Chapter 7: A Party of Special Magnificence
Thus passed Spring and Summer. The weather was good and fair and no storms troubled the magnificent, white ship. The Sun stayed up long and most of the fair folk stayed on deck; at the stern or at the prow, ever looking westward. Though Elves have far seeing eyes, they could not yet see the first strip of the Blessed Realm. All waited the day when somebody would cry out: “Land! Land!” but the day seemed far away. Gandalf and Bilbo, on the other hand, waited for another day; September 22, which was drawing near and would be Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday. Frodo would be 54 years of age and Bilbo 134. He was getting very anxious and paced around the ship and talked to Gandalf and Elrond about birthday preparations. Frodo had forgotten the special event; other things occupied his mind. He tried to imagine Sam’s garden at this time of year and the big new mallorn tree that grew in place of the Party Tree. Frodo knew many things about Sam, since they were very close in friendship and knew that Sam’s garden must be the most beautiful in all the Shire; but what Frodo did not know, was that Sam was also going to celebrate Frodo’s birthday.
So came September and the Elves were busy as bees with party preparations.
The days were warm and sunny, though autumn had already begun. The crew had not seen any disturbances in the weather for a long time and was thinking that they must indeed be drawing nigh to the Land of Aman. When September the 22nd dawned, the morning felt like summer; the sky was blue with white fluffy clouds and the glorious Sun was like a golden orb in a sea of blue. The wings of the swan-ship gently flittered through the masses of clouds and the ship itself seemed to shine and shimmer. Those who might have beheld it from afar might have thought it only a vision, or a trick of their mind: for no one has yet seen anything more fair.
Frodo woke up and looked about; no one was around. He got up, dressed and went out. Elves surprised him, by running this way and that around the ship, carrying food, plates and yelling orders. Many smiled at him as they passed by. They seemed to be hinting at something. Frodo watched this strange behavior all month and was getting curious. He went in search of Gandalf. When they met on deck, Gandalf embraced the hobbit, but Frodo backed away.
“Why has everyone been acting like this the whole month? Is there something going on that I should know about?” he asked anxiously.
“My dear and most beloved hobbit!” cried Gandalf. “Have you forgotten that today is your birthday?”
Frodo’s jaw fell open and his eyes were wide with surprise; his head felt rather light.
“Today is my birthday? I have completely forgotten! Where’s Bilbo? I have to find him!” cried Frodo, quiet astonished at his own forgetfulness. Gandalf directed him and Frodo ran off.
In the evening, when everything was made ready, the crew came and sat at the big dinner table that was set up on deck once more. Frodo noted that his place was no longer at the end of the table, but beside Elrond. When everyone sat down and were hushed, Elrond said the birthday speech that was always a custom at his House. When the speech was done, the Elves and the Hobbits, with the Wizard, talked and laughed. After a while, they went into the Great Hall and sat in a circle, where there was a share of tales and entertainment brought up by the Hobbits, Elves and Wizard.
When the Moon was already old in the sky, and the Elves still were not weary, Glorfindel, who just went on deck with Haldir, cried: “Land! Land! I see the Blessed West!” everyone, as fast as they could, ran up to them. Then they all stood in disbelief.
Indeed they could see land: a thin strip on the horizon, glimmering silver in the starry sky that would never be covered by clouds.
“The eyes of the Elf never lie.” Said Gandalf.
“Yes, indeed, and this party seems to be blessed: for the weather is fine and the Sky is at peace and everyone seems to be merry!” said Bilbo.
Although they were now nearing land, the elves and the rest were silent and no one smiled; they were at peace on the ship and did not worry about other things, but soon they would have to travel long miles to their next dwelling. As Frodo looked on the Elves that stood at the railing beside him, he could see their faces lit with an enchanted light of Heaven. Their eyes glistened in the bright moonlight with tears that were yet to fall.
Soon after, all returned to their cabins, but they could not sleep. Frodo returned with Bilbo and as the hobbit flopped down on a chair, Frodo began to pack his things.
“You will probably need the gifts that were given to you by the Lady more than ever now,” said Bilbo quietly.
“Why?” asked Frodo. “Gandalf told me that no evil has yet lived there since the time Morgoth was destroyed and that the land was in constant Bliss.”
“Suit yourself, but like I said, before, (and I’ll say it again): it’s a dangerous business going out your door. And then there’s that `yet’. Who knows what might have happened there by now! And there’s wolves!” cried Bilbo, shuddering at the name.
“Gandalf has also told me that the wolves there are friendly. They are not Wargs, but the Wolves of the West. They are helpful to the Elves,” said Frodo with a smile.
“Still,” retorted Bilbo. “I will never trust any wolf again, after they scared me back when I traveled with the Dwarves. If it wasn’t for Dori, I’d be dead!” Frodo smiled and shook his head. He continued packing. He had a small bag and there weren’t that many things to pack. He stuffed all his clothes into his bag and then he found, in a little shelf that stood near his bed, his gift from the Lady and other things he brought from Middle-earth. He sat on his bed and slowly took them out. Bilbo sat beside him and was amazed at what Frodo still had, after so many years.
“I had forgotten that I still had this,” whispered Frodo as he looked at Sting. “I doubt that it will glow in the Land of the West.” The blade was dull, but the script on it shone like polished silver. Then Frodo took out the Phial of Galadriel and the Star within gave out a radiance of blue that played on the walls of the room. Frodo sighed almost with relief and smiled.
“The Lady Galadriel gave it to me. It has aided me through so many perils, that without it, I don’t think that I would be here, with you, dear Bilbo.” Said Frodo. The Phial glowed even more. He took out his mithril shirt, admired it for a brief moment and placed it delicately into his pack. Finally, Frodo took out his tattered tunic and breeches that were taken from him upon his imprisonment in the Tower of Cirith Ungol. Of course, Sauron’s right-hand servant did a fault, when he brandished these—and other of Frodo’s belonging’s—at the Black Gates in front of Gandalf and the army of Gondor, filling their hearts with the unmistakable fear that the Ring-Bearer has failed on his Quest. Frodo preferred not to speak of those times if he could help it, but he had no choice, but to recall them for his friends’ records. He looked at them with a look of pain, but then his expression changed; it looked like he was fighting down a suppressed emotion, but whether of pain, or shame he didn’t know. His throat seized, and his eyes grew misty, but he didn’t permit himself to shed any tears. With a look half of loathing, and half of pain, he stuffed these down to the bottom of his light pack and looked away.
He stayed awake for many hours. While the rest of the Bearers slept and were untroubled, Frodo was pained with thought; tomorrow evening, he would set foot on a land wholly strange to him. There, he would have to put Middle-Earth behind him and focus on the adventures and challenges that would await him. How could he forget the place where he spent his entire childhood? The place where his memories and thoughts still dwell? Where his dear friends grieve for his absence? He did not know the answer right away and suddenly he fell asleep in the middle of his worries. He slept peacefully, though, as many pleasant memories overflowed his mind. He dreamt that he was in Bag End now, and was sitting beside an open window that faced the wonderful garden that Sam tended. He slept deep into the morning and all the time, when he would dream about something wonderful, his dreams would be troubled by the distant voices of the Elves, crying: “Land! Land!”