The date is October sixth in the Shire year 1420. From “The Return of the King”:
“What’s the matter, Mr. Frodo?” said Sam.
“I am wounded, he answered, wounded; it will never really heal.” But then he got up…
…and seeming to shake off the dark mood, said, “I am just very tired tonight. I think I will turn in early.” Sam thought to lay his hand on Frodo’s shoulder as he passed but drew back uncertainly. He watched Frodo until he had crossed the hall and disappeared into his room.
Looking back to the work that Frodo had left strewn on the desk, he stepped forward to close the ink well and replace the quill. As he started to close the book, Sam’s eyes fell on the writing of the last pages. There he read of the visions Frodo had seen on the Seat of Seeing on Amon Hen. He read of the dread eye of Sauron that had nearly caught Frodo in its gaze. He sensed his master’s fear in his written words:
He heard himself crying out: “Never, never! Or was it: Verily, I come, I come to you?”
Sam felt his stomach turn with remembered horror and sank to the chair. From time to time Frodo had asked him questions about his own memories and had even read a few passages to him, but he had not known that the suffering of his master’s soul would be poured into the pages of his book. Sam closed the cover as he pushed aside the images of the past. His own thoughts and dreams of evil had begun to recede as the Shire began to heal, and he had no wish to reopen those wounds. “It’s no wonder Mr. Frodo was so pale tonight,” he said to himself. “Those words are hard enough to read, and he is living them again.” Since spring, Frodo had been determined to “tell the tale”, as he had put it, and had seemed to have little will for anything else. Now, Sam felt some small understanding, but it did little to lessen his worry.
Some hours later, after tending the last coals of the fire, a sudden uneasiness brought Sam to Frodo’s door. Finding the knob, he quietly opened it. The light from his lamp flooded in to reveal a huddled form on the bed, swaddled in the coverlet and turned away into the dark. He set his lamp hurriedly on the small table in the hall and crossed swiftly to the bed. As he laid one hand on Frodo’s head and sensed fever, the other hand pulled at the coverlet held tightly to his neck. It abruptly gave way as Frodo rolled to his back, and a clear white light spilled into the room. Gasping, Sam fell back in fear and confusion. The door completed its slow and steady swing to finally shut off the outer glow, but Sam had no trouble seeing in the light that emanated from the small figure on the bed.
“What? How can this be?” thought Sam, as he steadied his breath. The sleeper moaned softly, and the light flickered and raged as a candle in a sudden draft, though there was no other movement or sign of waking. Two quick steps brought him back to the bedside where his hand gently pushed back the damp curls from Frodo’s brow. Sam studied the well beloved features; this was his own dear master. And yet, it was not. “Why didn’t I know about this?” he wondered. He had seen the light before, in Elronds’ house, and again in the woods of Ithilien, but that was as nothing compared to the radiance that now poured forth from Frodo’s breast. No simple hobbit lay before him now.
Unbidden, an image of Saruman’s final day leaped into Sam’s mind. He remembered first the sudden pause and then the wonder that that had crossed the wizard’s face as he had looked upon the hated Frodo. “Yes, Saruman saw this light,” Sam was sure of it. He recalled the hate that had surged in his own veins as Saruman had struck Frodo with his knife. “That’s why I didn’t really see Mr. Frodo that day, but what about all the other days?” he thought as he shook his head slowly. “I’m as blind as could be, not paying any real mind to Mr. Frodo.” He was pierced with guilt at this revelation of his ignorance and neglect. “I’ve been too busy tending the Shire, and putting everything to rights, and now I give all there is of me to Rosie,” he thought. “Samwise Gamgee,” he said aloud, “you have forgotten your place, and now Mr. Frodo is ill…and more.” Sam’s resolve strengthened; he would make amends somehow. Shoving away the doubt, he pulled up a chair and poured some water from the bedside pitcher to a soft cloth. Gently he sponged his master’s warm head and neck.
In but a few moments, Frodo’s eyes opened, and he whispered raggedly, “O Sam, you came at last.”
“Yes Mr. Frodo, it’s me, be still now and rest,” said Sam biting back the tears, as guilt flooded him again. Frodo closed his eyes and seemed to drift in peace for some time. As Sam worked he watched the light became sure and steady. Its beauty struck his heart, as the starlight had that night in Mordor. He knew then that it could not be put out, no matter how it wavered, for indeed, the light was Frodo.
As he was again dipping the cloth, Sam felt Frodo’s hand catch his elbow. “Sam?” Frodo asked. “Must it be so dark?”
Startled, Sam realized that Frodo could not see the clear pool of light that surrounded them. “Here, I will light the lamp if it will ease your heart,” replied Sam. His hand shook slightly as he set the lamp back on the dresser. He turned to Frodo. The golden lamp-light chased the shadows from the furthest corners of the room but made no real change to the light that was Frodo. Sam applied the dampened cloth again. “You should have told your Sam you were sick,” he said.
“I know,” said Frodo, suddenly very much awake, “but I did not wish to trouble you. I had hoped that, with a bit of rest, it would pass.” Frodo creased his brows in concern. “I’m afraid I’ve been dreaming and I have worried you Sam,” he said, as he struggled to right himself in the bed. “I do feel much better now.”
Sam felt his brow again, and indeed he did feel cooler. “Yes, I think the fever is gone,” said Sam. “But you have had quite a night, Mr. Frodo.” He hesitated, turning his face away. “I’ve, been too busy lately… puttin’ the Shire over my duties.” Sam looked back into Frodo’s eyes, “and I’ve been thinking that, I’ve not been doin’ right by you.”
“No Sam, You can’t help me that way,” said Frodo sadly but firmly. “What I need most is for you and Rosie to be happy. Your many labors have made you happy, and they gladden my heart, for you are mending and healing what you can.” Frodo looked tenderly at Sam. “As for me, things must take their own course. I am thankful that you came to tonight, but it is time you go to your own bed. I daresay Rosie will worry if she wakes and finds you gone,” he said, a half-smile turning up the corner of his mouth.
Sam carefully searched the reassuring face. “Yes” he said, seeing that it would be no use arguing. Frodo did look almost his old self, but for the light. “But you must call me if you are ill again.” He replaced the cloth and bowl. “Do you want me to put out the lamp?”
“Thank you Sam, but no; I should like the light for yet a little while,” said Frodo. “Don’t worry yourself,” he went on. “I feel most well now, thanks to your kind care.” Sam crossed slowly to the door. “Good night Sam,” said Frodo.
“Good night, Mr. Frodo,” said Sam, gently closing the door. He paused in the hall and leaned back against the far wall in thought. “What was it Saruman had said; that Frodo had `grown much’? Well, that much is plain, but it seems Mr. Frodo can’t see the light or what he has grown into.” Sam blinked back the tears that began again to fill his eyes. “I’ve been so thick-headed, but at last, I do see. He deserves more than just his old Sam, but I couldn’t bear to let anyone else do for him,” he thought, as he wiped the stray tears from his cheeks. “The job is up to me then; though rightly, it’s is no job at all because I love him so.” Sam turned and picked up the lamp, and hesitated once more. A nameless worry threatened to unsettle him once again, and he found himself in sudden need of comforting. His thoughts turned to Rosie, and he padded quickly down the hall.
Clutching the gift of Arwen to his heart, Frodo sat remembering the darkness that was fire, and he shuddered. His hand had been cold all day, though the October sun had been warm in his study. As the afternoon had worn on, a dull ache and chill had crept up his arm till it centered in his shoulder and heart. He’d tried desperately to keep to his writing, though the pain worsened to a grip of ice. Starring back at him, his calendar had proclaimed that he would not be able to quell the rising fear and desire on this day. Telling the tale of the Ring had not been the help that that he had hoped for, when he had begun to write after his illness the past March. Then, he had failed a second time to cast away the ring once for all and had fallen into loss worse than death. The shame and failure of that day burned ever in his memory. Frodo pulled up the jewel that was tightly clasped in his hand, and opened his fingers to look at it. It had often been a great comfort to him, though it had been little help to him that spring day, and today he had felt it not at all. When evening had fallen, and visions of the desolate plain had begun to cloud his sight; he had been drawn again, against his will, to the Mountain of Doom. His only relief had been that Sam and Rosie were gone for the day and would not see him so. Still, he had thought it best to retire to his room, but the thought had come too late, for Sam had entered and stood before him before he could shake the fog from his eyes. In the face of Sam’s concern, he had spoken of his wounds and had almost begged his help. But with effort, Frodo had pushed away those thoughts, and had made his excuse, retreating alone.
In his room the battle had begun in earnest. For what seemed like days unending, Frodo had twisted and fought against the evil desire. Alone, he had traced yet again his steps in Mordor; alone, he had scaled the Mountain, the icy needles turning to fiery knives of torment. Until finally, in the unbearable heat of the crack, despair had wracked his heart when he knew that he would fall again. Then…unexpectedly, a merciful cool touch had drawn him back from the edge. Sam had come; he had come at last, and with him blessed peace. It had seemed at first more a dream than the fire, when Frodo had opened his eyes to find Sam in a faint golden glow–a glow which had not surprised him, for that was how he often saw Sam. After a time, Frodo had once again awakened to find Sam as before, a small light in the midst of darkness. Though Sam had spoken, Frodo had still been unsure if he was dreaming, and so had grabbed Sam’s arm to ask about the darkness. Only when the lamp had been lit, had he at last been satisfied that he was truly home.
Frodo thoughts turned back to when he had first awakened in Ithilien, after the horrors of the mountain, to look on the peacefully sleeping Sam. It was then, that he had first noticed the glimmer in Sam’s face and breast that had since become his common companion. He knew the transformation had surely come in Mordor, though he had not been able to see it through the burning wheel of fire that had clouded his own vision. Sam had been changed by their trials; he had grown selfless and strong, strong enough to see the quest through even when Frodo’s own strength had failed. Sam was worthy of much honor, yet he had grown more humble, and would admit no such thing.
Frodo let go of the jewel he had been fingering. “He deserves so much–so much more than I can give him.” he thought, as sudden emotion caught in his throat. The troubled expression on Sam’s face after he had lit the lamp now returned to Frodo’s mind with full force. Though the glow had remained, the lamplight had revealed pain and worry and other things that could not be read. Tears rolled unhindered down Frodo’s face. “I did not mean for it to come to this,” he whispered. He drew himself up. “Nothing must be allowed to come between Sam and the hard won happiness he has found!”…Yes, he saw now the way.
Frodo got out of bed and put out the lamp. He crossed the room and, quietly opening the door, went out into hall and across to the study. In the pale light of the westering moon shining through the window, all his belongings were suddenly unfamiliar. Frodo hesitated, looking for a moment, but they were not what he came for. He hurried to the window to look out to the west. He knew that what he sought could not be seen, even if there were no hills or great distance, but it was there just the same. He felt the silent summons even now. Those dreams of old had been coming more often of late, those of the nights in Crickhollow and in the house of Bombadil, and of other nights long since faded in memory. They had drifted in and out of his nights with an unspoken promise of release. He had heard the answering longing in his own heart, only to have it driven away the guilt and shame of his failure and his longing for the evil ring. Frodo drew his hands together, seeking his missing finger. The very thought of that desire now sickened and accused his conscience anew. “No! I will not think of that!” he cried softly, in defiance. His mind turned back to Sam’s tender care. Over and above everything had been the desperate hope for some happiness with those he loved, the right to reclaim his life. He had fought for it with all his strength. He had been utterly torn… but no more. “They will be happy!” he swore to the darkness. Everything was clear at last. With a deep sigh, he let go of his hand and his life. …And the unseen light grew yet more beautiful.
Seated at the table, Sam eyed a smiling Frodo carefully as he came into the kitchen with some flowers for Rosie’s breakfast table. He was fully aware of the clear light but there seemed to be not a trace of last night’s ill health …
…and the turn seemed to pass…
This story springs from Gandalf’s musings in Rivendell that, perhaps, Frodo would “become like a glass filled with a clear light for eyes to see that can.” I was interested in who would have had the “eyes to see,” and when or why, thus, the references to Saruman “seeing” and to Sam’s anger and preoccupation. My other sources are Tolkien’s letter #151 which mentions Frodo’s change into something “quite different” than a Hobbit, and letter #246 discussing his woundedness and inability to see himself correctly. Hence, though Frodo was able to see the beginnings of his own light in the Barrow-downs, he can no longer see it at the point of this story; however, he can see Sam’s. I have extended the light to Sam since some of the same catalysts for growth in Frodo have clearly been at work in him, and his destiny will also lie in the west. “Eyes to See”, also refers to Frodo’s letting go of his life for Sam’s sake, and choosing the path of grace that was open to him. I chose the date of decision as Oct sixth rather than the March illness put forward by Tolkien in letter #246 because I couldn’t write this story otherwise. Though this story is complete in itself, there will be a companion story called, “The Chosen Path”, that will tell this night and more through Arwen’s eyes.