I cannot say for certain when I was changed. For a long time I continued to
feel like a Hobbit, prepared myself tea on a daily basis, gathered berries to make jam,
baked seed cakes from time to time, sailed on my small boat alone or with Livwen
and occasionally with other Elflings, stirred up my occasional mushroom stews. But
there were days when I do not believe I ate at all, nights when I stood all night
breathing in the green smell and watching the stars as would any Elf instead of
sleeping on my couch, mornings when I sang the Sun into the sky, evenings when I
seemed to live only for the first sight of Eärendil’s bark in the heavens.
Elves came to the Gardens near to my home, I realized, still only to look on
me, to look in amazement at one to whom had been granted the Gift of Illuvatar.
But they began to approach me more closely, spoke to me quietly and with honor
and respect, laid their offerings of flowers directly into my hands. When I walked
into the city they greeted me in the manner in which they greeted one another, but
looked after me with the gaze they usually gave to one of the Maiar.
One thing only that there was missing from my house--a mirror. I’d never
wondered on that, as odd as that might seem to others. Now and then I’d realize my
hair had grown to lengths that were odd for a Hobbit, and then I’d request Olórin to
cut it for me, a request he seemed to feel unnecessary but which he indulged. I
brushed my hair daily on head and feet, bathed daily in the pool, trimmed my nails.
But the fact that I was not aging as would be expected at home escaped me,
for I had no way of seeing this. The fact that I was trimming my nails less and less
frequently lost itself on me. That at night I rarely needed to light a lamp I failed to
note. That I often sang but now rarely spoke I did not comprehend. Perhaps that
was understandable--before I left Middle Earth, when I’d begun to fade, I had found
myself speaking less and less as I completed the Red Book, answered only in
monosyllables or the simplest of communications. It had taken a great deal out of
me, the night I entertained Merry and Pippin’s parents, to talk as much as I did, as
that night alone I probably spoke more than I had spoken in months.
One night I was wandering around the perimeter of the island. How I came to
such a project I cannot say, only that the fit had struck me, and as I had no other
activity planned or in action at the time I simply opened up my door and set off, first
north to the shore and then west toward the far side of the island from the city.
The shore rose at one point, and then I found myself at the top of a bluff
looking down into a small bay, and I realized that there was a reflection below of a
light from apparently over where I stood. I looked up in wonder, for it was the dark
of the Moon; but I saw no star of especial brightness standing over me. I looked
down with curiosity at the reflection in the water of the splendor, then searched for a
way down the bluff to the narrow beach I could see below, thinking to find a home
cut perhaps into the face of the rock. But when at last I made the shore I saw no light
from the steep slope above me, and when I approached the water’s side and looked
down into it, I realized that the glow started at my own feet.
I stood there in amazement and, I think, some shock through the remainder
of the night, and just ere dawn two Maiar came to me, stood by me and comforted
me until Olórin arrived and embraced me, drew me away, took me back to my house.
He stayed with me for some hours until Galadriel, Elrond, Celebrían, and Livwen
arrived, at which time I found myself looking from one to the next, wordlessly
The Lord Elrond finally spoke, his voice low and gentle. "You know the
prophecy made by Olórin when you lay in recovery from the Morgul wound in
Rivendell--that he saw you becoming as a clear vessel filled with Light as with water?"
I nodded, dumbly.
"It has been continuing to happen, Iorhael, since that day--the Becoming. I
thought you realized it the day aboard the Ship, when on entering the salon of the
windows you ran forward and buried your face in Mithrandir’s lap. Certainly your
words at the time, of your flesh becoming insubstantial, of the feeling you were
somehow losing yourself, made it sound as if you were aware of the change in
progress--although the words could also have indicated the realization of how close
to death you were at the time, I suppose."
I was able to bring out three words: "Did Bilbo know?"
Again it was Elrond who answered, "Yes, how could he have missed it? Why
did you think he labored so hard to remain awake, Iorhael, awake for so long? He
wished to rejoice in your increasingly revealed Light as much as possible before he
left you, and he wished for your physical body to be relieved ere he went on."
"Yes," Olórin said, "rejoice. He rejoiced to see your Light being revealed
clearly. He first saw it in you when you were but a child, saw it beginning to be
extinguished by the overprotection lavished on you by your Brandybuck relatives,
saw its flame stop wavering as you found your place in Bag End and Hobbiton.
"Sam saw it in you frequently, as did Aragorn and Arwen and Elrond and
Galadriel and Legolas. We all saw it clearly, while others simply recognized you drew
them to you, drew out the best in themselves, and they felt themselves blessed
simply to be able to stand by you and assist you as they could."
"Ringbearer," Galadriel said with great tenderness, "did you truly think you
were unworthy of the trust put in you by the Powers, by the Valar, by Eru Himself?
You have spoken often of being scoured by Fire, by the dark Fire of the Enemy and
the cleansing Fires of the Valar. Did you not realize that the Light of Anor came as
much from within as from without?"
Livwen understood the meaning of my question. "My vision was drawn first
to you on your arrival by the Light of you, Iorhael. I was there on the quay, awaiting
my father’s bark, when the Grey Ship arrived, and I could see a great glory over it
from the company of those who were filling the decks. But the Light of Olórin was
that of a Maia, and with him was a far different Light such as I’d never seen before,
what I now believe to be the Light granted to those of the mortal Children of
Illuvatar, which is of a different sort than that given to us. I could see a dimmer
reflection of that Light in your kinsman, and the night he left you many of us kept
vigil outside your house, watching, watching two lights suddenly shine through the
walls of your dwelling, and draw away, then the one went on till we could see it no
more, and one returned and became more obscured again.
"Always that Light has surrounded you, and has become more obvious since
you went to the fanes for healing, when some of the Valar came to you there. Your
body is drawing back, and your Light is shining forth more and more over time. And
it draws us to you. Now that we see more of the Light it is becoming easier for many
of our people to approach you, for you are more similar to the Maiar now, although
distinctly different at the same time."
I closed my eyes. "Sam."
Olórin’s glory caressed my shoulder. "Oh, do not worry for Sam. He will
know you, may not realize you have changed, even. He has long seen the truth of
"You understand what the Morgul knife was intended to do?" I nodded, but
with reserve. "It was intended to extinguish the Light of your mortal spirit, to
convert it to the Dark Fire, to draw you out of proper mortal life and plunge you into
the darker regions of the spirit world, but still tied to Arda and most particularly to
the regions of Middle Earth under the domination of Sauron. But the Enemy could
not create this process any more than he could create life. He could only pervert."
Elrond drew a deep breath as the others looked to him to continue the
narrative. "You have been drawn lately to seek out my Father’s Light in the Heavens,
Iorhael. You have been seen frequently watching for it in the evenings." Again, I
nodded. "What is not written down in the stories of Eärendil is that before he set
sail to Eldemar he had begun to change, as you have. Always that glow was in him,
but it was beginning to be visible. The acceptance of the quest to obtain the aid of
the Valar in battling Morgoth quickened the process, and when our mother brought
to him the Silmaril to bear with him, he became almost totally a Being of Light. His
mortal nature was burnt away from him almost completely before he reached the
Undying Lands, and that is why he could not return, more than the fact that he’d
dared, one with mortal blood, to enter the most holy of the places intended for those
who are immortal.
"Subjection to the Ring has led to the Light of Anor being made plain within
those of you who have borne it. Neither Bilbo nor you--nor Sam--did any evil to
come into possession of it. None of you used it for evil purposes."
I interrupted, "I cursed Gollum."
"Did you say to him, ‘You will now go leap into the Cracks of Doom?’ Did you
on a whim say, ‘Sméagol, you must leap off the precipice?’ When he sought to swear
upon it, did you not warn him it would twist his words?"
I considered these questions. "I said, ‘If....’"
Galadriel nodded. "Always you warned him, Ringbearer. You saw the nature
of the Burden, and you told him clearly. And he knew it, too. He knew that by
swearing by it he was opening himself to its influence to be perverted by it once
more. He knew that the Ring had not forgiven him for refusing to take it out of the
obscurity of his cavern, that it would seek to utterly destroy him ere the end in
punishment, to pervert the last vestiges of his integrity, little as it was, before it
drove him to his final destruction.
"Did you desire for Sméagol to cast himself into the Fire?"
"No, yet, yes."
"Iorhael," Celebrían said gently, "you yet gave him warning, and it was the
vision you saw from the will of the Ring which you warned him of. You did not say,
‘I have decided that I will command the Ring to make you fall into the Fire if you
touch me again’--you instead told him only that this was what would happen if he
touched you again. You warned him of the plans the Ring had already formulated for
him. It was Illuvatar who gave him the endurance to take It from you first. And, in
the end, the decision to test the warning was solely his. Did you wish him to touch
you again to see the curse fulfilled?" I shook my head.
"Ringbearer," Galadriel said solemnly, "Illuvatar delights in all the Light He
has put into this world, and does not willingly allow any of it to be extinguished.
Where the Light that shines in the souls of Mortals goes when the bodies are cast off,
we do not know, for our own Lights are tied to this Creation. And such is the Light
you have been gifted with that He would be most grieved to lose it. And so He sent
one in whom the Light had been all but totally darkened to save you from the
Darkness. And I suspect that in his fall, the creature Sméagol, for saving your Light,
may have found a bit of his own back.
"This is part of the reason that the mortal Ringbearers have been given this
grace, to enter for a time the Undying Lands, even if you may not leave the bounds of
Tol Eressëa--that your Light may not waver with the fading of your physical forms,
that it may be at its brightest once it leaves the bounds of Arda to enter that place
prepared for you."
I took a long, almost shuddering breath. "Am I fading once more?"
They looked to one another, then all turned to Olórin.
"In one way you are, Child of Illuvatar--your physical form is, as you foresaw
on the Ship, becoming more insubstantial. But your ability to remain within Arda
and the strength of your spirit, which holds your Light, is not fading at all, but is
strengthening over time. The Ring sought to destroy your ties to your own spirit,
and the Morgul wound sought to pervert and enslave it. But instead your mortality
is being cleansed away without the loss of you--until you are indeed ready to go on.
"Sam, too, contains a unique Light, a Light close familiarity with the Ring has
in part freed to be seen by others and to increase in awareness over time. The same
was true of Bilbo, although his mortality was stronger than yours and served more to
obscure it from the eyes of all but the most discerning toward the end, although as
Livwen has told you it could be seen, and his leaving clearly seen, by very many here.
By the time he arrives I suspect Samwise Gamgee will be almost as much a Being of
Light as yourself, although still more closely tied to his mortal frame as Bilbo was."
"Not a wraith, but not--" Words failed me completely.
"Not corporeal, either," Olórin agreed.
"How long?" I asked at last, with a different meaning this time.
Olórin looked on me with tenderness. "We do not know."
"Please, a mirror?"
And so I have begun to write this while I can. I can speak little, but my mind
still moves in the ways of words, and I wish that when Sam comes he may realize
what has happened to me, that this is not necessarily of my own choice but is
something I have simply come to, apparently of necessity.
I do not know if there will be any body at all left when he arrives. I hope there
is some--I want so to grasp his hand at least once more. And I’d like to at least speak
his name again. My Sam.