Summary: Frodo and Sam wonder about what awaits them in Mordor.
Category: Lord of the Rings
Word Count: 2208
“Do you think there’ll be vampires in Mordor, Mr. Frodo?”
It took a moment for Sam’s words to sink in. They had been crouched since daybreak—if the soupy light around them could truly be called day—in a grey, foul-smelling pit. For most of that time they huddled in silence, hoping that immobility would complete the cover that the grimy walls could not fully provide. Frodo had allowed his mind to wander into a blank haze, his only escape from this crumbling ruin of land and air that was the antithesis of his beloved Shire. Now he blinked, slowly returning to focus. His eyes drew unerringly to the small gold Ring, and it was another moment before he realized that he must have been turning it blindly between his fingers all the time he had sat dreaming. A shiver rippled through him, and he stuffed it quickly beneath his shirt.
“Vampires?” He straightened, hoping that Sam had not noticed his hesitation or its cause. His servant wasn’t looking his way, though. Instead, the younger hobbit was staring over the rim of their pit toward the looming mountains and watchtowers of the Black Gate. The unguarded anxiety on Sam’s face tore at his heart—brave, practical Sam. Frodo forced a light tone. “Vampires are just legend, silly hobbit.”
“I don’t think so, Sir.” Sam pulled his eyes from the horizon and turned to face Frodo. “Leastways, they weren’t always, if you catch my meaning. Not according to that minstrel, anyway.”
Frodo frowned, casting his mind back. It was becoming harder to think of anything from before—at times, it seemed as if they had always been trudging through mire and filth. “Minstrel?”
“Lindir. In Rivendell, you remember?” A hazy face swam into view, and Frodo nodded. Sam clasped his hands around his knees. “Well then, do you remember that night he sang us the song about Beren and Lúthien, the one that Strider started on Weathertop?”
“Yes. I remember now.”
Sam had been set upon hearing the entire Lay, for reasons unknown. Perhaps it was his fascination with Elvish music, or perhaps it was simply knowing that the tale had been a favorite of Aragorn’s from the time that the Ranger was small. The minstrel—Lindir—had laughingly obliged, warning that they had best settle in for the evening if they intended to take in the whole tale. Frodo had sat with Bilbo near the fire, sipping warm tea sweetened with honey and listening with half an ear, while Sam, Merry, and Pippin crowded on the floor around the Elf, drinking in the ancient words.
“Well, Beren and Lúthien had to face them.” Sam’s eyes took on a distant gleam, and he chanted softly.
A vampire shape with pinions vast
screeching leaped from the ground, and passed,
its dark blood dripping on the trees …
“That is … disturbing.” Frodo shuddered. “How do you remember these things so exactly, Sam?”
His servant shrugged. “I just do, Mr. Frodo. The rhymes and patterns and all just stick, somehow. But,” his voice grew dismal, “sometimes I wish they didn’t.” Sam lowered his voice and rested his chin on his knees. “Vampires sound awful.” His singsong chant resumed.
… with mighty fingered wings, a barb
like iron nail at each joint’s end—
such wings as their dark cloud extend
against the moon, when in the sky
from Deadly Nightshade screeching fly
Frodo covered his ears, startling Sam into silence. Gollum, curled on the far side of the pit, raised his bony head to glare at them. “Shush! Hobbits must be very quiet, yes they must!”
Sam scowled across the intervening space, but Frodo nodded regretfully. “Yes, I’m sorry, Sméagol. You’re right, I won’t raise my voice again.”
Gollum subsided, continuing to mutter as he tucked his head into the circle of his arms. “Too close to the Gates we are, too close to be shouting, yes …”
Frodo waited for their companion to fall silent, then returned his attention to Sam. “I’m sorry, Sam. I just … I suppose all this time I’ve been thinking of Orcs and Black Riders and Men. It didn’t even occur to me that we might have to worry about creatures like vampires and werewolves too.” He was reluctant, somehow, to admit the truth behind his appalled reaction to Sam’s recitation—not the vivid vampire description, though it was gruesome enough, but a sudden, shocking realization.
Beren and Lúthien, too, had battled Sauron, all those thousands of years past.
Beren and Lúthien. And now … he and Sam? Had Arda really come to this? He gulped back a semi-hysterical giggle, not certain whether he feared more to draw Sam’s worry or Gollum’s disapproval.
“Werewolves.” Sam’s shoulders slumped. “Yes, there were werewolves in the story too.”
Frodo forced his mind back to the present. “Well, don’t tell me about them. I don’t need to hear it.”
“Right, Master. I’m sorry, I should of thought of that before I ever started.” Sam shook his head, looking chagrined. “It’s just that I’ve been sitting over here thinking about it all morning, and I’ve worked myself into a right state. I don’t know what I’d do if I saw a vampire, Mr. Frodo. I just don’t know.”
Sam was the picture of misery, and Frodo wondered briefly what it was about vampires and werewolves that seemed so much worse to the younger hobbit than a Black Rider or the winged creatures above the Anduin and the marshes. The idea of a giant, clawed bat was horrifying, yes, but (as of yet, at least) still only a legend. They had seen so many other dark creatures, and with their own eyes …
Frodo shifted closer, and laid a hand on Sam’s knee. “You would do what you have already done, Sam, against all the other dark creatures we’ve faced. You would do your best.” He squeezed tightly. “It’s been enough, and it will continue to be.” Sam cast him a doubtful glance, and for a long while they sat in heavy silence. Finally, Frodo could stand his servant’s gloomy countenance no longer. “Well, what did they do?”
“What did who do about what, Mr. Frodo?” Sam’s befuddled frown brought a smile to Frodo’s face, despite the weariness and cheerless surroundings.
“Beren and Lúthien.” Frodo sat back and brushed absently at his hair, stifling a sneeze when the motion sent a puff of ash into his eyes and nose. “How did they fight the vampires and werewolves? You remember it all so well, surely you remember how they managed.”
Sam pursed his lips. “That was Beren and Lúthien. I don’t think—”
“Come on, Sam. Let’s have some ideas.”
The young gardener pulled a rather doubtful face, but scrunched his nose, concentrating obediently. “Well …” he spoke slowly, “Lúthien sang a lot at all o’ them. Even …” He hesitated, sending a quick, nervous glance toward the black towers. “Even at Morgoth himself, she did.”
“There you are, then.” Frodo motioned blithely to the other hobbit, who stared as if his master had at last gone mad. “We’ve already established that you have a good memory for songs, and you hold a tune well enough. If necessary, you can even sing bits of the Lay at—”
“Mr. Frodo!” Sam’s tone hovered between amused and aghast. “This is serious, you oughtn’t to be joking about it.” Frodo raised an eyebrow, and after a moment a wary smile stole across the plain, earnest face. Sam shook his head. “Anyways, my singing’s nothing like hers. Like as not, I’d just make them even madder, and then we’d be worse off than when we started.”
Frodo grinned at the mild jest, and folded his arms. “Surely you underestimate yourself, Sam—but in case not, what else did the tale say?”
“It said you’re crazy, begging your pardon, Master, if you—”
“Well, they weren’t alone, were they?” Frodo was delighted to hear a touch of exasperation in the younger hobbit’s tone. “Huan the wolfhound was there. He fought Draugluin and the other wolves and all, and even Sauron himself, and he stole a werewolf and a vampire skin so they could disguise themselves and sneak into Morgoth’s fortress.”
A heartbeat passed, and then as one they turned their eyes toward Gollum, who still muttered faintly beneath the cover of his arms. He seemed to feel their gaze, for he peered out and fixed them with a dour eye. Sam chuckled and looked quickly away. For Gollum’s sake, Frodo smothered his own amusement—their guide did not know the subject of their conversation, and Frodo did not wish him to misunderstand. Gollum, however, seemed to care very little for his efforts. He flopped entirely around, placing his back toward them. Sam muffled a laugh behind his hand. Frodo frowned, and Sam did his best—Frodo was certain—to look contrite.
“Well.” Frodo shook his head. “I think we can assume that our companion will neither be fighting wolves nor providing vampire skins for disguise. What else?”
“There was Beren, Mr. Frodo. He held off the great wolf Carcharoth with the Silmaril when Lúthien couldn’t sing anymore.” Sam hesitated, then shrugged apologetically. “Leastways, he tried. It didn’t end up going so well for him, though, did it?”
“I would like to complete this quest with all of my appendages, if possible.” Frodo sighed. “We don’t have a Silmaril anyway.” A hot weight pulsed against his chest and he shifted uncomfortably, beset by sudden images of driving back Orc and Black Rider with the glowing Ring upon his finger. He trapped his hands beneath the crooks of his knees and moved hurriedly on. “It seems you’re right, Sam—we’ll find no answers with Beren and Lúthien. If we’re to best the Enemy’s servants, it must be our own way.” He forced a smile, but his previous humor had vanished. “Hobbit-style.”
“Hobbit-style.” Sam snorted and leaned his head back against the black pit. “When you figure out what that is, Master, I’d be grateful if you’d let me in on it.”
And that was the question, really—the weight that had borne on Frodo nearly as heavily as the Ring across all the long miles. How could a hobbit match himself against Sauron and hope to triumph? What skills did someone from such a small, insignificant people bring to the great battle? Eating? Laughter and song? Gift-giving? Farming? All of these seemed trivial and foolish against the evil that they faced. Sam was (Frodo was quite convinced) the most skilled gardener in the Shire, but what good could that possibly do them? He himself was well-read and well-spoken, but what would that avail them against Orcs and Black Riders and the bleak, barren lands of Mordor? How could even a hobbit’s light, quick step avoid the piercing gaze of the Eye?
I gave Hope to the Dúnedain, I have kept no hope for myself.**
The words filled his ears, as clear if they had been whispered at his shoulder rather than resurrected from the depths of his mind. In an instant Frodo’s thoughts flew back to Rivendell, to that long, crisp day ere the Fellowship’s departure when he had sat with Aragorn on the bridge, their legs dangling over the edge, and the Ranger had spoken for a time of his past. The words of Gilraen, mother of Aragorn, had made little sense to him at the time—perplexing and dark they had seemed—but now …. Now, he wondered.
He had volunteered to bear the Ring, but not because of any real hope of success—and certainly not because he thought himself capable where all others would fail. No, Frodo had spoken because he had known, in that heavy, expectant moment of silence, that the chore was intended for him. He had volunteered because there was nothing else to do—if this option offered only a little hope, there was none in any other.
Frodo did not see how they could possibly succeed, but Gandalf—Oh, Gandalf—and the others thought it worth the attempt. So. He offered what he had—even as little as he sometimes felt it to be—and if in the end they did not see victory, perhaps it would at least be something to know that they had made the effort, with all of the unique skills at their disposal.
“Mr. Frodo?” Sam’s voice was hesitant. “Do you think there will be vampires?”
Yes, he thought maybe he understood Aragorn’s mother a little now. Frodo focused, and found the Ring in his hands once again. He shoved it firmly away. The Black Gate loomed before them, and beyond that … who knew? But they would make the attempt, he and Sam, against whatever Sauron had in store for them—vampires or no—and they would do it the only way they knew how. Hobbit-style.
Whatever that turned out to be.
“Sam … I honestly don’t know.”
* Excerpts taken from ‘The Lay of Leithian’, The Lays of Beleriand: The History of Middle-earth. Thû is the name used for Sauron in this version of the Lay.
** ‘Appendix A’, The Return of the King.