To Open Every Door - Gandalf, the Unexpected Visitor

How do I face this death of mine? For I cannot yet call it by any other name. It is a death to life as I know it: a death to the Shire and my home and to those I love--to Merry and Pippin, to Sam and Rosie, but, most of all, to Sam. He is the only one who knows me as I truly am. And still--he loves me.


Frodo's hand continued to shake, so he laid down the pen. It was not getting any easier to think of his coming departure although it had been five months since he made the decision. Peace of a kind had come with that decision, but sorrow had grown until it seemed to know no bounds. Still, he had no thoughts of changing his plan; indeed, only his untimely death could change it. For, in as much as it were in his power, he would spare Sam from the pain that he himself could not flee. Frodo's mind wandered back to Merry and Pippin's last visit. They had left not ten days ago, and he knew they would return in but a few short weeks. Even so, every time their visits ended he felt it as a great loss--a foretaste of the final leave-taking. But no matter how he tried, he could not turn his thoughts to parting from Sam, for his blood ran cold, and he could go no further down that path. With a sigh Frodo folded the paper and pushed it into his pocket.


There were more important matters at hand. It was only three days until the anniversary of Shelob's sting, and the question was: how would he hide the illness that would surely come? He had been a fool to think he could stay through another season of illness and have no one take note of it. Why had he stayed? For Sam and Rosie's sake. The new baby was to have been the assurance that Sam would not mourn his loss for long, or so Frodo had thought. He was not sure now that it was not just his own selfish wish to see Sam's happiness and know that life would go on in Bag End--that he would have heirs though they would not be of his own blood. "I should have left when I had the chance," thought Frodo, "but it is all too late to undo my choices now. There is no means of escape. I can't go off to some far corner of the Shire when Sam and Rosie expect me here for the birth; besides, there is no one who would keep my illness secret from Sam. Neither can I sneak out of the house and spend the night outside in the cold and damp unless I want to make things worse or, perhaps, leave only a body for Sam to find." Frodo shuddered at the thought. No, he was not afraid to die, but that would be the cruelest twist of fate yet for poor Sam--Sam, who deserved nothing but happiness.


Frodo could hear Rose beginning to prepare the midday meal, so he closed the bottle of ink and headed for the kitchen. Helping her with a few small tasks was all that Sam had allowed him to do since his October illness. Though, if the truth were told, he was not unhappy with this turn of events, for a growing weariness of mind and body seemed to press upon him from all sides. He knew he needed all the strength at hand just to keep up a good face for Sam and Rosie and to finish the work that he had set for himself--the writing of the history of the War of the Ring. Rose had not truly needed Frodo's help, but Sam was indeed grateful; the baby was due in little more than three weeks, and she showed no sign of slowing down. Coming into the kitchen, Frodo put himself at her bidding and drew down items from the taller cupboards as she worked.


Rose, with her wild curls and pretty and open face, though not really beautiful even by hobbit standards, was flushed with health and life. She was the very picture of what it meant to be a hobbit. Nevertheless, the eyes would not tell all, for Rosie had always been unlike most of the other lasses--she was one to listen much and say little. Frodo judged her quiet ways to be a perfect match for the garrulous Sam, a lover of telling tales and singing songs. He himself, however, was somewhat timid in her presence, for her manner invited confidence, and he had been tempted at times to tell her things that he intended to keep secret. To be sure, he was more than willing to share his books with her and talk about the things of the household and Sam's work, but when all the words had been spoken, he would often become anxious under her keen eyes. He worried that she would see in him what Sam might not. Despite his concern, he was glad to have her in the house, for she was the light of Sam's life and he of hers. And that was all that really mattered. Sam had indeed found a treasure.


After a long and unhurried lunch, Sam went out to begin the year's renewal of color along the path to the smial. Frodo, since he had no hope of returning to his writing, followed Rosie out into the sunshine to sit and watch. Though he kept his jacket on, the cool breeze could not deny the promise of spring that was seen in the swollen, pinkish buds of the trees. Sam, too, was part of the promise as he labored with great care to plant the tiny pansies that he had nurtured for weeks at the kitchen window. Frodo was admiring his single minded devotion when he felt Rosie's appraising eyes turn to himself.


"Does the elvish charm help much when you're in pain?" she asked quietly. Frodo started, dropping the gem from his hand, and turned to look at her. He met only honest concern in her large brown eyes, but he shifted uncomfortably as she went on, "you've been holding it much more often of late."


"Well ...Yes," Frodo stammered, his mind racing. "It ...it was a gift from Lady Arwen, the Queen of Gondor. She seemed to think that I might have need of it at times."


"There've been more dark times than you care to share with us," said Rosie. "Did you know that I'd help you if you needed me?" she asked, laying her hand on his shoulder.


Frodo's face flushed crimson. He did not know what to say. The sudden noise of a horse and rider on the road caught their attention and he jumped up, as much to escape her gaze as to see who was coming. He immediately spotted someone that was much too tall to be a hobbit. The white hair and beard blowing in the breeze told him all, and in a moment of joy, he ran down the hill to meet the approaching visitor, leaving Rosie with her question unanswered. Sam was not far behind, for he had looked up from his work at Frodo's shout.


Rose had remained at the hill top until the excited hobbits returned with their most welcome guest. "I am pleased to finally meet you, Mistress Rose," said Gandalf. "If I had been much longer in coming, I see that there would have been two new members of the family to greet," he said, his eyes twinkling.


"I'm pleased to meet you too," said Rose with an inviting smile. "I am about ready to have this little hobbit of mine, but I guess I've a bit longer to wait," she said as she spread her hands across the top of her stomach. Then she nodded toward the door. "Come in! Come in, and I'll get us some tea."


The afternoon passed with much pleasant conversation and laughter, for Gandalf had not been seen since a year ago February. Then, he had stayed but a few days to see that the work in the Shire was progressing apace and that the real mending of its people was underway. Despite their pleas to stay longer, he had been content that the hobbits were more than up to the task. In the intervening year Frodo had received only three letters from Gandalf, so all were overjoyed at this unexpected visit. As the sun fell low in the west, Sam reluctantly got up to see to a few chores and Rose followed him out.


With sudden intensity, Frodo jumped up and drew the wizard from the parlour to the study and then closed the door behind them. Alone at last, he hugged Gandalf again before stepping back and beginning to pace. "You don't know how glad I am to see you Gandalf. Everything here is about to go terribly wrong."


"Hold on now, Master Hobbit," said Gandalf, pulling up a chair and sitting down. "Things are often not as bad as they seem."


"I don't know why I thought I could stay for another year after what happened in October," said Frodo. "I am quite sure I will be ill again in a few days, and I have no idea how I might hide it from Sam and Rosie. I think she knows something already."


"That is indeed why I have come or, I should say, why I was sent," said Gandalf. "Arwen told me that you would need some help if you were not to spoil the happiness of the household, nor reveal your plans to leave."


"Arwen?" asked Frodo, baffled. "Of course, she knew about my illness last fall and that I had decided to go into the West. And I wrote her and Aragorn again at the Yule, but I said nothing to her of my fears. How could she know I would need help now?"


"I see that there is much that you do not yet understand," replied Gandalf, stroking his beard with great deliberation. As he seemed to finally arrive at some decision, he narrowed his eyes and queried, "How do you think that gem at your neck aids you?"


"I don't really know," answered Frodo, pulling up the milky stone and regarding it closely. "I know only that it is a great comfort most of the time ...though it does not help much when I am truly ill." He creased his brows, puzzled, as he looked again at Gandalf. "Somehow I do feel close to Arwen, and she is often in my thoughts ...especially when I hold this gift of hers."


Gandalf nodded slowly, and he spoke as if choosing his words with care. "Because you carry her jewel, Arwen now has a share in whatever pain you have. When she feels your distress, she sings and speaks words of comfort to your heart."


Frodo cried out in sudden horror and pulled the gem from his neck. "This can't be! I want no one to know the pain I feel! No one else should have to bear it!" he cried. "It's mine alone; I alone deserve it!" Gandalf reached out to the quaking hobbit and Frodo seemed to break as a lone reed in a storm, burying his head in the wizard's flowing garments.


After a time Gandalf lifted him up to look him in the eye. "I see now that Arwen was right to ask me to come; it appears that my visit is long overdue," he said. "We need to get some of this nonsense out of your head, dear boy," he continued, as he bent to pick up the gem that Frodo had cast from himself. "First, you must put this back on, for Arwen will have it no other way. It seems she was wise indeed not tell you the manner of the jewel's working." Frodo resisted a little as Gandalf slid the chain around his neck. "Without the power of her gift, you would not be able to bear your sorrows now. Even when you do not hold it in your hand, she shields you in part from the growing evil of your wounds so that you may go on living." Frodo grew very still and looked full in Gandalf's eyes. "You must not fear for Arwen," he continued. "It is her destiny as the Ring was yours, and it is not all pain for her. She finds great love and compassion in your not so very small hobbit heart."


A sob caught in Frodo's throat as he spoke. "I should have died that day ...and now ...now I find that I am hurting Arwen, as well as Sam and Rosie."


"Do you think their pain would be any less if you had died?" asked Gandalf. "You are not the only one who loves. Think! ...How would you feel if Sam had died that day?" Frodo gasped and grew pale, but Gandalf continued to speak with calm reason. "Why do you judge that you deserve death though you found it in your heart to pity both Gollum and Saruman? Have you no pity left for yourself?" he asked, not waiting for an answer. "You carried a heavy burden for all, and you did not fail." Gandalf raised his hand to stop Frodo's protest. "The burden was too great for anyone. It is the evil which twists your mind and causes your shame."


"But you don't understand," Frodo whispered, bowing his head in disgrace. "...I still want the Ring."


Gandalf paused in thought, then lifting Frodo's chin, he looked into his pain clouded eyes. "Do you want it this moment?" he asked.


"No" answered Frodo, meek and still.


"You only desire it when the evil of the wounds is upon you," said Gandalf. "The hurts you have suffered have no cure in Middle Earth, but still you fight them and that is as it should be."


"But if I cannot win, why must I keep on fighting?" asked Frodo. "I'm so very tired."


"Don't be ridiculous," said Gandalf, but there was compassion in his voice. "You know in your heart the answer to that. Things will not always be so, for evil cannot endure forever." Gandalf furrowed his brow. "Besides, you would be unable to just give in to it, would you not?" he asked, with the assurance of one who knew full well the answer.


Frodo dropped his head into his hands and rubbed his temples. "No," he answered, "I cannot give in," and anger grew hot in him as he spoke. He looked up again to Gandalf, but this time his eyes were filled with fire. "I hate it with all my heart! I would rather die right here and now than willingly claim the Ring again, even in a dream!" His jaw was set and he was breathing hard, but then a sudden shadow crossed his face. Frodo released his clenched fists and let his hands fall to his side as the anger drained away to be replaced once more by despair. "How can I still want that which I hate most?"


You are not who you once were Frodo Baggins," said Gandalf as he brushed the drying tears from Frodo's face. "Though I don't expect you to believe me now, you are quite a considerable person in the only way that really matters. ...But you have yet a trace of pride."


"Pride?" asked Frodo in confusion. "All I feel is shame."


"Shame is but a sister to pride," replied Gandalf. "You know you have given all, and still you cannot measure up to your own estimation of yourself. You feel a total failure when that is precisely what you are not." He leaned forward to put his hands on Frodo's shoulders. "It is right that you fight, but some things in this world must just be accepted in humility."


Frodo stood long in thought before he answered him again. "I know there is truth in your words even though I cannot bring myself to believe it," he said. "I want to. ...But my heart is shadowed."


"It is the way of your wounds," said Gandalf. "In time you will understand."


Frodo looked away for a moment, his eyes wandering across all the familiar items in his favorite room, before turning back again to Gandalf. "Why wasn't I told that I had no chance at reclaiming my life while I was yet in Minas Tirith?" he asked. "Why did you and the Lady let me come back at all?"


"Let you?" asked Gandalf. "We could not have stopped you. Your will was set ...though I know you began to see the truth long before your homeward journey was complete. ...You were not yet ready to leave those you love," he added with a gentle shake of his head. "You had to come to that decision on your own, and so you have.


Gandalf straightened Frodo's rumpled shirt then met his gaze again. "I have seen enough here to feel that you were right to come back to the Shire for a time. There is something here that you still need. And, perhaps, there may be other reasons as well." He kept his eyes firmly fixed on Frodo's as he stood up. "It seems another hand still guides your path. The right time to leave is yet ahead of you, and not behind. I will stay and help you these next few weeks. Then you will be able to make it through the summer on your own. Elrond has set the date for sailing in late September at the time of your and Bilbo's birthday.


Gandalf turned Frodo towards the door. "Let us go now and see this hobbit feast that Mistress Rose is preparing for my arrival," he said.


Frodo nodded in silent agreement. Tilting his head to look up at the one who now towered above him, he brightened a little and then took the wizard's hand. "I'm so glad you have come, Gandalf." he said.


"So am I," replied Gandalf. "So am I."

***


Part two, "Rosie Breaks her Silence," will be up shortly. If you have not already, you might want to check out my background stories while you wait. Eyes to See tells of Frodo's October illness. The Chosen Path reveals more of Arwen and Frodo's relationship and the history of the White Jewel.

Besides the The Lord of the Rings, I was chiefly inspired by The letters of J.R.R. Tolkien which tells of Frodo's unreasoning self-reproach, his trace of pride and darker temptation to still desire the Ring, and the fact of his growth into "quite a considerable person" in the spiritual sense. I want to thank Ariel for her story, Swallowing Sorrows, as it inspired my Frodo's thoughts about the futility of running outside with his illness. A special thanks to my friend and test reader, Morgana, for her encouragement.

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