The world is changed.
I feel it in the water.
I feel it in the earth.
I smell it in the air.
Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it.
It began with the forging of the Great Rings: three were given to the Elves; immortal, wisest and fairest of all beings; seven to the Dwarf Lords; great miners and craftsmen of the Mountain Halls and nine, nine rings were gifted to the race of Men, who above all else desire power. For within these rings was bound the strength and will to govern each race.
But they were all of them deceived, for another ring was made.
In the land of Mordor, in the fires of Mount Doom, the Dark Lord Sauron forged, in secret, a master ring, to control all others and into this ring; he poured his cruelty, his malice, and his will to dominate all life.
One ring to rule them all.
One by one, the free lands of Middle-Earth fell to the power of the Ring, but there were some who resisted. A last alliance of Men and Elves marched against the armies of Mordor and on the slopes of Mount Doom; they fought for the freedom of Middle-Earth.
Victory was near, but the power of the Ring could not be undone. It was in this moment, when all hope had faded, that Isildur, son of the King, took up his father's sword.
Sauron, the enemy of the free peoples of Middle-Earth, was defeated.
The Ring passed to Isildur, who had this one chance to destroy evil forever, but the hearts of Men are easily corrupted. And the Ring of Power has a will of its own.
It betrayed Isildur to his death and some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend, legend became myth and for two and a half thousand years, the Ring passed out of all knowledge until, when chance came, it ensnared a new bearer.
The ring came to the creature Gollum, who took it deep into the tunnels of the Misty Mountains, and there, it consumed him. The Ring brought to Gollum unnatural long life. For five hundred years, it poisoned his mind. And in the gloom of Gollum's Cave, it waited.
Darkness crept back into the forests of the world. Rumor grew of a shadow in the East, whispers of a nameless fear and the Ring of Power perceived its time had now come. It abandoned Gollum, but something happened then that the Ring did not intend.
It was picked up by the most unlikely creature imaginable: a Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins of the Shire, for the times will soon come when Hobbits will shape the fortunes of all.
In the light of autumn's morning, a horse-drawn carriage travels down a quaint, winding road of dirt through large fields of green grass, vibrant flowers and towering trees. Guiding the carriage is an elderly man bearing grey robes and a pointed hat. His aged features make it evident that his long life in the world has molded into wisdom. With a wooden pipe in the corner of his mouth, he sings a pleasant tune, "The Road goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, and I must follow, if I can…"
Between the phrases of the song; thick, twirling smoke rises from the pipe and ascends into the sky before evaporating amongst the fresh air. Beside the elderly man sits a woman of youth – a maiden, white and fair, with dark, waving waist-length hair and a white gown that promotes some form of prominence. Once the first phrase of the melody is finished by the man, the young woman begins to sing in response, "Pursuing it with my eager feet, until it joins some larger way. Where many paths and errands meet, and whither then? I cannot say."
They journey through the peaceful lands of The Shire, waiting to come to their destination of Hobbiton. Though the journey has been prolonged, it has not been tiresome. The beauty of The Shire captivates all eyes that pass through her fields and venture her rolling hills. Once the song has finished, the companions are left to listen to the humming birds and the carriage rocking along the uneven ground.
"It is quite nice to be back in The Shire after being away all these long years," the elderly man says to the woman sitting at his right shoulder, "My fondness for the Hobbits and their tender ways of life will never grow weary in my heart. It is truly remarkable to experience their love and devotion for their little piece of the world."
"The Shire has always had a special place in my mind," I say in response, admiring the leaves waving in the gentle breeze, "I often wish I could have grown amongst the untouched beauty of these lands. Even the simple sound of a bird's humming could be equal to the crying of the harps from home. I occasionally dream of fleeing from my father and his rule – and the place in which I travel in my dreams is always here – in Hobbiton."
"There is truly something special about the simple ways of living," he agrees, taking another puff from the pipe tucked into the left corner of his mouth, "Their admiration for that which is often overlooked has always brought a smile to face. Which, I will add, has become quite a difficult ask. All of my long years in this world have caused me to become less susceptible to the joys of everyday life. With that knowledge, the fact that such simple creatures can manage to liven me once again – as if I were young again – is far beyond my comprehension. Though I do hope you do not mistake my banter for complaint."
"That surely cannot be all that makes you feel prosperous again, Gandalf Greyhame."
"What do you mean?"
"Your love for the Halfling's Leaf may bring renewed days to your life, but your love for a good adventure plays deeply into that rejuvenation."
"Adventures are far beyond my years, young one," he responds before inhaling a large breath of his pipe, "I have grown much older since last I experienced a true adventure. Do you remember the tale of which I speak?"
"I remember as if it were yesterday, Mithrandir."
"Of course it would be fresh in your mind! A mere sixty years is no comparison to the life of an Elf. You remember when I brought the Dwarves to your doorstep, I assume. You remember it as though it were merely the blink of an eye."
"I remember each and every one of them," I nod, "I even recall Bilbo being with the Dwarves, and I find myself wondering how his appearance has changed over the course of sixty years. Of course, flattery will be necessary, simply because it is his birthday."
"One hundred and eleven years old," Gandalf notes, puffing at the wooden piece, "Quite an old age for the likes of a Hobbit, but I am quite glad to know that he continues to live with the same spunk that he once had. Of course, I cannot be sure of this, but knowing that I woke something Tookish inside of him all those years ago means that he has not lost touch with the adventurous Hobbit inside of him!"
"You seem quite proud of that fact."
"Of course there are things I am rather bitter about," he says, setting the pipe in his lap to grip the carriage reigns properly, "We faced so much peril and experienced so much death – and that is what I regret most about that journey. Even though I knew that death would have been inevitable, I would have liked to see less of it."
I remain silent for a few moments, pondering Gandalf's words with my own thoughts, "I recall when you brought thirteen Dwarves to the doorstep of Imladris. They were unhappy to amongst the company of Elves, and I do not believe that it was unreasonable of them. I remember each of them: Balin, Dwalin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Oin, Gloin, Dori, Nori, Ori, Kili and Fili. Then of course, there was the grumpiest Dwarf of them all – Thorin Oakenshield, and he is the one that I remember the fondest."
"I thought that would be the case," Gandalf says, giving me a sidelong glance, "Out of the fourteen members in Thorin's company, he was the one you spoke to more than to simply greet him and wish him well on his trip. No, no; it was much more than that – much more sentimental than the average small talk. I must admit that I am still rather surprised at the fact that he did speak with you. The anger he held for Elves was still strong in his heart."
"I cannot say that I disagree with the anger he held," I respond, "For that would be lying. There was good reason for the Dwarf to be angry and I will not say that I would have felt differently if the favor had been returned. Thranduil broke his trust and abandoned his people, and that is unforgivable."
"What aspect of that event makes it unforgivable to you?"
"Do you disagree?" I ask him, turning my eyes to gaze into his.
"I do not. I am simply wondering which aspect of Dale's destruction that you find most unforgivable as well as unforgettable."
"To begin, Thranduil broke his trust; after promising that he and the Elves of Mirkwood were going to come to his aid in the event that Thror and his people faced danger. However, what aggravates me most of all is the fact that Thranduil turned his back knowing that many lives were inevitably going to be lost to the dragon. How can you abandon an entire city to suffer with knowledge that nearly the entire population was going to be demolished? I could never commit a deed so heinous," I explain, feeling a cold tremor throughout my body.
"What Thranduil did was and still is unforgivable, but I believe the thought he belief he held was a justifiable reason to abandon the Dwarves to perish."
"Which thought would that have been?"
"I believe that the Elf-King did not wish to aid Thror due to the fact that he did not want his armies to be put before danger. It was a matter of protecting his kin, just as Thorin and his family did when Dale was being overrun," Gandalf explains as he picks up his pipe to smoke from it, "Even in that light, that does not excuse his actions."
I look down to the front, right wheel of the carriage in order to regain myself, and once I have, I turn my gaze back to Gandalf with an amused expression on my face, "I know you're curious."
"I beg your pardon?" he asks, blinking his eyes at me, "What would I be curious about?"
"When the Dwarves arrived in Imladris and continued their stay, you asked me what Thorin and I had been speaking about. I could see the curiosity in your eyes then and I can see it now. If you're truly wondering, Gandalf, you can simply ask."
"Even if I were ask, that does not mean you would tell me!"
"Which is true," I agree and smile for a moment. "I have kept this information buried within my mind for sixty years and I do believe it is time to reveal the subject of our conversation."
"You must have said something that affected Thorin's outlook on your race, even if it was only for you. I do remember that he had grown quite fond of you by the time he and the others ran off. What is it that you two spoke of?"
"We spoke mainly of Dale and what happened when Thranduil abandoned his people. I agreed with his anger and allowed him to know that he had the right to harbor such feelings. However, I also told him that the entire race of Elves is not exact to one another. I told him that I would not have abandoned him. I would have fought for his people, even if that meant my own demise would have come. I was sure to inform him of that matter."
"Your father would have disallowed such an action," Gandalf says, looking at me through his thick eyebrows, "Elladan and Elrohir are the warriors of the family."
"In his eyes, that is true. Arwen and I are capable of battle, and you are aware of that fact," I say.
"Indeed I am," he nods, "Your father is aware of your prowess as well, but that does not change the fact that he would never allow you to enter combat."
"I do not fear fighting for my beliefs, Mithrandir. A day will come where my father allows my desire to defend the peoples of Middle-Earth. Perhaps it is not now, but it is to come."
"I do hope I am still around for that moment," he says.
"Old age shall not claim you before that day arrives, Gandalf. I assure you of that."
"How can you be so sure?"
"You need not question the wisdom of Elves."
"That is such rubbish!" Gandalf exclaims and we share a laugh.
"No amount of aging will claim you," I say, "I firmly believe in that."
"I am glad that you do," he says, patting my hand affectionately.
"I always will," I say and smile to him and then exhale happily, looking around the unfailing beauty of The Shire.
"Quiet now!" Gandalf warns, "We will be approaching soon and I do suspect that the young Hobbit will be waiting for us!"
I grin in amusement and silence myself, raising my head to watch the road passing before us. I listen to the sound of the twittering birds, the rustling of the leaves and imagine that the land is playing a lovely song for all to enjoy. After a few extended moments of rocking in the carriage, I see a petite man standing on one of nature's ledges with overalls and a blue shirt. His large, hairy feet are bare – as a Hobbit's feet always are. His brown hair falls in curls around his face. The Hobbit crosses his arms over his chest as Gandalf brings the carriage to a stop. The pony whinnies, almost as though he were thanking the elderly man.
"You're late!" the Hobbit says, staring at the man with a blistering expression.
"A Wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins," Gandalf begins, his voice sounding stern and unhappy, "Nor is he early – he arrives precisely when he means to!" he exclaims, raising his head to meet the blue eyes of Frodo Baggins. They gaze at one another for a long moment before smiles creep over their faces and they begin to laugh.
The Hobbit jumps from the ledge and into the carriage, causing me to scoot over quickly before he lands directly on me. He lands in Gandalf's arm – the two of them laughing, "It's wonderful to see you again, Gandalf!"
"As it is just as pleasurable to see you, my boy!" the Wizard says, returning the greeting.
Frodo scoots from him and sits between the two of us, smiling at The Shire in admiration before blinking, almost in surprise when he sees me, "I cannot say that I recall seeing you within these lands."
"You truly mean to tell me that you do not remember me, Frodo Baggins? I am, not only offended, but I am appalled!"
There is silence as we gaze at one another before a large, goofy smile extends across his face, "Celairiel, it has been so long since I have seen you!"
"Indeed it has," I agree and smile at him, "You do not look as though you have been aging during the time we separated from one another, Mr. Baggins."
"Please," Frodo says, giving me a playful look of disapproval, "Mr. Baggins is my uncle and you know very well to address me by my first name!"
"Perhaps I do," I say, brushing his words off as though I were superior to him, "However, my memory is vague from last we met."
"I do not believe such poppycock!"
We look at one another, grin and hug. It is always a warming feeling to reunite with such old friends. "How is Bilbo?" I ask.
"To be honest, he has been acting a bit odd lately. He's taken a liking to locking himself in his study, pouring over old maps and muttering about long awaited adventures. I often wonder what he means on the matter."
"Do not fret, Frodo," Gandalf intervenes, "Your uncle is far too lively for his old age."
"The statement of being 'far too lively for his old age' was not the argument he made when we were traveling to The Shire," I mumble to Frodo.
Gandalf scoffs and gives me a hard stare, "Were you never taught that it is terribly rude to sell out an old man?"
I shrug with a laugh working its way into my throat and I turn my head to watch the passing trees so that the Wizard and the Hobbit are able to reminisce and talk about what they have missed in the long years they have not seen one another. I smile when they smile and laugh when they laugh – for happiness seems to be contagious, but I will not complain of such affairs.
As I am caught in my own thoughts, Frodo taps my shoulder a couple of times in order to get my attention. I look to him and he takes my hand, going to drag me from the carriage, "It's wonderful to have you back, Gandalf."
"It's wonderful to be back!"
Frodo grins, tugs on my hand and jumps from the carriage, stumbling slightly as he lands on the ground. I follow after him, landing firmly on my feet and the Hobbit shakes his head at me in disapproval, "The grace of Elves is a reason for my jealousy!"
"Do not be jealous," I tell him, "It can be taught."
"I cannot say I concur."
We walk side-by-side throughout Hobbiton as Frodo tells me how his kin has been fairing throughout the years. I admire the small houses with round doors, smell the colorful flowers planted in the gardens and greet those passing by.
It truly is wonderful to be back in The Shire.
General movie-verse with added themes from the novels.