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Bilbo and Frodo declare their independence from the Ring. Happy 4th to all of those on this side of the pond!
It had been a struggle for them both. Even though when Bilbo had left the Ring in Gandalf’s care to be given to Frodo that night so long ago, and had declared himself as happy as he had ever been, he had not truly let it go. How hard it had been to give it up! How he had missed it all those years! How many times had he proposed to go back and get it, hold it again, possess it again. How many times had Gandalf told him not to and he had listened as he always did. But still he longed and he dreamed. It had nearly driven him mad to see it resting on its chain against the pale chest of the son of his heart as he had laid nigh to death those terrible days and nights when Elrond contended with the dark power for the hroa and fea of his dear one. How his fingers itched to reach for it. How terrible the thoughts came that if Frodo died, it would be his again. How much, however briefly, he had longed for that. How he had nearly attacked the one dearest to him when he had asked to see it again, just a peep, he had said. And he knew he was not free of it and his beloved nephew was becoming ensnared by it as well. He had seen the terrible fear and jealous possessiveness that had come into those formerly so bright and innocent, carefree eyes.
For Frodo it was worse. He had expended every ounce of his heart, will, soul and strength to carry the Ring to the Fire, while it ever ate away at him and consumed him at will. It filled him and emptied him and there was nothing left when it went into the Fire. He longed for it just as keenly, if not more so, than Bilbo and Smeagol had, but he had not the hope they had had. He had no hope of ever seeing it again, holding it, stroking it. It was gone forever and had taken the better part of himself with it. What was he but a shell that it had filled and then abandoned, leaving only its shadow and the terrible longing that could never be sated? He called to it, but heard no answer. He slept with the bloody chain between his fingers when he thought Sam would not find it. He sobbed but had no release. He clutched Arwen’s gem and loathed himself when he knew it was really the Ring he wished he held. How it had violated every part of him and left him torn and bleeding, but how still he wished to hold it again, claim it for his again just as it had claimed him.
* * *
Slowly, Frodo and Bilbo began to declare their freedom from the Ring’s possessiveness. It had begun on the way West on a particularly beautiful night just as the sun was setting. The two hobbits looked over the railing, standing on a box that let them see over the side. They looked at each other and saw some of the same longing reflected in beloved eyes that had once held only cheer and love and light - and a fair amount of mischief when the time called for it. How Bilbo longed to see that again in his lad instead of this terrible pain. How Frodo longed to see it as well in his beloved uncle’s eyes. They reached into their pockets and drew out the chains that had held the Ring. Frodo was still covered with his blood and a few stray curls that had been caught in it. They looked at it and each other and then with a mighty effort, flung the chains as far from themselves into the Sea as they could. The chains floated for a moment, then sank. It was one of the hardest things they had ever done. Frodo and Bilbo’s eyes both smarted, but they looked at each other again, released a pent breath, smiled tremulously and clasped each other’s hands tightly. Gandalf, Elrond and Galadriel smiled. The first steps had been taken.
There were still times when Frodo would wake and hear his uncle murmuring in his sleep for the Ring or when Bilbo gently shook him awake when he heard the same coming from him. Other times Frodo would reach up to his neck and then lower his hand again. Bilbo would reach at times into his pocket, but nothing was there anymore. They would look up at each other, smile knowingly and sadly, but then press on, holding onto each other hands instead. How many times had Bilbo apologized and begged forgiveness that he had ever left the Ring to so mark his beloved heir. How many times had Frodo held him and kissed his head and told him that forgiveness was not needed because Bilbo had not known the danger when he had left the Ring. He had pleaded instead for forgiveness from Bilbo that he had not been strong enough to withstand its terrible power in order to destroy it. And the ancient hobbit in his turn had told him that forgiveness was not necessary there either.
It was at dawn, to the sound of the voices of the Children of Iluvatar singing His praises, that Frodo and Bilbo first felt the stirrings of true freedom. It was there, at the holy place where the Elves worshiped, that Frodo felt again the Presence of the One he had felt at the Council so long ago in Rivendell. It was there that he had felt wrapped in love and compassion as he had not felt since he had left Sam’s arms. Not even the embrace of his beloved uncle had been able to compare to what filled him then. He felt for the first time that perhaps he could be filled again with something else. And though Bilbo had never ceased seeing it, Bilbo see his dear heartson’s light begin to spread out from his fea brighter than he had seen it since he had left Hobbiton so many years previously. Slowly the fractured light was becoming more whole again. And slowly, Frodo began to see the uncle he had grown up with.
It was a bright, beautiful morning that they both woke and felt no call, no whisper, no longing for the Ring. All was silent within, but not empty. It was only when they felt that for twelve more mornings that they felt that perhaps it was gone at last, that it had let them go and they had let it go. There was a light and clean feeling within that they had never noticed before it had been taken away from them but now they felt wholly anew.
“We’re free, my boy,” Bilbo said with wonder.
Frodo laughed aloud and Bilbo joined in, a strong, clear, joyful laugh that reached out into the heavens and passed over the Sea and wafted into the windows of Bag End where a slumbering Mayor Samwise roused momentarily to listen to it and smile before he embraced his Rose a little tighter and sank back into sleep.
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