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The Long Goodbye - by Bess the Bard

The Long Goodbye--Sam's thoughts as he prepares to leave the Shire with Frodo on the Quest

By Bess the Bard

September 26, 3018 (T.A.)

Five small ponies munched on sweet oats and hay in the stable across the road from Crickhollow. The autumn pre-dawn air was a bit chilly. The breath of the ponies was whitely visible in the dim stable.

Sam Gamgee opened the barn door quietly and walked in. He had been up for hours already, making a breakfast sustaining enough for hobbits setting out on a long journey. He’d left Merry and Pippin to do the washing up and make sure Mr. Frodo was awake and ready to go.

Sam had peeked in on Frodo before breakfast, but his employer had been sleeping so soundly he’d hated to wake him. Frodo had not slept well in the last weeks before they left Bag End, looking troubled and hollow-eyed to Sam. But the revelation of the "conspiracy" last night and the conspirators’ refusal to let Frodo go alone on his quest seemed to grant him much needed peace in his slumber.

Although Mr. Merry had no doubt efficiently obtained all the proper supplies for the journey, Sam could not help going over everything again in the stable himself.

He checked all the packs, trying to make sure they had the necessary items. "Hard to tell what we’ll need," he muttered. "We don’t know where exactly we’re going, how long we’ll be gone or what we’re going to do when we get there."

Sam finally acknowledged Merry had provided everything Sam would have gotten himself. So he set about distributing the provisions onto the horses.

Sam tied a small keg of supplies onto a patiently munching pony. It shifted and huffed out a heavy breath. The pony’s wide brown eyes seemed to mirror Sam’s own doubts. "I wish Gandalf were here," the hobbit sighed wistfully. "He’d get us to where we need to be, all safe and proper. We’d unload this Ring to those that know what to do with it and no doubt be back home before Yule."

This pleasant fantasy lasted until the pony shifted again and the full weight of his front hoof landed squarely on top of Sam’s left foot.

"Ow!" Sam cried. "Get off my toes!" It felt like his foot was slowly being crushed to little pieces. Sam pushed with all his might but the pony remained unmoved, looking at Sam as if wondering what all the cursing and blowing was about. It was not until Sam happened to lean his own weight behind the pony’s shoulder that it shifted off Sam’s foot to get its balance. The pony snuffled innocently and went back to eating its generous breakfast. Sam glared darkly at the animal, but his daydreaming was over.

Remembering his useless wishing, he straightened up and said to himself, "Now, none of that, Sam Gamgee. You signed on this expedition free and willing, never mind Gandalf threatening to turn you into something unnatural. You always knew that when Mr. Frodo left the Shire, you were going with him. Yes, and follow him to the very end of the journey, wherever that might be. Even if it meant not coming back yourself."

That last thought had been on his mind quite a bit as he’d said his good-byes back in Hobbiton.


Sam remembered standing in the little garden in front of the Gamgee home just a few days before. The Gaffer thought, of course, that Sam was moving to Crickhollow with Mr. Frodo. The plan had the Gaffer’s approval. "When he’s among all those queer Brandybucks, Mr. Frodo will need a sensible hobbit from round here to remind him what it means to be a Baggins of Bag End. But he’ll just have to make do with you, Sam-lad." Hamfast’s eyes shone brightly. From the joke, Sam supposed, although his own eyes were none too dry.

"You make sure you give satisfaction, boy," the Gaffer said gruffly, straightening Sam’s waistcoat as if he were a tweenager again. "We’ve taken care of Bagginses for many a year. Gamgees are made for long wear, so you just stick close to Mr. Frodo and do as he says and you’ll come back right and tight."

"I will," Sam promised around the lump that suddenly appeared in his throat.

Hamfast reached inside his worn gray jacket. He drew out his old pipeweed pouch and two other packets wrapped in oilskin. "Here, I want you to have this." The Gaffer pressed the pouch into his son’s hands. "Old Holman gave it to me when I was a lad."

"It’s got a goodly supply of Old Toby, although I’ve sent along a bit of Longbottom Leaf, as well. Over there in Buckland, you may not be able to get any decent leaf at all." Hamfast handed both packets to Sam. His gnarled hands shook a moment and Sam gripped them tightly. When had his father grown so old?

"Well, be off with you, then. I’ve got things to do and so do you." His father looked at Sam a long moment, embraced him quick and hard, then went inside Number Three Bag Shot Row and closed the door.


The good-bye to Rosie had been more difficult. Sam had not intended to see her. He could not promise her anything, not even to come back alive. So what was there to say? But he reckoned without the stubbornness of Rose Cotton.

She came upon him the afternoon of the day he would leave Bag End with Frodo. He was standing on the lane in front of Bag End, lost in thought about the journey. By the time he realized she was there, she had him by the arm and was pulling him down the lane, only stopping when they were under the leafy canopy of the Party Tree.

"You were leaving without even saying good-bye, weren’t you?" She hissed at him. Sam had never seen her so angry. "You could say farewell to my brothers over ale in a tavern, but it was too much trouble to say even one kind word to me?"

Rose was fairly dancing in her anger. "Oh, when I think of all the time I’ve wasted on you. All the treats and delicacies I cooked with my own hands to get your attention. You ate them up quick enough but not one word about love or our future did I hear!"

"Rosie, I didn’t know…" Sam protested weakly. What defense did he have against the truth?

"You didn’t know?" Rose was speechless for a moment, but only until she took another breath. "You beef-witted clodpole! You boil-brained gudgeon!" Sam could only suppose she’d been listening to her brothers, for Tom Cotton would have washed her mouth out for sure if he heard her now.

But his musing was cut short when Rose, his quiet, long-suffering Rosie, suddenly came at him swinging. Again, her brothers must have had some influence on her, for her first punch would have landed square on his chin if Sam had not taken desperate measures. He dodged quickly and caught her in his arms, pinning her hands at the small of her back. He kissed her hard, cutting off yet more colorful insults.

Sam was amazed at his own boldness, but the sweetness of Rosie Cotton’s lips was like a heady wine. Stiff at first, Rose soon melted against him and kissed him back with matching eagerness. Sam freed her hands and she wrapped her arms around him. One part of his mind reflected happily how well their bodies fit together and he pressed her closer to him.

But finally, a dim clamoring voice in his brain got his attention. This was wrong. It felt so right, but he had nothing to offer her. His strength, his spirit, his very life belonged to the journey he must make with Frodo Baggins. He could give her no hope.

His heart heavy in his chest, Sam gently disengaged from Rose’s embrace. Her dreamy expression passed slowly, like clouds covering the sun. "Why did you stop, Sam? It’s all right, I’m not angry. I loved it!" She smiled brilliantly, clearly awaiting a declaration of eternal love from Sam Gamgee.

But Sam remained silent, his eyes gentle and sorrowful. Rose’s smile faded. "You’re still going away, aren’t you?" She realized. "Then take me with you," she pleaded. "We’ll get married and I’ll help you take care of Mr. Frodo."

Sam closed his eyes. His heart was breaking. She offered him everything he’d ever wanted. But he had made a promise. To Frodo, to Gandalf, to himself. If he could do nothing else, he would keep his promises. If he failed in that, he did not deserve the love of Rose Cotton.

"No, lass." Sam said quietly. "I can’t explain, but where I’m going, you can’t come. Don’t wait, Rose. Don’t break your heart over me." Sam kissed her again, soft and sweet. "But don’t forget me."

He left her standing under the Party Tree. She was too proud to cry until he was gone, but as he climbed back up to the lane, he heard her call out, "I’ll be waiting, Sam Gamgee. No matter how long it takes. I’ll wait for you."

Sam kept walking.


In the stable at Crickhollow, Sam wiped unwanted tears on his sleeve. He prayed the Gaffer would be all right, and that Rose would eventually find the happiness she deserved. Then he put them from his mind as best he could and went back to packing.

Soon Pippin came in and joined him in getting the rest of the ponies ready. They led the animals out into the gray dawn.

Merry, Frodo and Freddy Bolger came out of the cottage. Freddy would return to Crickhollow later to impersonate Frodo and divert suspicion. They were all conscious now of the pursuit of the Black Riders.

The party mounted up. Merry led them out onto the lane. But Frodo, second in line, twisted in his saddle and looked curiously at Sam, who had been very quiet so far. "Ready, Sam?"

Sam took a deep breath and smiled at his friend. "I’m all ready to go, Mr. Frodo."

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