Tolkien was a Christian, as I am, and a Roman Catholic while I am Anglican Catholic. He admitted he had a fair amount of imagery from his faith worked into The Lord of the Rings, and that he trimmed the majority of it out of the book so as not to overwhelm the reader with blatantly religious references. So it is that the mythic tends to stand out more strongly than the solely Christian in his writing.
Many of those who are drawn to write Tolkien fanfiction are themselves Christian and tend to be blatantly more open about it in their writing than was the Master himself. We tend to forget, however, that there are many from all faiths, philosophies, and traditions who read The Lord of the Rings regularly, and who see in the mythic images he allowed to remain much to draw their own appreciation. One of my closest friends, nearly a sister to me, is Orthodox Jewish, and she, too, loves the books as I do.
Each year I tend to write stories at Christmas time and for Eastertide; this year I wished to write one specifically for Pesach as well. The Angel of Death passed over the homes of the Hebrews enslaved within Egypt as Death passed over Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee, lying on their small, beleaguered hillock at the foot of Mount Doom. That is as miraculous as any solely Christian image, after all! So, Jeannette, for you and for John and Rebecca Ann I have written this, rejoicing in our long friendship. It’s taken far longer than I’d intended to be finished, but it’s no less heartfelt for that! Rejoice, and may it bring you much pleasure.
The lake within the caldera left by the eruption of Orodruin is based on Crater Lake in Oregon, a most beautiful spot to visit! And that the Valar might have blessed this spot by bringing there trees, bushes, and plants bearing the fruits most beloved by Hobbits seemed like the best revenge they could take on the fallen Maia who’d corrupted the land and the mountain itself for so long. It only took the desire of the remaining Travelers to see the spot to make that blessing known throughout the lands!
I thank Fiondil once more for his help in providing the Quenya name Aragorn bestows on the lake and that those to whom the land of Mordor was given, those who’d worked as slaves in the southern and eastern farmlands, subsequently attribute to the entire remains of Orodruin.
The pack filled with mementos, mostly letters and pictures and locks of hair brought by Sam to share with Frodo, appears in Filled with Light as with Water and in Reunion. Master Ruvemir, the Gondorian sculptor who is subject to human dwarfism, one of those I’ve chosen to refer to as mannikins, first appeared in The King’s Commission, and has appeared in a number of other works since, both longer tales such as The Ties of Family and Lesser Rings, and in a few of my shorter stories as well. The monument before the Citadel is one commissioned by the King of the four Hobbits, only slightly larger than life-size, set within a basin planted with elanor, niphredil, Elven lilies, and rosemary. Master Faralion, the minstrel who composed and first sang the Lay of Frodo of the Nine Fingers, was granted his name first in Lesser Rings, and appeared in more depth in The Acceptable Sacrifice.
Tolkien himself indicated that the mallorn that grew in the Party Field tended to bloom on Sam’s birthday. It took but a little stretching to have the White Trees also bloom on that day, giving one time when Frodo, Sam, and Aragorn would be most likely to be, if at all possible, each under his own tree and possibly aware of the presence of the others, at least a bit. That Frodo should at times feel somewhat isolated living among the immortal Elves seems very likely. It appears that most of the Reborn would have returned to their interrupted lives on the mainland of Aman, so with whom could such a one as Frodo Baggins discuss his own mortality and expect to be understood? It is only likely that at times he should wish to reach out to those he’d loved best that he’d been forced to leave behind in Middle Earth; and if the Trees allowed him the reassurance that all was well with those he honored most it would, I’ve always felt, help to nurture his own personal estel that he would one day most likely at least be able to be reunited with Sam and be able to spend his last days within the Circles of Arda reassured that he would not remain alone as he passed from this life.
There is in all of us a need to be reassured that we do not lose all communication with those who have gone before, as I’ve noted previously in discussions of some of the stories I’ve written in which different people feel as if Frodo were present beneath the White Tree of Tol Eressëa, or when a vision or dream is granted on either side. It is possible that Frodo was at times granted the chance to follow the lives of those he loved in Middle Earth perhaps through a scrying construct moderated by Galadriel or another Elf with similar gifts, or as has been suggested through the Palantir returned to the island by Elrond. I myself wonder about that—it was always said that that particular seeing stone looked West, back to the Undying Lands where it was crafted. Would it change its nature once it was returned to the Lonely Isle, and suddenly look East? It is a question to consider, I think. However, I suspect it was primarily through moments of mutual awareness or vivid dreams bestowed by Irmo that Frodo and his friends might have had their greatest reassurance that all had indeed worked to the good for all of them as a result of his choice to leave with the other Ringbearers. And without hints that Frodo did indeed survive to greet him, would Sam have ever considered taking his own grey ship in search of him?
One subject I’ve already had brought up to me in response to this particular story—how much would the other Hobbits truly know about the Valar and the Maiar? We already know that from the point of view of most mortals of Middle Earth there is little active consideration of the Powers, and almost no interaction of which the inhabitants of the Mortal Lands are aware. Certainly Frodo and Sam find themselves feeling intolerably rustic as they see the Standing Silence performed for the first time by Captain Faramir and his Men.
Yet Frodo Baggins has been partially raised and definitely educated by Bilbo, who has decided ties to both Dwarves and Elves, and to a lesser extent to Men as well. Both as the grandson of the Old Took and protégé of Gandalf, Bilbo has been in a unique position to learn about the outer world and to continue his communication with the denizens of Rivendell, gathering Elvish tales and sharing them with the young relatives with whom he has developed his stronger relationships. It is very likely that at the time the four Travellers left the Shire the only one who had strong inclinations to believe the tales he’d learned of Elvish history and whatever tales might have been learned of the Dúnedain was likely to have been Frodo, although Sam, having grown up around the place and being known to have doted on stories of Elves, is likely to have been nearly as well versed and perhaps even more credulous. For Merry and Pippin, however, the likelihood is that the stories told them by Bilbo are likely to have been long ago dismissed as fairy tales and fables, as little regarded, perhaps, as the more traditional Hobbit folktales of widows’ sons and talking animals.
However, the quest we know served as a crucible in which the personality and experiences of each of the four were tempered. They have now passed through two hidden Elven lands and even dwelt there for a time, and have traveled with the prince of a third. No longer are Elves legends or merely the subjects of reports of groups seen traveling west to the Havens: Gildor Inglorion, Elrond, Galadriel, Celeborn, and Glorfindel are known quantities—persons they have seen with their own eyes, heard with their own ears. They have heard the hymns to Elbereth/Varda sung now by many; have seen the glory of one who was born beneath the light of the Trees revealed and heard him invoke power and probably the Powers. As for Legolas—he has become a friend and intimate companion. They have been guided and guarded by the Heir of Isildur himself, and participated in his coronation as King of Gondor and investiture as King of Arnor as well. They saw Gandalf fall, and saw him resurrected afterwards. They have seen a Balrog with their own eyes, and have all felt the attentions of the Eye and its most dread minions.
Then, two years after their return, Sam, Merry, and Pippin take their farewells of the Ringbearers and watch them all, and particularly Frodo, sail away toward Elvenhome. That having gone through all of this they would remain the callow, thoughtless, ignorant youths Merry and Pippin were when they set out through the Old Forest toward Bree in September of 1418 S.R. is totally unlikely. That they would choose to remain ignorant of the Powers and the lore of Aman is even more so.
Their Frodo has gone away with the Elves, gone to the Undying Lands. What does that mean? Why would he be granted this honor, and why would he feel compelled to accept it? What benefits is he likely to receive as a result of having gone with the Elves? How long is he likely to survive living in such an environment—will he become deathless as are the Elves (unless slain or fading from grief and travail), or will he still face the probability of a natural death at some point in his future? Will he be likely to be changed beyond recognition, or would he be more likely to remain their Frodo? Will he recover his more youthful participation in life, or will he continue the emotional and social withdrawal and the anniversary illnesses of which they’ve just become aware?
These are Hobbits who have inherited Frodo and Bilbo’s own writings, and who have unprecedented access to those of the High Elves who remain in Middle Earth. They are the friends of the King and his half-Elven Queen. It is Pippin who presents Aragorn with his copy of the Red Book and Bilbo’s translations from the Elvish; Merry, we are told in the Appendices, makes a point of traveling to Rivendell to study in what remains of Elrond’s library. They most likely continue to remain friends with Legolas and Gimli to the end of their lives. They undoubtedly encounter the twin sons of Elrond and Celebrían on a fairly regular basis, and probably Celeborn and Glorfindel as well. They can question these and the Queen and Legolas and whatever of the Wandering Companies they might encounter in the woods of the Shire with a level of impunity.
They are now themselves Elvellonim—Elf-friends.
I strongly doubt that Merry, Pippin, or Sam would remain ignorant of whatever lore they can gather of Aman and the Lonely Isle once Frodo sailed. They would want the reassurance that Frodo made the right choice, and that he is likely to be safe, happy, and healing there of the ills he’s known since his ordeal. And it is likely that they, too, at times feel unprecedented longings in the core of their beings as the lembas they consumed exerts its influence. That once their children are sufficiently mature to take over as Master of the Hill, Thain, and Master of Buckland (and now the Warden of West Marches as well) and their spouses have predeceased them (I find it impossible to believe that any of them would have left the Shire had Estella, Diamond, or Rosie remained alive), the three remaining Travellers would choose to retire as they did outside their native land now appears inevitable. We know from Tolkien’s intended epilogues that Sam was feeling the Sea Longing strongly; it is likely that the others also felt it, if more vaguely. Denied Sam’s right to sail, they instead resort to the company of those who would be most likely to appreciate the ineffable urges they know themselves—Aragorn, his Queen, and Legolas (and possibly Gimli as well), all of whom have also eaten lembas and likely heard the call of the gulls and waves.
So, thank you for reading and enjoying this story. As I said, it is particularly dedicated to Jeannette and her family, to David and his family, to Peggy and her sons, and to those who have accepted this Christian into their Jewish homes and lives. Shalom, friends! I thank you all!
B.L.S. June 20, 2009