Gandalf Visits Bombadil
XXI : Gandalf and Bombadil take the Night Watch
“Come, young masters,” Tom said. “Let us not spoil a merry meeting
with hard words. We will come with thee to thy home, and speak with thy
Elders, and all will be well. For the world is wide and changing, and I
deem thy folk will be glad to learn of it!”……..
The night closed in quickly after they had eaten. Harry and Barry
unrolled a piece of canvas and prepared to set it up as a tent, but
Bombadil said, “If we walk over that rise there, we will come to a
shelter under a Tree. It would be more comfortable than a tent, and
there is room for all of us.”
Harry shivered. “That hut belongs to the Spirit of the Wood, they say, and we are forbidden to go near it for fear of him!”
Bombadil nodded. “Perhaps thou art right, Harry son of Bento. Thou shouldst not offend the Spirit of the Wood.”
Gandalf frowned at him, but said nothing.
“But there isn’t room in our tent for two fellows as big as you,” Barry pointed out. “Where are you going to sleep?”
“Oh,” Gandalf said, “old fellows such as we are do not need much sleep, and we shall just sit and keep the fire going.”
Barry looked doubtful. “Wait a minute,” he said. “How do you know about that house under the trees?”
“I have passed this way before,” Master Tom replied, with a glint of laughter in his eyes.
This seemed to satisfy Barry, but Harry looked thoughtful, and at last
he said, “Did you sleep in that hut the last time you passed this way?
And came to no harm?”
“No harm,” Tom said. “No woodland spirits will harm Master Tom.”
“How can you be sure?” Harry asked, looking over his shoulder into the dark. “I wish I could be sure.”
“Fear not,” Gandalf said gently. “You are safe with us. Go to your rest, and sleep deeply. Tomorrow we shall walk far.”
The two young Hobbits crawled into their makeshift tent and for a time
Gandalf and Tom could hear them whispering together. Then they were
silent, and when Gandalf peered into the tent he saw that they were
sound asleep, but that each had a knife close to hand.
“They are very young,” he said to Tom. “Very young to be sent on an errand such as theirs, think thee?”
“Yes,” Bombadil answered. “I have been puzzling and puzzling,
Mithrandir, and I have to guess that these Hobbit-folk came into this
land since last I was here. But I would swear it is not that long!”
“I think you are right about both things,” Gandalf said. “I think they
have been under some charm or another, and that maybe time has
stretched itself here. Saw you his amulet?”
“I saw, but it meant naught to me,” Bombadil answered carelessly. “Of Elven make, was it?”
“I think so,” Gandalf said. “We are piling puzzle upon puzzle here,
Master Tom.” Then, laughing, “ Hear that snoring! It is as well that we
do not seek sleep.”
They sat by the fire all the the night. Gandalf began figuring and
calculating, trying to discover when in time the Hobbit folk of Harry
and Barry were sundered from their kin in the Shire and Bree.
“Know thou, Mithrandir,” Bombadil said, “that Hobbits settled first at
Bree before moving Westward into the Shireland. But whence they came
before they came to Bree I cannot say.”
“Well, there is word of some sort of Hobbit people in old Eriador as
long ago as 1050, according to the archives in Minas Tirith,” Gandalf
answered. “Imagine my surprise to find mention of such in that place!
Cheek by jowl with crumbling vellum from Numenor itself.”
“Numenor!” Tom sighed. “The dream-land of Men……” He looked sidelong at
Gandalf, his face oddly shadowed in the firelight, and something wild
gleaming in his eyes. “But those places are nothing to me, Mithrandir.
I was here before the shape of the world was changed, and I shall be
here after it is changed again……Numenor rose in the Western ocean and
fell, and I did not see the black cloud that heralded its wreck.. Word
came on the wind, seabirds crying. I watched the moonlight on
Goldberry’s face as she slept beside me that night, or was it the night
Gandalf looked back at the fire. There were times when Tom’s ways were
unfathomable even to him. He tapped his pipe against the log that was
his seat. “At any rate,” he went on, “I know that the Shire-folk have
tales of sending bowmen to the aid of the King now and again. It would
be a fertile field of study, had I the time….but I do not. And here we
are, with our puzzling young Hobbits. Are they the remnants of those
Stoors who left Angle so long ago, to return to Wilderland? This was
not long after they settled at Bree.”
“When we are come to their home, maybe these Elders they spoke of will
be able to tell us these things,” Bombadil said. He stretched his legs
toward the fire and looked up at the sky. “A mild night for this time
of year, is it not? We are coming on quickly to the shortest day. I
would be with my lady the River Daughter when the Sun begins his return
to the North.”
“Mild indeed. But that wind is picking up, and the clear sky means
frost. Let us pile more wood on this fire, Master Tom, and await the
dawn.” Gandalf suited his actions to his words and soon the small fire
was a large fire and great red sparks flew upward.
Bombadil walked around the fire twice sunwise and twice widdershins,
slowly and deliberately. He wrapped his arms around himself, then flung
them out, and resumed his seat beside Gandalf. “Tom is awake,” he said,
to nothing and no-one in particular. “Tom is awake and the earth rolls
sunward and the year rolls to its death. Turn the year, turn the age.
Bombadil is master of earth, water and stone.” Then he looked at
Gandalf with his head to one side. “Not long for this place art thee,
Mithrandir. I smell the sea, and hear the gulls crying for thee.”
They spoke little more that night. The frost settled on log and leaf,
and when the pale, wintry sun rose it revealed a world white as if made
of sea-spray. The sun rose as red as a ripe apple or a rosehip, round
and bright in the low Southeast. The sky above shaded from rose at the
horizon to gold and then to a thin, clear blue. There were no clouds.
It would be a fine day.