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NF-Lee's Gildor and Frodo

Happy Birthday, Frodo: "She" by jan-u-wine, painting by Gustav Klimt.

Posted on 2010.09.21 at 16:03
Tags: , , , ,

~ from Gustav Klimt's "The Three Ages of Woman", 1905.

It's been a while, hasn't it? Real life has taken its toll, not to mention writerly inertia. But how could we not celebrate the Bagginses' birthday? I know it's not till tomorrow, but it's already the 22nd in England, so why not? I am afraid Bilbo will get left out this time, since the poem I'm posting has to do with Frodo and his mother, not Frodo and Bilbo, but I think he will forgive me.

This is the first of several poems I plan to post by jan-u-wine that touch upon Frodo in relation to his parents. For this first poem about his mother, She, I have chosen a familiar image by Klimt. I have always liked the paintings of Austrian Symbolist painter, Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), but I have not thought of his work as expressive of Tolkien. Except as a detail, I would never have chosen this image. The full painting also shows an old woman -- naked, in a posture of despair or anguish, her face in her hand as if stifling a cry or simply not wanting to be seen, even her hair shrouding her face. With her, to the fore, is this beautiful young mother and child. The baby is meant to be a girl, since it's called "The Three Ages of Woman" and there are only three figures: the old woman, the young woman and the baby. To see the full painting, click here.

For the purposes of this post I am ignoring the baby's intended gender. All these years, having seen the mother and child posted with a Frodo fanfic, I have assumed the baby was a boy. The painting cannot be a literal likeness to the Tolkien characters, of course. Some fic writers have imagined Primula Brandybuck as a redhead, some as a blond, others, like jan-u-wine, imagine her with dark hair.

What I love about this image is its mood. It "feels" like Frodo and his mother to me, or the way Frodo remembered his mother. The young mother and child are so serene, surrounded by beautiful patterns of plants and flowers and jewels, as if floating in a sea of beauty. The mother and child appear to be asleep in a state of bliss, drifting in an enchanted pool, a magical embryonic fluid threaded with song and flowers and stars, dreaming together the ebb and flow of shared imagination. Perhaps their early life together was not like this, but I can't help thinking that Frodo's memories would have been a haven to him. Jan-u-wine's poem depicts Frodo remembering his mother, a mother whose love he still can enjoy if only in images so vivid and pure they seem to breathe.

Happy Birthday, Frodo Baggins. When at last you are reunited with those you love, may a star shine on the hour of your meeting.



was like

I know it.

I remember her:
all soft, dark hair
to serene,
pale beauty,

clever fingers
and curious eyes,
like the Sea.

I remember
the odd
of her head
when we
in dimming
and how her voice

high and low
about some phrase
that now I know
she loved.

I remember
she would sigh
and look away
when Da and I

wild with laughter,
through the gate,
carelessly wiped feet

across her floor,
dirty and downcast
as the rogues
we wished to be.

I remember.

She would bite her lip
and the pale pink
would blush to red
the red
would rise
into the snow of her cheeks.

I remember
the soft,
roundness of her arms,
the left holding me,
tight, safe
against the steady rhythm
of her heart,
against the billow of her skirt,
the right
twisting sun-hazed
black-berries from their
hooked vines.

I remember.

I remember
the night they brought her Home.

So far above her
I stood
and watched them
close her eyes.

I did not want them to.

How could we see
each other
if they did that?

Even then,
I remember,

I remember....

her mouth smiled at me,
just a little.

A pale water-lily
in the dark enchantment
of her hair.

Her hand,
curled like a babe's
inside Da's dark palm.

Her head
upon the sturdiness
of his chest.

The heaviness of his arm
still held her,
against the night. .

They are sleeping.

Aren't they?

Soon it will be light
and she will rise,

*they* will rise,

and she will sweeten porridge for me
and Da and I will dig worms from the garden
to catch fish with.

We will run
and chase fire-flies
beneath the heated moon
until we fall,

on either
side of her
and she will tell us stories
of long-ago.

They will not go
where I
cannot follow.


when it is grey outside,
and the rain
runs soft
down the face of the Row....

I take his cloak
and walk
out into the darkness,
into the night
which smells of damp'd fires,
and I remember him.


I seek her
in the distant
that pours
upon the voice
of the wind,
and sleeps
like a tiny, fragile bird
in the arms of the trees.

She was like me.

I know it.

Previous Frodo entry:

~ Caravaggio: 'The Musicians', plus jan-u-wine's "In the City of the King", 4-30-10.

Other Links:

~ All entries featuring jan-u-wine's poems.


(Deleted comment)
mechtild at 2010-09-21 22:40 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for stopping in, Mews. Your comment warms the cockles of my heart. :) The poem really does reach deep into the reader. Both, "ow!" and "ah!" in its touch.
shirebound at 2010-09-21 21:51 (UTC) (Link)
What a lovely, poignant poem, and this painting definitely gives the feeling of our sweet Frodo.
mechtild at 2010-09-21 22:41 (UTC) (Link)
Shirebound, thanks. I'm so pleased the poem and image choice worked for you. I think they are so moving, both of them. :)
primula_baggins at 2010-09-22 01:56 (UTC) (Link)
*sigh* I forgot it was Frodo and Bilbo's birthday tomorrow. *hangs head in shame* The poem is beautiful, as is the artwork. Thanks for both.
mechtild at 2010-09-22 14:20 (UTC) (Link)
No need to hang head. Just enjoy and celebrate!
Lavender Took
lavendertook at 2010-09-22 03:09 (UTC) (Link)
Oh, Jan's poem is achingly exquisite.

The last stanza before the refrain closure is beautifully ethereal, but that beginning and end brings it all to earth--it grounds the poem as it frames it.

That Klimt is an adorable baby Frodo, even if Klimt does suck at age positivity and obviously couldn't appreciate the song a beautiful crone's wrinkle can sing.

It's good to see you back! Happy Baggins' Birthday to you and Jan! (-:
mechtild at 2010-09-22 14:30 (UTC) (Link)
Isn't that a perfect finish to that section? I'm so glad you stopped in, Lavender, especially after I've been so absent.

I looked and looked for an interpretation of the full painting, not the interpretation of viewers but Klimt's own. I haven't been able to decide whether the old woman, so apparently wretched, is supposed to be wretched because she is old or because she is forgotten, even shunned. The more I looked at this painting the more it made me think of older friends or writers complaining that as they aged they felt more and more invisibile, not more and more unattractive looking. That people simply stopped paying attention to them the way they did, whether at parties or at work, at the clinic reception desk or in a store. The young woman and child appear to be in their own world, oblivious to everything else. They are in the foreground, literally in the spotlight, while the old woman is in the shadows, as if unlooked at, unthought of. Or maybe the old woman is the same woman as the mother, the same woman as the child, and is thinking back regretfully on her own indifference to others, especially the elderly. "I was so blythe and foolish, not believing this [an old marginalized woman] would ever be me." Or maybe the painting means the obvious thing: it's nice to be young, a lot less nice to be old.

Personally, although I don't mind the loss of my former beauty that much anymore, I really regret the loss of my old health and strength. I hate getting decrepit. But, that's life and one must live it. :)
maewyn_2 at 2010-09-22 12:17 (UTC) (Link)
A beautiful poem to match a beautiful painting! Happy birthday, Frodo! :)
mechtild at 2010-09-22 14:30 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks, Maewyn! It's good to see you (so to speak). :)
pearlette at 2010-09-22 15:07 (UTC) (Link)
It's a long while since I read any of Jan's poems and that is absolutely beautiful. :)

And your musings:

The mother and child appear to be asleep in a state of bliss, drifting in an enchanted pool, a magical embryonic fluid threaded with song and flowers and stars, dreaming together the ebb and flow of shared imagination.

Lovely. I like Klimt's work.

I like 'Frodo childhood' fics as long as they don't overdose on the angst factor. (I enjoy fanon as much as the next person and can take some angsting, to be sure, but the Tolkien fandom really goes overboard on Frodo Angst, as if the poor guy didn't suffer enough in CANON.)

Here is one of my favourite 'Frodo's childhood' fics, A Day on the River by Oselle:

This story pushes every single button I possess, and the final line is EXQUISITE.
mechtild at 2010-09-22 15:47 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for the rec, Pearl. I remember Oselle being highly regarded as a Frodo writer, back in the Harem days, although I'd never got around to reading her stuff.

I, too, dislike an overload of angst depicting Frodo's childhood, or adulthood, except the actual angst he suffers in the canon story. Jan has been able to show me a Frodo who has a tender place, as if there were a little closet where he kept his memories and sorrow over the early loss of his parents, one which he could visit but one which he could shut. Most people have sadness in their lives, hurts, griefs, things that they "get over" but don't forget, yet they are able to set them aside and carry on their lives and enter into good relationships, just as Tolkien did. They don't forget, but what they've experienced doesn't hamstring them, doesn't damage their personalities or character. It even deepens and enhances them. I've always thought Frodo had to have had a decent, solid childhood and young adulthood or he could not have stood up to the riguors of the Quest the way he did. It not only required character and courage to do what he did, but tremendous psychological, spiritual and moral stamina. A person who was all screwed up by his bad childhood, youth or young adulthood could not have done it.
Estë   (or ST for short)
este_tangletoes at 2010-09-22 20:33 (UTC) (Link)
It’s wonderful to see you Mechling! You have been away for quite some time now.

The manip is beautiful full of warm colour and tenderness. I admire Gustav Klimt’s art. Art Nouveau has always been a favourite of mine.

What a touching poem. Sad but also uplifting. He was such a loved child.

They will not go
where I
cannot follow.

mechtild at 2010-09-22 20:43 (UTC) (Link)
"Sad, but uplifting". So much in three words, Este. That could be a capsulized comment on the whole character of Frodo.

Yes, it's been a while. I've been doing real life and it's been doing me, both good and not good, but mostly good. Plus I have felt word-less as a writer. I've been reading a lot: Tolkien, books about Tolkien, and many other books, but not writing. If it weren't for wanting to share Jan's magical pieces, I wouldn't have anything to say here, or, at least, no proper zeal to say it. Yeah, jan-u-wine!!!

I hope you are well, Este, and looking forward to luxuriating fall at your little hideaway in the country.
antane at 2010-09-22 23:24 (UTC) (Link)
I knew you would not The Day pass by! Love the detail of mother and child and indeed they could be Primula and Frodo. What a lovely poem from jan-u-wine - so full of love and longing. I think Frodo would have been a very happy child, only to have that be so cruelly interrupted, but still not lacking in love, for Sam was born the same year and Bilbo was there and Merry and Pippin would come. Indeed Happy Birthday, dearest Frodo! And you as well, dear Bilbo, thank you for renewing his heart.

Namarie, God bless, Antane :)
mechtild at 2010-09-23 02:50 (UTC) (Link)
Hi, Antane! It's nice to see your name over the comment, not to mention the comment itself. You know, I read all those books you recommended this summer. Easily my favourite was Joseph Pearce's "Tolkien: Man and Myth". I even bought my own copy (I got them all through our interlibrary loan program). Thanks so much for urging me to read them. I felt the richer for the experience.
antane at 2010-09-24 17:59 (UTC) (Link)
Glad you liked the books! I was going to leave another comment and ask you but here you are already answering the question before its asked! Since you liked Pearce, then you would enjoy the collection of essays he edited, Tolkien: A Celebration. You can get it through Ignatius Press among other places (http://www.ignatius.com). Enjoy and looking forward to any other posts and poems!

Namarie, God bless, Antane :)
mechtild at 2010-09-24 19:06 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks very much, Antane. I'll look it up. :)
mechtild at 2010-10-21 03:17 (UTC) (Link)
Hi! I just wanted you to know that I got a copy of Tolkien: A Celebration through interlibrary loan. I liked some of the essays so much I bought a used one off Amazon. Only a dollar, and such a nice copy! Four dollars for shipping, lol, but still a good price, five dollars total.
(Anonymous) at 2010-09-23 07:51 (UTC) (Link)

She was like me

This poem is beyond beautiful! I was crying all the time. Jesus, I'm starting again..

And it's one of my favourite Klimt paintings, too!

Please please Mechtild and Jan-U-Wine: your next post will be a purely joyous one, though, won't it?!

mechtild at 2010-09-23 12:20 (UTC) (Link)

Re: She was like me

please Mechtild and Jan-U-Wine: your next post will be a purely joyous one, though, won't it?!

Ha ha! Oh, dear. Is all the poetry that depressing? I kind think of them as tear-inducing, but sweet-tears sorts of poems, these poems full of thought, feeling and remembrance. I have two other parent poems to post next. I will check to see if one of them is more cheerful. :)

Thanks so much for commenting, Anne. You are gracious. I'm so glad you loved the poem, even if it pierced your heart. But would you have thought it so beautiful if it hadn't? :)
(Anonymous) at 2010-09-23 16:25 (UTC) (Link)

Re: She was like me

I am gracious?? YOU are!

I love the poem and yes, it does pierce my heart. Of course you are right: that's why it feels so achingly beautiful.

Two more parent poems?? I need to buy tissues.

mechtild at 2010-09-23 19:16 (UTC) (Link)

Re: She was like me

Now, now. It'll be a while before I have time to put the posts together, so you'll have plenty of time to recover. :)
telstar_gold at 2010-09-23 14:03 (UTC) (Link)
That could definitely be Frodo. I love his little hand resting on her breast, and her hand cupping his chubby bottom! ♥

Jan's poem is exquisitely sad. Thank you both!
mechtild at 2010-09-23 19:19 (UTC) (Link)
Telstar, I'm so glad the poem and illustration worked for you. (Yes, the little bottom is very darling. Love the heightened colour in their cheeks, too, especially hers, since rising colour in her cheeks - and lips - is remembered by Frodo in the poem.) :)
not_alone at 2010-09-23 21:31 (UTC) (Link)
Oh Mechtild - you've found baby Frodo!! How perfect:)

I started reading Jan's poem yesterday but it affected me so much I couldn't finish it!! That is in no way a criticism or complaint, of course, but is is a testament to the impact of Jan's words. I'm in awe of her ability to use the simplest of phrases to the maximum effect. For example:

>>They are sleeping.

Aren't they?<<

Completely heartbreaking - and yet so very beautiful.

Many thanks to both of you for this moving post:)

mechtild at 2010-09-24 00:24 (UTC) (Link)
Oh, thanks so much, Paulie. What a beautiful, heartfelt comment. I think the poem brings that out, words that are "heart-felt". She does have a way, doesn't she, our Jan?
ex_lbilover at 2010-09-25 15:47 (UTC) (Link)
I was not familiar with that painting before, but I can see why it said 'Frodo and his mother' to you. It's so beautiful and tender, I especially love how her hand is cupped around his bottom. Jan's poem is exquisite as always and a perfect match for it. Thank you both!
mechtild at 2010-09-25 19:21 (UTC) (Link)
You are so welcome! I'm so glad you got to read this poem, lbilover.. It's so lovely, jan-u-wine in top form. :)
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