Yule Light: Frodo’s First Winter in the West
Frodo stood in the darkness, at the edge of the shore, the water lapping around his toes, and stared eastward. It was the first Yule he had spent without his Sam and cousins in many a year, and he missed them sorely.
“What are you doing now, my Sam?” he murmured to himself. “Putting up the holly?” He smiled softly at the memory of his young friend having so much trouble in the beginning understanding why he and Bilbo did that. “Or are you taking Elanor out in your arms and showing her the stars and telling her the names of them all? Are you looking west just as I am looking east?” Suddenly his breath caught as he saw in his heart Sam doing exactly that. “And Pippin, are your lips covered with nog, looking so innocent and full of cheer as always?” The smile brightened as he saw that as well. “And Merry mine, what are you doing?”
“Do you doubt it is not the same thing we do here?” came a soft voice behind Frodo.
The erstwhile Ring-bearer looked around in surprise and saw a candle lit and held in the hand of Gandalf. “Happy Yule, my dear hobbit,” the wizard said with a tender smile. He held out his other hand which Frodo took and together they walked slowly back to the smial that the Elves had dug out for him and Bilbo.
Light from another candle came into being. “Happy Yule, Iorhael trannail,” said Elrond.
Frodo bowed to the Elf-lord, and then he and Gandalf moved slowly on as another candle was lit. “Happy Yule, meldonya,” said Galian, an Elf who had already become dear to the Ring-bearer.
The next candle that was lit was held by another who had become even dearer for they shared similar wounds and had taken to each other immediately. She had traveled a hard Road and had come through it and now aided the one who was still not far along it. Celebrian smiled. “Happy Yule, meldanya.”
Wonder began to replace the longing Frodo felt as this beloved Yule tradition was repeated now in his new home. His heart stirred with love for these people who gave him such a sense of peace and security. He was quite moved that they had adopted this custom to give an unique sense of sameness to his heart, though he lived now in quite a different setting. His hand tightened around Gandalf.
Hobbit and wizard were near home when another candle was lit. “Happy Yule, tithen min,” came Galadriel’s voice. Her loving smile lit up the night. Frodo bowed deeply to her. They came inside and the last candle was lit, illuminating, in the otherwise dark hole, the one face that was dearest.
“Happy Yule, my dear boy,” Bilbo said with a smile and voice full of tender love.
Frodo drew near to him. Gandalf took the candle the ancient hobbit held as the two cousins embraced tightly. “Happy Yule, Uncle,” the younger Ring-bearer murmured, his face buried in Bilbo’s soft cloths. “Thank you.”
The elder hobbit held the son of his heart even tighter, as the others came to stand silently behind them and placed their candles to light up the room. “You are more than welcome, my dearest lad. I wish I could do more.”
“It is enough that you are here with me,” came the muffled but heartfelt response.
Bilbo held Frodo for a long time, stroking his curls and back, in an attempt to give some sort of solace to the one so far away from his home and those others he loved. The ancient hobbit grieved at the pain and fatigue in his heir’s eyes and voice. But he also felt proud of his nephew who had acquitted himself so well and endured greater suffering than anyone should have to bear, yet still shone softly from within with greater beauty than ever. “Now let’s settle down for a proper Yule celebration, shall we?” he said at last as he held his heartson a bit apart, so he could look into his eyes and smile for him.
“Yes, Uncle. It’s been so long since I have shared it with you. It will be a most special one tonight.”
Bilbo smiled mysteriously up at Gandalf, then back down at Frodo. “Yes, my beloved lad, a most special one indeed.”
Frodo’s lips quirked into a half-smile. “Why do I think another conspiracy has formed around me?”
“Not another,” Gandalf said with the same look back to Bilbo. “Just part of the same one.”
“I’m so lucky,” the Ring-bearer said softly, thinking of his Merry’s words so long ago, a lifetime it seemed. And here he was again, surrounded by friends who would not let him go on his Road alone.
The Yule dinner was not one many Elves had shared in before. Bilbo had insisted on celebrating it more than once with Elrond in Rivendell, and so the Elf-lord was familiar and listened as the ancient hobbit held forth, for the benefit of the others, all the proper rules and customs for the celebration of such a feast. Aunt Dora could not have been more proud. Frodo contributed some, but was mostly silent, simply enjoying having Yule again with his beloved uncle. All who were there rejoiced at how much Frodo relaxed and become more the hobbit he once was as the evening went on. Their guests were all familiar with the depth of his wounds, and how long and hard the journey before him was, but for tonight, they could also see two hobbits enjoying each other’s company.
Gandalf was another who knew beforehand the joy of Yule in the Shire and had come to as many as he could in his long years of stewardship, simply to be able to lay down his burdens for a while and bask in the uncomplicated joy and innocence of those he and the Rangers had sworn to protect. A smile was always on his face then and joy in his heart. He knew from his talks with Aragorn, that the Rangers had felt the same, alone in their otherwise cold huts, warmed not only by fire, but by the sounds of such celebrations, heard only at a distance, but toasted all the same.
Frodo’s happiness as the last of the conspiracy was unmasked was a joy to see. Bilbo and Gandalf fondly looked on as Frodo indulged in something quite close to Yule nog. If it were not for the hair on the hobbit’s feet, he could have been mistaken for a Elven child, so bright was his beauty that night. The celebration ended with him singing a traditional song that he sang first in Westron, then in Sindarin and then a little haltingly at first, but stronger as he went on, in Quenya. He had practiced it for a long time, and all were deeply moved by his voice. They sat silently for a short while after, but not long enough for the fragile peace that had built around Frodo’s heart to crumble. Before the guests departed, all knelt to receive a tight hug from the one the celebration was for and received his most grateful thanks.
It was late when Bilbo watched his beloved heartson sleep. The flickering candles added to the young one’s own light, and the ancient hobbit thought again of how incredibly special Frodo was. There was peace in his features and only a hint of strain. Bilbo stared long at the beauty before him before quietly snuffing out all the lights except the one that continued to shine in his heartson. He leaned over to stroke most gently that beloved face and curls and kiss his cheek. “Goodnight, my dear boy. Happy Yule.”
A/N: Iorhael trannail is Frodo of the Shire. Meldonya is Quenya for my friend. Meldanya is my dear or my beloved. Tithen min is Sindarin for little one. The mention of hanging holly in the beginning is from GamgeeFest’s “Deck the Halls with Bows and Holi” in her “Keepsakes” section.
By Anne Marie Gazzolo
Moments of Grace and Spiritual Warfare in The Lord of the Rings by Anne Marie Gazzolo is available in book format on Amazon.com