's still another mark against Sam. In fact, I can't imagine Sam screwing up more badly if he tried.

Yet we're quick to forgive him because he's well-intentioned. Lovable, big-hearted Sam. He's attending the Citadel now. Can Sam be trusted to advise lords and tend to the sick? Is it worse that we know how capable he can be and we still shrug when he fumbles and bumbles? I think other characters receive harsher criticism for fewer missteps than Sam. Is this fair?


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