Gandalf Visits Bombadil

by Vison

Down the road to the past………

Tom led the way, as before. The atmosphere of these woods was not like the woods above. The air here was warmer and thicker, and the sense of brooding menace was less, though poisonous spines and bristling hairs were surely more direct threats. These trees were vaster, taller, and spaced somewhat farther apart. The walking was easier, it seemed these trees thrust no roots up to trip Tom and Gandalf.

Yet the Sun’s rays did not penetrate here, either, for the canopy was as impenetrable as in the forest they had traveled through the day beforre. Light there was, dim and green, enough to see by but not enough to be cheerful. Gandalf thought it must be like being in deep water.

There was no undergrowth, no grass, no green thing growing here other than the Trees. This forest was curiously un-alive, for the bare trunks of the trees soaring up gave no impression of living things. They seemed, rather, like enormous columns reaching to a green roof.

But as the day wore on, Gandalf felt his heart warming to this Forest. Its beauty was foreign to him, but it had its own majesty, and the very size and presence of the trees began to work upon his feelings. For while the Trees were still alive, they were essentially static and unchanging. They had been standing for Ages and would stand for Ages yet, but no Spring would ever come here again.

“Was it always so, Master Tom?” he asked. “Were the trees ever like this?”

“I saw them grow from seedling to sapling to limber youth, Mithrandir. Once these woods were as thick with little trees as a dog’s back is with hairs. But over Time they have thinned out, as the strongest felled the weakest. Now it is a very slow thing, even to my eyes, and I am used to Deep Time, for so I name it, my time in this world.” Tom stopped and laid his hand to the tree nearest him. “I know each one, you see. I have known this one, and that one all their lives.”

“Thou hast seen them from seedling? But from whence came the seeds?”

Tom looked at Gandalf with his head to one side. “That is a good question, Mithrandir,” he said.

But he did not answer it, and carried on walking.

All that day they journeyed. As Tom had promised, Gandalf saw wonders that maybe no eyes but Bombadil’s had ever seen. Gandalf could never have imagined that trees could be so various and interesting. Though many bore poisonous defenses, many did not. One he stayed by for some time, for the trunk was clothed in scales like the scales of a great fish, gleaming in the forest twilight, gleaming of Mithril and Gold and Ruby. It was smooth to his hand, and warm to the touch. It had no branches, as such, but rose to a kind of enormous bloom of leaves like long threads, and each thread was Mithril or Gold or Ruby, and yet green overall, shimmering.

Not all were beautiful. One oddity rose in a straight, barrel-shaped trunk that did not taper but nonetheless reached fifty or sixty fathoms up. Its bark was bright green, and was composed, seemingly, of little transparent bubbles like soap bubbles. Each bubble was, in itself, charming, but the effect of them in that number and on that scale made Gandalf uneasy, it was too much of charm, too much of tiny prettiness. And at its tip was simply another bubble, as far as he could see, only larger. He shivered, and walked on, and when they came to others of that nature, he went quickly by.

And many were just Trees, looking like Cedars or Pines or Oaks, though when looked at closely one could see they were not of any familiar sort. Here and there they came upon a fallen tree, some nearly vanished into the mould, some more newly fallen. Insects scurried hither and thither upon them, but scuttled out of sight as Gandalf and Bombadil drew near.

The light was fading when they came to the other side. Here was another of Tom’s shelters, built against the rock wall. It was much like the other, a sort of hut with a crude fireplace and two beds, but it looked very inviting to Gandalf.

“I am will be glad of my bed tonight,” Gandalf said, slinging his pack onto the bunk. “My eyes are worn out with seeing, and my neck is aching from looking up.”

“We are here earlier than I thought we would be, for Time has been stretched today, maybe because the two of us were using it.. I have not been in this exact spot for a long time.” Bombadil shifted the rock that was the hearth, and very quickly there was a bright and cheerful little fire before them.

“Tomorrow we will climb out, and our road home will go yet further to the North, then we will bear West and strike out for home. Yet we will be on the road for a time yet, and maybe see more that will weary thine eyes and twist thy neck,” Bombadil said.

There was still Waybread and dried fruit in their packs, and they had water enough for Tea this night and for the morrow’s breakfast. Needless to say, Gandalf had plenty of Pipeweed for his evening pipe. He offered to share it with Bombadil, but the Master laughed and would have none of it. “Nay, Mithrandir,” he said. “It is an Art I have never cultivated. I deem I am too old to learn it now, though watching thee I can see it hath its attractions.”

Gandalf sent forth smoke rings in the shapes of some of the Trees they had seen that day. “It is an ancient Art, as these things go in Middle Earth, and I think it the only one begun by the Hobbits. For my delving into old lore never taught me that any other race was before them, at least not in the smoking of it.”

“A folk full of surprises, the Halflings,” Bombadil responded.

They whiled away some time in this way, telling tales and recounting old lore, and since Bombadil had been the leader during their walk in the Forest, it was not surprising that Gandalf took the lead in these other matters. For the study of Folk and Old Lore had been his passion, and not only because of the One Ring.

“There is much to delight one in the arts of Men and Elves,” Gandalf said, at last. “Song and story, beauties as cold as ice, and as hot as fire. It is their custom to put into song and verse the events of their times. Much that might otherwise be forgotten is thus remembered, for in every generation there arise Minstrels and Poets. I think, as well, of my dear old friend Bilbo son of Bungo, who is now in Imladris in the House of Elrond. In his stout Hobbit body and behind his plain Hobbit face is a Poet whose verses would not be out of place in the court of Finrod himself, or some other of the Great Ones of Elder Days.”

This night passed in silence, as far as Gandalf could tell, and he did not hear Bombadil go out to commune with the Forest. They breakfasted together, sitting with their backs against a tree, watching the blue mist rise from the Forest floor and vanish into the canopy above.

“It is another fine day in the Outer World,” Bombadil said. “A sharp Frost, but the Sun will be warm enough.”

Gandalf gathered up his cloak and his pipe and put them in his pack. Bombadil was still sitting, looking into the distance.

“Our fire still burns, Mithrandir. Wouldst thou oblige me by putting it out?” Bombadil asked.

Gandalf went to toss some dirt onto the small heap of embers that remained.

“No,” Bombadil said. “I wish thee to command it to cease burning.”

Surprised, Gandalf hesitated. “I am sure,” he said, at last, “that this is no idle request?”
He lifted his staff and spoke a word of Command. There was a bright blaze, then the flames died, and the embers were black, no trace of fire could be seen. Gandalf put his hand down and lifted some of the black embers and let them fall. “The fire is Dead,” he said. He peered at Bombadil under his bristling eyebrows. “So thou knowest now that my Powers, such as they are, are still with me.”

Bombadil rose and held something out to Gandalf. “Take this, Mithrandir, and tell me, if thou wouldst, what it is.”

Gandalf took the thing, and turned it about and about in his hand. “It is a brooch made of Mithril, fashioned into a six-rayed Star. Such brooches were commonly used by the Eldar in the past, and are still used to this day. But this one has an Archaic look, if I may say so. It is very ancient, I deem.”

“It is very Ancient, indeed. Even in my view, it is old.” Bombadil sighed. “Well, there is a tale attached to this brooch, as thou may have guessed. A tale, and more. But it is a tale more easily shown than told. I will say this much. I found this brooch here, where I have made this refuge of mine. When I scooped out the earth to put my firerock in, I found it, not buried deeply, but just covered by the leaf-mould.”

“Then Elves have been here! One, at least,” Gandalf said.

“One at least? I know of Two, although there may certainly have been more, over the centuries.” Bombadil gestured to the nearby cliff, up which he and Gandalf would climb to leave this valley. “That is the way they came in, as did we, on the other side. But they did not come here seeking beauty and adventure, they came to escape pursuit.”

“Pursuit! By whom were they pursued?”

“It is not my tale to tell thee, Gandalf. Come, and we will speak to the owner of that brooch.”

Now was Gandalf surprised indeed. “The owner! The owner still lives here in this Forest? Why---what---who---Bombadil! There is a great mystery here!”

Bombadil smiled, but it was a sad smile, and his eyes were shadowed. “A mystery? Maybe. But I needed to know, before telling you even this much, that thy powers were still with thee. For it may be that they will be needed. I hope so. I hope so indeed.”

“Then then us go, Master Tom. I sense that there is something in this matter that causes thee great grief.”

Tom led Gandalf some little way back into the Forest, but not where they had come through the evening before. They went along the cliff face, and came to where there was a waterfall trickling down from the land above. It sang a watersong, the enchanting sound of falling water . Near it, leaning over it, was a tree that Gandalf took at first glance to be a Willow. He thought of Old Man Willow and wondered if this was one of his children. But then he saw that it was not quite a Willow.

As they came nearer, Gandalf became aware that there was some force at work in this place. The seeming Willow shimmered and the trunk of it changed form and there before him was an Elven woman……………

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