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The Gardener's Tale

Nasty Elf Bread

When Gollum snaked his long, lank, grey hand into Sam’s pack on the Stairs of Cirith Ungol and drew out the precious lembas he felt nothing but hatred for the stolid, suspicious hobbit….

‘Nassty fat hobbit!’ Hatess poor Sméagol….’ He thought to himself, wallowing in self-pity and delighting in his own mischief….

Of Frodo he hardly thought at all, or only as a beast of prey might think of its quarry. Gollum had already overcome Sméagol’s pity for the kind hobbit who had known his name and had held out a hand of compassion to him….

‘Kill him!’ said Gollum. ‘Kill him!’ And Sméagol no longer objected. Not even the kind hobbit would he spare, but kill them both, kill anyone to regain the Precious….

But when he touched the lembas, Gollum paused. He hated and feared the nasty Elf-bread, for it awoke strange feelings in him. He remembered for a brief, searing moment what it was like to look up through the summer leaves of the forest, and to taste food that was not vile….suddenly a feeling of great weariness came over him and for a moment he looked across at Frodo, sleeping on the very ledge of the dark and perilous stair.

Since they had drawn close to Minas Morghul Frodo had weakened visibly; no longer was he the brave and strong hobbit who had stood up to Faramir in Ithilien. The shadow of the Dead City fell upon him and he seemed to fail and fade under it. His eyes wore a look of preoccupation, as if he was constantly absorbed by some dreadful inner struggle. Sam saw it at once, climbing the Stairs behind his master, watching Frodo’s handholds almost as carefully as his own….

‘Poor hobbit….’ Gollum thought despite himself. The greenish light emanating from the city of Minas Morghul far below gave Frodo’s face a sickly, haunted look. He appeared like a child, worn by fever and hunger, lost and far from home….despite all his crimes and all his lies, Gollum felt pity.
‘Kind master….’ he murmured, stretching out a lank, bony hand. ‘You were the only one to be kind to poor Sméagol….gollum!’

He laid his hand on Frodo’s shoulder. Under the grey cloak he could feel the hobbit’s wasted frame, shivering even in sleep, dreaming of unquiet and dreadful things….

‘What are you doing, silly!’ came a voice in Sméagol’s head. ‘What are you waiting for?’

Sméagol recoiled, and began to whimper ‘I'm not doing anything! But kind master, why do I have to …’
‘Kind master!’ raged the voice in his head. ‘he betrayed you! To nasssty cruel men! Kill him, kill him, kill them both….’
‘No…’ sobbed Sméagol. But the voice of Gollum was stern and adamant;
‘He wears the Precious….don’t you want to get the Precious back?’
‘Yes, yes…’ chanted Sméagol, covering his head with his arms and rocking back and forth.
‘Sméagol wantss the Preciousss….’

‘Then…’ said Gollum quietly ‘Throw away nassty Elf-bread, and blame the fat hobbit. And when Master sends the fat hobbit away, Master will be all alone; all, all alone, alone in the dark with…HER!’

And Gollum began to cackle with laughter. But he quickly stopped himself, in case he was heard. He turned to Sméagol and hissed; ‘And you will be revenged on him for his treachery, and on the fat hobbit for all his cruelty to poor Sméagol. And you will have the Precious….’

‘I will have the Preciouss….’ intoned Sméagol, and without thinking any more he grasped the leaf-covered wafers of Elven waybread and drew them out of Sam’s pack and one by one he tossed them out into the void and watched as they floated slowly downward, down, down towards the jagged battlements of Minas Morghul and the dark ragged armies streaming out of its gates towards the West….

Sam could not tell how long he sat weeping. There was no night or day in this dark land, no morning or evening. He only knew he had not felt time passing, only the agony of being left behind by his master.

‘Never leave your master!’ Gildor the Elf had told him.
‘But what if my master bids me leave him?’ wept Sam to himself. ‘What then?’

He remembered the last time Frodo had ordered him to go back. It was at the Lake of Nan Hithoel, and Frodo was already far from the shore in a tiny boat. Sam had not obeyed then, but had thrown himself into the water to reach his master’s side. He would have drowned before letting Frodo depart without him….

But this was different; Frodo was different. The light of fellowship and trust had died in his eyes. But so great was the love Sam bore Frodo he did not for one moment blame his master, but Gollum.

‘That vile creature!’ he thought, choking with tears. ‘He has poisoned Frodo against me, and Master is too weak and sick to see what is happening…’

Then, because to stay and brood on it was too much to bear, Sam rose and began to descend the Stairs of Cirith Ungol. Tears blinded him and he stumbled, but he hardly cared where he stepped or even if he fell. For one dizzy moment, in fact, he thought of jumping and dashing himself to pieces on the razor-sharp black rocks far below. There was nowhere for him to go to, nothing for him to live for….

But with a sigh Sam planted his feet on the top of the Stairs and began to descend; even in his despair Sam could not put an end to his own story. Who could tell, some way to rejoin his beloved master might yet be found….

And so, sustained by this faint hope, Sam descended the Stairs he had painfully climbed only a few hours earlier.

But Sam was weak now not only with fatigue but with grief. His feet slipped once and then again....

‘Carefiul, Sam Gamgee!’ he said to himself. ‘If you fall through the roof of that there city you will tell all the orcs in Mordor someone is up here and they might go looking and find Frodo….’

He did not finish the sentence; his heel, wet from the dripping rock, slithered off a rung of the deadly ladder and Sam, his pack caught and buffeted by outcrops of stone, fell off the Stairs and plunged down into the abyss….