You may read part one at https://www.theonering.com/docs/9393.html
The decision was made.
He easily shed the uncomfortable baggage of hobbit society…
and walked out into the quiet night.
Frodo walked for some time, until the music was only a murmur in the distance. He soon found himself at the small pond near the Proudfoots’ smial. The water was placid, reflecting stars and dark, swaying branches. His gaze was drawn upwards, to where the arms of the gnarled brambletree grasped at the silvery glow of moonlight, seeking to horde it for its own. Thwarted in its efforts, the light slipped through its fingers like water through a sieve. Long, spidery shadows creeping across the ground were the only testament to its love of light.
Frodo turned away, his heart aching with for something indefinable. The longing reminded him of Rivendell, where the music of the elves had a strange effect on him. It was beautiful, but strange, calling to him of things he could not know and had not experienced, ethereal tunes of starshine and velvet skies. And the sea. Always their music wove a spell of longing for the sea, and of waiting, and of coming sorrow.
Perhaps the mystery of his heart was simply that it had become attuned to theirs. Certainly all things seemed to be passing before his eyes. If not in the immediate sense of time, his foresight led him to see the ends of many things, of many people. Except, of course, where there lay an impenetrable shroud of darkness– his own future.
Buried deep within the well of his heart were the words Elrond had spoken, of the woods and of Bilbo, words that had resonated within him, alerted him to the shadowy depths of pain in him that no one had yet acknowledged. That acknowledgement had sobered Frodo; the speaking seemed to make it come alive somehow and the undertow of memory had become stronger. Yet it had given some hope as well. But only some.
He could not see the end of that journey, nor the bearing of the years in such a place. But here, in the Shire– oh, here he could see Sam’s future, his children, Rosie…as far as Frodo could wish to see. It speared another deep, happy ache in his heart, to see his friend so happy. And yet the pain was almost unbearable, that which could never be for him. It was something he had never even known he wanted, until he returned home and found it suddenly taken from him. His mind had ferreted out every reason to hope and destroyed it with crushing efficacy. That part of his life was gone, drained away by the wounds and torment of the past. He had learned to accept it without bitterness. And occasionally, when his soul’s gaping wound ran and could not be staunched, then he looked to Sam. Seeing Sam so happy…it truly lifted his soul out of the muck and mire that it sank into during dark days, when the emptiness of his future whispered as once the Ring had once done.
But– Sam! What a marvel! How feverishly loyal, how deceivingly simple, and how infinitely capable. Frodo’s heart filled with gratitude and love. I should have died countless horrible deaths but for him. And for the others as well. He had been painfully aware of the danger to the others at every step of the quest. As the Ringbearer, he was forced to allow them to risk all for him without hope of returning the favor. And yet, Gandalf’s words at Cormallen had brought him a new understanding of the sacrifices made by all.
Cormallen… It had been a peaceful awakening, but the powerful, shattering presence of Gandalf the White had sent Frodo careening back into unconsciousness. In that blank, white place, he had assumed that death had come to him at last, and was hoping that Sam would not be there with him. But then Gandalf had quietly reassured him and lulled him back into the world. And then– oh then… there he sat in all his splendor, Gandalf the White, though no more than a bright, blurry figure to Frodo’s newly opened eyes.
Frodo smiled at the memory, his eyes shining with tears. That had been the beginning of new hope for him as Gandalf began to speak of his journey after Moria, of a space outside of time and beyond mortal understanding. He had been there and back again. Frodo tried to understand, his mind unfolding in new ways. He had thought of Moria as a turning point for himself, as the beginning of the great despair that had eventually swallowed everything. Yet now he saw that even that despair had not been a lie. Gandalf had fallen in Moria; he had left this world. The light would have failed. There had been no chance for success without Gandalf. Thus, in the other realm, it had been found necessary to send him back, to give all a second chance. The fall of Gandalf the Grey had been measured and found unacceptable in the same way Frodo’s small hobbit mind had found it dooming. Stunning. It was as if the veil of heaven had been lifted and Frodo had caught a glimpse of the divine. His understanding shifted off the spindly base of experience and settled onto the deeper foundation of wisdom.
But even with these thoughts, it had not taken long for shame to overcome him. The purity of Gandalf the White had reproached him so.
“I am so sorry, Gandalf. I did not mean to put on the Ring.”
“Do you mean to say that you did not want to do it?” Gandalf’s eyes were on him in all their piercing intensity.
“No. I didn’t. I only wanted…” his voice faltered. There was yet a thick fog in his mind, making all thought soft and muted. But he still knew that he had not quite told the truth. “No, that’s not right. I did want to put it on. Forgive me, but I did.”
The wizard’s eyes relented. “Frodo, that is not the indictment that you feel it to be. It is simply a measure of how long you held the Ring. Nothing more.”
“But I failed. I didn’t throw the Ring in, Gandalf.” Frodo thought he must have babbled then a bit. All he could remember was the tears that would come amidst the weakness of body, and the surprise that Gandalf seemed to know so much of his story already. Following the long confession, Gandalf spoke.
“Rest your mind at ease, Frodo. This is the very beginning of your recovery, and you must not tax your body with such unbearable and preposterous burdens. With what did Elrond charge you? Do you not remember?” Frodo had kept his face down, dismayed to find that he could not remember at all. His thoughts scattered like grains of sand. “You must understand, Frodo, that you were not meant to throw the Ring into the fires at Mt. Doom. You could not have done it. And you were not charged with doing it. Instead, you were charged with bearing the Ring to Mordor and protecting it from the enemy…and you fulfilled that charge. You were appointed because you held the endurance and the strength to withstand the torment of the Ring and of the journey better than anyone else in Middle Earth, likely better than anyone else in Middle Earth’s history. And you must cherish that thought in your heart, Frodo, for it is the privilege of the Ringbearer and it may prove necessary.”
Frodo had found his mind opening to new wonder, to a thought that he could barely hold inside himself, it was so immense. Gandalf continued. “But at the same time, you must remember that if you stood in Pellenor Field among all those who sacrificed for you, who protected you, who made your journey possible, you would be but one small member of a very large host, my friend. Your efforts would have been in vain if Sauron’s Eye had not been drawn away from Mordor by the gallant sacrifices of many men, elves, and dwarves. It is true that they could not have done what you did. But neither could you have undertaken their task. Your loss and sacrifice is counted among the greatest, but it was still only one of many. Thus, you are both the most important and among the least important in Middle Earth.” Frodo somehow felt both chastised and uplifted, at a loss to find solid ground among the swinging pendulum of thoughts. He was both a savior and one who was saved. He was the Ringbearer, and yet he was nothing. The blending of the two truths must find a balance in him. He knew that there lay the secret to life for him.
“My last warning to you, dear, dear friend, is that you take the lessons you have learned and use the knowledge for wisdom. Do not turn to dark thoughts. And do not use your knowledge to hold dominion over those who do not understand. Have mercy on those who still see you as powerless. Be patient with those who would have done everything in their power to spare you this, yet could not. We also must bear this burden with you.”
Reflecting, Frodo closed his eyes at Gandalf’s last statement. His charge had not been easy to accomplish, simple as it seemed. The thought still haunted Frodo that he had been meant to die at Mt. Doom, to be the sacrifice that destroyed the Ring. But Gandalf’s words smote his conscience. He should not seek to be any more important or any less important than fate had decided. Perhaps he should have died. Perhaps Gandalf’s death and return had altered that path. Indeed, perhaps the sacrifice had been made for him. But life was a gift, still. And if Frodo ever found his desire for it faltering, Sam was there. Then the dear, brown eyes burned with a feverish desire for his Mr. Frodo to be better. And somehow an answering desire will awaken in Frodo’s heart, if only to make things “better” for his Sam. And so it is somehow. And so it remains. Better.
Yet somewhere beneath the “better” there flowed a deep channel of poisoned memory, a place Frodo banished the pains of the past. There were hid deep within him starving, submerged demons that occasionally clawed their way out from the still places of his mind and body. He understood them. He had catalogued their origins. He tried, without success, to render them powerless by understanding. But somehow, the venom that once swam in his blood, the poison from the Morgul blade and the presence of the Ring had pulled him closer to the edge of another existence altogether– close enough to the wraith world, to substantive evil, to absorb that evil within himself.
Frodo shuddered. The evil had not been there before the quest. It was stabbed there, injected there, as a darkness that enveloped him, smothered him, like a thick, oily wrap that clung with a will to subdue. He had not chosen to think one evil thought or to do one evil deed on that long road. Foolish deeds, cowardly deeds, but never evil. And yet they were a part of him now, as if he had spent years and years tormenting himself with the humiliation of others, wallowing in their debasement and seeking out every evil thing within sight–
A deep shuddering breath took him. Already it was time again? Yes. A coldness settled between his shoulder blades. Frodo turned toward home. The poisoned channel was rising within. He leaned on the pillars of balance that had protected his mind thus far. He was Ringbearer and he was nothing.
There was a stray thought hiding in the shallow places of his mind.
Good, yes. At least this time, Sam was already distracted.