By San Antonio Rose
7 Rethe, S.R. 1421
Sam walked dejectedly into the kitchen of Bag End and plunked himself down in a chair. Sighing heavily, he poured himself a cup of tea.
Frodo, who had been staring out the window, stirred and turned to his friend. "What's wrong, Sam?"
"Oh… nothing, Mr. Frodo."
Sam sighed again. "Rosie's gone off in a huff. I've no idea what I said; she just left."
"She's expecting," Frodo replied with a hint of amusement. "You needn't have said anything wrong. When a hobbit-lass is in the family way, she might start crying if you look at her cross-eyed."
"It would have been better if I'd stayed in bed this morning," Sam said miserably.
"It would have been best if Morgoth had never rebelled," stated Frodo softly, turning back to the window and taking a sip from his own teacup.
Sam frowned. "Pardon?"
Frodo shook his head and smiled a little as he came back to the kitchen table. "Nothing, Sam. What you said just reminded me of what I've been thinking all morning."
Sam suddenly noticed that Frodo had Bilbo's book in the hand not holding the teacup. "Is something wrong, Frodo?" he asked, concern filling his voice.
Frodo sighed a little as he sat down and placed the book on the table. "I don't know, Sam. I've just had a lot of questions lately, and today I've been looking into some of them. And the answers are somewhat disconcerting."
"Well… like what might have happened if Saruman hadn't fallen."
Sam thought for a moment. "He wouldn't have hurt the Shire, that's certain, nor Fangorn either. And he might have proved mighty helpful in fighting Sauron."
"That's true. But look at this." Frodo opened the red book to a section labeled "The Tale of Years" and flipped to the date Third Age 2851. "It was almost two hundred years ago," he explained, "that Gandalf discovered that Sauron was the Necromancer of Dol Guldur and tried to convince the White Council to make war on him. It took ninety years for Saruman to agree—the same year Bilbo found the Ring. But if Saruman hadn't fallen, Sauron would have been driven out of Mirkwood much earlier… while Gollum still had the Ring."
Sam frowned. "I'm not sure I follow you."
"It took ten years for Sauron to settle in Mordor well enough to declare himself," Frodo continued, turning a page and pointing to the entry for 2951. "And at about the same time, Gollum started moving toward Mordor. If Sauron had left Mirkwood earlier, it might have taken him longer to get organized in Mordor, but probably not ninety years. I think it's likely that he would have summoned the Ring while Gollum still had it, and Gollum was so enslaved to it that he probably would have carried it at least close enough for one of the Ringwraiths to have captured him. Or else it would have abandoned him for an Orc, which would have had the same result."
Sam paled. "So the fall of Saruman was a good thing?"
"No," Frodo replied slowly. "No, I don't say that. That would be to call evil good, and Saruman was decidedly evil by the end. But it seems that there's a greater will at work that used Saruman's selfish, evil ambitions and treacheries to good purpose."
"Whose will?" Sam frowned.
Frodo shrugged. "Ilúvatar's, I suppose. Gandalf once told me that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and I to have it also, but he never explained it further. And there were other hints in the tales we heard and read in Rivendell, like what Ilúvatar said to Morgoth after the Song of the Ainur, and what Finrod told Andreth about Estel."
"Not sure I heard about that last bit," Sam said, puzzled.
"There's a story I read called 'The Debate of Finrod and Andreth,'" Frodo explained. "King Felagund was talking with a mortal woman named Andreth, and one of the things they discussed was hope. She defined it as an expectation of good based partly on experience; he said that was one kind of hope, but that another, Estel, was based solely on the nature of Elves and Men and of the One. The idea of Estel is that since Elves and Men are the Children of the One, He wants only the best for them; 'of all His designs,' Finrod explained, 'the issue must be for His Children's joy.' So I suppose the One has the power to cause all things to work together for good."
"Like your parents being drownded," Sam blurted out before he could stop himself.
"What?" Frodo frowned.
Sam turned red. "Begging your pardon, Mr. Frodo… it's just that… well… if your parents hadn't died, you would never have come to live with Mr. Bilbo. And the Ring may not ever have come to you."
After a long pause, Frodo nodded. "You're right, Sam. Bilbo couldn't have destroyed the Ring, even if he'd wanted to; it had taken hold of him, and Gandalf was somewhat surprised that Bilbo was still able to give it up on his own when he left for Rivendell. And even if Bilbo had gotten it to Rivendell safely, none of the Elves trusted themselves to carry it to Mordor without using it. It could have corrupted anyone." He paused again, then added slowly, "I never wanted the Ring; I often wish it had never come to me. But I can see, at least in part, why it did. The journey was terrible, and my wounds may never really heal; but somehow I know, deep down, that no one else could have taken it that far. And we did make many great friends and see great things; I should have missed seeing Lórien and Ithilien and the White City, had I not gone, though I might not have known precisely what I missed.
"Of course, I couldn't have done it alone. We needed Gollum—treacherous, murderous Gollum—to get there, and his greed and folly were turned to good when he wrested the Ring away from me. He and the Ring met their just ends together." He looked at Sam and smiled. "And I would never have made it without you. Many's the time I've given thanks that you came with me."
Sam's blush deepened. "I wouldn't have come at all if I hadn't been eavesdropping."
"It seems to me that a lot of things wouldn't have happened if people had done what they should," Frodo shrugged. "That doesn't excuse them from making bad or even evil choices, and a lot of those bad choices caused a world of hurt, like Saruman's invasion of the Shire. I suppose a few of them could have been stopped; Mum and Dad could have been stopped by a rainstorm, for example… although that really was an accident, and nobody's to blame for it. But we make our own choices, and that means some people choose to do wrong. Still, the One can take bad choices and evil deeds, and even the bad things that happen against His will just because Arda is marred, and use them to bring about good. That doesn't mean evil is necessary for good, but that good exists despite evil."
He paused again before continuing. "I think that must have been Denethor's mistake. From what Pippin said, he had gotten completely wrapped up in his own sorrows and had allowed Sauron to sway his mind through the palantír to the point that he could no longer see that the One can bring good in spite of evil or realize that deliverance can come from the most unlikely places when it's least expected. So he gave in to despair just as Théoden reached the Pelennor."
"So we can complain because roses have thorns, or we can delight that thorn bushes have roses," Sam mused after another long pause.
Frodo's eyes lit up. "That's it, Sam! That's it exactly!"
As if on cue, Rosie ran into the kitchen. "Oh, Sam, I'm sorry," she choked out, bursting into tears. "I don't know what came over me…."
"It's all right, love," Sam replied gently, pulling his sobbing wife into a warm embrace. "There's no harm done."
Frodo smiled and went back to the window to look out over Hobbiton. The mallorn's golden leaves fluttered slightly in the spring breeze, and a few scattered across the party field.
Yes, Frodo thought, as his smile broadened. Life might not all be perfect, but it's not all bad, either. Not by a long shot.
A/N: Many, many thanks to my parents, who both beta-read this story and brought up a number of salient points that worked their way into the dialog. The Finrod quote comes from "The Debate of Finrod and Andreth," found in Morgoth's Ring. And a set of Fellowship plushies for the first person to spot the Monkees reference!
The inspiration for this piece comes from Romans 8:28, which Frodo partially quotes: "For we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose" (NASB). I understand that some people might object to this concept, but Tolkien does allude to it numerous times in the Trilogy and elsewhere. So please restrict critiques to technique rather than premise.