‘I hope so,’ said Frodo. ‘But I hope that you may find some other better keeper soon. But in the meanwhile it seems that I am a danger, a danger to all that live near me. I cannot keep the Ring and stay here. I ought to leave Bag End, leave the Shire, leave everything and go away.’ He sighed.
‘I should like to save the Shire, if I could – though there have been times when I thought the inhabitants too stupid and dull for words, and have felt that an earthquake or an invasion of dragons might be good for them. But I don’t feel like that now. I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
‘That sounds like a bit of old Bilbo’s rhyming,’ said Pippin. ‘Or is it one of your imitations? It does not sound altogether encouraging.’
‘I don’t know,’ said Frodo. ‘It came to me then, as if I was making it up; but I may have heard it long ago. Certainly it reminds me very much of Bilbo in the last years, before he went away. He used often to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary. “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. “You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to. Do you realize that this is the very path that goes through Mirkwood, and that if you let it, it might take you to the Lonely Mountain or even further and to worse places?”
Upon the hearth the fire is red,
Beneath the roof there is a bed;
But not yet weary are our feet,
Still round the corner we may meet
A sudden tree or standing stone
That none have seen but we alone.
Tree and flower and leaf and grass,
Let them pass! Let them pass!
Hill and water under sky,
Pass them by! Pass them by!
Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate,
And though we pass them by today,
Tomorrow we may come this way
And take the hidden paths that run
Towards the Moon or to the Sun.
Apple, thorn, and nut and sloe,
Let them go! Let them go!
Sand and stone and pool and dell,
Fare you well! Fare you well!
Home is behind, the world ahead,
And there are many paths to tread
Through shadows to the edge of night,
Until the stars are all alight.
Then world behind and home ahead,
We’ll wander back to home and bed.
Mist and twilight, cloud and shade,
Away shall fade! Away shall fade!
Fire and lamp, and meat and bread,
And then to bed! And then to bed!
The song ended. ‘And now to bed! And now to bed!’ sang Pippin in a high voice.
The song ended. ‘These are High Elves! They spoke the name of Elbereth!’ said Frodo in amazement. ‘Few of that fairest folk are ever seen in the Shire. Not many now remain in Middle-earth, east of the Great Sea. This is indeed a strange chance!’
The hobbits sat in shadow by the wayside. Before long the Elves came down the lane towards the valley. They passed slowly, and the hobbits could see the starlight glimmering on their hair and in their eyes. They bore no lights, yet as they walked a shimmer, like the light of the moon above the rim of the hills before it rises, seemed to fall about their feet. They were now silent, and as the last Elf passed he turned and looked towards the hobbits and laughed.
‘O Fair Folk! This is good fortune beyond my hope,’ said Pippin. Sam was speechless. ‘I thank you indeed, Gildor Inglorion,’ said Frodo bowing. ‘Elen síla lúmenn’ omentielvo, a star shines on the hour of our meeting,’ he added in the High-elven speech.
‘Be careful, friends!’ cried Gildor laughing. ‘Speak no secrets! Here is a scholar in the Ancient Tongue. Bilbo was a good master. Hail, Elf-friend!’ he said, bowing to Frodo. ‘Come now with your friends and join our company! You had best walk in the middle so that you may not stray. You may be weary before we halt.’
Frodo propped his back against the tree-trunk, and closed his eyes. Sam and Pippin sat near, and they began to hum, and then to sing softly:
Ho! Ho! Ho! to the bottle I go
To heal my heart and drown my woe.
Rain may fall and wind may blow,
And many miles be still to go,
But under a tall tree I will lie,
And let the clouds go sailing by.
Merry and Fatty went into the kitchen on the other side of the passage, and busied themselves with the final preparations for a late supper. Snatches of competing songs came from the bathroom mixed with the sound of splashing and wallowing. The voice of Pippin was suddenly lifted up above the others in one of Bilbo’s favourite bath-songs.
Sing hey! for the bath at close of day
that washes the weary mud away!
A loon is he that will not sing:
O! Water Hot is a noble thing!
O! Sweet is the sound of falling rain,
and the brook that leaps from hill to plain;
but better than rain or rippling streams
is Water Hot that smokes and steams.
O! Water cold we may pour at need
down a thirsty throat and be glad indeed;
but better is Beer, if drink we lack,
and Water Hot poured down the back.
O! Water is fair that leaps on high
in a fountain white beneath the sky;
but never did fountain sound so sweet
as splashing Hot Water with my feet!
‘What do you mean?’ said Frodo, looking at him anxiously.
‘Just this, my dear old Frodo: you are miserable, because you don’t know how to say good-bye. You meant to leave the Shire, of course. But danger has come on you sooner than you expected, and now you are making up your mind to go at once. And you don’t want to. We are very sorry for you.’
Frodo opened his mouth and shut it again. His look of surprise was so comical that they laughed. ‘Dear old Frodo!’ said Pippin. ‘Did you really think you had thrown dust in all our eyes? You have not been nearly careful or clever enough for that! You have obviously been planning to go and saying farewell to all your haunts all this year since April. We have constantly heard you muttering: “Shall I ever look down into that valley again, I wonder”, and things like that. And pretending that you had come to the end of your money, and actually selling your beloved Bag End to those Sackville-Bagginses! And all those close talks with Gandalf.’
‘Good heavens!’ said Frodo. ‘I thought I had been both careful and clever. I don’t know what Gandalf would say. Is all the Shire discussing my departure then?’
‘Oh no!’ said Merry. ‘Don’t worry about that! The secret won’t keep for long, of course; but at present it is, I think, only known to us conspirators. After all, you must remember that we know you well, and are often with you. We can usually guess what you are thinking. I knew Bilbo, too. To tell you the truth, I have been watching you rather closely ever since he left. I thought you would go after him sooner or later; indeed I expected you to go sooner, and lately we have been very anxious. We have been terrified that you might give us the slip, and go off suddenly, all on your own like he did. Ever since this spring we have kept our eyes open, and done a good deal of planning on our own account. You are not going to escape so easily!’
‘But I must go,’ said Frodo. ‘It cannot be helped, dear friends. It is wretched for us all, but it is no use your trying to keep me. Since you have guessed so much, please help me and do not hinder me!’
‘You do not understand!’ said Pippin. ‘You must go – and therefore we must, too. Merry and I are coming with you. Sam is an excellent fellow, and would jump down a dragon’s throat to save you, if he did not trip over his own feet; but you will need more than one companion in your dangerous adventure.’
‘My dear and most beloved hobbits!’ said Frodo deeply moved. ‘But I could not allow it. I decided that long ago, too. You speak of danger, but you do not understand. This is no treasure-hunt, no there-and-back journey. I am flying from deadly peril into deadly peril.’
‘Of course we understand,’ said Merry firmly. ‘That is why we have decided to come. We know the Ring is no laughing-matter; but we are going to do our best to help you against the Enemy.’
‘Well, as I was saying,’ Merry proceeded, ‘I kept my knowledge to myself, till this spring when things got serious. Then we formed our conspiracy; and as we were serious, too, and meant business, we have not been too scrupulous. You are not a very easy nut to crack, and Gandalf is worse. But if you want to be introduced to our chief investigator, I can produce him.’
‘Where is he?’ said Frodo, looking round, as if he expected a masked and sinister figure to come out of a cupboard.
‘Step forward, Sam!’ said Merry; and Sam stood up with a face scarlet up to the ears. ‘Here’s our collector of information! And he collected a lot, I can tell you, before he was finally caught. After which, I may say, he seemed to regard himself as on parole, and dried up.’
‘Sam!’ cried Frodo, feeling that amazement could go no further, and quite unable to decide whether he felt angry, amused, relieved, or merely foolish.
‘Yes, sir!’ said Sam. ‘Begging your pardon, sir! But I meant no wrong to you, Mr. Frodo, nor to Mr. Gandalf for that matter. He has some sense, mind you; and when you said go alone, he said no! take someone as you can trust.’
‘But it does not seem that I can trust anyone,’ said Frodo.
Sam looked at him unhappily. ‘It all depends on what you want,’ put in Merry. ‘You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin – to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours – closer than you keep it yourself. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo. Anyway: there it is. We know most of what Gandalf has told you. We know a good deal about the Ring. We are horribly afraid – but we are coming with you; or following you like hounds.’
‘And after all, sir,’ added Sam, ‘you did ought to take the Elves’ advice. Gildor said you should take them as was willing, and you can’t deny it.’
‘I don’t deny it,’ said Frodo, looking at Sam, who was now grinning. ‘I don’t deny it, but I’ll never believe you are sleeping again, whether you snore or not. I shall kick you hard to make sure.
‘You are a set of deceitful scoundrels!’ he said, turning to the others. ‘But bless you!’ he laughed, getting up and waving his arms, ‘I give in. I will take Gildor’s advice. If the danger were not so dark, I should dance for joy. Even so, I cannot help feeling happy; happier than I have felt for a long time. I had dreaded this evening.’
‘Good! That’s settled. Three cheers for Captain Frodo and company!’ they shouted; and they danced round him. Merry and Pippin began a song, which they had apparently got ready for the occasion.
It was made on the model of the dwarf-song that started Bilbo on his adventure long ago, and went to the same tune:
Farewell we call to hearth and hall!
Though wind may blow and rain may fall,
We must away ere break of day
Far over wood and mountain tall.
To Rivendell, where Elves yet dwell
In glades beneath the misty fell,
Through moor and waste we ride in haste,
And whither then we cannot tell.
With foes ahead, behind us dread,
Beneath the sky shall be our bed,
Until at last our toil be passed,
Our journey done, our errand sped.
We must away! We must away!
We ride before the break of day!
‘Fair lady!’ said Frodo again after a while. ‘Tell me, if my asking does not seem foolish, who is Tom Bombadil?’
‘He is,’ said Goldberry, staying her swift movements and smiling.
Frodo looked at her questioningly. ‘He is, as you have seen him,’ she said in answer to his look. ‘He is the Master of wood, water, and hill.’
‘Then all this strange land belongs to him?’
‘No indeed!’ she answered, and her smile faded. ‘That would indeed be a burden,’ she added in a low voice, as if to herself. ‘The trees and the grasses and all things growing or living in the land belong each to themselves. Tom Bombadil is the Master. No one has ever caught old Tom walking in the forest, wading in the water, leaping on the hill-tops under light and shadow. He has no fear. Tom Bombadil is master.’
The air was growing very warm again. The hobbits ran about for a while on the grass, as he told them. Then they lay basking in the sun with the delight of those that have been wafted suddenly from bitter winter to a friendly clime, or of people that, after being long ill and bedridden, wake one day to find that they are unexpectedly well and the day is again full of promise.
For a moment he wondered if the Ring itself had not played him a trick; perhaps it had tried to reveal itself in response to some wish or command that was felt in the room.
‘Well?’ said Strider. ‘When are you going to open that letter?’ Frodo looked carefully at the seal before he broke it. It seemed certainly to be Gandalf’s. Inside, written in the wizard’s strong but graceful script, was the following message:
THE PRANCING PONY, BREE. Midyear’s Day, Shire Year, 1418.
Bad news has reached me here. I must go off at once. You had better leave Bag End soon, and get out of the Shire before the end of July at latest. I will return as soon as I can; and I will follow you, if I find that you are gone. Leave a message for me here, if you pass through Bree. You can trust the landlord (Butterbur). You may meet a friend of mine on the Road: a Man, lean, dark, tall, by some called Strider. He knows our business and will help you. Make for Rivendell. There I hope we may meet again. If I do not come, Elrond will advise you.
Yours in haste
PS. Do NOT use It again, not for any reason whatever! Do not travel by night!
PPS. Make sure that it is the real Strider. There are many strange men on the roads. His true name is Aragorn.
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
PPPS. I hope Butterbur sends this promptly. A worthy man, but his memory is like a lumber-room: thing wanted always buried. If he forgets, I shall roast him.
‘But I am the real Strider, fortunately,’ he said, looking down at them with his face softened by a sudden smile. ‘I am Aragorn son of Arathorn; and if by life or death I can save you, I will.’
Sam leading the pony, which was laden with as much of their baggage as they had the heart to give it; but already it looked less dejected, as if it approved of the change in its fortunes. Sam was chewing an apple thoughtfully. He had a pocket full of them: a parting present from Nob and Bob. ‘Apples for walking, and a pipe for sitting,’ he said. ‘But I reckon I’ll miss them both before long.’
Gil-galad was an Elven-king.
Of him the harpers sadly sing:
The last whose realm was fair and free
Between the Mountains and the Sea.
His sword was long, his lance was keen,
His shining helm afar was seen;
The countless stars of heaven’s field
Were mirrored in his silver shield.
But long ago he rode away,
And where he dwelleth none can say;
For into darkness fell his star
In Mordor where the shadows are.
Glóin looked at Frodo and smiled. ‘You were very fond of Bilbo were you not?’ he asked.
‘Yes,’ answered Frodo. ‘I would rather see him than all the towers and palaces in the world.
‘I understand now,’ he said. ‘Put it away! I am sorry: sorry you have come in for this burden; sorry about everything. Don’t adventures ever have an end? I suppose not. Someone else always has to carry on the story. Well, it can’t be helped. I wonder if it’s any good trying to finish my book? But don’t let’s worry about it now—let’s have some real News! Tell me all about the Shire!’
‘If Gondor, Boromir, has been a stalwart tower, we have played another part. Many evil things there are that your strong walls and bright swords do not stay. You know little of the lands beyond your bounds. Peace and freedom, do you say? The North would have known them little but for us. Fear would have destroyed them. But when dark things come from the houseless hills, or creep from sunless woods, they fly from us. What roads would any dare to tread, what safety would there be in quiet lands, or in the homes of simple men at night, if the Dúnedain were asleep, or were all gone into the grave?
‘And yet less thanks have we than you. Travellers scowl at us, and countrymen give us scornful names. “Strider” I am to one fat man who lives within a day’s march of foes that would freeze his heart, or lay his little town in ruin, if he were not guarded ceaselessly. Yet we would not have it otherwise. If simple folk are free from care and fear, simple they will be, and we must be secret to keep them so. That has been the task of my kindred, while the years have lengthened and the grass has grown.
‘But now the world is changing once again. A new hour comes. Isildur’s Bane is found. Battle is at hand. The Sword shall be reforged. I will come to Minas Tirith.’
And here you will stay, Gandalf the Grey, and rest from journeys. For I am Saruman the Wise, Saruman RIngmaker, Saruman of Many Colours!”
‘I looked then and saw that his robes, which had seemed white, were not so, but were woven of all colours, and if he moved they shimmered and changed hue so that the eye was bewildered.
‘“I liked white better,” I said.
‘“White!” he sneered. “It serves as a beginning. White cloth may be dyed. The white page can be overwritten; and the white light can be broken.”
‘“In which case it is no longer white,” said I. “And he that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom.”
‘And there is one among them that might have been foaled in the morning of the world. The horses of the Nine cannot vie with him; tireless, swift as the flowing wind. Shadowfax they called him. By day his coat glistens like silver; and by night it is like a shade, and he passes unseen. Light is his footfall!
‘Say rather that the Ring has no power over him. He is his own master.
‘Not safe for ever,’ said Gandalf. ‘There are many things in the deep waters; and seas and lands may change. And it is not our part here to take thought only for a season, or for a few lives of Men, or for a passing age of the world. We should seek a final end of this menace, even if we do not hope to make one.’
‘Alas, no,’ said Elrond. ‘We cannot use the Ruling Ring. That we now know too well. It belongs to Sauron and was made by him alone, and is altogether evil. Its strength, Boromir, is too great for anyone to wield at will, save only those who have already a great power of their own. But for them it holds an even deadlier peril. The very desire of it corrupts the heart. Consider Saruman. If any of the Wise should with this Ring overthrow the Lord of Mordor, using his own arts, he would then set himself on Sauron’s throne, and yet another Dark Lord would appear. And that is another reason why the Ring should be destroyed: as long as it is in the world it will be a danger even to the Wise. For nothing is evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so. I fear to take the Ring to hide it. I will not take the Ring to wield it.’
‘Nor I,’ said Gandalf.
‘The Three were not made by Sauron, nor did he ever touch them. But of them it is not permitted to speak. So much only in this hour of doubt I may now say. They are not idle. But they were not made as weapons of war or conquest: that is not their power. Those who made them did not desire strength or domination or hoarded wealth, but understanding, making, and healing, to preserve all things unstained. These things the Elves of Middle-earth have in some measure gained, though with sorrow. But all that has been wrought by those who wield the Three will turn to their undoing, and their minds and hearts will become revealed to Sauron, if he regains the One. It would be better if the Three had never been. That is his purpose.’
‘But what then would happen, if the Ruling Ring were destroyed, as you counsel?’ asked Glóin.
‘We know not for certain,’ answered Elrond sadly. ‘Some hope that the Three Rings, which Sauron has never touched, would then become free, and their rulers might heal the hurts of the world that he has wrought. But maybe when the One has gone, the Three will fail, and many fair things will fade and be forgotten. That is my belief.’
‘Yet all the Elves are willing to endure this chance,’ said Glorfindel, ‘if by it the power of Sauron may be broken, and the fear of his dominion be taken away for ever.’
‘Thus we return once more to the destroying of the Ring,’ said Erestor, ‘and yet we come no nearer. What strength have we for the finding of the Fire in which it was made? That is the path of despair. Of folly I would say, if the long wisdom of Elrond did not forbid me.’
‘Despair, or folly?’ said Gandalf. ‘It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not. It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope. Well, let folly be our cloak, a veil before the eyes of the Enemy! For he is very wise, and weighs all things to a nicety in the scales of his malice. But the only measure that he knows is desire, desire for power; and so he judges all hearts. Into his heart the thought will not enter that any will refuse it, that having the Ring we may seek to destroy it. If we seek this, we shall put him out of reckoning.
‘At least for a while,’ said Elrond. ‘The road must be trod, but it will be very hard. And neither strength nor wisdom will carry us far upon it. This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.’
For a while the hobbits continued to talk and think of the past journey and of the perils that lay ahead; but such was the virtue of the land of Rivendell that soon all fear and anxiety was lifted from their minds. The future, good or ill, was not forgotten, but ceased to have any power over the present. Health and hope grew strong in them, and they were content with each good day as it came, taking pleasure in every meal and in every word and song.
‘The Company of the Ring shall be Nine; and the Nine Walkers shall be set against the Nine Riders that are evil. With you and your faithful servant, Gandalf will go; for this shall be his great task, and maybe the end of his labours.
‘For the rest, they shall represent the other Free Peoples of the World: Elves, Dwarves, and Men. Legolas shall be for the Elves; and Gimli son of Glóin for the Dwarves. They are willing to go at least to the passes of the Mountains, and maybe beyond. For men you shall have Aragorn son of Arathorn, for the Ring of Isildur concerns him closely.’
‘Strider!’ cried Frodo.
‘Yes,’ he said with a smile. ‘I ask leave once again to be your companion, Frodo.’
‘I would have begged you to come,’ said Frodo, ‘only I thought you were going to Minas Tirith with Boromir.’
‘I am,’ said Aragorn. ‘And the Sword-that-was-Broken shall be re-forged ere I set out to war. But your road and our road lie together for many hundreds of miles. Therefore Boromir will also be in the Company. He is a valiant man.’
‘There remain two more to be found,’ said Elrond. ‘These I will consider. Of my household I may find some that it seems good to me to send.’
‘But that will leave no place for us!’ cried Pippin in dismay. ‘We don’t want to be left behind. We want to go with Frodo.’
‘That is because you do not understand and cannot imagine what lies ahead,’ said Elrond.
‘Neither does Frodo,’ said Gandalf, unexpectedly supporting Pippin. ‘Nor do any of us see clearly. It is true that if these hobbits understood the danger, they would not dare to go. But they would still wish to go, or wish that they dared, and be shamed and unhappy. I think, Elrond, that in this matter it would be well to trust rather to their friendship than to great wisdom. Even if you chose for us an Elf-lord, such as Glorfindel, he could not storm the Dark Tower, nor open the road to the Fire by the power that is in him.’
‘You speak gravely,’ said Elrond, ‘but I am in doubt. The Shire, I forebode, is not free now from peril; and these two I had thought to send back there as messengers, to do what they could, according to the fashion of their country, to warn the people of their danger. In any case, I judge that the younger of these two, Peregrin Took, should remain. My heart is against his going.’
‘Then, Master Elrond, you will have to lock me in prison, or send me home tied in a sack,’ said Pippin. ‘For otherwise I shall follow the Company.’
‘Let it be so then. You shall go,’ said Elrond, and he sighed. ‘Now the tale of Nine is filled. In seven days the Company must depart.’
At that moment Elrond came out with Gandalf, and he called the Company to him. ‘This is my last word,’ he said in a low voice. ‘The Ring-bearer is setting out on the Quest of Mount Doom. On him alone is any charge laid: neither to cast away the Ring, nor to deliver it to any servant of the Enemy nor indeed to let any handle it, save members of the Company and the Council, and only then in gravest need. The others go with him as free companions, to help him on his way. You may tarry, or come back, or turn aside into other paths, as chance allows. The further you go, the less easy will it be to withdraw; yet no oath or bond is laid on you to go further than you will. For you do not yet know the strength of your hearts, and you cannot foresee what each may meet upon the road.’
‘Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens,’ said Gimli.
‘Maybe,’ said Elrond, ‘but let him not vow to walk in the dark, who has not seen the nightfall.’
‘Yet sworn word may strengthen quaking heart,’ said Gimli.
‘Or break it,’ said Elrond. ‘Look not too far ahead! But go now with good hearts! Farewell, and may the blessing of Elves and Men and all Free Folk go with you. May the stars shine upon your faces!’
‘If you wish to know, I will tell you that these doors open outwards. From the inside you may thrust them open with your hands. From the outside nothing will move them save the spell of command. They cannot be forced inwards.’
‘What are you going to do then?’ asked Pippin, undaunted by the wizard’s bristling brows.
‘Knock on the doors with your head, Peregrin Took,’ said Gandalf. ‘But if that does not shatter them, and I am allowed a little peace from foolish questions, I will seek for the opening words.’
But now his thoughts had been carried away from the dark Mines, to Rivendell, to Bilbo, and to Bag End in the days while Bilbo was still there. He wished with all his heart that he was back there, and in those days, mowing the lawn, or pottering among the flowers, and that he had never heard of Moria, or mithril—or the Ring.
The Balrog reached the bridge. Gandalf stood in the middle of the span, leaning on the staff in his left hand, but in his other hand Glamdring gleamed, cold and white. His enemy halted again, facing him, and the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings. It raised the whip, and the thongs whined and cracked. Fire came from its nostrils. But Gandalf stood firm.
‘You cannot pass,’ he said. The orcs stood still, and a dead silence fell. ‘I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn. Go back to the shadow! You cannot pass.’
The Balrog made no answer. The fire in it seemed to die, but the darkness grew. It stepped forward slowly on the bridge, and suddenly it drew itself up to a great height, and its wings were spread from wall to wall; but still Gandalf could be seen, glimmering in the gloom; he seemed small, and altogether alone: grey and bent, like a wizened tree before the onset of a storm.
From out of the shadow a red sword leaped flaming.
Glamdring glittered white in answer.
There was a ringing clash and a stab of white fire. The Balrog fell back, and its sword flew up in molten fragments. The wizard swayed on the bridge, stepped back a pace, and then again stood still.
‘You cannot pass!’ he said.
With a bound the Balrog leaped full upon the bridge. Its whip whirled and hissed.
‘He cannot stand alone!’ cried Aragorn suddenly and ran back along the bridge. ‘Elendil!’ he shouted. ‘I am with you, Gandalf!’
‘Gondor!’ cried Boromir and leaped after him.
At that moment Gandalf lifted his staff, and crying aloud he smote the bridge before him. The staff broke asunder and fell from his hand. A blinding sheet of white flame sprang up. The bridge cracked. Right at the Balrog’s feet it broke, and the stone upon which it stood cracked into the gulf, while the rest remained, poised, quivering like a tongue of rock thrust out into emptiness.
With a terrible cry the Balrog fell forward, and its shadow plunged down and vanished. But even as it fell it swung its whip, and the thongs lashed and curled about the wizard’s knees, dragging him to the brink. He staggered and fell, grasped vainly at the stone, and slid into the abyss. ‘Fly, you fools!’ he cried, and was gone.
They looked back. Dark yawned the archway of the Gates under the mountain-shadow. Faint and far beneath the earth rolled the slow drum-beats: doom. A thin black smoke trailed out. Nothing else was to be seen; the dale all around was empty. Doom. Grief at last wholly overcame them, and they wept long: some standing and silent, some cast upon the ground. Doom, doom. The drum-beats faded.
‘Now, friends,’ said Haldir. ‘you have entered the Naith of Lórien, or the Gore, as you would say, for it is the land that lies like a spearhead between the arms of Silverlod and Anduin the Great. We allow no strangers to spy out the secrets of the Naith. Few indeed are permitted even to set foot there.
‘As was agreed, I shall here blindfold the eyes of Gimli the Dwarf. The others may walk free for a while, until we come nearer to our dwellings, down in Egladil, in the Angle between the waters.’
This was not at all to the liking of Gimli. ‘The agreement was made without my consent,’ he said. ‘I will not walk blindfol, like a beggar or a prisoner. And I am no spy. My folk have never had dealings with any of the servants of the Enemy. Neither have we done harm to the Elves. I am no more likely to betray you than Legolas, or any other of my companions.’
‘I do not doubt you,’ said Haldir. ‘Yet this is our law. I am not the master of the law, and cannot set it aside. I have done much in letting you set foot over Celebrant.’
Gimli was obstinate. He planted his feet firmly apart, and laid his hand upon the haft of his axe. ‘I will go forward free,’ he said, ‘or I will go back and seek my own land, where I am known to be true of word, though I perish alone in the wilderness.’
‘You cannot go back,’ said Haldir sternly. ‘Now you have come thus far, you must be brough before the Lord and the Lady. They shall judge you, to hold you or to give you leave, as they will. You cannot cross the rivers again, and behind you there are now secret sentinels that you cannot pass. You would be slain before you saw them.’
Gimli drew his axe from his belt. Haldir and his companion bent their bows. ‘A plague on Dwarves and their stiff necks!’ said Legolas.
‘Come!’ said Aragorn. ‘If I am still to lead this Company, you must do as I bid. It is hard upon the Dwarf to be thus singled out. We wll all be blindfold, even Legolas. That will be best, though it will make the journey slow and dull.’
Gimli laughed suddenly. ‘A merry troop of fools we shall look! Will Haldir lead us all on a string, like many blind beggars with one dog? But I will be consent, if only Legolas here shares my blindness.’
‘I am an Elf and a kinsman here,’ said Legolas, becoming angry in his turn.
‘Now let us cry: “a plague on the stiff necks of Elves!”’ said Aragorn. ‘But the Company shall all fare alike. Come, bind our eyes, Haldir!’
‘I shall claim full amends for every fall and stubbed toe, if you do not lead us well,’ said Gimli as they bound a cloth about his eyes.
‘You will have no claim,’ said Haldir. ‘I shall lead you well, and the paths are smooth and straight.’
‘Alas for the folly of these days!’ said Legolas. ‘Here all are enemies of the one Enemy, and yet I must walk blind, while the sun is merry in the woodland under leaves of gold!’
‘Folly it may seem,’ said Haldir. ‘Indeed in nothing is the power of the Dark Lord more clearly shown than in the estrangement that divides all those who still oppose him. Yet so little faith and trust do we find now in the world beyond Lothlórien, unless maybe in Rivendell, that we dare not by our own trust endanger our land. We live now upon an island amid many perils, and our hands are more often upon the bowstring than upon the harp.
‘The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.’
As soon as he set foot upon the far bank of Silverlode a strange feeling had come upon him, and it deepend as he walked on into the Naith: it seemed to him that he had stepped over a bridge of time into a corner of the Elder Days, and was not walking in a world that was no more. In Rivendell there was memory of ancient things; in Lórien the ancient things still lived on in the waking world. Evil had been seen and heard there, sorrow had been kwnon; the Elves feared and distrusted the world outside: wolves were howling on the wood’s borders: but on the land of Lórien no shadow lay.
At the hill’s foot Frodo found Aragorn, standing still and silent as a tree; but in his hand was a small golden bloom of elanor, and a light was in his eyes. He was wrapped in some fair memory: and as Frodo looked at him he knew that he beheld things as they once had been in the same place. For the grim years were removed from the face of Aragorn, and he seemed clothed in white, a young lord tall and fair; and he spoke words in the Elvish tongue to one whom Frodo could not see. Arwen vanimelda, namárië! he said, and then he drew a breath, and returning out of his thought he looked at Frodo and smiled.
‘Here is the heart of Elvendom on earth,’ he said, ‘and here my heart dwells ever, unless there be a light beyond the dark roads that we still must tread, you and I. Come with me!’ And taking Frodo’s hand in his, he left the hill of Cerin Amroth and came there never again as living man.
‘Welcome Gimli son of Glóin! It is long indeed since we saw one of Durin’s folk in Caras Galadhon. But today we have broken our long law. May it be a sign that though the world is now dark better days are at hand, and that friendship shall be renewed between our peoples.’ Gimli bowed low.
‘He would be rash indeed that said that thing,’ said Galadriel gravely. ‘Needless were none of the deeds of Gandalf in life. Those that followed him knew not his mind and cannot report his full purpose. But however it may be with the guide, the followers are blameless. Do not repent of your welcome to the Dwarf. If our folk had been exiled long and far from Lothlórien, who of the Galadhrim, even Celeborn the Wise, would pass nigh and would not wish to look upon their ancient home, though it had become an abode of dragons?
‘Dark is the water of Kheled-zâram, and cold are the springs of Kibil-nâla, and fair were the many-pillared halls of Khazad-dûm in Elder Days before the fall of mighty kings beneath the stone.’ She looked upon Gimli, who sat glowering and sad, and she smiled. And the Dwarf, hearing the names given in his own ancient tongue, looked up and met her eyes; and it seemed to him that he looked suddenly into the heart of an enemy and saw there love and understanding. Wonder came into his face, and then he smiled in answer.
He rose clumsily and bowed in dwarf-fashion, saying: ‘Yet more fair is the living land of Lórien, and the Lady Galadriel is above all the jewels that lie beneath the earth!’
‘Well, have a care!’ said Boromir. ‘I do not feel too sure of this Elvish Lady and her purposes.’
‘Speak no evil of the Lady Galadriel!’ said Aragorn sternly. ‘You know not what you say. There is in her and in this land no evil, unless a man bring it hither himself. Then let him beware! But tonight I shall sleep without fear for the first time since I left Rivendell. And may I sleep deep, and forget for a while my grief! I am weary in body and in heart.’ He cast himself down upon his couch and fell at once into a long sleep.
Legolas was away much among the Galadhrim, and after the first night he did not sleep with the other companions, though he returned to eat and talk with them. Often he took Gimli with him when he went abroad in the land, and the others wondered at this change.
Now as the companions sat or walked together they spoke of Gandalf, and all that each had known and seen of him came clear before their minds. As they were healed of hurt and weariness of body the grief of their loss grew more keen. Often they heard nearby Elvish voices singing, and knew that they were making songs of lamentation for his fall, for they caught his name among the sweet sad words that they could not understand.
Mithrandir, Mithrandir sand the Elves, O Pilgrim Grey! For so they loved to call him. But if Legolas was with the Company, he would not interpret the songs for them, saying that he had not the skill, and that for him the grief was still too near, a matter for tears and not yet for song.
It was Frodo who first put something of his sorrow into halting words. He was seldom moved to make song or rhyme; even in Rivendell he had listened and had not sung himself, though his memory was stored with many things that others had made before him. But now as he sat beside the fountain in Lórien and heard about him the voices of the Elves, his thought took shape in a song that seemed fair to him; yet when he tried to repeat it to Sam only snatches remained, faded as a handful of withered leaves.
When evening in the Shire was grey
his footsteps on the Hill were heard;
before the dawn he went away
on journey long without a word.
From Wilderland to Western shore,
from northern waste to southern hill,
through dragon-lair and hidden door
and darkling woods he walked at will.
With Dwarf and Hobbit, Elves and Men,
with mortal and immortal folk,
with bird on bough and beast in den,
in their own secret tongues he spoke.
A deadly sword, a healing hand,
a back that bent beneath its load;
a trumpet-voice, a burning brand,
a weary pilgrim on the road.
A lord of wisdom throned he sat,
swift in anger, quick to laugh;
an old man in a battered hat
who leaned upon a thorny staff.
He stood upon the bridge alone
and Fire and Shadow both defied;
his staff was broken on the stone,
in Khazad-dûm his wisdom died.
‘I don’t want to leave. All the same, I’m beginning to feel that if we’ve got to go on, then we’d best get it over.
‘It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish, as my old gaffer used to say.’
‘You are wise and fearless and fair, Lady Galadriel,’ said Frodo. ‘I will give you the One Ring, if you ask for it. It is too great a matter for me.’
Galadriel laughed with a sudden clear laugh. ‘Wise the Lady Galadriel may be,’ she said, ‘yet here she has met her match in courtesy. Gently are you revenged for my testing of your heart at our first meeting. You begin to see with a keen yee. I do not deny that my heart has greatly desired to ask what you offer. For many long years I had pondered what I might do, should the Great Ring come into my hands, and behold! it was brought within my grasp. The evil that was devised long ago works on in many ways, whether Sauron himself stands or fails. Would not that have been a noble deed to set to the credit of his Ring, if I had taken it by force and fear from my guest?
‘And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!’
She lifted up her hand and from the ring that she wrote there issued a great light that illumined her alone and left all else dark. She stood before Frodo seeming now tall beyond measurement, and beautiful beyond enduring, terrible and worshipful. Then she let her hand fall, and the light faded, and suddenly she laughed again, and lo! she was shrunken: a slender elf-woman, clad in simple white, whose gentle voice was soft and sad.
‘I pass the test,’ she said. ‘I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.’
That night the Company was again summoned to the chamber of Celeborn, and there the Lord and Lady greeted them with fair words. At length Celeborn spoke of their departure.
‘Now is the time,’ he said, ‘when those who wish to continue the Quest must harden their hearts to leave this land. Those who no longer wish to go forward may remain here, for a while. But whether they stay or go, none can be sure of peace. For we are come now to the edge of doom. Here those who wish may await the oncoming of the hour till either the ways of the world lie open again, or we summon them to the last need of Lórien. Then they may return to their own lands, or else go to the long home of those that fall in battle.’
There was a silence. ‘They all resolved to go forward,’ said Galadriel looking in their eyes.
‘Here is the gift of Celeborn and Galadriel to the leader of your Company,’ she said to Aragorn, and she gave him a sheath that had been made to fit his sword. It was overlaid with a tracery of flowers and leaves wrought of silver and gold, and on it were set in elven-runes formed of many gems the name Andúril and the lineage of the sword.
‘The blade that is drawn from this sheath shall not be stained or broken even in defeat,’ she said. ‘But is there aught else that you desire of me at our parting? For darkness will flow between us, and it may be that we shall not meet again, unless it be far hence upon a road that has no returning.’
And Aragorn answered: ‘Lady, you know all my desire, and long held in keeping the only treasure that I seek. Yet it is not yours to give me, even if you would; and only through darkness shall I come to it.’
‘Yet maybe this will lighten your heart,’ said Galadriel; ‘for it was left in my care to be given to you, should you pass through this land.’ Then she lifted from her lap a great stone of a clear green, set in a silver brooch that was wrought in the likeness of an eagle with outspread wings; and as she held it up the gem flashed like the sun shining through the leaves of spring. ‘This stone I gave to Celebrían my daughter, and she to hers; and now it comes to you as a token of hope. In this hour take the name that was foretold for you, Elessar, the Elfstone of the House of Elendil!’
Then Aragorn took the stone and pinned the brooch upon his breast, and those who saw him wondered; for they had not marked before how tall and kingly he stood, and it seemed to them that many years of toil had fallen from his shoulders. ‘For the gifts that you have given me I thank you,’ he said, ‘O Lady of Lórien of whom were sprung Celebrían and Arwen Evenstar. What praise could I say more?’
The Lady bowed her head, and she turned then to Boromir, and to him she gave a belt of gold; and to Merry and Pippin she gave small silver belts, each with a clasp wrought like a golden flower. To Legolas she gave a bow such as the Galadhrim used, longer and stouter than the bows of Mirkwood, and strung with a string of elf-hair. With it went a quiver of arrows.
‘For you little gardener and lover of trees,’ she said to Sam, ‘I have only a small gift.’ She put into his hand a little box of plain grey wood, unadorned save for a single silver rune upon the lid. ‘Here is set G for Galadriel,’ she said; ‘but also it may stand for garden in your tongue. In this box there is earth from my orchard, and such blessing as Galadriel has still to bestow is upon it. It will not keep you on your road, nor defend you against any peril; but if you keep it and see your home again at last, then perhaps it may reward you. Though you should find all barren and laid waste, there will be few gardens in Middle-earth that will bloom like your garden, if you sprinkle this earth there. Then you may remember Galadriel, and catch a glimpse far off of Lórien, that you have seen only in our winter. For our Spring and our Summer are gone by, and they will never be seen on earth again save in memory.’
Sam went red to the ears and muttered something inaudible, as he clutched the box and bowed as well as he could.
‘And what gift would a Dwarf ask of the Elves?’ said Galadriel, turning to Gimli.
‘None, Lady,’ answered Gimli. ‘It is enough for me to have seen the Lady of the Galadhrim, and to have heard her gentle words.’
‘Hear all ye Elves!’ she cried to those about her. ‘Let none say again that Dwarves are grasping and ungracious! Yet surely, Gimli son of Glóin, you desire something that I could give? Name it, I bid you! You shall not be the only guest without a gift.’
‘There is nothing, Lady Galadriel,’ said Gimli, bowing low and stammering. ‘Nothing, unless it might be – unless it is permitted to ask, nay, to name a single strand of your hair, which surpasses the gold of the earth as the stars surpass the gems of the mine. I do not ask for such a gift. But you commanded me to name my desire.’
The Elves stirred and murmured with astonishment, and Celeborn gazed at the Dwarf in wonder, but the Lady smiled. ‘It is said that the skill of the Dwarves is in their hands rather than in their tongues,’ she said; ‘yet that is not true of Gimli. For none have ever made to me a request so bold and yet so courteous. And how shall I refuse, since I commanded him to speak? But tell me, what would you do with such a gift?’
‘Treasure it, Lady,’ he answered, ‘in memory of your words to me at our first meeting. And if ever I return to the smithies of my home, it shall be set in imperishable crystal to be an heirloom of my house, and a pledge of good will between the Mountain and the Wood until the end of days.’
Then the Lady unbraided one of her long tresses, and cut off three golden hairs, and laid them in Gimli’s hand. ‘These words shall go with the gift,’ she said. ‘I do not foretell, for all foretelling is now vain: on the one hand lies darkness, and on the other only hope. But if hope should not fail, then I say to you, Gimli son of Glóin, that your hands shall flow with gold, and yet over you gold shall have no dominion.
‘And you, Ring-bearer,’ she said, turning to Frodo. ‘I come to you last who are not last in my thoughts. For you I have prepared this.’ She held up a small crystal phial: it glittered as she moved it, and rays of white light sprang from her hand. ‘In this phial,’ she said, ‘is caught the light of Eärendil’s star, set amid the waters of my fountain. It will shine still brighter when night is about you. May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out. Remember Galadriel and her Mirror!’
Frodo took the phial, and for a moment as it shone between them, he saw her again standing like a queen, great and beautiful, but no longer terrible. He bowed, but found no words to say.
The travellers now turned their faces to the journey; the sun was before them, and their eyes were dazzled, for all were filled with tears. Gimli wept openly.
‘I have looked the last upon that which was fairest,’ he said to Legolas his companion. ‘Henceforward I will call nothing fair, unless it be her gift.’ He put his hand to his breast.
‘Tell me, Legolas, why did I come on this Quest? Little did I know where the chief peril lay! Truly Elrond spoke, saying that we could not foresee what we might meet upon our road. Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back. But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy. Now I have taken my worst wound in this parting, even if I were to go this night straight to the Dark Lord. Alas for Gimli son of Glóin!’
‘Nay!’ said Legolas. ‘Alas for us all! And for all that walk the world in these after-days. For such is the way of it: to find and lose, as it seems to those whose boat is on the running stream. But I count you blessed, Gimli son of Glóin: for your loss you suffer of your own free will, and you might have chosen otherwise. But you have not forsaken your companions, and the least reward that you shall have is that the memory of Lothlórien shall remain ever clear and unstained in your heart, and shall neither fade nor grow stale.’
‘Maybe,’ said Gimli; ‘and I thank you for your words. True words doubtless; yet all such comfort is cold. Memory is not what the heart desires. That is only a mirror, be it clear as Kheled-zâram. Or so says the heart of Gimli the Dwarf. Elves may see things otherwise. Indeed I have heard that for them memory is more like to the waking world than to a dream. Not so for Dwarves.
‘But let us talk no more of it. Look to the boat! She is too low in the water with all this baggage, and the Great River is swift. I do not wish to drown my grief in cold water.’ He took up a paddle, and steered towards the western bank, following Aragorn’s boat ahead, which had already moved out of the middle stream.
‘Fear not!’ said a strange voice behind him. Frodo turned and saw Strider, and yet not Strider; for the weatherworn Ranger was no longer there. In the stern sat Aragorn son of Arathorn, proud and erect, guiding the boat with skilful strokes; his hood was cast back, and his dark hair was blowing in the wind, a light was in his eyes: a king returning from exile to his own land.
‘Ah! The Ring!’ said Boromir, his eyes lighting. ‘The Ring! Is it not a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt for so small a thing? So small a thing! And I have seen it only for an instant in the house of Elrond. Could I not have a sight of it again?’
Frodo looked up. His heart went suddenly cold. He caught the strange gleam in Boromir’s eyes, yet his face was still kind and friendly. ‘It is best that it should lie hidden,’ he answered.
‘As you wish. I care not,’ said Boromir. ‘Yet may I not even speak of it? For you seem ever to think only of its power in the hands of the Enemy: of its evil uses not of its good. The world is changing, you say. Minas Tirith will fall, if the Ring lasts. But why? Certainly, if the Ring were with the Enemy. But why, if it were with us?’
‘Were you not at the Council?’ answered Frodo. ‘Because we cannot use it, and what is done with it turns to evil.’
Boromir got up and walked about impatiently. ‘So you go on,’ he cried. ‘Gandalf, Elrond – all these folk have taught you to say so. For themselves they may be right. These elves and half-elves and wizards, they would come to grief perhaps. Yet often I doubt if they are wise and not merely timid. But each to his own kind. True-hearted Men, they will not be corrupted. We of Minas Tirith have been staunch through long years of trial. We do not desire the power of wizard-lords, only strength to defend ourselves, strength in a just cause. And behold! in our need chance brings to light the Ring of Power. It is a gift, I say; a gift to the foes of Mordor. It is mad not to use it, to use the power of the Enemy against him. The fearless, the ruthless, these alone will achieve victory. What could not a warrior do in this hour, a great leader? What could not Aragorn do? Or if he refuses, why not Boromir? The Ring would give me power of Command. How I would drive the hosts of Mordor, and all men would flock to my banner!’
Boromir strode up and down, speaking ever more loudly. Almost he seemed to have forgotten Frodo, while his talk dwelt on walls and weapons, and the mustering of men; and he drew plans for great alliances and glorious victories to be; and he cast down Mordor, and became himself a mighty king, benevolent and wise. Suddenly he stopped and waved his arms.
‘And they tell us to throw it away!’ he cried. ‘I do not say destroy it. That might be well, if reason could show any hope of doing so. It does not. The only plan that is proposed to us is that a halfling should walk blindly into Mordor and offer the Enemy every chance of recapturing it for himself. Folly!
‘Surely you see it, my friend?’ he said, turning now suddenly to Frodo again. ‘You say that you are afraid. If it is so, the boldest should pardon you. But is it not really your good sense that revolts?’
‘No, I am afraid,’ said Frodo. ‘Simply afraid. But I am glad to have heard you speak so fully. My mind is clearer now.’
‘Then you will come to Minas Tirith?’ cried Boromir. His eyes were shining and his face eager.
‘You misunderstand me,’ said Frodo.
‘But you will come, at least for a while?’ Boromir persisted. ‘My city is not far now; and it is little further from there to Mordor than from here. We have been long in the wilderness, and you need news of what the Enemy is doing before you make a move. Come with me, Frodo,’ he said. ‘You need rest before your venture, if go you must.’ He laid his hand on the hobbit’s shoulder in friendly fashion; but Frodo felt the hand trembling with suppressed excitement. He stepped quickly away, and eyed with alarm the tall Man, nearly twice his height and many times his match in strength.
‘Why are you so unfriendly?’ said Boromir. ‘I am a true man, neither thief nor tracker. I need your Ring: that you know now; but I give you my word that I do not desire to keep it. Will you not at least let me make trial of my plan? Lend me the Ring!’
‘No! no!’ cried Frodo. ‘The Council laid it upon me to bear it.’
‘It is by our own folly that the Enemy will defeat us,’ cried Boromir. ‘How it angers me! Fool! Obstinate fool! Running wilfully to death and ruining our cause. If any mortals have claim to the Ring, it is the men of Númenor, and not Halflings. It is not yours save by unhappy chance. It might have been mine. It should be mine. Give it to me!’
Frodo did not answer, but moved away till the great flat stone stood between them. ‘Come, come, my friend!’ said Boromir in a softer voice. ‘Why not get rid of it? Why not be free of your doubt and fear? You can lay the blame on me, if you will. You can say that I was too strong and took it by force. For I am too strong for you, halfling,’ he cried; and suddenly he sprang over the stone and leaped at Frodo. His fair and pleasant face was hideously changed; a raging fire was in his eyes.
Frodo dodged aside and again put the stone between them. There was only one thing he could do: trembling he pulled out the Ring upon its chain and quickly slipped it on his finger, even as Boromir sprang at him again. The Man gasped, stared for a moment amazed, and then ran wildly about, seeking here and there among the rocks and trees.
‘Miserable trickster!’ he shouted. ‘Let me get my hands on you! Now I see your mind. You will take the Ring to Sauron and sell us all. You have only waited your chance to leave us in the lurch. Curse you and all halflings to death and darkness!’ Then, catching his foot on a stone, he fell sprawling and lay upon his face. For a while he was as still as if his own curse had struck him down; then suddenly he wept.
He rose and passed his hand over his eyes, dashing away the tears. ‘What have I said?’ he cried. ‘What have I done? Frodo, Frodo!’ he called. ‘Come back! A madness took me, but it has passed. Come back!’
Information on the book: https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Lord_of_the_Rings_Set/tAlLzQEACAAJ?hl=en