Elanor and Sam, Part One - by Pippinsqueak
Part One of Two
Early in the winter of 1421 Sam Gamgee finally began to clear and organize the drawers and cubbyholes in the study at Bag End. It was a job that had been waiting for him since his return from the Grey Havens in the fall of that year, and one that normally Rosie would not have allowed him to avoid for so long, but she understood why he procrastinated, and rightly guessed that only when his own heart was ready would he be able to make a proper start. So when she went to fetch him for supper on a cold and windy evening in December she was pleased to find him seated at the study desk, surrounded by piles of sorted letters and manuscripts. He was holding large, envelope in his hand, sealed with red wax. When she saw the tears in his eyes she set little Elanor on the floor and went to him.
Sam looked up. "I found this, in the middle drawer, underneath all his notes, like it was waiting to be found when I was ready to find it". Written on the envelope in Frodo's clear bold script were the words "To Elanor, to be opened on her 25th birthday, from Frodo".
"He never told me he left any such thing".
Elanor crawled over to her father and pulled herself to standing, clutching his pant legs in her tiny pudgy fists. Sam picked her up, nestled her into her lap and showing her the envelope said, "I'll put this away safe for you, my love, until you're old enough to open it". She laughed and gave the envelope a few pats with her open hand.
* * *
Sam hid the letter away, telling no-one, not even Rosie or Elanor, where it was. Over the next 18 years Sam and Rosie had twelve more children, and Bag End underwent several extensive reorganizations to accommodate the ever changing needs of the family. But no curious Gamgee lad or lass ever came upon the letter during their ingenious and far-ranging games of hide and seek, and hunt the spoon. Nor was any mention of it ever made by Rosie or Sam, not even to Elanor, though the children grew up steeped in the lore of their uncle Frodo; for Sam would not have them enjoy the Shire without knowing why and how they had been given such a jewel; though he tempered his accounts of the War of the Ring according to the children's ages, and the tales were retold at their begging, and not before.
The first time he told the story to Elanor she was seven. He tried to tell it simply and plainly, and to capture the bravery and hardship without frightening the child. Frodo-lad and Rosie-lass were then too young to hear the tale, and Merry-lad was just a baby. Sam had sat with Elanor in his lap, before the fire in the sitting room for three nights in a row telling the long story. She listened patiently and with surprising understanding. The Gaffer heard it again as well; he lived with them now and though he had heard the story read from the Red Book on occasion this was the first he had heard it in Sam's own words, simplified to meet Elanor's needs. On the last evening Rose joined them after getting the little ones off to bed. The story had progressed to the tunnels of Cirith Ungol and Shelob.
Elanor's large brown eyes were wide with wonder as she gazed into the fire and her hands gripped her father's arms wrapped tight around her.
"And so Mr. Frodo cut through that gray, cobwebby net, that covered the passage, and then he ran on ahead of me with Sting. I was still holding the Lady's glass for him, and all of a sudden I saw Shelob run out of a passage right towards Mr. Frodo. I didn't have time to yell a warning before something jumped on me. It was that Gollum. So I had to deal with him before I could help Mr. Frodo. And Gollum had planned all this, you see, with Shelob, for her to attack Mr. Frodo so as he could get the Ring after she'd done with him. So I wasn't too gentle with him, but he got away and I didn't chase him because Shelob was after Mr. Frodo."
"She'd caught him and stung him, and wrapped him up in her horrible web, like a big cocoon, and was about to carry him off. So up I ran, and picked up Sting. I had my own sword too, and I had at her. I got right under her, she was that big."
"But weren't you scared, daddy, what if she had stung you, too?" Elanor twisted around to look up into Sam's face.
"Well, I wasn't anything, or leastaways I didn't have time to think what I felt, except mad, so mad I was crazy. She'd hurt Mr. Frodo and I was going to make sure she couldn't hurt him no more, and that she'd pay for what she'd done. She made like she was going to squash me, so I pointed Sting up at her belly, I'm still under her, mind, and she squashed down onto Sting instead, and gave her own self a poke. That sent her scuttling away, and she didn't bother us no more".
He paused, considering how to tell the next part. "What about Mr. Frodo, daddy, did you cut him loose from his cocoon?"
"I did. I cut him loose. But she'd stung him on the neck. He was cold, and he didn't move. I couldn't feel him breathing, nor hear a heart beat. So I thought he was dead." He stopped again.
"Were you sad, daddy, did you cry?"
"I was and I did."
The strain in his voice made her look up. "You're still sad, daddy, but he didn't die did he, you said he came back to the Shire with you and has gone across the sea now".
"But it still makes me sad to remember how poor Mr. Frodo looked. How I felt believing he was dead. And then I had to think what to do next. Because I'd promised, you'll remember, never to leave Mr. Frodo, and I didn't want to leave him neither. But then I knew if I stayed there with him sooner or later we'd be found, and Sauron would get the Ring so that all Mr. Frodo's troubles would have been for naught. So I had to choose to go on, to take the Ring to the Cracks of Doom; there was no one left to do it but me. So I took the Ring -"
"But, daddy, wasn't that bad? You said Mr. Frodo was given the Ring by Master Elrond, and he said no one else was allowed to have it!"
"Yes, that's right, you have a good memory. But Master Elrond said that the other members of the fellowship could take it, he said `in gravest need', those were his words; and I was the last member and I thought Mr. Frodo was dead, so that made the need grave, if you understand me; so I took it, though I didn't want to, because I knew in my heart somehow I was making a mistake. But I promised to come back when I was done, though I didn't see how I'd ever be able to."
He shifted Elanor on his lap, ran his sleeve across his eyes, and continued. "I left and went a little ways, but then I heard orcs coming from both directions, down the tunnel and up the tunnel, two different groups. There was no where to hide and if they found me they would get the Ring, so I put the Ring on, and they never saw me."
"But, daddy, that must have been really bad! Gandalf told Mr. Frodo never to use the Ring."
"I used it because I had to and it saved me from the orcs" he said, and he would say no more about using the Ring.
"The orcs came, and they found Mr. Frodo and carried him away. So I followed, because I wasn't going to leave Mr. Frodo to that filth."
"But what about taking the Ring to Mount Doom, daddy, like you'd decided?" Elanor asked.
Sam sighed. "I couldn't do that, Elanor. Even though I thought Mr. Frodo was dead, I couldn't leave him to the orcs. My place was with him, even if it meant the quest would fail. Mr. Frodo, he was strong enough to carry the Ring, but not me. I was only strong enough to stay with him."
"Because you loved him," Elanor whispered.
"That's right," Sam said, "I do love him." He paused, then continued the story. "So I followed, and the leaders of the two orc groups were last behind all their men; I listened to their talk as I followed, and I heard one of them say Mr. Frodo was alive, that Shelob had stung him to knock him out, not kill him.
"Were you happy, daddy, when you heard that?"
Happy? I suppose I was happy he was alive, of course I was, but I was that mad at myself, for leaving Mr. Frodo when I knew it was a mistake, and I was crazy with fear thinking what them filthy orcs would do to dear Mr. Frodo. Then I tried to catch up to the orcs, but they were too far ahead of me, and they got away and closed the door out of the tunnel, up to the tower, so I couldn't follow . . . I couldn't follow." He paused again, and Elanor, snuggled deep into Sam's lap, could feel her father's heart pounding in his chest.
"I guess I collapsed then, and everything was black for a time, I don't know how long. When I woke up I went back the way I'd come and got to the entrance me and Mr. Frodo had been heading to, before Shelob got him. But I was that scared, to cross into Mordor, and go up into the tower. And I don't know why, but I put the Ring on again, and it made my hearing that sharp."
Elanor opened her mouth as if to protest again, but then closed it and remained quiet.
I heard the orcs fighting among themselves, up there, in the tower, and that made me think that I might be able to save Mr. Frodo if they all killed themselves. I took off the Ring, and went on. I saw bodies everywhere as I went up, and I was so scared again, I almost couldn't go on. Then an orc came racing down the passage, right towards me. He saw me, and I had Sting out, it was glowing and he was scared of me, or maybe it was the sword, and he ran off. I followed and when I got to the top of the tower there were dead orcs everywhere. Shagrat was there, still alive, and one of his men, Snaga, who ran off. Then I saw that Gorbag lying with the dead orcs pretending to be dead himself. He tried to sneak up on Shagrat and kill him but Shagrat was too smart for him and it was Gorbag that was killed.
"Didn't Shagrat see you, daddy?"
"Not at first, I was hiding in the doorway, like, but then he came running towards me, meaning to go down from the tower, and he had the mithril coat and other things he'd stolen from Mr. Frodo. I tried to stop him but he got by. Then I didn't take heed of him any more because I had to find Mr. Frodo."
Sam paused again, considering, and remembering. His voice was hoarse when he continued. "I looked and I looked, but I couldn't find any room where Mr. Frodo might be hid. Then I sat down on the stairs. I was that tired, and I couldn't think what else to do, I didn't think I'd ever find him, I didn't feel any hope."
"But you did find him, daddy, didn't you? How did you find him?"
"I sat on the stairs, all weary and alone, and I felt like crying, but instead, I don't know why but I started to sing."
"You sang, daddy! But why did you sing?"
"Like I say, I don't know, I guess to keep my heart from breaking. And I sang old songs from the Shire, from when I was a little boy and some that Mr. Bilbo had taught me. And then I sang something I couldn't remember ever hearing before, and it made me feel like there was hope."
"Sing me that song, daddy."
Sam had been reciting poems and singing to Elanor, and to his other children, all their lives. He had never sung this song to anyone since that day in the tower but he sang it now, for Elanor, who had sat enthralled on his lap through the long telling, and seemed to be hearing his heart through his words.
In western lands beneath the Sun
the flowers may rise in Spring,
the trees may bud, the waters run,
the merry finches sing.
Or maybe `tis cloudless night
and swaying beeches bear
the Elven-stars as jewels white
amid their branching hair.
Though here at journey's end I lie
In darkness buried deep,
beyond all powers strong and high,
beyond all mountains steep,
above all shadows rides the Sun
and Stars for ever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done,
Nor bid the Stars farewell.
When he had finished she said, "I like that, daddy, where did it come from?"
"I don't know, Elanor, I suppose I must have made it up. It just came to me there in my sadness, and I have never been able to think where I heard it before".
"So did you start looking again, after you sang it?"
"Well, I didn't need to, because Mr. Frodo, he heard me, up in the room where they'd hidden him away, and he began to sing my song back to me. But that orc, Snaga, that scoundrel was still there and he came and yelled at Mr. Frodo to be quiet. I saw him get a ladder and climb up to this little trap door in the roof of the tower, like, and go through into this room." Sam paused, "he had a whip to use on Mr. Frodo, and I heard it so I went up as fast as fast, and dealt with him."
"Did he hurt Mr. Frodo?"
"Well, he did, before I had a chance to get there, just the once. But Mr. Frodo, he was all right otherwise, though the orcs had asked him cruel questions and threatened him, and terrified him. I was that glad to see him, and he to see me. They'd taken everything from him, clothes and all, and so he thought they'd taken the Ring. But of course I still had it and I gave it back to him."
"Did he get mad at you for taking it from him, daddy?
"Well, not really, the Ring made him act mad you see, because it was working on his mind, but Mr. Frodo himself, he wasn't mad, he understood why I'd done it. So I gave it back to him. Now, like I said, they'd taken all Mr. Frodo's things, his mithril coat and his clothes and all, so I went down and got him some orc clothes, and got myself an orc cloak, and we put on orc helmets and took orc shields and dressed up like little orcs, for a disguise if you understand, because now we had to go down into Mordor, and walk all the way to Mount Doom."
It was getting late, and Sam wanted to get through to the end of this part of the story before putting Elanor to bed.
"There's not much to tell about that long walk to Mount Doom, except it was hard, harder than anything we'd had to do. Poor Mr. Frodo had the Ring to carry, it got heavier and heavier the closer we got to the mountain. We were always thirsty and hungry and weary. It was a long, long way across the plains to the mountain and we didn't know if we'd have enough food or water to get us there, but we carried on, we had to keep trying."
"But what were you going to eat and drink on the way back, daddy, once Mr. Frodo had gotten rid of the Ring?"
"Well, Mr. Frodo didn't expect we'd be coming back, he thought he'd get the job done, as he put it, and then that would be the end of us."
"You thought you were going to die?"
"I did, in the end, I hoped we wouldn't and I tried not to think about it, but I couldn't see no other end."
Elanor struggled to understand this. "But why did you go with Mr. Frodo if you thought you would die" she asked softly "I thought Master Elrond said only Mr. Frodo had to go, everyone else could decide not to carry on".
"Well, Gandalf had told me, way back in the beginning, in Bag End, that I was to go with Mr. Frodo," he answered slowly "and the elves that we met up with in the Shire, when we first started out, you'll remember, they told me not to leave Mr. Frodo. `Don't you leave him' they said to me. And I felt that there was something that I had to do, as well, that it wasn't just Mr. Frodo as had a job, but me as well. But mostly I went because I loved Mr. Frodo and he needed me, there was no way he could do what he had to do without his Sam, and he was that determined to do it, so I was going to stick with him to the end, whatever that was. To the end."
He paused, as if struck by what he had just said, and then carried on with the story. "So we got to Mount Doom, and poor Mr. Frodo, he was that weak and weary with the weight of the Ring, which I couldn't help him carry, so instead I carried him."
Elanor, who had been very solemn as the tale unfolded, gave a small laugh "You carried Mr. Frodo, daddy, but how?"
"I gave him a piggy back ride, like I've given you a hundred times. And he seemed no heavier than you, the Ring burdened him, but I never felt its weight. We found a road up the mountain after a time, so Mr. Frodo walked for a bit, and then I carried him again. We were almost to the top when Gollum came back. I'd caught a glimpse of him on our long journey across the plains, and here he was, still following. He looked near starved to death. He jumped on us and tore Mr. Frodo from me and wrestled with him, trying to take the Ring from him. But Mr. Frodo, he couldn't stand to have Gollum after the Ring and he threw Gollum off and threatened him not to touch him again or he'd wind up in the Cracks of Doom himself. I got my sword out to deal with Gollum, so I told Mr. Frodo to go on, and he went on, without me, up to the Cracks of Doom".
"Oh, daddy, you must have been really mad at Gollum, what did you do to him?"
"I had a mind to kill him, of course, but then he was that pitiful; and Mr. Frodo, he'd gotten away safe, and I thought once the Ring went in the Cracks of Doom, that would be the end of all of us. That Ring had worked on Gollum's mind, all those years he'd had it, and it had tormented him too, after he lost it to Mr. Bilbo, and kept trying to find it. So he was this pitiful wretch and I felt there wasn't no need for me to kill him; and Mr. Frodo, he always said Gandalf thought Gollum might have a job to do, though I could never see what it might be, and he hadn't done no good up until then, to my way of thinking. But it didn't seem to matter if I let him go. Anyway, I wanted to catch up to Mr. Frodo quick like. So I let him go.
"Did you get there in time to see Mr. Frodo throw the Ring into the Cracks of Doom, daddy?"
Sam hesitated. "Well, no, I didn't. I got there, and I was too late, in a manner of speaking. Mr. Frodo hadn't thrown the Ring in, and I never should have let him go on without me. There'd been a time, when we'd been climbing Mount Doom that he'd asked me to help him, to stop himself from putting on the Ring. The Ring, it was that powerful and wicked, it preyed on poor Mr. Frodo's mind and tried to take him over. So I'd held his hands. And now, there he was, at the Cracks of Doom, without his Sam to help him, and the Ring took him over. And he said, in a voice I'd never heard before, loud and strong, that he wouldn't throw the Ring in. Then he put it on and disappeared."
Elanor was astonished. "Oh, but daddy, that was really, really bad of Mr. Frodo. You told me he was brave, but then he did what Gandalf told him not to do."
Sam wondered if he had made a mistake telling Elanor the story when she was still so young. Now he had to explain to her as best he could what he only partly understood himself.
"Mr. Frodo didn't want to put on the Ring, but the Ring forced him to in the end. It was that powerful. No one but Mr. Frodo could have carried that wicked thing so far, no one." He paused, but Elanor remained quiet, accepting what he had said. "I watched him disappear and before I could do anything I was bowled over by that Gollum. Next thing I knew Gollum was struggling like a wild thing on the edge of the Cracks of Doom with Mr. Frodo, though I couldn't see Mr. Frodo, mind. Then Gollum, he must have taken Mr. Frodo's finger in his mouth, and he bit it off, Ring and all."
"He bit off Mr. Frodo's finger!" Elanor's voice was high and shrill with horror.
"He did, and he danced about, he was that crazy, now he had his precious back, as he called it, and then he lost his balance and fell, just like that, Ring and all, into the Cracks of Doom. That was the job he had to do and he did it, though I wished he'd a let Mr. Frodo's finger alone. Then I hurried and picked up Mr. Frodo and carried him away from the crack that was roaring and spouting fire."
"But what did you do then, daddy, did you try to get back? You didn't have any food or water left, did you?"
"No, nothing. And the mountain was shaking and trembling and pouring out lava. So I led Mr. Frodo down, I couldn't stand to just wait there for the end. But we was both so weary, and I was right scared, and the air, you could hardly breathe it for the fumes. We got to the bottom of the mountain, and the last thing I remember was just kind of falling down with Mr. Frodo next to me and thinking this was it, Mr. Frodo had done what he had to do, and saved Middle Earth, and we were both that glad, but we weren't going to make it back to the Shire after all."
He paused, and Elanor whispered "so what happened?"
"Then I woke up in Ithilian, the forest, where we'd had the stewed coneys, you'll remember. I was on a bed and Mr. Frodo was sleeping beside me, looking so peaceful, and there was Gandalf, as alive as me, if I could believe it. He'd come with great eagles to rescue us and carry us back, and there we were."
"You and Mr. Frodo flew back on eagles!" Elanor was enchanted with this image. "And you were safe and all right."
"Yes," said Sam, staring into the fire, "we were safe, and we were all right." He sighed, "it felt like we were all right". After a moment he roused himself. "Time you were off to bed, little miss, enough story telling for tonight."
The Gaffer eased himself out of the chair, and shuffled slowly over to Sam; Elanor raised her arms up to her grandfather for a goodnight hug, and he bent down to her in Sam's lap and obliged. As he straightened his hand strayed to Sam's head, and he ruffled his curly brown hair as he had done so often many years ago. "Well done, my boy. Perfect satisfaction, indeed!"
Sam carried Elanor off to bed and tucked her in next to little Rosie, deep in sleep. "You were very brave, daddy" she whispered sleepily. "Ah well" he said, smiling sadly. "I had the best reason to be".
* * *
The next morning Sam woke early to the sound of singing. Elanor was up and about in the sitting room, playing by herself and singing softly the song that had come to Sam in the tower of Cirith Ungol. He went to her and she climbed into his lap for a cuddle. "It's a beautiful song, Elanor" he said "but its not one for everyday, its private and magical."
"But its your brave song, daddy, that gave you hope you said, and helped you find Mr. Frodo."
"It hurts me to hear it; I feel like I felt when I sang it. You must sing it only in your heart and not out loud."
Elanor looked up at her father, and touched the tear that ran down his cheek. "All right, daddy," she said.