I II III IV
(Here is the first of four letters, plus a note, that Aragorn received from his friends in the Shire upon the occasion of the first anniversary of his coronation, May 1, 1420 Shire Reckoning. If you can read them in order, starting with this one, then Sam’s letter, then Pippin’s, then Merry’s (which has a note from Gandalf with it.))
I: Frodo's Letter
Bag End, Hobbiton
Early Spring, 1420 SR
My dear Aragorn,
Of course I should say King Elessar. Greetings from Bag End and the Shire! It will be some weeks before this letter can reach you, I know, but I hope it will reach you before the first anniversary of your coronation on the 1st of May.
It comes with some small gifts from me and your other friends here, Sam, Merry, and Pippin. Merry and Pippin’s gifts you’ll recognize – they love to smoke more than any hobbits I have ever known, even more than Bilbo, and can often be found sitting in the Party Field on the benches Sam built enjoying a pipe together after elevenses, now that it’s beginning to get warmer. From Sam comes the other envelope and the packets of seeds. He hopes that you will give the seeds to the women who have the charge of the gardens at the Houses of Healing – I’ll leave it to his letter to tell you what he has included.
From me, my dear friend, comes only a little leather bag, which you should find in the bottom of this chest. I was going through some of Bilbo’s things that he had left in drawers and the corners of trunks, some places that I had never really looked through ever since he left nearly 19 years ago. I found the two small books that are in that bag, which seem to be translations from Elvish. One is the Lay of Beren and Lúthien, and the other has some accounts evidently written by Lord Elrond of events at the end of the First Age. I have copied them into another book for myself, but wanted you to have these originals, in Bilbo’s hand. He would be pleased, I know, for you to have them, and you and the Lady Arwen may find them of interest.
Though Sam has written you a letter, I suspect that he is not telling you all that might be told about what he has been doing these months since our return. As you have heard (Pippin wrote you a month or more ago – I hope you have received his letter by the time you see this), the Shire was in very bad shape when we returned. I cannot bear to dwell on or tell all that was amiss, but I will say that we were especially grieved to find many, many trees cut down, fine old trees that had been special and beloved in many parts of the Shire.
As soon as Bag End was restored to a habitable state, Sam was off every day, and sometimes for days at a time, taking stock of the damage to the trees. He and some of his friends dug up many saplings and replanted along the roadsides and by houses and inns where trees we especially missed had been cut down. He put a grain of dust from Lothlórien beside each tree’s roots. (Did he tell you of the Lady’s gift to him? A small box filled with the soil of her orchard.) Well, the winter was mild, which made the digging and planting easier, and we have had good rain so far this spring, and all those trees look to be thriving. In fact, it looks as if some of them have grown taller and broader even in the winter months, which is very unusual. On the sunny slopes below the Party Field, two oak trees Sam planted are already in leaf, in fact. What he will not tell you is that the Shire is buzzing with praise for his labours and his care for the healing of the hurts of the land. Our Sam is getting to be quite famous, much to his embarrassment.
But the thing that is driving Sam (and therefore, the rest of us) to distraction is the little silver-coloured nut that the Lady put in Sam’s box. He has no idea what it is, but he planted it (and I think he put two or three grains of dust by it) where the Party Tree had been cut down. He goes to that spot every single day, except when it rains too hard, and checks on it. If anxiety and watchfulness could make a seed grow, it would already be a hundred feet tall! So far, a slender sapling with a slivery bark has sprung up. I suspect that I know what is growing from that nut, though Sam does not seem to guess yet. But, if I’m right, the Party Field will be a wonder indeed, with the only Mallorn tree west of the mountains.
I have been well enough, though I begin to fear that my wounds will indeed never heal completely, as Gandalf predicted was possible. But please tell Arwen that her gift has been a great comfort to me. And there is yet time for healing. I am determined to be happy here in the Shire again, and it is easy to find reasons for happiness as I see Sam so busy and happy himself. All winter Rose Cotton called on us frequently; she makes wonderful soups and bread, which she shares with us very generously. Rose is not calling on me, I hasten to add – she talks to Sam, and Sam to her, which gives me joy to watch. I am hopeful that we will have a wedding very, very soon.
Ah, Merry has just come with a letter for this trunk going to you, and one from Pippin as well. Your friends here wish you well, dear Aragorn, as you begin the second year of your reign. The happy events of a year ago are fresh in our minds and memories, and we are pleased to live in the days of the King.
Ever affectionately your friend,
P.S. The trunk is going to be brought to you by Dwarves from the Lonely Mountain. They tell me that Gimli has already gone to Minas Tirith with a group of his kin skilled in stonework and metal work, and that your gates are already a long way towards being restored. To hear these fellows talk of it, the gates will be more beautiful than ever. This must please Gimli exceedingly. Please greet him for us if you see him.
II.: Sam's Letter
28 March 1420 SR
Dear Mr. Strider,
I know I ought to say King Aragorn, but I hope you’ll pardon my being so bold as still to call you Mr. Strider. It is hard for me to get out of my mind what I first knew you as when we met you at the Prancing Pony. But anyway, this is just a note to go in the trunk that Mr. Frodo is packing up for you, with presents from the others, for the anniversary of your crowning on May 1st. It is hard to think of a year having gone by, but there you are, time does pass quicker sometimes than other times.
I’m including a few little paper packets with seeds in them. The packets have the names of the seeds on the outside – mostly herbs, as you’ll see. These are things that the Houses of Healing in your city seemed to be lacking when I looked through their stores and in the gardens last summer. The women there should plant these in a sunny spot, without too much water after they sprout, and when they’ve four leaves each plant they should be moved to the beds on the east side (except for the mint, which can go on the west side if they want to put it there – it won’t be burned by strong sun). The soil needs to be ready for the little plants before they plant them. I would think the stables would have some good rotted manure that could be worked in – but not too much. Most herbs don’t like too rich a soil. And after the plants have 8 leaves each, they need to be pinched back to make them have more roots. You can tell the women this, though they probably know it already. One of them seemed to be a real gardener, to know and love the plants there by the Houses. If any of these seeds don’t grow, please tell me and I’ll send some more.
I’ve had a busy winter, planting trees and trying to make right a lot of wrongs that happened while we were away. The ruffians and bad men who took up here cut down a lot of fine old trees. It will be years and years before things look as they ought. It makes me so angry I could spit when I think of what those bad folk did to our land, and turning my Gaffer out of his hole and all. But the holes that were dug up have been put back to rights, and even Bag End shows no signs now of the hard use it had before we came back. Master Merry and Master Pippin have proved to be real workers and have gotten lots of groups of hobbits together to clean up some of the worst places. It may be that by midsummer we will be back to feeling like the Shire again, even if it might be a long while before things look right with the trees that were cut down and all.
I’m writing this last when Mr. Frodo is not looking, for I don’t want him to know how worried I’ve been. He has been very ill these last couple of weeks. It’s the darkness and dangers he’s passed through, I think. He said his neck was hurting back two weeks ago, which was exactly one year after that hideous filth stung him. And three days ago he was very gloomy and sad and seemed to be seeing things, frightening and dark, when he was awake. It was the same day one year ago when the Ring went into the fiery mountain. He was not himself, and hardly ate anything at all, not even the fine chicken stew that Rose Cotton had brought to us. He drank a bit of tea at suppertime, but was very quiet. I saw that he was fingering that lovely white stone that Queen Arwen gave to him. I think it might have eased his mind some because I found him sleeping, peaceful like, in the parlour in the afternoon. He seemed quite himself the next day, so maybe he’ll be all right. It does worry me though, and it’s not like him to not eat or take his walk or work on his writing in Mr. Bilbo’s study for a whole day like that.
Well, I must be off. I don’t usually write such a long letter, you know, in fact, I can’t think when I’ve ever written a letter before. We talk of you in your grand city very often, Mr. Strider, and our many adventures together. Mr. Frodo is writing it all down.
And even Mr. Frodo does not know this, sir, but Rose Cotton and I are to be married in a few weeks – maybe on your Crowning Day, in fact. I must break it to the master that I will not be living here at Bag End any longer. I’ll still come and do for him every day and see to his garden, but I don’t think it would be fair to ask him to let Rosie come live here, too. I hope he’ll understand.
III: Pippin's Letter
March 27 1420 SR
Greetings, King Elessar, from the Shire. Frodo suggested that we all write you letters to mark this first year of your rule coming to a close, and the beginning of the second year. A year ago now, though, I was hurt and asleep in Ithilien under your care, and Gandalf’s, and so were Frodo and Sam. It is so hard to think of all that has happened in the last year, and the year before that, too. I never thought I could endure such sadness and fear, but in the end, the light and joy were almost as unbearable. But there, now I must wipe my eyes, and you see what thinking of all of that does to me. Merry and I sit in the sun of an afternoon pretty often and just think and smoke together. It is good to be back in the Shire, especially now that things are getting back to normal. But I think that part of me will never be completely satisfied here, now that I know that there is a great world full of wonders out there.
In fact, Merry and I rode out to Bree last month. The winter has been milder than usual, so we decided to go visit the Prancing Pony. We felt as if we deserved a bit of a holiday, too, because we have been very busy organizing the clean-up of the Shire. Mr. Butterbur was very glad to see us, and we had a nice couple of days staying in his house there. The beer there is outstanding. He was not going to charge us, but of course we wouldn’t hear of that. And the company in his common room were eager for news of the Shire, which is not the usual way of it. Merry and I tried to tell some tales from our adventures, but it was clear that the Breelanders did not really want to hear about it, and we found we didn’t want to tell of it, either, when all was said and done. It is hard having seen things and gone through things, horrible things, and some lovely things, and other folk just not understanding. But I guess that’s one of the reasons we had to go through them, so that these folks here at home could be spared from even knowing about it all if they don’t want to. Mr. Butterbur is still amazed that the rough Ranger called Strider is King of the whole land. He won’t believe it, I think, until he sees you ride up on a fine horse in a crown and mail dripping with gold. But he is a good sort, and the Rangers that we saw there this visit are not so ill-treated as they were, I think. I hope that their labours to protect our lands are more appreciated now that more of us know what they do. I spoke to one fellow, who remembered me. He said to convey his greetings to you the next time I wrote to you. It was Thargond, the tall one who always wears the green cloak with the black patch over the left shoulder. I’m sure you know who I mean better than I do!
Merry and I have stayed a week or two at a time in Frodo’s house down here in Crickhollow lately. Sam lives with Frodo up at Bag End, and we do stay with them a lot. But in the last couple of months we have come down here some, wanting to be out of the way so that Rose Cotton and Sam can have more space to themselves. Sam is courting Rose, though I’m not sure he knows he is yet! But mark my words, before too long he will be asking her father’s permission to marry her, and Bag End will begin to fill up with little Rosies and Sams. Frodo will sure have a change in store for him!
And speaking of Frodo, he has been ill somewhat, especially these past couple of weeks. The first time was just after Merry and I got back from Bree. One day he was fine and eager for our news, and the next day he didn’t even get out of bed until elevenses, and then ate hardly anything. He said his neck was sore, but it seemed to me to be more a darkness in his mind than any hurt that you could see. Then just a couple of days ago, the anniversary of the Ring going into the fire, he was definitely not himself all day. I did not see him until suppertime, when I think he drank a cup of tea. But Sam told us that he had been very strange-acting all that day, and had wandered around the hole from room to room, muttering to himself, and clutching that white stone that the Lady Arwen gave him. He had just gotten up from a sleep before tea, said Sam, and seemed a little better at that point, but he was not himself really until the next day. I wish you were here, Strider, to look after him. I feel sure this has something to do with the Black Breath, or something like that, and you healed Merry of it, and Lord Faramir, and the lady Eowyn, and many others. I feel sure you could help Frodo if only you were here. But he said once that Gandalf told him that he might never get over his hurts, so maybe even you could not ease him much.
Greetings, again, from us here, your friends. I sometimes hear the clear ringing of silver trumpets in my dreams, the trumpets of the White City, and when I do, my dreams are always sweet. I have enough evil dreams other times, but they don’t bear thinking of and are of no account.
Oh yes, I almost forgot – the Old Toby is from me. I had the hardest time finding any, because things were so bad in the Shire last summer when it was growing, or not growing as the case was. But I did find some in one of the back cellars of Bag End, some that Sharkey had saved for himself, I think (Saruman, I mean), and so the pipeweed in the pouch is Old Toby. You can compare it with the Longbottom, which is in the box, which is from Merry.
Your friend and servant,
Peregrin Took, Soldier of Gondor
IV. Merry's Letter
27 March 1420 SR
Greetings and congratulations on the anniversary of your Coronation! I hope this letter and these gifts reach you before May 1st, and I hope you and the people of Gondor will find a fitting celebration for the first year of your reign. Here in the Shire no one even knows, hardly, that there is a King again, but I guess that is the way it will be until you visit us here. I know you said that no Men would ever come to the Shire, but you and your folk with you could come to the Bucklebury Bridge and we could meet you there. There are nice meadows and fields on the other side of the river for tents and a big encampment should you wish to come.
Pip and I went to Bree last month. Butterbur says to say hello. Well, I’m not sure he understands still about your being King, but we told him we were getting together some presents to send you to mark the occasion, and he came up with a box of Longbottom Leaf, which I’m giving to Frodo to put in the trunk for you. I confess I took a bit of it for myself, as there has been a shortage of pipeweed this winter. Just a couple of weeks ago Pippin found some Old Toby in Bag End, hidden away for the use of the bad folk who were controlling the Shire before we came back. So he and I have had plenty of that to smoke since he found it, and two small barrels of it we took down to the Green Dragon and shared around with the lads who have been helping us and Sam clean up the Shire. The word has gone out to the Southfarthing, where most of the best pipeweed is grown, that there is a great demand for it this year. I hope a good crop will come in. If it does, I’ll try to get some more to send to you.
Speaking of pipeweed, I’ve copied a few sheets for you about pipeweed, facts and history that I’ve begun to write down. When we were in Bree we learned a bit about their growing of it, and so I got started in asking folk what they knew about it. There are a lot of folks down Southfarthing way who seem to know a lot about it, so when I’m down there this Spring helping straighten things out, I’ll try to find out more. I thought, though, since you used to live here in the North, that you might be interested to know what I’ve found out so far.
I got a nice letter, quite surprising, from King Eomer just two weeks ago. He is married, he says, to the daughter of Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth. That is splendid news! He also enclosed two sketches that she had made for me, one of King Theoden’s burial mound, and the other of Edoras from a distance. She captured the scenes well, and I get all choked up every time I look at them. I will tell you this, in case you ever can do anything to make it happen: I think that Pippin would dearly love to have a sketch of Minas Tirith from down on the Pelennor. If you know anyone there who does drawings, maybe you could ask for one.
I know that Pippin wrote to you a while ago, just after Yule. But I don’t know if he told you how much the same everything is here in the Shire. Yes, there was a hard time here, and lots of trees were cut down and holes dug up and big ugly buildings built, but the Shirefolk have really worked hard to make things seem like they were before the trouble. Pippin and I sit together and smoke a lot, mostly up on the hill by Bag End, and look over the countryside, and talk about our adventures. People around here are pretty amazed when we dress up in our armour and wear our swords and all, and the little children want to see the silver horn that Lady Eowyn gave me. But they don’t care to hear our tales, happy or sad. I guess the Shire is really pretty much as it always has been since I can remember, quiet and keeping to itself.
Frodo is not recognized or honoured as he should be, not by a long way. And he spends most of his time writing. He, at least, is very interested in our stories and reads us things from the book he’s writing some evenings so that we can tell him if he has it all down as it really happened. But some sections he says he will not read aloud. Some of those Sam has read to us, about when they were together in Mordor, and even Sam cannot read some of that to us. It was a terrible time, more terrible than even Pippin and I can ever imagine, I think. Frodo will never be the same, that’s my belief. He is changed, he is become more Elvish or something, almost transparent. It’s as if a light comes out of him.
Well, there I go, on and on, and never asking how you have been, or how Lady Arwen is. I hope that you all are well, and that your springtime is as lovely as ours looks like it will be. Is the sapling of the new White Tree going to bloom this spring? I sit often and smoke, and think of King Theoden, and what a kind man he was, and that we never got to sit together in his great hall. It pains me, and makes me weep, to think of him, but it also makes me glad in a deep way, glad that I even got to know him at all. Sorrow and gladness are almost alike, sometimes. Pippin and I talk of you whenever we smoke together. I hope you think of us, too.
P.S. There is a pipe in a little bag in the box of Longbottom Leaf. It is Gandalf’s pipe. He left it with Butterbur to be given to us to give to you when we had a chance to send it your way. There seems to be a note with it in the pouch, I think. I did not look at it, thinking it likely private. But in case there isn’t a note, the pipe is from him, just so you know.
Year 1, Fourth Age
Aragorn, King Elessar, King of the West, etc.,
I’m leaving this pipe, which you will probably recall as my favourite one, with Barliman Butterbur to be given to Merry or Pippin when they come here. I feel sure they’ll be out this way before the end of Winter. Their instructions are to send it on to you.
I find that I don’t smoke as much as I used to. Pipeweed is scarce around here, for one thing, and also I miss my friend. You and I spent many evenings together smoking and talking during those many years and journeys we have had. The time is coming, not too soon, maybe, but before long, when I shall not smoke again in Middle Earth. I want you to have this pipe, and to think of our long friendship when you use it.
It draws well if you don’t fill it too full.