Healing in the Halls of Mandos
“Where am I?”
“In the Halls of Waiting, Blanco Bracegirdle.”
Open mouthed with awe, the Hobbit looked about at the huge hall, its walls draped with magnificent tapestries. His jaw dropped a little further when he looked at the person who had spoken to him. He was . . . otherworldly; and he was a Big Person.
Blanco looked around again, more cautiously this time and not upward but across the grand floor, as though looking for something or someone in particular. “I’m dead then?” he whispered out of the corner of his mouth to the Big Person while continuing his surveillance.
The tall being smiled, “Yes, friend. You have made use of the Gift of Ilúvatar.”
The Hobbit continued his search. “Did I come alone?”
“All come alone to the Halls.”
“What?” Blanco stopped to focus on his companion. “Eh, well . . . yes. I suppose we do. But was I closely preceded or followed by another Hobbit? A female Hobbit? With a sour expression on her face?”
Blanco relaxed for the first time since his awakening. “I can’t believe it!” He took a deep breath before releasing a long, contented sigh. “Although I reckon she’ll show up eventually. At least for a while I’m free.”
“You were a prisoner?”
Blanco looked up and laughed. “In a manner of speaking, though not in some prison or dungeon somewhere.” He raised an eyebrow as he looked the Big Person over. “A minute here, if you will. This isn’t at all polite, sir. You called me by name but I don’t know yours.”
“Envinyata, servant of Lord Mandos.” he said, bowing low. “Healer in your tongue.”
“That’s a title, an occupation, not a name.”
“It is who I am.”
Blanco looked doubtful, but he wasn’t about to be rude. “Oh. Of course then, ah, En . . . Envin . . . Healer.” He was blushing but forged ahead. “What healing can be needed for the dead?”
“Even my Lord does not know where the fëa of the mortals go when they leave his Halls. We do know, however, that it is the wish of Ilúvatar that all go forth from this place unburdened by the hurts of their life in Arda. I am able to heal those burdens, those hurts.” Envinyata gestured toward a tall, arched portal. What looked like a garden showed beyond it. “Shall we pass into one of the atriums, Blanco? There are plants and a fountain there along with benches to sit upon. You can tell me of your imprisonment.”
“I wasn’t in a prison.” Blanco reminded Envinyata as they walked together toward the atrium.
“Not all prisons have walls.”
But the atrium did have walls, though they were low ones compared to those of the main Hall. Blanco looked around and relaxed even more. The garden was much like those in the Shire, except for the fountain. The flowerbeds were low to the ground, as were the cushioned benches. It was springtime in the garden. Everything was the light, bright green of new growth and there were blossoms on the trees. Envinyata waved his hand toward one of the benches and the two of them sat down. For a while neither spoke and the peace of the place soaked into Blanco’s being.
“Tell me of the female Hobbit whom you looked for in dread.” Envinyata broke their reverie.
“My wife. Primrose Bracegirdle, formerly Boffin.” His gaze grew distant. “She was lovely. I didn’t know her very well; we would be at the same parties from time to time. And of course some of the bigger festivals every year. All I knew was that she was lovely, with a charming laugh and bright smile. I didn’t know . . .” he huffed, “how could I have known that much of how she behaved was an act she put on to attract suitors. Would that I had known.”
“Hmm. A deception, you say. Why did she hide her true self?”
“To get away from her parents, though in some ways one might wonder why. She was their youngest child and only daughter and they spoiled her terribly. What they didn’t expect was that it made her very headstrong. As she got older she found their dotting behaviour to be confining.”
The Hobbit paused. A look of sudden knowing came to his face, erasing a few lines from his brow.
“I reckon she had once been in a sort of prison herself. Huh. I never thought of it that way before. Her parents intended for their dearest baby to stay with them forever . . . well,” He grinned at Envinyata. “As forever as we mortals have, Healer, meaning until they themselves died. And some daughters would have done just that. A good many do. But not Prim. No, she was having none of that. So to spite them she made sure she used the holidays and festivals to sneak off and flirt with the lads.”
Blanco sighed a sorrowful sigh. “I recon I was lacking something the other lads had as they would be entertained by her for a short time then would go off after some other lass. I was the only one who stayed and ended up besotted in love for her. I asked her to marry me and she said yes.”
He sighed again, softer this time. “I didn’t even get suspicious when she wanted to get married quietly. No regular wedding. No fuss. We went before the head of my family with a couple of friends for witnesses. She sent word to her parents that she was married and not returning home and that was that. At first they were furious but later they turned to pleading; pleading she would forget our marriage and come home then pleading she would at least visit them. She did neither. There was naught they could do. We were both of age and our own hobbits.”
“Have you any children, Blanco? Or did her feigned love for you not allow her to be intimate with you?”
“For the first year or two, it wasn’t bad. Mind you,” Blanco added with a blush, a chuckle, and a grin, “I was as eager a young buck as any and we weren’t, as you said, intimate as often as I would have liked. Prim was set on having a child though and a short way into our second year of marriage she was with child. But oh what a disaster that turned out to be! We had a son and it turned out that was not at all to Prim’s liking. ‘No! No!’ she said as the midwife started to hand her the babe for his first nursing and cuddling. ‘A girl. It was supposed to be a sweet wee lass. My firstborn was to be a lass, not some male child!’ She had to be badgered into tending the lad’s needs – reminded that he’d perish if she didn’t feed him. Eventually she took excellent care of him, and she did show him some affection, but as far as she was concerned, he was my child.”
Tears shimmered in Blanco’s eyes then dribbled down his cheeks. Their passing erased a few more of the lines from his skin as he shared his hurts.
“She was always nay-saying him. Rarely a kind word. Not that she said horrible things to him, she just couldn’t seem to tell him anything goodly or kindly. Nor could she say such to me either. Whatever I did, whatever Bruno did, it was never good enough for her. Even if we did just what she asked us to do, she’d say it wasn’t what she had told us to do, nor what she had asked for.” Then he smiled as different memories arose. “My lad and me would go off a lot, just the two of us, as often as we could. We’d fish and play that Tookish game of golf. That most likely kept Bruno from becoming a pitiful wastrel. At least one of his parents saw good in him and spent time with him.” Blanco shook his head. “It was a good thing he married a kindly hobbitess who helped him find a path for his life. He was good with his hands – good with wood – and she encouraged the lad to learn furniture making then she ran their shop so all he had to do was what he did best; make the furniture. They’ve done right well together and, as far as I know, they’re happy.”
Blanco stood up, surprised at first that he did it so quickly and without aches in his joints, but then he remembered what he was and where he was. The fountain intrigued him, drawing him to its sparkling cheerful splashing. He stood awhile beside it listening to its music and watching rainbows dance on the spray.
“What was I taking about?”
“Children. Your son who married well.” Envinyata reminded him. “Were there any others?”
“One. One other. Five years later. Five years. It took her that long to be desperate enough for that daughter she wanted so badly. And that is what we had. Goodness only knows what would have happened had we had another son.”
“By then she was so hard hearted, so cold and aloof. Well, at least toward Bruno and me. Toward the ladies in town she was just the sweetest person. So willing to be a part of whatever group or event needed a hand. But even some of them felt the sharp edge of her tongue and got a taste of her versions of ‘the truth’ as she called it. Meaning she told them all their flaws as she saw them whether it was really the truth or not. Any who got to close, became too good a friend, she would start to treat them as she treated her family and they would soon break off the friendship. But to most, she was a hard working, cheerful volunteer for the good of Hardbottle.”
He wandered about the edge of the fountain, thoughts and memories crossing his face like ripples in the water he stared into.
“I reckon I did something then that should keep me from any happy spirit-life.”
Envinyata was beside him with the speed of a breeze. “It doesn’t work that way, my friend. You will never forget times you did not show love. You will never forget that your actions were less than exemplary, but that will not keep you from . . .” For the first time Healer seemed awkward. “From wherever it is you will go when you leave the Halls.”
“But you don’t know whether I, or any of us, go on to a pleasant place.”
“It is known only to Eru.” His voice was soft and low. “For myself, I cannot conceive of him punishing his children too harshly. Not unless they turned completely away from the essence of himself that lies within them all.” The servant of Mandos quaked at the thought. “But this is not my purpose here. You say you have a daughter?”
“Yes. That pregnancy was hard on Prim. It near to took her from us, and it might have been better for our daughter if it had. When it came time for naming the child, Prim was still very ill and the task fell solely to me.”
Blanco turned away from the fountain and from Envinyata. His shoulders hunched and his head drooped. He stuck his hands into his pockets.
“I named her Lobelia.”
Envinyata said nothing but his question hovered in the air nonetheless.
“Why is that bad, you want to know? I did it on purpose and I oughtn’t have.” Blanco turned sharply, looking up in anguish at Healer. “Back home, flowers have meanings. Some mean love, or friendship. Some mean sorrow or loneliness.” His eyes grew sharp, dark, and focused on Envinyata’s eyes. “Lobelia means malice, spite, malevolence, and arrogance. I named her after her mother – after the way her mother bahaved. And our daughter became those things. If Primrose had been cold before she was a fell winter when she recovered her health and realized what I had done. And she raised our daughter to be just what I named her. And the hurting and the suffering and the imprisoned lives have continued on to another generation.”
Blanco crumpled, weeping.
Envinyata closed his eyes, reaching out with his healing to the Hobbit at his feet.
Blanco’s tears flowed into a rivulet. The rivulet ran till it found a small hollow in the earth where it pooled. At the edge of the small pool green shoots emerged.
Envinyata opened his mouth but the voice was not his.
“Open your eyes, Blanco Bracegirdle, Hobbit of the Shire.”
Blanco jerked with surprise then did as he was ordered, sitting up as he did so. He saw the small pool and the green shoots sprouting from the moisture his tears provided.
The sprout on the left matured in a matter of moments. He recognized the leaves and blooms of a primrose.
“First love. Enduring love. These are the meanings for the primrose among your people. But her parents twisted the love they intended into something love is not meant to be. Love that is twisted brings sorrow to all it touches. Sorrow and anger grew in the daughter they loved.”
To the right of the pool of tears a shoot matured into the small leaves and blue flowers of the lobelia.
“Malevolence. Spite. Arrogance. The name you gave to the fruit of love twisted. The name you gave to the child of your sorrow. And thus was the sorrow of misguided love passed along to yet another generation.”
Blanco cowered. “I know! Would that I hadn’t taken that moment of revenge!”
Between the primrose and the lobelia sprung another plant, nurtured by the Hobbit’s tears. This was a plant Blanco did not recognize.
The voice from within Envinyata spoke again.
“Primrose sprouts and blooms early in the spring when the air is still cold and snow ofttimes still blankets the hard ground. To your Primrose and you life brought Lobelia, and what should have been a season of joy in a family was a summer of sorrow. But there is ever hope. Behold a winter rose! When that which twisted love wrought has had its season, there will come a love that will heal the anxiety of love gone wrong. There will be hope for love that will be as it should be.”
There was a pause. Blanco, wondering if his friend was all right, eventually looked up at Healer. Peace lay upon his countenance as he slowly opened his eyes to see Blanco’s concerned expression.
“Well met, my friend. I hope His words brought you comfort.”
Blanco had no doubts about who “He” was as he turned to look at the three plants. “Yes. Yes they did.”
“There is more that he left for me to say. Things in Arda take time, unlike things here where time is not. Bruno’s line will go on. There, love has been righted. However, as with weeds in a garden the ruined, twisted love will need to be pulled out by its root. You know your daughter passed along that weed?”
“Yes.” Blanco whispered.
“Her marriage is misery, but their son will have no heirs. The line of the weed will end there. Because of the weed, great harm will befall not only your family but also the entire race of Hobbits in the Shire and it’s environs. No my friend!” Envinyata said in response to Blanco’s look of horror. “Do not despise yourself. There is more at work in Arda than many see. Although a stronger weed will use the twisted love within your wife’s line to work its evil, it will not prevail. A path that was created in ages past is the path that all of Arda must tread. But right love will bloom. Oh yes, love will bloom, and it will be more highly treasured by the people after having lost it for a time.”
Envinyata reached down and helped Blanco to his feet. He smiled as he looked at the Hobbit’s youthful features; the lines of worry and age now erased.
“It is time now, my friend. You can go on now to the mysterious place Ilúvatar has prepared for his mortal children.”
He stooped and, with his bare hands, scooped the winter rose from the soil of the garden. A pot appeared. He placed the plant in it and then handed it to Blanco.
“Usually you take nothing with you on this journey, but you are to take the winter rose and plant it in that realm to remind others that in that place their anxieties are forever relieved.”
“Thank you.” Blanco accepted the potted rose with a bow. “I will plant it by a fountain,” he winked, “if there are fountains there.”
Hobbit and Servant smiled at each other as Blanco Bracegirdle faded from the Halls of Mandos.
Healing in the Halls of Mandos