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A Journey through Arda
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10. Gondolin: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
Frodo Baggins, Sam Gamgee



“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….”

Hearing those words, Sam Gamgee looked into the study to see his Master bent not over the Red Book or the foolscap that he used when he was writing out his drafts, but instead over a large tome written in Sindarin that, if he recalled correctly, Frodo had been reading the evening on which old Gandalf had arrived two Aprils ago, intent on testing that awful Ring.

“You all right, Master?” Sam asked.

Frodo gave a brief sideways glance and murmured, “I’m fine, Sam,” and turned his attention back to his book.

“And what’s that as you’re reading?”

This time Frodo turned to look more directly at him. “It’s a history of the fall of Gondolin. You remember—it came by Quick Post from the Bounders at the Brandywine Bridge shortly after Yule, there before….” He didn’t finish, but gave a wry grimace of a smile.

“That last Yule afore we left the Shire,” Sam finished. “Oh, yes, I member it well enough. Who wrote it?”

“Glorfindel did, apparently at Master Elrond’s request.” Frodo sighed, reading over the page. “Did you realize that Gondolin was attacked during their Midsummer’s celebration?” he asked after a moment.

Sam found himself shaking his head. “No, I didn’t.”

“It was to have been a time of joy, but instead it became a time of terror as the army sent by Morgoth arrived, led by Balrogs and dragons.”

Sam felt himself shivering, and saw that his Master’s cheek was particularly pale. Both now knew all too well just what Balrogs were truly like.

Frodo continued, “He starts by describing the beauty of the city as all began gathering to the gardens surrounding the King’s house as dusk fell, and how the walls and surrounding mountains echoed to the sound of fair singing and laughter, and how a maiden he admired had begun to dance, drawing her friends to follow her in the measures—and then it all turned to chaos. He was not certain that she survived the first assault, the dancing girl.” His voice trailed off, and he turned his attention back to the book.

Sam withdrew, knowing that his Master’s thoughts, as his own, were turning to Minas Tirith as the one place they’d seen that could have perhaps equaled the ancient Elven city hidden in the Encircling Mountains, although it wasn’t quite the same. Gondor’s Minas Tirith was well visible to all rounding the foot of Mindolluin, after all, not hidden high in a circular valley as had been Gondolin. But to imagine it all burnt to ruin—it didn’t bear thinking of!

He took one last glance at Frodo, and realized that Frodo’s own thoughts had slipped away from both Gondolin and the King’s City, and that he was contemplating his own best and worst of times. Sighing, Sam closed the door and left his beloved friend and Master to his memories of the quest.


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