I was reading Tolkien in the tub yesterday, soaking in bubbles after a day of manual labor at the old house, and I got to this part and thought you might enjoy it as much as I did. (Sam and Frodo are in Mordor – exhausted, hopeless and creeping closer and closer to Mount Doom.)
“‘Now you go to sleep first, Mr. Frodo,’ he said. ‘It’s getting dark again. I reckon this day is nearly over.’
Frodo sighed and was asleep almost before the words were spoken. Sam struggled with his own weariness, and he took Frodo’s hand; and there he sat silent till deep night fell. Then at last, to keep himself awake, he crawled from the hiding-place and looked out. The land seemed full of creaking and cracking and sly noises, but there was no sound of voice or of foot. Far above the Ephel Duath in the West the night-sky was still dim and pale. There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. His song in the Tower had been defiance rather than hope; for then he was thinking of himself. Now, for a moment, his own fate, and even his master’s ceased to trouble him. He crawled back into the brambles and laid himself by Frodo’s side, and putting away all fear he cast himself into a deep untroubled sleep.”
Return of the King, The Land of Shadow, Tolkien
I love the exhale I feel when I read this. And I love it when I experience moments like these in real life.
I had one of those moments a few years ago, at Wal-Mart of all places. I was in the front of the store looking back at the long lines of people, and all the people running this way and that, and the blue Wal-Mart signage everywhere, when suddenly I was awash with the feeling that everything, absolutely everything is okay and is going to be okay because there is something so much more real than all of this. And that something always exists and always will. Like I said, it was a very strong and memorable moment.
But usually I get little glimpses of perspective now and again (less memorable and not at Wal-Mart). Small moments sprinkled here and there that cause me to “put away all fear and cast myself into a deep untroubled sleep.” I imagine everyone does. Especially when looking at the stars.
Anyway, thank you, Tolkien, for this bit. It was lovely to read and I cherish it. And that’s not just the bubble bath talking.