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The Trees of Lothlorien in Spring - by Penny Nutbrown

Frodo climbed trees. He did so often, and often to very great heights. Sam found this distressing. Sam liked trees, and he adored Frodo, but each in their proper place.

"It just ain’t natural," Sam would insist, watching from the sensible safety of the ground. "Hobbits ain’t made for climbing trees."

"You worry too much, Sam," Frodo would reply, reaching for a higher branch, stepping out onto a creaking limb.

"No, Mr. Frodo," Sam would say glumly and shake his head, "when it comes to this tree climbing business, I worry pretty much the right amount. Ooh! I can’t look!" Sam would cover his eyes and turn away, and Frodo would smile.

It should, therefore, have come as no surprise to Sam when, one day in May, Frodo announced his intention to build a treehouse. It should have come as no surprise to Sam, yet surprised and distressed he was all the same.

"But Hobbits don’t live in trees," Sam protested.

"Elves do," said Frodo, and he laid a large book open before Sam.

"Ah!" Sam gasped, his eyes widening.

Ever since he’d been a very little lad, Sam had been fascinated by Elves. He had listened with rapt attention to Mr. Bilbo’s tales of his time in Rivendell and Mirkwood, and someday, when they were old enough for real adventures, Frodo and Sam were going to journey and see the Fair Folk for themselves. This was something for which Sam lived in both hope and trepidation.

"That’s Lothlorien," said Frodo, pointing to an illuminated illustration of a beautiful forest that seemed at once dark and light, and to shine both green and gold.

"Can you read what it says?" asked Sam, running a finger along the lines of Elvish script.

"East of the Misty Mountains," Frodo began, "beside the Silverlode, which flows into the great river Anduin, lies Lothlorien — the Golden Wood — the fairest Elf-kingdom in Middle-earth."

"Well, I’ll be," said Sam, impressed by both the words and the facility with which Frodo had deciphered the elegant wiggles and curves of the Sindarin language. "Mr. Bilbo must be fair-pleased with how far you’ve come in your Elvish lessons."

"That’s why he gave me this book," Frodo explained. "Bilbo sent word to his friend, Elrond Half-Elven to send him a book that would teach me about the history and lore of the Elves."

Sam was even more impressed. "Do you mean to say that the Lord of Rivendell himself sent you that book!"

"Yes," said Frodo, adding quickly, "but it’s really a present from Bilbo." Frodo gave a little laugh. "He gave it to me last night. He said, ‘Frodo-lad, somewhere in the Shire tonight, it’s some Hobbit’s birthday, and I am certain that that Hobbit would want you to have this book. I am merely acting as go-between, you understand, for that humble, anonymous and generous Birthday Hobbit’."

Sam laughed too, for Frodo had captured his guardian well in both speech and manner. Then Sam noticed a change in his companion’s expression, from humour to something softer, more wistful. Frodo ran his hand gently over the smooth red leather cover of the book. To Sam, it seemed almost a caress.

"You’re real fond of Mr. Bilbo, aren’t you, Mr. Frodo?’

Frodo smiled, almost shyly, his eyes not meeting Sam’s gaze, and nodded.

Sam Gamgee was not overly familiar with loneliness. Number 3 Bag Shot Row was a small hole and the Gaffer and his wife had been blessed with a large and boisterous family. There were six young Gamgees knocking about the place, vying for table space and bed space, handing down clothes, handing out rough justice, getting on each other’s nerves, but generally getting along — as families do. Frodo, Sam suspected, knew loneliness well. In the years between his parents’ death and coming to Bag End, Frodo had been passed about from relative to relative, never really belonging to anyone. Sam wondered, not for the first time, what it must be like to be Frodo Baggins: to be clever and curious, bright and brave, and so alone in the world.

Sam wondered about this, but only for a moment, for they were lads still and busy with the business of boys.

"I stayed up most of last night reading," said Frodo, once again eager to impart to Sam all that he had learned of Elven ways, "and that’s when I got the idea for our flet."

"For our what?" asked Sam, frowning.

"Here, look," Frodo turned the pages until he came to the picture of a lovely glade set out with trees of a magnificence beyond Sam’s experience.

"Those are mallorn trees," said Frodo, "They’re the tallest trees in all the world."

"Tell me what it says there," and Sam pointed to the accompanying text. Frodo read the words, and as he did so his voice seemed to Sam to sound like bells.

"The silver trunks of the mallorns tower up into a canopy of golden leaves and it is there in the many-levelled branches that the Elves of Lothlorien build their flets, their high houses. At the heart of the forest lies the royal city of Caras Galadhon where Lord Celebron and Lady Galadriel have their Royal Hall, the most beautiful flet nestled high in the crown of the mightiest mallorn of all."

Sam continued to stare at the image before him, some part of him already there in the dappled sunlight of the Golden Wood.

Sam sighed. "That sure would be a sight to see, wouldn’t it, Mr. Frodo?’

"It will be," said Frodo, determined. "Someday, we’ll go there, Sam, you and I, on behalf of all Hobbit-kind. And when we do, we shall be received by the Lady Galadriel and her consort right there, in their royal hall — their great flet. So unless we want to appear complete country bumpkins, we’d better get used to living in trees."

"I don’t know," said Sam, coming out of his reverie and gazing warily at the uncertain assemblage of boards which Frodo had thus far erected among the branches of the old oak. Then Sam had a notion.

"Don’t you think," he offered, cautious but hopeful, "that maybe when we do call on the Queen of the Elves, she might … well, seeing as we’d be like company and all, she might do the receiving on solid ground?’

Frodo smiled gently, and laid his hand on the younger lad’s shoulder.

"Seeing as it’s you, Sam Gamgee," he said, "she just might at that."

They remained at their labour for much of the day, making a picnic of both elevenses and luncheon. Frodo could not convince his friend to venture onto even the lowest branch, yet despite this, the earthbound Sam contributed much to the project. It was he who devised a way to make a light but sturdy awning by weaving together green willow gathered from the river’s edge. He altered the arrangement of the primitive pulley Frodo had devised, and the future Hobbit emissary to the Elves pronounced his companion a mechanical genius. Sam blushed pink. At each stage of progress, Frodo would consult his book, making sure that they were emulating , as far as their limited skills and materials would allow, the graceful lines and serene planes of Elvish architecture.

The sun had sunk to its low angle of late afternoon when Bilbo’s curly brown head was seen cresting the soft green wave of the hill.

"Frodo!" he called, and gestured. "Frodo Baggins! have you not noticed the time, lad?"

Frodo, who was then in the process of hauling a bucket-load of the Gaffer’s tools to the heights of his arborial fortress, started and let go the rope. Sam leapt out of the way in time, just sufficient, to prevent a very nasty bump on the head.

"It’s a good thing you’re lighter on your feet than you look, Sam Gamgee," said Bilbo, suppressing a smile, and offering a hand to his gardener’s apprentice. Frodo came scrambling down the tree. "And as for you, Mr. Baggins," Bilbo turned to his heir, "you were expected home half-an-hour ago. Your Aunt Dora is coming to tea, remember, and I do not intend to be the only one to benefit from her plentiful advice."

"I’m sorry, Bilbo," said Frodo, "I did forget."

"Mm," mumbled Bilbo, picking twigs and leaves from Frodo’s hair and brushing sawdust from his waistcoat. "You’ll need some tidying up or the theme of Dora’s lecture will be the value of cleanliness. Oh, well, if we get busy now, we should just make it."

Frodo looked about him at the scattering of wood and tools, willow and ropes.

"Don’t you worry about this here, Mr. Frodo," Sam assured him. "I’ll see to it."

Frodo issued a sigh of relief. "Thank you, Sam."

"You’re a jewel among Hobbits, Master Samwise," Bilbo smiled and patted Sam on the back. Sam stood a bit taller. "But don’t stay out too late." Bilbo pointed his walking stick toward the eastern sky. "There are storm clouds gathering yonder, and besides you need your own tea. Come along, Frodo-my-boy, the sagacious Dora awaits!"

It took Sam the better part of an hour to sort, stack and pack away the construction materials. To help pass the time, Sam sang as he worked. The song he chose was one of his favourites, about those mysterious — possibly mythical — creatures, oliphaunts. Nearly as much as he longed to one day see Elves, Sam longed to one day see an oliphaunt.

"Grey as a mouse,

Big as a house,

Nose like a snake,

I make the earth shake,

As I tramp through the grass,

Trees crack as I pass.

With horns in my mouth,

I walk in the south …"

It was during the second chorus that the first drops fell — light and gentle to begin with but quickly gaining both weight and intensity. The wind followed the example of its companion, the rain, and Sam struggled to pull the canvas tarp over the wood pile. He turned up his collar, crouched down into his jacket and decided to run for home.

He had not gone half-a-mile before the storm broke with all its strength. Lightning and thunder crashed and flashed in perfect fury. Stunned by the force of it, Sam threw himself to the ground, and it was as he lay there quaking that Sam realized. When Frodo had left with Mr. Bilbo, his hands had been empty. He had forgotten the book. Somewhere, high up in the branches of the oak tree, it remained.

Sam felt his heart sink. He knew that if the book remained out all night in such weather it would be damaged past restoring. Sam remembered how Frodo’s eyes had shone as he’d spoken of the book, and how his hand had touched the pages as if the book were a living being. The book was special to Frodo, valuable not only in its own worth, but as a gift of love from the person whom Frodo loved most in all the world.

Lying there in the wet grass, the storm worsening minute by minute, Sam knew he had a decision to make. His plain Hobbit sense told him that the risk was too great, the storm too fierce and the treehouse perilously high. Sam had never climbed a tree in his life, wouldn’t know how to begin, would in all likelihood topple from the branches and break his neck. It was foolishness to even consider such a course of action. And yet … there was Frodo. His Frodo, for when Sam’s heart spoke the name Sam knew that this was true. For the first time he realized just how dear Frodo had become to him, and he understood that there was nothing he would not do, no danger he would not face for Frodo.

Sam pulled himself up, then stood. There was a moment of hesitation, but only a moment, then he turned his back to the safety of home and set off in the direction of the oak.

Frodo had always made tree climbing look so easy. He moved gracefully among the branches, like a squirrel — or an Elf. Sam gave a bitter little laugh, he was more mole than squirrel and there was no danger he’d ever be mistaken for an Elf. Yet, he had to try. He was wetter now that he’d ever been in his life, and cold beyond reckoning. With shaking hands, he reached for the lowest branch, and with great effort hauled himself up.

"Well, there’s a start anyway," said Sam to himself, and he began to creep his way along the swaying limb.

The climb was even harder than Sam had imagined it would be. He had to reach far and hold fast. Twigs, sharp as dragon’s claws, caught and held him, and he had to fight both them and the wind. The cold rain made his normally able brown fingers clumsy and stiff. He looked up and the tree seemed to lengthen, reaching higher and higher toward the dark angry sky. The mossy bark of the old oak was slick beneath his bare feet and more than once, Sam had to be quick and grab hold of a nearby branch or fall. Yet, inch by grudging inch, he made progress.

Sam reached the treehouse just as a powerful gust of wind tore the willow roof from the structure and sent him sprawling onto the rough floor. Crawling on hands and knees, Sam fumbled among remnants of canvas, sodden leaves, broken branches, bits of lumber and forgotten tools until at last his groping fingers found the smooth leather cover of the book. He gripped the book firmly and he pulled it quickly toward him.

On shaking legs, he stood, tucking the book into the protective folds of his smock. It was then that, for the first time, Sam lifted his head and allowed himself a true sense of the heights he had attained. Despite the rain, Sam could see far — out across the fields and lanes of Hobbiton, out past the millpond and the wide road, beyond the forest, going ever onward and ever westward. Sam fancied he even saw the sea.

All at once, there was a loud crack of thunder and Sam was momentarily blinded by the flash. When his vision cleared, Sam saw that the tall pine growing but a few yards from the oak had been cleaved neatly in two. Sam could never clearly recall how he got down from the treehouse that day, but once his furry feet hit the comforting solidity of the Shire heath, they did not stop until they had borne him to the green door of Bag End.

The thunder had grumblingly departed and the wild wind eased. The rain had settled down to an unambitious patter, and Bilbo had taken the opportunity to escort the esteemed Aunt Dora home.

In his absence, Frodo had roused the fire and set the kettle to boil. He retrieved a cold roast chicken, a steak and kidney pudding, part of a loaf of brown bread and most of an apple pie from the larder, and laid one end of the long kitchen table for supper. At the opposite end, he sat down to read The Voyage of Earendil by candlelight. He had just reached the part in the narrative where the hero first sights the eastern shore, when the swollen door groaned softly open. Frodo looked up expecting to see Bilbo.

"Sam!" Frodo exclaimed in surprise, then he laughed. "You should have listened to Bilbo and gotten home before the rain." Little rivers flowed down the folds of Sam’s jacket and trousers, forming a series of interlinking pools upon the grey stone floor. "You need a towel, and a cup of hot tea, I think," said Frodo, rising from his chair. "The kettle’s nearly boiled. I’ll …"

Slowly from beneath his smock, Sam drew out the beautiful Elven book. Frodo’s eyes widened.

"My book," he gasped. "Oh, Sam, I forgot it."

Sam held it out to him with trembling hands. His teeth chattered audibly and strong shivers ran through his body. Frodo took the book from him and laid it upon the table. Then taking Sam’s hands in his own, he led his friend to the chair closest the fire. He knelt before Sam, still holding his hands.

"You l-l-left your b-book in the treehouse Mr. F-Frodo," Sam stuttered with cold . "Then it started to rain and I knew it’d be ruined."

"And so you climbed up there," marveled Frodo, "in that storm. Why the tree could have been struck by lightning, or the wind blown you off. Oh, Sam!"

Frodo stroked Sam’s hands to warm them.

"Well, I knew it was special, Mr. Frodo," said Sam simply. "Being from the Elves, and a present from Mr. Bilbo."

A warmth and a gladness touched Frodo’s heart. The original gift of the book had been special, but somehow not so much as this second giving. Frodo looked into Sam’s plain Hobbit face and saw there a beauty to rival the Golden Wood of Lothlorien. Sam smiled.

"Our flet’s taken a battering, sir, and no mistake," he resumed. "It’ll take a bit of work to set things to rights, but it’s nothing we can’t manage, Mr. Frodo."

"You know, Sam," said Frodo, giving Sam’s hand an affectionate squeeze. "I’m beginning to think that, so long as you’re with me, I’ll be able to manage most anything."



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