Iíve long felt that Frodo Bagginsís time spent on Tol EressŽa must have been at one and the same time blessed and somewhat lonely. He has lived on the threshhold of the Undying Lands for sixty-one years when Sam leaves his daughter Elanorís presence to rejoin Frodo--if he actually arrives to stand at his friendís side. Tolkien does leave that somewhat vague. Was Sam indeed granted the grace to follow Frodo? In ROTK that question is answered with a resounding ďperhaps.Ē Frodo seeks to console Sam with not the assurance the gardener will be allowed to follow in his turn but with only a suggestion that, as one who carried the Ring at least briefly, his own turn may come one day; and in the appendices it says only that Elanor received the Red Book from her fatherís hand as he, while on the way to the Grey Havens himself, stops by the smial of Undertowers where she lives with her husband Fastred, whoíd been named by the King Elessar as the Warden of the recently granted Hobbit lands of the Westmarches; and that Elanor was the last Hobbit to have seen Samwise Gamgee Gardner. That Sam actually was able to sail to Elvenhome is described simply as a tradition handed down by his children and not as a fact. This would indicate that there was no Hobbit witness to Sam actually going aboard one of the grey ships at the harbor of Mithlond. As I prefer to think that Sam was granted this grace, Iíve consistently depicted him actually allowed to sail at a time of his choice, but discouraged by Frodo from accompanying him; and Iíve chosen to have Sam insist he must go alone, and leave Frodo-lad and Elanor with no tangible proof there was actually a ship waiting for him.
To get back to the question of Frodoís own experience on the Lonely Isle, for all the great beauty surrounding him, there must have still been times Frodo felt isolated from his own kind or even from mortality in general. After all, besides the brief (relatively speaking) stay attributed to Beren and whatever was granted to Tuor, how many other mortals have walked abroad in Aman other than Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, and Gimli?
We know not what grace was granted Tuor after he left Middle Earth with his High Elven bride and leaving behind their Peredhel son Ešrendil--only again the tradition that he was granted permission to sail West with Idril for an unknown fate in Aman. Was he, in contrast to Beren and Lķthien Tinķviel, granted an Elfís lifespan tied to the fate of Arda itself? Yet Beren and Lķthien, who spent so much and suffered so in the battle to bring down Sauronís predecessor and Master, Melkor/Morgoth, themselves were said to have been allowed a resurrection that they might know some time of bliss together as man and wife and even time to walk in the gardens of Valinor itself before they quitted the bounds of Arda.
We can surmise that Frodo was indeed granted spiritual healing during his sojourn in Elvenhome, particularly as in his letters Tolkien described the stay there as a Purgatory experience for Frodo and Bilbo, and hopefully for Sam and Gimli as well; and as such this time would be probably a time of soothing for his spirit. Tolkien doesnít indicate Frodo regularly suffered physically as well as emotionally from his many war wounds after he returned from Mordor and points north and west of there; yet considering how many and varied those wounds were it is again difficult to imagine that he didnít suffer physical as well as psychological and spiritual symptoms associated with his experiences.
So long the only mortal among Elves and Maiar, with whom other than Gandalf and possibly Elrond can Frodo discuss his concerns about his own mortality; and who will empathize with him? With whom can he share jokes about dying and death; who will truly appreciate how deprived he has been, unable to know physical love and parenthood?
In his life on Tol EressŽa, it would be logical that Frodo would have been exposed largely to Elves coming to the Undying Lands from Middle Earth. The Lonely Isle, described in The Silmarillion as having started as a part of Middle Earth on which a number of Elves were ferried across the Sundering Sea to a great harbor of Aman where they could then cross when they desired to the western continent proper, appears to have served at least in part as a transition point for those Elves coming from Middle Earth to Aman. It seems logical it should be a border region, holding sufficient of its heritage from its time as part of Ennor to be familiar to those coming from the mortal lands at the same time it has been allowed to accept transplants from the Blessed Realm itself to help those coming from Middle Earth to ready themselves for life on the mainland.
With this in mind, it is probable that many of the adults Frodo might meet and deal with on a daily basis would be Elves who had suffered in the long fight against Sauron, and that he would move largely among the refugees from the long battle with Mordor and Dol Guldur. Such would be familiar enough with death; but not so the younger generation.
As Elves are described as having the ability to regulate conception to the most auspicious time for the birth of a child, it is likely that Elven children would have been a rare commodity in Middle Earth during the time of Sauronís return to power. However, it is likely that on the arrival of married couples in Elvenhome the feeling of relief experienced would lead to a baby boom such as followed World Wars One and Two. Surrounded now by children, it is likely Frodo Baggins would revert to offering care and entertainment and instruction to them as he would have been likely to do back home in the Shire. And these children, unlike their parents, would be unfamiliar with the concept of death.
Elves eat as do all of the sentient races; and their food is mostly compatible with the needs of Men and Hobbits; they also are said to know the huntsman Vala OromŽ and sometimes to follow his hunts. It is likely therefore that they are omniverous as are Men and Hobbits. Thus even the Elves of Aman are likely to at times slaughter animals, hunt, and so on. It is the death of the Children of Iluvatar that those born there would be unlikely to understand, for theyíve not seen it themselves. They havenít personally seen the depredations of orcs and dark Elves and evil Men and Nazgul and other creatures of Morgoth and Sauron. For them the idea that Frodo and Sam were dying must have been overwhelmingly confusing. That their Hobbit guests could be pleased with the situation must have seemed even moreso. Their mortality would be not only a novelty, but a mystery to be pondered upon. That the residents of Aman might peer to see a part of that passing is likely. Even those who lived through the Kinslaying and remained in Aman still havenít seen the deaths of others in millenia--they, too, must have been somewhat in awe of the small drama taking place beneath the White Tree.
And so I have Olůrin explaining the mystery of mortal death to young Elflings in terms they can begin to understand, and dealing with his own feelings of grief by riding with the one of the Valar whoíd had the least to do with Hobbits of all creatures of Middle Earth.
The grey ship on which Frodo sailed with the other ring-bearers was not likely the last ship of all as described in PJís movie; it is suggested that Celeborn, Glorfindel, Elladan, and Elrohir remained for some time alongside Legolas in the mortal lands. In the appendices Tolkien briefly describes Legolas building his own small ship on which to sail with Gimli for Elvenhome following Elessarís death; but it is likely that CŪrdanís folk were still building crafts destined for Tol EressŽa for some time until the last Elf sailed. Tolkien suggests that Celeborn was said to have remained for that truly last transport; I myself have felt it possible Glorfindel and the sons of Elrond would have been the ones to truly do that alongside CŪrdan rather than Celeborn, and that Celeborn would have likely found the idea of remaining in Middle Earth for his granddaughterís death increasingly repugnant as its time grew closer. As Tolkien relates Celebornís staying to be the last of the Elves as a tradition rather than as a fact, I feel free to continue to write him as traveling on the same ship as Sam to rejoin his wife and daughter against that day, and have offered as a reason for the reports of the later sailing that this might have been his original intent and recorded as such in Frodoís own notes for his book.
It is unlikely that the Havens of Mithlond were solely a shipyard for those ships intended to provide passage to Aman; they were known to Ešrnur, after all, and served as the destination for the fleet he at last brought against the forces of Angmar in the time of Arvedui. It is likely that they also provided anchorage for fishing vessels and perhaps trading ships as well; and considering the wisdom and experience CŪrdan brought to his role as well as his ongoing relationships with Gil-galad, Elrond, Elendil, the heirs of Isildur, and eventually Gandalf, it is certainly possible that he continued to host at least the few ships of the northern Dķnedain that they might send for trading. As the population of Elves in Middle Earth diminished, particularly in the final exodus period following the end of the War of the Ring, and as the northern Dķnedain again began increasing in their numbers, it is likely Men of Arnor would in time come to work alongside the Elven shipwrights and in the end fill the vacuum left by the dwindling numbers of Elves in Mithlond. And so I feel there is reason to think that in the last years of the King Elessarís reign Faramir Took might have also taken passage on the quays that once were trod by Frodo and Sam, but this time for the more mundane destination of Minas Anor.
The image of the great salon with the windows on the stern of the ship is consistent with many historical sailing craft. This was usually where the captainís cabin was situated, and many had great windows looking aft.
I live in the Pacific Northwest and am one of the beneficiaries of the Japanese Current, one which keeps our coastal waters a pretty steady 38-43 degrees year around, cooling our summers and keeping our winters mild. Iíve patterned much of what Frodo relates of the effects of the current passing off Tol EressŽa on the effects of the current here, although Iíve indicated it is directly warmed by coming from the south since the breaking of the world. Iíve also visited England in all months of the summer and in the early spring as well; and our climates are remarkably similar in nature for much the same reason. Fireflies do not live in either location, and so Iím reasonably certain they wouldnít be native to the Shire, which after all was patterned on England and physically placed similarly to my own area. However, my early childhood and later summers spent in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Michigan have certainly made me familiar with them. Iím not certain theyíd live in as temperate a climate as Iíve described the Lonely Island to experience; however, if they wouldnít be native to it, I still think that Elves whoíd sojourned in regions in which they are endemic would seek to artificially introduce them to the island, so I feel free to include them in the fauna of the place.
Iíve seen many depictions of Frodoís death on Tol EressŽa. Many Iíve found moving, some very spiritual, a very few rather trite and boring, some laughable, some troubling, a few repugnant. In one I read Sam arrived only just in time to wish Frodo goodbye as he died a most painful death. I canít see Frodo, after sixty-one years of blessed life on the island, being reduced to such straits. That to those who came here who must die anyway would be granted the privilege of recognizing their time had come and therefore be able to lay down their lives with gladness for the release as has been granted to the heirs of Elros Tar-Minyatar seems the most likely scenario, and the one most in keeping with Tol EressŽa as the blessed purgatory experience described in Tolkienís own letters as far as Iím concerned.
Much of this story reflects others Iíve written. The stunted sculptor Ruvemir, the memorial to the four Hobbits who came out of the Shire to do their part in the War of the Rings, the other memorials described, the small sculptures and pictures mentioned, the idea that Ruvemir somehow aided many to heal from their grief at Frodoís untimely departure, and the mantle of Light that holds in it the memory of stories told of Frodo and his friends first appear in The Kingís Commission. The idea that as Frodo and Sam accepted the Gift of Iluvatar on Tol EressŽa the stars themselves might have been guided by Gandalf to act as great fireworks and that Frodo and Sam would be allowed to dance among them appearing as comets of silver and gold appeared first in Filled with Light as with Water and was expanded upon in The Choice of Healing. The glade of butterflies appears in the final chapter of Lesser Ring, along with a mutual vision by Aragorn and Frodo each of the other told separately from the two sides. The toy boat and subsequent message found by Periadoc Brandybuck are told in A Message and a Bottle, a story that appears on most sites in my collection of shorter stories Moments in Time. The idea that Frodo might have stricken himself from the Book of Baggins I explored in Stricken from the Book, another shorter story in the same collection. Tribbals Broadloam will appear in a story Iíve been working on sporadically. Itís odd--I find my shorter stories are often far more difficult to write than my long ones, for I often go over and over and over them trying to make them right; and at the moment Tribbals and I are not seeing eye to eye.
The stationery box as a repository for Frodoís tempers and anxieties and frustrations first appeared in my very first story, For Eyes to See as Can, and also appears in other works including The Kingís Commission and The Acceptable Sacrifice. The spider bite and what led to its intermittently recurrent infections is discussed in The Choice of Healing and The Acceptable Sacrifice. Frodoís reluctance to say goodbye is touched on in many of my stories, and his acceptance of medicinal draughts only if he could convince himself they were tea is also a feature of several stories, including The Choice of Healing and The Acceptable Sacrifice.
Merry and Pippinís joint decision to stand by to attend on Aragorn and Arwen on their deaths was written to fit into the roles they play in Light on the Way, as is the name of the son thrown by the horse Olůrin. That Frodo was an artist of note has appeared in most of my works; that he forbade the others to let Aragorn know he was so skilled is explained in The Kingís Commission and The Acceptable Sacrifice. His use of a dragonfly as a signature sign for his artwork was inspired by anotherís work in which Frodo learns his mother used a butterfly as a stylized ďPBĒ and embroidered it the linens and such she prepared. The dragonfly is now a stylized ďFB,Ē while his fatherís signature sign was a circle halved vertically, the right half-circle then cut again by a line into quarters as a stylized ďDB,Ē as explained in detail in The Kingís Commission. The statue of Frodo as The Storyteller comes from Reconciliation.
One perhaps AU element of many of my stories is the idea that Aragorn, Frodo, and Sam were originally intended to be brothers, but that Gilraen miscarried two of the three babes she bore. I first explored the possibility of this in The Ties of Family and expanded on it in Fostering, although itís mentioned elsewhere. The story of the painting by Ruvemir mentioned here by Sam was originally told in Lesser Ring.
This idea, while not supported by Tolkienís writing, is not contradicted by it, either. Just how AU it might be is a matter of debate. That Aragorn would likely develop a great affection and feeling of honor for the two through whose offices he came to throne and bride is very likely. That they would reciprocate that feeling is also likely, as is the likelihood they would come to love one another as brothers. It is a small step to the idea that perhaps they might originally have been intended to be brothers indeed. After all, in writing LOTR originally Tolkien intended Peregrin Took/Trotter the Hobbit to serve as Bingo/Frodoís guide, then for Aragorn, once the Man supplanted the Hobbit in that role, to marry the niece of the King of Rohan until a long hiatus from the writing was ended and he discovered he wished for Aragorn to marry the last of the Elf Queens remaining in Middle Earth instead, reuniting the two races for a sacred third time. If Tolkienís own ideas as to what should happen in the telling of his story should have changed so drastically along the way, I feel he himself offers precedent for making my own additions to the relationships between characters.
Tolkien indicates in LOTR that Sauron himself couldnít create, but only distort and corrupt the creations of others. That being true, it is likely that the effects of the Morgul wound were a corruption of another far more benign process, and that the Shadow Realm was a distortion of a border region intended for a far different purpose by Creator and/or the Valar. It then becomes interesting trying to imagine what purposes the process and realm might have originally been intended for.
Considering that Frodo saw Glorfindel revealed in terms of light and power as he drew closer to being wholly engulfed by the Shadow Realm, apparently the proper intent for that zone had something to do with the expression of power by the highest of the Elves. So I explore the possibility that it was intended to be a spiritual region that allowed the one entering it to touch on a part of the Song of Creation, enhancing the ability to bring forth in the work of the entrantís hands the imaginings of his mind. As Frodoís fears are cleansed away by his time in Aman it is revealed to him what the proper purpose for the region actually is, and he can now enter it--and leave it--in the right and blessed manner appropriate to it, allowing him to now sculpt, fire, and tint clay with his will as a new medium for his artistic creations.
The idea that Frodoís physical being has been converted increasingly to the Light of Being is simply one possible outcome of Gandalfís realization that Frodo is becoming somewhat transparent, and the famous awareness that the Hobbit in time might come to be like a vessel of glass, filled with light for eyes to see that can described in the chapter "Many Meetings" in FOTR. The contrast between Frodoís loss of corporeal structure and the overlay of Light over the solidity of Samís mortal frame was one Iíve found myself imagining many times, and just seems proper to the two of them.
This is the third time Iíve described the passing of Frodo and Sam from Arda; Iíve tried keep it fresh by changing the point of view, looking at other details each time. I hope folk donít find it repetitive.
The final poem is my own experimentation with the ďdribbleĒ poetic form Dreamflower introduced to the Stories of Arda site, although it isnít strictly a dribble. Iíve envisioned a possible further chapter inspired by one of Bodkinís stories (one that was inspired by an online discussion she had with someone else, apparently), but am not certain whether to add it here or write it as a single-chapter tale that would serve as a sort of sequel to this one.
I am supremely grateful to all who have offered feedback for this tale, and those whoíve waited in patience through the stops and starts of its posting. Iíve had a number of technical problems with my home computer system, some due to problems with the computers themselves and others due to viruses and then interference from the all-too-fallible folk I have been having to deal with lately. I apologize for not having been able to keep to a dependable schedule and that at times Iíve had to allow the responses to reviews to languish for up to a week or in some cases far longer. I simply cannot begin to explain just how frustrating it has been for me to have to borrow limited time to post on only one or two sites when Iíve been accustomed to posting my current chapter on all of those I regularly post on within a short time.
Again, thanks to all whoíve read and enjoyed this, and hope to have another story well started and ready for posting soon.