12. River of Dreams
She lies in her curves across the road, across the land; beneath the trees of Mirkwood that darken ever she sighs – a cold, damp thrill.
In other lands, her sisters run and babble their laughter, roar their rages and joys as they plunge down their channels to batter the stones and their shores alike. They burble coyly in little pools, wink dappled-dazzling shade that obscures their depths, and they spread themselves into welcoming shallows.
But she is a simple soul. No coquette, she, to tease and promise what she cannot give. And she does but wish to give.
She can give them their dreams – relieve them of the cares and woes they bear. She blackens with the burden of such – they float upon her surface like slick of oil or a bruise. But she draws her dreamers down, rests them gentle in her clear bosom, pours herself inside to wash them clean 'til they are pure – pure, pure, pure as they were once in the womb, when they lived in their mothers' waters.
Dream, dream, she chants, and one by one, they fall quiet, and for a little while, they have what most they want – to forget. Sleep she gives to let their dreams fly free, and she will take the rest.
It is what they wish. What she can give. And later, over loving years, she polishes the bones, and holds them deep and warm in the silty depths of her soul to cherish them, singing softly to them:
O shadow-slip O care a-woe
Come seek me now by sorrow banks
Come lie with me, come love me low
My love lies down thy dreamy deeps
Hush na hush na hush na sweet!
Flow, flow, flow, flow with me
Forget forget forget na sweet!
Forget-a-way with me flow!
The perspective here is that of the Enchanted River in Mirkwood. In The Hobbit, Beorn describes it as dark and dangerous, and warns the Dwarves and Bilbo against it as he hears it is enchanted.
When the party discovers it flowing across the road, they cross by boat, but Bombur accidentally falls in. He falls into a deep sleep during which he dreams of wonderful food.
Somehow, this got crossed in my mind with Goldberry as the River Daughter dragging Tom into her waters *cough* and "Sweet Thames flow softly". What flowed out of this mess was an innocent elemental murderess.
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