"Of an Angel's Singing"
A/N: This is a one-shot inspired entirely by Eric Whitacre's song "The Seal Lullaby", which was a poem originally penned by (in)famous British poet Rudyard Kipling. Written because I don't think Frodo's parents are mentioned enough in the story!
I do not own "The Sea Lullaby" by Rudyard Kipling. I'm just not that talented with poetry.
"Then he heard a noise in the distance. At first he thought it was a great wind coming over the leaves of the forest. Then he knew it was not the sound of leaves but of the Sea far-off; a sound that he had never heard in waking life, though it had often troubled his dreams."
Fellowship of the Ring, "A Conspiracy Unmasked", Ch. 5
He remembers, above all else, his mother's voice.
It was soft and clear, like a chiming bell, and as a lad growing up he had loved to hear her speak and laugh because her voice was a river of beauty that he could play for hours in.
More beautiful than her speaking, however, was her singing.
Hobbits are all gifted with the ability to sing well, it was almost a given, but she had a voice that was unlike any other's—a voice gifted by the Valar, it was said, so moving she could bring company to tears.
She kept her most beautiful songs, however, for her only child. Every night she would give the child a bath, then sing him to sleep. And the child grew up knowing her special lullaby so well he could sing it word-for-word in his sleep. It was a pastime between the two of them and something she shared with no one else, not even her husband.
A hobbit, after all, should not sing of the Sea—but that was just what she did.
But then came that fateful night on the Brandywine—two bodies were found drowned in the shoals, and Primula Baggins never sang to her son again.
"Will you come down to the shore today, Frodo-my-lad?"
Bilbo's voice is soft but clear, and welcoming. Frodo looks up from his reading to find his beloved uncle standing before him in their home. Although it makes him glad to know his elderly relation is finding new strength every day, he shies away from the mention of the Sea. He smiles regretfully from where he sits.
"Not today, Uncle. Perhaps tomorrow."
They are the same words he has spoken for the past month, but Bilbo merely nods, his answering smile sad but understanding. He knows that eventually his dear lad will face the waters but it will take time. He does not press the issue and instead reaches down and strokes a wayward curl from his nephew's eyes.
"Of course, my lad." He leaves with another smile.
Frodo sighs when he's alone. He knows the Elves' curiosity of his reluctance to go into the Sea, knows Gandalf's concern, but he does not speak of it aloud. When will he be brave enough to face it?
He can hear the Sea from his bed at night. Tol Eressea is surrounded by its blue waters on all sides so it would be rather hard to miss. He's sure several have wondered why he does not go to its edge and enjoy the feel of the Sea's cool waters on his feet. He did not mind the boat ride over but he didn't have to get into it while doing that. The Sea has a purring, almost mourning quality to its voice—perhaps it is remnants of Nienna's tears on the earth? He would have to ask Gandalf about that, since the thought seems to interest him, but he decides to wait to ask.
It is an old grief but one he is not willing to share yet.
"Where is my little hobbit-lad?"
Primula's voice was bright and cheerful as she walked into her son's room. She had stayed in the bathroom after her son had finished his bath, picking up the clothes he had shed, and when she turned around he had disappeared. Shaking her head in amused resignation, she had proceeded to hunt for her little scalawag, knowing she would find him easily enough. Her son could never stay silent for long. She made her way into his small but comfortable room and proceeded to look under his bed—deliberately passing by the feet sticking out from under the window drapes.
"Oh dear," she sighed sadly. "It seems I've lost my Frodo. What ever shall I tell his father? That he was thrown out with the bath water? Or that he was swept down the plumbing?"
She heard a quickly-stifled giggle behind her but again ignored it, instead moving away from the door.
"I suppose we'll just have to adopt from our cousins."
There was the sound of scurrying feet on the wooden floors. "I'm right here, Mummy!" cried her son's voice, and she turned to find Frodo standing right in the middle of the room, wearing nothing but a bright smile. She smiled and pretended to seriously consider him.
"Oh, I don't know," she said slowly. "This hobbit-lad is much too clean to be my son."
As any child his age would, Frodo looked very affronted. "You washed me, Mummy!" he objected.
Primula laughed. "Who knew I would be out-smarted by a fauntling?" she asked, and dropping her confused pretense, she crossed the room and picked him up. "We have to find you some nighty clothes, won't we, my lad?" she said as she set him on his bed. "We can't have you walking around in naught but your skin!"
"But it's too hot out tonight."
She took out the lightest pair of pajamas she had for Frodo and then turned around. "I can see you melting away right now," she replied with a wry smile.
In response, he leaped up on the bed excitedly. "Like water, Mummy!" he exclaimed. "I'll melt like water during the night and I'll go to the Sea!"
"Good gracious, not the Sea!" Primula pulled the shirt over his head and pulled his damp dark curls out from underneath the collar. "Not without me, you naughty boy!" After he slipped his arms through the sleeves, she had him sit and helped him slid his pants on. "Imagine a respectable son leaving his loving mother behind while he visits the Sea. Whatever is this world coming to?"
Once he was settled under the sheet, Primula sat on the edge of the bed and kissed his brow.
"Will you sing to me?"
Primula smiled again. Every night he asked her the same question. Without fail, she obliged:
"O hush thee, my baby, the night is behind us
And black are the waters that sparkled so green…"
Frodo wakes with the echo of his mother's voice following him into waking, and he feels his eyes burning with tears as the words and beautiful melody caress his heart. It has been so long since Primula Baggins has sung him to sleep with her lullaby, but it has yet to leave him. It hurts as much as soothes to hear it in memory, but hurts even more to know it can never be sung aloud again. He has not dared to since that fateful night on the Brandywine.
It is late night, but the soft silver moonlight falling through the open windows illuminates everything like it is day. Frodo has never seen nights like this before coming here, but he supposes that in this land of perfection of course everything would be clearer and more beautiful. He can hear Bilbo's soft snoring coming from the next room, and the familiar sound from so many nights at Bag End comforts him.
He swings his feet over the side of the bed and sits up, considering. A decent wind is blowing from the Sea, and it invites him. All vestiges of sleep have left him for now, so he climbs silently to his feet and softly leaves his room, peeking into Bilbo's room to see his uncle sleeping peacefully.
He feels like he is being called. He doesn't know why, he doesn't know by whom; but he is being called. So he goes. The wind is soft and warm, blowing his dark curls into his eyes, and the Sea is moaning off in the distance. He hears the waves crashing on the shore and thinks of his mother's lullaby.
"Asleep in the arms of the slow-swinging seas…"
It is to the Sea that he is being drawn now, and although he hesitates, he nevertheless goes.
The Sea is shining a deep silvery-blue in the moonlight, deceptively calm, and he slowly approaches its edge as if it were a wild animal. He is not quite touching the water, and he cannot bring himself to.
His hearing tells him there is someone approaching, and he takes his time turning, knowing it could only be Gandalf or one of the Elves who are here approaching. But when he sees who it is, he nearly bows. It is a tall, slender woman, with a majesty and beauty no Elf could ever hope to match, with a deep grey hood cast back to reveal long silver hair and deep knowing eyes that hold such sadness and grief, and such strength, that he cannot look her in the face for long.
Her smile is sad but understanding as she stops beside him. "Frodo Baggins." Her voice is soft and smooth as silk as she speaks his name, and her voice of that is Mourning, and long remembrance of tears.
He can barely speak, so great is his awe and shock, but finally he shakes himself and bows low. "Lady Nienna." She is the Lady of Sadness, and her tears are part of Arda's very existence.
"You need not bow before me. Only Eru deserves such from His Children."
He cannot reply to that, having never met Eru personally—he idly wonders if this Lady has—and tries not to look away from her gaze. "You called me." Now that he is face-to-face with her he realizes it was she who sent for him.
"Yes," she replies quietly. "I felt your sadness, Frodo Baggins, while I wept in my halls. There is a grief to you that has never vanished—a pain brought even before the Darkness." Her eyes are perceptive, piercing his very soul. "The grief of lost loved ones."
Something hitches in his chest, and he can barely speak. "My parents," he finally replies, and his voice is almost even.
The Lady looks at him even more carefully. "I have kept vigil on your grief," she says. "It grows when you look to the Sea. Why?"
He again cannot speak immediately, but he cannot be angry with her questions—not with this Lady who understands all suffering. "My mother. She wanted to see the Sea with her own eyes. And I am here—but she is not." There is an old bitterness in those words, a sharp tang that holds sway over all of his memories of his mother, that he has kept locked away in the deepest depths of his heart, unnoticeable even to those who know him best.
The Lady nods slowly. "Such grief is hard to bear," she replies. "Especially for one who lost loved ones so soon." But now she turns to the Sea, looking out over the tranquil waves, and the moonlight shines in her deep eyes. "Grief is a natural part of Life, child. We are born into grief and when we leave Arda grief is left in our wake. All we can do is live our lives as fulfilling as we can."
He smiles now hearing her words. "That is something Gandalf would say," he remarks softly.
She nods. "Indeed. For it was I who taught him that there was as much Mercy and compassion as there was Grief in this world." She looks back at him now, and her gaze is soft. "Mayhap you are here to bless your mother's memory."
The Lady's words are so unexpected that he is nearly rocked by the force of them, but when finally he recovers himself he looks back to where she had stood—but now she is gone, vanished as if she has never been.
But her words remain.
Mayhap you are here to bless your mother's memory…
He ponders her words all the following day, and if Bilbo sees his restlessness he says nothing about it.
When night finally comes, he feels it is time. Again he waits until his uncle is asleep, and with a glance into his chambers, Frodo leaves silently, making his slow and weaving way to the edge of the waters. The Sea is purring tonight, gentle and placid; but he cannot place his feet in it yet. He takes a deep breath and backs away. He has never felt so close to his mother now that he is here, and he does not know what to do.
Bless you mother's memory.
Lady Nienna's voice comes back to him and it gives him strength. And resolve. The waters, after all, can be tears of mourning—a shared sadness that unites all under Arda's vast sky.
Hesitantly, he wades into the Sea, feeling it brush his feet like a languid cat; a soft, gentle touch that, inexplicably, reminds him of his mother's. He smiles ruefully to himself. Doubtless Gandalf and the other Elves believe that he fears the waters only because of the fear of drowning. Only Bilbo knows the true reason, and he will never tell.
It hurt him too much to touch the Sea before, to actually see and smell and live by the very thing Primula had lovingly sung him to sleep with; the one thing, he realizes now, that she must have coveted deep down to see with her own eyes.
Had she somehow sensed that that same desire would someday awaken in her son? Was that why she had sung her lullaby to him and only him? He knows he will never find out.
But the Lady's words have told him now: he cannot afford to shirk his mother's memory, nor her lullaby, any longer. He has been incredibly selfish for these many long years, refusing to acknowledge her song, and here he is at the shores of the Sea, too afraid to let go of his bitterness of a tragedy that happened decades ago, and pay one last tribute to one he has loved so dearly. And she would have loved this, he knows, seeing the wide expanse of water spread out just like her song had said.
He sits on the beach as the Moon rises before him, but he does not watch the stars as is his wont. Tonight Frodo watches the waves before him, thinking back about a mother's love, of a well-worn coverlet and a repeated request, and a sweet voice raised in song; and he catches hold of the memory, feeling again the familiar scratchiness of his sheets, and of thin, nimble fingers brushing his hair. And finally he begins to sing—softly at first, but he finds the words are still with him even after all this time, and he swiftly picks up confidence as he continues. His voice rises and falls, swaying with the sounds of the Sea, and it is a beautiful melody that brings tears to his eyes.
"…The storm shall not wake thee, no shark shall overtake thee
Asleep in the arms of the slow-swinging Seas."
When finally he finishes and the song trails into the wind, he finally feels something tense in his heart release. His mother is remembered without bitterness and he is glad.
"Namarie, Mother," he whispers, and a genuine smile graces his face. "Until we meet again."