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Sam Gamgee listened, fascinated, to the stories of Bilbo’s travels. One day he asked, “And how could those wolves talk, when you were up in them trees?”
Bilbo shrugged. “I suppose because they weren’t true wolves as were the white ones that crossed into the Shire during the Fell Winter. Gandalf told me the proper name for them is warg. They were granted a greater intelligence than common wolves by the great Enemy. He said proper wolves would never ally with goblins, but wargs will allow goblins to ride upon them.”
It was hard for the young Hobbit to imagine….
There had been no bodies of the wolves that attacked them left the next morning, there in Hollin. Sam looked down at the charred remains of the arrow Legolas had fired at the leader the preceding night, the one Gandalf had set alight even as it flew toward the great beast’s throat. “Those were wargs, weren’t they, Mr. Gandalf?” he asked privately.
The Wizard nodded his head as he murmured, “Yes, they were. First, common wolves don’t attack people unless they’re starving. And, when slain, their bodies remain. But Wargs are not properly natural in origin.”
Sam nodded his understanding.
Sam respected the spiders he encountered about the region of the Hill, but wasn’t fearful toward them. Master Frodo was plainly fascinated by them. “Look at their beautiful webs!” he’d say, his eyes sparkling to see them spangled with shining dew in the dawn’s light.
Watching them suck their victims dry, however, made Sam shudder. One day he asked old Mr. Bilbo, “Would them spiders in Mirkwood have done that to the Dwarves if’n you hadn’t of freed them?”
Bilbo was solemn as he admitted, “Yes, I strongly suspect they would have.”
After that Sam never quite trusted the creatures.
Sam sobbed as he used Sting’s blade to cut the web from Frodo’s still form. “I knew it!” he moaned. “I knew we shouldn’t trust that slimy villain! Gollum will pay!”
When there was no stirring as he took the Ring, he was certain the spider’s poison had done its work.
But then he heard the orcs discussing finding one of their own, alive, hanging in Shelob’s larder. “I should’ve known!” he whispered. “Oh, yes—that’s how it was with the spiders back home as well! Paralyze them, and hang’em up till they’re really hungry. I ought to’ve known!”
“It never pays to leave a live dragon out of your reckoning,” Mr. Bilbo used to say.
Watching Miss Pearl Took avoiding Master Frodo after running into that Missus Lobelia in Hobbiton brought that saying home to Sam Gamgee. “And just what did that old she-dragon say to you, Miss Pearl, as put you off my Master?” he muttered to himself.
When he learned years later that Frodo had agreed to sell Bag End to Lobelia Sackville-Baggins and that lump Lotho….
“How could you do that, Mr. Frodo?” Sam demanded. “Mr. Bilbo will never forgive that!” Or me! he thought.
“Only thing as we’ve not seen on this journey has been dragons,” Sam commented to his Master as they walked through Ithilien, eating some of the dried fruit given them by Captain Faramir’s Men.
Frodo had nodded, although his mind was plainly on other things.
“Not but them creatures as the Wraiths ride ain’t a lot like dragons, I suppose,” Sam had continued.
But then they’d seen one of the monsters fairly close up when the Enemy’s folk marched from the Morgul Vale. “Glad as them’s not as smart as dragons,” he said. “We’d be dead by now, I’m thinking.”
Young Sam listened intently to Mr. Bilbo’s stories of being dragged down into the goblins’ lair, and seeing the goblin chieftain in a great cavern. “And if he wasn’t surprised when Gandalf made the flames of their torches flare and then go out!” the old Hobbit cried dramatically.
Sam jumped most satisfactorily, and hoped he’d never meet such creatures. It never crossed his mind to question the truth of the old Hobbit’s tales.
“He’s cracked!” declared Ted Sandyman after they’d listened to Bilbo telling that story to children in the common. “There ain’t no goblins!”
“Are too!” Sam responded loyally.
Sandyman had lost a good deal of bluster now Pimple was gone. Still, now and then he’d try to goad Sam. “Still believe in goblins?” he demanded one night when he found Sam sitting with Rosie’s brothers in the Green Dragon.
Sam sighed. “Yes.”
Ted laughed. “Ain’t no real goblins.”
“Really?” Sam asked, sweeping the curls over his forehead away. “An orc’s scimitar gave me this scar.”
The Cottons looked impressed. Ted was taken aback, but forged ahead. “Bet you ran as fast as your feet would take you.”
Sam looked at him levelly. “Not till after I killed him.”
“Ted!” Sandyman the Miller tromped down the walk from the mill, finding his son, seated on a stone, hidden behind the forsythia bush, a plate with a whole roast chicken on his lap. “That was my lunch!” the irate father fumed. He directed a kick at Ted’s rump but kicked the stone instead, and hopped about in pain for a time. Ted fled, taking along the chicken.
“What trollish behavior!” commented Frodo Baggins from his vantage point on the Hill.
Sam now had an idea for a poem. “Old Troll sat on his seat of stone,” he murmured to himself.
Sam peered from behind the stones that lined the beginning of Gollum’s stair. A troop of orcs passed, followed by a line of five trolls. One of the trolls grunted and leaned forward, scooping up a particularly small orc that walked before them. A twist of the orc’s neck and it was dead. In moments each of the trolls was gnawing at a limb.
Sam swallowed down his gorge. “Seems I wasn’t all that far off in that poem of mine about the stone troll,” he whispered. “I swear, them’s worse than I ever thought from old Mr. Bilbo’s stories.”
“What’s a Balrog? It says here that the Black Enemy sent Balrogs first, alongside Dragons, in the Battle of the Flames.”
“I’m not really certain, Sam. Apparently they were some kind of creature that was a spirit of fire and that left a trail of burning in its wake.”
Sam nodded thoughtfully. “Hope none of them is still left, loose in the world,” he commented. Then his lip twitched. “Although such creatures might just prove right useful on a cold night when the wood from the woodpile’s all wet and refuses to catch, wouldn’t you think?”
As they rested on the floor of the flet just within the borders of the Golden Wood, once Haldir and his brothers went to follow the orcs that had pursued them, Sam commented in a low voice, “Well, I suppose as that answers my question about what Balrogs are.”
Frodo gave an exhausted bark of a laugh. “I must suppose that you are indeed right, Sam Gamgee.”
Sam could see the starlight overhead reflected on his Master’s face. “You crying, Mr. Frodo?”
“Yes, I suppose I am. To see Gandalf fall with—that!”
“I know.” Sam suppressed a shudder.
Wights and Wraiths
Sam looked up from the lines he was copying as the Young Master asked, “And what do you know about wights and wraiths, Uncle Bilbo?”
Bilbo sniffed, rubbing his nose. “Wights are evil spirits, or so I’m told. Whether they’re ghosts of nasty folk or something worse is hard to tell, but they don’t like the living and will do them mischief if they can. But wraiths----” He shook his head. “They’re the undead—they aren’t properly living any more, but they aren’t properly dead, either. And even the great ones shiver with horror at any mention of them.”
“My dad saw both wights and wraiths while he was on his journey with Uncle Frodo,” Frodo-lad told the children of the lane. “Uncle Frodo fought a barrow-wight and cut off its hand when it was going to try to kill my dad and the Thain and the Master. And because Dad and Uncle Frodo reached the Mountain in time, there aren’t any wraiths left now. They couldn’t stay in Middle Earth without their Master, so now they’re properly dead and gone, since the Ring went back into the Fire!”
“Oh, my lad,” Sam muttered. “They won’t begin to understand!”
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