Sam’s Hand Should Not Be Broken
For you, RosieCotton, with love.
November 20, 1420.
Sam heard the kitchen clock chime the hour of five, and he sleepily
rolled over and automatically reached out for Rosie. He grasped the
empty air and remembered with a sigh that his dearest was staying at
Tom and Marigold’s place for a week, assisting with the care of their
newborn daughter, Bell. Sam pushed the covers back and shivered as he
quickly dressed; the temperature had dropped dramatically overnight and
the floor felt cold beneath his feet. Mr. Frodo was still asleep, or at
least Sam hoped he was still asleep. At least he had made it to his
bedroom last night; many mornings Sam found him asleep in his chair in
the sitting room, a book held limply in his hands or at his writing
desk with his head pillowed on his arms, a pen forgotten between his
fingers, and the pages of the Red Book open beneath. Sam always
suspected each time that Mr. Frodo had been awake nearly all the night
before, and had only just dozed off as day broke.
Sam put a kettle on for tea, and then built up the fires in the kitchen
and the study hearths first so these two favorite rooms of Frodo’s
would be thoroughly warmed by the time he wakened. He went to the
sitting room next, and saw through the round window that the grass was
covered by a fine shimmering frost that glistened in the early morning
“A bit early for a frost, but it’s happened before,” he mused. “I hope
my Rose doesn’t lose her footing on Tom’s front walk-those stones might
be slippery.” Their first child was not due until spring, but Rose was
already round as a barrel, and Sam thought she had never looked more
beautiful. She was basking in a maternal glow that made the sun seem
dim by comparison, and she had been sewing and knitting clothes and
blankets enough for ten babies. Sam had come home one evening and found
Rosie knitting a tiny cap and Frodo holding the skein of yarn for her
as they chatted pleasantly in the sitting room. It pleased Sam that
Rose and Mr. Frodo had grown so close; she was one of the few who could
coax a genuine smile from him, besides himself and Merry and Pippin.
The two cousins were still living at Crickhollow, and having more fun
than perhaps was seemly for the future Master of Buckland and Thain of
the Shire. However, after all they had been through, they were more
than entitled to some pleasurable pursuits, Sam thought. They visited
Frodo often, and he was always glad to see them, but even the presence
of his beloved younger cousins still could not erase the sadness from
his eyes, or the wistful sighs that often escaped him when he thought
no one was there to hear. The hurts of being the Ringbearer still
lingered heavily upon his master, and Sam wished with all his heart
that he could do something to drive them away more quickly so that
Frodo could once again enjoy life in his beloved Shire.
“Good morning, Sam. It looks like we’ve had a frost.”
Sam turned around with a smile. “Aye, Mr. Frodo, we have. It does look
rather pretty in the early mornin’ sun, doesn’t it?”
“Indeed it does,” Frodo returned the smile, and he seemed more
refreshed and at ease this morning than he had since his illness in
October. As if he heard Sam’s thoughts, he added, “I fell asleep
shortly after nine o’clock last night, and only just woke a few minutes
ago. I have not slept that well in many weeks.”
“I’m pleased to hear it, Mr. Frodo. I woke earlier than usual, myself,
as I’m not used to…”
He stopped and blushed, and Frodo laughed. “You are no longer used to
sleeping alone. Really, it’s all right to say such things to me, Sam.
Bag End feels empty enough to me without Rosie here, so I can only
imagine how it is for you. When did she say she would return?”
“She’ll be home at the end of the week, sir. This is the first niece,
after all; her other brothers have had all lads, and Rosie an’ her mum
are overjoyed to have a wee lass to fuss over.” Sam added a few pieces
of kindling to the fire. “There’s tea fixed in the kitchen, Mr. Frodo,
an’ after I bring in some more wood, I’ll make first breakfast. My
porridge doesn’t match up to Rosie’s, but I could fix that, and a nice
fry up of tomatoes and bacon, if that would suit you, sir.”
“Thank you, Sam, I am famished this morning. I would like that very
Elated to see his dear master much more his old self today, Sam
whistled as he got his jacket and headed out to the woodshed for an
armload of kindling. He piled his arms with wood, almost too high to
see where he was going, a habit from his childhood days when he tried
to carry as many logs as his elder brothers, Hamson and Halfred. Sam
decided to cut through the more level garden path with his burden, even
though going down the hill was quicker.
Sam kept several dozen four-inch-high clay pots for seedlings lined up
neatly on a stone bench beside the path for easy access while working
in the flower and herb gardens. One of these tiny pots, already perched
precariously near the edge, succumbed to a puff of wind and tumbled
from the bench, and rolled to a stop in the middle of the flagstone
walk. Sam, unable to see the ground beneath him, stepped on it with all
the force of his forward stride and a huge armload of wood. He uttered
a cry of surprise as his feet went out from under him and the firewood
sailed into the air, and he desperately threw out his arm for balance.
There was a sickening crack as his weight came down on his right wrist,
and hot shooting pain raced up his arm. Sam grabbed his wrist and
groaned with frustration and anger, muttering a few words that would
have earned him a mouthful of soap as a lad.
Sam looked up and saw with astonishment and distress that Frodo was
running toward him, clad only in his nightshirt and thin dressing gown
in the early morning chill.
“Mr. Frodo, what’s the matter?” Sam exclaimed.
“You’re the matter, Sam,” Frodo returned, dropping to his knees next to
Sam, not heeding the cold or the roughness of the stones digging into
his skin. “I heard you cry out in pain.”
“Did I make that much noise?” Sam asked, mortified. “I was just
startled, sir; I was hurryin’ down the path, not mindin’ my step like a
ninnyhammer, an’ next thing I knew I was sitting on my bottom an’ wood
all over the place. It’s really nothin’, sir.”
“I’ll be the judge of that,” Frodo said quietly. “Let me have a look at
your hand, Sam.”
Over Sam’s protests, Frodo took Sam’s arm and gently raised it to have
a look at the rapidly swelling wrist. The other hobbit stifled a gasp
“Can you move it at all?” Frodo asked. “Can you move your fingers?”
“Mr. Frodo, it’s really nothin’. You’ll catch cold, sir, out here
dressed like that…”
Frodo gave him a look that silenced him at once. “Sam…can you move your
wrist or your fingers at all?”
Sam gritted his teeth with pain as he manipulated first his wrist, and
then his reddened, puffy fingers. “I can’t move my first two fingers,
sir,” he admitted, shame in his voice.
“You’ve broken them, then,” Frodo said softly, “though I think the
wrist is merely badly sprained. I know the healer is not at home at
present; the one time in twenty years she decides to take a holiday.”
He helped Sam to his feet. “I’m afraid you’re stuck with me, dear Sam,
to offer what aid I can. I do know a thing or two about setting broken
bones, however; come along inside.”
“Y-you do?” Sam asked with a note of wariness in his voice. Frodo
chuckled. “I saw it done often enough at Brandy Hall when I was a
lad-and I was the one with the broken bones at least twice due to my
childhood escapades. Also, do you remember when Pippin fell from the
balcony in Rivendell and broke his arm during our second week there? I
think you might have been exploring Elrond’s kitchens when it happened,
but Merry and I were there while they set the bone, and it turned into
an impromptu lesson in case we should need to know how to do that while
on our journey.” They had reached the kitchen, and Frodo pulled out a
chair. “Have a seat, Sam.” The other sat down carefully, still sore
from his fall on the unforgiving ground.
Frodo poured a basin of steaming water from the kettle. “When that
cools sufficiently to not burn you, but still provide heat, soak your
wrist in that. I will get the things I need to fashion a finger-sized
splint, and make you some tea that will help ease the pain.”
The throbbing in his wrist pounded in Sam’s temples, and he felt
slightly sick to his stomach. “You don’t have to go to all this
trouble, Mr. Frodo,” he managed.
Frodo looked at him with a mixture of affection and exasperation. “Sam,
you old donkey, as if I would allow you to endure this agony in favor
of waiting for the healer to return. Besides, it is the very least I
can do for you.”
He brewed the tea for Sam, and urged him to sip it slowly while he
found bandages and two small, stiff pieces of wood that Sam used to
stake beans in the garden. Frodo used a knife to whittle them down to
hobbit finger size, and then returned to the kitchen.
“All right, my dear Sam, we’ll give that athelas tea a few more minutes
to work, because when I set the bones, it’s going to hurt a little, I’m
Sam swallowed visibly before he replied, “I appreciate that honesty,
The clock ticked on the wall, and chimed seven times.
“And you’ve not even had breakfast, nor even your own first cup of tea
yet,” Sam mourned.
Frodo patted his uninjured hand. “I’ll make breakfast this morning,
Sam, in fact, probably the grandest breakfast ever served in Bag End
since it will be both first and second breakfast combined, by the time
we get this little task finished. I make a rather decent fry-up myself,
you know. All right, dear Sam, let’s have that hand.”
Sam winced as Frodo took his hand; Frodo saw for the first time that
the palm was skinned and bloodied from the fall as well. He tried to
focus on the swollen fingers, and to set the bones as he had been
taught, but as he stared down at Sam’s hand he was nearly overwhelmed
in a rush of emotion.
This hand of Sam’s…his strong right hand…Frodo’s throat tightened as he
stroked the three uninjured fingers and a thousand memories flooded his
That strong right hand that could both tenderly sponge a fevered brow
and fiercely wield an elven sword; that strong right hand that pulled
him to safety through the trapdoor in Cirith Ungol and carried him up
the blazing slope of Mount Doom; that strong right hand that Frodo had
felt grasping his wounded hand when he wakened in Cormallen and
nervously held it under the table as they were honoured at the victory
banquet…Sam’s strong, faithful, beloved right hand…Frodo could not bear
to think of what could have happened without it, and him.
“Sir?” Sam asked, worried.
Frodo looked up at him, tears glistening in his eyes. “Sam’s hand
should not be broken,” he whispered.
Unable to understand his master’s emotion, Sam tried to comfort him.
“It’s not broken, sir, only the two fingers, an’ they’ll mend. I’m sure
I’ll be able to do most of my work…”
Frodo swallowed hard and regained his composure. “That’s the very least
of my worries, dear Sam. Come now…let’s have a look at those fingers.”
Frodo worked as quickly as possible while Sam clenched his teeth and
valiantly stifled the howl of pain he dearly wanted to release. At last
the fingers were splinted properly, and Sam held up his hand to survey
“I think you missed your callin’, Mr. Frodo,” he said. “I don’t think
the healer could have done a better job.”
“Thank you, Sam, though I think you’d have a few less fingernail marks
in the kitchen table if had been the healer,” Frodo observed
The clock chimed eight, and their stomachs chose that moment to rumble
“A decent fry-up you said, sir?”
‘Yes, I did. Bacon, tomatoes, fried bread, everything. It’s the perfect
“Thank you, sir,” Sam said quietly.
Frodo looked at him, and all the love in his heart was in his voice
when he replied, “My dear Sam, I could do no less.”