There was an emptiness in Bilbo’s heart. It showed in how he walked, how he spoke and even how he smoked his pipe. He had tried to fill that void ever since he returned to Bag End after his long adventure to Erabor. The first time he noticed was when he realized that there was nothing else to do after he had to take every personal item from his fellow kin when people thought he was dead and raided his smial. One by one he had to walk to each hobbit and indicate them that he was in fact very much alive and that he would much appreciate his belongings back. Oh, the things he had to do to prove his identity. He was tired but it was the good type. The type where one recognized that one did something productive and didn’t leave space for thoughts.
Once he had cleaned the unwanted dirt, polished the windows, waxed the floor, watered the plats, filled his stock of food, painted the round, wooden door, this with precision because he didn’t want to erase the fehu rune symbol that his wizard friend kindly carved on his beautiful green door. It was a reminder. And so on. After he finished, he sat down and all of his memories rushed at once giving him a headache. He decided he didn’t need that in his life and stood up, placed his index finger in his pocket, feeling the ring, tapping his big fuzzy foot on the floor and headed out—of course with his pipe and handkerchief.
The journey didn’t last a year but he did turn fifty-one when he reached Lake Town on their one hundred and fifty-one-day adventure. That was the loudest and uncomfortable birthday he had ever had until he turned one hundred and eleven. After he returned he wasn’t the same and the people around him found him weird and didn’t respect him as much—good riddance! He remembered the first birthday he had with his nephew. It was after he was ninety-nine years old, forty-eight years before his heart was filled with love by his heir. He had heard that Frodo’s parents drowned in a boating accident and spent nine years in Brandy Hall. He had to do something. He was a Baggins!
Master Bilbo was about to turn a hundred and was going to do what he always did: make himself a nice dinner and wait for the day to end but Frodo Baggins had other plans. It was the first birthday with his uncle and he wanted to show his gratitude. He had asked Samwise Gamgee’s mother, Bell Goodchild, to bake a small cake since he realized that her husband, Hamfast “The Gaffer” Gamgee was particularly fond of Bilbo—to the point that he let Sam be tutored by Bilbo. They were the only ones who didn’t look at them weird.
It was a small carrot cake (The Gaffer suggested it since he had a passion for vegetables. It just brought chuckles and eye rolls.) He still remembered how it looked like: the cake was cut into two slices and in the middle, filled with frosting filling and on top a circled frosting with sliced almonds. He hadn’t seen him all day and he was a bit disappointed but didn’t really matter until at night Frodo called Bilbo to come into the dining room and surprised him. That day he realized that they shared the same birthday
Those twelve years were warm.
His thoughts were interrupted by a gust of fair wind and the sudden increase of light. Bilbo had to shield his eyes for a brief moment. He was still sitting on the marble bench after he told Bellthandien the story of his kin. He didn’t realize that it would have taken him so much energy and now he was feeling that emptiness in his chest. Being in Valinor, in the Undying Lands wasn’t enough for him.
I can feel your heart… Bilbo Baggins…
A fair whisper resonated in his mind and heart.
Giving the Ring of Power all the blame for your stretched soul is unwise… your memories from long ago have hunted you…
He looked over his arm and saw a slender figure in front of him with golden, cascading hair over her shoulders, a white dress that accentuated her figure and fell over the marble floor like foam from the sea, her blue eye that held wisdom and kindness but control and without fear. Lady Galadriel had graced him with her presence. He was honored but confused.
She smiled at him. It was the first time he had seen her without her husband, Lord Caleborn or Gandalf. He stood up as quick as his frail body could let him and bowed his head. She lifted her hand slightly implying to rest. “In Valinor emotions are stronger and can be heard like an echo in the mountains, especially when they come from a mortal being like yourself. It is not wrong to feel but it is unwise to hold it in. This place is for healing just as my daughter came here long ago. Her mind and soul never fully healed… but there is still hope…” she looked sad and Bilbo felt sad. “But like every living being in this world, what it needs to heal is time.” There was a pause. “But you had plenty of time to heal, Bilbo Baggins but it isn’t enough. Not even this place can fill your heart.”
Bilbo didn’t what to admit it and it brought to shame. “My Lady, I am very grateful for being here. If your grace feels like I am not I apolo—” again she raised her hand and he closed his mouth into a thin line.
She smiled again with kindness an understanding. “Do not feel shame for your process of healing.” Lady Galadriel walked towards Bilbo and sat on the same bench and, with flustered cheeks, he sat next to her. He could feel the light in his wrinkly face. “Each of us is different and our paths are different. How we walk it is up to us. Some walk it slowly; some run it and some have someone by their side and it still works for each one of them. I think that’s beautiful.” She touched his old and frail hand and he felt like the light rushed to his body making him feel relaxed and a few years younger.
“My Lady, what do you recommend to heal? Each time I am alone or close my eyes I see him, bleeding. Is my pain that loud that you had to intervene?” again he felt shame.
“My dear Bilbo,” he could hear Gandalf saying his name through her. “Again, there is nothing wrong with feeling or how much you feel. But if you would like, I could help you heal. After all, we are in Valinor.”
Meet me at the hill of Ezellohar, outside of the City of Bells, an hour before sunrise where the Trees of Valinor once stood.
He kept repeating her orders in his head just in case he forgot them. But that worry wasn’t sincere, if the loss of memory was a problem for him he wouldn’t be worried about his memories and his empty heart. Bilbo went to the little place they had made for him. Gratefully it looked like Bag End but it would never be Bag End. It felt like when one goes on a vacation and the place is nice and comfortable but it would never be home and one can’t help but miss it and desire to go back. The light in his smial was warm and real, the light of Valinor was distant and not for the skin of a mortal. It was timeless, it was motionless. Some might consider it distant and cold, some might consider it pure, like a memory.
He waited awake in the chair that was next to the round window. It had a wooden table in front of him with half-finished books and drafts and maps of Middle Earth. At one point he did fell asleep but soon was shaken awake by a cold wind since he had the window open. His heart was beating fast when he realized he didn’t know what time it was. He looked at the sand clock that he placed in front of him, the last sand dropped and he knew. Bilbo took the staff that Bellthandien gave him after he left. It was made of oak, perfect for his size, it was lumpy and at the top of it, four roots split open, twisting themselves until it made an opened sphere.
Bilbo Baggins didn’t know where he was going but at the same time, he did. He thought it was because Valinor was such a magical and timeless place that everything was connected even with the beings that weren’t supposed to be there. It was alive. Sometimes, if one is being careful and attentive, one could hear it breathe and talk—not in the way one would understand or identify as a spoken language but one knew. The hobbit felt blessed that this place was helping him.
It took Bilbo a month to gather his equipment, hire a carriage and set over to his last adventure. Not that riding silently over the woods, passing through Calacirya that was a narrow path through a chain of mountains, pass the Holy Mountain, which is the highest peak in all Valinor, pass the city of Tirion and finally enter the city of Valmar which has golden gates, silver domes, and streets filled paved with gold—and exit it and find the hill of Ezellohar where once the Two Trees stood. Of course, Bilbo didn’t miss opportunities to sketch the places, rich himself in knowledge and write everything on loose papers that were secured by a leathered folder. It took so long because he was staying close to Alqualondë where the ships would enter. It was a beautiful place, full of pearls and marble.
Finally, after walking through the wood he found a field and in the distance, he could see mountains and closer there were some plateaus. There was a paved path with white flat stones that lead to the hill of Ezellohar. There were two stumps of trees, big and wide but dead. They were as tall as his eye level. There he waited and waited until he saw a light in the distance moving towards him. It was Lady Galadriel with a white robe and the hood over her golden hair. He bowed and she smiled.
“Come,” she gestured and he walked right behind her. “Here lived the Two Trees that gave light to Valinor when there were only stars and no sun and moon. We lost them long ago but soon they will return.” She looked at Bilbo. “They might look dead, broken with no remedy, but there is more than meets the eye.” she walked over the Tree that was called Laurelin that represented the sun. She was the tree that Lady Galadriel identified the most. With a swift move of her fingers, she caressed the stump with the tip of her fingers and Bilbo saw a glint of golden light that moved like a fish in the water. Galadriel smiled and Bilbo gasped. “They still need time to heal. The way they died was horrible and the magic it was used was powerful. But nothing is impossible.” That gave Bilbo hope. “I cannot deny that I had ulterior motives. I was asked by Gandalf to help you but don’t misinterpret me, Bilbo Baggins, I was on my way to you when he asked.”
“That old wizard.” He grunted. But Lady Galadriel knew he cared for the old wizard! “Instead of meddling in the affairs of others, he should attend himself. He thinks I don’t know what happened to him. I’m no fool!” He realized what he was doing and stopped. “I apologize, My Lady.”
Lady Galadriel moved closer to Bilbo. “Right after the Two Trees, there is a place called the Halls of Mandos where the spirits dwell. Only Elves and Humans could roam the halls. I and my kin are doom to wait until the end of time for our fates, or so we believe while Humans go to a different hall to be judged. The reason behind such cruel happening is because our fëa, our souls and hröa, our bodies are united as one because we were made that way. We were essentially made to be on this earth forever until evil came and death was an option. That’s why we do not leave earth; we just roam the Halls of Mandos until there is a release. Humans have their soul and bodies separated in death because that is the nature of Humans. Since we are different, we don’t even know what happens when the Humans are judged. But there is still something to be done with those souls that roam the halls. If it chooses, it can reincarnate into the same body it was originally bound but it can’t return to Middle Earth unless it has some unfinished business but that depends on the judgment.”
There is a certain sadness in the knowledge of one’s death if it ever occurs to an Elf and Bilbo could tell by the way Lady Galadriel talked about it. Still, he did not know why he was there other than the fact that she wanted to help him heal. But he didn’t care about his process of healing but rather he was engrossed by the knowledge of the afterlife of the Elves and Humans. His fingers itched for a pen and a paper.
“Hobbits are a branch of Humans but not quite so it is uncertain what will happen when one dies.” Bilbo gulped. “But that’s why I’m here,” she smiled again. “I can offer you reincarnation.” The Halfling almost fainted in front of her. “I know where to send you once your soul is judged. I, myself am not Eru but he created me and my kin and I believe I can manipulate how you reincarnate. This is a gift for the Fellowship or those who were close to the Ring of Power, such as yourself.”
“How? I will not go back to Middle Earth as a Hobbit?”
She didn’t answer the question and that scared him. He only knew how to Hobbit, not like she said he will remember his previous life. “Do you trust me?” The Lady Galadriel asked sure of herself. How could he not trust her?
“Yes, My Lady.” His eyes watered.
“I have seen your heart and even though you do not know what you want, I do. I have felt it and I sympathize. I asked you to come here an hour before sunrise because it means a new beginning, a new day, a new opportunity, a new life. I can offer you this now. All you have to do is take my hand.” She extended her slender hand towards Bilbo. It was almost felt like a crime that he had to touch her. Right before he took it he pulled back.
“What about Frodo? What about Gandalf?” Galadriel smiled but didn’t pull back her hand.
“Like you, Frodo still needs time to heal, not only his mind and heart was affected by the Ring of Power but also physically by the Witch-King’s Morgul-blade. You have seen him touching it from time to time. He still needs time.” Bilbo’s heart squeezed at the thought of his nephew still in pain. “And Gandalf knows. Do not worry. He is here with you and will be until the end.” He believed her. Bilbo could see a faint halo around her. He was here.
“Before I take your hand, all I want to say is thank you.” Even though Lady Galadriel is an old and wise Elf she still took his words and held them close to her heart.
He took her hand; she whispered a melody and white light erupted from her blinding him. The next thing he saw was his house in Bag End. He was standing in the middle of his smial, he felt younger, like the time before he went to Erabor. He touched his chest and gasped. The light coming from his window felt real and warm. Bilbo could even hear the birds chirping. Suddenly the door opened and he jumped a bit. It was Frodo with a book in his hand and the apple in the other. He took a bit while closing it. He looked so fresh. “Frodo…” He whispered and the Halfling turned around and smiled. “My boy!” he ran to him and hugged him.
“What’s wrong Uncle Bilbo?” he giggled.
“Nothing, lad.” His eyes watered. “It’s just… it’s just so good to see you so…so…” how could he describe the time before the Ring? He couldn’t. Bilbo stopped and took him by the arm. “Come, come!”
“Why the rush, Uncle Bilbo?” Frodo was concerned.
Bilbo was about to open his mouth when there was a knock on the door. He grunted. “Who is it?” he yelled. “I’m busy!”
“Just an old friend!” yelled Gandalf. Bilbo’s eyes winded and ran towards the door. He opened it and Gandalf was not Gandalf the White but Gandalf the Grey. It was so nostalgic his heart ached. “My dear Bilbo!”
“Come in! Come in!” Both of them stood side by side in the middle of the living room, both of them with smiles on their faces. “Heavens! What a picture!” he clasped his hands and sighed. “I wish this could last forever.” Gandalf and Frodo looked at each other and laughed. Oh, how he wanted to stay there forever. “Is this real?”
Gandalf leaned over and smiled. “What does your heart tell you?” Bilbo touched his chest and he could feel it beating.
“I-I… feel like I should tell you, right now… goodbye.” Neither of them was surprised. A tear rolled down his cheek. “I just want to say to Frodo,” he faced his nephew. “I’m sorry. It was my fault that you never had a normal life. I never wanted that for you. I took it away! I’m sorry that you became me…”
Frodo took a step towards him and placed his hand over Bilbo’s shoulder. “Oh, Uncle Bilbo… you gave me everything. You gave me a home, you gave me stories, and you gave me a family. I never resented you for giving me the Ring. It was my choice to take the responsibility and I would do it again if it meant that it wouldn’t hurt you anymore.” Bilbo sobbed.
“Oh my,” said Gandalf. “I’ve never seen you so open,” he took his hat off and a few strands of hair fell over his face.
“There is a first time for everything.” Said Bilbo and faced him. “My friend Gandalf.” Both of them smiled. “You gave me what I needed even though I was so stubborn. I thought you were a curse but you were actually a blessing. I don’t know how my life would have been if you never had made that rune on my door. Thank you for giving me the adventure of a lifetime.” Gandalf took his index finger and whipped away a tear. Now he was facing both of them. “I feel like I regret nothing.” He had found peace.
There was a knock on the door and he was confused. Frodo looked at Gandalf and grinned and Gandalf smirked. “I see your ride has come.” Said the wizard.
“My ride?” Gandalf gestured him to go to the door. Frodo and Gandalf followed him with their eyes.
Bilbo took the knob and opened it and a white light illuminated his body. Someone stood between him and the light. Bilbo saw a hand stretch towards him and he knew. “Come, Master Burglar. It’s time.” Slowly Bilbo took the hand of his beloved dwarf and stepped into the light.
In some unknown place, in some unknown woods in Middle Earth stand two oak trees with branches entwining with each other. One is older than the other but equally strong. Their roots are so buried in the soil that no storm could tear them apart. Now they live in harmony.