Disclaimer: Lord of the Rings is owned by J.R.R. Tolkien, his family, New Line cinema, etc. I'm only dabbling my unworthy fingers in his Great Works.
Credit: Tuckborough dot net & en dot wikipedia dot org/wiki/A_Elbereth_Gilthoniel
Summary: The White Wizard explains the folly of angering a Gamgee to the Prince of Mirkwood during the journey from the Black Gates to the Field of Cormallen.
The journey to Ithilien, which had commenced earlier that day, proceeded at a steady pace and soon the mixed company of Men, Elves, Hobbits and Dwarf would escape the fetid air of the Black Lands, allowing their wounded a better chance of recovery. But night was drawing close and the King called for the company to halt and take their rest until dawn brightened their path once more. As instructed, horses were tethered and carts laden with injured and weary soldiers were brought to a standstill as the more able-bodied among them went about the duty of setting up a camp.
After assuring himself of the continued good health of Frodo and Sam in the tent which had been erected for the short stay, Gandalf left them to the capable hands of Aragorn and now stood by his small fire searching his robe for the elusive pouch of Old Toby he had pocketed earlier.
On finally locating his quarry, he settled himself by the fire and began to stuff his pipe with his dwindling supply of weed, frowning at the little which remained.
He really must speak with Aragorn about procuring more as soon as possible! How was a Wizard to think without a decent pouch full of the Shire's best kept secret?
Lighting his pipe, Gandalf was soon enjoying the pleasing fumes that issued through its stem.
Ah, that's better!
As Gandalf allowed himself to finally relax, his mind began to mull over the various discoveries he had made while delving into the memories of the hobbits as they lay recovering in the healing sleep which Aragorn had placed them under.
The Eagles had rescued them only two days ago, but the hobbits had been in a such a state that he was not entirely certain they would survive the night. Were it not for the healing powers of a certain ranger - and the stubbornness of a certain Gamgee - Frodo would have gladly forsaken his chance to live and Sam, the most loyal of friends, would not have been able to bear life without him.
Gandalf closed his eyes and thanked the Valar for the delivery of both Ringbearers. It would have been a hollow victory indeed if they had died after all their triumphs. Each anniversary of the fall of Sauron would forever have been tinged with the bitter taste of grief for the remaining Fellowship.
"Mithrandir, are you well?"
Gandalf was startled out of his thoughts by the question and looked up to see Legolas watching him with concern.
"Ah, Legolas! Yes. All is well. I was merely pondering our very good fortune at having Frodo and Samwise returned to us."
"Praise the Valar indeed for the gift of their continued presence!" declared the Prince of Mirkwood in agreement. "And for the courage and strength they possess which has ensured that all peoples and lands shall flourish and grow, threatened no longer by the foulness of Mordor!"
"Their courage and strength have been great indeed," replied Gandalf. "Many doughty warriors have I met, and many noble Lords with hearts resolved to fight for their peoples and lands when needed. Yet the greatest of these - even were they armed with the burning spirit of righteousness and the mightiest sword of Elven craft - could not have accomplished what our two young friends have so recently brought to pass."
His wrinkled face was wreathed in a smile as Legolas took a seat opposite him.
"Have you gazed into their memories this day?" queried the elf.
"I have. It is best to do these things while they slumber still and my intrusion cannot harm them."
"And what did you see, Mithrandir? We know so little yet of the trials they faced, or how they came by all of their wounds."
Gandalf did not answer immediately, taking instead a long puff of his pipe and inhaling deeply while he considered how much he was willing to discuss at this point.
What he had seen was terrible and painful. He had explored the memories of Frodo's journey the day after his rescue and they had given him much to dwell on.
It was as he suspected it might have been, in the end. Frodo could not part with his burden and finally succumbed to the infliction of his Ring-induced desire. Fortunately, his loyal companion had been spared the agony of a decision which would have surely destroyed his soul too - had he actually been able to carry the deed through to its horrific conclusion. Gollum interceded most violently, biting the One Ring from Frodo's very finger and taking it into the fiery lake with him when he plunged to his doom.
But although the Ring's demise had freed Frodo from his short-lived madness, a mantle of guilt had now settled on the hobbit's frail shoulders and he was not wearing it well. Gandalf would gladly have shed him of that cursed cloak and taken it upon his own shoulders instead. Alas! That was not possible. So he would have to make do with his own guilt at the necessity of including Frodo on the Quest in the first place, having known what it may do to him. That was a bitter enough cup to drink from!
In the meantime, he would be grateful for Frodo's survival and the chance he now had to discover the joy in life again. Perhaps that would allow him to shed the dark mantle he bore. And his faithful friend would be there every step of the way to tend to his needs and comfort him; for had it not been for Sam, the Ringbearer would have gladly walked into the welcoming arms of Death despite Aragorn's heartfelt pleas.
The wizard allowed a smile to turn his lips upwards. In all his long years walking the lands of Middle Earth, he had rarely encountered such an indomitable person as the humble gardener. A modest and self-deprecating hobbit, to be sure; yet the most treasured of friends and one of the brightest sons ever to rise from the sleepy lands of the Shire.
"You asked what I saw, Legolas, so I shall tell you: I saw the Sun," Gandalf finally replied. "He bathed me in his golden light and kissed my weary forehead with his unquenchable hope."
"He?" asked Legolas, slightly confused at the Istar's riddling ways.
Gandalf expelled a breath of Old Toby and the smoke took the form of a glowing orb with rays dancing from it before dissipating on the gentle breeze. Legolas would have been impressed if he hadn't had the misfortune of inhaling it; the elf struggled not to cough or otherwise ruin his air of elegant disdain for his friend's bad habit.
"You had better get used to that you know," said Gandalf in a moment of humour, nodding at the dying wisps of fragrant smoke. "Gimli is very fond of his pipe and would as soon begin extolling the virtues of Fangorn than give it up."
"I made no complaint, Mithrandir," retorted Legolas, a touch haughtily. "And do not forget that Gimli has sworn to visit Fangorn with me, so he may yet discover that there are virtues to be found there. Before long, there may be many Dwarven songs of trees to replace his desire for inhaling plants."
The White Wizard gave a great shout of laughter at the thought of Gimli so enraptured by the dark forest he would have been happy to chop down a few weeks ago, that he would willingly discard his pipe and burst into song at the very mention of its name.
"That is a charming thought, Thranduillion!" he gasped after recovering his breath. "I wish you good fortune in your task to convert our Dwarven friend from tree-hater to tree-coddler!"
Legolas feigned affront, but Gandalf did not miss the twinkle in his eyes. "Gimli does not hate trees. He has merely yet to discover his affinity with them."
"Affinity, you say? An interesting choice of words. Tell me, Legolas, where is Gimli at this time? It is most unusual to have the pleasure of your company without also enjoying the pleasure of his."
The Prince of Mirkwood was clearly reluctant to confess his friend's whereabouts, but eventually relented with a smile of his own. "As you were not to be found in the hobbits' tent, he remained there with the intention of persuading Aragorn to restock his dwindling supply of leaf!"
Wizard and elf laughed together at the enormity of Legolas' task.
When they had sufficiently recovered from their amusement, Legolas spoke again. "You were speaking of the Sun, Mithrandir?"
"Yes, the Sun." Gandalf took another puff of Old Toby, sobering considerably as he recalled the trials of the two Shirefolk. "This afternoon I sat with Samwise on the hobbits' wagon, and I travelled the road from Parth Galen to the Crack of Doom through his memories. And fell was this road, my friend! Filled with trials and horrors, hunger and treachery, fear and violence! But always there was the warmth of a golden ray of hope on my back, urging me on to the end of the road, ensuring my safety. Even in dreams, Master Gamgee will look to the comfort of his friends, it seems!"
He finished his pipe and knocked out the remnants of its leaf, extinguishing the glowing embers.
"There are many deeds worthy of a song in Sam's memory, Legolas - and many are the hurts he has gladly endured to aid his friend's journey to that terrible place. Some of which, like Frodo's, may never heal. I will not speak of them all whilst the rest of our Fellowship remains scattered throughout the camp, for we should all be together for that. But there is one deed that I shall tell you of now, for our dear gardener would more than likely dismiss it out of hand, and I believe it deserves more credit than that."
Legolas sat at rapt attention, savouring Gandalf's every word.
"You will find this tale of particular interest, given that you call Mirkwood your home," offered the Istar tantalisingly.
Legolas' eyes widened in curiosity. "Indeed? I am most curious to learn what you mean by that, Mithrandir."
"How long has your home been defiled by the great spiders, young Prince?"
Confusion at the apparent irrelevance flitted across the elf's face, followed by anger at the recollection of the foul creatures which infested his cherished forest. "As long as I have lived and breathed - and longer still than that, I fear. For many years we have fought their intrusion in our forest. Their webs choke the trees amidst which they are spun and they feast on any errant traveller - Elf, Man or otherwise - whose heavy misfortune leads them to become trapped in their evil threads. Long have my woodland kin and I hunted these creatures down, but still they blight our lands! I curse them and the evil that spawned them!"
"In that case, let me allow you the pleasure of knowing that the evil which spawned them is suffering untold agonies as we speak - if she yet lives at all."
Gandalf laughed to see the rapid transformation of the fair elf's mien, which was now lit by a glorious smile.
"What do you mean by this?" exclaimed Legolas. "You saw this in Sam's mind? How did he come to see such a thing? How did it come to pass?" His face fell as realisation hit. "Oh, what sorrow to know that their hobbit eyes were not spared the horror of such a monster, for she is the last true child of Ungoliant and is many times more dangerous than her own dreadful creations!"
"Peace, my friend! Calm yourself. The hobbits are safe now and need never see the creature again, although my heart is heavy with the knowledge that Frodo will never forget the intimacy of her bite…" He was cut off by a cry of distress from his companion.
"Ai, Mithrandir! That is evil news! I did not know that wound was caused by her! I had thought the creature Gollum to be responsible for that during one of his fits of rage!"
"Unfortunately not. You have seen a spider's bite before, Legolas, though I will admit that none of them would have been so terrible as this. Nay, it was not the Ring-induced madness of Gollum who inflicted that. It was Shelob who bit him, and her venom rendered him senseless enough to be wrapped in her webs for her own private sport."
"May her agony last for many Ages of Men!" declared the elf in a passion of rage before he regained his composure. "But you said that she may not survive, is that not so? Mithrandir, I beg of you, tell me all that occurred to bring about this happy fate!"
"Then listen closely, Legolas - and do not interrupt me while I speak - and I shall tell you how the last child of Ungoliant incurred the wrath of one small gardener from the Shire. And how she paid for her folly…"
After disposing of the traitorous Gollum - at least for the time being - Sam's fury abated slightly. But his horror increased as he realised that his master had been out of his sight too long, and may very well be under attack.
That Slinker had tricked them both!
He rushed from the cave and saw that the hideous creature which had been stalking Frodo had now caught him! His master's body was bound in the same vile webbing which had almost thwarted their escape not minutes before. And the villain which had captured him was a terrible thing to behold!
So that was Gollum's 'she'!
Sam's eyes boggled at the sight before them. Gollum's 'she' was a spider - but one larger in size than anything even a nightmare could furnish Sam's imagination with. Its numerous legs, with their wicked claws, supported a massive, bloated body, and it was beginning to half-drag Frodo towards one of the other exits which pockmarked the cliff face.
And his dear master was clearly incapable of struggling against his bonds, or even so much as calling out to him! Sting lay helplessly at Frodo's side, a testament to his impotency.
Outrage - the likes of which Sam had never experienced before - engulfed him then, banishing all fear and replacing it with one purpose, one aim. All his senses focussed solely towards the enormous spider. He could see nothing unless it was her malignant bulk hauling the delicacy she grasped so greedily; hear nothing unless it was the lusty anticipation of her vile hissing as she contemplated the upcoming feast; smell nothing unless it was the reek of her malodorous form, and the remnant traces of fear left by his poor master.
Well, she'd not be gobbling Mr Frodo like his old Gaffer gobbled roast taters - not if Sam Gamgee had anything to say about it!
Thus, armed with all power that righteous fury bestowed upon him, the little gardener unleashed his towering wrath.
Leaping forward, Sam grabbed Sting, intent on introducing the spawn of Ungoliant to the blade Mr Bilbo had taught her own foul offspring to fear. He let out a yell and rushed towards the enormous creature, too enraged to care that it was as large as Bag End and as evil as the dreaded Witchking he'd had the misfortune of encountering a few months before.
It could be as tall as Mr Bilbo's trolls for all he cared. It was not taking his beloved master away to feed on as if he were no more than a cooked goose!
Outrage fuelled his movements and Sam took a great swing at one of the spider's claws, parting it forever from its hideous leg before the spider even had time to turn and take stock of its frenzied assailant. Next, he darted beneath the creature's lowering head and spun quickly around. With a mighty upward thrust of the shimmering Elven blade, the furious hobbit pierced one of its many hideous eyes.
An agonised hiss rent the air as the evil thing staggered from the twin blows to its body and pride. Sam care nothing for its torment – on the contrary; it gave him the courage to see the job done properly. He raised both Sting and his own blade of Westernesse and dragged them across his enemy's tough underbelly.
It was fortunate indeed that the spider's wail raised his courage, for courage was sorely needed. The smell emanating from the beast's underbelly alone was enough to incapacitate an entire army of elven warriors! Sam almost retched at the putrid stink, but his anger was still high enough to rip along it with both blades; though, try as he might, he could not pierce it.
But he did not have to pierce it to do some damage. A long gash now lined the ugly hide and venom poured from the wound; the dark liquid splattered about him and Sam fought a powerful wave of dizziness as the putrid smell invaded his nostrils.
Shelob, infuriated at the hurts to her body, took advantage of his momentary incapacitation. Her massive bulk rose suddenly in the air and began to bear down on the little gardener.
Sam's eyes widened in horror.
She meant to crush him to death!
Well, if that horrible creature was going to flatten him, he'd make certain that Samwise Gamgee would leave a whole lot more than a smear on the ground of some hobbit-forsaken land shunned by all decent folk!
Clearing his head as best as he could, he did the only thing he could think of: discarding his own blade, Sam gripped the handle of Sting firmly with both hands and held it aloft as she bore her diseased bulk down upon him. And as sure as he loved his Rosie, the force of the spider's momentum was such that Sting pierced the thick hide she boasted and travelled as far north into her stomach as its own form would allow.
Sam staggered at the shuddering impact, and Sting clattered to the ground beside him as the spider sprang back in agony. He had fallen to his knees by Frodo's head – a mercy which meant that the terrible creature had no other choice but to abandon its meal, at least for the present.
But what should he do now? His head was still sluggish from the fumes of the spider's venom, and the ghastly odour emanating from the ichor that now decorated the ground was making his eyes sting and his stomach roil dangerously.
His eyes were drawn through the poisonous haze to his beloved master's face: Frodo bore a glazed expression of fear and surprise on his once vibrant, happy countenance. This wrenching sight gave Sam the strength to fight his way out of the stupor that threatened to overtake him, and he raised his head to see where their enemy had retreated to.
There! And look at her face! Sam had never before seen such evil, such ugliness, such malice and hatred - and all of these less than decorous attributes were now combined in the thing that crouched in front of him! One of the creature's eyes was ruined forever where he'd nipped it with Sting. And one of its legs was hanging suspended in the air without a claw - though that might be of little enough matter to his enemy, what with it having so many extra, he supposed. And from its belly came a steady flow of the acrid green liquid which burned at Sam's eyes and almost stole his breath.
The two combatants sized each other up, each gauging the enemy's strengths and weaknesses before battle began anew. Shelob regarded the little gardener with a look of loathing deeper than any Gollum had ever favoured him with, and Sam knew that he would die if she got him. The inevitability of his own death did not disturb him as much as the knowledge that his Master would be left alone at her mercy.
Who would save Mr Frodo when Sam was lining the stomach of that unnatural beast? It was too much to bear thinking about!
But he didn't have to bear thinking about it, for even as his foe readied to spring at him one last time, a voice came unbidden to Sam and he groped in his pockets for the Lady's Phial. As his desperate fingers grasped it, he was reminded of all the Elves who'd ever passed through the Shire on their way to the Grey Havens, and of the beauty of elven voices raised in song in the Lord Elrond's home. Sam heard them as clearly in his head as if they were standing around him, singing just for him and Mr Frodo - and it filled him with another burst of energy.
Rising unsteadily to his feet, Sam held aloft the Phial of Galadriel and sang his defiance to the spawn of Ungoliant:
A Elbereth Gilthoniel
o menel palan-diriel,
le nallon sí di'nguruthos!
A tiro nin, Fanuilos!
"Now come, you filth!" he cried. "You've hurt my master, you brute, and you'll pay for it. We're going on; but we'll settle with you first. Come on, and taste it again!"
The Lady's Starglass responded to his words and all the light of the stars seemed to pour out from the Phial. The great spider reared in terror at the sight, attempting to ward off the terrible threat by flailing its front legs before it.
But Sam was having none of it.
He advanced on the spider as it turned, lumbering in retreat toward the nearest cave, and he made certain that the light of the Phial followed his enemy as surely as he would follow his master to the mountain of fire. For as long as it was still in sight, Sam staggered after it. The gardener's hideous foe grew ever more agitated by his persistent attack, and its attempts to reach the safety of its dark home as quickly as its various injuries would allow became increasingly frantic. Yet Sam would not desist. He waved the Phial and swung his sword, managing a final smack with the blade of Westernesse against trailing legs as the hissing brute finally disappeared into the pit of despair it called its home.
It did not come back out.
When his revelation was at an end, Gandalf filled another pipe and set the leaf to burn as his companion sat in wondrous awe absorbing the details he had been privy to.
Five minutes passed without comment, but immortal beings have long learned the value of patience and so it was that the White Wizard was finally rewarded when the elf burst into song that gladdened the war weary hearts of all who heard it.
"I take it you approve?" he queried when the last note finally receded into the night.
"Approve?" laughed the joyous Prince. "It is the most blessed news I have had since Aragorn told us the hobbits would live!" His fair face shone with happiness and Gandalf laughed.
"So what you are saying is that it is the best news you have had in a mere two days?"
"Try as you may, you shall not vex me again this night with your teasing, Mithrandir!"
"Then I shall have to try harder my friend. For I have still not told you of how he stormed a castle full of orcs armed with little more than his own wits and the One Ring."
"The Ring? An entire castle of orcs?" said the astounded Legolas. "Are you saying that Sam, too, was a Ringbearer?"
"I suppose I am," said Gandalf, omitting to mention that most of the afore-mentioned orcs had already been dead before the gardener even entered the Tower of Cirith Ungol. Why spoil Legolas' fun? Or his own, for that matter …
"But I shall say no more of that until we are all gathered together; so for now, you must content yourself with the fate of the dreadful spider of Cirith Ungol."
"Then content I shall be - for the moment. It is happy news indeed to hear of such a feat! My father must know of this! Although the creature dwelled not in his realm, his will rejoice that this most terrible of foes was cowed by the wrath of an angry hobbit! I would not be surprised if he invited Samwise to our home to rid us of all her offspring and make the Green Woods great once more!"
They laughed at the thought of an angry Sam brandishing Sting and running through Mirkwood while an eager Thranduil encouraged him ever onwards from the southern lairs at Dol Guldur to their northern forest webs.
"I do not doubt for an instant that he would do it too, if asked by a friend," said Gandalf. "But let us give him time to recover before we send him on another adventure, shall we?"
"As you wish," answered Legolas, still smiling widely. "But I cannot promise to give my father as much time before sending him this wonderful news! And it will not be as long either before Master Gamgee's deed is put into song and spread throughout the woods of my home for all to marvel at. May the Valar always shine their favour upon him and his beloved master!"
"A wish I am certain they shall be happy to fulfil, Thranduillion," said Gandalf as he exhaled another cloud of Old Toby.
And Legolas laughed once more as the fragrant smoke took the shape of a curled up spider.
A Elbereth Gilthoniel
O Elbereth Star-kindler
o menel palan-díriel,
from heaven gazing afar,
le nallon sí di'-nguruthos!
to thee I cry now beneath the shadow of death!
A tíro nin, Fanuilos!
O look towards me, Everwhite!
Author's Note: The song of Elbereth and Sam's words directly after it are taken straight from The Two Towers, Book 4, Chapter 10: The Choices of Master Samwise.
This is another story I've always wanted to read somewhere, but never found. Sam's fight with Shelob, protecting his beloved Frodo, is downright inspirational and deserves an airing of its own. I thought the tie-in with the spiders of Mirkwood might be a good enough reason to have Gandalf discuss the deed with its Prince before he spoke of it with anyone else.
I'm not as well acquainted with the characters of Gandalf or Legolas as (I like to think) I am with the hobbits and Mirkwood is not my strong point, but I hope you enjoyed this anyway. Please leave (even a short) review if you did - it will be my only reward!
Kara's Aunty ;)