A Time of Waiting
I made friends among the Elves now, and often came into the city for celebrations and holy days, to learn their ways, and to learn the way of their city. I
was gradually taught how to cook using the type of fire and oven they preferred, which was fueled not with wood but oil, and in time I began to entertain in my own right. When they learned that I had studied their languages and could read and write in them, they would bring me new books, new poetry, new lays to read. They took me aboard their boats and taught me how to steer and raise sail, how to fish and read the waves. And a small boat with sail and rudder and centerboard was made for me for my own, large enough, I noted, for myself and another of my kind; and I awaited the day I would perhaps have Sam to sail with me.
The young Elf maiden who had danced with me was named Livwen, the daughter of one who sailed his ship between Eressëa and the rest of Aman, carrying goods and passengers. Livwen was taller than I, but still small enough to sail with me on my small craft as I was learning to manage it, and she would ask me of my life before, of the ways of Middle Earth, of the lands I’d visited, and of the Shire. And I told her of the wonder the Brandywine River held for me when I was young, of the fertile fields of the Marish where much of our food was grown, of the flowers that grew on the Hill, of the pleasures of swimming in the Water, of how I first met Gildor Inglorion as we went through the Woody End and of being shown the secrets of Wood Hall by him and his folk. I spoke of the village of Bree and how strange it was to meet Men for the first time. I spoke of learning that our guide through Eriador was the heir of Isildur, and that he was Aragorn son of Arathorn, many times nephew of the Lord Elrond, and of how I came to know and revere him.
I described to her the lonely beauty of Hollin, where only ruins and holly trees attested to the memory of the land of Eregion. I spoke of the majesty of Khazad-dum, and of seeing it with Gimli son of Gloin, whose ancestors had built it long ago, of looking into the Mirrormere and seeing Durin’s Crown there. I told her of the ever-changing song of Nimrodel in the stream that bears her name, and the wonder of seeing Lothlorien for the first time. I spoke of the comfort and beauty of Rivendell and the glory of the surrounding waters and falls that filled it with the song of rushing streams and rills. I told her of falling asleep in the Hall of Fire and not realizing the poem of Eärendil that filled my dreams was being recited by Bilbo till it was almost done, and of Bilbo’s room and the picture of Turin and the Dragon I’d done for Gandalf to gift to Bilbo when he left the Shire, and how I’d patterned Turin on my beloved Uncle for I’d not yet seen any of the race of Men.
I described the desolation of Eriador, and how now the waste places were beginning to fill with folk again, and how the ruined towers and cities were being rebuilt, now that there was again a King over the combined lands of Gondor and Arnor. I described the beauty of Ithilien, the joy of walking there after days of wandering lost elsewhere, of the herbs we found there, of Sam’s stewed rabbit. I spoke of the splendor of the Henneth Annun as the light of the setting Sun turned the water of its falls to a curtain of fire, and later the light of the setting moon laid on it a veil of silver gilt.
I told of waking in wonder on the Fields of Cormallen and learning I’d been cared for by the King himself, and of his crowning before the broken gates of the city of Minas Tirith. Of my sense of wonder the first time I saw the capitol of Gondor shining under the snow-capped peak of Mount Mindolluin. Of seeing flowers again blooming in my own garden, cared for by Sam. Of the joyful wedding when I heard the vows of my best friend and the Hobbit lass he’d loved from childhood, and how they came to live with me and care for me, and of how when little Elanor took her first steps they were for me.
And she said to me, “Oh, if I could only see these lands, and the faces of those you love!”
I laughed. “Oh, you would love my Sam, and little Elanor, and the others that have come by now. I know the first lad is named for me--that they vowed from the start, Sam and Rosie. But he won’t look like me--I hope he is as substantial as his father and as fair as his mother Rosie. But I could show you, in part, at least, what they looked like--if I can bring myself to draw again.”
Soon after her father came to my house, bringing papers and parchments, pens, ink, charcoal, different densities of graphite, paints and brushes, chalks of many colors. “My daughter tells me once you drew, Perian Iorhael,” he said, “and she wishes that you might have the chance to do so again. I bring you these that you might again find joy in the recreation of the beauty you see and of the beauty you remember.” And I thanked him for his gift, and looked at all with amazement. And with his encouragement I took a smaller paper, and with the graphites and charcoal began to try them out, going from lines and shadings and blendings to curves and arcs. And suddenly I found myself drawing a familiar subject--Sam with a potted plant in his hand, that special smile he had when he saw a green life ready to take root in rich soil. And he watched the small study take shape and smiled, and when I’d finished touched the paper reverently.
“This is one you knew well,” he commented. I nodded--I felt I’d almost forgotten what Sam looked like until I had charcoal in hand, at which time my hand had simply brought him to life.
“Yes,” I said, “my best friend, my dearer than brother, Samwise Gamgee.” And I took another paper, a larger one, and found myself examining it for several moments, trying to realize what visage or scene was hidden there, waiting to be awakened. And my hand moved to the chalks, and I found myself drawing the Hill and Bag End, the hedge, the flowers, the nasturtiums by the doorway, the arch with the honeysuckle that wove its way around the study window, tall spikes of delphiniums and lupine. I drew the round green door and the knob in the center, the elaborate patterns of glass panes that filled the round windows, the chimney pots, the oak atop the hill, the riotous colors of Sam’s wildflowers that he’d planted there for me, the ring of athelas, elanor and niphredil he had planted for my comfort, the window boxes, the bench and the steps up to the stoop, the gate. I drew the lane down, the hints of the orchard around the hillside. Again he watched in fascination as the image appeared and was defined.
“A home within a hill?” he asked, and I nodded.
“Bag End. My home.” I set down the blue chalk with which I’d been coloring the sky, wiped my hand on a handkerchief I carried in the sleeve of my robe. And as I looked at it, a wave of homesickness filled me momentarily, remaining long enough for him to recognize. “Bilbo’s father dug it when he sought to marry Belladonna Took. It’s quite the grandest smial in all of Hobbiton, Bywater, and Overhill. They had hoped to fill it with children, but they had but one--Bilbo, although they cared also my father and his sisters at times, and my Aunt Dora stayed with them after her parents’ deaths. Aunt Dora, when my grandparents died, moved into Hobbiton proper and had a fine smial in her own right, leaving Bilbo to live there alone until he adopted me.”
He contemplated it for many minutes. “It seems fitting somehow, Iorhael,” he commented. “So, you were Iorhael of Bag End.”
I shook my head. “No, there I was named in Westron--Frodo Baggins, Master
of Bag End for nineteen years.”
“There are many flowers.”
“Sam and his father planted most of them. They were our gardeners, Bilbo’s
and mine. Now Sam is Master of Bag End. I adopted him as my heir as Bilbo
“So neither of you married?”
I could not stop the regret from filling my voice. “No, neither of us married. We had--had a different commitment.”
“Then you never knew love?”
“I did, once. But it came to naught. One who was jealous successfully stopped the match between myself and Pearl. Pearl was the daughter of my mother’s cousin, and it was our mothers’ hope that perhaps one day we should marry, and I know it was once my hope as well.”
“You never found another after?”
“No. I received, instead, a legacy that demanded all my attention for far too long. Afterwards, there was nothing left to offer any other.”
“Nothing of what, Iorhael?”
“Nothing left of myself.”
I was nervous before Livwen’s arrival at my house, nervous that I should somehow do something wrong, forget some courtesy, or that she would find it too small and spare. But she was plainly pleased with the house and the setting and the furnishings, and appeared to find my company pleasing. An Elven craftsman had made for me an easel, and it was placed near one of the windows, and on it hung a portrait I was painting of Aragorn as King, seated in judgment. I’d baked a batch of seed cakes, had made a jam of berries that resembled currants, fixed a tea of herbs I’d grown in my own small garden. There was also an Elven bread that was delivered to me daily, and cheese and milk and juices and fresh vegetables, and I’d even managed to put together a pot of stewed mushrooms that an amused Lord Elrond had helped me identify as edible. I had found that it was, after all, possible to prepare a Hobbit tea for an Elven guest. We ate our tea in the front room, and it felt good to once again entertain Hobbit-style. I even wore my Shire clothing, which she seemed to approve of.
After we ate she looked at the drawings and paintings I’d done, starting with the picture of Aragorn enthroned that hung on the easel. “He is a Man?”
“Yes, although he has some Elven blood, for the founder of his House was Elros, brother to the Lord Elrond.” She seemed more impressed than when I’d merely spoken of him as Lord Elrond’s ever-so-great nephew.
“Then he, too, is descended from the ladies Lúthien Tinuviel and Idril,” she said in awe.
I nodded. “And he is married to the Lady Arwen Undomiel, the daughter of the Lord Elrond and Lady Celebrían, granddaughter to the Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel.” And suddenly her eyes filled with even more wonder.
“He must be full worthy for the Lord Elrond to have given his permission to such a marriage,” she said quietly.
I nodded. “Oh, he is, he fully is that. The blood of Númenor is strong in him, and he is one who inspires hope and trust. The name Lord Elrond gave him to bear when he was a child was Estel.” And she smiled with delight.
She looked at the other pictures I’d drawn--Sam, Merry, Pippin, and Freddy Bolger as they announced the results of their conspiracy; Sam leading the pony Bill; Pippin’s face the moment after he’d dropped the stone down the well in Moria, his face half in shadow, his expression waiting for the wrath of Gandalf to fall; Aragorn as we’d first seen him in Bree, sitting, his face shaded by his hood, his eyes lit only by his pipe; Merry, apple in hand; Aragorn as he’d sung the Lay of Lúthien for us; Bilbo as he’d stood to give his speech at the Party; Gandalf with his arms full of fireworks....
“But this one is familiar to me,” she said. “Yet I cannot recognize it.”
“It is Olórin as he was in Middle Earth, as Gandalf the Grey,” I said, hearing the fondness in my own voice.
She was shocked. “Olórin? But he looks as a Man!”
“It was the shape the Maiar who became the Istari were made to take on, that they not overawe those they sought to council and convince. You must ask him to give a display of fireworks for us, for this was the one thing for which he was most renowned in my own land of the Shire.”
And she looked at the portraits I’d done of Legolas and Gimli and Boromir;
Elrond at the High Table of Rivendell; and Arwen in the Hall of Fire with Aragorn standing beside her dressed as an Elven prince.
Then there were so many others, and so many of them Sam and Merry--as children and lads, Sam with his pipe in the Ivy Bush, Sam with Tom Cotton in the Green Dragon, Sam with Rosie dancing at his coming-of-age party, Sam and Rosie on their wedding day, Merry as a little one, a ball almost as large as himself slipping away from his grasp, Merry as a small lad lying prone in the shallows of the Brandywine pretending to swim, Merry and Pippin reading together, Sam sprawled on the sofa in my study, a book in one hand, pipe in the other, watching me as much as reading, Sam and Merry together kneeling over the herb garden, Sam cradling Elanor, Sam and Rosie together, Elanor held between them. There were Sam with a vase of flowers, Sam pruning the roses, Sam planting athelas beneath my window, Sam sitting, looking out at the Shire on the way to the Havens, trying to hide his tears from me, Sam and Aragorn together in Rohan while the Lord Elrond took leave of his daughter.
At that moment there was a knock at the door, a familiar rap such as I’d not heard for many years, and I hurried to it, opened to find--Gandalf, Gandalf as I’d not seen since we were aboard the Grey Ship.
He laughed. “I did receive an invitation to a typical Shire tea, did I not, Frodo Baggins?” he asked. “I am not sure Olórin the Maia would know precisely what such an event would entail, while Gandalf most certainly would!” And I felt his embrace surround me, pressed my face against a familiar robe, smelled familiar odors of horse, pipeweed, fireworks, growing life, secret places brought to light. “And I see that I do face Frodo today, and not Iorhael.” I nodded. Livwen rose from where she was seated at the desk and greeted him, appearing surprised at the guise the Maia had taken.
“I greet you, Olórin. Iorhael had told me that this was how you appeared when you served in Middle Earth, but I did not expect to see you thus.”
He laughed. “For almost half an Age of Middle Earth I lived in this form, my Lady,” he answered. “It was not a bad guise, and is one, as you can see, that became beloved of those most deserving of honor there and here.” He knelt down, looked into my face. “You are missing your own youth, Frodo?” Again I nodded, and he drew me close again, then rose and came to look at the picture on the easel, and his face shone with memory. He took a deep breath. “Yes, he fulfilled his destiny, and has proved a great King. Young Estel of Imladris, born Aragorn son of Arathorn, the Dúnedan, now the King Elessar Telcontar, High King of the West, of the combined kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor.” He looked down on me. “Your talent has not failed you. Now, did you make the famous Baggins seed cakes?” I laughed and led him to the table. He smiled to see several seed cakes left, then lifted the lid on the tureen of mushrooms, and laughed. “I see your Hobbit appetites are at last being indulged. Now, if I could somehow conjure up Farmer Maggot and his dogs!”
I laughed with him. “But I no longer fear them, Gandalf; and at my last visit I was warmly welcomed and made comfortable--and offered some of his so-famous mushrooms again by his good wife.” His laughter filled the room.
As he ate Livwen brought over the pictures I’d done, and together they looked at them.
Minas Tirith beneath the mountain, the Golden Hall of Meduseld in Edoras, the far-off ruins of Osgiliath, the broken gate of Minas Tirith as I saw it on the day of Aragorn’s coronation, Aragorn receiving the Winged Crown from Gandalf the White, Aragorn greeting the Lady Arwen Undomiel to Minas Tirith. As they looked at each one, he named it and explained its story briefly. She was looking increasingly impressed.
Bilbo drowsing in Rivendell, Sam and the Lady Galadriel and her Mirror in Lothlorien, Gimli kneeling by Balin’s tomb, Legolas with Haldir on the flet, Boromir with Merry and Pippin on the Pass of Caradhras, Gandalf watching over a sleeping Sam in Cormallen, the Sons of Elrond and their sister in the feasting hall in Minas Tirith....
Brandy Hall in the light of morning, the Brandywine River with children on its banks, our smial in Whitfurrow, my beautiful mum, my laughing dad, my Aunt Esmie holding Merry as an infant, my Uncle Rory looking stern, my Uncle Saradoc with my nightshirt at Bag End, a single portrait of Aunt Eglantine and Uncle Paladin seated side by side at Bag End looking stunned, Pearl Took dancing, Pervinca and Pimpernel Took with a bowl of jelly between them, the Great Smials, the market at Hobbiton, the stream where Sam and I found water worms, and the picture I’d done of Bag End.
With that one he paused, looked at it carefully, sighed.
“Bag End,” he said. “Bag End under the capable hands of Samwise Gamgee.” He looked up at the top of the Hill. “I don’t remember that planting, Iorhael.”
“It was after our return. He sent to the Lord Elrond, apparently, asking for seeds for athelas, niphredil, and elanor, and planted them in a circle around where I used to sit or lie some times.”
“For your protection,” he mused. I nodded.
Livwen looked at me curiously. “You needed protection?” she asked.
Gandalf nodded, his face very gentle with the memories. “Yes, my Lady, he needed protection. He was fading, fading rapidly; and Sam sought to aid him to hold on.”
“But you are not fading now.”
I took a deep breath. “No, I am no longer fading, not now. I will one day, when the proper end of my time comes; but at least I am not fading as I was.”
Gandalf smiled at me, turned to my other guest. “Even here it has been--difficult--at times, to keep our honored guest with us, Livwen. He is a mortal, and he struggled with deep hurt for too long ere he agreed to leave Middle Earth.” He backed up to the picture of Pearl Took. “What happened between you and Pearl, Frodo? There was a time, was there not, when the two of you thought to marry?”
He laughed. “Ah, Lobelia! Should have suspected the infamous Sackville-Bagginses in that situation, I suppose. How did you learn of it?”
“Lobelia sent me a letter before she died, asking my pardon.”
He looked amazed. “Your cousin Lobelia, asking pardon? The Age had changed, but I’d have never dreamed of such a thing to happen.”
“She was much changed after her treatment by Sharkey’s Big Men. Her stay in the Lockups was quite a revelation to her of just what the attitudes she, Otho, and Lotho entertained can lead to. The one, true good to come of that time.” He contemplated my solemnity, lifted my face to his to search my eyes, then laid his hand atop my head.
I sighed and continued, “I’d hoped perhaps if I just sent him away Saruman could find himself again, Olórin. I cannot understand how a Maia could bear to embrace evil. But when he betrayed Gríma that last time, Wormtongue just snapped--just snapped. It was horrible!”
“That you should have seen that, Frodo--I am so sorry. But do not think that any is ever fully capable of denying the lure of evil and power over others, particularly when isolated by distance and circumstance from our brethren. The voice of the Enemy can be heard in isolation and despair, as you know too well, mellon nin.”
He looked again through the last batch. “This one is one of your cousins, Merry’s father? I don’t recognize the situation.”
“It was just after I chose, Gandalf. Saradoc was now the Master. He and Esmeralda wrote to ask if they might dine with me, for they wished to learn more of what it was that Merry and Pippin had been through. It was so very difficult for them to discuss it. It was difficult for all of us to discuss it--the darkest parts of our experiences, that is.” He nodded his understanding. “Then Pippin showed up one morning. He’d tried once more to go home to the Smials, and had one of his nightmares, the one in which he cannot find Merry and Faramir, when he rushes through shadowy cities and up stairs and through the twists of Fangorn in search of them, calling out in terror for what may be happening to them. He called out in his sleep as he so often did--I understand from the Thain he was screaming their names, in fact.
“His father came in and yelled at him before he was properly awake, and Pippin almost drew Troll’s Bane on him. Paladin was berating him, accusing him of cowardice and childishness, and finally Pippin just stood up, threw on his clothing, wrapped his Lorien cloak about him, took Troll’s Bane and his pony, and left Tookland. He showed up on the doorstep at Bag End some time before dawn, and I had awakened early with one of my own nightmares and was just going in search of tea when I heard him pound on the door. Not wishing to allow anyone to disturb Sam and Rosie, I went to see who it was. He was shaking still with shame and fury, and it was all I could do to get him calmed to tell me the story. I managed to stir up the parlor fire and we sat there talking for about an hour, I’d judge. Finally I suggested we go to the kitchen. As he was still shaking I decided to give him some of Sam’s special tea.” He looked at me with a smile of surprise. “He kept a supply of it, and it seemed to be as effective after it cooled as when it was fresh, and I thought Pippin needed something to ease him as it eased me. But Sam heard us as we went back to the kitchen and came out to see what was going on. I remember asking him if there was anything in the tea likely to hurt Pippin, and he said he didn’t think so, so I heated some and gave him a mug, then sent him off to Crickhollow and arranged for Paladin and Eglantine to join the planned dinner party.”
I took a deep breath, remembering the day of the dinner. “The Tooks arrived first, and Uncle Paladin was being difficult, and Aunt Eglantine was being particularly vague and unwilling to rein him in. I was very ill, more ill, I think, than I realized. Sam took me over, made me sit down before the fire with a rug over my knees, and was watching over me like a watch dragon, ready to breathe fire on them if they got any more out of line as he saw it.” The Maia gave a snort of laughter at the image. “Then finally Aunt Esmie and Uncle Saradoc arrived, and found themselves in an atmosphere they weren’t certain how to handle.
“I had never discussed what we--did--with anyone in the Shire unless I couldn’t avoid it. I told them so, and told them why, that it was so painful trying to relive it, but that I’d make an exception in this case. And then I proceeded to shock them. After making mention of orcs and trolls and beatings, indicating their sons had been through more horrible situations than they could imagine, I then sweetly suggested we go into the dining room for the formal meal. And I had purposely included Sam, Rosie, little Elanor, and Sam’s sister Marigold, who’d helped prepare for the meal, in the formal seating. Thought they’d better become accustomed to the fact that Sam was not just a servant in Bag End, that he held authority in his own right.” He nodded, and Livwen looked at me with gentle wonder.
“And I told them, then read to them from the Red Book. I’d written it all out, Gandalf, all of it as I remembered it, as Legolas and Gimli and Aragorn would tell me, what Merry and Pippin and Sam remembered, what little Captain Faramir and the Lady Éowyn and King Éomer could say. I’ll never forget how pale the two of them became as they heard what Pippin had been through and done. And when I read to them about Pippin falling beneath the troll he stabbed, saving Beregond of Gondor, I looked up and that was how they looked right then.”
Together we all looked at the picture of the Thain and his Lady, the shock on their faces.
“Then Sam and I sat and discussed my total lack of ability to defend myself with a sword. Paladin and Eglantine were becoming more and more shocked, while Saradoc and Esmerelda were realizing just exactly what all of this meant, and how deeply I’d been hurt--not just Merry, their son, but me. And I remembered, at last, that they still thought of me as their own child. It was a good feeling, Gandalf. A good feeling, to sense just how strongly they still loved me.” We were silent for a while. “Then Saradoc asked me about my scars, how I got them. And I told them, told them each one. And,” I stopped and looked at my hand, where the finger was still gone, “after I told them about how I lost my finger I started to collapse. Uncle Saradoc caught me as I fell sideways, almost carried me to my room, got me onto the bed, got my shirt off me, got his first look at my back and where Shelob poisoned me, how deep the scars from the Ring were, just how irritated the scar on my shoulder was. He brought me my night shirt, and I’ll never forget the gentleness, the tenderness he showed me. It reminded me of when my parents died, how much I realized they cared. They sought to overprotect me when I was young, but it wasn’t because they didn’t care. I know that now.”
Livwen reached out and took my hand, and I smiled at her expression of compassion. Then we looked at last at the last few pictures I’d done. And this time I told her what each one represented, what each meant.
Sam in Ithilien, cooking stewed rabbit, Sam seeking to comfort me on Mount Doom, Sam casting Sancho Proudfoot out of the smial the day after the Party, Sam’s compassion as he brought me the tea he’d brewed so often, Sam holding my maimed hand between both of his whole, strong ones.
“He held the hope for both of us while we were in Mordor. His strength kept us both alive. Only through his determination to see me through it all did we make it to the Mountain--and then away.”
“And only through your own determination to go as far as you could did the Ring come to its destruction, Iorhael. Only because you learned to trust others to do their own parts, because you learned to recognize your own lacks and weaknesses, because you were able at the end to accept the assistance of others.” I nodded.
“But the fact remains that he is the other side of me, Olórin. Sam is what I am not, what I needed to be whole. Sam deserves Bag End. He will fill it with life where I became unable to go forward after the Ring came to me. He will finally bring a family, a true family, into it. He was not hollowed out by the dark Fire of the Ring or the cleansing Fire of the Valar as I was. Where I failed, he succeeded and continues to succeed.” We became silent once more. “And he lives now for both of us,” I finally concluded.
Again I felt the embrace of Gandalf the Wizard.