The weakness disturbed him when he rose and tried to stand. Gandalf looked at him with a slight frown and shook his head, murmured quietly, “Are you really surprised, Frodo? You have been unconscious for two weeks. The first several days we could barely touch your skin, so fragile it had become; your muscles are somewhat wasted but will recover. Only by rising and doing will you regain your strength and endurance.”
Sam was also surprised, but laughed, grateful only to be allowed to stand once more, with no thought to the fact that he needed support at first. It was the mark of the difference between them that Sam was simply grateful, held no resentment that he was, for the moment, less than he’d been before. And, as always, his first thought was for Frodo--for recognition for what Frodo had supposedly done, for the loss of that tainted finger--Frodo himself was glad it was gone, for what other than grief and pain had it brought him since he’d realized what the Ring was?
Couldn’t they see? Frodo was no hero--it was all Sam. He’d never have been able to accomplish anything without Sam! He’d accomplished nothing but to bring grief to all others, to cause them pain and loss. Sam had seen them to the Mountain--while he couldn’t even walk up it on his own! And it was Gollum who’d taken It into the Fire at last, sent there--sent there by Frodo’s own curse uttered on the mountainside, that curse he’d made while holding the Ring. His stomach lurched.
They were brought out to be shown to thousands, and seated together on the throne carved not from wood or stone but from the living earth itself, the one intended for Aragorn, the one which Aragorn had quitted to seat them there, as if they were the victorious lords and not he; and he sat there and was overawed by the acclamations he heard, then felt himself the fraud--Sam deserved it all, not he. Sam didn’t question, just accepted. He felt Gandalf whispering into his ear, “Iorhael, Iorhael--you are not Sam. Do not expect to feel as he does. You were given the gift of analysis--but do not allow it to become a burden to drag you down!”
He closed his eyes and nodded his understanding, did his best to let his overactive mind, stimulated by fighting the lure of the Ring for so long, relax and let go, simply accept as Sam did. For a time he succeeded, and again he just felt the gladness he’d felt when first he awoke.
When the minstrel of Gondor stood forth to sing the Lay of Frodo of the Nine Fingers he’d been embarrassed--glad it happened for Sam’s sake, Sam, whose last thought before losing consciousness at the foot of the Mountain was of whether they’d be put into songs or tales; but embarrassed and horrified on his own account. It was Sam for whom the lay ought to have been named, not for himself. Sam ought to be the hero of all, certainly not himself in any form. He’d accomplished nothing--nothing at all.
But then he was being undressed and dressed again--by Gandalf, and his embarrassment hit him. Was he but a living doll or was he a grown Hobbit? He was growing tired, truly wished he could but lie down again. The clothing made for him was not Shire make or patterns, wasn’t familiar at all, although it was comfortable enough. He didn’t understand the silken shirt that fit so closely to him, until Gandalf brought out the mithril shirt Bilbo had given him, prepared to slip it over his head.
“Be at peace, Frodo--what was lost has come back again--and that includes the two of you, you must realize.”
In his heart he found himself growling, But I don’t want all this to go on. I want to be a simple Hobbit again. I’m no prince or great lord, to dress in mithril and silks! I want to go back home, sit on the stoop as evening falls, smoke my pipe, watch Sam working in the garden, smell stewed mushrooms cooking from the kitchen....
But a foreign thought countered that. But you are not a simple Hobbit--you are more than that. And you no longer belong only to the Shire. You were destined to wear the mithril shirt as you were destined to carry the Ring. Both came to you at the proper time, as each was meant to do.
You have hidden the mithril shirt under your Shire clothing just as your great spirit has been hidden in the guise of a simple Hobbit. Today is the day for the disguises to fall away--if only for a time. It is not only Aragorn, you must realize, Iorhael, who has had to survive by being disguised and hidden. Elrond raised up one born for the sake of hope to face his destiny; Bilbo raised up two more.
One prince has at this time been raised to the throne; let the other two be brought forth to stand beside him, those intended to bring him to that great seat.
He stopped arguing, watched as gilded mail was slipped over Sam’s head as well, a princely tunic set into place over that, as a fine sword belt was fastened about his waist, and his pride in Sam began to grow. Sam was no mere Hobbit, he was a prince of Middle Earth and deserved to be seen as that. Tears of joy and delight in how wonderful Sam looked and was began to gather and fall as he gazed upon his friend, seeing how right it was that this should be, as a circlet of mithril was brought forth to be placed on Sam’s brow....
And then Gandalf was turning again to himself, was slipping a fine overtunic to be worn outside the mithril shirt over Frodo’s head, was now preparing to gird the shining mithril belt about Frodo’s waist, Sting back in its fine sheath to hang there.
He felt revulsion at the thought of wearing a sword--any sword. During the time since Amon Hen he’d been shown predominantly visions of death and destruction by the Ring, and the last moment with the Ring Itself had been the prelude to the worst death yet, as the curse he’d uttered had taken Gollum. “If you touch me ever again, you shall be cast yourself into the Fire of Doom.” And so it had been. That last shriek of shock and Precious! would stay in his mind forever, along with the last taunt of the Ring--You see how it is, Frodo Baggins, how all die because of you? just ere the two of them hit the fires below, were swallowed up by the river of molten rock.
How could he ever, ever again wear a sword, the symbol of the death and destruction he’d left in his wake for the past half year?
The sword is not only the symbol of destruction, Iorhael--it is the symbol also of protection. That is why you left the Shire, to protect that which you loved. That is why you accepted the Burden, for only you at the time saw how It delighted in the growing strife It was seeking to spread at the Council, which was but a hint of what It would cause if one not strong enough to defy It until It reached the Sammath Naur were to seek to take It. That is why you broke away from the others, to keep It from completing the corruption of Boromir and destroying the others as well.
His own thought answered, But how did I protect Sméagol? I brought about his death! The Ring was destroyed at the cost of his life!
It was as if he felt the one with whom he argued sigh in his mind. Did you not realize that only if you destroyed yourself could you hope to destroy It? You knew It had taken you so very deeply that you could no longer willingly give It up--that to see It on the hand of any other than yourself would drive you mad. That is why you intended to throw yourself into the Fire with It, was it not?
Eru did not wish you lost, Iorhael--not that way. You forgave Gollum on the slopes of Orodruin because you realized that It had taken you at the last, there where Its power and will were greatest, that he and he alone had saved the quest. Do not seek to take back that forgiving, for it cannot be done. You saw truly--to destroy the Ring would cost a life; had you taken It into the Fire as you’d purposed, it would have cost three lives and not one, for he would still have died, and to less purpose; and Sam would not have left the Sammath Naur without you.
And so it was that Frodo sought to take on himself the lesser sword. If he must wear one in token of the protection he’d sought to give, then it must be that one he should carry. Sam was the hero....
This time it was Sam who overruled him, and he realized he no longer had the will to fight further. He trembled as at last Gandalf hung Sting’s sheath on his belt and led them at last out to the feast.