Disclaimer: All the characters and settings belong to J.R.R. Tolkien. This story is my way of working out or interpreting ideas and concepts already present in The Lord of the Rings. This is done for enjoyment, and for sharing, but not for profit.
During this past fall, I have been developing an idea for a new story, or rather a series of vignettes. In this series, I wish to explore a theme that is found in The Lord of the Rings: Frodo's dreams. At least twice, in The Lord of the Rings, he is shown to have had prescient dreams. Why Frodo has had this ability, I have never understood. Was it a gift peculiar to him? Or was it some unexplored, unexplained effect of owning the Ring. I don't know, and so far I have not heard of any explanation given by Tolkien himself.
I have named this series "Frodos Dremes." There is a reason for the peculiar spelling! Any reader who is familiar with The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, a book of poetry by J.R.R. Tolkien, is probably also familiar with "The Sea Bell." This poem is said to have had the words "Frodos Dreme" scrawled across the top of the manuscript. And while it was also said to have not actually been a dream of Frodo's, "it was associated with the dark and despairing dreams which visited him in March and October during his last three years." (Tolkien, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, 1962)
Not all of the dreams I write about will be "dark and despairing." But, as is the nature of dreams, they will be unpredictable, not necessarily easy to define, and will often foretell (even if in the vaguest of ways). They will also not be confined to his last three years in Middle Earth, nor will they be in any chronological order. Instead, they will range over most of his life time, from his arrival at Bag End to his departure over the Sea.
Come with me on this exploration of Frodo's Dreams!
In May 2003, Shirebound posted chapter 5 of her story "The Master of Bag End" which contained a snippet of an idea that I found fascinating. I asked her permission (which she graciously gave, along with plenty of encouragement and some excellent "beta-ing") to use it as a "jumping off point" for the first vignette.
"Should we be fiddlin' with a wizard's property, like that? Seems like askin' for trouble."
"Don't worry, Sam," Frodo chuckled. "I'll ask him not to turn you into anything too strange. No toads or snakes…"
"How about a bird?" asked Sam with a grin.
"Oh Sam," gasped Frodo, "how about an eagle? You could fly me everywhere, and we could see everything together! Can you imagine what it would be like to be so high up, on the back of an eagle?"
"'Twould be a wondrous thing, at that," agreed Sam.
Sam had left earlier, and the fire had sunk to embers in the grate. Frodo briefly thought of getting up to go to bed, but over the past hour he had nestled deeper into his favourite chair, Bilbo's favourite chair, and he was loth to move.
The book, a fanciful story he had been reading, had fallen from his hand a little while ago as he nodded off. But a piece of burning wood had given one last defiant pop before open flame died and coals glowed. Frodo had woken with a start and looked around, but all was quiet. Even though Bilbo had left a few months before, Frodo was not quite used to being on his own. Nightly noises could still make him ask himself What was that? before common sense took over.
Now a weighty decision had to be made. Was Frodo to move? The book needed to be picked up, for it had fallen to the floor with the cover open. But moving meant leaving the warmth of the chair, for now that the fire had died down, the room had grown chill. Frodo did not like that idea at all, and so he closed his eyes once more.
Time passed, and the hobbit burrowed deeper into the lingering warmth of cushions.
That is, until an imperious rap sounded at the window. Frodo shot up from the chair and stood, blinking stupidly. The room was dark and cold and he shivered. Not quite sure why he had awoken, he picked up a cushion and held it to himself, hoping for a last little bit of warmth. But the cushion was cool.
The sound came again, cracking through the air, and he stood frozen. The cushion dropped to the floor. Crack! And the window burst open. Cautiously, carefully, Frodo crept forward, hardly daring to breathe -- until suddenly he was rushing towards, nay, rushing through the window!
How this could be, he did not know, but no sooner had he thought this than he was burrowing once more, his hands surrounded by and covered by the last thing he could have expected: feathers! And the body below him, he thought dazedly, was supported on either side by great wings -- wings that suddenly unfolded and with a great downsweep lifted him high into the air.
Bilbo, he thought. This is just as it was in Bilbo's adventure. Riding on the backs of Eagles. And then it came to him, what he had said to Sam earlier that day: Can you imagine what it would be like to be so high up, on the back of an eagle?
"But are you Sam?" he said softly, "or am I only dreaming?"
And the reply came to him, through a voice that Frodo felt as much as heard -- a voice that shivered deeply through him, that was a part of him.
"I am Sam," the voice said. And Frodo wrapped his arms around the great bird's neck (taking care not to squeeze too tightly). "Where do you want to go?" the voice asked.
"I want to follow Bilbo!" Frodo said, and they were high in the air. But it was early dawn then, the quiet grey becoming lighter, faster than seemed right until gold spread amongst the edges of clouds on the eastern horizon. Flying east, straight as an arrow, they faced the new light of day and Frodo's eyes narrowed against the brightness.
He looked down then and, far below, the Road stretched out. Hobbiton was already behind them. And in front (Frodo almost let go in surprise), there was the silver ribbon of a great river, dancing and sparkling in the rising sun. It could only be the Brandywine, he thought, for no other stream in the Shire could have that breadth. And only the Brandywine would have the dark smudge that was the Old Forest in the southeast corner against the Road.
"How can we be there so quickly?" he asked. "It would take more than a day even by riding..."
The eagle only gave an elegant, amused chuckle and continued onward. And Frodo looked as hard as he could into the distance, but there seemed to be no end to the river as it disappeared into the mists on the horizon.
Suddenly, even though until then he had been comfortable, Frodo felt afraid of falling. The Old Forest and the hills beyond it had fallen behind, and Frodo did not know this new country. He burrowed a little deeper, until he was almost covered with feathers. This did not seem quite right, he thought, for surely an eagle's feathers would lie smooth and flat under him. But he did not mind at all, for he felt safer this way. Another road came into view, coming from the north, but no sooner had Frodo tried to follow this with his eyes, than it too passed beneath them. He imagined that this must be where Bree was but it seemed that Sam was not minded to have a look.
"Sam?" he said tentatively. The thought came to him that if they were indeed following Bilbo on his great adventure with the dwarves, then surely troll country must not be far ahead. "Let's go see the trolls, Sam."
But Sam did not alter his course, nor did he fly lower to the earth. "Please, Sam, I want to see the trolls!" But it was to no avail. And Frodo puzzled over this, for it had been his experience that Sam would always listen to him and take his lead.
It was not long after this when it seemed to him that Sam was wanting him to look down. He did so and saw what looked like a valley with rivers and waterfalls.
"Where is this?" he cried to Sam through the wind. Rivendell, came the answer and Frodo was surprised. The valley looked flat and the waterfalls small and dull. Rivendell, he thought. The very name of Rivendell deserved something more exciting than this! Riven. There was some dangerous feeling in the very word. Rent or cloven, he thought. Struck asunder! Surely an elven dwelling with such a word in its name should be in a more awesome place. And Dell -- a small valley, a narrow valley with steep walls... riven apart. Frodo nearly cried aloud in his disappointment but the shout died in his throat when without warning, Sam dove downward. Frodo gasped in fright and clutched hard at Sam's neck feathers.
The earth rushed upwards, and it seemed as if they were to plummet into the very heart of the valley, when suddenly Frodo realized that the valley walls had surrounded them and were rising above! He swallowed and looked around once more.
That flat and uninspiring valley had become its own world, truly a deep and great cleft with tree-clad walls high on either side -- a dell riven by some ancient and terrible force of wonder. Waterfalls were roaring in the distance, and a warm air rose to meet them as Sam swept out of his dive and soared over the tree tops.
Frodo felt a trace of amusement shiver through the feathers under him, and he humbly laid his head against Sam's neck. "I'm not used to flying, Sam," he whispered. "And I thought it would be strange for you too. But it isn't like that, is it?"
"No, it is not," the answer came, but the voice was a little softer and not quite as imperious.
They flew past a waterfall, so close that Frodo could feel the spray on his face. Droplets gathered in his hair. "I wonder if Bilbo came here again," he said. "Could we...?"
Sam shot up out of the valley, and Frodo sighed, somewhat disconcerted. "Perhaps not," he said. "But the Misty Mountains must not be too far away. And the Beornings!" Contentedly, he closed his eyes... ...only to see, upon opening them, vast reaches of dark green. Frodo sat up so abruptly that he swayed, and his squeak of fright was lost in the wind. Crouching low, he looked down past the eagle's neck.
A great forest was below them, a jumbled mass of greens -- mostly dark -- which clustered so tightly that the wind, as strong as it was, could not do more than ripple the topmost branches and leaves.
"Mirkwood!" Frodo frowned. "But we can't be there already? What about the Misty Mountains?"
The only answer he got was eagle wings cutting through the air and the tops of the trees rising to meet them. And then they were skimming over the forest.
It was then that Frodo noticed a very strange thing. It seemed as if the forest had become a map. A map astonishingly like Bilbo's own. The path ran nearly beneath them and, in the distance, the mountains of the Elven King jutted up through the trees. But then Frodo could see something else and his eyes grew round.
Great spiralling webs spread out across the forest roof to the north of the path. Strands and whorls glistened in the sun. Frodo looked away. "Let's not go there," he said urgently.
"But I am hungry," was the response. And Frodo could see, with sickening certainty, that birds and small tree-dwelling creatures were caught in the webs.
"Please, couldn't we find food elsewhere?" he begged. Panic rose within him. Gleaming strands flashed below them, and he shrank against Sam's back. The eagle dipped down, and Frodo screamed... ...only to find them skimming over the Long Lake at Esgaroth. Shaking, he sat up a little.
"Did you," he quavered, "did you eat...?"
"No," the voice rumbled. "You did not like the idea."
"Thank you," he said fervently. But just then, a thought came to him and all lingering traces of terror vanished. "Smaug must be in the lake! Let's see Smaug, Sam!"
And so they flew past the town of Esgaroth . But when they came upon the place where Smaug lay submerged, they could not see the dragon, for it was too large.
"Fly higher," Frodo urged. "Fly higher! Then we can see all of him!"
Sam did so, and the great carcass of the dragon shone golden through the clear waters. Jewels glittered and scales gleamed, as eagle and hobbit circled overhead. Gilt webbing of massive wings rippled in the shallows.
Frodo laughed exultantly. He had seen the Dragon Smaug! Now he had a wondrous tale to tell Bilbo. Now he could be the story teller.
A wind rose then, and he suddenly shivered. "Let's go to the Lonely Mountain. Let's go inside and explore the tunnels and halls. It would be warmer there."
But Sam did not comply and he turned in a slow bank so that Frodo could see the ground over his left shoulder. "You are cold," came the reply. "We must return."
"Oh no, Sam! I don't want to return just yet."
He was too late. Already the dark green blur of Mirkwood was fast disappearing underneath, and the peaks of the Misty Mountains were reaching up like fingers to touch them.
As they passed over the snowy heights, lordly eagles came from either side, but when Frodo called out a greeting they screamed and rushed at them with a great buffeting of wings.
"Why are they attacking us?" Frodo shouted, but Sam flew as hard and straight as an arrow. Soon they were alone, and the hard cold peaks were in the distance.
"I should not carry you, they said," replied Sam. His voice was meek. "Eagles do not bear mortals, save in times of great need."
Frodo hugged him about the neck. "I'm sorry, Sam," he whispered. "I hope that I haven't put you in danger."
"You have not, for I will not fly there again. As for now, I will take you home."
Frodo nodded and laid his head down again. He was cold and even though he burrowed as deeply as he could in the feathers, the biting cold of the wind still easily cut through.
Some time passed. And when he next raised his head, Frodo could not tell if it had been minutes, hours, or days since he closed his eyes.
Nothing prepared him for what he saw. It was not the familiar Shire that lay below them; instead, a roiling, heaving mass of grey churned directly beneath Sam's wings.
"What is this place?" Frodo said. He could not look away, even when stinging salt spray filled his eyes.
Sam did not answer, and it suddenly seemed to Frodo as if the eagle were unsure of what to do.
And then it felt to him as if he were falling. Falling. And as he fell, a great rhythmic sound filled his head so that he could not think for the loudness of it.
* * *
It was a painful crack to the back of his head that greeted him upon jolting awake. As he sat there rubbing his scalp, he looked around the room. The fire had gone out and the room was chill and dark. The window was closed.
Teeth chattering, he climbed out of the cold chair and picked up the book that lay on the floor. Without a second thought, he raced to his room, climbed into bed (book and all), and wrapped the blankets tight about him.
It wasn't until morning that he realized he had never changed into his night shirt.
* * *
"An eagle," Sam said incredulously. "You don't say."
"An eagle," Frodo said solemnly.
Sam laid down the trowel and sat back on his heels in the warm sunshine. "That's quite the story," he said and whistled in wonderment. "But what I don't understand is why I didn't take you everywhere you wanted to go. Didn't seem quite friendly. Trolls, sir, and ... and Rivendell! Why did I leave so quickly? I would have loved to have seen the Elves!"
"I don't know, Sam. Perhaps we are both thinking the wrong way."
"How so, Mr. Frodo?"
"If you really were an eagle, would you still be you?"
Sam scratched his head. "I don't follow you, sir. I might have feathers and all, but I'd still be me."
"Would you? You're a hobbit, Sam, not an eagle. Mightn't your way of thinking change, as an eagle?"
Sam's face cleared. "You're right, as always!" he said admiringly. "I wouldn't have thought of that. But now I remember. Those eagles in Mr. Bilbo's stories -- they were mighty particular about all sorts of things." He thought for a moment. "I suppose they don't like trolls."
"I don't know," Frodo admitted. "But I think you may be right."
"And what about all that water at the end, sir? I don't remember any talk from Mr. Bilbo about that."
Frodo frowned and ran his fingers through his hair absentmindedly.
"I don't know," he said at last. "I don't know." His voice trailed off.
Sam nodded, more to himself than anything, and picked up the trowel. Even as a young tweenager, he knew better than to talk to Mr. Frodo when there was that queer look in his eye.
But when Frodo seemed to return from whichever place he had lost himself, Sam could not resist another question.
"What was it like to fly?"
Frodo looked at him and Sam felt a thrill go through from the top of his head to his toes. There was no mistaking the look that came to the older hobbit's eyes -- that elusive flicker of something Sam could never quite pin down but which reminded him of elves, or at least what he thought might be elvish.
"It was... it was magical," Frodo whispered. He looked down and skimmed his hands over the grass. "The land looked so different. I didn't know what things were until I could see something... anything familiar... And sometimes it was like... like a map." Suddenly he seized the younger hobbit's hands. "Oh Sam, how I wish you could have seen Rivendell!
"But it was frightening too," he added before Sam could say anything. "Being so high... and not knowing if you'd fall."
Sam looked indignant. "Why, I'd never let you fall, Mr. Frodo!"
Frodo laughed a little wildly. "Of course not. But this was a dream. And dreams are always... just a little dangerous. You never know what will happen. Or why!"
Sam could feel the energy through Frodo's hands clasped around his own. Suddenly, as he sat there held by those trembling hands and pinned in Frodo's intent gaze, he understood what Frodo meant. It was as if that mysterious, slightly dangerous dream were in front of him, woven around him by Frodo's words.
Sam shivered, feeling a little overwhelmed. "Do you often have strange dreams, then?" he asked abruptly.
Frodo started. The moment passed and he was just a hobbit again, sitting on the green grass in the sunshine. He shook his head sheepishly. "Not often," he said. "I've always had fanciful dreams, but not ones quite as... as real as last night's. At least," he amended, "this has only been the second that I can recall since I arrived at Bag End."
"Oh! The second? Please tell me about the first, Mr. Frodo. I'd love to hear about that."
Frodo shuddered. "I'd rather not." He let go of Sam's hands.
Sam looked disappointed.
"I'm sorry, Sam. It was... quite different. Nothing to do with flying. Perhaps... perhaps some day I will tell you."
"Some day, then, sir."
But as Sam leaned forward and began his gardening again, Frodo lay back on the sweet smelling grass and gazed into the sky where it was just possible that there might be an eagle flying high, almost out of sight of hobbit eyes.
~ * ~ * ~
The end (of this vignette)