In this piece, Frodo is thinking back from the vantage point of the Lonely Isle, Tol Eressëa. "Lonely" not because it is home to the lonely, but because it is by itself, off the coast of Aman, just across the Bay of Eldamar, whither it was brought to carry the first Elves to Valinor from Middle-earth .
jan-u-wine and I were discussing the role of the Sea in Frodo's life, and of the phenomenon of "Sea-longing" in Tolkien's stories, as well as its relation to the Music of the Ainur that made the world, still to be heard in all its waters. I asked if Jan had written anything that touched upon the Sea in relation to Frodo. Indeed she had.
This is the first of two pieces related to the Sea I will present. These are not poetry but prose, yet they show Jan's signature use of word-images and rhythm. In it Frodo is thinking of home and Sam, and of the Sea that has sounded at the edges of his waking and dreaming all his life.
I chose the book excerpts below because they are related, but they needn't be read to appreciate the piece. The paintings are identified below.
The House of Tom Bombadil, FOTR:Before they had finished breakfast the clouds had joined into an unbroken roof, and a straight grey rain came softly and steadily down. Behind its deep curtain the Forest was completely veiled.
As they looked out of the window there came falling gently as if it was flowing down the rain out of the sky, the clear voice of Goldberry singing up above them. They could hear few words, but it seemed plain to them that the song was a rain-song, as sweet as showers on dry hills, that told the tale of a river from the spring in the highlands to the Sea far below. The hobbits listened with delight; and Frodo was glad in his heart, and blessed the kindly weather, because it delayed them from departing. The thought of going had been heavy upon him from the moment he awoke; but he guessed now that they would not go further that day.
Fog on the Barrow Downs, FOTR:That night they heard no noises. But either in his dreams or out of them, he could not tell which, Frodo heard a sweet singing running in his mind: a song that seemed to come like a pale light behind the grey rain-curtain, and growing stronger to turn the veil all to glass and silver, until at last it was rolled back, and a far green country opened before him under a swift sunrise.
Many Partings, ROTK:'Well, Mr. Frodo, we've been far and seen a deal, and yet I don't think we've found a better place than this. There's something of Wood and Gondor and kings' houses and inns and meadows and mountains all mixed. And yet, somehow, I feel we ought to be going soon. I'm worried about my gaffer, to tell you the truth.'
'Yes, something of everything, Sam, except the Sea,' Frodo had answered, and he repeated it now to himself: 'Except the Sea.'
The Music of the Ainur, The Book of Lost Tales, Pt. 1:Then the Ainur marvelled to see how the world was globed amid the void and yet separated from it; and they rejoiced to see light, and found it was both white and golden, and they laughed for the pleasure of colours, and for the great roaring of the ocean they were filled with longing. Their hearts were glad because of air and the winds, and the matters whereof the Earth was made -- iron and stone and silver and gold and many substances: but of all these water was held the fairest and most goodly and most greatly praised. Indeed there liveth still in water a deeper echo of the Music of the Ainur than in any substance else that is in the world, and at this latest day many of the Sons of Men will hearken unsatedly to the voice of the Sea and long for they know not what.
In the Ending is the Beginning
~ by jan-u-wine
My story begins with the Sea.
I know. Some there are who say it ended there, ended in the division of a curtain of grey rain, ended in a Road which could no longer curve but must perforce run straight.
Understand: I saw it. There, in the house of Iarwain (he that is named 'Eldest') between a night of chiming crystal-dremes and a morn of butter-soft sun, it was gifted me. And, thereafter, no matter the road, nor the swell of seasons, nor the plain or gilded push of life against me, no matter, She was there, her waves, her voice like tender roots twining to my heart, whispering 'peace' and a promise thereof when there was naught left to me (of me) save despair.
Do not mistake me. She was but a fragment of my Road, the beginning and the end of it, but never all.
Sam. The more (and here, I must, in remembrance, smile, at that ‘more’) goodly portion of my Road, as constant and enduring as the other, like to rich-delved solid earth himself, the touch-stone of all that might grow and struggle beneath the Sun.
Even to speak his name, in this far-off place, is to see and be Home. Almost like a dream, it all is to me now, a dreme of darkness absolute, a dreme of calm blue depths, a dreme of a voice (quiet with insistence) calling me back from the doorways of night. He it was held me to hope, at the last, a stubborn determination to go on until the body simply surrendered its will, its breath, its......life.
I did not. Surrender. Oh, I did not surrender to It.
And when and where his voice ended, Hers began, sighing and singing to me as I was granted (or so I supposed) passage to where the depthless heart of her lay. In Her song was the music of the First Day. And I listened until the rush of the wind became one with the tapestry of Her song, twining about the broken threads of me until I knew no more.
Against all thought, against all wanting or not wanting, I woke, but not to peace. The very sunlight was tainted gold, the very wind whispered in foul tongues I could not silence. My heart beat still, my lungs filled and emptied, my voice......
as if it were someone else speaking, I heard myself laughing in the vast, empty chamber of the world....
Never, never could I go Home. The voices whispered it, spectral, persistent as snow-fingered wind. Never. Something broke within me then, something which had not been suborned by the Mountain, something which had lived on the edge of a dulled and retreating hope.
Never. In sorrow, I knew just how long that should be.
Yet, where else, in all the wide World, should I go? I composed myself, took counsel, journeyed……..home. And, oh, the sun rising and pulling mist-ghosts from fields still sleeping in chill dawn, and the deep ancient green of the Brandywine as we crossed the bridge.....
They spoke to my heart in ways which nothing else might. I began to have hope that it should be enough, this home-coming, that these familiar sights, sounds.... places would, in time, replace the despair that too frequently claimed me.
The more filled with them, by them, I became, the more my heart quietened. The more my eyes took in, the less they saw. And the silence within grew until it had a sound of its own.
And, over it all, through it all, the voice of the Sea, the touch of it upon my cheek in dremes, the imagined smell of it tucked within an errant wind, the endless blue of it stretching towards an unseen shore......
the swift sunrise of my long-ago vision, stealing with soft promise upon hills minted new with sweet grass ….
with the Sea.
"Tom Bombadil's House" ~ Alan Lee
"Goldberry" ~ Alan Lee
"Breaking Wave" ~ Emil Carlsen
"The Bridge Over the Usk" ~ J. M. W. Turner
"Clouds Over the Sea On a Still Day" ~ Ivan Aizovsky
Previous Frodo entry: Nor Bid the Star Farewell by jan-u-wine, plus three paintings, 3-10-2010.