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Chapter Three

John breathed deep draughts of the cool highland air. The pristine freedom around him rose to his head, flowed in his veins like drafts of mead. He wanted to laugh, laugh from the sheer joy of living and the beauty that is life. All around him was green, vibrant, and tenacious. The smiling verge was a fanfare of trumpets, joyous and defiant with intoxicated spirit.

John stood at the head of a small valley, hidden in the rolling hills. Shadows lay long at the end of the day, but the vegetation was lush and bright, small flowers nestled in the grass like gems, and small trees lined the ridge like merry sentinels. The quaint country road he stood on meandered lightly down the valley, branching off into smaller paths that led to little round doors in the hillside, before tripping, ever on and on, up the far side and finally disappearing from sight. But it was not the scenery nor the road that held John spellbound with wonder.

Each of the little doors was set in the middle of a roundish bump protruding from the hill. And each was surrounded by a yard encircled by a short fence. A few had signs hanging from the gate. John could only make out the closest one; it read “The Bracegirdles, and Welcome!” Some of the yards had carts standing in them; many had a woodpile; one contained a small dog that barked furiously at the intruders. And there were people, little people like Sam! Children ran laughing through the tall grass, women over their fences talking, and a farmer trudged along the road with his cart.

“Aye, it’s an eye-opener, and no mistake!” chuckled Samwise proudly at his side, “And no where in this wide world is dearer to me.”

“It’s wonderful!” John said with a smile, “But I have so many questions . . .”

“Well then you can ask all you like, after you’ve come inside and had a good morsel of food in you, and a pipe as well!” Sam said cheerfully, “Follow me!”

John followed Sam down the road in a wondering silence. On the journey here, his diminutive friend had told him about this place, which he called “Holbytlanna”, in the land of the “Shire,” the home of the Hobbits. John had not disbelieved, but the true meaning of Sam’s words had not hit him until now. This was a settlement . . . a settlement of non-humans! They were people, but not men; they were something else, something men had never dreamed of

And they were regarding him as curiously as he them. As John and Sam walked through the town, heads turned and mouths dropped. Apparently a “big person” such as himself was not an everyday occurrence. Three little children ran to the side of the road and stopped, staring unabashedly at the newcomers.

“It’s one of the Big People!” one whispered, awestruck, to his friend. John grinned a little. It was almost flattering, in a way, to be paid so much attention. The looks on the Hobbits’ faces were so comical.

Sam stopped in front of a particularly large and well-kept blue door.

“Welcome,” he said, opening the door, “To the humble home of the Gamgees, the abode of Meriadoc Gamgee, Mayor of Holbytlanna!”

Ducking down, John stepped inside, finding himself in the spacious entryway of a very luxurious Hobbit hole. Almost before he was fully inside, he was nearly bowled over by a miniature whirlwind! The squealing, laughing, brown-haired wisp of a Hobbit-maid blew right past him without a glance, hurling itself into the arms of Sam.

“Oh, Sam!” exclaimed the girl, “You’re back! And you left without even telling me you were leaving! A whole day! A whole day and I didn’t know where you were! How could you, Sam? Without even telling me! As if you didn’t know that I would be worried, and wondering ‘til I could hardly bear it not knowing where you were! Would’t have been too much to ask for a note, just a little poem perhaps, to say you were going out for the day? And leaving me here! Why, why should you be out having adventures and meeting . . . meeting Big People,” here she looked emphatically at John, “Without invitin’ me and all! Now that’s harsh, Sam, that’s harsh!”

“Elanor!” muttered Sam, embarrassed, “You needn’t make such a scene! It’s not as bad as all that!”

“Oh, Sam!” Elanor said plaintively.

“No, no! Come on, I want you to meet my friend! This is Master John Tolkien.” Sam turned to John, “And this is my sister, Elanor Gamgee.”

“Pleased to make the acquaintance.” John said, stooping down to look Elanor in the eye, “Of the loveliest little Hobbit girl in Holbytlanna!”

Elanor blushed. “Oh, now, you mustn’t!” she tittered, “I’m very happy to meet you, Master John. Would you like some tea, or some cake perhaps?”

Not having eaten for a day or more, John acquiesced gladly.

Soon John and Sam were seated at a small kitchen table, liberally supplied with tea, seedcake, tarts, chicken salad, cheese, mince pie, pickles, and various other articles of food. Elanor had disappeared further into the Hobbit hole to find her father, Mayor Gamgee, and inform him of the new arrivals.

“Sam,” John began slowly, “I’ve been wanting to ask you . . . things, but what with one thing and another, we haven’t had time, and I hardly know even now that this isn’t a dream and a hallucination and that I’m not just a madman!”

“Well, it certainly’s not a dream, you can’t get cake like this in dreams!” Sam said, helping himself to a generous portion of seedcake.

“But . . . where is this place? Who exactly are you? How long have you been here? Why don’t we humans know about you?” John paused, “And why am I here?” He finished quietly.

Sam stopped eating and looked at him. “I think the best person to answer those questions for you is my father, the Mayor. As for the last, you know better than I.”

John looked down at his plate and said nothing. Sam, too, remained quiet. Finally the silence was broken by the reappearance of Elanor, bringing with her the Mayor. John stood up, promptly banging his head on the lamp hanging from the ceiling.

“Ah . . .” he said, rubbing his head, “Um, good day to you, Master Mayor.”

The Mayor chuckled. “The same to you, visitor, and welcome! But please, call me Meriadoc, or just Merry.”

Merry Gamgee was older than Sam and Elanor, but not an old man. His hair was still curly and thick, lightly streaked with gray, and his eyes twinkled merrily, as befit his name. He had a mouth quick to smile, but his face was engraved with lines of wisdom as well as those of amusement.

“Father,” Elanor said happily, “This is Master John Tolkien. He’s a Big Person, from the Other Lands! Can you believe it?”

“Of course I can!” Merry Gamgee said, “It’s plain to see what he is. Now, Master John, would you care to come into the sitting room and recount your tale? We haven’t had a good story in quite some time!”

“I’d be glad to,” John said, “And maybe afterwards you could answer a few questions for me.”

“I’ll certainly do my best.” Merry said, looking intently at John. Somehow John got the feeling that the shrewd little man already had some idea of what John meant to ask.

Thirty minutes later, John found himself seated in a spacious sitting room, with a whole crowd of Hobbits crowded around him, eagerly listening to his tale.

“Well,” he began thoughtfully, “I suppose it began with my coming here, to Scotland and the cabin . . .”

John soon lost his initial shyness, confiding in his listeners his fears and hopes without restraint. The Hobbits were very good story-listeners; they exclaimed, gasped, and fell silent at all the right places. They listened attentively as he told of his dream of the White Lady, murmured during his tale of the night journey, and laughed at his meeting with Sam.

“ . . . And now, here I am telling the story.” John finished some time later.

“Why, it’s an adventure indeed!” Elanor exclaimed, “What a lucky man you are! Sam and I are always looking for adventure, but we’ve never come across one as grand as that!” An elderly Hobbit woman who had been introduced to John as Mayor Gamgee’s wife hushed her, and all eyes returned to John.

“It is truly a grand tale, and an odd one at that.” Merry Gamgee said.

“Yes, and there is much that I would like to know.” said John, determined now to procure some answers to his many questions. “Who are you, the Hobbits as you call yourselves, and where is this place? Why have no men found it before?”

Merry sighed. “We are, as you know already, the Hobbit people. More than that, I can hardly say, except that we are as old as Men themselves, and have always lived quietly hereabouts, in the Northwest of Arda, the Earth. This place is not open to all; it is not meant to be found. The Shire is not quite in the world as other places are. Usually men pass right through it without seeing. To their eyes this is only a small valley, beautiful but not different from many others in this land. We are hidden from the eyes of the world, and year by year our land drifts further from the outside.”

“But then . . . how is it that I have come here?” John asked softly, “And why?”

“These two questions are undoubtedly closely related,” Merry answered, “But alas, I cannot answer them for you. When Sam found you, you were already within the marches of the Shire. You should not even have seen him, nor heard him when he spoke, nor even come to close to our little town. All I know is, there is a purpose to your coming here. What that is, I do not know.”

John looked down at the floor, thinking. “And who,” he asked, looking at Merry, “Who is the White Lady that I dreamed of?”

“From what you tell of her I would say she was an Elf, or an echo of one anyway.” Merry replied.

“An Elf? Do they live here as well?” John asked eagerly, “Is she here?”

“No.” Merry said gravely, “The Elves passed from this Earth many years ago. They left us and returned to their home, the Undying Lands of Eldamar and the Lonely Isle. But the land remembers them, and they it. Perhaps what you saw was an echo of their presence, or perhaps it was truly an Elf Lady visiting you from beyond the world.”

“She led me here.” John said, “It is she who must tell me what my purpose is.”

Merry regarded him earnestly. “Maybe so, my friend. Maybe so.”

Hours later, John lay in a bed that was too short for him. Unanswered questions plagued him, but stronger than these were the desire and need for sleep. Exhausted, his eyes closed and he fell into a dream.

Once again, he knew it was a dream the moment it began. He stood outside, on the road in Holbytlanna, and it was night. Before him stood the White Elf Lady.

“Who are you?” he whispered, “What is your name?”

Her sad eyes watched him.

“I am Galadriel.”


“Why have you brought me here?”

“Do you like it?”

John hesitated. “I love this place,” he said, “It is like a dream of childhood, and innocence, and happiness.”

Galadriel turned from him and looked up at the round door of the Gamgee Hobbit hole.

“I too,” she said, “Love this place, and these people.”

She came close to John, and stood beside him.

“My people are gone.” Galadriel said, “And soon, too, will the Hobbits be gone.”

“No!” John jerked, “But men could learn from them, could be reminded of life and . . . and innocence and purity. If they leave us . . . leave me . . .”

Galadriel sighed. “This world is no longer their place. They are too kind and jolly.” She smiled wistfully, “But men could benefit indeed from their wisdom.”

John was silent.

“What must I do?” he said finally.

Galadriel stepped back from him, suddenly bathed in white light.

“Tell the story.” she said, and was gone.

John found himself in a room indoors, a small room in a Hobbit hole. It had a window, and moonlight shone in. On a table in the middle of the room rested a large red book. He could not take his eyes from it. It held meaning and significance beyond words.

“Tell the story . . .” Galadriel’s voice whispered in his mind.

He awoke to the sunlight of the morning.

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