On Being Part of a Grand Story

Author: jan-u-wine

Nominator: Antane

2011 Award Category: Poetry: General - First Place

Story Type: Poetry  ✧  Length: N/A (Non-Fiction or Poetry)

Rating: General  ✧  Reason for Rating: N/A

Summary: The Shire has its magic and its story-tellers, but nowhere does magic and tale-telling combine with such beauty than in the simple musings of one Master Gamgee..... Please note that the secondary URL will take you to Mechtild's LJ, where the poem is a companion to her screencaps and essay for The Council of Elrond.

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Reviewed by: Mechtild  ✧  Score: 10

It is one of the recurring themes that give me great delight in Tolkien, the idea that human beings, individually and collectively, are living out a vast story. Mostly they are unaware of it, but, sometimes, in some instances, characters do get a glimpse of it. No character gives voice to this awareness better, and more delightfully, than Samwise Gamgee. That Tolkien gave him scenes of great darkness, danger and near-despair to mull over the idea highlights the salutary effect of just considering it, however imperfectly. It gives the one who considers a new, broader perspective, a perspective that strengthens, makes hopeful, and lifts the heart. To see their travails as part of a larger, greater, deeper story lifts Sam's heart the way seeing the star through the gap in the gloom of Mordor lifts it in another scene. If they are part of a great tale, then the things they are suffering are not meaningless, and that story will go on after their parts are done. Sam sees the star sparking in the sky, pure and untouched by the foulness of Sauron they are slogging through below on Gorgoroth. That's another perspective-giver, showing that however dark and terrible things are at hand, somewhere, in some enduring 'great tale' sense, what is good and true and beautiful prevails high above it. That Sam should muse on their part in the great tale (and whether and how it will be told by people in that tale to come) while waiting for a dreadful death calls to mind Gandalf explaining (to Theoden?) how hobbits will talk about their family trees and the pleasures of the table on the brink of destruction (if that's what Gandalf said). This poem is informed by all this, and it calls it to the reader's mind, simply, through its fidelity to Sam, and his voice, in this scene.

Author response: I am simply delighted by Samwise's delight. In this case, I can tell you when, exactly, this poem was birthed: the moment in TTT when the two hobbits see the Oliphaunt. Sam's delight was so large and childlike. And Frodo, in the midst of all his troubles, caught the joy-bug and was delighted as well. Somehow, I don't know why, images of cartoons of my childhood also entered my mind as I wrote.....'shiny toys' and 'horses, with coal eyes'. Even things of horror, when seen through the eyes of a child, become things of wonder and seeming innocence. And how Sam would have wanted that for his master (and himself). Did he believe in the grandness of their tale? Well, he was Hope Unquenchable AND Samwise the Brave. We have only to imagine the tales he told to those 13 children, of a winter evening, before the fire-place and in the room where Mr. Bilbo had taught him his letters, and Mr. Frodo had finished the Red Book. How substantial to be but a thread in the tapestry of the Grand Story, a grace-note in the music of universe..... thank you, Linda.

Reviewed by: Larner  ✧  Score: 9

I’ve always rejoiced somehow that when it appeared that Sam and Frodo were apparently dying on that tiny isle of rock in the midst of a spreading sea of lava, Sam’s last thoughts were to wonder how their tale might be told. How much greater the wonder after their awakening, therefore, to learn that someone was inspired to do just that—to cast their plight into tale form and to tell and sing it forth before the host gathered at Cormallen! I therefore love this poem by Jan-u-wine as she has Sam describing how time itself will so heal their wounds, both physical and spiritual, that they will be able to tell the tale themselves and see children listening in wonder to it, the fear it might evoke softened by it being, for them at least, merely a tale that was lived long ago and thus cannot trouble them beyond their endurance. And I get the feeling that Sam is proud that he and Frodo can so put it all behind themselves as well. I love the imagery Sam evokes as he speaks, particularly of [“coal-eyed horses”] for some reason. How perfect the picture it evokes! A poem to treasure for those of us who have been caught in the spell of the books for so much of our lives!

Author response: Dear Larner.....you know, (and I am sure you *do* know), there are some things which are just as magical to write as they are to read (and sometimes....moreso). I remember writing this piece (it's been quite awhile)and being so caught up in love for these two small heroes. I really believe that if you are feeling intensely and have any sort of prowess with words, it will come out in the writing. Sort of like being a musician...any guitarist, for example, will know their 'three chords', but only one in a thousand can weave them into beauty. I've always thought that it's their 'love', added to talent, that makes them thus. In my case, I was blessed to be Samwise, for a moment, and this was the result. I am so thankful that you enjoyed this and thank you for your kind review. ("Coal-eyed horses"....I wondered at it, but the writing had already gone beyond me. I saw Sam, seeing all that they'd seen of horseflesh, from the beyond-horror steeds of the Nazgul to his beloved Bill and Frodo's Strider...and it was, really, correct in every way). thank you again!

Reviewed by: The Lauderdale  ✧  Score: 9

jan-u-wine's poems are a marvel. They occupy a shared territory: the ones I have read all deal with Frodo or Sam and their feelings about themselves, about each other, about the task before/behind them, the business of healing (or not healing, as the case may be), and what it means to live haunted yet alive in a world that has been too much with you. Yet for all of their shared elements, these poems never feel repetitive, always offer something new to think about. This one enlarges on a scene from [The Field of Cormallen] (ROTK), in which Sam, believing that he and Frodo are going to die and trying [to keep fear away until the very last], muses on the tale that might be told about them. He effectively tells Frodo a story *about* their story: it might be [cruel hard] and [terrible sad] to others, but he assures Frodo that it isn't so. [When we tell it, in happier times that will be, we shall make it small and bright, like a shiny toy from long-ago, held tight within wondering hands.] Sam imagines the audience that will listen to them, the details the tale will include, and in so doing, he recasts the very real and unhappy things that are happening as something beautiful, fine, and finally harmless: a world in which two weary hobbits have become [the most famousest of Hobbits] and [the brave Gardener]. Sam's musings get at the transformative power of Story: making life livable by creating safe places for ourselves within the exigencies of inexorable reality.

Author response: Dear TL (I hope I may call you that!)....what a beautiful review. To be honest, there aren't many who *get* or even much care for these works, so it is very touching and encouraging that you do, and on such a lovely level. This poem was written quite a number of years ago, and to read it now takes me back to that place, a place of such amazement and beauty and love. I am so happy to have been blessed to write in the LOTR universe. It is an additional beauty and blessing that others care for these small homages to Tolkien's beloved characters. Thank you so much.

Reviewed by: Antane  ✧  Score: 6

I love these words of Hope Unquenchable, that he could still say these while going through torment and watching his beloved endure even worse hell. This is the hope and love that got them both through it all. He's right also - for us and all those who heard it through the ages, this is just a tale and a grand, beautiful, sorrowful one that celebrates all that is good in the world, especially love, courage and endurance as one struggles to fulfill God's will for them. But it is also something that these people lived through and came out to tell about it. "Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today." - Thich Nhat Hanh - such words could have said by Sam and in his very being, actually were. This is a wonderful celebration of that.

Author response: dear Antane....what beautiful words and thoughts. Frodo and Sam did embody hope, and (to me) the best thing that JRRT said, in his thematic treatment of this attribute, was that anyone who climbs to the top of their personal mountain, anyone who embarks upon a Quest (as opposed to a quest), must needs have a Frodo AND a Sam, with all the attributes of those people. You cannot have a Hope Beyond Endurance without having a Hope Unquenchable, and vice versa. Here is to our Quest, and here is to the people who we help and are helped *by*, in turn, upon our Good Way! thank you again.

Reviewed by: Darkover  ✧  Score: 5

A poem that not only pays tribute to the grand quality of the nature of story, but to Sam Gamgee's unquenchable hope, optimism, and humility. The poem captures Sam's "voice" perfectly. Never for a moment does he doubt that he and Frodo will succeed, that there tale will be remembered, that they might even live to tell it to others someday. His humility becomes a part because of the implication that even the misery, sorrow, terror, and deprivation endured by Sam and his Master are all worth it, because it meant they were part of something that was so much bigger and more important. This is a beautiful poem.

Author response: Dear Darkover....I must say that your review is every bit as touching to read for me as I believe the poem was for you. Thank you so much. It is an honour to write in the LOTR 'verse (pun intended!)

Reviewed by: Adonnen Estenniel  ✧  Score: 4

In this unique poem, the author captures Samwise Gamgee’s definitely unique voice and manner of expressing himself to perfection. The metafictional aspect of Lord of the Rings has always been interesting and widely discussed, and the author tackles it with a great deal of poise. The shorter lines and distinctly separate stanzas make a wonderful impact on the reader, and the poem as a whole has a wonderful overall impression.

Author response: Dear Adonnen Estenniel.....thank you again for reading and your very kind and generous comments!