Tolkien Geek

Blogging J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" and other aimless pursuits.


ROTK: Bk 6, Ch 9

The Grey Havens
"One evening Sam came into the study and found his master looking very strange. He was very pale and his eyes seemed to see things far away.
'What's the matter, Mr. Frodo?' said Sam.
'I am wounded,' he answered, 'wounded; it will never really heal.'"

The first order of business for Frodo was to ride to the village of Michel Delving and release the prisoners in the Lockholes. Among them was Lobelia Sackville-Baggins. She looked old and worn and as she emerged the hobbits cheered for her. Frodo felt terrible about having to tell her about Lotho. She decided to return Bag End to Frodo and go to live with her family in Hardbottle. To her credit, when she died the next spring, she left everything she had to be used to help those hobbits who had lost their homes as a result of her son's actions.

Whatever ruffians remained in the Shire were hunted down and shown the borders. The shiffiff-houses were torn down and the hobbit holes were repaired. Bagshot Row was rebuilt and the Old Gaffer was returned to his rightful spot at Number Three. But Sam lamented the loss of all the trees that were destroyed. At last, he remembered the small wooden box that Galadriel had given him. He looked inside and saw that it was filled with a grey dust and in the middle was a small silver seed. After talking it over with Frodo, Merry and Pippin, he went all around the Shire planting saplings where the most beautiful trees had been chopped down. With each he put a small amount of the dust in the soil that surrounded the roots. And the seed he planted where the Party Tree had stood.

By the time spring came, the trees sprouted very quickly and the seed had grown into a small sapling of a Mallorn tree like those in Lothlorien. That year, 1420 by Shire Reckoning, was a prosperous year for the hobbits. But that March, while Sam was out tending to his trees, Frodo fell into a bought of depression. Close to the anniversary of Shelob's sting, Farmer Cotton found him lying in his bed clutching the white gem that hung around his neck. "It is gone forever," he said, "and now all is dark and empty." But this malaise passed by the time Sam returned on the 25th though he didn't tell his friend anything about it.

Sam proposed to Rosie Cotton and Frodo, sensing Sam's wish to still take care of his Master, invited them to live at Bag End and start a family. Within the year they would have a daughter, Elanor, named after the golden flowers of Lorien. Merry and Pippin lived for a while at Crickhollow but returned to Bag End often. They had become the talk of the Shire not only because of their heroics at the Battle of Bywater but for the fact that they had grown taller than any living hobbit because of the Ent Draughts they drank in Fangorn Forest. On October 6th, Frodo seemed distracted and not quite himself. It was the second anniversary of the attack on Weathertop.

Time passed and a year later Bilbo's one hundred and thirty-first birthday was approaching. Frodo asked Sam to go on a short journey with him. Sam assumed they were going to Rivendell to see Bilbo, but Frodo had other plans. He gave Sam the red-bound book in which he and Bilbo had written about their adventures. "I have quite finished, Sam," said Frodo. "The last pages are for you." They journeyed east the same way they had traveled when they first encountered Gildor and the Elves. On September 22nd, they saw Gildor again and he was with Elrond and Galadriel. Riding slowly behind them was a very old Bilbo Baggins. It was the last riding of the Ring-bearers, bound for the Grey Havens and Frodo was going with them.

Sam didn't understand. He thought that Frodo would stay on and enjoy the Shire for years.

"So I thought too, once. But I have been too deeply hurt, Sam. I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them. But you are my heir: all that I had and might have had I leave to you. And also you have Rose, and Elanor; and Frodo-lad will come, and Rosie-lass, and Merry, and Goldilocks, and Pippin; and perhaps more that I cannot see. Your hands and your wits will be needed elsewhere. You will be the Mayor, of course, as long as you want to be, and the most famous gardner in history; and you will read things out of the Red Book and keep alive the memory of the age that is gone, so that people will remember the Great Danger and so love their beloved land all the more. And that will keep you as busy and as happy as anyone can be, as long as your part of the Story goes on."

They rode throughout the night westwards across the Shire and along the edge of the White Downs. They reached the white towers of the Emyn Beraid and were met by Cirdan the Shipwright. In the distance, they they saw the sea, the beauty of which they had never seen before. Cirdan led them to the Gulf of Lune, where a ship waited for them at the Grey Havens. Also waiting for them was Gandalf. He was robed in white standing alongside Shadowfax and openly wearing the red Elvish Ring Narya, the Ring of Fire. Elrond was wearing Vilya, mightiest of the Three. It was a gold band embedded with a blue stone. And Galadriel wore Nenya, the Ring wrought of mithril with its single white stone. Because of the departure of the Elven Rings, the refuges of Rivendell and Lothlorien would diminish without the power to sustain them. Though, their waning strength would have made this inevitable even if they had remained in Middle-Earth.

Merry and Pippin suddenly rode up to join them and see Bilbo and Frodo off. Gandalf said farewell to his friends, for his work was done and he was taking the journey over the Sea as well. It was the end of the Fellowship. "I will not say: do not weep," said Gandalf, "For not all tears are an evil." He escorted Bilbo onto the large white ship which Elrond and Galadriel had already boarded. Now it was time for Frodo to say goodbye to his friends.

It's sometimes very difficult for some readers to fully understand why Frodo sails to the Blessed Realm. I've had people who had either read the books or seen the films for the first time ask me (knowing full well I'm a Tolkien geek) "Why did Frodo have to go away?" It certainly wasn't the ending they were expecting. It's even more confusing when you consider that he is journeying to a physical place that is removed from this world. And he's going by ship. They also ask "Where is he going?" and "Does he live forever there or does he die." If you haven't read any of Tolkien's other works, it's not surprising for such questions to come up.

The quick answers are that Frodo doesn't have to go. He is given the opportunity to go and he chooses to because he can never be truly happy anymore at home. Like a returning war veteran, Frodo bears many scars - both physical and spiritual - that won't heal and will cause him suffering his whole life. In the Undying Lands, he will be at peace. And there will be friends, particularly those with whom he is now taking the journey. Frodo is a mortal and will eventually die when he reaches his full lifespan but he will live out the remainder of his years in a sort of paradise. There his wounds will heal and he will forget what suffering is. Imagine if you could spend the rest of your life in the perfect vacation spot doing whatever you wanted and never having to worry about the end of the trip. Not a bad deal, huh?

As Tolkien explains in Letter No. 246 in reply to a reader:
"He went both to a purgatory and to a reward, for a while: a period of reflection and peace and a gaining of a truer understanding of his position in littleness and in greatness, spent still in Time amid the natural beauty of 'Arda Unmarred', the Earth unspoiled by evil."
For even though the Ring was destroyed, it still "possessed" Frodo. The evil of the Ring had left its mark on him and its loss would forever torment him. In Valinor, he would be free of that torment.

Sam, Merry and Pippin watched as the ship sailed away down the Gulf into the open Sea. It was time for Sam to let go of Frodo, and to fully embrace the life that waited for him back in the Shire.

The story is now ended. So I will conclude it exactly the way J.R.R. Tolkien (and, thankfully, Peter Jackson) did:
"At last the three companions turned away, and never again looking back they rode slowly homewards; and they spoke no word to one another until they came back to the Shire, but each had great comfort in his friends on the long grey road.

At last they rode over the downs and took the East Road, and then Merry and Pippin rode on to Buckland; and already they were singing again as they went. But Sam turned to Bywater, and so came back up the Hill, as day was ending once more. And he went on, and there was yellow light, and fire within; and the evening meal was ready, and he was expected. And Rose drew him in, and set him in his chair, and put little Elanor upon his lap.

He drew a deep breath. 'Well, I'm back,' he said."


[Chronology: November 4th 3019 through October 6th 3021 T.A.**]

** Technically, the Fourth Age began on September 30th 3021 but for simplicity's sake all chronology dates are listed as T.A. (Third Age)


J.R.R. Tolkien had much more to share about Middle-Earth that didn't quite fit into The Lord of the Rings. But he saved much of this additional material for the reader to explore by including it at the end of The Return of the King in The Appendices. First, I'll start off with an Introduction.

(revised 11/14/06)


At 10:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats on finishing...looking forward to the appendices.

I had wondered what happened to Frodo in the Undying lands...interesting.

At 11:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always assumed Frodo does not actually die after he goes to the West (while Peter Jackson says in his movie commentary that Frodo actually dies when he goes to the West). I guess we are both wrong...

At 1:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Tolkien's world, no mortal being can live forever - not even in a place where beings don't normally die.

Valinor is called "the Undying Land" not because being there bestows immortality but rather because it is the home of the Valar, the Maia and the Elves who leave Middle-Earth.

Back in the Second Age, the Numenoreans were always envious of the immortality of the their Elven bretheren. At that time, the Numenoreans captured Sauron in Middle-Earth and brought him back as a prisoner. He assumed a fair form back then and eventually used lies and deceit to convince the Men that they could achieve the immortality that they craved if they violated the ban of the Valar and set foot on Valinor.

Their disobedience led to the destruction of Numenor and the removal of the Undying Lands from Middle-Earth, so that only specially designated ships could sail there. Frodo was granted a place on one of these ships. Specifically, he went in place of Arwen, who chose to stay in Middle-Earth to be with Aragorn, but also was doomed to die of grief when he was gone.

At 8:17 PM, Blogger Sponky said...

Bravo Gary, Bravo! I have loved reading the series.

At 7:16 PM, Blogger Lord Floppington said...

Congratulations on a long task well completed. Thanks for making such a dedicated effort for the rest of us.

At 4:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this series. I've immensely enjoyed reading your appreciation of the LOTR, and it's not because I've lacked other material. I hope you found the effort satisfying.

At 6:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I just spent the last few days reading this start to finish, I must say job well done! Please, as you are able, write more. Thank you for sharing this with all of us.

At 12:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kind words. The more I look back on this the more I'm amazed that I stuck with it.

The only thing I currently have planned is to go through and make a number of cross-links from the chapter posts to the Unfinished Tales entries. I'll likely do this soon as I'm getting ready to read through it again.

I may also decide to post here and there on certain themes or topics that strike me as I go.

No promises though.

At 10:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for the series. For the past 3 days I have read from beginning to end and it was fantastic.

At 1:12 PM, Blogger Headspace said...

Bravo to you sir. I know I'm a little late to this party, but wanted you to know your efforts were still being read and appreciated.

For myself, I decided to re-read The Hobbit once the film was finally greenlit, and that led me to revisit LOTR. I sometimes rushed to finish a chapter so that I could come here and read your article, especially the tidbits from HoME and Unfinished Tales, which I haven't read. Just going to tackle the Appendices now, then on to the Silmarillion!

At 9:01 PM, Anonymous Mark McAndrew said...

Absolutely brilliant, thank you. Read the lot over two nights.

Been far too long since I last read it. That will now be rectified. Totally agree with your comment about 'you bow to no-one', the one moment where I actually welled up in the cinema.

Still, one thing I've always thought; if the eagles could bring them back from Mt Doom, they should have given them a lift there as well. Drop the ring off, job done, home for tea...



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