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The Gardener's Tale

7

Sometimes at night in Lórien Sam could not sleep. It was not because he did not feel safe, or was not at ease; quite the opposite, since the Company had left Rivendell Sam had not felt so secure and protected as he did in this deep and magical wood. It was simply that when he gazed up through the branches of the great mallorn trees the stars seemed to glow larger and brighter than anywhere else in Middle Earth, even in the Shire, and the beauty disturbed him and he could not sleep.

Hobbits like to sleep on the ground. In holes in the ground, if possible, and the four were not too pleased to be invited to sleep on the flets or platforms used by the Galadhrim, the Elves of Lórien. But Sam did not mind, he loved trees and quite liked the idea of sleeping in one.

Sam had been frightened at first when they went into the wood; they were surrounded by tall unsmiling Elves with great bows, larger and more powerful than that used by Legolas. They had been taken before the Lady, and Sam had been frightened then too, she had seemed to look through him and to read his very heart. He could not understand what her words meant; 'Hope remains if the Company stays true...' but Merry and Pippin told him later on that he had blushed to his toes.

But Sam's fear soon melted away. He was overcome by the sense of this place. Rivendell was beautiful and full of wonderful things, but here the very air seemed scented by some fragrance drawn from the earth by sun after showers. The colours were familiar to him, but as if new made, never seen before. It was winter, but the silver bark of the great mallorns and the leaves still clinging to the branches of lesser trees seemed to glow in the air as if lit from within. Time seemed to pass differently to what Sam was used to; he lost track of the days, and the wood and the Elves were to him almost like some place and people out of an ancient story or song. Sam could only think of one word to describe Lórien: magic.

Unworried about pursuit or enemies Sam was free to enjoy the plants and trees of Lórien. No gardener, pruning and weeding ceaselessly, could achieve such beauty and perfection. Some power unknown to Sam or to anyone in the Company must preserve this place and keep it from decay. Sam could not resist taking a few slips from plants, even though he knew they would perish in his pack. The Elves noticed at once, and although they laughed and did not remonstrate, Sam knew the Lady was aware of what he did.

Scattered about on the fragrant grass of Lórien were tiny flowers which Haldir told the Company were called Niphredil and, the one which enchanted Sam most of all, a small yellow flower, Elanor. Sam thought that never in any garden in the Shire or even in Rivendell had he seen a plant as lovely as this.

Sam felt healed in Lórien. A great sense of happiness settled on him, despite knowing that the Quest remained unfinished. But he would not have been happy or content had Frodo not also been eased by the place. But Sam saw that Frodo too had found some respite from his grief for Gandalf and his sore trials of body and mind in Moria. His bruises healed, and although as he felt stronger and free of pain he thought more of Gandalf, the passage of time and the beauty of Lórien made the grief easier to bear.

The others too found peace in Rivendell. Sam had thought that Pippin would never smile again, that his heart had been broken in Moria, but here he too regained his spirits and once again as in Rivendell won the hearts of even the grim Galadhrim. Legolas had at first been taken aback to be treated as a stranger by his own folk; he had learned a lesson about the cost of befriending the enemy of his race. But then he busied himself to assist the Galadhrim in their defences agains the orcs, and was often away from the Company. But Sam noticed with an inward smile that he brought Gimli with him everywhere, whatever the Galadhrim thought. He showed the dwarf the beauties of Lórien, although Sam had an idea that Gimli only pretended to appreciate the plants.

Aragorn in Lórien seemed to shed his cares, and looked to Sam like a young prince. This seemed to be his home, even more than Rivendell. But of all the Company Sam thought Boromir seemed to derive no healing or comfort from the Golden Wood; Sam often saw him pacing about, muttering, and his face showed no calm or delight in the beauties around him. Sam shrugged his shoulders and thought that worrying about Gondor prevented him from absorbing the peace of the wood around him.

But at the back of Sam's mind was the nagging thought that they should be going on. One day he said it to Frodo; 'It's the job that isn't started that takes longest to finish' Frodo sighed and agreed; 'You're right, Sam' he said. 'We should be on our way soon....'

That night Sam, sleeping fitfully for a change, woke to see Frodo's place empty. Sam got up quickly and went in search of his master. He was drawn down a steep flight of mossy steps into a hollow in the wood, guarded by great trees. There stood Frodo, and beside him The Lady, clad all in white. In the middle of the hollow was a low pedestal carved like a tree, and on it a silver basin filled with water. Sam was aware that they had been talking for some time. Then the Lady said to Frodo; 'Will you look in the mirror?' his master did not answer. Sam crept nearer. Galadriel turned to look at him. 'Do you wish to look in the Mirror, Sam?'

Despite himself Sam wanted to look. It had been so long since he had left The Shire, he wanted to know if all was well. And if it was permitted, why not see some Elf magic?

'I think I will, my lady, although like as not I'll only see something I won't understand.' Galadriel smiled and let Sam step up to the Mirror.

At first there was nothing, just the reflection of the stars. Then Sam saw a high dark cliff, and Frodo lying asleep under it. Sam murmured, then saw himself labouring up endless winding stairs, as if seeking something he could not find. Then suddenly the scene changed and there were trees waving and crashing. It was the trees that lined the road to Bywater, and someone was cutting them down....

Sam gave a yell and started back. 'I've got to go home!' he cried. 'All's not well in The Shire, there's evil afoot! Master Elrond was right, Merry should have gone back to look after things. I've got to go home!'

Galadriel waited till Sam has stopped then said gently 'You cannot go back. Do you want to leave your master?' Sam hung his head and said 'No.' Galadriel turned back to Frodo.

Sam went off to sit by himself. He did not want to hear any more. In his heart was black turmoil; the thought of the destruction in The Shire burned him like fire. Now more than anything he wanted to get on and accomplish what they had set out to do, or die in the attempt. If only he could go home! When he did, someone would get what was coming to him! Sam sighed; not all Elf magic brought happiness.

Just then a movement made him look up; Galadriel had raised her arms towards the East, spread out as if trying to push back some unseen cloud. Through her fingers shone the light of a single star. Frodo was looking up at her in wonder. Then she let her arms fall and turned to the hobbits with a sad smile. Sam went over to Frodo. 'Let us speak no more of this...' she said.

After that Sam and Frodo knew they had to go on, and indeed the Company made ready, and the Elves were given orders by the Lady to assist them in their preparations. They had not, for all the time they had spent in Lórien, yet decided which way to go, whether south or to Gondor, as urged by Boromir. Seeing their indecision Celeborn ordered that they be given boats, to take them down the river. This would bring them on their journey and they could decide later which way to go. 'Fine, wonderful' thought Sam 'only I hate boats!'

These slim grey barks looked too light and fragile to endure long on the Great River, but Sam told himself that things elven, like the Elves themselves, were stronger than at first appeared.

On the day appointed for their departure Galadriel came herself to bid them farewell and to give them gifts. Sam stood at the back of the Company, behind Frodo. This could not concern him, he was only a gardener. Gimli's request for a lock of the Lady's hair as a gift caused a commotion among the Elves and Sam put his hand over his mouth to stifle a laugh. Good old Gimli! Then when all the presents seemed to have been given Galadriel called Sam to the front. Burning with embarrassment Sam hardly understood what the Lady said, but into his hand she put a little box, with the letter G, for Galadriel, or for Garden in his own tongue, on the lid. Long after he left Lórien Sam remembered her words, and they always made his heart glow; 'Little gardener and lover of trees....'

So absorbed was Sam that he hardly noticed getting into the boat, until he felt the chill of the swift-running water just under his hand on the gunwhale. He glanced back doubtfully at Aragorn as he paddled slowly and almost reluctantly out into the stream. Before him in the boat sat Frodo, wrapped in thought, seeming to Sam to be in a world of his own. In his hand he held the Lady's parting gift, a phial of crystal infused with light, the light of Earendil, the evening star, most beloved of the Elves. Frodo gazed at with longing, as if it was the land of Lórien which they were leaving.

As they turned a bend in the river Sam looked back and saw the Lady raise her hand in farewell. Sam gazed back at Lórien as it drew out of sight, knowing that he would never see such beauty again in Middle Earth, and perhaps if he ever came back, he would not even find it again in Lórien.