Well, I’m Back!


Oh, those words! How they stir my heart each time! Today has been a day of awesome firsts and dreams come true. Today, I voted for only the second time in my life but for the first time in a presidential primary. If you’re wondering, I voted for Bernie Sanders, though, if Hillary Clinton gets the nomination, I will definitely turn out for her in November.

13139339_10153585710983133_4363788591045689663_nAfter voting for Bernie, I made my way to the local campaign offices for Hillary Clinton and hung out there for a while, with a singular purpose. Sean Astin was to be campaigning through our state today for Hillary and I have wanted to meet this extraordinary man for most of my life but especially the past sixteen years. Like most of my peers, I have grown up watching him on the silver screen, but it was his portrayal of Samwise Gamgee in Lord of the RIngs that has filled and stuck with my heart and soul. Sam is a character to whom I would dearly love to emulate in my lifetime. A dear friend calls me “her Samwise” and I strive every day to be worthy of that moniker.

After chatting with folks at the campaign headquarters and playing with my daughter for a little bit while we waited, Sean arrived with Senator Joe Donnelly and worked his way through the small waiting crowd, shaking hands, taking pictures, and signing autographs. He took a moment to laugh and proclaim, “I’m just going to dance with the kids,” and then proceed to do so with my three-year-old daughter and her new little friend who were bouncing around him little Tookish little hobbit children.

When it was finally my turn, I shook Sean’s hand, said how wonderful it was to meet him, and asked if he would sign my copy of Forgotten Leaves. I explained that the book contained my first academic publication, an essay on Tolkien’s heroes. I’m sure I babbled more than a bit as I tried to explain how I had examined all of Tolkien’s heroes with their differing characteristics, triumphs, and failures, and had found Samwise to be the one who 13173798_10153585711198133_4453832520624279180_nmost embodied the traits that Tolkien considered the embodiment of heroism: loving service, loyalty, devotion, and sacrifice. Being as self-deprecating as the character he so brilliantly and lovingly portrayed, this dear man signed my book “Sean Astin. “Sam”, 1 of the heroes”. Fittingly, he signed on the dedication page which simply says “To the Professor”, which I thought was amazingly appropriate.  After taking a photo with me, Sean pointed at my “I Voted” sticker and exclaimed, “At last! I’ve been all over this state today and this is the first one I’ve seen anyone actually wearing! Well done, you!” That sticker now resides in my journal where I will recount today in all my geeky joy with more than a few squees in bold letters on the page.

And did I mention that he tweeted back at me a little while ago? Squeeeeeee! It’s been a really, really good day! I have to smooch my hubby extra much to thank him for alerting me to all of this going on today so I could be a part of it.

Sean Astin tweeted me!! ^_^

 

Snyder, Melissa. “He Who Would Be First Must Be Last: Tolkien’s Heroism in Lord of the Rings.” Forgotten Leaves: Essays from a Smial. Eds. Jessica Burke and Anthony Burdge. Staten Island: Myth Ink Books, 2015. 7-28. Print. 

Store Link: http://mythinkbooks.storenvy.com/products/14307147-forgotten-leaves-essays from-a-smial

 

Stepping Out of Middle Earth


Yesterday evening, I went with my husband to witness something very, very close to my heart: the closing of Middle Earth. Thirteen years ago this month, I was taken to the movies by dear friends, to watch “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”, and, honestly, I had no idea what I was getting into, storywise. Not really. I had begun reading The Fellowship of the Ring a little before those but had gotten busy with my sophomore year of college and set it aside for the time being. Now, after having dress-rehearsed all morning for my first performance on the SCF/Kappa Chi team for the Musical Madness competition, I gathered with those friends to see this film. Needless to say, I was seized, captured, and enthralled.

For the next two years, it became tradition for me to treat my friends to the midnight showing of each subsequent chapter of the Lord of the Rings as a Christmas gift, before we all parted ways for the holidays. I cannot tell you the fun of those nights, going out to dinner with my friends and then getting to the theatre early to garner good seats together. Then, each time, I would lose myself in Middle Earth, travelling on this harrowing adventure with Hobbit, Elf, Wizard, and Man.

In the thirteen years since seeing FOTR, I have devoured the books as well as The SilmarillionThe Books of Lost Tales, and written a collection of my own Tolkien tales. I learned a great deal from an excellent professor who is also a great lover of Tolkien. I learned to speak Sindarin Elvish (memorization and transliteration until it rolled off my tongue, sang in Rohirric, and had two papers published. When I saw that Peter Jackson as extending his movie magic to The Hobbit, I rejoiced. An Unexpected Journey was the first movie I watched with my newborn daughter and, now, my husband and I seized the opportunity (and the kindness of his parents) to close out the Red Book together. At the end, as Billy Boyd sang “The Last Goodbye” and Alan Lee’s beautiful drawings scrolled over the screen, I sat and sobbed. My husband was, admittedly, a little incredulous, but I begged him to let me have my moment for tears.

I grieved for the characters lost, for the pain endured, but I also wept for the ending of an era, for the closing not only of the Red Book but for that chapter of my life. There is now a banking of that fiery passion that burned so hotly for those years, a calm moving on (like Bilbo’s returning to Bag End and carrying on his life). The memories attached to Middle Earth, though, its world, people, and stories, will never fade but, I believe, will only shine brighter as the days and years go by. I cannot thank enough those who fostered this love in me, encouraged it, and rejoiced in the fruit it produced. Thank you, all of you, for all that you have done and given to me – from the writer himself, to the family that carries on his legacy, to the director determined to bring these stories to life, the writers who tenderly took Tolkien’s work in hand, and the actors who gave the characters breath and soul. To these last, I will never look at any of you ever again but that I will also see the characters who have become so beloved to me, see the emotion shimmering in your eyes and trembling on your lips, and feel the strength of your hearts. Thank you!

It was the closing of the Red Book, the ending of an era, and the tearful goodbye of a grateful heart that feels like a Hobbit, writes like an Elf, is fallible like Man, hopeful as a Wizard, and staunch as a Dwarf. You have my love and my eternal thanks. Hannon le. Amin mela le.

NaBloPoMo 2014 Day 16: A World in Twilight


Author’s Note: This is one of my in-between stories based on Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I have always enjoyed the companionship between Galadriel and Gandalf, the unspoken understanding between the two of them that has always seemed so comforting.

This is also in honor of fall’s quick fading away into the cold of winter. I am very much not ready for winter yet.

= = =

Fall was quiet, leaves of gold and amber making their silent courses to the carpet the ground. This was when he enjoyed the world, at its twilight. Gandalf’s own was approaching, this he knew. His task had been fulfilled.

Four years to the day when he had delivered the hobbits to Imladris from Minas Tirith. Four years since the little ones had fought for home and hearth. Four years since he had passed through his own fiery gauntlet. It might not seem like a long time to some, especially to he who had seen the ages of this world pass by like wisps of cloud. But it was enough.

Twilight was falling for him. And also for others.

Frodo was beginning to fade; he could feel it. It was like a breath of cold seeping into his heart. Gandalf would soon leave on that last ship from Middle-earth, and he knew that Frodo must leave with him.

‘It is time,’ the old Maia murmured as he walked beneath the fading trees of Lothlorien.

~

If spring is Lothlorien’s glory, then autumn is its phoenix burning.

‘Gandalf, you wished to speak with me?’ A bright figure paused at the doorway to the wizard’s chambers. Galadriel, Lady of Light.

‘Lady Galadriel, please.’ Gandalf held a hand out to her.

The Elf Queen smiled and took his arm in full confidence. ‘What is it, old friend? You know my time for granting requests grows short.’

‘As it does for all of us, my Lady. But this boon I must ask.’ Gandalf turned as they reached the moonlit terrace. ‘Frodo is failing. Failing and fading quickly.’

Galadriel’s bright eyes seemed to cloud a bit. ‘His wound is a danger to him; it feeds on the darkness the Ring left in his soul, the broken pieces of himself.’

Gandalf sighed, suddenly feeling very old. ‘He is so young to have borne so much.’

Galadriel placed a hand on his arm again, Nenya, the ring of Adamant, shimmering in the pale moonlight upon her finger. ‘We were all young once, Gandalf.’ A gentle smile graced her lips. ‘But you had a request.’

The Maia regarded her softly. ‘You already know of it, my Lady.’

Galadriel gave a quiet nod. ‘Frodo is not merely a Peleninath. He is also a Ring-Bearer, as is Bilbo. Therefore, I would think it fitting that they should join us; they have earned their rest.’

A smile, one she had known of old, crinkled around Gandalf’s ancient eyes.

‘Our twilight has come, Gandalf. Soon we will journey beyond the White Towers and into the West. The power of our Rings has ended and the time has come for the dominion of Men; may Aragorn and his line rule well.’ The Lady of Light then turned to Gandalf, echoing his words, ‘May they be blest.’

Gandalf, too, smiled. ‘A part of you will always live on in Middle-earth, my Lady. It lives on now in your granddaughter Arwen and will flourish in her children. The light of Lothlorien will never fully be gone as long as one descendent of her line lives.’

Galadriel gave a quiet smile at his words. She did love her granddaughter Arwen Undomiel wholly and completely and part of her heart was saddened at her remaining behind, having given up her Elvish radiance and immortality. But Galadriel also knew the powerful bonds of love.

Galadriel looked out over the gold-and-reddening Wood. ‘Yes, our twilight has come.’

NaBloPoMo 2014 Day 9: What Might Have Been


Author’s Note: This is part of my in-between stories for Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Elenyaiel Windfoot is my own original character.

= = = =

What Might Have Been

~

“See that lass there? The one with the dark hair.”

“Oh, aye. What about her?”

“Didn’t you know that she was to have married Frodo Baggins?”

Old Marigold Bracegirdle almost dropped her coffee mug in amazement. “Here now, what’s all this?”

“Why, as sure as I’m sitting here, Mr. Frodo was fixing to speak to her! I could tell!” Thistle-Ann Proudfoot adamantly insisted. “That is, before his adventure and all.”

Marigold glanced again at the hobbit-lass about whom Thistle-ann spoke. She was barely 50, just past the age of maturity for a hobbit. She was of normal hobbit stature, though quite slender. She had glossy black curls caught up in a linen snood which, as soon as her mother was out of sight, she ripped off and let the curls trickle over her shoulders and down her back. Her white blouse, pale-yellow bodice and grey skirt seemed to only heighten the pink in her cheeks and made her look that much lovelier. Her emerald-green eyes danced gaily and with a silvery laugh, she disappeared through the marketplace, a half-filled basket on her arm. Soon, her mother returned only to find the spot by old Lumbertoll’s flower cart empty.

“Elen! Elenyaiel Windfoot, where be ya?” she called but to no avail.

“That’s the Took in the dear lass; just as mischievous as our dear Master Peregrin used to be, before he became all lordly and such.” Thistle-Ann commented as she returned to her coffee. “But this child is a fine hobbit-girl indeed. She took right proper care of Bag End while Mr. Frodo was gone, until those ruffians moved in. Yes, she would have made Mr. Frodo a fine wife.”

Old Marigold just glanced in the direction where the girl had disappeared and, giving an expected nod, returned to her coffee as well.

 

Up the lane at Bag End, there came a smart jangle of the doorbell. Sam left Rosie nursing Elanor and hurried to answer the door; Frodo was occupied in the study and Sam despaired of disturbing him. He opened the door quickly and there stood a pretty young hobbit on the doorstep, barely older than his Rosie.

“Good day, Master Samwise. Is Mistress Rose at home?” the lass asked.

“Why, yes, Ms. Elen. Won’t you come in?” Sam’s face lit up at the sight of his childhood neighbor.

“Oh, thank you but I really cannot linger, unfortunately. I only came to drop this by for your new daughter. I only hope it’s as pretty as her name.” With this sweet speech, Elen presented a darling linen smock of bright blue. “Congratulations, Sam!”

“Thank you, Elen. Come by again, won’t you?” He watched with a smile as she hurried off down the lane and then shut Bag End’s green door.

“Who was that, Sam?” Rosie asked, looking up from Elanor’s cradle.

“Elenyaiel Windfoot, if you can believe it,” he replied, handing her the smock and relating Elen’s greetings.

Rosie’s lovely face lit up. “Dear Elen? Are you sure? Why didn’t she stay for second breakfast?” She moved as if to hurry to the door and recall her old friend.

“I saw a half-filled basket on her arm and reckoned that she’d run away from another market trip and that her mother might be missing her.” Sam replied with a chuckle.

Rosie laughed as well, for Elen had been running away from market days since she had been a little hobbit-girl. She’d always cut around to see a friend and then return to the market before her mother left for their home on the south end of Hobbiton again.

Elenyaiel Windfoot was the daughter of Geradoc Windfoot and Lilyan Took. She was an only child, unfortunately, but enough of a handful for her parents to equal a hobbit-hole full of children. Her mother, whose family had been known for visiting with Elves, had insisted on her daughter having a lovely Elvish name, so she was named Elenyaiel, which means “Starsday”. But most fell to calling her Elen. Her family had come to Hobbiton from Marish when she was but a babe and she had known Sam Gamgee and Rosie Cotton all her life, as well as Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took, to whom she was a direct cousin.

Elenyaiel had become acquainted with Frodo soon after Mr. Bilbo Baggins adopted him as his heir and brought him to live at Bag End. Elen had also been a help to Mr. Bilbo as a housekeeper of sorts for a short while, especially around the time of his eleventieth birthday. She’d flown round the elegant hobbit-hole, making sure that things were kept in order and that not too many visitors bothered dear old Bilbo, who was grateful for her help.

As she’d grown up knowing Frodo, Elen had noticed many things about the young hobbit that struck her fancy. Being quite Tookish herself, she understood his curious moods and his desire to see the world outside the Shire; but, unlike Mr. Frodo, she had never gotten the chance to do so. She had kept quiet about the affection that had steadily grown in her heart for the young Mr. Baggins over the years, doing her best to not set hopes too high, not even daring to tell her own mother about what dreams lay sleeping.

“If it will be, it will be,” was what she always said to herself. However, she had only seen Mr. Frodo in passing since he had returned from his adventure and, along with Sam, Merry, and Pippin, had restored the Shire to its hobbits.

“If it will be, it will be,” was what she now whispered to herself as she hurried down the lane from Bag End.

 

“Sam.”

Rosie and Sam turned to see Frodo standing in the doorway, a small smile on his face and his hands stuck comfortably in his pockets as he watched them look after Elanor.

“Yes, Mr. Frodo? Did you need something?” Sam asked, ready to fly to the furthest part of the Shire if need be.

Frodo smiled broader and shook his head. “No, no. I was just going to take a walk and was wondering if you’d like to join me.”

Rosie smiled. “You two go on ahead. Now that Elanor’s asleep, it will keep you out of my way while I get things cleaned around here. Take your second breakfast with you and you can have a picnic.” She always had been a smart, practical hobbit and it was one of Sam’s favorite things about her.

Soon, the two gentle-hobbits were on their way through the paths and fields of the Shire, enjoying the morning sun on their backs and the fresh breeze in their hair.

They traveled in silence for a while but, presently, Frodo spoke, “Did we have a visitor this morning, Sam? I thought I heard the doorbell while I was in the study.”

Sam glanced up from the blades of grass that he had been looking at, “Oh, it was Elenyaiel Windfoot. She came by to drop off a dress for Elanor.”

Frodo stopped walking and sort of stared at Sam. “Elen? Really? She came up to Bag End?”

“Yes, she was running away from market day again,” Sam replied with a smile. He watched for Frodo’s reaction, having always been aware of something deep in his friend’s heart for Elenyaiel Windfoot. Frodo has spoken of it only once or twice and Sam had never pressed him, knowing that his friend would always follow his heart in the end.

As Sam watched his face, Frodo became thoughtful and quiet once again and they kept on walking. Soon, they found a pretty spot near the old Bramblebush stream in the forest and sat down to have a late second-breakfast. It was so late, in fact, that it might as well have been elevensies.

After they ate, the two hobbits sat placidly smoking their pipes (the ones Bilbo had so generously given them on their departure from Rivendell). After a while, Frodo ventured to speak again. “I was to speak to her, you know, Sam. I had planned on it, my mind was made up.”

Sam glanced up at his friend, letting the mouthpiece of the pipe slip from his lips but he said nothing.

Frodo puffed for a moment more and then lowered his pipe. “Before we left, before everything happened, I was ready. Ready to settle down, ready to speak. But now…now it would not be fair. Not now.” His fingers strayed searchingly to his neck and clasped about the white pendant that Queen Arwen had given him, as if his life depended on it.

“But why ever not, Mr. Frodo? I’m sure she would accept, even after you’ve been gone. She cared for Bag End when we left, before Saruman and his lackeys moved in. Stood up to them right proper from what I hear.”

“I know, Sam. But I just can’t,” Frodo argued gently. “Besides, it’s too late I’m sure. Elen’s probably married by now; I know that Merry’s cousin Larimore Brandybuck had his eye on her.”

Sam fairly jumped up at this, anxious for Frodo to grab this chance at finally being happy. “No, it’s not too late, Mr. Frodo!” he interjected, “She hasn’t married from what I can tell, if you follow me. You can still speak. She’s surely been waiting for you, sir.”

He paused for a moment, almost regretting his hasty words when he saw his friend’s face color a bit. Sam had not meant to embarrass him. “You know, Mr. Frodo, I think that Elen always understood you, better than even I did.” The thought made Sam smile because he knew that Elenyaiel and Frodo did indeed have similar spirits.

Frodo’s eyes lit up a bit but then faded again as he clutched the pendant even tighter as though something pained him deeply. “No, Sam. No one can understand me better than you. But I can’t speak now, after everything. I’m…I’m not well. It wouldn’t be fair to her. No, I cannot ask her to be my wife now.” With an air of finality to his voice, Frodo put his pipe back in his mouth.

Sam sighed quietly and the two hobbits smoked in silence for a while. Soon, they saw the sun start on his westward run and decided that it was time to head on back to Hobbiton. Gathering up the remains of their picnic, Sam and Frodo started on their way, puffing on their pipes as they went.

 

Several days later, Frodo was helping Sam in the garden when a merry voice hailed them over the gate, “Good day to you, Masters! ‘Tis a right fine day for being outdoors!”

The friends looked up to see Elenyaiel standing there. Her hat was in her hand and a twinkle in her green eyes as her shiny, dark ringlets poured over her shoulders. The red and white of the dress she wore gave her a sort of rose-ish look, much befitting the early-summer day.

“Elen! Good to see you!” Frodo said, smiling and walking over to the fence. Sam added his greetings but soon slipped silently inside Bag End to watch by the window.

Frodo opened the gate, holding out his hand to his old friend. “I’m sorry, Elen. I should have cut round to see you sooner. Things have been quite hectic about here with Sam marrying and becoming a father and all.”

Elen just laughed and gave his hand a hearty shake as she and Frodo sat on a bench in the sunshiny side garden. “Please, no apologies, Frodo Baggins. I understand. You must be very happy with Sam and Rosie living right here with you, not to mention little Elanor.”

Frodo nodded, smiling at the words I understand. “I am, but something has been bothering me as of late.”

Elen turned, touching his hand. “Oh? What is it? Come now, ‘fess up and we shall make it right like we used to as children.”

He looked at her, right into those sparkly green eyes of hers. “I wanted to say that I am dreadfully sorry. Sorry for not speaking when I had the chance. Sorry for leaving the Shire without telling you how I felt. But things have changed now; I have changed.”

He paused for breath but then hurried on. “Don’t mistake me, Elen. I care for you as much now as I did then but things have changed. Things I can’t explain to myself, much less to you. Things I couldn’t bear to burden you with.” There was such a look of remorse on his face that it caused tears to well up in Elen’s eyes.

“Frodo. Dear Frodo Baggins. I have loved you since that day we met in the Party Tree all those years ago. What’s more is I’ve always understood you. How or why, I don’t know, but I have. And I understand you now. You are right, Frodo; you have changed.”

She saw him wince as though the truth of his own words hurt him. “Do you remember when we used to bring wood for Mr. Bilbo from Sam’s Gaffer because he always had the best wood chips?”

Frodo nodded, the memories plain in his mind of Elen, Sam, and himself trudging up the lane with their arms full of small wooden logs.

“Remember how we shared out the load so we would all be helping with the burden? Well, things are like that now. You carry a great burden in your heart, Frodo. I can sense it. But, this time, it is a burden that neither Sam nor I can help you bear. Though I wish to high heavens I could.” At this, her eyes filled with a look of sadness that should never be the lot of any hobbit.

Elen’s voice grew softer and she took Frodo’s right hand in hers, the hand that was now missing its third finger. Her other hand she placed on his shoulder, above the Nazgûl wound, as if to address both injuries at once. “Frodo, I have loved and waited for you, and I will continue to do so. And who knows? Perhaps, someday, we shall find that place where it can be.”

Elenyaiel ended her speech with a quiet smile and a gentle, understanding look that went straight to Frodo’s heart. Somehow, he managed to smile as well.

“Thank you, Elen. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, dear Frodo.” Then, with hat in hand, she stood, all traces of the sad pain gone from her pretty face. “Now, am I correct in assuming that there is still a standing invitation for me at Bag End?”

“Of course there is! Come in, both of you, or luncheon will be cold!” Rosie’s voice carried from the kitchen, and she and Sam’s faces could be seen smiling at window.

Stories Within Stories: Bilbo’s Last Journal Entry


:Property of Melissa Snyder, based on the creations of J.R.R. Tolkien:

Bilbo’s Last Journal Entry
~
September 9, Shire Year 1419

Only 13 more days to go until my 129th birthday; I’ll pass the Old Took yet, by thunder! Hard to believe time has just run on by, though it does seem to stand still here in Rivendell.
It has been nearly a year now since Frodo has been gone from the Shire, if my calculations serve me correctly. My dear, dear lad. Whomever would have thought him to be a Ringbearer? I am sorry from the top of my curly head to the tips of my wooly toes that my nephew had to bear such a burden that has, assuredly, left him scarred forever. But, from what I hear tell, he got the job done as sure as he’s a Baggins!
Messengers brought word today. Lord Elrond returns, but he does not travel alone. Gandalf, Frodo, and Company are also on their way to Rivendell. It will be good to see them. I am ready to hear new tables and old Gandalf’s voice again and also to have an extra pair of hands for a while. My book is in need of revision and Frodo must do it, for my hand now shakes and my eyes fade. I am feeling ever so much thinner and stretched out than I did 18 years ago, when Gandalf first arrived in Hobbiton for my eleventieth. I have enjoyed my holiday but am now in need of a very long rest. Where or when, I am not sure, but soon. Soon.
I doubt that I will enter my journal again, as I grow older by the minute, but I shall equal the Old Took yet. I have trouble remembering now and all such things. So now the task falls to Frodo, that none may forget what has happened to us Bagginess. So, good-bye, my friend, and I bid you a very fond farewell.

Mr. Bilbo Baggins, formerly of Bag End, Hobbiton, The Shire