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.


Ariel3 There's nothing too dark for you? Uh oh. I reached my own limit with that dream, I think, so that's the darkest you'll get from me! Perhaps this next one will be entirely too light and hopeful for you! :)
Gayalondiel I'm glad that you could see some kind of beauty in the darkness. This next one should help dispel some more of that darkness.
Ami Thank you, and don't worry - there's one more dream. But then that will be the end (perhaps!)
Aratlithiel1 Tension and dreams often go together, don't they! That not knowing of what will follow. The inability to rely on normal sequence of events... the unpredictability.
Megan Oh dear! Your review made me laugh (in a gentle, commiserating way). It pretty much summed up how I felt too. I wanted to write the story, but I was fighting with my instinct for not subjecting Frodo to such nastiness...
hobbitfeet13 I can assure you that those chapters were indeed dreams! My melancholy muse (as you described it) decided to give me a holiday for this dream though, so you can relax. Thank you for your thoughtful review!
Mariole Thanks for both your reviews! You are truly effective at ... taking me along on a journey none of us (especially Frodo) wants to make. Oh dear. The powers of persuasion are mine...I feel like Saruman...

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Author's Note: Unless I have a new, compelling idea for another dream, this will the the last one (though I will "never say never"!) After several dreams with uncomfortable or despairing themes, it seems right to end this series on a dream of hope and beauty.

This vignette occurs at the end of the Dead Marshes and, unlike the other dreams, it is an interpretation of a dream vision alluded to, but not described by Tolkien. While one interpretation that occured to me was of "a far-off green country," that vision has already been experienced and described elsewhere, twice, in the books. There is no purpose to my revisiting it. Instead, here is a possibility that could tell us what Frodo saw. Tolkien's text appears in italics.

Thank you to all of you who have come with me on these explorations of Frodo's dreams.

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The Sea Shell

He looked up at the smoke-streaked sky and saw strange phantoms, dark riding shapes and faces out of the past. He lost count of time, hovering between sleep and waking, until forgetfulness came over him. (Tolkien, The Two Towers, 1965, p. 240)

The very birds and beasts fought each other in this dreadful battle. Men battled men -- even dwarves were divided.

Frodo lay small and still at the edge of the pit although he knew somehow that he had no part in this silent battle from ages gone by. Not one sound came to him, yet he could almost feel the very clash of swords, the cries of Men and the defiant shrieks of orcs and fell beasts.

Then came the Elves, grim to look upon but fair also. Yet they too fell beneath the sweep of sword or thrust of spear and their faces mingled with those of Men and Orcs in the rot and slime of the land.

* * *

It was in the midst of this horror before him that Frodo felt a pull at his sleeve. Sam, he thought and slowly his head turned to look.

It was not Sam who knelt beside him, nor was it Smeagol. It was a younger face, unusually solemn, that smiled at him sadly.

"Pippin?" said Frodo wonderingly.

But Pippin did not speak and, instead, he took up Frodo's hand and laid something rough and oddly shaped. Then he nodded and the well-known twinkle returned to his eye.

Before Frodo could move or speak, Pippin was gone.

A keen sense of loss hit him and, grieving, he bowed his head. But then the feel of the unfamiliar shape in his hand roused him and he looked down at the thing he held.

It was a sea shell.

Without thinking and without knowing why he did it, Frodo laid the shell against his ear. Smoothly it fitted against him as if it had been made for that very purpose.

Faint at first the sound came -- a sighing whisper from some far off place. It was difficult to hear, but familiar and Frodo eagerly strained to catch the sound.

The battle had vanished. Indeed Frodo was not aware of anything but the whisper of a far-off roaring that so tantalized him and it made him with both hands press the shell ever harder to the side of his head.

Unmistakable it was now, and he sighed in recognition. Yes, it was the same: the roar and shush of an age-old rhythm that had visited him in sleep for as long as he could remember.

A yearning rose within him, a desire to reach out and somehow touch the sound itself. It took hold of him and he looked at the shell with longing. It was not enough to hold it and listen--no, he wanted to be in the sound, surrounded by it.

He turned the shell over, searching for he knew not what. Roughness met his fingertips -- roughness as if the shell were encased in bark. But when he turned it over, the underside was silken smooth. A faint blush of rose rimmed the mouth and moved by a sudden impulse, Frodo slipped his fingers inside. But they could not go far, just as he could not see deeply within.

The inside of the shell was smooth and cool, but he was no nearer the sound. Frustrated, he applied the shell to his ear once more and, Yes! there it was. Not close enough, but it was there.

His mouth curved in a slight smile, and he closed his eyes, all the more to invite the song of the Sea to wash over him.

* * *

His hand reached out and met silky hardness curving up, high over his head. The roar and shush was growing, almost but not quite all about him. There was still a path that he had to follow.

Frodo opened his eyes and gasped. Gazing up and around, and down, he stretched out both arms. Fingertips brushed smooth walls that followed his reach as he slowly brought his arms up and over. Fingertips held up silken arches and sturdy hobbit toes gripped satin floors.

And when he walked forward into the spiral, the deepening tunnel did not grow darker. Instead, the walls gleamed all the brighter as faint colour shimmered in beds of mother-of-pearl.

Frodo had the most curious feeling as he slowly but steadily walked towards the sound. His legs moved as one foot was placed before the other, yet it was as if he were still in place while the shell walls wound themselves about him, wheeling in motion over and under him.

Onward he walked as translucent walls spiralled past. Vague shadows played upon the sides; wondrous shapes and patterns unfamiliar to his eyes formed and fled before he could understand what it was that he was seeing.

The sound grew. Frodo began to run, half afraid that he would be caught forever in this odd place that spooled itself before him without end.

* * *

The shell lay in his palm. He looked down to find dark green grass stretching out from beneath his feet and away to a high ridge ahead of him. It was twilight and long soft shadows lay upon the ground. He could hear the Sea, just beyond the ridge. He began to climb but the weight of the shell grew heavy and he soon sank down to the earth just short of the summit.

It was then that he looked up into the deepening night and beheld the star. It hung high in the western sky, shining with a clarity which smote his heart, and he gazed long upon it.

And then, to his amazement, it seemed as if the star were moving towards him, almost imperceptible at first but soon gaining speed as it crossed the sky and came down in front of him. Trembling, Frodo peered over the ridge. A ship there was--one of such beauty and light that his eyes were dazzled. Golden oars dipped and moon-lit sails billowed.

For a strange moment, as he gazed upon the wondrous sight before him, he felt as if he were perched on a cliff overlooking the heavens and there was naught before him but the vessel in the deep blue of the star-filled sky.

Light shone like a flame that ran and flickered within the very beams of the ship. But the fairest thing of all was a star so bright that Frodo could hardly see the form to which the radiance was bound.

The vessel grew nearer and at last the mariner was fully revealed to him. Sparkling dust shimmered on the raiment of the figure standing at the prow, but when the gaze of that being fell upon Frodo, the hobbit pressed himself against the grass and lowered his head, abashed.

But when once more he raised his head, he looked up without fear, and so EƤrendil the Mariner and Frodo Baggins of the Shire beheld one another. Not a word was uttered, but at the very last moment before the starry craft rose swiftly into the sky, Frodo caught the softening of a smile upon the Mariner's face.

And then Frodo passed from dreaming into a deep blessed sleep.

Strangely enough Frodo felt refreshed. He had been dreaming. The dark shadow had passed, and a fair vision had visited him in this land of disease. Nothing remained of it in his memory, yet because of it he felt glad and lighter of heart. His burden was less heavy on him. (Tolkien, The Two Towers, 1965, p. 242)

The End