The White Butterfly
Darkness had fallen over the fords of Isen and Snowbourn, where the
Rohirrim paused their long gallop to Minas Tirith for a short rest.
Most of the men, tired of the long day’s ride, embraced the opportunity
and were asleep soon, save for the King and his Marshals, and the
The Rider who was known as Dernhelm, however, could not find rest. The
slender mail-clad figure wandered through the night, not daring to come
too close to where their leaders were taking counsel, but still
lingering close, hoping to catch a glimpse and some words.
Éowyn had no thought of sleep, not now the battle was neigh. Yet
even the King decided to have some rest, and the council was ended. The
lone warrior made to walk back to her horse. Her bright grey eyes
looked out from under her guise, over the sea of sleeping bodies, until
her sharp gaze noticed another who seemingly had no desire to rest.
In the shelter of some bushes at the river’s bank, a small figure was
sitting, hugging his knees and occasionally tossing a small stone into
the foaming stream. His hunched position and tense shoulders worried
Éowyn, and she went over to him.
“Can you also not find rest tonight, Master Holbytla?”
The Hobbit was startled out of his reverie and hastily made to get to
his feet, but she stopped him with a hand-gesture and instead sat down
next to him. His face was pale, his eyes bright and his head bowed.
Éowyn’s concern increased and she asked him: “what ails you,
Merry? Are you hurt?”
The young halfling blinked furiously a few times and glanced sideways
at her, a thoughtful look in his eyes, before returning his gaze to the
river again. “Well… no, not really,” he replied after a long pause.
“I am not so easily deceived,” said she. “And since we are riding
together I must know if something is wrong with my companion. Tell me,
where are you hurting?”
Merry swallowed hard, then looked into her eyes and slowly placed his
hand over his heart. She could see tears forming in his blue-green
eyes, and understood.
“I fear I have no medicine for this malady,” she sighed. “Though
perhaps it would do you good to share your pain with one who knows it
well.” She turned her keen eyes on the Hobbit, who still stared into
the gloom, his tears now flowing freely.
Merry removed his helmet and covered his face with his hands. “I fear
for my cousins, Dernhelm. They are like brothers to me, you see, and
the thought that I may never see them again grieves me so.”
Éowyn nodded her head in understanding. “Once again, I have no
remedy for your pain, but tell me of them, if you will. It may lighten
your heart to speak of your memories. I heard from… the men that the
Grey Stormcrow took your companion to Minas Tirith, yet you speak of
more than one.”
“Yes,” said Merry. “The one that went with Gandalf was Peregrin, or
Pippin as I call him.” A look of affection came into his eyes, and
Éowyn was glad she had asked. The mere thought of his cousin
seemed to brighten him up.
“He sometimes does foolish things, but then, he is young still, eight
years younger than I am. I tend to forget that at times, though he has
moments that really show his youth. He can be a bother and a nuisance
sometimes, but he can brighten even my darkest day. That is why I miss
him so, now that he is gone from my side.” He sighed.
“And what of your other cousin?” asked his companion.
“Frodo is his name. I do not rightly know where he is, and that’s all
for the best I suppose.” He surpressed a shiver and continued: “he is
very different from Pippin, but I love him as much as I love that silly
little Took. Only in a different way. He is almost fourteen years older
than I am, and since he has lived with our family for most of my
childhood, I grew up with him as if he were my older brother. And I
have always thought that he was the greatest, strongest Hobbit in all
the Shire. Even after I had grown taller than him and he hadn’t won a
game of wrestling with me for five years.” A small smile curled the
Hobbit’s lips as he stared into an invisible distance, and Éowyn
almost wished that she could see and feel what he was experiencing
right now. Yet she could find no such memories now, and did not even
seem to remember how to smile. She merely savoured the Hobbit’s voice
and expression, as if that might bring her some comfort.
Merry seemed not to notice it, so caught up was he in his own tale.
“Frodo isn’t strong in ways of strength and skill, that is true, but in
wisdom and nobility. I… I wish I knew the right words to describe it,
but I don’t. I can only make it clear to you by telling you a story, if
you have not yet had enough of my chatter, that is.” He looked at
Dernhelm, and Éowyn merely nodded her head and whispered:
“please, share it.”
The Hobbit smiled. ”Well then, here’s a genuine Frodo story. I remember
one sunny day in my home when we were alone. He was reading and I was
drawing, and a white butterfly flew through the open window. It had
been chased by a bird, which we saw fly away. I caught the distressed
butterfly in an empty jar from the kitchen. ‘What are you going to do
with it?’ Frodo asked me, and I said: ‘I will keep it in the jar where
no bird can ever catch it.’ He frowned at me and said: ‘but Merry, how
do you know that the butterfly will be happy, being locked up in a
glass jar? Maybe it doesn’t like that.’ But I wished to hear none of
it. ‘If it stays in the jar it will be safe. It’s such a beautiful
butterfly, and I don’t want it to get hurt.’ Then Frodo took the jar
from me, took me by the hand and lead me outside. ‘Why don’t you let
the butterfly decide for itself?’ he said, and opened the lid. Without
hesitation, the butterfly flew away into the free air. I was sad to see
it go, but Frodo taught me a good lesson. No creature should have to be
locked up, not even with the best intentions. Every one of us deserves
freedom, to go out into the world and choose their own path, even if
that means they might get hurt. And I understand that choice, Dernhelm.”
Éowyn looked up with a start at his clear emphasis of the name.
Merry was staring straight at her, his gaze keen, yet there was a
gentle, knowing light in his eyes. A small smile once again touched his
lips, and he got up and looked to the camp, which was stirring “Well,
it looks like we shall be riding again soon.”
He turned to his companion, who looked up at him now with an expression
of wonder. He did not answer the unasked question that was in those
eyes, but knelt and said: “thank you, Dernhelm, for listening to me.
You were right, it did help me. And I do hope that maybe it has helped
you a little as well. Excuse me now, I have to go find my shield. I
will see you in a moment.”