Chapter 4: The Great Sea
After some days of lying in bed, Frodo was rid of his sickness and yearned to see the outside. It was some time before dawn that he got up and dressed. He quickly ran into the larder, grabbed a small morsel of food and rushed up the stairs onto the deck.
The sun was still below the world, but the sky was growing pale. The deck was wholly empty. Such a sight Frodo had not yet seen. He felt alone, but also free. The sky was a deep purple hinted with pale gold near the eastern horizon. The stars were all gone and the moon could be barely seen behind the western border. The Sea was a beautiful beryl by the reflection of the sky. To Frodo, it always seemed that the Sea would be raging and never calm. But it was not so: the Sea was as calm as if it were frozen over by glass ice. Such beauty and peace he had not yet beheld. He seemed to forget all that has happened to him in and out of Middle-earth. He forgot all his worries: how long will it take them to reach land and how will they fare there, in lands uncharted. He stood beside the rail and closed his eyes. He felt a cool breath of wind run across his fair face. Suddenly, he was relieved of that feeling as a hand reached out and touched his shoulder.
He spun around and groped for his sword hilt. But there was no sword to un-sheath. He looked up, fearing some strange attacker, but all he saw was the gentle face of the old Wizard.
“You’re going to have stop going that,” said Frodo. “You once did the same back in Bag End, in the Shire. Remember? The night you sent me away?”
“Yes, I remember and pardon me for scaring you. I did not mean for that to happen, you know,” said Gandalf. “Wonderful view isn’t it? You’re going to be seeing it for some time. It will take us a bit less than a year, to reach the land yonder, since we left on September 29th.” He pointed to the sky.
“A year?!” exclaimed Frodo in wonder and dismay.
“I am afraid so, Frodo,” said Gandalf.
“Gandalf,” began Frodo. “Will there be at least any Men or Elves like to the ones in Middle-Earth? Are there any hobbits?” Gandalf was silent for a while, as if he did not hear the question.
“There will be Elves and many of them. No Men; no hobbits, or I have never heard of any that lived there. The only mortal that I have heard of that was seen in Aman was Earendil, Elrond’s father. ” He answered. Frodo looked distressed and disappointed. He did not like being small and getting in everybody’s way; he shivered.
“What will I do there? And what use will I make of myself? I am afraid that I will only be a burden to you and to everyone else; afraid, Gandalf, afraid. I have not felt fear for so long and thought it was forgotten.”
“That cannot be answered right now, my boy. But I will not stand for you being a burden, I— ” Broke of the wizard: suddenly through the whole ship went a great tremor and then there was a loud creaking noise and the whole ship lurched back, sending Frodo flying across the deck. Gandalf had some time to grab on to the rail, but soon fell down with a crash.
“Frodo! Frodo are you all right?” he yelled. Frodo did not answer. “Frodo!” he called again. Still no answer; the wind that had suddenly picked up, cut off his cries and the sky was hidden in black clouds in a sudden flash of lightning. As soon as Gandalf’s yells were heard below deck, up came Elrond and Glorfindel and several other elves. They ran over to Gandalf.
“What happened? Are you all right? We heard and felt a shudder.” Cried Elrond against the howling wind.
“I am not sure myself. I am fine, thank you, my arm is hurt, but that is not my worry: where is Frodo? Last I saw him hitting his head hard on the mast. Send some of your elves to help him!” Said the wizard, as he straightened himself. Just as he did so, an elf cried out.
“Mithrandir! Mithrandir!” he called. They all ran over to him.
“It seems that we have found Frodo. He’s out cold. He hit his head harder than I suspected: where did those drops of blood come from?” said Elrond. “Let’s get below deck. I feel a storm…” They all hurried down and closed the door fast behind them, as clouds—no, curtains of black covered the entire sky and veiled all light and hope. Gandalf carried Frodo once again to his room and laid him on the bed.
“I think this is what Frodo meant by being a burden,” said Gandalf. Elrond came in and examined the hobbit’s head.
“The wound is not deep,” he said “In a few days it should be fine.” With that, Elrond washed the wound on Frodo’s head with a cloth and made a bandage of thin wrappings round his head. “Let him rest.”
* * *
The whole day, the weather was in a fey mood; the rain came pelting down, stinging everything in sight, biting like as if a thousand icy needles were set flying at all living things around. Lightning seared the sky in a blinding flash, illuminating the Belegaer with an eerie beauty and filling the crew with dread. Thunder followed and boomed across the vastness of the sky, cracking and crackling with a harsh laughter. The wind howled like the voices of the dreaded Wargs of Sauron. It was the worst storm they had yet encountered; indeed, it was the first storm they met on the road and it took them by surprise and at unawares. The waves were no longer calm, lapping slowly against the great gracefulness off the swan ship. They were filled with the same might and power, as the thunder was; white-crested steeds: graceful, magnificent, enchanted, and yet lethal, with lashing hooves. They raced at mad gallop across their plain of blue-black; blurs, deadly blurs, destroying and trampling and drowning at their rage. The whole Sea rose to unbelievable heights, crashing against the ship with all its might. The swan-ship, a tiny glimmer of a star in a black, stormy sky; a lone, graceful warrior, set against a power of Dark that had no end. Doomed.
The crew was huddled beneath deck praying; some of the Elves were wailing for mercy from the Valar, for hope was forsaken at such a time. Gandalf had his own thoughts about the storm. He guessed where it came form and who caused it. If he told the others, they would break under his words and all prayers would be thought pointless. Elrond wondered how could they reach the Land where there were no such storms, and no pain, in this storm of storms.
“Wouldn’t we be taken off course, Gandalf?” he asked the Wizard, with worry written all over his face.
“No ship has yet failed on the voyage to the Road. The power of the Ulmo the Sea Lord will protect it.” Assured the wizard confidently.
“Then this might be a first not to,” muttered Elrond, under an in taken breath, contradicting the first sentence that left Gandalf’s mouth. Even as the words left the Elf Lord, a mammoth wave was gathering outside, towering nearly three times the ship’s height above it. It lingered in the air, before crashing upon the Elven-ship, hoping to break it to pieces and send the souls that were harboured inside to Mandos. Before it came down, there was a sound in the air—thunder, ferocious laughter of someone who caused this misery and fear; one who enjoyed this sorrow of others. Lighting once more; brighter, mightier, that showered its light on the gigantic wave of doom. And as the unholy light vanished from the surface of the hellish wave it came tumbling down.
The boards of the ship moaned and creaked, under the ferocious majesty of the wave; it broke upon them with the voice of thunder and the weight of Heavens. The gale and wind had increased in might, and the rain came in frozen sheets of hale. The wave of dread swallowed the shining beauty of the swan, swallowing also hope, and happiness with it. The sails that were filled moments ago with the uncanny wind, were consumed by the black water of the Sea, and torn to shreds at its force. The mast creaked, groaned and soon its top had snapped off and was lost forever in the depths of the Sea.
The whole grace of the Elven-ship was drowned by this abundance, which could destroy and spare if it wished. The crew was petrified of the fall of the wave, despairing that they would all die, before they even made it to the Straight Road. Not so; the wave drew back to reveal the white ship of Cirdan the Shipwright, holding strong and unhurt, except for the sails and the top of the mast. It came out and bounced and leaped on the smaller waves that crossed its path to continue it lonely way The head of the swan was whole, by some miracle, challenging the Sea with its beauty, holding hope within itself.
Anyone who would have seen that ship, braving the threat of the Sea, might have thought it for a phantom, gliding across the waves, that had not let it return to its home port years before; its sails nothing but torn pieces of white silk, fluttering in the winds of despair, yet its form—whole and glimmering, shining ghostly, majestically, gracefully, in the unseen light.
Suddenly, the clouds parted, letting the Sun show its fiery, golden face to rescue and souls still trapped in the coldness of the departing storm and to scorch despair and pain, shining triumphantly, victoriously. It was like waking up and pushing away the dark curtains in the kitchen, to reveal the sunlight upon the world and not a cloud in sight to mar its gloriousness. It was almost unbelievable. The waves calmed under the stare of the Sun’s burning eyes, and the rain dropped only as a tiny drizzle, hardly to be felt; Frodo stirred in bed.
“Why do I have such a bad headache?” he moaned, grimacing. He felt his head throbbing and tried to get up. But in vain, once again: he lost his balance and fell down with a cry. In rushed Bilbo and helped him up. Frodo settled down in his bed and looked at the elderly hobbit.
“Elrond did not permit you to get up until tomorrow,” said Bilbo.
“What happened?” asked Frodo half drowsily. “I feel as if I was severely knocked on the head!” He said and felt the cloth, bound over his forehead.
“Don’t take that off!” cried Bilbo. “That is exactly what happened, though days ago!”
“Where’s Gandalf, Bilbo? He was with me on deck. What happened to him?” asked Frodo in a worried tone as he made an effort to get up again.
“Lie down!” cried Bilbo. “You are in no shape to go stumbling about the ship. There is a storm outside and then who knows what might happen!”
“The storm has passed, Bilbo, ” said a voice. Frodo looked up and saw the Wizard. His right arm was in a sling.
“Gandalf!” cried Frodo. “Your arm! What happened?”
“Do not worry about me!” smiled Gandalf. “It is not the first time that my hand is broken, right Bilbo?” Bilbo scowled.
“How are you, my boy? Is your head alright?” asked Gandalf.
“It still throbs a little bit, but otherwise I am fine. I will not, however be able to stand up for a while. Can you take this cloth off my head? Its such a nuisance.” said Frodo.
“That is good and you will not have to stand up, since it is sunset. We will have dinner below deck in the Great Hall again and yes, I think it is alright to take that cloth away.” Bilbo came over to Frodo and un-bandaged his head. At once Frodo felt better, but he was still kind of hurt. Gandalf, who seemed to know what was troubling him, said:
“Don’t worry! You will not be left alone while we eat and merry-make. Gildor shall carry you to the Great Hall.” The light of his bright eyes easily showed Frodo’s happiness.
“Alright,” he said. “But I don’t think I will be able to sing or anything.”
“You wont have to!” said Bilbo. “I have prepared something myself and all you have to do is cheer me on and—“
“Try not to doze off in the middle of it from the length of it?” laughed Frodo.
“No—I mean—WHAT?! Do you mean to say the you never really listened my songs?” cried the old hobbit. Frodo smiled and could no longer conceal his clear laughter.