© 2001 Edwin A. Scribner. "Morgoth made me do it."
The following document was derived from a copy of the Red Book of Westmarch.
The original entry was one of a series of addenda, entered since Bilbo, Frodo et al. went into the West. The original author must have been Gandalf, and it is presumed that he gave it to Sam at the time the ship sailed, but there is no record of this handover. The language was Westron, and in keeping with the nature of the conversation it describes, it has here been translated with considerable contemporary jargon. The reasons for Prof. Tolkien ignoring it are obscure.
But if you would know, I am turning aside soon. I am going to have
a long talk with Bombadil: such a talk as I have not had in all my time.
He is a moss-gatherer, and I have been a stone doomed to rolling. But my
rolling days are ending, and now we shall have much to say to one another.
The big grey horse drew up between the stable and the eaves of the large stone house that nestled in the lee of a hill. The wizard dismounted and, with a scarce heard word of command, dismissed Shadowfax to the stables where he had good expectations of fresh food, water and bedding. Gandalf headed for the front door of the house, but Tom Bombadil, still wearing the familiar brown breeches, blue jacket and yellow boots but without the feathered hat, emerged before he reached it.
A handshake passed between the two.
"Well met and welcome, Gandalf. I hear that your great quest is now over and that you are the winner."
"Winner is hardly the word, Tom. It was a win for the Free Peoples, certainly, but I was just doing my job and it is indeed almost complete after about two thousand years! Sauron was a tenacious and resourceful adversary and for long he had the upper hand. But in the final moves we came out on top, and he is, I believe, out of the game for as far into the future as even the Wise can see.
"By the way, would you call me 'Olo'. It's a contraction of my old name from the West, and also it reminds me of 'Frodo'. My days of being an elf with a stick are coming to an end too", he chuckled.
"You were very fond of him, weren't you?"
"Tom, remember Eru's 'things more wonderful' speech? Well Frodo was one of them! A truly amazing little being, his latent capabilities were just what was needed. Yet, were it not for Sauron, and hence of course Morgoth before him, Frodo would have gone on living in quiet seclusion with nobody the wiser. I can't even give myself credit for choosing him, although I was instrumental in selecting Bilbo for that rather contentious dragon treasure hunt and of course that led to the Ring and then to Frodo."
"You didn't choose him to come into possession of the Ring, Olo, but surely you did select him for the role of Ring-bearer."
"Not even that, Tom. He selected himself. Of course I wanted him to come to Rivendell, and that was adventure enough. He and his company came close to death four times before he even got to Bree and Aragorn! Fortunately you saved them on two occasions, neither of which were the agency of Sauron but which probably would have played into Sauron's hands anyway."
"Just doing my job too, Olo", laughed Bombadil. Anyway, I'm fond of hobbits myself, as I'm sure you well know."
"Yes. We have a similar natural curiosity, one not compatible with a lust for power. Neither of us could ever be a Dark Lord without help. However we do see duty rather differently."
"Uh oh, I had a feeling you might want to bring this up."
"I might bring it up, but certainly not for anything like recrimination, if that's what you're thinking."
"The thought did occur to me."
"Well forget it. I don't have the kind of wisdom that could identify your actions as folly, much less abrogation of duty. I came here in friendship and a spirit of mutually beneficial dialogue, you may be sure of that."
"That is a relief then!" replied Bombadil with a laugh. "Come in and rest your weary legs etc."
"Thanks, Tom. Don't mind though if I stand for a while. Riding a horse is hard on a part of the anatomy, even when the horse is Shadowfax. By the way, will he find feed, water and bedding in your stable?"
"Hey, Olo! You seem to forget. I look after animals."
"Sorry old chap. I tend to think too often in terms of Men, and it's amazing what they will forget on occasions. Fortunately, I think that Men can now look after themselves in Middle Earth and won't require my services any longer. Hobbits too. You know they're about to have to fight a war on their own patch?"
"Oh. Saruman, I suppose."
"The same. But I don't think you need worry about the outcome. Saruman was broken before I divested him. He's barely a shadow of his former self. His only weapon now is words, and Frodo and company know all about that."
"I heard vaguely about the invasion of Isengard by the Ents. It must have been quite a sight."
"It was, and I'll tell you more over some of that nice light mead that you plied the hobbits with. You know how Frodo described it? 'It seemed to be clear cold water, yet it went to their hearts like wine and set free their voices.' "
"Heh! I must admit that is good stuff. You are of course welcome to it, but have a care, Olo. I know from Beorn that wizards can take a lot and not show signs. Winter is approaching, and my resources are limited."
"Beorn? Yes, he made a good drop too. As they do in Rivendell and Lothlorien. The Elves will be sadly missed."
Bombadil might have protested that the Elves were highly skilled in many areas other than mead making, but Gandalf strode purposefully towards the door, leaving the garrulous Bombadil trailing in his wake.
The door opened on a large room, furnished with several substantial well built chairs and a large table made of solid oak. The top was perhaps three inches thick. Bombadil bustled in and headed for the pantry. He emerged with a big earthenware bottle and two stone mugs of generous size. A cheerful fire was burning in the grate and Gandalf hastened to warm himself in front of it, as the weather had now become quite cold. He accepted the proffered mug and took a sip.
"Nice. I don't know what got into the hobbits. Is this the same stuff you gave them?"
"Exactly. However, they were thirsty and recovering from ordeal by willow."
"Still, you'd think they'd at least notice the sweetness."
"You might be surprised at what isn't noticeable if you aren't concentrating and don't know what it is you're drinking. They assumed water because it looked like water. You'll notice that it's almost clear."
"They also, no doubt, assumed that you were possessed of Great Magic, and therefore could get them tipsy without the benefit of fermented liquor. But I am forgetting my place as a guest. Thank you Tom. It is delicious and it certainly came at a good time. Not, of course, to denigrate Butterbur and his fine ale. He insists that I put some kind of good brewing spell on it. Fact is he does a good job of brewing, whatever other attributes he may lack."
"He's a bit outside my territory, and in any case I'm quite content with either the Golden Perch or Maggot's home brew."
"Ah! The Shire! Wonderful place. It's a shame I won't have time for another social visit, but if anything made my 2000 years in Middle Earth worthwhile it was surely the Shire!"
"You say Saruman is there stirring up trouble."
"He'd been obtaining produce from the Shire for a long time. Probably dishonestly and with threats and intimidation. However, his days are now numbered and, If I know anything about the four hobbits, very few in number."
"Still, it is a shame. He was capable of great things."
"He greatly underestimated Sauron. He assumed that, with Sauron not possessing the Ring, he would be a reasonable match for him. That was why he looked through the Palantir of Orthanc. He had expected to actually come to grips with Sauron and maybe even overcome him. It was no contest. Sauron was very powerful, much more so than Saruman even without the Ring. Saruman soon became hooked on the Dark Lord way of life. Oh he strutted his stuff about the good of the free peoples but he was clearly after power."
"Good thing you didn't seize the Ring, huh?"
"Don't say it! Don't even think it! That was a fearful temptation. Had I not long before decided that Sauron was much too powerful a force to be fought with single combat I may have been gulled into the belief that I could bend the power of the Ring to my own ends. I think Galadriel may have thought so too, but I had long discussions with her concerning Sauron's power and, when actually given the option, she rejected the Ring. It proved a very wise decision for her. That rejection was probably what swayed the Valar to finally cancel the ban they had on her entering Valinor. She'll be on the ship that I take."
"Another big win. I think that ship will take the last of the Eldar."
"Not quite. Cirdan will be the last, but he too will probably go within the next few years."
"Which leaves me."
"Yes. It does rather. How will you fit in with the world of Men?"
"Not too well, I suspect. But I can go to Valinor any time."
Bombadil shook his head slowly and sadly. Gandalf decided to drop that matter for the present.
"So," continued Bombadil, changing the subject, "will Aragorn be as good as Elendil?"
"Horses for courses, Tom. Aragorn has a different job to do and I think he'll do it well, but I have to say he's no Elendil, and he doesn't have the cultural background of Numenor at its height. Still, I think he'll be able to order all things to good for as long as he lives. How long the reunited kingdoms will stand after that is anyone's guess, and it won't concern me."
"What's the Valar's take on a completely Man-dominated Middle-Earth?"
"It seems to have been within Manwe's visualisation of the future. The age of Men may well last until the End. But an End there must be."
"What do you think will become of hobbits?"
"A good question. As you may guess, Aragorn .. er .. Elessar has made decrees preserving the Shire from all trespass, and he's prepared to back that with a lot of force if necessary. Given the role of hobbits in the War, I think it's no more than could be expected. But there may well come a time when the Shire becomes a very enviable place; a nice prize for marauding hordes, if and when we get marauding hordes. Its' own inhabitants will no doubt put up stiff resistance but their future is not good if once the King withdraws his support. I mean a successor, not Elessar himself."
"'Elfstone'", mused Bombadil. "I wonder what will come of this presumably last liaison between elves and men."
"Not a lot, I think, in the end. Arwen has effectively become a mortal woman. She'll have to endure agony at the time of Elessar's death. He has the power of Voluntary Departure, you know."
"I didn't know, but I'm not surprised. Anyway, elves are not my care or concern. Tell me about the Ents."
"Of course," said Gandalf sinking gratefully into a chair, "but before I begin, how about some more lubrication?"
"Oh. Sorry." Bombadil brought the bottle back to the table.
"You've met Fangorn and some of the others, I believe. They probably haven't changed noticeably in the past few hundred years. A very long lived species, but not immortal. Roused slowly but very formidable foes when on the warpath. They didn't do things by halves when the sacked Isengard. Saruman was lucky they didn't invade Orthanc and carry him off."
"I believe that one ent was killed."
"That must have been bigger news than I thought. Of course it appears that no more Ents will be born. All the survivors seem to be males. The females were probably all massacred in Sauron's scorched earth policy not long before the Last Alliance."
"Yes, the bastard! He didn't do much that can't be undone, but that was one thing. It may even have been enough for me to get involved in the War, had I thought I could do anything useful."
"That's water under the bridge now. I say, Tom, did I ever tell you what fine mead you make?"
"Now that you mention it, I don't believe you did. That's a yeast culture I got from Imladris several thousand years ago, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's changed a lot in that time," replied Bombadil filling the wizard's mug once more.
The mead was mellowing both the maiar, and once again Gandalf reflected on the pleasures of the flesh, few though they be for a being that knows pure spiritual existence. However, the Children of Eru were worth it, even for two thousand years.
"Tom, what prompted you to settle down in your own little plot? Don't you sometimes hanker after wider spaces?"
"Never. Did you know my role in the Great Music?"
"Now that you mention it, no."
"I had a small but important part to play. A little theme that kept cropping up in all sorts of unlikely places. Sometimes it seemed that I had nothing to do for thousands of bars, but then the theme would pop up again and I would make my mark on an important movement in the Music. I like to think that I have made a completely unique contribution, one that no one else could or would make, but we won't know that until the End."
"Care to elaborate, because I think I know what you're talking about."
"No, and I don't think you do."
"Let me guess. The hobbits."
"Oh come on, Olo! I had no hand in their affairs, unless you count a casual friendship with Maggot and some of the Bucklanders."
Gandalf didn't think that Bombadil had any close involvement with the hobbits, but he wanted to give him, for the moment, the impression that this had been his line of thinking.
"I know you were one of Yavanna's maiar. I presume that trees are a special preserve of yours. What did Yavanna feel about your settling down in one little corner of Middle Earth?"
"Fine. She only wished that she could get other maiar to go to other forests, especially where the Ents were living. But she accepted my destination without any complaint."
"Was this before the Elves?"
"Yes, but after the Two Trees."
"So you've been here over six thousand years?"
"That's right. I've seen the Old Forest grow and prosper, and now I'm watching it decline."
"I guess there isn't much about it that you don't know."
"You guess right. I know all the trees and the larger animals. Can't keep track of the grasses and insects, I'll admit." Gandalf wasn't sure whether this was sarcasm or a genuine expression of the limits of his powers.
A thought suddenly struck the wizard. "Where's Goldberry?"
"Upstairs doing embroidery. Or at least she was last time I saw her. She should be down soon."
"Waterlily flowers are over?"
"Yes. Why...? Oh, of course. Frodo's account naturally included the water lilies."
"Frodo's account missed very little, I do believe. He also mentioned that you put on the Ring."
"On my little finger, heh heh. I didn't disappear. Also when Frodo was so reckless as to put it on I could see him but the other hobbits couldn't. I think he half expected it not to work after I'd touched it. If life were only so easy, eh?"
"I take it you felt no special desires about the Ring."
"Mild curiosity. It had no power over me if that's what you mean."
"Exactly what I told them at Rivendell. I also told them that it was pointless giving it to you for safekeeping because you most probably wouldn't keep it safe."
"A wise precaution. I may have been able to withstand a nazgul or two; maybe even all nine. They had no real power of course and their sheer terror would hardly touch me. But they could have rolled up with an army of orcs, and I haven't got any powers over an army of orcs. They'd have had the Ring in no time."
"A nazgul stabbed Frodo."
"Immobilised him with fear first, I'll bet."
"You may be right. I wasn't there. You heard about my experience with Saruman?"
"That he imprisoned you in Orthanc? Yes. One of the elves from the Havens told me about that."
"You've been getting plenty of news about the outside world then?"
"Enough. Of course everyone's been agog with the news of Frodo's disposal of the Ring. How did he do it?"
"He cast it into the Crack of Doom. I assumed you knew that."
"OK, now let's have the real story. I know quite well that Frodo could never have just done the deed in cold blood. He was far too attached to the Ring. Any mortal would have been, and perhaps a few immortals too."
"Smeagol pursued him and Sam. When Frodo arrived at the Sammath Naur, and he did get there by his own power, he put the Ring on and claimed it for himself. Smeagol fought with him and bit off the finger with the ring on it. Then, it seems, he became so carried away with his possession that he slipped and fell into the crack."
"Quite a story. Not only do I believe it, I can't see any other way it could have happened. One of those events that no one could predict. You must have had the possibility in mind though."
"Like you, I couldn't see any other way it could have happened. A slim chance, it seemed, but the only chance. You know, for half of that journey Frodo and Sam were completely on their own. Worse, they had to trust Smeagol who turned treacherous and tried to put them in the hands of Shelob. You know Shelob?"
"Heard of her. How did they escape her?"
"It's a long story, but basically Sam stabbed her in the abdomen. Must have done some serious damage too. Nobody knows whether she lived."
"Wow! I should have seen the potential hero in Sam. It was he who alerted me to the plight of Merry and Pippin. Frodo was there too, but I gather that Sam was the only one who kept clear of Old Man Willow, and he was able to rescue Frodo from the water."
The light patter of feet could be heard on a staircase towards the rear of the house.
"He's here, love," called Bombadil.
Goldberry was dressed in an ankle length gown of bright green material that looked soft and fuzzy. She also wore a darker green shawl and sandals that looked like leather.
"Hello Gandalf. Long time no see." She smiled at the ancient wizard.
"He likes to be called Olo", responded Bombadil. His manner was perfunctory, and it gave the impression that he wanted her to go along with it although he couldn't see a good reason why.
Gandalf smiled back and took scant notice of Bombadil's apparent aspersion.
"Hail Daughter of the River! Frodo has said much of you."
"Does that matter?" asked Goldberry, apparently genuinely puzzled.
"Anything that Frodo says probably does matter to Olo", added Bombadil.
"It does indeed. Tom, Goldberry, I want you to know that Frodo was in no way my puppet. He was, of course, advised by me but had he any compunctions about going to Mount Doom with the Ring I should have felt obliged to save him from the fate."
"What options did you have?" Bombadil queried.
"Certainly none of the other hobbits. There was a case for Aragorn going. True he was the rightful king of the reunited kingdoms, but had the Ring not been destroyed there would have been no reunited kingdoms, or rather they would have been Sauron's. It's an interesting speculation. Boromir of course would have tried to use the Ring at once and so given the game away. Gimli or Legolas or both might have attempted it, but in the event either one would have failed to cast away the Ring, and chances are that either would have killed Smeagol long before the end, so there would have been no fight on the brink to end with Smeagol's carrying the Ring into the Fire."
"Which leaves only you."
"Yes. I would at least have thought along the lines of pity for Smeagol. But I probably would not have simply put on the Ring at the Crack of Doom. And to be as frank and honest as I can, I would not have had the will to cast it into the Crack. Moreover, Sauron would have been aware of my presence in Mordor and sent a vast horde of orcs to waylay me. In the end it may have come down to a gladiatorial combat with Sauron, but either I would have defeated him with the Ring and assumed the mantle of Dark Lord or he would have defeated me and recovered the Ring.
"I think you're right. So Frodo it was. Frodo for the dirty job of actually handling the Ring, Sam as a bodyguard. A very dangerous tactic but against all the odds it worked."
"Yes, so you should surely see reason behind the respect I have for Frodo."
"Oh don't get me wrong, Ga ... er ... Olo", responded Goldberry, "I really liked Frodo. A very pleasant gentlehobbit as they would say in the Shire. Eloquent too. But a hero? He just didn't impress me that way."
"Exactly, and they make the best heroes. Aragorn is highly skilled, a doughty warrior and a very astute judge of character, all of which makes him a good king, but Frodo operating offstage of what appeared to be the main action in the War, was the one who really won it. Aragorn knows it too, and there's nothing he wouldn't do for either Frodo or Sam. That's why he's declared the Shire a heritage area of overwhelming importance. He's throw half his army at it if it needed protection. But I don't think it'll come to that in his lifetime, and who knows what kind of ruler will follow him?"
Gandalf, who was no mean judge of character himself, noticed that Goldberry seemed to have become just a little misty eyed at the mention of Aragorn. To anyone else that would have been puzzling or it would have been dismissed as a misinterpretation. But Gandalf had his reasons for anticipating something of that sort, just as he had reasons for anticipating the fire writing that was revealed on the Ring by heating it.
"Speaking of Aragorn, did you see him much around here?" Gandalf tried to keep his question innocent sounding, while carefully watching Goldberry's facial muscles.
"Quite often, by my standards of quite often." It was Bombadil who replied casually. "He often used to stay in Bree. We sometimes had his company when he was heading to or from there."
"Yes. Butterbur was suspicious of him. Mind you, Aragorn did little to allay his suspicions. He told the simple innkeeper very little, reasoning that what he didn't know he couldn't tell others."
"What did you think of him, Goldberry?" Gandalf snapped the question suddenly.
"Oh!" Goldberry gave a little gasp, "He was nice to us. Gallant, I'd call him. Why do you ask? Surely you'd expect nothing else."
Gandalf did not reply at once, but appeared to be carefully weighing a number of matters. Finally he said:
"You're very attractive, Goldberry."
"Goodness, Olo. I didn't think that the appearances of women would matter much to you."
"Ordinarily not much perhaps, but in your case ..."
"Tom, when are you going to tell me the truth about Goldberry?" The question was put rather in the manner of a masterful move in chess. A move that could suddenly be seen as a prelude to a swift and certain checkmate.
For an instant Bombadil looked at a loss. However, he quickly responded:
"You've surely heard the story of Goldberry?"
"I have, Tom, and I don't believe it." Said Gandalf with an undisguised air of finality.
Bombadil's expression was anything but confident. He seemed to be considering options. If this was bluff, he'd better call it. If not there was even more reason for having it out in the open.
"I take it that you have an alternative explanation. May we hear it?"
"Certainly. Why do you call Goldberry 'your lady' and not your wife?
Bombadil decided to let Gandalf answer the obviously rhetorical question.
"It's because she's not your wife. She's your daughter, isn't she?"
Goldberry's face froze. Bombadil glared. Neither said anything.
"Shall I go on?"
"Of course." Bombadil was refusing to acknowledge that the game was up, yet he realised that he must have given the wizard just the signals that he was looking for.
"This is the best that I can read it. About 1600 years ago, 1610 years to be precise, Cardolan was overrun by forces of Angmar and Rhudaur, and the survivors fled here. They hid in the Barrow Downs and the Old Forest. One of them was a woman who was very beautiful. You said as much to Frodo."
"I did?" Bombadil looked puzzled.
"The blue brooch. The one Goldberry is wearing now. You retrieved it from a barrow on the day that the hobbits were trapped there."
Bombadil nodded slowly. There didn't seem to be much that Gandalf didn't know. He continued.
"I think she had a name that linked her with rivers. I guess 'Nenuriel' ".
Both Bombadil and Goldberry started visibly at this demonstration of the wizard's knowledge.
"That must have been near the mark."
"It was right on it," replied Goldberry breathlessly.
"Ah. A little luck there, but I suspected a Sindarin name and something to do with water. This woman was probably widowed, her husband killed in a recent battle. She had no children. One night she came to your door."
"Scared out of her wits. I took her in of course."
"Yes, and you looked after her for a long time. Perhaps eighty years, before she succumbed to natural causes."
"Close, Olo. Very close."
"She bore you a daughter."
Goldberry visibly blanched. Bombadil saw that there was no point in withholding any more.
"First and only child of a mortal woman and a maia. Second child from the union of a maia and a child of Eru. Comparable only with Luthien herself."
"Did you think that Goldberry would be immortal?"
"She's not immortal in the sense that we are immortal. As best I can tell, she will live until the end of Arda, then she will follow the fate of all Men, whatever that is.
"So much I guessed. Now comes the hard one. Why have you kept her cooped up in your house, invented a story that you found her on a river bank, and called her your 'lady'?"
"Middle Earth is not ready to know the truth yet."
"Jealousy? What about Aragorn? It seems to me that Fair Lady Goldberry feels a little anxious about the new king."
"I was in love with him," replied Goldberry simply, all trace of pretense now gone from her voice.
But Gandalf was thinking. When he replied it was slowly, as if feeling his way through some as yet unconsidered ideas.
"The new king wedded to an immortal woman rather than an elf? Hm ... would it have been the choice of Luthien for you? Would you have seen yourself as dying, as surely Arwen will now do within the next hundred years of so?"
"I ... I don't know."
"But you will remain immortal in the mortal lands. Tom, I don't know how tenable this position is."
"Neither do I, but I haven't had any messages from the West, where they surely know about it by now."
"A valid point. Well, perhaps a new twist to the Great Music that none of us remembered. But tell me: what kind of a father are you? Has Goldberry had any suitors? If so what is your role in their suit?"
"None. They all think she's my wife. That's as far as it goes. Goldberry didn't care until Aragorn came along. Then she discovered that he was promised to Arwen."
"Hmm ... it would be a real shame if Goldberry didn't have progeny. But the sire had better be an important person in Middle Earth."
"We have thought long and hard about this matter," replied Bombadil dolefully. "Of course things are now changing and maybe some men of noble lineage will be available. Still, I'm loath to make known to all and sundry just who and what Goldberry is. I had hoped I might receive some direction, but none has come."
"There's still a possibility in the reunited kingdom. Aragorn will no doubt want a son, and he'll want a suitable wife for that son. But of course that doesn't answer the serious question of what happens when Aragorn's son dies. Goldberry will be single again."
"That might not matter. Also that union makes great appeal since the line of Bombadil and Nenuriel will have become mixed with the line of Melian and Thingol. That seems like a logical and satisfying conclusion.
Granted. Well, poor Goldberry has waited 1600 years for a mate. I suppose she can wait a little longer."
"I never thought about it much, Olo. I've been too absorbed in the land and its plant and animal life. It's amazing what you don't miss if you've never experienced it?"
"Well rest assured, both of you, that your little secret is safe with me, but it was bound to come out sooner or later. I think that the King or the King's Man would have had the secret from you one day."
"You may well be right, Olo. Goldberry and I will prepare for the time when it becomes known. I will, of course, have to live alone again, but I did it for millennia, I can do it again."
"Oh come on father. You will often see me. I'll ask to visit the north kingdom for half the year. The warm half of course," she laughed.
"It isn't all settled yet. Aragorn's son may have his own ideas on a bride, and Aragorn cannot dictate his marriage partner."
"Maybe not, but the idea has a good feel to it. I think that somehow that will work out. Now, how about some food? Can you rustle up something, Goldberry?"
"Of course father. The usual?"
"Certainly. And another bottle of mead. It feels like a celebration is in order!"
"What an excellent idea!" added Gandalf. "By the way, Tom, I'm just curious because I'm sure all your provender is as excellent as your mead, but just what is "the usual"?
"With guests, bread, butter, honey, wild berries, other fruits in season and cream."
"Wow! You do live well!"
"We don't eat animals of course, but I have no misgivings about letting cows, goats and bees work for us."
"Er ... leather pants? Leather sandals?"
"They were in fact bought by trade. The leather comes from old horses that are put down painlessly, usually because they are too old even to feed themselves properly and are in pain from the various maladies that affect all old mortal animals, including Men. We can still use animal products without being responsible for needless death of animals."
"Tom; Goldberry; I like your style! Here's to the Luddites!"
"Oops. Getting a bit ahead of myself. Hobbits are very much in the Luddite tradition. Minimum of technology."
"Uh ... forget it."
"I think I will."
Gandalf drank more mead than was good for him. So did Bombadil and Goldberry. They talked long into the night about the Forest, the Shire, Bree-land, The new United Kingdom, and perhaps many things never later reported outside the confines of that trio. Next day, after a long sleep-in, Gandalf left, headed south. He had some business in Edoras, Minas Tirith, Lothlorien and Rivendell, but nothing urgent. He could afford to take his time and spend the winter months in the southern lands. He felt much refreshed by the evening with Bombadil and his lovely daughter, glad they sorted out the matter of Goldberry apparently to everyone's satisfaction, and hopeful of finding Aragorn responsive to the idea of Goldberry marrying into the royal family.
Two years later he was on the road west, to the Grey Havens and Valinor.
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