Letters to Hobbiton



For my best friend, my Sam.


Do you remember the swing, Sam?

We were sitting side by side at the stream one summer afternoon, watching the ripples in the water as it laughed over the tiny brown pebbles and shouldered it’s way around the boulders. I looked up into the green, interlacing canopy above me and the thought exploded from my mouth before I comprehended it.

“We need a swing.”

You turned in surprise, eyes wide. A daisy was crushed as you spun around in the long green grass to face me.

“A swing, sir?”

I nodded, and flopped on my back, pointing up at the branches above.

“A swing, right there, on the straight branch below that curved one.”

You craned your neck upwards, twisting around until you finally gave up and laid down on your back as well, eyes searching for the branch.

“Where? I don’t see it.”

I scooted closer so our heads were nearly touching, and tried to fix my finger in line with your vision.

“The ash, straight up.”

Your eyes lit up with discovery.

“I see it now, sir. Aye, that would be perfect, as nice and long a swing as you could wish for.”

The branch was thick, laced with ribbons of bark running lengthwise along its horizontal slope. A few tiny branches stuck up out of the middle, but otherwise the branch was clean until the end, where it exploded into a bouquet of slender leaves and arching twigs.

“A swing,” I breathed, already imagining sailing out across the open stream, and back again under the safe haven of boughs. You too were caught in the infectious excitement.

“We can have a swing, right here, our own!”

“Ours,” I said wistfully.


Do you remember the swing, Sam?

We were young, me four years new to Hobbiton. How innocent we were!

For weeks our largest problem was to find rope, and carve a board. You searched your home inside and out, and no rope! How shocked your Gaffer was when he found out, since your brother is a rope-maker. You grumbled over the lecture he gave you when he found out.

“Never, never go anywheres without rope, Sam-lad. Ye never know what’s goin’ ta come up on a walk, and yer better prepared than wantin’ I’ve always said.”

Of course, when you finally cajoled him to buy rope, he only bought enough for his ’emergency supply,’ and in the end, we were still rope less. I didn’t have the heart to tell you then that I would have gladly supplied the rope, because your mind was set on finding some yourself. You were famously stubborn about the issue, I remember.

In the end, of course, we ended up ‘borrowing’ money from Bilbo and purchasing the rope ourselves, your patience finally snapped thin from the fruitless wait.


Do you remember the swing, Sam?

It was our project, just the two of us.

I held the board while you drilled two holes on either end. The sharp scent of freshly-cut wood rose with the sawdust into the afternoon air. There were wood shavings caught on your shirtsleeves, and even one in your hair. And when you lifted the board and blew the dust from the freshly bored holes, I could see your smiling face through the smooth openings.

Your Gaffer came by to offer his help, but you held up the finished board and smiled.

“No thanks, da. We’re done.”

He nodded, keeping his face straight, but I knew he was proud of you. I was proud of you.

I’ve always admired your quiet strength, Sam. You were never one to boast a muscled physique, but your strength rivaled any lads’ in Hobbiton, though you rarely showed it.

I realized it with respect that day, watching you twisting the drill through the raw, stiff wood, through the grains that had once supported a mighty oak tree. Tiny beads of concentration worked from your brow, your eyes stared darkly at your work, and your yellow curls jerked with every sudden motion.

You were strong. If you wished, you could kill with your bare hands. I felt small and weak compared to you. Me, meekly holding the board while you bent your life and energy through the wood to make it into something for us. Us.


Do you remember the swing, Sam?

Finally we had the pieces.

We stood on the bank beneath the tree, craning out necks up into the branches. The rope was looped over your shoulder, the board under your arm. I pointed suggestions skyward with a pale, skinny finger, but I knew your good judgement would win out in the end. I was small, and you were strong. I read dusty books in the shade while you toiled beneath the scorching sun, bent double over the earth, breathing in the warm green life of growing things.

“We’ll need two ropes,” I said, repeating the plans we had verbalized earlier. “One from there and the other beside it.”

You nodded, and an awkward silence prevailed. We were each waiting for the other to speak the inevitable question. You finally cleared your throat.

“So, uh, sir, how are we goin’ ta get it up there?”

“I…suppose we could tie something heavy on the end and throw it,” I suggested half-heartedly. I was not comfortable with climbing tall trees, although small ones were perfectly fine. Any excuse to avoid the perilous ascent would be most welcome on my part.

You shrugged in compliance and began uncoiling the rope. You stopped suddenly and looked at me with a question in your eyes.

“Should we cut it before or after?”

I was completely baffled. I’d never put a swing up before.

“I don’t know,” I confessed.

“And how are we goin’ to keep it from gettin’ caught on them branches?”

I had guessed I would end up climbing the tree somehow or another. I gazed warily up at the big branch looming high above the ground. So far to fall…

I coughed and dusted my hands on my breeches.

“I suppose I’ll have to climb it,” I said briskly, hoping to denounce my sudden wariness by the cheerful tone of voice. Your suspicious glance at the tree only furthered my worries.

Shaking my head of all negative thoughts, I strode to the trunk and began plotting a way up. The lowest branch still required some form of boost, and once again I was struck by how small I was.

You knelt and cupped your hands, and suddenly I was flying into the air. I wiggled my way onto the branch and smiled my thanks back at you. Reaching, pulling, and twisting, I finally began scooting out along the chosen branch, hardly daring to look at the menacing green carpet far below me. I felt dangerously unbalanced so high, with nothing around me to grab onto should I fall. Your upturned face glanced anxiously upward.

“Are ye all right, sir?”

“I’m fine,” I called back. “I’m ready for the rope.”

You twirled one end of the rope around your head, heavy with a knot at the end, and it flew towards me. I caught it in one hand, heart jumping inside as I leaned off balance to grab it, but I settled back down and began looping it around the branch before tying it securely with the knot you showed me how to make.

The second rope was completed with more assurance, and I was more than glad to begin backing my way down the tree.

I dropped to the ground with a small thud and promptly fell backwards onto my rear end, grinning with embarrassment. I saw the lines fade from around your face as you sighed with relief.

I was down, safe.


Safe. What does that mean? One is never truly safe, I’ve concluded. Safe is a feeling of peace. The worst is over. You’ve nothing more to fear.

Is the worst over, Sam? Most would say it is. The Ring is destroyed, the Quest is complete. I sit here in my new home across the sea, and yet something is missing. I do not feel safe. The worst is not over. The worst is now.

I was safe on the Quest. You protected me, always. You devoted your entire being to my safety, so I could concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other. What of now? Who is there to guide me? Who picks my weary body up when I fall? Who wraps their arms around me when I moan in the night, longing so desperately for your presence?

The worst is waiting. Wishing and hoping in vain. Will I ever see you again? I am dead to you, for how would you know if I live? I write these letters to ease the pain of your passing away. I do not want your memory to die along with your presence.

And perhaps, through some mysterious link across time, sea, and space, you are listening.


Do you remember the swing, Sam?

Your eyes sparkling and dancing with delight as you sail across the open air, through the green filtered sun beams, watching the branches spin crazily overhead.

The golden glittering sun dances through the trees. Our laughter intertwines and mixes in this our cathedral of love and friendship.

A spark of mischief glints behind my eyes, and I swing until I am soaring above the water, then I let go! I fall through the air and land with a tremendous splash in the cold creek. The water shocks me to the bone, but my eyes are burning with excitement as I climb out dripping.

“Oh Sam, you have to try that!” I exclaim, pushing him away from his fussing over me and towards the swing.

“But I can’t swim!” He protests, and my spirits drop as I remember. But nothing can dampen my spirits today. I grasp him in a hug, laughing as he pulls away from my wet clothing, glaring at me.

“You don’t have to go swimming to get wet, Sam!” I laugh, and I know he can’t stay upset for long. “Come, onto the swing!”

I push him into the air, and once he is high enough I splash into the creek and fling water at him every time he comes close enough. Soon his deep laughter joins mine, and he swings higher. I know he will jump a second before he lets go, and the light of wondrous surprise on his face as he sails through the air is imprinted into my memory forever.

The golden sun behind his head, the eyes wide with joy, crinkles at the corners.

Then he is beside me in a tidal wave of water. He splashes around until I grab him and pull him up, and he finds the bottom is stable.

“You silly hobbit,” I grin, splashing his dripping face.

“Mad Baggins,” he teases back, and to my surprise I am hit in the face with a wall of cold water. He splashed me back.

With a roar I spring on him and we wrestle in the shallow water until the cold becomes too much for us, and we crawl panting onto the warm bank to bask in the sun.


Why couldn’t we end this way, Sam?

I could have lain on that bank that warm summer day forever. How was I to know the secret Bilbo carried in his pocket?

Why was fate so cruel to us?


I remember the swing.

It was still there after Sharkey came. I went looking for it alone one day before I left, and there it was. Older, perhaps. Frayed a little. But it was there.

I sat on the worn wooden seat and swayed dully back and forth, wishing for your warm company behind me, giving me little pushes now and then just to say you’re there. If only the days could go back to the way they were.

I traced the holes in the board, remembering your youthful hands drilling through them. Your hands are scarred now; they tremble in the night with nightmares and horrors. But you are whole and innocent still. You will carry on.

I gaze upward and trace the pattern of the branches, so familiar yet so far. The golden light streams through to kiss my face. Will your children swing here? Perhaps.

Time stands still in the sacred place beside the stream. And if I listen hard enough, perhaps I’ll hear your warm laughter echoing once more through the treetops, and maybe I will answer.

~The End~

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