Happy Birthday, Frodo: "She" by jan-u-wine, painting by Gustav Klimt.
~ 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.
She was like me.
I know it.
I remember her: all soft, dark hair melting to serene, pale beauty,
all quick, clever fingers and curious eyes, like the Sea.
I remember the odd tilt of her head when we read together in dimming twilight and how her voice
paused and fretted, high and low about some phrase that now I know she loved.
I remember how she would sigh and look away when Da and I
tumbled, wild with laughter, through the gate, carelessly wiped feet
muddy across her floor, dirty and downcast as the rogues we wished to be.
She would bite her lip and the pale pink would blush to red and the red would rise into the snow of her cheeks.
I remember the soft, tender 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 deftly twisting sun-hazed black-berries from their hooked vines.
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,
her mouth smiled at me, just a little.
A pale water-lily caught in the dark enchantment of her hair.
Her hand, slender, curled like a babe's inside Da's dark palm.
Her head rested trustingly upon the sturdiness of his chest.
The heaviness of his arm still held her, uselessly, against the night. .
They are sleeping.
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,
breathless, on either side of her and she will tell us stories of long-ago.
They will not go where I cannot follow.
Sometimes, just sometimes, when it is grey outside, and the rain runs soft down the face of the Row....
sometimes, 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 moon-light that pours silver 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.