© 2000 Michael Kennedy
The journey from the Grey Havens to Valinor, seemed to last forever and yet be over too soon. While Sam had never been one for boating (well, what hobbits were?) he had not suffered any sickness at all during the strange passage and in fact felt more and more invigorated, younger even, the nearer their approach to Valinor. He didn't know whether this was a result of good luck, good management or even good magic. He didn't really care why, he was just plain grateful.
As dusk began to stir, the ship entered under the great arch of rock into Alqualonde. Sam, standing on the starboard upper deck, tried again to pronounce the name correctly.
“Alka-loon-dee, Owlka-lon-day, Al-quail-lond-ee. Struth! I should have listened closer to Cirdan last night. Oh well! Can't be helped now,” he mumbled to himself.
He could see organised activity around the lamplit harbour as they awaited the ship to dock into place. About a dozen enchanting swan-boats, much like the one Galadriel had been in when they parted from Lothlorien, were berthed around the pier. Their ship pulled up smoothly to a golden pier and a ship-bound elf through the thickest golden rope Sam had ever seen to another elf on the shore.
“If only they had a rope that size when I was forced to acrobat across Celebrant.” Sam reflected quietly.
The elf on the pier looped the rope around a white bollard and after a few more ropes were similarly secured, a golden gangway was moved forward towards the ship.
“Sam, are you coming then?”
Sam turned to the source of the voice to see Malonar (who Sam had nicknamed Mal) walking towards him. Malonar, who had been a resident at the Havens for as long as Cirdan, had been Sam's companion for the voyage and while Sam had felt a little unease about sharing a small cabin with a complete stranger, let alone an elf, they had got on perfectly well.
“Yes sirree! The boat's been gentle to me, that's for sure! But give me solid soil anyday.”
Malonar grinned. “C'mon then. You don't want to be last off do you?”
As Sam looked down he could see that most of the passengers, as few as there were, had already disembarked. Sam picked up his backpack, threw it over his shoulder and followed Malonar down the gangplank into the land of Aman, only the third hobbit ever to do so. Despite that, there was no official greeting and Sam could not help but feel a little disappointed that Frodo was not there to meet him.
“Maybe nobody told him I was coming,” Sam thought to himself.
They left the harbour front and made their way along a paved white road towards a pearly-coloured rock-wall through which a gold gate opened. Sam and Malonar strolled through the gate, leaving the Haven of the Swans behind them. Sam looked up and realised that what he had taken for a massive bank of stormclouds during the voyage, was in fact the largest mountain range Sam had ever seen. There was one breach in the imposing range and in the centre of this great rift, on a large hill, was the city of Tirion. Malonar had explained to him much about the city of Tirion upon Tuna, but nothing could have prepared him for the vision that met his eyes. It was like looking through a fairy-glass and seeing a clear but distant vision of shining soaring towers and glittering lights, a city suspended in another time and this time. One tower soared above all the others and the unbroken light, that Sam had mistaken for a star during the voyage, shone brightly from its top, a lighthouse like no other. The entire city was truly remarkable.
Sam tore his eyes from this vision and looked to his left. Near at hand, a rough trail wound from the gate of Aqualonde to the top of a much smaller knoll to meet a rustic-like building that appeared to be an inn of some sort, that could have been transported from Middle-earth, and was not so different from what you could see in Bree.
Malonar pointed to the same building, “That's where you will be lodging for the time being Sam”.
“Really!” replied Sam, still thunderstruck by the vision of Tirion. “What…..what about you Mal?”
“No Sam. Maybe another time. My home, a wife, and two kids are awaiting me on the other side of Tirion. I am expected.”
“Children hey? You didn't tell me that Mal. Ah! No wonder you spent so much time in Middle-earth.”
Malonar smirked. “If I had had thirteen of them like you I would have stayed indefinitely. You hobbits have a wicked sense of humour but seriously I have all the time in this world Sam so I can afford to be away for a lengthy stretch of time. Still, it will be good to catch up with them. Must be off. I'll see you around Sam.”
And with that Malonar waved goodbye, took a branching path that continued towards Tirion and headed off. Sam, all of a sudden found himself on his pat malone.
“Oh well. Not much choice is there. On and upwards as they say.”
Sam, suddenly feeling quite revived, made his way up to the homey looking building on the small hill nearby and entered via what appeared to be the main reception area. A statue of an eagle adorned the top of the dark-oak door and underneath this was an etched wooden sign that read, 'Bilbo by the Bay'.
“Bilbo? It's named after Bilbo! Must be.” thought Sam.
As his eyes adjusted to the warm dim light inside he heard his own name, spoken with a familiar voice.
Sam turned his head to the right, and lo and behold it was Frodo!'
“Frodo-master!” Sam dropped his sack and ran over to Frodo, almost tripping up in the process. He gave him a big hug, and an even bigger grin.
“You look really well Sir, if I do say so”. In truth he thought he looked smaller, heavier, and just a little older, which considering Frodo was over one hundred years old was quite remarkable. He had evidently gained a little extra weight and walked now with the aid of a wonderfully carved walking stick.
“So do you Sam. Very good in fact. Sorry I missed you at the dock. You are ahead of time you know. Manwe must be bored again”.
“Long story. I'll tell you another time. Let's get you settled first and then you will have to tell me all the news from home.”
Sam nodded, still smiling. He picked up his pack and followed Frodo up the wooden staircase and along a narrow but lengthy corridor.”
“What is this place?” Sam asked.
'It's the only decent inn and drinking den in town, that's what it is!' Frodo replied.
“It's not how I imagined an inn in Valinor ought to look like or sound like for that matter.”
Frodo shook his head vigorously. “Of course not! I designed it, own it, manage it and of course named it. It was originally named 'Eagle by the Sea' and Gandalf gave me the statue of the eagle out the front, but after Bilbo passed away I renamed it.”
“Bilbo….Is…Is he gone then?” Sam's voice choked as he spoke but Frodo remained composed.
“Yes Sam. Bilbo passed on some twenty years ago, at the record age of 169 years, and until you arrived today I was the only hobbit in town. We ran this place together you know and I miss him dearly, as do others.”
Frodo turned and walked up another stairway, this one carpeted in red, towards the upper floor. Sam followed, feeling a little deflated at the news, although truthfully Sam was not surprised.
“So, you own this whole place?”
“Yep. When we arrived here Bilbo and I found the dwellings in Tirion a little too 'rich', even for me you know. We wanted something more homey and to give us something to do other than writing. They didn't have hobbits in mind when they made Valinor you know. Still, it is a very relaxed place and makes me feel fifty years younger. You know, I'm almost the Butterbur of the West around here.”
“Wow! I'm impressed. Does anyone stay here?”
“All sorts of elves and even a few of the Valar and Mair too. Even Gandalf. They seem to use this place as a bit of a retreat, an escape from all their politicking. Bit quite at the moment though. Off season you know.”
Frodo stopped outside a lockless wooden door at the end of a rounded corridor and opened it.
“Here you go”.
Sam entered first and was struck instantly by the comforts of home that he knew from Hobbiton.
“I call this room Bag End on High. I think it's the best room in the place and, besides Tulkas and Gandalf, nobody really uses it. The elves prefer the airier rooms.”
“I love it. You've done a grand job here Master.” Sam dropped his pack on the floor and sat on the end of the bed.
“No need to call me Master here Sam, especially around these parts. There's only one master and it surely ain't me”.
“Ok then………. Sir”
Frodo grinned, “You look tired Sam. I'll leave you so that you can freshen up and catch up on some sleep. Come downstairs in the morning and I'll cook you some of my own magic mushrooms for breakfast. How does that sound?”
“Yep. It's a new recipe I developed myself with a little help from Gandalf”.
“Sounds great. OK. I'll see you in the morning then….. It's good to see you again Sir”.
Frodo paused in the doorway, his bright eyes moist.
“Same here Sam…. same here. Good night now.”
Breakfast the following morning was a long late affair as Sam had much to tell Frodo about the goings on in Hobbiton and beyond. The magic mushrooms were delightful and Sam had never been in such high spirits after eating a meal. Finally, after Frodo seemed satisfied with all the news from The Shire he informed Sam that he was free to go anywhere around or out of town and encouraged him to explore a bit. Permanent lodgings would be sort for Sam but there was no urgency and the inn was there for as long as he needed it. With Frodo's leave Sam left “Brandy by the Bay”, passing the fairy city of Tirion on his left, through the Calacirya and into open country, following a well-kept golden seamless path that eventually veered north.
“Good proper work this is.” Sam commented to himself. “I wonder who looks after the roads and all the lawns. There doesn't seem to be anyone around doing anything! In fact, there doesn't seem to be anyone around full-stop! Very strange.”
The day was bright and clear without a cloud in the sky. Sam whistled as he walked, enjoying as he always did, the idle rambling through the countryside. The unbroken golden road ran parallel with the massive mountain range that seemed to stretch on without end. Otherwise, there was nothing too remarkable about the landscape, which was made up of low undulating hills, with the odd clump of oak or elm trees every now and again. He must have walked a good few hours before he suddenly realised he had brought no provisions with him.
“Well wallop me hungry and wet my socks! What in Eru's name was I thinking? Not much it seems.”
Sam, feeling a little sheepish at using Eru's name out loud in Valinor, looked back but could no longer see where the mountain pass was. He scanned ahead and could just see the road coursing on and on, over the low hills, appearing to be yellow-bricked in the distance.
“I've come this far. I may as well keep on going and see where that yellow-bricked road leads. Maybe I can find an inn or worse”.
Just as he started off again he heard the sound of a horse approaching from somewhere over the rise, and speedily.”
“Oh ho! Not again”. Sam had a nasty flashback. As well as that, he did not want to bring about an accident by staying on the path so he moved off it and waited in the short grass. Hurtling over the top of the hill came the second biggest white horse Sam had ever seen. Actually it was the biggest but Sam was a little off judging sizes.
“Whoa! Whoa boy! Steady Santa!” The rider, all dressed in white was just as large, and even more burly, and was altogether frightening. His hair was golden, his beard was golden and his eyes were golden. He looked like the world's biggest statue come to life. The enormous horse stopped right in front of Sam, it's white whiskery chin towering above him. Sam backed up a step or three, eyes wide with astonishment, and watched the rider leap down with a crashing thump.”
“Well, well, well. What have we here? Another hobbit, by the size of you. Either that or I have ridden too far today. I knew all this jolting and joggling up and down on this beast was doing my brain no good.”
Sam was speechless.
“Well, c'mon lad, speak up. Put my mind at ease. Who are you and where are you from?” Tulkas's red cheeks puffed in and out like bellows as he spoke.
“Yes..Yes sir. I am Samwise Gamgee, a hobbit from Hobbiton. My Father is the Gaffer and I tended Frodo's garden and…”
“OK Samwise. That's enough. If who you say you are is who you really are then your reputation precedes you. If I want to know more I'll write you a letter. However, if who you say you are is not who you really are then I trust you can wrestle. Ha! As for me my name is Tulkas Astaldo and I am one of the Valar. Some call me The Valiant One. Ha! They wouldn't even know the meaning of the word. You can call me Tulk! Fancy a ride?”
“A…a ride?” Sam stammered.
“Yes. A ride. Two words – 'a' and 'ride'. You know. You hop up here onto the horses back and he takes you for a gallop, a jaunt. What do you say?”
“No more buts. You are obviously a little lost and a lot hungry. Come with me and I'll show you around this place; give you the grand Tulkas Tour. Ha!”
With nothing more to say or do, Tulkas vaulted back onto the horse, thrust down a mighty arm and picked up Sam in one clean swoop, with a hand Sam could have sat in. Tulkas placed Sam, and none too gently, behind him. Sam instinctively held onto Tulkas's belt as there was no hope in Hades of getting his arms around his waist, which was about as wide as an oliphaunt.”
“Let's go Santa! Giddy up!”
The horse took off like a Gandalf firecracker and Sam did all he could not to fall off. The scenery was apparently quite special but as Sam kept his eyes tightly shut the entire time, he never knew. There was no talk, just the sound of the rushing wind passing them by as Santa split the air in two.
“How do I get myself into these things?' Sam thought quietly.
“Ha! Don't worry my lad. You'll be fine….just fine. You're with Tulkas the Strong! Ha!!” said a booming voice emanating from somewhere out of the massive immortal in front of him, making Sam's internal organs vibrate.
“What? How? But..? Oh yeah ….that's right”, Sam thought to himself. “Tulkas is a Vala. He'll know everything I'm thinking of. Terrific.”
The rest of the trip Sam tried his utmost to think of absolutely nothing, but all he achieved was thinking about thinking about nothing.
“I'm getting a headache,” he groaned.
Suddenly the horse stopped and Sam's face smashed firmly into the granite back of Tulkas, not helping the headache in any way.
“Here we are lad. Open your eyes now and feast on this, a sure-fire remedy for a pain in your brain”.
Sam opened his dazed eyes and looked around. He was facing east, gazing directly at a gigantic mountain in the midst of the great wall of rock that seemed to border this entire land. He could not see the peak and Sam could feel his balance failing. There was snow starting about half way up but it looked to him as if it would take you forever to reach it.
“Big mountain hey?”
“Yes Sir.” Sam shook his head.
“Big mountain for big people. That's what we say around here, or at least I do!” Tulkas laughed at his apparent joke. Sam thought he could feel the ground trembling.
“Ah..my head!” Sam moaned.
Nearby, a rapid running stream ran along a woody stretch of evergreen trees. The stream was full of flying and leaping silver and gold fish. Sam had never seen anything like it.
“I knew I should have packed my rod,” Sam thought.
“You would fish here?” Tulkas asked, an incredulous look on his face. My my, you hobbits are bolder than a brazen badger. I don't often give advice often but for you today I am in a good mood. Here's a tip for the day. Do not fish from this stream, as it is one of Osse's favourites. I know there's a stack of the slippery blighters swimming, flying and jumping in and out of there, but Osse swears he knows them all by name and he is one Vala you don't want to displease. Take my word for it. The last time I brought on his wrath I couldn't bathe for a year, without the fear of being drowned. Nessa was not pleased.”
Sam was still trying to get used to the idea of his thoughts being read but he got the gist. No fishing here.
“Come. Let's get you something to eat.”
Sam was pulled unceremoniously back onto the wide horse, his body perched precariously on the horse's rear.
“Hold on now!” Tulkas yelled.
Santa shot off again, almost giving no time for Sam to take his advice. Sam gripped tightly onto the belt with his legs splayed out at right angles.
“I'm going to die for sure,” Sam lamented to himself. However, before he did they came to a second abrupt stop.
“Here we are then lad! We are on the outskirts of Yavanna's pastures. The Aratar call this place the Boondocks but I love this place. It's my home away from home and I come here as often as I'm able, sometimes even with Nessa.” Tulkas winked, making his other golden eye appear even larger.
Sam looked around and while behind him were endless rolling hills, in front was a cliff face through which an inviting cave opened. To the left of the cave, a waterfall cascaded over the cliff-face forming a large pool from which a stream issued, passing him on his right. An intense rainbow arced over a railed bridge that led to the cave opening. Tulkas dropped Sam to the ground near the bridge and in several large strides was already in the cave.
“Wait there lad! I'll be back before you can say the word 'wrestle',” Tulkas hollered from inside the cave.
Sam sat nervously on the grass watching Santa grazing on the grass a few meters away. He could hear thunderous singing coming from the cave mouth, obviously a rowdy Tulkas wrestling song.
Tulkas my name,
And wrestling's my game.
Come one, Come all,
Try and stand tall.
I'll give you a moment,
To take in the view.
But in a flash,
You'll be as good as stew.
After the tussles
We'll have a good laugh
Rest our muscles
And maybe a bath.
Live long, live short,
It really doesn't matter.
Just sing, eat and wrestle.
Let's live till we're fatter.
On the word 'fatter', Tulkas exited the cave with the largest picnic basket Sam had ever had the good fortune to set his eyes upon.
“Food and drink for all!” Tulkas bellowed as he sat down with a thump.
For the next hour there was little talk as they both stuffed themselves silly on pomegranates, plums, and fresh pastry, chasing it all down with a tasty beverage that Tulkas called 'Koko bubble-pop', a creation of his own.
Whether it was this creation, the warm sun, the company, or a combination of all three, Sam began to feel much more relaxed.
“Nice horse you have there,…..um Tulk.”
“Hurrumph. If only it was. I mean, if only it was mine that is, as the horse is quite plainly nice. A first-rate charger in truth. Unfortunately, it belongs to Orome and it's rightful name isn't even Santa. It's Nahar. I just like the sound of the name Santa and he seems to respond just as well.”
“Well, it's mighty kind of Orome to lend you his horse.”
“Ha! Orome never lends anything! I have had to borrow him in secret I'm afraid. Not the first time and hopefully not the last”. A wide grin erupted along Tulkas's face, showing teeth so shiny that Sam had to blink.
“Won't Orome get angry?” Sam asked.
“That's the idea Mister Clever Hobbit. Very perceptive of you indeed! You see you just can't get a good wrestle around here anymore, ever since I trounced Melkor eons ago. Ah! Now that was a real tussle of a wrestle, a right royal ho-down. So…anyway, if I want to stay in shape and just have a spot of fun I need to be a little wily, or a lot wily in Orome's case. You should have seen him when he couldn't find his beloved horn. Ha!”
“I see.” Actually, Sam didn't really understand completely what Tulkas was talking about. He didn't know who Orome was and he had no desire to meet him without his horn, or horse for that matter. In fact all this talk about wrestling was a little disconcerting to someone who could almost fit into one of Tulkas's sandles.
“Just between you and me Sam I actually don't ride horses as a rule. Temperamental beasts they are, not to mention smelly! Not only that, but I can run faster than most of the Aratar can whip up another rule. I just get a trifle bored sometimes, and like I said I enjoy a good wrestle. Ha ha ha ha!” His booming laughter echoed off the cliff face, making the rainbow shimmer.
Sam was beginning to warm to Tulkas, despite some minor concerns for Tulkas's state of mind. However, Sam's hunger had now disappeared and the drink must have been soporific as all he felt like doing now was napping. It was also getting late in the day.
“Had enough to eat Samwise. I swear you've wolfed down more chow than me. Amazing creatures you hobbits. Better get you back to the Bilbo then, and I best be off myself. Orome ought to be missing his steed by now. Ha!”
Sam sat in front of Tulkas on the way back and felt like he was flying
through space. He couldn't remember a great deal of the trip back as he
slept, albeit fitfully, most of the way. When he did finally wake it was
the next morning, and he found himself snug as a midge in fudge, in 'Bag
End on High' in the 'Bilbo by the Bay'. A slight headache encouraged Sam
to lie in for a little longer on his third day in Valinor.
Back to Tilkal, Issue 1, eJournal of Tol Harndor