Gandalf Visits Bombadil

by Vison
XVIII.


They climbed up the dangerous path from the valley floor to the Forest above. The path clung to the rocks, slippery with mist from the waterfall, but neither Bombadil nor Gandalf took much notice of the wet rocks nor the fine spray. In both minds was the picture of the Elf maiden Lorinil, and the gesture by which she repudiated all that could yet have been.

Gandalf was reminded of Saruman. Both Lorinil and Saruman suffered from an excess of arrogance, of overweening pride. But Gandalf knew that Curunir his brother had never been as self-deluding as Lorinil. Lies are ever wicked things, but no lie is as wicked as the lies we tell ourselves.

They paused when they reached the top, and for a time stood and listened to the sound of the singing waterfall. It seemed, indeed, that a sweet silvery voice rose and fell, rose and fell as the clear cold water spilled over the rocks to the valley floor. Gandalf looked out over the green sea that was the secret valley, he remembered the myriad fantastic trees he had seen, remembered the secret savage speech of the forest in the small hours of the night. Even he had shivered in something like fear, listening to that alien sound. But he would have endured that, and much more, would have endured real fear and real heartbreak, could he have saved Lorinil. Or, rather, could he have helped her see the way she could save herself.

“It was here,” Bombadil said, after they had walked some distance. “It was here that the Festival of Midsummer was held, seest thou? Here, Mithrandir, look in the very substance of this tree, the filigree woodwork of an arbour is held yet.”

There it was, now part of the tree itself, the delicate white woodwork curving along the mighty trunk and up out of sight. Gandalf looked up, and then back at Tom. “Listen!” he said. “I hear a Lyre…..”

Bombadil frowned. “That cannot be! Do not fall prey to imaginings, Mithrandir!”

“No, no,” Gandalf said, reassuring Tom. “It was a passing fancy only.”


Whatever Bombadil felt, Gandalf was beginning to tire of the Trees. Greenery, day upon day, was telling upon his love of beauty, and making him long for the feel of cobbled streets beneath his feet and the feel of a book in his hand. He wondered if Bombadil longed for his own cheerful fireside and Goldberry’s sweet face.

That night they slept in a shelter that was more than a simple hut. This one had a wooden floor, and a rock chimney. They did not sit long after their meal, nor did Gandalf light his pipe. Weariness of the spirit oppressed him, and he had troubled dreams. Again he heard Bombadil rise in the night and go out to whatever secret ceremonies he held with his Trees, again he could hear the Trees speaking their hate.

But in the morning he awoke refreshed and rested nonetheless, and surprised himself and Bombadil by whistling like a lark as they shouldered their packs and set out.

“I think it is time we thought of home,” Bombadil said. “By the end of tomorrow we will be once more in woods that I know well. This part of the Forest is one I have not visited for many mortal years. It is more like a common wood, know thou, less secret and dangerous, and needing less of my thought. Still, it is part of my care, and must be seen to.”

Gandalf nodded. “I bethought me that it seemed less threatening, although I would not call it exactly friendly.”

It was so, however, that the Trees here were less troublesome to those who went on two feet. After a time it was even pleasant walking, for the sun’s rays penetrated here. November sun has little heat, but the light was cheerful after days of gloom.

They paused at noon for a little fire and the last of the Tea. Even their waybread was nearly gone, and the dried fruit with it. Tom emptied his pack and shook it. “Well,” he said, smiling ruefully, “tomorrow from breakfast on will be slim pickings, as they say. However, a half day’s fast will not hurt me, nor thee either. Come, drink thy tea and let us be off while the sun shines. Once I had a shelter in these parts and it is my hope that we shall be there by dark.”

Gandalf hoisted his pack and leaned on his staff. He looked to the blue distance. “Master Tom,” he said, puzzled. “Is that not smoke?”

Bombadil began to say, “No,” but he stopped. “It is, Mithrandir! Smoke, where there ought to be no smoke. Come, friend. Let us see what goes forth, for there should be no fire in these woods.”

They walked quickly and with purpose. The trees were not thick hereabouts, and were mainly those that had lost their leaves. The smoke rose straight into the windless air, and they were able to walk directly toward it.

Something made Gandalf say, “We should go more quietly, Tom, should we not?”

Bombadil laughed under his breath. “Thou art in the right of it, Mithrandir. And I know that thou art asking thyself if Bombadil can go softly, art thou not? Well, I can. I can go as softly as a wisp of that smoke.”

So it was that they came on the fire-makers unaware.

“Master Tom!” Gandalf breathed, “Those are Hobbits!”………………………..


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