How would things have turned out if Sam had been the main ring-bearer instead of Frodo?
With the greatest respect to Ernest W Adams, I do wonder if Sam actually had it in him to kill Gollum. Yes he talked tough and was pretty unforgiving of Gollum's thralldom... but to kill him is pretty final. And Sam had in him, at the heart of everything, common decency, good old-fashioned hobbit-sense, and a strong moral upbringing. Would he really have killed Gollum? Not at all sure.Now as to whether Sam would have succeeded as the Ringbearer, is a different question, I think. For a start we would have to assume that Frodo was either not there from the start, or was taken out at some point along the way, leaving Sam to finish the job.If we assume that Frodo was not there for the start, it's hard to even begin to conjecture. Because how would the Ring pass from Bilbo to Sam? Although a solid citizen, and son of the trusted Gaffer, it doesn't seem as if Bilbo would have even considered it, as it would have involved making Sam his heir. So for the sake of reasonable conjecture, let's say that Sam had to assume the role of main ring-bearer because we lost Frodo along the way.But how did we lose Frodo? Let's examine certain key points where Frodo could have been taken out: (OK this is going to be a long answer, sorry to anyone that has started reading it - bow out now if you like!)WeathertopDoors of Durin (Moria West Gate)Chamber of Mazarbul.Pass of Cirith UngolIn each case let's examine the situation and see how Sam could have been made ring-bearer and what would have been his chances. Of course we are going to give great credit to his doughtiness and plain hobbit-sense!WeathertopSo it's dark in the dell under Weathertop, the Nazgul move in, Frodo is pierced by the Morgul-blade and Aragorn drives them off. They struggle on, Flight to the Ford and all that, Glorfindel appears to help them, that's fine, but Frodo doesn't make it.Now what? Well, Council of Elrond and all that, without Sam, although he's eavesdropping. At the last minute, after Bilbo offers to do it, Sam steps in and volunteers, pretty much as Frodo did, "Seeing as it seems I have a bit of a job to do yet for Mr. Frodo, for his memory, so to speak".And Gandalf and Elrond accept. The Fellowship is formed, with perhaps another character to make the Nine Walkers, no-one too glam like Glorfindel, perhaps another tough Elf, maybe a Ranger. And off they go. Frodo didn't play much of a pivotal role in the journey through Eregion and Moria, or even in Lothlorien, so let's have Sam carry that out in pretty much the same way. Now we come to Parth Galen. The Fellowship is beset by indecision from within and enemies from without. The woods are full of Orcs, although they haven't yet been discovered. The choice of roads is not made, and without Gandalf, Aragorn and Boromir are torn. Minas Tirith or straight to Mordor? Hard choice. And now we come to it. Sam, realising his limitations, probably would not have chosen to strike out alone and would have opted to go to Minas Tirith, for more advice, and more support. There's another Ranger in the Fellowship and he would probably have supported that option too. So all eight carry on down past Rauros-falls, through the Entwash, and make their way towards Minas Tirith. This has repercussions too, because without the capture of Merry and Pippin and the breaking of the Fellowship, Rohan is not awoken, Treebeard's help is not enlisted, and Saruman is free to carry on with his subterfuges and plots on the Western flank. Aragorn is forced to stay with the Fellowship and doesn't do the whole Paths of the Dead thing.Realising this, Aragorn decides to set out from Minas Tirith with Sam, Gimli and Legolas to try to get in to Mordor and get the thing done. It's WAY harder now, troops are on the move etc, and they get delayed by Denethor who wants to know what's going on, guesses about the Ring but never finds out. Still, he delays them several days with questions, and there's the question of Aragorn's appearance and history.They make it to Ithilien and run across Faramir, which is good, and Aragorn finally captures Gollum who has been sneaking around since Moria. They decide to attempt the Pass of Cirith Ungol. At the top, Gollum betrays them to Shelob, but at the same time Minas Tirith falls, Aragorn is beset by doubt, and everything starts to go seriously pear-shaped. Finally Sam decides to make a break for it and heads over the Pass to Gorgoroth. But there's the Tower, there's at least one Nazgul, Aragorn is a pretty noisy and noticeable character, and chances dwindle. Finally the quest is doomed to fail, either they will be caught at the top of the Pass, out on the Plateau, or anywhere in between. The word is out, not only "spies on the stairs" but "what we have been searching for". The Witch-King, fresh from victory at the Pelennor, is dispatched to sort things out: it's not far away. It's just a matter of time. Quest fails, all die.2) and 3) Frodo dies in Moria. Sam is given the Ring, and pretty much things go as in 1) above.4) Having Frodo die from Shelob's sting is the only way I see that Sam could have made it as a Ringbearer. Because making the decision to strike out alone from Parth Galen is the one thing that saves the Quest. It lets Aragorn go get the Army of the Dead, it lets Rohan get mustered, and it lets Treebeard take out Saruman. And despite all his good old pain hobbit-sense, it's a choice Sam wouldn't have made.But now here he is, in sight of Mount Doom, the Ring to hand, and all he has to do is get it there and chuck it in. Which he can do. Gollum tails him, he fights him off. He may kill Gollum or he may not, it doesn't really matter. Orcs tail him, he eludes them. Once there, he isn't troubled by notions of claiming the Ring for himself, and (not without some trepidation) he finds himself at the Cracks of Doom, Sammath Naur, at the edge of the chasm, and, "I reckon I've come all this way, carrying on the Quest, for poor Mr. Frodo, for poor old Mr. Gandalf too, and for all those great lords in their mighty halls, I'd best see it done. Then I can get back to my bit of garden and put the gaffer to rights too." and he casts the Ring into the depths.Job done.But only if we lose Frodo at the Pass of Cirith Ungol. If Sam was the main Ringbearer from any other point, I can't see how the Quest could have succeeded.Seems to me the decision to leave the Fellowship was a turning point. And that was a decision made by Frodo, a decision that only Frodo could make.So that's my theory. Sam was great as an enabler, if not absolutely essential, and given time I could probably expound at great length how the Quest would have failed if Sam had not been there at all, and Frodo had been alone with just the other Fellowship members. But that's a tale for another night.Sorry if it was a bit long-winded.