THE STORY TELLER
The man stood in the hot summer sun just outside the campgrounds. It was a very hot day, and the trip by bus from the city had been brutal. He had seen an ad in the newspaper for a position as a storyteller in this camp for teenage girls in the Catskill Mountains and when he called the number the camp director had given him an appointment for this afternoon. He started to walk up the long winding pathway to the director’s office. He knocked on the door and a genial sounding voice from within said
“Come in”. He walked in a saw a short baldheaded man sitting at a desk.
“Hello, what can I do for you?”
“I had called you on the phone about a position you advertised as story teller?” the man answered.
“Oh, yes I remember now.’ Answered the man at the desk. “You told me on the phone that you felt you would make a good story teller. Please tell me what you feel are your qualifications for this job?”
“Well I was for many years the assistant librarian in the largest library in Gondor and I have done a lot of reading and I know many stories”.
“Gondor? Never heard of that place before. Must be some place in the mid-west.”
“No, it is actually in the south near the Great River.”
“Great River? Which river is that? The Mississippi? Well no matter I am willing to give you a try. You start this evening. Night activities start at 7:30 in the main room in the central building up the hill. In the meantime you can eat supper in the dinning room to the left when you get out of my office. By the way I didn’t catch your name.”
“I am called Bergil the son of Beregond.”
“I didn’t ask for your father’s name. What’s your last name? Oh never mind. It doesn’t matter. As long as you can keep this girls entertained for at least an hour every evening. Good luck.”
The interview was over and Bergil left the office.
He walked over to the dinning room and sat down to a pretty good supper. The room was filled with girls eating, but none of them noticed him.
He had arrived in New York City two days ago. He had spent his first day, after finding an apartment, just thinking about how it would complete his task. He didn’t know where to begin. He had almost given up hope when had had seen the add in the paper. The age group of the girls seemed hopeful. This was an impressionable age, and he was hopeful things would work out.
By the time he was finished his supper the sun was going down and it was almost 7:30.
He walked up the hill to the central building and looked for the main room. It was just a few feet from the entrance and he went in. It was a fairly large room of almost circular shape, a little like a small amp theater. It was fairly dark in the room the only light coming from a fire burning in a well-supplied fireplace in the center. There were already a few girls sitting there quietly talking to each other. They were between 12 and 16 years old. Bergil walked down to the fireplace and sat down on a chair near the fire.
Little by little more girls walked in until there were perhaps 25 gathered around the fire looking expectantly at Bergil.
Bergil began to speak. He had a good voice. His wife, Grindel, had always told him that he had the type of voice that people stopped to listen to when they heard it, and he had always been good at telling stories, especially ones that he had heard in his youth from the Elder Days.
“Good evening ladies. My name is Bergil the son of Beregond and tonight I would like to tell you the story of Beren and Luthien. I will tell it to you in brief for it is a long tale and few remember it today, in it entirety, except perhaps Elrond. It is a beautiful tale but a sad one. So are all the tales of Middle Earth.”
He began in a slow melodious voice. He told of the meeting of Beren son of Barahir the mortal man with Luthien Tinuvial the daughter of King Thingol, fairest of all the maidens of the immortal Eldar in the forests of Noeldoreth when the world was new.
He told of the many sorrows and dangers they passed through and how they took the Silmaril from the Iron crown of the enemy Morgoth. And then he told of how they died and how Luthien alone among the immortal Eldar died and passed from the world.
The room was absolutely silent when he finished. The dim light of the fire reflected upon the silent upturned faces of the girls. Bergil saw their faces and they seemed transfixed by his words.
After a long pause one of the girls spoke up in a voice almost trembling.
“I, I don’t know what to say. I have never heard anything like this before. Who are you Bergil and where do you come from?”
“I am sorry,” answered Bergil “I should have introduced myself properly. My father, Beregond was in the service of the Stewart Denethor of Gondor. I grew up in the city of Minas Tirith in Gondor. And later spent many years in the service of the Thane,
The girl seemed visible agitated. “What do you mean? Where is Gondor? Where is Minas Tirith? Who is Peregrin Took?”
Bergil now looked a little confused. “Well, Gondor is the province founded by the sons of Elledil during the Second Age. Minas Tirith is the main city of Gondor and The Thane was the companion of Frodo of the nine fingers.”
Another girl for the back of the hall stood up.
“I think what Freda means is that you are speaking of these things as if they really happened. And yet we have never heard of them before. If you had told us that this was a fairy tale that took place long ago in a far land we would not be questioning you. But you act as if you really came from this place you are talking about and really know of these people you are speaking of.”
Bergil felt uncomfortable. He had a very warm feeling right now about this group of very polite, sensitive girls and he didn’t want to hurt them. He had to be careful what he said.
“May I ask your name lass?”
“My name is Shaina and I come from Brooklyn.”
“Shaina, all my life I have lived in Gondor. Only once did I leave to visit the Thane in the Shire. It is my home. Your question is not really so clear to me. How would you feel if I asked you ‘How can you come from Brooklyn? I have never heard of Brooklyn before?'”
“Well I could at least tell you that Brooklyn is in New York which was founded by the Dutch in the 17th century. New York is a real place and Peter Stuyvesant was a real person.”
“Well Ellendil was also a real person and he had real sons, Isildor and Anarean, and he came from Numenor a real place during the Second Age of Middle Earth a real period of real time.”
Shaina did not answer but sat down.
Bergil said, “Well my friends my time is up. I will see you tomorrow and we will talk again. Good night.”
With what seemed like heavy hearts the girls stood up and walked slowly out of the room. Freda was the last to leave and she walked over to Bergil.
“Bergil, I don’t know what has come over me. I have never had this feeling before. I hope you don’t misunderstand me but during your story, I don’t even know if I should call it a story, something strange welled up in my heart. I really don’t know what it was. A feeling. Some type of strange feeling. I felt as if I was far far from my home and I couldn’t get back no matter how hard I tried. What is happening to me?
Bergil looked at her with a kind sympathetic look.
“Freda my friend, during my lifetime I have had the privilege to know many very great people. My lord the King Ellesar lived a long and weary life. Most of his life he was a wonderer without a home, with few friends and was looked down on and even made fun of by the very people that he spent his life secretly protecting. Frodo the renowned, of the nine fingers I met only once, but I have heard many stories. He was like a child. If you saw him you would think he came from a nursery. Yet he and his friends left their homes and traveled to far lands and suffered many lonely days. Even Mithrandir himself was a wanderer for many ages, without a home. I do not know you very well Freda and I see you are a sensitive lass. Just remember that for some of us it is our doom to be far from home. Freda looked at him and there were tears in her eyes. But between the tears Bergil could see a soft smile forming. She turned around and left the hall.
The next morning Bergil went to the dining room to eat breakfast. He was sitting at a small table by himself. The other tables were quickly filling up with girls eager to finish breakfast and start the day’s activities. He only recognized a few of the faces from the story telling of the previous night. But as he watched he noticed a strange thing happening. Fingers were being pointed at him and much whispering was going on. After a few minutes practically all of the faces were pointing at him and his face began to turn slightly red. He busied himself with eating and then left the dining room.
It turned out to be a very quiet day. Everywhere Bergil went he saw campers enjoying summer activities. But the strange thing was that that was only when they didn’t notice him. Whenever they noticed him they stopped what they were doing and looked at him. Bergil felt almost like an exhibit in a museum.
The day was passing and it was time again for evening activities. Bergil walked up the hill again and into the main hall in the central building. This time Bergil was shocked. The hall was already packed as he walked in. There must have been close to a hundred girls in the hall, but it became quiet when he walked in. All the seats were taken and some were even standing leaning against the walls. But Bergil noticed that his seat near the fire was empty. He walked over to it and sat down.
“Good evening friends. Tonight I want to tell you the story of Earendil the Blessed and the War of Wrath.”
Bergil was amazed at the intensity of the attention coming from these 100 young faces. Clearly the girls at the previous night’s session had told the new arrivals what to expect. He did not disappoint them. He told of how Earendil set forth on his lonely journey to the west to plead the cause of the two kindred in their hour of despair. He explained of how his wife Elwing who bound the Silmaril upon his brow met him, and how the Lords of the West answered his plea. He told of the War of Wrath waged by the Valar against the enemy Morgoth and of how in the last battle Earendil slew Ancalagon the Black, greatest of all dragons before the gates of Angband.
This time when he was finish there were several questions.
“My name is Julie. I was not here last night and frankly I walked into this room a little skeptical. I see things a little different now that I have heard you but there are still things that bother me. What is a dragon and how could they exist? You seem to be talking about something real. But how does this fit in?
“I am happy to meet you Julie. A dragon is a monster. Now if you doubt that monsters exist think back to the time when you were working in your parent’s garden and you turned over a large stone and jumped back in fear at seeing a very large worm or bug jump up. That is really what a monster is. It is something that is unknown to you and takes your imagination very far away. Middle Earth has such monsters also. But Middle earth is very very old and had in the past some very evil forces in it which mixed in to these things and were able to add to the destructive power of these monsters. We will eventually be speaking of the rings of power in which we see these evil forces at work.”
Julie sat down and another girl stood up.
“Hi. I’m Samantha. There are so many things I am confused about. You speak of a place called Angband, of an enemy, of something called a Silmaril. Everything seems so complicated and intertwined. Why is it like this?”
“Samantha, I am told that the country you live in is called The United States of America. Suppose you met some one who had never heard of this country and you tried to explain to them the history of the United States of America. How would you do it? It depends on who you are. I am a storyteller. A storyteller would do it by relating stories about major events in United States history. I am not a historian. If Bilbo the renowned were here he would have begun with the Music of the Ainur at the beginning of days up until the end of the War of the Ring as he in fact did in the Red Book of Westmarch. Bilbo Baggins was a historian. He has told the story of the 3 ages of Middle Earth much different then I am. But don’t be dismayed my dear Samantha I hope to complete the story by the end of the summer and the complete picture will be much less confusing.
Shaina stood up and asked a technical question.
“How does the story of Beren and Luthien relate to the story of Earendil?
“Beren and Luthien were the grandparents of Elwing the wife of Earendil”
There were no more questions and the girls started to slowly leave the hall. As before Freda was the last to leave. Freda stood in front of Bergil with a downcast face.
“What is the matter Freda?”
“I don’t know. I just don’t know. Something must be wrong with me. I can’t think of questions like the others. There are no questions for me. It’s like an electric feeling I have when I hear you speak. It’s like I want you to speak forever, to never stop.
“We will speak much this summer Freda and you will learn much.”
Again Freda smiled and left.
This continued for another week. Each day Bergil got deeper and deeper into the story of Middle earth. Each day he created a different world for them with new wonders. With a few exceptions the girls were stunned by this new world and particularly by Bergil’s sincerity in the way he told the story. In fact this was the thing that drew them closer and closer to Middle Earth. It was a real world to them because it was a real world to Bergil. Without putting on airs or pretensions he explained this world with a sincerity that took them all into his world. It became noticeable on the girls. Where ever they went that was all they talked about. Bergil and Middle Earth. The adult supervisors of the camp began to take notice. They could not figure out what was going on but they knew something was happening. For Freda, however it was a compulsion. It was her whole life. It was all she thought about day and night. Shaina began to worry about her.
One morning during breakfast Shaina came over to Bergil’s table. She had a troubled look on here face.
“Good morning Shaina, how are you?”
She didn’t answer his question. But continued to look at him.
“Bergil I’m worried about Freda.”
Bergil’s face darkened.
“Yes I know. What could it be?”
“Don’t you know?” said Shaina.
“I’m not sure,” he answered
“Then let me tell you what it is. It is something that is going to get worse and worse and is going to cause us both a lot of trouble before the summer is over. Freda wants to go to Middle Earth.”
She paused a moment to let it sink in.
“We have talked a lot together and I can tell you she will never be happy again until she goes there.”
“How can that be? She has her whole life ahead of her. She is a beautiful lass and I’m sure she will find happiness.”
“It is happening and it will happen. I know her; she will not get over this.
She will not be happy again until she returns with you to Middle Earth. In fact
Bergil I wouldn’t mind a shot at it myself. How can you not be aware of it? Perhaps half the girls in camp feel the same way. But Freda is different. It has become part of her.”
Bergil looked very sad.
“Then perhaps I should leave. I had no idea I would be causing so much heartache.”
“No, you can’t do that. That would make things much worse. Don’t do that.”
“Then what should we do?”
Shaina looked helplessly at Begil. Then in a quiet voice, almost a whisper she said “Well maybe it would be possible to go.”
“Shaina, the fact that I am here is a fluke that can never be repeated. As far as I know it is impossible what you are asking.”
“As far as you know, but can you say it is impossible?”
Bergil gave her a strange far away look.
“Shaina I don’t know what to say. I don’t know everything. I can just say as far as I know it is impossible.”
“Then there is nothing that can be done?”
Bergil decided he had to tell her the truth, however hard it was.
“Shaina at the end of this summer I will be leaving and when I do I will never return. But before I leave you will have something valuable that you will be able to keep forever.”
Another week passed and Julie and Samantha one morning asked Bergil if they could have more time with him, perhaps in the late afternoon to learn Elvish, the language of the Eldar. Bergil told them that he would be happy to do this but they would have to get permission from the camp director. That was easily obtained and the next afternoon about an hour before supper about 40 girls met in one of the large side rooms in the dinning room with large tables and chairs and a blackboard. Each came with a notebook and pen. And Bergil began to instruct them in the high Elvin tongue along with the Feanorian script.
About three weeks before the end of the summer Bergil made an announcement at the beginning of the story period.
“Friends we have finished the story of the Elder days. They are days that began with the hope that Iluvatar planted in the world and ends with the uncertainty of the disappearance of the great ring after the death of Isildur. For the remainder of the summer we will speak of the climax of the Third Age of Middle earth and the War of the Ring leading to the return of the kings of Numenor. The story began on a quiet spring morning in front of Bilbo Baggin’s front door. Bilbo was smoking his pipe when the wizard Gandaf walked by.”
For the next three weeks Bergil told of the discovery of the Great Ring by Bilbo, his passing it over to Frodo Baggins his nephew, Frodo’s long journey with his friend Sam to Orodruin, the mountain of fire, the final destruction of the Great Ring bringing to an end the Third Age of Middle Earth, the downfall of Sauron, the Lord of the Rings and the Return of the King.
During this time the campers made excellent use of the extra early afternoon hour and quickly became conversant with the Elvish language and the Feanorian script. Eventually they began to try to converse with each other in Elvish whenever they could and write their notes of Bergil’s stories in the Feanorian script. Freda and Shaina especially became good at this.
Eventually the summer came to a close. The last night of evening activities came. The next day the camper’s parents would come and take their daughters back to the city.
Bergil sat before the girls for the last time. Frodo had left Middle Earth for the West and the King Elessar sat on his throne in Arnor.
“Friends, this is our last meeting. Like Frodo I have completed my Quest. Tomorrow I will be gone and I shall never return.”
Cries of “no, no don’t leave us'” came from the campers. Begil raised his hands and silence returned.
“I will not say do not weep for some tears are good. You have learned much this summer, much that will remain with you I am sure.”
He looked at them with the far away look that he sometimes had.
“I do not know of what will become of the knowledge you have gained. I am not a great man. I am just a storyteller who knows the past and I do not know the future. If I had one of the Palantiri or if I could look into the Mirror of Galadriel perhaps I could see the fruits of what this summer will bring. But I do not. Remember me but more important remember each other. Speak to each other of the Elder Days. Do not forget what you have learned. I love you all. Good bye.”
He began to leave the hall but they would not let him. They blocked the way. He raised his hands and softly said, “please I must go” They let him by. But Freda quickly ran to him, fell to the ground and grabbed his knees.
“You cannot go. You cannot leave me. I will die if you leave.”
Bergil bent over and gently caressed the top of her head.
“You must not say that Freda. You are young and have your whole life ahead of you, a life the goal of which still cannot be known. Don’t give up. Think of how Frodo felt as he prepared to leave the Fellowship of the Ring, on the slopes of Amon Hen going to Mordor alone. He didn’t give up.”
Freda stood up and smiled between her tears. Then she kissed Bergils hands and got up. “Goodbye Bergil. I will always remember you.”
Begil turned around and walked to his bungalow.
Freda went to bed that night with a heavy heart. She could not sleep. She knew she would never see him again, that some how in the morning he would be gone.
It was about midnight. A thought stuck Freda as she was lying sleepless in bed. She got out of bed and put on her robe. She crept quietly out of her bungalow, not wanting to wake Shaina. She walked quietly in the dark to Bergils bungalow. There was an open window high up on the side of his bungalow. She got a nearby milk crate and stood on it. On her tiptoes she could see inside. She looked. Bergil was laying on his bed sound asleep. She sat down on the milk crate and waited. A half hour passed. She looked again. He was still lying asleep on his bed. Again she sat down. Maybe he was joking and he would not leave and he would be able to return with them to the city. Hope rose in her. About ten minutes passed. Freda noticed a dim blue light coming from the window. She quickly stood up again on the box and looked inside. She looked at his bed. It was empty.
The next morning the camper’s gathered around Bergil’s bungalow. But they knew that what Freda had told them was true. He was gone. They wearily started to pack their things. Their parents would start to arrive at eleven and they had to be ready.
Freda knew she had to pack but her heart was not in it. At eleven thirty her parents arrived and immediately sensed that something was wrong. She just told them that she wasn’t feeling well and after saying goodbye to her friends got in the car and they started for home. It was about a two-hour drive and her parents tried to get out of her what was wrong but the only thing she said was that she had had the most wonderful summer of her life. That seemed a little strange to her parents considering how miserable she seemed.
The day after she got home she called Shaina and a few of her other friends from camp that lived in the neighborhood and together they decided that they would all get together, as many as they could get in touch with, once a week to talk about Bergil and Middle Earth. These meetings took place on a regular basis. They got together and reviewed what they learned and discussed everything from every angle that they could. They tried not to make up things on their own but to stay completely within what Bergil had said to them. But even so the discussions were wide-ranging and deep. During these meetings Shaina keep notes and a journal using the Elvish language and the Feanorian script. She had become quite proficient in it. After some time she put these notes in a red notebook and called it The Red Book of Westmarch. She knew that this was not even close to Bilbow’s book but she didn’t know what else to name it. From time to time they would try to get their parents involved and invited them to the meetings. But since none of them had ever been to Middle Earth, as hard as they tried they could not duplicate Bergil’s sincerity. As a result despite their enthusiasm all they got from their parents was funny looks or condescending smiles.
Two years passed. Freda became a fine seventeen-year-old young lady. She became able to hide the longing in her heart for Middle Earth and so was able to go through the actions of a normal teen-age girl, but the longing never went away, and even became stronger. Shaina had made several copies of her Red Book and Freda found herself reading it over and over again when she was alone in her room at night.
It was a quiet spring night. Freda had gone to bed early but she could not sleep.
She tossed and turned. Her eyes were just about to close in sleep when she saw at the foot of her bed a dim blue light. It was just hovering a few feet off the ground. Freda quickly dressed and walked over to it. It was actually a very small point of light. She slowly raised her hand and stretched out her arm to touch it. Immediately the world changed. She found herself in a green meadow. There were lovely trees and green turf all over. She did not have time to even wonder what happened. A few feet away she saw a group of four small children playing at the foot of one of the trees. They immediately noticed her. They looked like children but somehow were different. She walked over to them and began to speak. But they looked bewildered and obviously could not understand her. A strange thought entered her mind. She began to speak to them in Elvish. They still didn’t seem to understand them, but the one who looked the oldest started to walk down a path leading through some trees and beckoned to her to follow. The other three followed him. Freda also followed. It was winding path through a lovely row of deep green trees. In about five minutes the trees gave way to a clearing with low green hills. In the side of the hills were large holes with round yellow or orange doors.
Freda’s heart skipped a beat and leaped to the sky. She was in the Shire!
The children led her along a path through the hills up to a large hill with a hole with a large green round door in it. They knocked on the door and a weak female voice answered in a language that Freda did not understand. It definitely was not Elvish.
They opened the door and walked in. Sitting in a rocking chair next to an open window was an old woman though in fact she was also no bigger then a child. The children said a few words to her and then left. The woman then spoke to her in Elvish.
“Hello my dear, my name is Elanor and I am the daughter of Samwise of blessed memory. What is your name?”
“My name is Freda. Are you the daughter of Sam Gamgee the companion of Frodo of the nine fingers?”
Elanor smiled. “I see you are knowledgeable in old lore Freda. Where are you from?”
“This may sound funny Elanor but I am not really sure. I am the student of Bergil son of Beregond of Gondor, however.”
Elanor furrowed her brow in deep thought. “Bergil son of Beregond. I have heard that name before. Oh yes I believe I met him many years ago when he visited the Shire with the Thane Peregrin Took.
“You know Bergil” Freda said hurriedly, “Do you know where he is now?”
“I assume he still lives in Gondor with his wife and children as he always did, but I am not sure”
“I must go and visit him.”
“In time, in time my dear. You have just come, you are not sure where you have come from and right away you want to make the long trip to Gondor. First let us talk a little then we will take a walk together”
Briefly Freda told her story. Elanor listened carefully in wonder.
“Woo, that is quite a jawbreaker as my father used to say. You probably should go to Gondor. There are still some very wise people there who might be able to tell you what is going on. But it is way beyond me. But for now let’s take a walk. I want to show you around.”
Elanor got up out of her rocking chair and they both went outside.
“The Shire is so lovely” Freda said.
“Yes it is. My father did most of this with the help of the gift he got from the Lady Galadriel. But he also worked very hard. He loved the Shire very much.”
They walked a short way until they got to a very large clearing with a huge very tall silver tree in it.
“This is the party field. This is where Bilbow Baggins had his last birthday party in the Shire. I am sorry to say I never met Mr. Baggins. But my father told me many stories about him. The silver tree is a Mallorn Tree. It is the one my father planted using the seed that the Lady Galadriel gave him. It is the only Mallorn west of the mountains and east of the great sea.”
They walked over to the tree. Freda touched one of the golden leaves.
“Take one” Elanor told her.
Freda reached up and took one of the beautiful golden leaves. After looking at it for a long time she carefully put it in her pocket.
After walking around quite a bit more they returned to Elanor’s hole. Elanor made supper and they both lingered for a long time at the table talking. Elanor was telling Freda about her youth.
“When I was a young lass my parents sent me to Arnor to serve the Queen Awen Undomiel. Two of the happiest years of my life. What a lovely lady. And the King Elessar! He is so wonderful. He used to talk to me and tell me stories of the old days; though to be honest I didn’t understand a lot of what he said. My dear, dear father never could get out of the habit of calling him Strider. But the King didn’t mind. He loved my father dearly.
It was dark outside and Elanor told Freda she could sleep in one of the many rooms that led from the main central hall.
“Tomorrow I will try to find out for you about travelers leaving for Gondor that would be willing to take you along with them. Good night my dear.”
Freda lay in her comfortable bed long that night thinking. She hadn’t been so happy in two years. Tomorrow she would begin on her trip to see Bergil. Finally she fell asleep.
The next morning she awoke and immediately cried out in pain. She was back in her own room at home. It had all been a dream. Then suddenly a horrible thought struck her. What if it had all been a dream? Everything. Even Bergil? No it couldn’t be. She would call Shaina right away. She got out of bed. She felt something in her pocket. She took it out. It was the golden Mallorn leaf that she had taken. It had not been a dream. She had really been in the Shire. But then despair returned to her. She had lost everything, Middle Earth and the chance to see Bergil again. What had happened and why? She went downstairs. Her parents cried out when they she saw her. She had been missing for a whole day and they were beside themselves with worry. She told them that she had been in Middle Earth for one day. They looked at her in disbelief, but that was all that she could say to them. It was the truth. She even showed them the leaf that she brought back. They sighed in despair and shook their heads. There was nothing else she could say to them. But they were still very happy that she was back safely at home from wherever she had been.
Freda called Shaina and told her to come right over. For the next few days that was all her and her friends talked about. They all discussed the leaf she brought back and thought about ways they could bring it to a botanist to examine. They actually did that a few weeks later, but all the botanist would say was that it was a very unusual leaf. The minute they told him how they got it he smiled condescendingly and rushed them out of his office. It was no use.
A deep depression fell on Freda. She had come so close and now it was all lost. The longing in her heart got stronger and stronger.
Another year passed. Despite her depression Freda did very well in high school and she was preparing to go to college.
It happened the same way this time. The same dim blue light above her bed. This time Freda knew exactly what to do. After dressing she quickly touched the tiny point of light. She found herself in the exact same place as before. This time the children were not there, but Freda knew exactly where to go. She rushed up the hill to Bag End and knocked on Elanor’s door. She heard again the familiar voice in the unfamiliar language. She opened the door.
Elanor greeter her like a long lost daughter, and soon they were deep in talk. Elanor thought hard about the problem Freda presented her with. How could she remain in Middle Earth? The problem was a pressing one because she knew that if she fell sleep she would again be gone, and who could tell if she would ever be able to return.
What to do?
Elanor was not a very learned woman in the same way that Mithradir was or even her father. But she was very wise in the ways of wives tales. She cared for Freda and wanted very much to help her. So she put forth all of her effort now searching back in her memory for all the tales and wise or not so wise sayings she had heard. She knew it was up to her alone. There was no one else they could turn to on such short notice. The room was silent. After a long time Freda saw something in Elanor’s eyes.
“Many years ago I went with my husband, of blessed memory to Gondor and while I was there I met the wise woman Ioreth. She was deep in the wisdom of wives. I was told that was she was the one who told Mithrandir the sign of how to know when the true Kind of the West arrived. ‘The hands of the king are the hands of a healer’ she had said. And so the rightful King Elessar was recognized. She had many many sayings like that which are not accounted important among the wise but, which hold deep secrets sometimes. I do remember once hearing her say something that might be helpful to you but I can’t be sure. She once said ‘When the world changes close your ears’. What that meant she was not able to tell anyone. But now I am thinking that maybe when you go to sleep at night stuff your ears with cotton. What do you think?”
Freda thought about it. It didn’t seem right. Could she take the chance? But what else could she do? One could not stay awake forever. But she was afraid. It was getting dark outside and she was tired. They ate a silent supper and Freda prepared for bed. Elanor gave her two large pieces of cotton. She smiled at Elanor and went into her room. She carefully stuffed the cotton as deep into her ears as she could and lay down. She lay in bed a long time trembling but finally her eyes closed and she was asleep.
She awoke the next morning and quickly looked around her. It had worked! She was still in the room in Elanor’s hole. She ran out of her room. Elanor was sitting by the window in her rocking chair. She threw her arms around Elanor and hugged her tightly. This time there were tears of joy in her eyes. She was in Middle earth and would stay there.
During breakfast they discussed ways of Freda getting to Gondor. Elanor told her that there was a group of hobbits that was leaving for Bree in two days where they would join up with a group of men and women who were going there.
“Do you know how to ride a pony? It is a long trip and you cannot walk the whole way.
“No I have never even been on one. What shall I do?”
Elanor thought. “Hmm. I have it. You have two days. My granddaughter Rose is an expert pony rider. She will teach you.”
That was that. All day Freda spent with Rose, a young hobbit with a round bright face and curly hair, and practiced. By the beginning of the second day Freda felt comfortable on the pony.
“You can use this pony and Rose will accompany you to Bree. His name is Bill named after my father’s pony that accompanied the Fellowship of the Ring.” She also attached a large package of supplies to the sides of the pony and gave Freda some money. “It is along trip” she said “but this should get you though”
Freda kissed Elanor and thanked her for all her help and together with Rose they headed off to the Brandywine bridge towered Bree.
By late next day they were at Bree and headed towered Inn of the
Prancing Pony where the group was supposed to meet. Sure enough there was a large group of men with their families gathered in front of the inn along with a few hobbits families. Freda said goodbye to Rose, introduced herself to the leader of the group and joined up with one of the hobbit families. Before long they were off. They headed south along the Green Way many days till they got to the Gape of Rohan, passing south of Isengard. Freda saw many wonders, spoke to many people and heard many wonderful stories along the way. At last Freda saw rising before her the many leveled White City of Minis Tirith. Her excitement grew.
She had learned along the way that Bergil lived with his family in the second level of the city, so she hurriedly said goodbye to all the friends she had made and rushed to this level. After asking passers by questions she found the house and knocked on the door. A young women with several children hiding behind her answered the door.
“Hello, may I help you?”
“Yes, my name is Freda and I am looking for Bergil the son of Beregond.”
“That is my husband. He should be coming home from work soon. My name is
Grindal. Come in and sit down.”
Suddenly Grindal’s face turned white. “Freda? Your name is Freda? Oh my. My husband has spoken so much about you. And now you are here. He always used to tell me that he thought you would come some day. He didn’t know how but he always believed you would walk through this door someday. And now you have. This is wonderful. Come sit down. I’m not sure where you have come from but you must be tired and hungry.” She turned to one of the small children. “Aobal go to the library and get your father. Tell him to come right away; we have a wonderful surprise for him.”
Freda sat down by the dinning room table and Grindal disappeared into the kitchen. She came out soon with a tray of cakes and a pitcher of cold lemon ad. Freda was hungry and she set to work on the tray while Grindal bombarded her with questions that she tried her best to answer. Ten minutes later Bergil walked into the door.
They smiled at each other a long time. Finally Bergil said. “I knew you would come some day. I never knew how, but I knew you would come.” They clasped each other’s hand and sat down. Freda told Bergil all that happened in the past three years since he left.
“Well. Now you are here. What next?” Bergil finally said.
Freda was silent. This was a question she had not even thought about. The whole idea of seeing and learning about Middle Earth had dominated her mind for three years. What exactly did she want? And then she realized that that indeed was what she wanted, to see and learn about Middle Earth and then perhaps settled down and live here. She told this to Bergil and he slowly nodded.
“Then there are two things I will do for you. First you will stay with my family as long as you wish and you can come with me to the library every day. I have access to all of the ancient manuscripts and lore. And this can keep you busy for many years. But I have a feeling that you want something else.”
At this he turned to his wife who had been listening to them closely and said “Grindal for a long time you have been wanting to take a vacation and do some traveling, haven’t you? What do you say about taking Freda along with us?”
“It would be wonderful to have her.”
“Then this is the second thing I can do for you. You can accompany my family and a few other friends that I have in mind on a grand tour of Middle Earth. We can see everything. We can even visit Dane’s people at the Lonely Mountain if you want to.”
Freda’s face lit up. “I would love to do this. I want to see Moria the Mirrormere, Lorien and Rivendell too.”
At this Bergil’s face darkened. “You will see little in Rivendell and Lorien, they are empty, and the Eldar have all gone across the sea. But perhaps you should go there nevertheless.”
It was settled. Freda spent several weeks with Bergil in his library learning much. There was a vast amount. Freda had always been a good student and Bergil helped her absorb it all.
During this period preparations were made for their journey. It would be a trip of several months, perhaps a year, and much work was required to prepare.
Finally the day arrived. Bergil’s entire family would go, along with three other families. Wagons filled with all kinds of provisions were prepared. They set out. They tried to follow the reverse path of the Fellowship of the Ring following the Great River north past Amon Hen. Freda marveled at the sight of the Argonath and the falls of Rauros. They continued north and passed the empty Lorien and the now bustling Moria until they finally reached Esgaroth and the Lonely Mountain. They spent some time there before heading east through Mirkwood and across the Misty Mountains to Rivendell, which was now also empty. Freda grieved that she would indeed never see Lorien and Rivendell in their grandeur. Before reaching the Shire they visited Bombadill in the Old Forest. Elanor was happy to see Freda again with her friends and they had a happy reunion. Freda returned Bill and again thanked Elanor for all her help. Then they started back to Gondor.
On the way home Bergil noticed a change coming over Freda. She spent more time by herself thinking. When he asked her about it she just sighed and would not answer.
Finally after almost a year of travel they returned. Freda had changed. She seemed to Bergil older and more mature. It was hard to say that a nineteen-year-old girl is full of knowledge, but that is how Freda seemed. Finally Freda told Bergil part of what she was thinking.
“How did I get here Bergil? And can Shaina ever join me?”
Bergil sighed. “I told you Freda, I don’t know. This is something that perhaps even the wise do not know, and I am far from wise.” He thought for several moments. “There is someone.” He thought again. “The wizard Radagast never left Middle Earth. In fact he lives here in Gondor. Maybe we should speak to him.”
Bergil led her to an old part of the city to a small house. He knocked on the door and a low voice told them to come in. Radegast still had the vigor of the Istari. He listened carefully to Freda’s story. Then he got up and went to one of the large bookcases in his room and pulled out a dusty manuscript. He poured over it for about 20 minutes and then spoke.
“It is brought down in ancient lore that there are two straight paths. One leads to the Eternal Lands. That is well known among the wise. But there is another that is virtually unknown, even among the wise. That is the straight path to Middle earth. No one seems to speak of it. What a moment.” He got up and took an even dustier manuscript from the shelf. “It says here that the straight path to Middle Earth leads through the heart. What could that mean?”
Bergil’s eyes lit up. “I understand now. Thank you Master. I would like to speak of this to you again. Good bye for now.” He returned home with Freda.
“I understand now Freda why you are here and not Shaina. You were the one who wanted to die if you couldn’t go to Middle Earth, not Shaina. As much as Shaina appreciated Middle Earth and wanted to come here it did not dominate here heart as it did yours.”
They arrived at Bergil’s house. It was getting dark and they sat down to supper.
Freda looked at Bergil and said.
“I cannot stay here. I must return home.”
Bergil nodded. “You understand that if you go home now voluntarily you will never be able to return.”
Freda said, “I know, but I must. I must not allow the memory of Middle Earth to be lost in my world.”
“I understand,” said Bergil. He got up and went to a draw under a large cabinet and took out a large red book. “This is a copy of the Red Book of Westmarch that the Thane gave me many years ago. You will need it more than me now.” He handed her the book.
Freda stood up and kissed his hands. “I will never forget you Bergil” Then she turned around and without looking back climbed the stairs to her bedroom. She closed the door behind her and sat down on the bed. With trembling hands she removed the cotton from her ears and while holding on to the red book tightly she lay down in bed and closed her eyes. Soon she fell asleep.
The light in the main room of the central building was dim from the fireplace in the center. Freda and Shaina stood by the entrance and looked down. The room was filled with many girls, but there was an empty seat in the middle for her. Freda walked down and sat in her seat. She smiled at Shaina and holding a large red book in her hands began to speak.
“Good evening friends. My name is Freda and I am the student of Bergil son of Beregond of Gondor. Tonight I would like to tell you the story of Beren and Luthien Tinuvial daughter of King Thingol, fairest of all the maidens of the immortal Eldar in the forests of Noldereth when the world was young. It is a beautiful tale, but a sad one as are all the tales of Middle Earth.” Freda’s soft voice echoed through the silent hall. The soft light of the fire gleamed in her eyes as she continued to speak…