We were so innocent. That’s what I remember most. So innocent, and so young.
Even Frodo, the oldest of us in years, was young in other ways, before the Quest.
The Quest changed all that. The Quest ruined everything.
Hobbits aren’t meant to have adventures. The Big Folk see us as children, and for the first time, I’ve realised how right they are. I look at those who did not go, at my people, and sometimes I catch myself despising them, especially the older ones. Because they lived through the Scouring of the Shire, and still they don’t know, don’t want to know, how much worse it could have been. They have no idea what we lost – what we sacrificed – for their sake, and they never will.
I watched Frodo lose his innocence, you know. Watched, and knew there was nothing I could do to stop it. Even before he and I walked alone into Mordor, it had started. The things he saw… the things we all saw, and did… things nobody could understand who wasn’t there… they robbed us all. Frodo had it worst, being the Ringbearer, but Merry and Pippin and I felt our innocence drain away at the same time.
I’ll never forget the look in Frodo’s eyes, when we came out of Moria. It frightened me, to speak frankly. And that wasn’t the worst: the final death of the child in him came at the end of the Quest, when the Ring had been destroyed. He believed we would both die then, as Mount Doom collapsed, and I think he wanted it with all his heart in that moment.
Well, as you can see, we did not die. But Frodo had lost something that could never be replaced, and even the Shire didn’t heal his wounds. It grieved me sorely, but did not surprise me, when he told me he was going across the Sea; only there could he hope to get well again. One day, perhaps soon, I’ll join him – but only when my beloved Rose has passed on.
But I’m getting sidetracked. I’ve barely even mentioned Merry and Pippin, and what happened to them deserves to be told as well.
Merry was never the same after the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. They thought he’d die of the Black Breath, for a while, but Aragorn saw him all right – if only in the flesh. He puts on a good show of being like any other Hobbit, but when he and I and Pippin are alone, he lets it drop. I’ve seen the darkness that’s still there behind his eyes, and he mourns King Theoden to this day.
And Pippin, poor Pippin, who was little more than a child. Oh yes, he was still in his tweens when all this was going on. He should have been back in the Shire, stealing apples and mushrooms from Farmer Maggot, but instead he was travelling with us, witnessing death and madness such as no one should have to see, and becoming a soldier. It near broke my heart to see him all done up in livery like a hardened man of war, though he seemed so proud of it I never told him that.
As I said, we were all so absurdly young before we went away, and we are all so frighteningly old in body now – and we were in spirit when we returned from our travels. Frodo was still relatively young in years when he sailed, but his soul was a different story. He was not young from the moment he saw Gandalf fall.
Merry and Pippin’s bodies are catching up to their spirits, now. None of us has been a child for a very long time, for too long, and I see them growing greyer and slower every day. I suppose the same is true for me. Our children are grown and wed and have children of their own – how fast the time has gone.
Nobody remembers, now. I am still hailed as a hero, but that is more for my role in saving the Shire than in destroying the Ring. And Frodo, who had little to do with saving the Shire, got none of the acclaim he deserved. I often wonder… if he had received the proper welcome, would he perhaps have stayed a little longer?
No matter. What’s past is past, and Frodo’s gone. I just wish people remembered his heroism. But he is rarely spoken of in the Shire, and when he is, it is as “that cracked Mr Frodo”, not “Nine-Fingered Frodo who saved the world”.
This world is not for us, any more, not for me or for Merry or for Pippin. It belongs to the new generation of Hobbits, not to the few who remember that Sauron ever existed, still less to those who helped to fight him. As I said, when Rosie passes on, I’ll go to the Grey Havens, to see if I bore the Ring for long enough to sail. And perhaps I’ll see Frodo again. I’d like that.
When Diamond and Estella are gone, Merry and Pippin plan to return to Rohan and Gondor, to visit Eomer and Aragorn. I don’t think they’ll be coming back. It’s probably a good thing: here, they would be buried as respected Hobbits, but if they die in the lands of Men, they will be buried with all the honour they deserve for their deeds during the War.
And when we are gone, people will forget. It’s the way of things. In a few generations, no one outside of our families will know what we did. A few generations after that, who knows? I will give the Red Book to Elanor, when the time comes. But who can say how long it will survive?
It does not matter, for now. Merry, Pippin and I are still here to pass on the truth, which is the best we can do. We remember. We know. And for a little longer, that will be enough. It will have to be.