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4
Admiration


Dear Sam,

Do you know you've an admirer here? Well, more than one.

I was talking with Lyrien yesterday, after dinner—Bilbo, Gandalf and I went to dinner over at her parents'. It's a rather small house, so it was just nine of us—me, Bilbo, Gandalf, Tilwen, Galendur, Tilwen's and Niniel's mother Donnoviel (of the flaming locks), and of course Seragon and Niniel, with Lyrien.

After dinner, Seragon's cousin Lalaith, her husband Leandros and their two children dropped over to visit. After Lalaith finally took Marílen and Dínlad home, Lyrien plopped down beside me and Bilbo and offered to teach us a game she liked, played with a tiny rubber ball and a handful of pebbles. You toss the pebbles onto the floor, bounce the ball and try to pick up a certain number of the pebbles and then catch the ball before it can bounce again. But if you move one of the other pebbles, your opponent gets a turn. Bilbo declined, saying he hadn't either the agility or the brains any more to catch on, and said with a wink that he'd watch to make sure nobody pulled a fast one.

Seragon teaches at the college also, something called Logic, which is the art of reasoning, and also something called Ethics, which is about Right and Wrong. Sam, you never studied either, and yet I think you know all you ever needed to know about both! Seragon is a solemn and serious fellow—sometimes a little too serious, and Galendur and I are known to laugh behind his back about it. Which is very bad of us, and I really like and respect Seragon, but sometimes it's just impossible not to have a little fun at his expense. And if they laugh about me behind my back, well, it's as much as I deserve!

Niniel is quite different from her husband, very given to laughter, unlike her namesake of old, which does the heart good to hear, and I have seen her get down on the floor with Lyrien and tickle and cuddle with her on the rug like a child playing with a puppy, both squealing with laughter. Still, she and Seragon make an endearing couple, the closest to hobbits as I've seen here yet. You might expect them to talk of commonplace matters when they are with their friends or relations of an evening—the children's doings, the price of potatoes, who's getting married or who got jilted, how is so-and-so's mother coming along after her bout with pneumonia, and so forth. But naught of the sort. They all discuss the mysteries of the Universe, of Illuvatar, of Right and Wrong, of The True Meaning of Existence, of things so cosmic in their scope, with such great earnestness, I can scarcely understand half of it. It's quite interesting, but sooner or later it gets a little too deep, and as the subject tonight seemed to be The Nature of Evil, I decided I would rather be playing jack-stones on the floor with Lyrien.

"Did you know," she said, as she surrendered the ball to me, "that when Dínlad plays with his friends, he always plays an orc?"

Marílen is older than Lyrien—she's a bit taller than I—and Dínlad is about that much older than his sister. I remember well my first meeting with him. He'd taken a wide-legged stance with his hands on his hips, looking me over with a narrow-eyed stare.

"Why don't you shave your feet?" was one of the questions he fired at me, along with "Did Gollum eat your finger? I wouldn't have let him eat mine. I'd have socked him on the nose." At the last he said with his head cocked back officiously, "If I were you, I'd ask Lord Elrond to make you taller. You're going to feel awfully funny running around here, being shorter than babies all the time."

"He thinks he knows everything," Lyrien whispered to me afterward, "but he doesn't really."

And Marílen said, "I'm going to tell Daddy he was rude. And I don't think you need to shave your feet."

"He calls himself 'Bâztakh the Pillager'," Lyrien told me as I tried to figure how to pick up three pebbles at a time with a four-fingered hand. "You should see the orc mask he made. It's horrible. If I was his mummy, I wouldn't let him."

"Nor would I," I said gravely. "What do you like to play? Besides jack-stones." I really didn't want to dwell on the subject of orcs.

"Lúthien. She's my favorite," Lyrien said with an excited little wriggle. "Do you know of her?"

"Yes. I always loved that story too," I said smiling. "You do know that Lady Elwing is her granddaughter?"

"Yes. Isn't that amazing?" Enormous eyes.

"It is indeed. I still can't take it in that I live in the same house with her now. If anyone had ever told me that would happen someday, I would have said they were completely daft."

"But do you know what?" she said, moving a little closer to me and lowering her voice as though about to tell me a secret. "Yesterday, we played you."

"Me?" I jumped a little inside, and missed the ball, which thumped me on the nose. But Lyrien said I could keep my turn, because it was her fault for startling me. Instinctively I looked up at Bilbo in the chair in front of us to see what he thought of all this, but he had dropped off to sleep.

"I was you, and Marílen was Sam," she said. "Dínlad was Gollum."

"Aha!" I laughed softly. "That should not have surprised me."

"His daddy was burning some trash in the yard, and we pretended that was Mt. Doom," she said. "Well, it was just a big pile of ashes, of course. They wouldn't have let us play on it if it was still on fire. But there was smoke coming from it, and it was on something like a little hill. Dínlad didn't bite my finger though, 'cause we changed the story a little. Instead of biting your finger off, Gollum grabs the Ring from you and jumps in the fire with it."

"Good heavens!" I slapped my forehead—I don't know why, I never do that. "Why in Arda did you have it like that?"

"Well, because," she took the ball as I missed it once more, and handed it to her, and her petal-soft fingers lingered on mine for a moment, "because Olórin told us that you showed mercy on Gollum when you could have killed him and nobody would blame you for it. And so, and so I thought if you showed him mercy, then he would have loved you. Dínlad wouldn't play it like that though, 'cause that way he wouldn't get to bite me, so we made Tashi [the dog] play Gollum. Auntie Lalaith gave us a piece of gold braid to make the Ring with. I had to throw it to Tashi, 'cause of course he wouldn't just come and grab it, and I think he ate it. Uncle Galendur said we should have rubbed some gravy on it, then I wouldn't have had to throw it to him. But he did jump in the pile of ashes and roll around. He made an awful mess."

Such sweet innocence. How do people stand being parents?

"Marílen yelled at me when she was taking me on her back," Lyrien continued, giggling. I wished I could have taken her with me to the House of Healing. That giggle alone would have done the wounded a world of good. "That's because I pulled her hair, but I couldn't help it, her hair is so long. I guess Sam never yelled at you, did he?"

"Sam would not have complained if I had pulled his hair out by the roots, I'm sure," I said softly. "It's well that she played Sam though, because I doubt you could have lifted her."

"Marílen loves Sam," Lyrien said as she pushed the pebbles back to me for my turn. "So do I, but I'd rather play you. Do you mind that we changed the story?"

"Not at all, so long as you did not change the truth of it. And I think you did not."

"But we did. We didn't play it the way it really happened, did we?"

"No...but...well, it's hard to explain. I would not have wanted you to change it so that I threw the Ring in, or that Sam got it from me and threw it in, or...or something like that. Those would have been bad changes. To have Gollum grab it and jump in...well, that's not such a bad change. At least, not if it's just a game. You didn't destroy the fundamental truth of the story, the way...some people would have, if they had made bad changes. They would have made it a lie. I don't know if you understand that now, but maybe you will someday."

Perhaps she would understand sooner, I thought, living with Seragon and Niniel, and the rest. Perhaps some evening she would lead a discussion on The Nature of Truth.

"Do you still have your You doll that I made?" she asked after a silent moment.

"Of course. He sits right on the table on my side of the bed."

"I would make a Sam-doll to go with him," she said. "I'm going to make one for Marílen too. I guess Sam's hair isn't the color of Marílen's, is it?"

"Not even close. It's like...like Tashi's. Only I don't suppose Tashi would like you clipping his fur," I chuckled. "But I would love to have a Sam-doll, and I know Frodo-doll would too."

"Tashi let me and Marílen make him some braids once," she giggled. "But Sam's hair is squiggly like yours, isn't it? I don't know if we could squiggle Tashi's. But maybe my mummy could. Does Sam have blue eyes like yours?"

"No, brown, like yours."

Puzzled little frown: "Mummy says mine are hazel."

"Does she?" Leave it to a woman, I thought with a grin. "I always thought they were a lovely ambery brown, like dark cider when the sun shines through. But I guess your mum knows better than I do."

So now I've a Sam-doll. Tashi didn't have to give up any of his fur for the hair; Niniel, being a most clever seamstress, had some lamb's wool which she dyed with something called henna, so that the color is very similar to yours. I must admit Frodo-doll looks much happier with Sam-doll sitting by his side on the bed-table!



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