We did it.
To quote Frodo, I'm glad to have you with me, here at the end of all things. Well, not all things, but the end of these books. Congratulations! You've just read one of the finest works of modern literature, not to mention the most iconic piece of fantasy fiction basically ever.
But enough about us. This is such a quiet, soft, melancholy chapter, isn't it? It reminds me of the little coda to Disney's The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh, when the narrator tells Pooh, "All stories have an ending," and Pooh replies, "Oh, bother." I would cheerfully spend another hundred or so pages reading about life in Hobbiton, and Merry and Pippin's visits to Rohan and Gondor, and Sam's children growing up, and Faramir and Eowyn setting up their household and trying to keep Ioreth from visiting all the time to dispense gossip, and...
But all stories have an ending. And, as Sam's Gaffer says, "All's well as ends Better!" (p. 999). I'm not really sad about how everything ends, just the fact that it does end.
Okay, so, on to a few less-pensive thoughts about this chapter. Tolkien writes that "there were thousands of willing hands of all ages" in the Shire, ready to rebuild! Thousands! I honestly tend to think of there being maybe, I dunno, three hundred hobbits all told, but if there were thousands of hands, then there had to be at least a thousand hobbits! Wow.
I love Sam replacing beloved trees, using his magic dust from Galadriel to better the whole Shire, not just Bag End, or even just Hobbiton. And then he spends the winter being "as patient as he could, and tried to restrain himself from going round constantly to see if anything was happening" (p. 1000). I get that way too, wanting to encourage things to grow somehow :-)
And how happy I am that Sam and Rosie get married and move in with Frodo! What could be better? Well, okay, Frodo not being changed beyond return would be better, but... I love Sam, and he's happy, so I'm happy.
Or I would be, if the story wasn't ending.
But doesn't it have the best last line ever?
He drew a deep breath. "Well, I'm back," he said.
Brilliant. Wonderful. "I laughed! I cried! It moved me, Bob." (That's from some VeggieTales or other, I can't recall which. It's what my college friends and I always said about movies and books we greatly enjoyed.)
Also, notice that it's almost exactly what he said to Farmer Cotton when he returned in the last chapter. And that waaaaaay back when he stood outside Shelob's lair and debated whether or not to follow Frodo to the tower full of orcs, "[h]e felt that if once he went beyond the crown of the pass and took one step veritably down into the land of Mordor, that step would be irrevocable. He could never come back" (p. 878).
But yet, he does get to come back. And Frodo does not, or he doesn't get to stay back. Hmm.
And no one was ill, and everyone was pleased, except those who had to mow the grass (p. 1000).
"I have been too deeply hurt, Sam. I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them" (p. 1006).
What did you think of The Lord of the Rings?
According to tradition handed down by his daughter Elanor, when Sam was old and Rosie had died, he left the Shire, found the Grey Havens again, and was allowed to sail to the Undying Lands because he, too, had been a Ring-Bearer. There he was reunited with Frodo, fulfilling his wish from back in Shelob's Lair that Frodo would not go where Sam couldn't follow. What do you think of that?
Housekeeping Note: I posted the last like ten chapters of this all on one day because I decided it was silly to string it out when my major participants are catching up at their leisure anyway. I do apologize for having flooded everyone's feeds with a gazillion LOTR posts, but... I had a free hour today, out of the blue, because my kids all finished their school more quickly than usual. So I put that to good use.
Now you can feel free to comment on these posts as you get a chance to read the chapters, and I'll merrily come back and discuss them with you :-) I promise!