|About Us News Resources Login Become a member Help Search|
Title: Oliphaunt Am I
Even though Aragorn had said it was time to find Gandalf and Treebeard, the little group of friends found themselves reluctant to move from their picnic-spot. Aragorn, Gimli, Merry and Pippin smoked in companionable silence for a while; Legolas leaned back on his arms, and turned his face to the sky, enjoying the breeze.
It was Pippin, as it so often happened, who voiced what the others would not speak. “I wonder where Frodo and Sam are, and what they are doing right now?”
Merry bit his lip. He looked up at Aragorn, his brow furrowed with worry. “Strider, while I am ever so grateful to know that you all three came after Pippin and me, shouldn’t you have stayed with him?”
Aragorn sighed, and shook his head. “Frodo had his reasons for leaving us behind; I am glad that Sam, at least, was able to go with him.”
“Sam’s a sturdy fellow; I know he will take good care of Frodo, but it ’s going to be hard to keep Frodo’s spirits up by himself.” Merry shook his head sadly.
Aragorn smiled at him. “I think Master Samwise has a good notion of how to do that. Do you remember his poem of the comic troll on the way to Rivendell? Even wounded as he was, Frodo laughed.”
Pippin chuckled. “Sam always had a way with a recitation! One of my earliest memories of him was him reciting that funny poem about ‘Oliphaunt’. I was only a tiny chap myself, but I can still see his red face.”
“I’m surprised you remember that, Pip,” said Merry. “You were barely out of faunthood yourself!”
“I think it was the day Sam took care of my bee-sting, though I’m not certain of it…”
“It was. Frodo and I had been down to Bywater visiting with Fatty and Folco at Folco’s aunt’s house. Bilbo invited Sam to tea with us.”
Frodo looked at Sam in astonishment. The failure to enter Mordor by the Black Gate had been a crushing blow, and Frodo had his doubts about the “secret way” Gollum wished to show them. Yet their only other choice was to give up the Quest entirely.
And now Sam was standing up and reciting that old Shire poem, “Oliphaunt“! Here at the edge of Mordor, with danger and disappointment all around them. Frodo listened to the words of the old poem, and remembered a long ago spring day…
“Grey as a mouse, Big as a house,
Young Sam stood before the hearth, his face red as a beetroot, his hands clasped behind his back, as he recited the poem he had been learning for Bilbo. Frodo grinned to see his little friend’s discomfiture, but the lad was not missing a word. He’d coaxed Sam to recite it for Merry and Pippin, in part to distract them both from the distress of little Pippin's bee-sting. The distraction seemed to be working. Merry was listening carefully. He disliked recitations himself, and it was clear he was impressed with Sam, whose blush was fading as he became more confident and enthusiastic.
“As I tramp through the grass;
Sam deepened his voice and stamped about the hearth, earning a delighted giggle from little Pippin, who was snuggled up comfortably in Bilbo’s lap and watching in amazement. Sam grinned at the child, and stamped harder…
“Never lie on the ground,
Sam was thoroughly enjoying himself now, gesturing widely, pleased with the laughter of his friends, and completely over his earlier shyness at being asked to tea "with the gentry".
“If you never do,
Merry chuckled along with Pippin at the memory. “Cousin Bilbo told us he’d learned that poem from his Uncle Isengar. While he and Frodo got tea ready, Sam and I played ‘Oliphaunt’ and stamped about chasing you, Pip!”
“I remember that, as well. Remember Frodo telling us his flute was made of an oliphaunt’s tooth?”
Merry scoffed. “I doubt that. But I don’t suppose we’ll ever know.”
Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas all laughed as well. “Perhaps one day you will see an ‘oliphaunt’, Merry,” Aragorn said, "and then you may judge for yourself.”
“I am not familiar with ‘oliphaunt’, “ said Legolas.
“It is a beast of burden and of warfare used by the Southrons out of Harad,” replied Aragorn. “They are properly named ‘mûmakil’.”
“Ah! I have heard of them, then!”
“And,” added Gimli, “the ivory of their tusks is prized by many Dwarves for the fashioning of various items.”
Merry’s jaw dropped. “You mean they are real?” he asked in surprise.
The others all laughed at him.
Frodo listened to Sam debating with Gollum about the reality of oliphaunts. Sam was quite passionate about it; perhaps they might see oliphaunts before all was ended. He had seen Elves, after all.
*Frodo stood up. He had laughed in the midst of all his cares when when Sam had totted out the old fireside rhyme of Oliphaunt, and the laugh had released him from hesitation. ‘I wish we had a thousand oliphaunts and Gandalf on a white one at their he ad,’ he said. ’Then we’d break a way inot this evil land, perhaps. But we’ve not; just our own tired legs, that’s all. Well, Sméagol, the third way may turn the best. I will come with you.*
“Strider,” said Pippin, “you did say we should find Gandalf, and mention the pipe-weed to him.” He stood, and brushed the back of his breeches, and reached a hand down to help Merry up.
**“I wonder what he is doing,” said Merry. “The afternoon is getting on. Let us go and look round! You can enter Isengard now at any rate, Strider, if you want to. But it is not a very cheerful sight.”**
And the five friends left their brief respite behind.
According to the Tale of Years, the day that Merry and Pippin were reunited with Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli at Orthanc was the same day that Frodo, Sam and Gollum were stymied at the Black Gate--and also the same day that Sam recited “Oliphaunt” to Frodo and Gollum.
* From LotR: The Two Towers, Book IV, Chapter III, "The Black Gate Is Closed", as is the poem “Oliphaunt”.
** From LotR: The Two Towers, Book III, Chapter IX, "Flotsam and Jetsam".
|<< Back||Next >>|
|Home Search Chapter List|