As Merry, Pippin, and Sam, followed by a discrete honor guard of Elves, lead Frodo into the dining hall, Gandalf swiftly scans the room to gauge reactions. The Men from Rhovanion and Eriador watch the arrival of the Hobbits with curiosity, those from the Eotheod murmuring to one another with surprise while the chief of those from Dale rises briefly to his feet in respect, but seats himself with a flush when he notices no one else follows suit. The three Dúnedain of Aragorn’s people outwardly show little more than idle curiosity, although the youngest’s eyes are fixed upon Frodo as an Elf separates him from the others and leads him to the head table to sit by Glóin, who watches the process of seating the Hobbit beside him with politely disguised interest and pride. The Prince of Mirkwood sits at the far end of the high table from the Dwarves, his curiosity undisguised at seeing a Perian also seated at Elrond’s own table.
The Wizard now fixes his attention on Frodo himself as the Hobbit takes stock of the room, and notes with surprise that although Frodo realizes a number of different races are present at this meal, he barely sees any but the Elves and Gandalf himself.
He feels the edge of Elrond’s thought touch his own. He has not managed to throw off all of the effects of having been injured by the Morgul knife, comes the Peredhel’s observation.
And I strongly suspect that those effects have been enhanced by the power of the Ring, Gandalf agrees.
We perhaps should not have allowed the Ring to remain with him.
But Gandalf gives a barely perceptible shake to his head, aware that Frodo’s attention is fixed on Elrond, Glorfindel, and himself where they sit in the seats of honor. You remember how it was when you had It taken from him when first he came, how Its absence affected him.
Elrond’s agreement is grudging. The distress felt by the Hobbit at that separation had been terrible to see, and could have possibly killed Frodo had it gone on much longer. Elrond notes, Yet he sees us not with the sight of his eyes, not at this moment, but with true Sight, as if he, too, were of the blood of the Eldar.
I know. He is seeing us by the Light of our Beings, and he barely registers the presence of those who are mortal.
Lindor approaches the dais from behind, and leans down to murmur into Elrond’s ear, and the attention of the Master of the Feast is drawn back to more mundane details. But Frodo’s attention has been caught by another who is attendant at the meal—his eyes are now fixed upon the form of the Lady Arwen where she sits in her canopied chair opposite that of her father. The Hobbit’s mouth has fallen open in surprise, and his eyes are wide with awe. The artist in him admires her beauty and grace; the nobility in him is inspired by the gravity of her expression and the depth of her apparent experience, wisdom, and venerability; while his masculinity is stirred by her sheer female perfection.
Surely not, Gandalf thinks with a sinking feeling. We cannot see yet another mortal losing his heart to Elrond’s daughter!
It has happened with almost sickening regularity in the millennium and a half that the Wizard has dwelt here in the Mortal Lands in this guise, that those young Men who have come here to Elrond’s house, and particularly those with the purest Dúnedain heritage, have found their hearts stirred by Arwen Undómiel. When Aragorn also found himself falling head over heels in love with her, at first Elrond had hoped that it was simply more of the same; but had to admit that this time the attraction felt was far deeper than had always been seen before in the young Man’s ancestors. At last he was moved to speak with this son of his heart, to test the depth of the stirring, and realized that this time the love was true and fixed; and even more alarming that, for the first time, Arwen felt at least a vague stirring of her own in response. Not long afterward the newly realized Chieftain of the Dúnedain peoples of Eriador had left Rivendell to return to his own people to take his expected place among them, and soon enough after that Arwen had returned to Lothlórien to her grandparents’ keeping once more. And when Gandalf had suggested that the young Man be allowed to sojourn among the Rohirrim and the people of Gondor for a time so that he might come to a greater appreciation for the natures of those who would hopefully become his allies and perhaps even his own subjects as well as those of their enemies, Elrond had agreed with an alacrity that was in its own way almost desperate.
It had proved to be fruitless, of course. Aragorn had in the end come to the kingdom of Celeborn and Galadriel, and there had encountered their granddaughter upon the mount of Cerin Amroth, where Arwen realized that her own heart indeed answered his, and the two of them had plighted their troth in despite of the will of her father and the doom they drew upon themselves. It was a doom that Aragorn had taken to himself with full gladness and humility, although the Wizard doubted that Arwen would appreciate its full implications until Aragorn finally surrendered to his own mortality and she realized that her bliss was now lost to her until she accepted her own death and followed him beyond the Circles of the World.
There could be no mistaking it, though—Frodo Baggins, Hobbit of the Shire that he was, is as smitten by the Lady as had been any heir to Elendil and Isildur, although Gandalf notes with some relief that it falls far short of what Aragorn feels for his beloved. He nudges the attention of the Elf who is to serve those at the high table to act, and sees with more satisfaction that at last Frodo’s nature as a Hobbit is asserting itself as a full plate of food is set before him. And, as his mortal nature is encouraged by the meal he consumes, Frodo begins seeing more with mortal sight, realizing that the one who sitting by him is a Dwarf, and finally finding Sam, Merry, and Pippin where they sit together at the lower table.
On retiring to the Hall of Fire after the meal, however, Frodo begins again to flag, although he rallies briefly at the reunion with his beloved Uncle Bilbo. But he swiftly fades into dreams inspired by the music he hears about him, and once again he is responding more to the Lights of Being he perceives in those around him than to their physical seemings.
Aragorn comes in, having finished the conferences he’s held with Elladan, Elrohir, and the Dúnedain scouts who’ve accompanied them. The Man had intended to come to the feast, of course, and is dressed for it in robes that Arwen had wrought for him. These robes rival anything ever worn by Elendil when he sat in full majesty in his capital of Annúminas, the Sceptre in his hands as evidence of his rule over the survivors of Númenor, their progeny, and those who’d dwelt here in these lands who’d accepted Elendil as their Lord and King. Jewels flash from amidst the rich embroidery against the cloth of silver, white samite, and the most royal of blues. Frodo’s attention, however, fixes solely upon his face with delight and relief as Aragorn comes to greet him and is led away by Bilbo to consult on the poem the old Hobbit intends to present this evening before the company, and he apparently fails to take in the Man’s costume at all.
Once Bilbo begins to recite, Aragorn moves to stand by the chairs of Elrond and Arwen as they sit to hear the evening’s entertainment. Gandalf starts to smile at the sight of them until he realizes that Frodo’s eyes are again fully open, and once again his attention is fixed upon Elrond’s daughter, seeing her again by her Light of Being. Curious, the Wizard slips his own awareness into the Hobbit’s mind, and realizes that he is seeing not just the Lady this time, but the three of them, Elrond, Arwen, and Aragorn as well. But he sees the Man not as he knows him as a mortal, but as the Warrior Guardian of his true nature, seeing the robes he wears as if they are the ancient armor he will one day wear when he faces the Dark Lord’s threats directly.
“Elendil’s armor, in black and silver with glints of blue!” the Wizard murmurs to himself, his attention caught by the image he sees through Frodo’s eyes. “That armor was wrought for him here, in the forges of Imladris!”
And he shivers with awe. Is this foresight of what is to come? Or is it simply an unconscious recognition by the Hobbit of the royal claim Aragorn had placed upon Arwen’s love?
There is one thing of which he is now certain—Frodo will not speak openly of the attraction he now feels for the daughter of Elrond, not here within Rivendell, at least. He does not consciously acknowledge the bond to be sensed between mortal warrior and the half-Elven maiden, but he will not trespass upon it. For Frodo is certainly as noble a soul as is the foster son of Elrond Eärendilion!