With the Ring destroyed, things have turned toward the joyous, but there’s still plenty left to resolve as we enjoy the “happy ending”.
‘I am glad you are here with me,’ said Frodo. ‘Here at the end of all things, Sam.’
‘Yes, I am with you, Master,’ said Sam, laying Frodo’s wounded hand gently to his breast. ‘And you’re with me. And the journey’s finished. But after coming all that way I don’t want to give up yet. It’s not like me, somehow, if you understand.’
‘Maybe not, Sam,’ said Frodo; ‘but it’s like thing are in the world. Hopes fail. An end comes. We have only a little time to wait now. We are lost in ruin and downfall, and there is no escape.’
‘Well, Master, we could at least go further from this dangerous place here, from this Crack of Doom, if that’s its name. Now couldn’t we?’
One last time, Sam spurs his master to an effort when Frodo has no hope left, resulting in them being picked up by Gandalf with a couple of Eagles who came to help in the battle at the Black Gate. Also, the reason the Eagles couldn’t help out earlier in the journey is because the whole quest kind of depended on secrecy, and riding a giant bird is pretty conspicuous and liable to get you shot down.
But Sam lay back, and stared with open mouth, and for a moment, between bewilderment and great joy, he could not answer. At last he gasped: ‘Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?’
‘A great Shadow has departed,’ said Gandalf, and then he laughed, and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land; and as he listened the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days upon days without count. It fell upon his ears like the echo of all the joys he had ever known.
As hard as it is to make it through this book sometimes, it makes it all worth it in the end. These last hundred pages aren’t completely joy and sunshine, but we’re past the great trials and there is quite a lot of rejoicing. The orcs and other slaves of Sauron were scattered and confused by his downfall, so although many of them are still out there, they’re much less dangerous without a guiding will.
So this chapter is almost entirely dedicated to celebration.
On the throne sat a mail-clad man, a great sword was laid across his knees, but he wore no helm. As they drew near he rose. And then they knew him, changed as he was, so high and glad of face, kingly, lord of Men, dark-haired with eyes of grey.
Frodo ran to meet him, and Sam followed close behind. ‘Well, if this isn’t the crown of all!’ he said. ‘Strider, or I’m still asleep!’
‘Yes, Sam, Strider,’ said Aragorn. ‘It is a long way, is it not, from Bree, where you did not like the look of me? A long way for all of us, but yours has been the darkest road.’
And then to Sam’s surprise and utter confusion he bowed his knee before them; and taking them by the hand, Frodo upon his right and Sam upon his left, he led them to the throne, and setting them upon it, he turned to the men and captains who stood by and spoke, so that his voice rang over all the host, crying:
‘Praise them with great praise!’
And when the glad shout had swelled up and died away again, to Sam’s final and complete satisfaction and pure joy, a minstrel of Gondor stood forth, and knelt, and begged leave to sing. And behold! he said:
‘Lo! lords and knights and men of valour unashamed, kings and princes, and fair people of Gondor, and Riders of Rohan, and ye sons of Elrond, and Dúnedain of the North, and Elf and Dwarf, and greathearts of the Shire, and all free folk of the West, now listen to my lay. For I will sing to you of Frodo of the Nine Fingers and the Ring of Doom.’
[…] And all the host laughed and wept, and in the midst of their merriment and tears the clear voice of the minstrel rose like silver and gold, and all men were hushed. And he sang to them, now in the Elven-tongue, now in the speech of the West, until their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.
The festivities proceed to a great feast in their honor, drawing some more parallels to their stay in Rivendell back in Fellowship. Where once there were only islands of peace and security in a sea of darkness, now they’re able to enjoy the beauty outside of hidden strongholds without fear.
Gandalf returns their valuables to them as they dress up for the party, but Frodo is reluctant to wear a sword again, and only grudgingly agrees to take Sting because evidently it’s a fancy full-armor affair and he’d be positively naked without a sword.
‘Why, look Mr. Frodo! Look here! Well, if it isn’t Pippin. Mr. Peregrin Took I should say, and Mr. Merry! How they have grown! Bless me! But I can see there’s more tales to tell than ours.’
‘There are indeed,’ said Pippin turning towards him. ‘And we’ll begin telling them, as soon as this feast is ended. In the meantime you can try Gandalf. He’s not so close as he used to be, though he laughs now more than he talks. For the present Merry and I are busy. We are knights of the City and of the Mark, as I hope you observe.’
Once the party’s over, the hobbits congregate with Legolas and Gimli to swap stories.
[Sam] scratched his head. ‘Can’t understand it at your age!’ he said. ‘But there it is: you’re three inches taller than you ought to be, or I’m a dwarf.’
‘That you certainly are not,’ said Gimli. ‘But what did I say? Mortals cannot go drinking ent-draughts and expect no more to come of them than of a pot of beer.’
‘Ent-draughts?’ said Sam. ‘There you go about Ents again; but what they are beats me. Why, it will take weeks before we get all these things sized up!’
‘Weeks indeed,’ said Pippin. ‘And then Frodo will have to be locked up in a tower in Minas Tirith and write it all down. Otherwise he will forget half of it, and poor old Bilbo will be dreadfully disappointed.’
We also discover here that Pippin was badly wounded after that fight with the troll and might have died if Gimli hadn’t spotted his hobbit-feet in a pile of corpses…which also brings to mind that Merry must have ridden from Minas Tirith after the battle, but there’s been no mention of Faramir or Éowyn yet…
And there in the midst of the fields they set up their pavilions and awaited the morning; for it was the Eve of May, and the King would enter his gates with the rising of the Sun.
Until next time…