Gandalf Visits Bombadil
Gandalf and Bombadil in the Old Forest……..
Master Tom made a fire in the firepit and he
and Gandalf ate their evening meal by its warm light. They spoke
little, yet it was a companionable sort of quiet.
Gandalf smoked a pipe after his supper,
sitting on the rough bunk with his legs stretched out. Tom lay on his
bed with his arms folded behind his head. The firelight played with
shadows on the walls and roof, flickering, then fading and fading until
the embers glowed only in a little heap in the centre of the hearth.
After a time Gandalf knocked the ashes out of
his pipe and unfolded his Elven cloak. He drew it over himself like a
blanket and quickly fell into sleep.
Some hours later he woke. He lay very still
on the fragrant cedar boughs and looked up into the darkness. The dark
seemed as deep as the dark in Moria, he thought. Though he stared and
stared he saw nothing, not light nor deeper shade, just blackness. He
turned his head to where he knew the hearth was, but even there was
nothing, for Tom had carefully banked the embers. Again he looked up
into the darkness and he could not tell whether or no his eyes were
open, except that he saw the little pinpoints of light that your own
mind makes your eyes see at such times. He closed his eyes hard,
wrinkling up his face, then opened them and looked further into the
What had wakened him? He lay very still,
wondering, and not wishing to disturb Master Tom. He could hear Tom’s
slow, steady breathing across the room, but naught else.
Until he heard it again, and knew it for the
sound that had waked him. There were noises in the Trees. It was not
the sound that the wind makes in the trees, nor was it the sound of
falling rain. It was the sound of the Trees themselves, and it was such
that it made the hair on the back of Gandalf’s neck stand up. Even
Mithrandir, one of the Istari, felt the prickle of unreasoning fear
along his bones.
Were the Trees speaking one to the other?
Were they saying, “Here, here are intruders, they are asleep and
unwary, let us fall upon them, let us rend them, let us bury the
remnants at our roots and so feed our hatred for another Age……….”?
Gandalf forced his blood to run slower, made his heart beat more
softly, calling on all his wisdom to dispel this foolishness. No, if
the Trees were indeed speaking, Gandalf could not understand their
speech, and not understanding it, was that reason to lie there and long
to leap up and run shrieking into the dark! No! “No! For then would
they be upon me!” he thought.
“Be at ease,” Bombadil said.
Gandalf’s long body leapt, then sagged into
his bed. “Thunder and lightning!” he hissed. “It is not enough that the
trees wake me with their chatter, but then thou must startle me into an
apoplexy by speaking out without warning!”
“Mayhap I should have coughed first,” Tom
said, his voice light with amusement. “Calm thyself, Mithrandir. For
though the Trees are speaking their hatred of me, and of thee, they
cannot harm us. For am I not Master?”
“So I have been told,” Gandalf said crankily.
“If thou art indeed Master of those things out there, then there is
more to thee than I had ever understood before. Why, the fury of the
Ents and the hatred of the Huorns is naught to that! I hear my death in
their voices, I hear them long to grind my bones and drink my blood, so
that their leaves might unfurl and their boughs might wriggle like
snakes upward to the sunlight!”
“Fear no nightly noises, Mithrandir. They do
not know who thou art, but they know that thou art with me. And as
well, their hatred is as much for each other as for us who go about on
our feet. Think you that you have seen war? The battle of the Forest is
War such as thou hast never known! For it has lasted from the beginning
and will last until the end. Until there is only one tree left, and it
has all the world for its standing.”
“I believe thee,” Gandalf replied. “Dost thou understand their speech? Or is this a guess on thy part?”
Again there were noises from outside,
rustling and creaking noises, and long, thin high-pitched sounds like
wailing, far off and menacing.
Once more the hair on Gandalf’s neck rose,
and goosebumps shivered on his flesh, for the sounds were answered.
From Bombadil, across the room, only an arm’s length away, came answers
to the voices of the forest. A low, nearly unheard sound that Gandalf
could feel in his chest rather than hear with his ears.
The banked embers flared as Bombadil stirred
them and lay a bit of dry wood down. The red light showed his face, in
it his eyes were pits of shadow. He turned to Gandalf and those eyes
met the wizard’s eyes.
Gandalf drew a long uneven breath and felt
all his blood run cold and thick. Here was the Master Tom Bombadil,
Iarwain Ben-adar, Forn, all those old names, some older than the hills,
older than the rocks and the waters that spilled down from the heights.
Peering out at Gandalf from Tom’s friendly face was the other being
Bombadil, the Old One, the Eldest, as he had been in the beginning.
Gandalf was not frightened, but awed. He leaned forward, a question in
his own eyes.
“Fear not,” Bombadil said. “I am Master. Return to thy dreams, Mithrandir.”
The wizard lay back, and closed his eyes. “Tom?” he asked. “Will you put another stick or two on the fire before you go out?”
“Be sure I shall, Mithrandir.”
There were those little noises, the dry wood
crackling, the hiss of the fire catching a vein of pitch. Then there
was a draught, and the sound of the door opening and closing…………