Through Shadows to the Edge of Night
By Dolores J. Nurss
Chapter 21, Part 51
(December 29, 1451)
“December 1, 1451
Mayor Samwise Gamgee
“Well, youve given your mother and me a fair piece to chew on, and no mistake! Right now I
am none too pleased with Meriadoc Brandybuck, I must say. I entrust my son to his watching, and what does he do? He lets a mad elf lead you all over creation and finally to the mouth of Moria itself, he lets you get darn near killed by an orc, he plies you with ent-draughts without your knowing, and then hes got the gall to challenge Mays place in our family! He and I are going to have words, I tell you!”
The handwriting changed slightly, with a somewhat different shade of ink.
“Okay, Ive had time to cool down a bit. Rosie made me go out and chop wood till I worked the fury out of my system. Merrys all right, I spose, though hes always been a bit of a tom-fool about some things. He did give you good sword lessons, and that saved your life. And it wasent his fault that he sprained his ankle trying to come to your rescue, nor that Legolas lost his marbles, and I daresay I could blame Treebeard more than Merry for the ent-draught business (that big overgrown critters got no sense about anything that aint got leaves!)
“But this business about May is bad, Frodo, and the bad starts right here at home. See, I was reading your letter out loud to the family. I got to the part about her and stopped mid-sentence but too late--all the children had at least part of an idea that something was up. I guess I was in shock, for the letter dropped right out of my hand and Merry-lad swooped it up and continued reading it aloud afore I could stop him, his face gone white as milk. May screamed, Frodo--she actually screamed. I dont think she understood the worst of it, but she knows now that Rosie and I aint legally her parents, and that she came about in some bad way--and that is horrible hard on such a little thing! I dont know what to do for her.
“Itill go to worse if talk gets out about this. Ive told all the younguns not to breathe a word of it to anybody, but theres just so many of them and none of them have full-growed hobbit-sense as yet. Sooner or later the worst is bound to happen. And I dont mean what it could do to my career, what with the news that Ive been breaking the law all these years--folks might decide that they understand why I wouldent want to give a baby girl to the likes of Ted Sandyman, and re-elect me anyways. But I dont care that much about being Mayor, not to the point where it comes before family. What concerns me more is that people might start pressing me to do just that, to make a Sandyman out of May, and Id rather die.”
“Here Ive gotten this letter off on the wrong footing--thats me all over--and not attended to the most important thing of all--YOUR ALIVE!!! O Frodo, my son, my dear, dear son, no matter what else your letter wrot, you cannot imagine the joy your mother and I felt when Bleo handed over that big, fat, fancy packet with “I AM ALL RIGHT!” scrawled across it, bold as a bull!
“I tell you, as soon as your mother saw those words she ran skipping out to the fields out back and started singing and dancing for joy, and all the little ones ran out and joined her, and your bigger brothers and sisters, too, I might add, and I ran out and swirled her up into the air, laughing for joy--and all the neighbors came out and leaned on their fences to watch us, right out there in broad daylight, but they knowed we must of had good news for a change, for they were all smiles and not much in the way of head-shaking anywhere. I hadent taught Rosie any elvish songs for thanks or joy, seeing as we havent been too happy around here lately, but she just made some up on the spot, and the prettiest music you ever did hear, too. In my day I’ve heard songs sung in Rivendell and places like that from singers so good that their like cannot be found in Middle-Earth today, but Id trade in every note of it for the singing my wife did on the day we got your letter, Frodo-Lad. I mean it, too.
“It was touch and go there for awhile, though, wasent it? My poor, poor lad--you dont say much about it (and small wonder!) but that orc must of hurt you bad. Your handwriting gets horrible for pages afterwards, and it sure does seem like you took your time getting back on your feet proper. All right--I can forgive the ent-draught if it fixed you up right after all the blood loss. I can forgive anything that makes my boy well again. But Ill tell you one thing, Frodo--for the first time I understand what Rosies been telling me all along, that in some ways its harder to sit back home and wait for someone you love to get through an adventure than to be out there doing the adventuring. I would gladly take on any wound myself rather than hear of any wound of yourn.
“But dont stop writing! Itid be even worse if I thought you might not be telling me all. Tell me everything! Not knowing is the hardest thing. At least when you write to me of your hardships, I know Im hearing the worst of it (and also the best, in other parts) and so my imagination doesent run wild with me. You just keep those letters coming and Ill do the same by you.
“You did good, son. Taking on that orc all by yourself. Im sorry you had to go through that, but I cannot tell you how proud I am that you won--and relieved beyond all bounds! Maybe you dident know that much about fighting, but you used your head, and thats the most important thing. Remember that--your head will save your life better than the best elvish blade or dwarvish mail.
“And roses--did you really think I would begrudge you that rosehip tea, Frodo? Id of traded all the roses in the world--aye, and the entire gardens of Rivendell and Lorien combined into the bargain--to get you on your feet again!
“You did put in a lot of good stuff into the letter, too, dident you? Just when I think Im all through with being a ninnyhammer I do something stupid to remind me Im still the same Sam Gamgee I always been. Like starting off this letter talking of nothing but the bad. I guess the bad things get a grip on a father more, what with all the worriting I done, waiting for any news I could, always fearing the worst. So when news does finally come, I seem more prepared somehow to hear the bad, and the good slips right past me.
“That business with Legolas was a marvel! I should of hit on that right off. Legolas on the mend? That is all I could of hoped for--indeed, more than I dared hope after Gimli told me that the poor fool made hisself a ring. Elves, dwarves, and ents all working a great healing together? My but Ive lived to see such wonderful times! Whod of thought? And to finally learn the origins of our own people, told in a faraway land--dont that beat all!
“And what an origin it is! Here I spent my early days hankering after the sight of an elf, and all I had to do was look in the mirror--and see there dwarf and man as well. But I guess you have to look out before you can see in, if you take my meaning--the best thing that ever happened to me was the day I let my desire to see elves tip the scales as to which way I should go. (Your mother is reading over my shoulder and making those “hmf!” noises of hers, but she and I both know I wouldent be the Sam she married if it were otherwise.)
“But my goodness Legolas had an awful time of it, dident he? Poor fellow! Im glad his troubles are over (not that Id fancy a stint inside a willow myself, but I suppose it aint too bad for elves if some have done it for the fun of it, if I understand correctly.) It cant have been too jolly for you, either--I know a thing or two about dealing with crazy people. But I am proud of how you handled it, Frodo--you stood by him, and you got him through.
“Wonderful about Mays magnifying glass. I am glad you have it with you--and May is glad she gave it to you. Its been a comfort to her, dont you know. Think of it as holding all the love of your family like the Phial of Galadriel held light--because I think it does, lad. I do think that the love its been magnifying has had something to do with some of the stranger goings-on around it--like how you got inspired to use it to make the others see elves. But have a care! Gandalf used to be a mite suspicious about mortals handling even the toys of elves, if they had magic in them. Magic has a mind of its own, Frodo. Still, Arwen wouldent of given such a thing if she thought it might do any harm, and she knows more about these things than ol Sam Gamgee, I daresay. But I think its changing somehow, I don’t know how. Id be careful if I were you.
“And now I understand a thing or two about your brother Tom as well. Do you know hes planning on entering Strider in the races at the Midsummer Fair, racing him hisself? Young as he is, but aint nobody laughing. Everybody knows that nobody rides a pony better than our Tom in all the Shire. And oh do the critters love him! He can sweet-talk the ornriest nag into good behavior. Ol Man Proudfoot wants to know when Ill let him prentice for a ranch-hand, but I keep telling him the boy is way too young. Pippin Took says that Proudfoots really scared to death Ill buy Tom his own ranch and put the Proudfeet out of business, but I dont hold with helping younguns out so far they dont learn how to help themselves. (Not but I wouldent like to see the fellow get a little friendly competition--he’s been charging a mean rate for his ponies of late.) Now the old goat brings his daughter over to play with our kids as often as he can--Tom and Blossom are barely out of diapers and already hes matchmaking, and all for keeping his propitty in the family! Ill have to make sure that Tom has his own say about his future, irregardless of all this meddling going on.
“The lens might be changing for your protection, in some sense, being full of love, in response to Legolas and what he bore. And no, I don’t mean that tomfool ring. The things you say about Sauron bother me, Frodo. As Ive said before, it seems like the old tales never end--though I sure wish some would! You keep in mind what that dwarf-gaffer had to say and you stay on your toes, lad! A blowfly can kill a full-sized horse if he makes a dirty enough wound. Dont let him get under your skin, nohow! I talk about what I know, boy, you listen to your Papa.
“And your Papa knows it wont be easy, and stands behind you all the way. If you get strange notions into your head that sound like they come from Sauron, you write them down and send them to me--I wont think the less of you. In fact, Ill think better of you for having the sense to talk them out afore they cause you any trouble. When I recall what Sharkey did to this country with naught but the power of persuasion, I shudder to think of something even worse whispering in your ear like that, but I know I raised you strong and good. Even if you get an idea as bad as Ted Sandymans, you talk to me, and we will work together to keep it from happening. A whole lot of things might of been different if that blighter had had the guts to admit that he needed help with what that wizard was doing to him. (Then again he dident seem to recognize a bad idea if it came and spit him in the eye.) Point is, Frodo, dont you try to handle nothing all alone.
“That business about the poppy gums a case in point. The coldest fear of my life was when I read how you got all twisted up just thinking about it--and with the kind of life Ive led, thats saying something! (People who aint parents have no idea.) But the fact is, you got through it. You went to Eowyn, just like you should of. You had the sense to talk it out and work it out--and I am prouder of you for that moment, Frodo, than for your battle with the orc, even. Ive fought orcs, and Ive fought the temptations of Sauron, and Ill take orcs any day! But youve got to admit your headed for trouble afore you can ask for help.
Take Denethor--youve read all about him in the Red Book, Im sure. Pippens told me a lot about the ol Steward, having waited on him and all, and gotten to know him better than folks might think, and he says that what overthrew the man, really, was all the thoughts he dident want to admit he was thinking in the first place. He turned his back on them, and he thought that made him strong, but all it meant was that those thoughts could take a whack at the backside of his head where he wasent looking.
“I wish I was right there with you, Son, so we could talk things out together face to face. Bleoboris says it takes half the time for mail to go from point to point as it takes for travelers to ride (plus a day more for him to amble in from Bree, but he dident say that) on account of their switching galloping horses and all, but that still will put the mail between you and me at about a months travel, once you reach the shores of Nurnen. But maybe writing things down in letters will help anyways. I know that writing things down in the Red Book has helped me sort all kinds of problems out--there are memories I couldent handle any other way. Just try and picture what your Papa would say to you back, if that will help.
“I tell you what. If theres anything you want to write just to your ol Papa and to nobody else, draw a kind of box around that part--Ill be sure not to read it to the rest, then. We should of thought of that sooner, but better late than never. And dont let nothing you might say embarrass you, neither. I may be your father, but Ive also been around the world and back, and seen a few things, and understand a few things that others might not. They say that when your children are little you got to be a parent to them and not a buddy, but once they grow up you got to be a buddy to them and not just a parent anymore. Youve got a few years left to go, by the book, but your on your own now and too far away to pat on the back or turn over my knee either one, so I guess your as growed as your gonna get for all practical purposes. No, I take that back--you never stop growing, not if your smart. But as far as Im concerned, were buddies now. Humor me, though, as the elder buddy, and still give an ear to my advice, will you? You might find I get smarter as the years go by!"
Frodo couldn't help but laugh at that. "He's making the best of a bad situation," he murmured. "Wily old politician! He would never offer to be my 'buddy' if he stood close enough to strike the fear of Mandos in me!" Yet at the same time (a little puzzled as to why he'd entertain such cynical opinions in the first place)Frodo felt deeply touched.
“As for the dreams, you take after your father there, no doubt about it! You not only described the ocean perfectly--better than I could, and Ive seen it--but you also described the Cracks of Doom. From where I sit I can see those dreams were trying to tell you that Legolas had a ring and it was doing him harm. You pay attention to your dreams, Frodo--real dreams, mind you, and not some poppy-gendered lie--and Ill rest easier knowing that your tapping into some help thats moren I could give.
“Seems to me youve got the gift of dreaming about real things you never laid eyes on, too. Your namesake had the same gift, sometimes. I know Ive told you a hundred times that he bequeathed to me more than his propitty, that he also passed on all the living that he might of done here in Middle Earth if the ring hadent messed with him. But what I havent told you is that I named you Frodo for a reason. How can I put this? You are my son through and through, by blood and by heart, and no mistake, but on some mysterious level you are also his son--the son he should of had. Sometimes you take after him in surprising ways.
“I hope I dident worry you too much with my other letters, Son. I cant hardly remember half of what I wrote, now, but thats all water over the ford. My unpopularity over sending you out actually worked in my favor at the last town meeting. Seems that folks fell right behind me on the need to cut the pipeweed trade to Rohan and Dale, because the world out there seemed all the more dangerous with the Mayor’s son out missing in it. But now its a done deal and folksll stand by it even with good news from you. It helps that good ol Merry Brandybuck (See? Im over being mad at him already!) gave the word to his own folks to cut the trade afore he left, which pretty much dried up the flow of pipeweed then and there, except for a couple of Tooks, riding freelance on the small scale, and The Took soon put a halt to that, though its hurt him hard in the purse--if Merry made a bundle transporting pipeweed, Pippin made a bundle growing it. The Bolgers waited to hear what I had to say before they filled in the trade-gap, bless them--they never did take against me this whole time, same as the Tooks and the better part of the Brandybucks, while the Cottons and Goodchilds and the other Gamgees, of course, stood by me, whatever they thought amongst themselves. At times like this you sure do know who your friends are.
“Not much news about the family. Your brother Robin fell out of a tree and broke a tooth, but were hoping hes young enough hell grow another back. Tom, as I say, is all for racing at the Midsummer Fair. Elanor and Fastred have moved back in here at Bag End for the winter--its been a cold one and they cant live in tents while waiting for their new home to be dug at the Far Downs.
“Your mother doesent mind you trading her preserves for fresh milk--shes just glad your eating right--shes been expecting you to starve every step outside the Shire, and I cant tell her otherwise. Do you know you missed her birthday? She doesent mind that either--says youve got enough on your mind without worriting about little things like that. Shes none too pleased about the scar, of course, but shell forgive all if you just come home in one piece, dont you worry about that--no matter how tall you might be. She also wants you to know that if she fainted as easy as you seem to think (all right, as easy as she pretends sometimes) shed of never survived the Troubles. And yes, she did like hearing the description of Lady Eowyns chemise, though she thought the severed monster-head on the back was in poor taste.
“Your sister Rosie-Lass has taken to weaving tapestries. Shes not bad so far, though she could use a bit of practice. At first she wanted me to buy her all kinds of expensive yarns, but I told her if she wanted them that bad she could weave some plain stuff first, and sell that, and then buy herself the yarns she wants for the fancy stuff. She pouted and called me a miser, but I dont want my children growing up like Lotho did, thinking their entitled to everything under the sun just
because their Papa came into some money--look what a bad end he came to! But shes just at that tetchy age, is all. Dont smirk--you went through it, too! Matter of fact, Frodo, you still have your moments, but Im just saying it cause I love you.
“At least you never axed me to spend a heap of money on you. Thats one thing about you that always did me proud, Frodo--you never stuck at a little work, and when you wanted fine tools for the garden, youd figure out a way to earn them. Youve always understood that Ive got to use the money given me for the Shire, once Ive seen to it that my own familys comfortable--comfortable, mind you, not carried on silk cushions like a Harad princess! I know I sent the right hobbit for the job when I picked you for the Kings mission. Youll do me proud in Mordor, Frodo, just like you always do.
“I miss you, son. But I am glad your on your way. Youll come out the best for all this adventuring, mark my words!”
“O my son, my son, I love you moren I can tell!”
“P.S.--Write! Keep on writing as you go, same as you done so far. Dont let me miss a day, hear? I never been so glad I learned my letters--and taught my children!--as I am right now.”
In his mother’s handwriting, Frodo read, “Your Papas the big one on words and writing and all. But Frodo, oh my darling, I never forgot the day Molly the Midwife told me, “Youve got yourself a son, Missus Gamgee,” and she put you on my breast, and all the pain fell away with a touch of your tiny hand. Oh Frodo, I was so scared for you! We all lose our parents sooner or later--we expect that. And we expect that weve got even odds of outliving a spouse. But there aint no pain worse in all the world than to lose the child that you bore. It aint natural. And I thought for sure I lost you, my son. Dont you never scare me like that again! Write all the letters you are able, and I will read them all. Or I’ll have Sam read them to me--reading letters gives me headaches, if you must know, and your handwritings just a bit too fancy for my eyes to handle with any comfort. (Do you really need all those flips and curls, Frodo?) But believe me, my dear one, I will hang on every word!
“Love, and love, and more love still–