The Lord of the... whatever, Book VI, Chapter 9:
The Grey Has-Beens
Without a word, Morrie began to drag himself off westward. Frodo
followed listlessly. Neither of them had the energy for the inevitable
round of backbiting that would certainly follow if either of them opened
their mouths. Frodo, moreover, was entirely preoccupied with his internal
Stay with me, boy, and I'll get you out of this, it chuckled drily.
But Frodo was not so sure; it is hard to trust someone who has torn one's
entrails open. The sun reached its peak, and without the shade of the trees
to shelter them it soon became swelteringly hot. Every time the wind picked
up ashes blew into their faces and choked them. Frodo tried closing his eyes,
but every time he did so he saw, against the red and purple of his inner
eyelids, a vision of Gullible silhouetted against the Crack of Doom.
Hours before the shadows grew long, both Morrie and Frodo had finished
their bottles of Tang, only to find that they were even thirstier. Their
sandwiches were dry and salty. By evening, they were both exhausted; the
road before and behind looked exactly the same, an ash-strewn path surrounded
by burnt and fallen tree-trunks on both sides. The Roglings had done their
As the sun set west beyond Unter Den Lindon Frodo collapsed, lying
face down in the dust like a dead man. Morrie turned back and knelt down by
the body, his one remaining hand checking Frodo's pockets almost by instinct.
His hand closed around a letter. But even as he drew it back he found
himself unable to rise, and slumped helplessly over Frodo's fallen body. The
darkness took them both.
It was the song of a bird that woke Frodo. He lay still for a while,
eyes closed, only gradually feeling the uncomfortable weight of Morrie on his
back. His memories fluttered in a cloud without connection or meaning, and
for a while at least the Voices were mercifully silent. A bird, he thought.
Where am I then? Hobbiton? Rivendell?
Frodo's eyes opened to see grey ashes once again. He tilted his head
back a little, and saw -- a green leaf. This startled him out of his reverie.
He jerked his body sharply, and Morrie tumbled off his back with a muffled
curse. Frodo raised himself on all fours. As far as the eye could see, the
forest floor was awash in a cascade of green leaves. The black pillars of
the dead trees stood up stark amidst the greenness, but there too leafy vines
were crawling up their sides. Frodo almost thought he could see them growing
and extending themselves as he watched.
Frodo tried to stand, only to find himself jerked back by one leg.
A creeper had coiled itself around his calf. Grimly, he set himelf to uncoil
it. He was not mistaken; it was putting out leaves even as he did so.
Morrie had put the letter inside his jacket as soon as he had come awake
again. The vast greenness, and the piping of the birds, however, dumbfounded
him. He sat on the ground and looked about, for once at a loss for words.
"Where the hell are we?" he asked.
As if in answer, the warbling of birds broke out from all quarters.
And a mellifluous, cello-like baritone followed:
Il core vi dono,
Ma il vostro vo' anch'io,
Via, datelo a me.
And in response came a beautiful, rich mezzo-soprano:
Mel date, lo prendo,
Ma il mio non vi rendo;
Invan mel chiedete,
Più meco ei non è.
And again the baritone:
Se teco non l'hai, perchè batte qui?
And the mezzo replied:
Se a me tu lo dai, perchè batte qui?
And at last their voices joined in one:
È il mio coricino
Che più non è meco,
Che più non è meco;
Ei venne a star teco,
Ei batte così, ei batte così,
Ei batte così, ei batte così.
With that there was an immense clap of thunder, and a flash of lightning
from the clear sky. When the dazzlement left Frodo and Morrie's eyes, they saw
striding toward them across the greenery two tall and beautiful figures, hand
in hand: one kilted but bare-chested, with a frog-mask; the other likewise
topless, with a skirt of shimmering red ornamented with black web-designs
and a fish-mask. Obviously this was yet another one of those avant-garde
"Shelob! Sauron!" gasped Frodo. "But I thought you were... I thought
she had enslaved you!"
"Oh, zhoost for a leetle vile," Shelob answered with a smile. "Von
gets szo bored."
"The fall of Barad-dûr trasked her psyche somewhat," said Sauron with
a sardonic smile. "And possibly mine as well."
"And did you do this?" Morrie asked, gesturing at the greenery with
his one good arm.
"No," came a voice from behind them. "That was my doing." They
turned and saw Radagast, together with a strange little man in blue and yellow,
who began to sing before anyone could stop him:
Ho! Little hobbit-folk, traipsing through the woods-oo,
Lost amid the burnt trees, hair all full of kudzu!
Where be you a-going now, all your viands eaten?
Tell old Bombadil, or you'll soon be beaten!
And with that he produced a stout cudgel and waved it threateningly at
"We've been expelled from the Shire!" Frodo blabbed, before Morrie
could stop him. "We're going to wander and suffer until we finally die! And
until I heard Bombadil singing, I had no idea of just how bad this suffering
"Is that so?" said Radagast with a faint smile. "Well, you have only
yourselves to blame. You know that Shelob tried to warn you about it: you
burned down your own house when you destroyed Stinky's, she said, if I recall
correctly." Shelob beamed.
"You louse!" screamed Morrie. "You knew that all this would happen,
and you let us go ahead without telling us!"
"It was a test," Radagast answered with true Maiarin conviction. "To
see how much you have grown up. And indeed you have grown very great; you
see, Morrie, you're a little taller than the other hobbits..." (and indeed he
was, as he was still floating two inches off the ground) "...and Frodo's a
little taller than you..." (and indeed he was, being six feet tall).
"What about Sam and Pipsqueak?" Frodo asked.
"They failed. Their progeny will be destroyed when the jungle is
let in upon Shire, and the elephants trample down their dwellings, and the
tiger and the wolf roam in the streets, and the bitter karela shall cover
all." Sauron smiled ironically, but said nothing.
"Sounds good to me," said Morrie. "But what about us? We've got
no food, no drink, and last I heard you couldn't eat kudzu."
"You shall come with us!" said Sauron.
"Indeed," nodded Bombadil, "for we have:
Pepsi and Sierra Mist, potato chips, burritos,
Nachos fit for salsa dip, cheezos and tostitos,
Roasted peanuts too we have, of any beer shall drink ye,
Junk food brought from Bree-way, from Rivendell a twinkie.
"I'm going as well," added Bombadil. "The end of the war has really eaten
into my illicit activities, and besides, Goldberry threw away the key."
With that Frodo and Morrie surged forward, and the two hobbits sat down
with the Maiar and had themselves a woodland feast.
For two days thereafter the six of them pushed onward to the east,
and at last entered wooded lands where the fire had not spread. One nightfall
they saw a strange glow coming from behind a hill, like the light of the moon
on the horizon when it rises. Sauron and Morrie slipped off towards it. When
they came to the crest of the hill, they saw many flashlights lighting the
ground or the leaves on the trees. Elvish voices, filled with melodies as of
many songs, were speaking to each other.
"No, you idiot, it's back that way!"
"If we go in that direction we could be going in circles for days."
"This is what we get for following Dullborn the Wise: 'I used to hold
this area of Gil-gallamine', says he. 'I know a short-cut to the Havens,'
"Quit complaining! It's probably just beyond the next hill!"
"That's what you said six hills ago!"
"Peace!" said Sauron in a great voice. Six flashlight-beams focused
on him at once. "If you seek the path to the west, it is just over the next
rise. Follow me!" So they returned to the path, and one by one the Elves
straggled in. There were El Rond, Al Ladan and Al Rokar, Dullborn and
Galadriel, and much to their surprise, Arwen, Queen of Gondor.
"What are you doing here?" Frodo and Morrie asked, but they were
ignored until Shelob repeated the question for them.
"If you must know," El Rond said impatiently, "we are seeking a way
out of Muddle-earth. Time was when this was a pleasant-scented environment,
with lavender bath-water and attar of roses... but now these smelly mortals
have made it impossible to breathe freely, so we are going westward, where
we remember a land of fresh-scented soap still lingers."
"And there too are many golf courses," added Galadriel, "where the
trees do not grow. Cursed be he who spoiled Lothlorien with his wanton
use of Tree Essence! No golf has been played on the overgrown links for
many a day, alas alas."
"But Arven?" Shelob asked. "I szought you vos to merry ze fat
Arwen pouted. "I said I was going to wed the King of Gondor
and Arnor. And what happens? No sooner do we get on the throne, then
there's a rebellion in favor of Orkish Rights or some such nonsense, and
a movement for union with Mordor, and before long somebody's proclaiming
a Republic and forcing us to leave. We didn't even get to take our
palantariums! He had broken our pre-nup, so I got an instant divorce,
"So who's in charge of Gondor?" Morrie said, calculating
furiously the political ramifications. Arwen condescended to notice him.
"They had an election," she said. "Can you believe it! An
election! Why, they haven't done such a thing for over 3000 years! They have
a President now: someone named Spiegel, who ran on a platform of Orc-human
reconciliation. Nothing about Elves, of course." Morrie wondered briefly
whether Spiegel was corruptible...
"Let us go on," Sauron said. "There are miles yet to go before we
reach the Havens, and we may discuss many things upon the way."
Long was the way they travelled, and bitter was the discussion (for
the Elves even got on each other's nerves), but as they had nowhere else to
go they must perforce remain in each others' company until the end of the
Road. And they came at last to an Elvish city, and entered the gates, and
walked down the long tree-lined boulevard that is named Unter Den Lindon,
where Sauron sang many an operetta melody, and so at last came to the quays
of the Havens.
There Captain Cirdan greeted them, and showed them a White Star Liner
waiting to sail over Sea. Crowds of people thronged the wharves, some to
board the ship, others just to see it, for it was the biggest of its kind
ever built, and was deemed unsinkable. And there upon the gangplank stood
two clothed in turquoise robes; and one had a staff in his hand and was as
ugly as a macaque, with a golden circle about his head, and the other was
fat as a hog and held a sharp-tined muckrake. Then Radagast was glad, for
he knew that Morenaughtie and Rumpustum, the Turquoise Wizards, were leaving
Muddle-earth, and he believed that he would be the only Maia left to rule
"Now you shall set sail for the Blissed-Out Lands," said Radagast,
"and going there your hurts shall be healed forever. Frodo, Morrie; I take
my leave of you. May your journey be safe and may your end be what you
"What!" exclaimed El Rond. "I never agreed to sail with mortals!"
And to this all of the Elvish company, for once, agreed.
Radagast shrugged. "Well, I guess you're off the boat," he said to
Frodo and Morrie. "Too bad, but you know Elves are better than other folk."
Then Shelob blew kisses to the hobbits, and she and Sauron and
Bombadil and the Elves climbed aboard; and the siren sounded, and the ship
was tugged out of the haven, and slowly slipped out through the dank murky
waters of Mithlond harbor.
Frodo stood, dumbstruck for a minute or two. Then he howled into the
deepening dusk: "Nooo!" But it was not Frodo's voice. "El Rond! You
bastard! You promised me a ticket! I'll get you if it's the last thing I
do! My ticket! I've got a ticket! My precious..." And with that he dived
into the ocean where the waiting arms of a beautiful puffer embraced him.
And the ship went out into the High Sea and passed into the West,
until at last on a night of fog it struck a gigantic iceberg, and went down;
no tale is told in Muddle-earth of who might have survived, although legends
circulated about a seductive eight-finned mermaid and a merman with a
stentorian baritone voice.
But to Morrie the evening deepened into darkness as he stood at the
haven, seeing only a glitter on the waters that was lost in the West. He
stood there far into the night, until the noise of the waters repeated
endlessly in his ears became loathsome to him, and he never again went to
He turned around. Radagast was gone. The quays were silent and
deserted. He drew the letter from his pocket and read it by the light of a
standing lamp, then balled it up and threw it into the sea. "Birds and
trees?" he murmured to himself. "We'll see about that."
This chapter of this epic work is presented through the courtesy of
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Copyright © 2003 by the authors. All rights reserved. Some variance between this
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It's hard to believe that anyone in their right mind would ever read this foul work all the way to here.