Petal by Armariel

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Sam's Song

Sam Gamgee loved to sing.  There was just one problem:  he could not carry a tune in a basket with three handles, as his old Gaffer was wont to say.          

Stop that racket! family members would yell at him when he got to singing one of his favorite ballads, became carried away and bellowed at the top of his voice.          

Who told you you could sing, his big brother Halfred would say.  Yer sound like a donkey down a well.          

A skunk has got into your tune-patch, his other brother Hamson snickered.  Not that he was any song-thrush hisself, by a long road, as their mum was quick to point out.             

Stick with gardening, Sam's relations would tell him. And take care.  The flowers may wilt if you start up your caterwaulin' with 'em.  The taters 'll rot in the ground, like as not.          

So Sam sang only where others couldn't hear him, which was rarely because there was nearly always somebody about, sooner or later.          

Then Mister Frodo moved in with Mister Bilbo next door, and everything changed.          

Sam had always been fond of the old hobbit.  Mister Bilbo knew so many stories, and although his old Gaffer said they was probably mostly made up, Sam loved to hear them.  And he could make up poems and songs of his own, and he taught them to Sam, who wrote them down, and that made learning his letters much more fun.          

If he could just sing them!  Mister Bilbo was a decent singer for a hobbit of his age.  And he came up with jolly tunes to some of his ditties, the one about the merry old inn and the man in the moon being Sam's favorite, and he wished others could hear them.  But Mister Bilbo wouldn't sing in public much.  Folks were too apt to laugh at him.          

And then Mister Frodo came.             

Sam was in awe of Mister Frodo from the first day he saw him.  Not only was he far more pleasing to look at than other hobbits, he was smarter, and dreamier, always poring over those books that had strange and beautiful writing Sam couldn't make head or tail of and pictures the like of which he had never seen before.  And he noticed things others didn't, like the stars, and he wondered what made things work, and he liked to go about the woods examining things like ants and birds and fishes, even snakes, and the lichens on tree bark, and cocoons on stems of grass, and the dewy webs of spiders in the branches of trees, and many other things.             

And he told of Elves, some of whom he had met on a jaunt with Mister Bilbo.          

And one day Sam came upon him in the garden, and Mister Frodo was singing.  Softly, and Sam could not understand a word, but the sound of it was so passing beautiful, Sam held his breath listening.  Even when the song was over, Sam did not make his presence known, for he had a feeling Mister Frodo did not wish to be disturbed.  He seemed sad somehow.  Sam recalled that he had lost both his parents in a boating accident when he was but twelve.  Sam couldn't imagine that at all.  Even as prickly as his old Gaffer could be, Sam thought the whole world of him, and of his mum too.  He couldn't begin to picture a world without them.          

He wished he might sing a song of his own, for a small lyric had come to him, and he had written it down.  In his head he could hear the tune that should go to it, but he didn't know how to set it down, and his voice would not bring it forth the way his head and heart heard it.          

And then one day, as he was going over to help with the gardening, there was that yellow rosebush, with the fairy ring all around.             

It was early morning, and yet he could see something in the middle of the rose.  Like a sparkling dewdrop it was, only brighter and bigger.  And it seemed to pulsate like a star.  He stood there, a yard or so from the circle of mushrooms, just looking at that bit of light on that yellow rose.          

It seemed to be calling to him.  Step inside the fairy ring, Sam, it seemed to be telling him.             

Some folks said it wasn't lucky to step inside a fairy ring.  You might be trapped, unable to get out.  You might get a spell put on you.  You might be turned into a toad or a bug.          

He wondered if Mister Frodo had ever stepped inside the fairy ring.          

Sam found himself standing just a foot outside of it.  He looked at the rose once more, and saw the bit of light gleaming, seeming to laugh a little, then he heard a soft and lovely sound, very faint, but distinct in the morning air.  And before he even knew what he was about, his feet moved closer and closer until he was inside the fairy ring.          

He didn't turn into a toad or a bug.  And if a spell was being put on him, it was a mighty fine one.          

And the bit of light in the rose vanished.  But something washed over Sam, like a very light summer rain, and he shivered a little, and he could smell the fragrance of the rose, intoxicating, for the first time.  And a smile lit his face as if he himself were the rose, and a strange happiness overtook him, and he ran home laughing out loud.  And he dug in his things for the song he had set down, and sang it softly, and it was the way he had heard it in his head, only much better.  It was only a bit of stuff and nonsense about a troll, inspired by one of Mister Bilbo's tales, but it sounded so jolly, and he swayed from one side to the other as he sang:   

                     Troll sat alone on his seat of stone
  and munched and mumbled a bare old bone
  For many a year he had gnawed it near
  for meat was hard to come by
  Gum by! Done by!
  In a cave in the hills he dwelt alone
  and meat was hard to come by….

Oh my, a little silvery voice behind him said.  It was his littlest sister Marigold.          

Sing that again, she said, her eyes glistening like they had fairies in them.          


Sam made other songs, and he sang some of them for the Bagginses, and it always made them smile, especially the Troll Song, which seldom failed to cheer Mister Frodo when he was out of sorts.  There would come a time when it wouldn't, but that would not be for a good many years yet.          

Much later, another song came to Sam.  It was utterly unlike any other song he had made.  It was in Rivendell that it came to him, and he quickly set the words down so he shouldn't forget them, and after he heard the Elves singing, a tune came stealing in the night to him.  But he sang it for none of them, save for Mister Frodo when he lay in his deep sleep, and Sam's heart was heavy and afraid for his life.  Only then did he sing it, holding to his master's hand, and no one else was about, or so he thought.             

In western lands beneath the Sun
the flowers may rise in Spring,
the trees may bud, the waters run,
the merry finches sing.
Or there maybe 'tis cloudless night
and swaying beeches bear
the Elven-stars as jewels white
amid their branching hair.

That was as much as he dared sing at first.  For the next verse had to do with journey's end, and he dreaded to give voice to it, lest it come to pass for Mister Frodo.             

But finally one morning he did sing it.  He did not see Mister Gandalf come in behind him at first, and he sat there a long moment, then finally he wiped away a tear and fumbled in his pocket for his handkerchief to blow his nose.  He found he lacked it, and nature was calling anyhow, so he stood up and tottered out blindly past Mister Gandalf, whom he was not even aware of had finally returned.             

Though here at journey's end I lie
in darkness buried deep,
beyond all towers strong and high,
beyond all mountains steep
Above all shadows rides the Sun
and Stars for ever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done,
nor bid the Stars farewell.

And when he came back from the privy, that was when he heard Mister Frodo's voice at last.          

And the next time he sang it, he heard Mister Frodo's voice that much sooner, and their journey would soon be at its end, and he would never quite know where the song had come from.  But he was certain he could guess, even though She had left the Shire long ago and he had not been aware of her since then….        



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