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Tales from the Red Book III, The King's Visit
by Joanne Harris

[Author’s note: In Book IX of the ‘History of Middle Earth’ series, Sauron Defeated, edited by Christopher Tolkien, there are the first drafts of a projected epilogue to The Lord of the Rings. In this, Sam Gamgee reads out a letter from King Elessar giving news of his impending visit to the Shire. What follows is the story of that visit.]

It was summer in the Shire. Long hot days were followed by balmy evenings. The green grass and colourful blooms of the countryside were mirrored in the perfection of the gardens, and in no garden were the flowers more beautiful than the large, sloping expanse behind the comfortable hole inhabited by Samwise Fairbairn and his family.

The Fairbairns were sitting in their garden after supper, the remains spread on a rug around them. Daffodil was making daisy chains for her younger sisters, and Hamfast was gleefully breaking them as fast as she could attach the delicate flowers together.

Presently Sam rolled over and sat up, lifting on to his knees the giant red book which formed all the best story-telling evenings at Fairbairn Towers.

"I thought we’d have a summery one today," he said. "Elessar’s visit to the Shire."

Marigold clapped her hands in excitement.

"Ooh, ooh!" she exclaimed. "My favourite!"

Sam smiled indulgently at his daughter, and opened the book.

"‘It was 1436,’" he began. "‘In the garden at Bag End the mallorn tree was blooming. Inside, the hole was a hive of activity. The Gamgees were going to see the King.

‘Elanor, dressed in a pretty new dress, was having her hair carefully brushed by her mother, and in a cradle nearby the baby, Primrose, was sleeping soundly surrounded by new lace-edged blankets. Sam Gamgee was running around the house making sure that they had all the things they needed. In the hall his grey elven-cloak was hung up, waiting to be put on.

‘There came a sudden loud and cheerful knock at the green door, and Frodo-lad ran to answer it.

‘"Are the Gamgees ready?" asked Peregrin Took, bowing at Frodo. His small son Faramir ran into the hallway, jumping up and down in excitement. Frodo held open the door.

‘"Nearly, Mr Took," he replied. "Dad!"

‘Sam hurried into the hallway.

‘"Mr Pippin!" he exclaimed, giving the newcomer a hug. "Rose! Rosie, it’s time to leave."

‘Into the hall the Gamgees came running — Elanor, and little Rose, Merry and Pippin, Goldilocks, Hamfast toddling after his sisters and brothers, and finally Mistress Rose carrying Daisy and Primrose.

‘"We’re off to see the King!" shouted young Merry.

‘With much bustling around, the Gamgees and their luggage were piled into the decorated cart parked outside Bag End. Pippin Took climbed on to the driver’s seat next to his best friend Meriadoc Brandybuck, and off they went.

‘Like Sam, Merry and Pippin were dressed in their grey elven-cloaks, covering smart liveries; Merry’s green and white, representing the kingdom of Rohan, and Pippin’s sable and silver, for Gondor. As the cart bounced along the East Road, the older hobbits told tales of their travels for the children, and sang songs in loud and clear voices. Along the route other hobbits appeared at their doors and waved and cheered on the cart and the hobbits in their finery, and the Gamgee children and little Faramir Took waved back.

‘As they drew nearer to the Brandywine Bridge, where the King and Queen would arrive, the excitement grew. Rose passed around the hairbrush and made sure all her children were smart. Elanor made certain of the number of courtesies she would have to make, but did not dare to stand up in the cart and practise, for fear of soiling her new dress. Sam seemed to grow quieter as their destination got close.

‘Shortly after three in the afternoon, Merry Brandybuck stopped the cart on the far side of the bridge, and set the ponies to grazing. Already some outriders and servants of the King had arrived, and tents were set up on the green grass, decorated with flowers and the black standard of Gondor, showing the White Tree surmounted by a crown and surrounded by seven stars. Under a canopy two thrones were set, made of some simple grey wood, but high and carved with many beautiful symbols. The children silenced at the sight of the splendour, and sat quietly on the rug Merry laid out for them.

‘Pippin Took went off to talk to one of the tall Men who were guarding the tents, and presently waved Merry and Sam over.

‘"Remember Bergil?" he said. "Ran errands in the Houses of Healing when we were in Minas Tirith?"

‘"A long time since, Master Peregrin," the Man said gravely, stooping to greet Merry and Sam. "Yet I declare you have not changed in the slightest."

‘"How’s your father?" Pippin asked.

‘"Well, I thank you. He sends his regards." Bergil smiled fondly. "By rights I should be in the guard of Ithilien under his command, but by the grace of the Lord Elessar I am here so I could see old friends."

‘"Good old Strider," Merry said. "Always looking out for others."

‘At that moment there came the sound of many trumpets calling, and the trumpets of the camp answered.

‘"There comes the royal party," Bergil said.

‘The company that the hobbits could see coming up the East Road was large and great. First came more Guards in black, riding upon many horses, and some carrying the standard of the King. Behind them rode a party of maidens in white and silver. Next rode the King and Queen on tall grey steeds, both clad in white. Upon the Queen’s head was a circlet of silver, and on the King’s a great green stone reflected the light. As they watched, the King raised his hand in greeting, and spurred his horse on past the foreguard, bringing it skilfully to a halt in front of the three hobbits waiting for him. He threw the reins to a Guard and swung down off the horse.

‘"Dear friends!" he said, and bent to kiss each one in turn on both cheeks.

‘Sam, feeling his family’s gaze on him, blushed red.

‘"Welcome to the Shire, your Majesty," he said.

‘The King laughed, and gave Sam’s shoulder a pat.

‘"None of that, Sam. We’re all friends here. Call me Strider, as in the old days."

‘Sam blushed harder, and Pippin took over.

‘"They’ve put up your thrones over here," he said, leading the way. "How’s everyone in Minas Tirith?"

‘"Well, I am glad to say," the King answered, sitting down on his throne with a sigh and stretching his legs out. "Legolas and Gimli are hard at work rebuilding and planting still. You must ride out and visit."

‘He looked up, beyond the hobbits, and quickly stood, holding out his hand.

‘"My Lady," he said, "welcome to the Shire."

‘They turned, and as one bowed to the Queen Arwen as she came across the grass with diamonds sparkling in her black tresses. The King smiled as their eyes met, and he took her hand and settled her into her seat before sitting again beside her.’"

"Was the Lady Arwen truly beautiful?" broke in Daffodil.

"I heard tell she was the most beautiful Elven-lady ever, after Lúthien Tinúviel," her father said, one finger on the page. "And Elves are the most beautiful of all people."

"Then I want to be an Elf!" cried Marigold.

"You’re beautiful to me, Mari," said Sam. "Can I carry on? No more questions?" He smiled generally at his family and started to read again.

"‘Sam felt a tugging at his sleeve.

‘"Dad," came a small voice. "Dad, can we do our bows and courtesies yet?"

‘Sam looked down at Elanor, who stood twisting her skirt in her fingers. He patted her head.

‘"All right, Ellie," he said. "Come on."

‘He took her hand and brought her before the King and Queen.

‘"Mr Strider, sir," he said. "My eldest daughter, Elanor."

‘Elanor carefully curtsied, and then turned towards the Queen and curtsied again. Arwen laughed in delight, her voice like music.

‘"My dear Master Samwise," she said. "Your daughter is beautiful."

‘"Golden hair like her nameflower," Elessar added, smiling at Sam who beamed in pride.

‘"That was Mr Frodo’s idea, sir," Sam explained. "I wanted a flower name, see, like her mother, and something that would remind me of our travels as well, and he remembered the flower in Lórien. And she’s as beautiful as her name."

‘"The sun flower," the Queen said, looking towards her King. "A perfect name." She bent to Elanor. "Would you like to become one of my handmaidens, my sweet, and help me whilst I am here?"

‘Elanor’s eyes opened wide, and she nearly fell over in her haste to do another courtesy.

‘"Why — that is — well, yes, your Majesty — my Lady … oh!"

‘Arwen smiled and held out her hand.

‘"Then sit by me here whilst your father introduces the rest of his family to us."’

Sam Fairbairn turned the crisp page, smiling at his own family who sat entranced. He blew a greenfly off the page and carried on.

"‘Samwise brought Rose and the children across and one by one they all made their courtesies or bows to the King and Queen, and Elessar and Arwen said kind words to each. Sam glowed with joy in his family, and beside him Meriadoc and Peregrin grinned at each other, enjoying their friend’s pleasure.

‘When all had been introduced, servants brought out trestle tables and laid them with food and drink, and the King and his guests sat and ate until even the hobbits were full. Then the children went off to play, and Elessar, Sam, Merry and Pippin lit pipes and began to reminisce about the War of the Ring. Arwen took Rose aside and showed her the gifts of jewels and rich fabrics the royal party had brought, and then they fell into discussion about various small things.

‘Towards dusk more food was brought out, and they ate by the light of lanterns lit by the servants and guards. By now a group of hobbits had gathered to stare at the splendour, and the King moved about to speak to them. As the sun finally set he held up his hand for silence.

‘"I have come here today," he said, in a voice that carried and stopped even the smallest children from talking, "to make good the promise I made after I was crowned. From now until my line fades, the lands west of the Baranduin and fifty miles south and north of the Great East Road shall be the habitation of the Halflings, and no man shall without my leave enter within the boundaries. The land shall be governed by the Mayor of the Shire, the Thain in Tuckborough, and the Master of Buckland, and this land shall thus be secure and safe from trouble. As in times before the Rangers will guard the boundaries in my name. This I swear, on this day June the 15th, 3036, in the Fourth Age of Arda."

‘Elessar gestured to one of his servants, who hurried up with a small box.

‘"In recognition of his services to Middle-earth both now and in the past," the King continued, "I give now the Star of the Dunédain to Master Samwise Gamgee."

‘Rose gave Sam a little push, and blushing furiously he came forward to Elessar, who bent and kissed his old friend on both cheeks and pinned a small, perfect silver star to his cloak.

‘"Now, Sam," the King said softly, "I believe the people of the Shire are waiting?"

‘Sam nodded.

‘"You’re quite right, Mr Strider, sir," he replied, and turned to the hobbits. "As Mayor of the Shire, I hear the words of the King and promise to serve him as long as my office stands."

‘"Hear, hear!" shouted Merry and Pippin loudly. "Three cheers for the King!" They led the assembled crowd in a rousing shout. "And three cheers for the Lady Arwen!" added Pippin, to which the crowd responded even louder. Arwen curtsied with a smile. Someone in the group got out a set of pipes and started to play, and soon everyone was dancing.

‘They slept that night under the stars and woke late to a hearty breakfast, and after they had eaten the King and Queen said farewell to their friends and mounted their horses to continue on their tour of the Northern Lands. The hobbits climbed into the cart, their clothes slightly stained, the children subdued after the splendour and riches, and rode home.’"

Samwise closed the big red book with a sigh.

"And that, children, was the King’s visit to the Shire. And he kept his promise, for you know none of the Big People have ever been inside the borders since that day."

Daffodil sighed happily.

"I love that story. I wish the King would come here now so we could see him."

"It’s a long way from Minas Tirith," her father said, patting his daughter’s hand. "And the King isn’t Elessar anymore."

"I know that," Daffodil said. "But all the same … imagine the jewels and things!" Her eyes sparkled.

Hamfast picked up a handful of grass and threw it at his sisters.

"Anyone for a game of ball?" He jumped up and soon, squealing, the other children joined him. Sam moved to sit next to Jasmine, putting an arm around her shoulders, and together they watched their children play in the bright sunshine, the Red Book by their side.

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