1. Voices at the Door
'I sit beside the fire and think
Of all that I have seen,
Of meadow-flowers and butterflies
In summers that have been.
Of yellow leaves and gossamer
In autumns that there were,
With morning mist and silver sun
And wind upon my hair.
I sit beside the fire and think
Of how the world will be
When winter comes without a spring
That I shall ever see.
For still there are so many things
That I have never seen:
In every wood in every spring
There is a different green.
I sit beside the fire and think
Of people long ago,
And people who will see a world
That I shall never know.
But all the while I sit and think
Of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
And voices at the door.*'
I am kneeling beside her empty grave, watching the young, somber lads lower the coffin into the earth. I am numb, but burning tears roll down my face. They aren’t the only unfulfilled tears of parting I have cried. But this time it is different.
This time, she’s gone, and I know where. She’s gone to rot in a apple-wood coffin, made by my own two hands while she lay pale and cold on the mourning bed, all draped in white linen and lace, just like our wedding day. But it’s different this time.
She’s gone. My Rosie, my dear, sweet, Rosie. My wife. How can she be dead? My eyes are red and swollen from weeping, that I know. But the tears seem to be flowing from a bottomless chasm of a well. I always have more. As soon as I am exauhsted from crying, I see something of hers, the chair where she used to sit in front of the fire place and sew, the kitchen sink where she used to stand and wash dishes, smiling out at me in the garden.
The coffin with my Rosie’s body settles with a satisfied thud into the grave, and I stare at its polished surface, so out of place among the black earth and roots. I know I must throw the first handful of the Shire onto my wife, and the dirt crumbles through my helpless fingers, trickling onto the grass. I cannot do it. I cannot bury my wife, not her too. I cannot, I will not loose another loved one.
Yet it must be so. Shaking, I grasp another handful of bitter earth and toss it into the cavernous hole: Rosie’s final resting place. She is gone.
NO! Everything inside me screams the truth. She is not gone. Her memory is still here, haunting me, as the memories haunted him. Nightmarish memories that made him leave me, years and years ago, yet I remember his face as though he were still here, sitting in his study writing in the Red Book, long completed.
As the young lads shovel the Shire onto my Rosie, I allow my mind to drift back over the endless years. Wonderful years, the best years of my life, or so I thought.
When Rosie died last week, I realized the best years of my life were the ones spent quietly with Frodo before the wrenching quest. Just me and him, all to ourselves. Treading the shady trails, reading beside tranquil streams, sitting silently in the parlor, staring into the fire and realizing we were content.
All these long years as I’ve watched my family grow and marry, I’ve come to realize more and more that my heart sailed away with the grey elven ship. Yes, I’ve been content, but not fully. Relishing a stunning sunset, I wish he was here to say
“Look, Sam. Do you see how the crimson intermingles with the rich purple? And look at that! The clouds are going to catch fire soon!”
Why did you leave your Sam here alone? I love the Shire, aye, but I love you more. I loved Rosie more, and now that she is gone, all I have left is you.
Which is why, as I turn from the mound of black soil beneath which is the shears that severed my final bond, I know your waiting will finally be satisfied.
Here I am, once more, staring out to sea from atop the gentle seacliff facing west. I am seeing nothing, only a face so dear to me the details, and pain, has sharpened over the years.
I came here to be healed in body and mind, but I didn’t know that coming would break my heart.
I have more energy than I had when I was young, before the Accident, but it is all wasted on staring out to sea and vain longing for your presence.
Bilbo knows. Of course he does. So does Gandalf. But they don’t understand. They know I miss you, Samwise, but they can’t imagine how much. After all, they have each other, and the elves to keep them company. The elves are wonderful to be with, but I long for the company of another hobbit. You.
The wind rustles the long grass and flips my hair around, and I raise my face to it, hoping again to catch the faint scent of the Shire’s abundant harvest. I smell nothing but the sticky salt of the ocean, and I sigh audibly.
I shuffle down to the water’s edge and let the cold tide play with my feet until I am up to my ankles in sand. I stand perfectly still, suddenly knowing you are in pain. Oh, how I am wishing I could ease it a little! If only I could comfort you and dry your eyes, assuring you everything will be all right. But that’s a lie, because nothing will be right until you come.
I know you must come someday, but will you wait too long? Will an accident befall you before you can come, and you will be lost to me forever? I lost Them once, and I couldn’t bear to loose you too.
“Oh Sam!” I cry, my voice mingling with the crashing of the waves. “When? When will you come to me? I’m healed now, all but in heart. I need you to be completely whole again. When?”
I whisper the last word, tears rolling down my face. A sudden impatience fills me, and I make a decision. I’ve waited sixty-one years, Samwise, and I shan’t wait a moment longer. If you aren’t coming for me, I will return to you.
All is still, deathly still in Bag End. The hole so filled with laughter and tears, children’s and mourner’s cries is quiet and waiting. The silence nearly drives me mad with memories of you, and Rose, and Bilbo, and old times gone forever with the elven ship.
Yes, you had to loose the Shire for the rest of us to gain it, but did you gain from my loss? From our loss? Are you healed, Mr. Frodo? I know you are not, my heart tells me something is lacking. I know what, who, it is, and I want to tell you I am coming. But something inside me is holding me back, telling me to wait just a little longer.
I shall go to Buckland and Tookborough, telling Merry and Pippin of my plans, then I too shall follow in your footsteps and leave Middle Earth forever.
I step onto the dock, and suddenly a strange sensation fills my body. I nod to the crew, and they understand. Whether I stay or not depends on you, Sam. A great leap bounds inside me as I realize I am going to see you again.
I take up my staff and pass on into the dawn, retracing my sixty-year-old steps back home. After all, you are waiting.
I come to the Shire three days later. It is still the same, yet different. It is more golden somehow, more rich. I know then that I made the right choice in accepting the quest. This is what I meant do. This fullness is more than I could hope for, but the lonliness is overwhelming. I see no familiar faces in the fields and gardens.
How much will you have aged? No matter that, the elven home has made me youthful again, as it has Bilbo, although he appears still older than me. It will do likewise to you, if you come.
I turn into the familiar lane to Hobbiton, but before taking a step I pause and trace my finger over the familiar letters painted on the sign. I remember the first time I saw them, sitting in the cart with Uncle Bilbo, anxiously awaiting a new future in a new home. A home where I met you.
I am wearing my elven cloak, and decide it would not do to be recognized by the population. It would create a disturbance and mar the Baggins name even more, and I chuckle at the amusing thought.
So I wait until dusk before starting out again, this time veiled in the cloak of black night.
Hours later, I fondly open the gate leading up the pathway to Bag End and prepare myself to meet you, at long, long last.
I am sitting in Bilbo’s chair in the parlor. Aye, it’s still called ‘Bilbo’s chair’ even after all these years. That’s one tradition I won’t let die.
I have just finished my will, leaving Bag End to my family, and I sign it with a flourish. It will be taken to the authorities tomorrow. I sigh and drain my tea cup, preparing to head for my bedroom when suddenly a knock sounds at the door.
My heart stops in my throat, because I know it is you. I am frozen in my place, standing by the fire with one hand on the back of Bilbo’s chair and the other clutching the teacup frantically. I cannot move to let you in, but there is no need. You are suddenly there, standing in the doorway of the parlor, looking more beautiful and peaceful than words can describe. You are smiling.
“Hello Sam,” you say, and the sound of your voice releases me from my spell. I know my mouth is hanging open as I take a shy step forward, fearing this is another dream.
“Hello Mr. Frodo,” I reply softly, and you slowly step into the room, the fire dancing lights across your vibrant face.
Before I can take another step, I am suddenly engulfed in a massive embrace, which I quickly return, tears coursing down my face. This is no dream. Frodo is here, truly here.
I cannot stop myself from sobbing. The sight of your wrinkled face crowned in the glory of white age speaks of a long, rich life. You have been happy, yes, but nothing compared to us now.
You cannot stop weeping either.
“Look at us, Sam,” I say, laughing. “Two old hobbits, crying like children.”
A broken laugh escapes your throat, and your face is beaming with felicity.
“But look at you,” Sam says, studying my face joyfully. “You look….so wonderful I could burst!”
I hold you at arm’s length and we both survey each other quizzically, taking in the effects of sixty years of heaven versus sixty years of a mortal, but wonderful life.
“Well,” I say to break the silence. “Why don’t we have some tea?”
He is so happy. I doubt whether a trace of black memory lingers in his mind. I know my own is satisfied. Whether we go or stay, I shall be content to know I am with my Frodo again.
I relish the thought of spending our last days together in the Shire, but with a pang I realize at last my age. Upon my death I would leave Frodo alone again, and I couldn’t bear the thought.
Here we are again, sitting in the parlor as we used to sharing tea across the small table. How many times have I imagined us doing this again?
I cannot get enough of your face. It has been so long, too long. I should have gone with you when you left. But would I have regretted that decision too?
No matter now, we are enjoying ourselves immensely. Although it is the middle of the night, we speak of our lives until the sun rises on the horizon, and you take me to your favorite spot to watch it.
It is so beautiful, yellow and gold and rose-colored, and you are there, getting splashed with the golden, laughing sun. It is a moment of such wonderful beauty that I find myself grasping your warm hand.
Our eyes lock, and suddenly all the long years of waiting are forgiven. We are Frodo and Sam again, and I will never, never leave you.
You know all this too, and a radiant smile transforms your face even more, and we start again for home.
Sam has been happy here, that I’m glad of. So have I, but we have both been missing each other so much. Now all out longing is at an end, and we are at peace, at last. You have lived life to it’s fullest. No hobbit could ever with for more. Father, husband, grandfather, mayor, savior of Middle Earth…..you have everything anyone could ever want, yet you have never been conceited. I see it in your humble face.
Now that I have seen you, I find myself curious to see your family. I want to see your grown children and grandchildren, and see how much they look like you. I want to see Merry and Pippin again, and their children. Perhaps I will, all in good time. We shall see.
But for now, it is only us. There is no need for much talk, explanations. Just stories. Just like we used to an eternity ago, sitting side by side underneath a makeshift tent in my bedroom with a single candle, hoping Bilbo wouldn’t scold us for staying up too late again. Watching your enchanted face hanging on to my every word as new worlds open up before us: dragons and monsters are slain, the valiant hero finds his love, and Middle Earth is saved.
Yes, Middle Earth has been saved, by, but not for me. It has been saved for Sam and his offspring, and their offspring, and all the generations to come. But I have seen a great sadness coming in the distant future. Thankfully, none who are alive now will witness it, the utter destruction and frenzied fleeing. Men will come to the Shire. Evil men. They will send the inhabitants into hiding, forever. I know this because it has been revealed to me.
And as I walk the beautiful paths, and stop to pick a flower and marvel over its innocent beauty, I wonder how I will tell Sam. He loves the Shire so, and look at what he has done with Galadriel’s gift. But we all have our parts to play. Mine was over years and years ago, but then again, was it? Perhaps I still have something to do. There is a urgency in me, a faint call to go before it is too late.
Why did it come to this? Why couldn’t I have stayed to enjoy the years of my life in peace? Why did I suffer still after the evil had passed? Oh, how I have longed for things to be as they were. If only I could wake up and this had all been but a bad dream, and I would be in Bag End again, with Sam, and Bilbo, but mostly Sam. Just the two of us, and we could live again.
I could spend eternity that way, in paradise. I know that is Sam’s wish too. But it is all in vain, because those days have passed into the shadows of memory, from whence there is no return.
I will not see Sam’s family. He has informed me Merry and Pippin have left for Gondor, and though I ache at not being able to see them again, I am not broken. I said goodbye to them sixty-one years ago, and it was final. After all, I did not come to visit with them, although they are the best cousins any could wish for, and I love them.
I think not even Sam has guessed why I have truly come. He is intelligent and insightful, but he has not seen what I have. We shall never reach Valinor.
So here we stand on the shore. The ship is waiting, and I am saying goodbye. But it is not bittersweet this time. I’m not tossing any dirt into a grave or shielding my eyes against the glare on the water for one last look at you. Instead, you stand beside me as I give the Book to Elanor and she dries her eyes with a handkerchief.
“Goodbye, father,” she whispers, and I kiss her golden head.
“Goodbye, my sweet daughter,” I say fondly. With one last tight embrace, I follow Mr. Frodo onto the ship and it pulls away from the dock, bearing me away from the golden-green land I have loved and nurtured into the full blossom of adulthood. Tears come to my eyes as I watch Elanor’s small figure become smaller and smaller, then vanish entirely. I do not realize I am weeping until you hand me your handkerchief.
Was it this hard for you, when you left? It must have been harder, for not only were you leaving Middle Earth, you were leaving me.
As we get further out to sea, the coastline becomes one long black streak, and finally disappears into the veil of night, studded brilliantly with stars.
As the night deepens, I watch as you stand firmly at the railing, the moonlight turning your dark hair silver and illuminating your fair, beautiful face with a pearly luster. You smile at me, and beckon me over. I come beside you and we stand at the railing, gazing far out to sea. Your voice begins to tell me a story, and I suddenly know why we are here.
Once there was a mortal man who fell in love with an elven woman. The two were passionately in love, but it was not meant to be, and the elven lady’s father sent her away to the Havens. The man was left standing heartbroken on the shore watching his love sail away forever.
The lady was so distraught she threw herself from the very top of the mast, meaning to swim back, if she survived the fall. What happened to her nobody knows. Some say she died in the fall, others that she lived to bear the man many children for years after.
Then there is always the opinion that she did neither, and she never hit the water. Some say she fell in the opposite direction, and ended up among the stars. Since then, a legend has been born that whoever casts themselves into the sea, if there is enough love in their hearts, they too will find themselves among the stars.
I finish the tale, and I notice Sam is smiling at me. He understands, and there is complete love and faithfulness in his deep brown eyes. We are ready.
Together we climb up the rigging to the tallest mast, and walk out upon the cross piece. We have each other for balance, and do not fear the fall. Once we reach the end, I turn and lock eyes with you. Yes, you are satisfied, as am I.
Middle Earth is finally saved, and we are content.
I grasp your calloused hand in my own.
“Well, what do you think, Samwise?” I ask, smiling.
“I’m ready to find out if you are, Mr. Frodo,” he answers, eyes twinkling.
“Very well, then,” I say, and hand in hand, we leap from the mast.
The wind rushes around us as we fall. Colors, midnight blue and silver, indigo green and iridescent gold engulf us as we rise higher and higher. The ocean is far below us now as we pass through layers of misty cloud. We are not afraid.
Suddenly, a light is shining on us, and we shield our eyes from the consuming brightness. We are born up on invisible wings and sail calmly through the golden sky, into the sunrise. There is a land ahead, far below us, and we plummet toward it, though not uncontrollably. It seems familiar.
Emerald, rolling hills inbedded in a sea of morning fog. It is the Shire, as it once was, but it is more real, as though a shadow has been lifted from it. I glance at Sam. Yes, he has seen it too.
The ground rushes at us, but we do not fear the fall. Rather, we land laughing in a soft patch of springtime grass, and roll to a stop, catching our breath. The air is so fresh here, so crisp. So REAL.
This is not the Shire as it was. This is the Shire as it should be, as it really, truly is. The land of shadow is behind us, and we have stepped into the Undying Lands. Realization hits me suddenly. Of course! Why hadn’t I realized it before? The elves have Valinor, and us hobbits have the Shire, as it IS. No evil lingers here.
Everything that was before is all a shadow of what is real. Anything we thought was good, or wonderful there is nothing compared to what it REALLY is, now.
“Well, Mr. Frodo,” says Sam, dusting off his breeches. He is young again, both of us are. “It seems as though you were right. But I’ll have to admit that this sure don’t look like the Shire I knew, or none much like the stars neither.”
A great laugh escapes my throat, and it is so real, so genuine, that Sam joins in too. We do not tire of laughing, even when we walk hand in hand up the hill. My hill. I know where we are.
Sam and I survey this wondrous land, and I glance down the road leading towards Bag End. Yes, everything is still there, as it was, and should be. As it is.
Suddenly I spy two figures approaching. A man hobbit and his wife are running up the hill towards me, their arms open wide. Unsurmountable joy fills my body, and I spring forwards with a cry.
I am caught in a massive embrace, and I am engulfed in the arms that I though I would never feel again.
“Mother,” I whisper. “Father.”
The four of us walk up the lane towards Bag End, singing a song of hope and returning. If I thought I had ever been happy before, I was wrong. There is no fear in this land. If one wants to laugh, one laughs, fully. They hold nothing back.
I open the garden gate leading to the round front door usher the laughing trio inside. The door opens, and Bilbo is standing on the front doorstep, waving us in. He is youthful too, but not as young as Frodo and I.
“Hello Frodo! Sam! Drogo, Primula! What a pleasant surprise!”
Bilbo welcomes us in warmly and sits us down for tea.
“You’re just in time for elevensies,” he exclaims. “Wonderful to have you arrive Frodo-lad, and Sam too.” He sips his tea and his eyebrows shoot up in remembrance of something important.
“Sam!” he exclaims. “Rosie is here. She’s waiting for you down by the party tree. I told her you were coming, but she dosen’t mind waiting while you and Frodo catch up on things.”
Across the table, Sam and I lock gazes, and we are content at last. Nothing holds us down, no dreadful burden on our minds. Sam grins from ear to ear. Every last wish has been fulfilled. I know we are in the place of our heart’s desire, for eternity. Sam wipes his mouth contentedly and sighs.
“Well, we’re back,” he says.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.