Chapter 6 The Mallorn Tree

Frodo had finally finished the carving he'd been working on. He leaned it up against the mantel shelf and stood back with his hands in his pockets, looking it over critically. It wasn't bad, he thought. He'd caught a sense of movement in the sails of the Elven ship, but best of all he'd caught the expression on Sam's face. Sam stood at the gangway hanging onto the rail, just before he stepped ashore onto Eressea, and his face blazed with joy like a lighted candle. Frodo smiled, remembering. He wondered what his own face had looked like at that moment. A mirror image of Sam's, probably.

Samwise came in from the garden with a head of lettuce in each hand. "Well, we can have salad one more day, Mr. Frodo, but that's about the end of the garden for this year. That frost last night finished everything else. It's nice and warm this morning, though."

His eyes fell on the carving, and he laid the lettuce down on a chair, taking the wooden plaque in his hands. "So this is what you've been working on so secret!" He carried it over to the window and held it to the light.

"You get better with every piece you do, Mr. Frodo. You need to find a new model, though -- you've done about enough pictures of me."

Frodo laughed, taking the plaque from Sam and setting it back on the mantel. " I had to do this one, Sam. Galadriel requested it - she said your face when you landed was 'the most gladsome sight she'd seen in a long age of the world', and she never wanted to forget it. What's more, I agree with her."

"Well, I was happy enough to see you, Mr. Frodo! And I've been happy every day since." He gathered up his lettuce from the chair and carried it to the larder. "We've got a nice morning for a walk, should you want to take one, Mr. Frodo."

"Yes, I do. We still haven't been over to the south end, and there's something there I want you to see. We'd better go today, before we get another week of rain!"

They started out right after breakfast, setting a good pace until they reached the dunes and were slowed by walking in the loose sand. After two months on Eressea, Sam was far stronger than he had been, and the hike was a pleasure to him. From time to time there was a break in the dunes and they got glimpses of the sea, a deeper blue now that autumn was here. A honking of geese broke the quiet as they turned away inland, and the ragged flight formation passed above them.

By the time the sun was well overhead, they had come to the edge of a wide field. Pale seedheads of grass and clouds of fairy asters came up to their waists as they waded into it. In the middle of the field rose a mighty tree, a lone monarch in a sea of grass, its leaves gleaming golden in the sun. Halfway across the field, Sam realized what it was. He stopped and stared in disbelief.

"But Mr. Frodo, it's a mallorn! A mallorn tree!"

His blank astonishment set Frodo laughing. "Yes, Sam, it's a mallorn. Why, did you think the Shire had the only mallorn west of the mountains? Galadriel brought the seed with her when we came, and she planted it here so she'd always have a little piece of Lothlorien." After a pause, he continued thoughtfully, "But you know, it's a little piece of the Shire too, now. I used to come here often and sit under it, especially when I missed the Shire. Missed you, old friend."

Suddenly his face was very sober. "It nearly killed me to leave, Sam, after you stuck with me all that way. I never would have got to the Mountain without you, and I certainly would never have made it back home! You were the real hero of the tale. And then I go off and leave you! Oh, I felt like a traitor! But I felt a black traitor anyway -- when the final test came, I claimed the Ring, and nothing can change that. If it hadn't been for Smeagol...."

He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. "I used to wake up at night, thinking about it. If Smeagol hadn't taken it from me, what then? I know I couldn't have thrown it into the fire. The only way would have been to throw myself in, Ring and all. I wonder if I could have done it?"

Sam stared at him in horrified pity, then reached out and gathered him into a massive hug. "Mr. Frodo! My word, Mr. Frodo! No wonder you had to leave, if ithat's/ithe way you were thinking. And not thinking clear, mind you! Because you weren't in your right mind, so to speak, by the time we got to the Mountain, and it's no use to say any different."

He held Frodo at arm's length. "But there, you would go and torment yourself for it, all the same. It's the way you are, and I love you for it. But never a word to me! All I knew, you were going off to the Havens because your shoulder pained you, that old wound from the morgul blade." He shook his head. "I never could fathom why you left. It never seemed like enough of a reason, if you take my meaning.

"Well, now I understand, anyway. If you'll pardon me saying so, Mr. Frodo, you think too much! You're not still tormenting yourself that way, are you?"

Frodo laughed in spite of himself. "What, by thinking? No, Sam, not anymore. Not since -- well, I had a visitor one day. Under the mallorn, in fact. I was sitting in there -- come on, let's get under there, it's like a room, all cool and shady. You'll like it. We can talk there."

He pushed through the tall grass in a burst of speed that quickly left Sam behind. Sam panted along in his wake, quite unable to keep up. When Frodo reached the tree he looked back to see Sam still a good twenty yards behind, plodding along clutching his side.

"Oh Sam, I'm sorry!" He hurried back to offer his arm, but Samwise shook off the proffered help impatiently.

"That's all right, Mr. Frodo. I can walk all right; I just can't run. You may not be immortal here, but you haven't aged any, that's certain!"

Frodo chuckled and kept pace beside him. When they reached the tree he held one of the low branches aside so Sam could pass under it without ducking. "Here you are, Sam. How do you like my parlor?"

Samwise looked round in delight. The silver trunk of the mallorn rose like a great pillar from the grass. The branches sprang from the trunk many yards above their heads, a high ceiling of interlacing silver that came down around them like a tent, nearly touching the ground at its farthest tip. The room so enclosed was large and full of diffused golden light.

"Stars and glory, Mr. Frodo! This is something like! I'm only surprised you don't set up housekeeping in here entirely, and leave the hole behind. Though I suppose it would be a bit damp in the rain."

He sank to the ground, leaning against the massive tree trunk and stretching out his legs thankfully. "Ah, that's better! Now all we need is a cool drink and a bite to eat, and we could stop right here the rest of the afternoon. Have a bit of a nap, maybe, when we get done talking, and walk back in the sunset. We should've brought our lunch, Mr. Frodo."

Frodo smiled and turned out his pockets, producing two water bottles and several packets of food. "There you go, Sam! And that's not water in those bottles, that's good Elvish wine. Would I take you hiking over the island and not bring anything to eat? Give me credit for a little hobbit- sense!"

They fell to as if they hadn't eaten a large breakfast a couple of hours earlier, and nothing more was said for half an hour. At last Samwise sat back, stoppered his bottle, and ran the back of his hand across his mouth. "Much better," he said. "Now let's see what I have in imy/i pockets." He pulled out two pipes and a soft leather pouch.

"Sam Gamgee, you villain! I haven't smoked a pipe since I left the Shire, and you've had these in your pocket ever since you got here, and never said a word!"

Sam laughed and shrugged, handing him the pouch and one of the pipes.

"To own the truth, I'd forgotten them till just now. But a pipe goes well after a good meal, and with a good talk. And I want to hear about that visitor of yours, Mr. Frodo. Sounds to me like he did you more good than Gandalf and all the Elves, and I want to know what he did to put you right again. For you're all right now, sir, as right as anyone ever could be."

Frodo filled his pipe and lit it, taking his time. Finally he said, "Well, Sam, I don't know just how to tell you about him. The whole thing was very strange. He was a man, to start with -- and you know, they don't come to Eressea. Not ever, yet here he was, and he knew all about me. And I told him everything; I just broke down completely. And Sam, I'd never even seen him before, I have no idea where he came from. And I haven't seen him since."

They smoked in silence for a while, and Sam waited.

"Well, I asked him who he was, and he said he was a physician, come to heal me. And then I saw his hands! He had these awful open wounds on his hands, not healed at all, as if -- I don't know, spikes or something had been driven through them. There's some Elven tale, remember? about an Elven lord who was tormented by Morgoth, chained to a cliff and a spike driven through his hand? That's what his hands looked like, only it was both hands, and anyway he certainly wasn't an Elf.

"I asked him about the wounds, and he said he had fulfilled a Quest, a Quest to 'banish evil out of the hearts of his children'. That's how he put it, 'the hearts of his children', and then he said he was Iluvatar's Son. Have you ever heard of Iluvatar, Sam?"

Sam nodded, puffing on his pipe.

"Yes, Mr. Frodo, I have. In Minas Tirith it was, when I was there with Rose and Elanor. Queen Arwen was telling me some Elvish legend, how that Iluvatar, or maybe his Son, would enter right into creation and set things right. Put an end to evil, I guess you'd say. Someday. Iluvatar, that's the Elvish name for Eru, the One. But the time seems all wrong, Mr. Frodo. Everything was peaceful and that, when I left the Shire, but I wouldn't say that evil had been driven from the world. Not yet."

"No," Frodo agreed. "But that is what he said. And then, I can't describe it. His face got bright, brighter than the sun, and he said that whatever I had done wrong, or hadn't done that I should have, it was forgiven. It was like he just looked right inside me, and all of a sudden I felt clean through and through, and so happy I could have flown off into the sky like a bird!"

He stopped and looked at Samwise in some embarrassment. "You must think I've gone crazy, Sam."

Sam shook his head and smiled. "It's the right kind of crazy then, Mr. Frodo. You still look about happy enough to fly away. Don't you do it though, not without me! I don't want to go through that again."

Frodo laughed, then sobered. "There's more, Sam. He said -- well, he said he had been with us on all our journey. Even though we didn't know it, and it got me thinking. Why did the Eagles come just when they did, just in time to rescue us from the fire? Or way back in the beginning, when Gildor and his Elves came along just in time to drive away the Black Rider? Or Tom Bombadill, down by the Withywindle just the very day we needed him, when he wouldn't be there again till spring? There were so many times when it seemed like someone was helping us, protecting us."

"Mmm-hmm." Sam nodded, considering. "Or how about this, Mr. Frodo. You probably don't remember, you were that far gone, but on the side of Mt. Doom. I was carrying you, and halfway up my back just gave way. We were lying there resting, and suddenly it was like someone called us, said 'Get up, go on, or it'll be too late!' You felt it too, you got up right away, same as me. Only, who could have been calling us? But it was true, right enough! It would have been too late, if we'd have rested there much longer."

A sudden memory stirred in Sam, of midnight by a rushing stream and a man with knowing eyes. He said nothing, but regarded Frodo thoughtfully. After a few moments he nodded as if he'd made up his mind.

"What I think, Mr. Frodo, I think you really did meet Iluvatar's Son, whatever that may mean. And he healed you. And I thank him for that, with all my heart."

He fell silent, and for a time all was quiet under the tree. Finally Frodo knocked the ashes out of his pipe and stood, walking over to look out through the branches. "There's, well, there was one more thing, Sam."

Samwise had stretched out comfortably on the ground, his now cold pipe cupped in his hand, on the edge of falling asleep. He opened his eyes and looked at Frodo inquiringly. Frodo hesitated, his face troubled, and Sam sat up slowly.

"All right, Mr. Frodo. What's the one more thing?"

"He told me you were coming, Sam. He -- he said that now I was healed, I would have to go home soon. But I wouldn't have to go alone, because you were coming." Frodo had been staring out at the field as he spoke. He turned back now to find Samwise regarding him quizzically, half smiling.

"Home not meaning the Shire, I take it," Sam said quietly. "And you're wondering what I'm going to say to that, me having just got here, so to speak."

Frodo nodded. He came back and sat beside Samwise. "I don't really mind, not for myself. I've been here a long time. But for you......" His eyes were sorrowful.

Sam laughed softly and reached out to grip Frodo's shoulder, shaking him gently. "Mr. Frodo, I'm a hundred and two. I've had a long, full life, and very few regrets. And wherever "home" may be, my Rosie girl is there already.

" I didn't come to Eressea wanting to be immortal like the Elves; I came to see you again. And now I'm sleepy, and begging your pardon, but I'm going to have a nap." He knocked out his pipe and put it in his pocket. "And don't you go flying away like a happy bird, either, while I'm asleep, Mr. Frodo! We'll go together like he said."

He rolled up his jacket and tucked it under his head as he lay back down. Frodo stretched out on the ground beside him, his head pillowed on one arm. He smiled and reached for Sam's hand.

"It's been a long road, hasn't it , Sam? A long road, and a hard one. But a good one, in the end. I'm glad you'll be with me. I'd been dreading it, going alone." His eyes closed. "One more journey together." His voice was almost too low for Sam to hear.

Sam watched him, wakeful after all, his free hand smoothing Frodo's hair back from his face. Frodo's breathing, at first deep and regular, gradually became shallow and slow. Sam leaned over and looked at him closely, then gently kissed his forehead. He shifted round to lean his head against Frodo's shoulder, and with a long sigh he closed his eyes.

"Coming, Mr. Frodo," he murmured.

Notes: Maedhros was the Elven lord Frodo is referring to. He was chained to Thangorodrim by Morgoth, and a spike driven through his hand. He was rescued by his friend , Fingon, who was forced to cut off his hand in order to free him. From the Silmarillion.

The legend of how Iluvatar would enter into creation is from the Arthrabeth, the Debate between Finrod and Andreth.