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Honour  by Lindelea

But many of the strongest and most desperate got out on the west side, and attacked their enemies fiercely, being now more bent on killing than escaping.

Frodo had been in the battle, but he had not drawn sword, and his chief part had been to prevent the hobbits in their wrath at their losses, from slaying those of their enemies who threw down their weapons.

The Battle of Bywater, as described in "The Scouring of the Shire", from Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien


On this day, Tookish archers rise from their rest in the wee hours, pull on their clothes, spun and woven from warm Tookish wool as if for the chilly march ahead, moving slowly, sometimes stopping, lost in memory. And the sound of steaming water, poured from the teakettle that a breath – a memory – a life ago had sat upon the bright fire on the hearth, rouses them to motion again.

Not a word is spoken, for grandmum, mother, wife, sister, daughter or granddaughter knows.

Last night, Shirefolk celebrated Remembering Day, sending bright candles floating downstream, and feasted and sang and wept together, and remembered.

But this morning is another Remembering.

On this day, in the darkest hours, the Tookish archers check their quivers with sensitive fingertips; yes, all is as it should be. They put on their jackets, thrust their arms through the straps of a pack and shrug it into place, and they throw a cloak over all, for the night is bitter, as bitter as the memories. Or perhaps, nothing can be quite so bitter.

They take up their quivers and bow cases and sling them over a shoulder, and then they accept the steaming cup from a sober grandmum, mother, wife, sister, daughter, granddaughter with a nod of thanks.

And not a word is spoken, for grandmum, mother, wife, sister, daughter or granddaughter knows.

On this day, in the darkest hours some time before dawn, the Tookish archers form up on the frosty flagstones in the courtyard of the Great Smials, torches flickering as they do every night, as they did that night, as they will continue to do so long as there is a Tookland and Tooks and Tooklanders.

There are not so many of them as there were that night. It seems as if, with every year that passes, one of them has a candle lit for him on Remembering Day, or two of them do. The ranks are dwindling, will dwindle down until there are no more of them, as they well know. But then is then, and this is now, and the ones who can no longer march are helped into the waggon that will follow the marchers.

All of them are remembering that night, so much different from this one. That night, with its swirl of excitement, joy unlooked-for, son of the Thain returned from the dead, the hope – nay, grim determination and proud defiance – of driving the blight from the land, as if they were part of a blazing fire, kindled, sprung up, growing to a roar. That night, they marched, singing, as their families lined the courtyard and the streets of Tuckborough, waving bright cloths and cheering.

But this night is silent, but for a rustle of clothing, the guttering of the torches. O aye, crowds of hobbits line the courtyard, the road that passes through Tuckborough, even the Thain’s New Road that runs to Bywater where once there were only fields to traipse over.

But not a word is spoken, for every grandmum, mother, wife, sister, daughter or granddaughter knows. As do fathers, sons, nephews, grandsons, gaffers and the rest.

And so they march in silence, under the stars, or rare falling snow, or a misting rain, the only sound the wheels of the waggon following behind, bumping over the New Road, through the darkest hours and into the dawn, and beyond.

The Sun is high in the sky when they cross over the East Road and turn up the Bywater Road, which runs for some way sloping up between high banks with low hedges on top. Round a bend, about a furlong from the main road, stand a quiet crowd of local hobbits. Curiously quiet, perhaps, for a folk that always has some gossip or jest to be sharing.

But not a word is spoken, for every grandmum, mother, wife, sister, daughter or granddaughter knows. As do fathers, sons, nephews, grandsons, gaffers and the rest.

The Tookish archers halt as one and stand, breathing the same sigh. The marchers move to help the riders from the waggon, making sure they are steady on their feet or on a tall stool, if need be, bow strung. Then the marchers, moving together with precision, so practiced that the movement is as natural as breathing, pull their bows from their backs and string them. 

Next, all of them – marchers and riders – do something curious. Each takes a single arrow from his quiver, leaving the quiver empty. He nocks the shaft to the bowstring... and fires it into the ground, ruining the arrow into the bargain, so that it will never take another life again. The deep thrum of many bowstrings, the sound of rising battle, falls again to silence.

Then the archers quietly unstring their bows and put them safely away, laying aside their bow cases and quivers. Moving as if they are one body, one mind, one thought, they remove their packs from their backs and open them. Each pulls out a mug. A few of them walk from one to another, carrying brown earthen jugs, and they pour out good foaming Tookish ale until each mug is brimming.

As one, they raise their mugs to the watchers. ‘To the hobbits of Bywater!’ they shout. A cheer goes up as the archers drink their toast, and then the watching crowd falls quiet again.

The Tookish archers raise their mugs once more. ‘To Captain Merry and Captain Pippin!’ they shout. And drink. Another cheer from the crowd, but then the hobbits of Bywater quieten again, and tears sparkle from some cheeks, for they know whom the Tookish archers will honour next.

As one, the archers turn to face the West and raise their mugs a final time, as they do every year upon this day, to honour the hobbit who saved their honour, their sanity, their hope to ever look themselves in the eye in a mirror again. 

Who saved their very souls from destruction.

A single voice rings out. ‘To Frodo Baggins!’

The mugs all rise silently into the air, and more – for many of the people of Bywater clutch their own drinking vessels, with the knowing that the Tookish archers will come faithfully, each year on this day, to remember. And Mayor Sam is there, his family surrounding him, and he is Remembering, too.

And after a moment, all of them drink. The Tookish archers drain their mugs and put them away again. They take up their bows and empty quivers once more. They help the riders to the waggon and settle them comfortably. They form up and turn to march the thirteen miles back to Tuckborough, over the New Road where once they marched across the fields to drive out the invaders and reclaim the Shire.

And not a word is spoken, for every grandmum, mother, wife, sister, daughter or granddaughter knows. As do fathers, sons, nephews, grandsons, gaffers and the rest.


Some text borrowed from "The Scouring of the Shire", from Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien



In case you were interested, several snippets went into the weaving of this thought, along with small-child memories of WWII and Korea veterans marching down the Main Street of our small town to the rotunda in the city park, where the doctor who lived next door was one of the speechmakers, his gravelly voice sticking in my memory. The stress of recent months has driven the Muse into hiding, but I keep hoping she’ll return for more than a sip or two of tea before hurrying off again.

From Chapter 14. Difficulties, from The Thrum of Tookish Bowstrings

Farry looked around the room again. ‘You slept here?’ he said. ‘And Shepherd Brockbank and his assistants lived here?’ The dismay in his tone communicated his opinion of this “smial” that was little more than a hole in the hillside. 

Ferdi laughed, but it had a grim sound. ‘As I mentioned, he was a Watcher,’ he said. ‘He and a few others took turns watching for signs of ruffians to the East. If they saw movement below, they’d send a messenger to the archers to let them know that Men were testing the defences again.’ 

‘Didn’t the traps and archers keep them out?’ 

‘He was also watching for a mass of many Men marching together, Farry,’ Ferdi said more quietly. ‘Lotho fumed and fretted about the Tookish resistance, and his Big Men boasted that they were going to march upon the Tookland in overwhelming numbers and make an example of the Thain and his family.’ He nodded, his eyes sober. ‘We took that kind of talk seriously, and even more so after word came to us that a new Boss had arrived, named Sharkey, and things were growing ever-worse in the Shire proper.’ 

‘And did they...?’ Farry asked. 

Ferdi shook his head. ‘Thankfully, the Travellers returned and stirred the Shire-folk to action,’ he said. ‘But I’ve no doubt it was coming, Farry. I heard some of the ruffians’ plans myself, from their own mouths, and their boasts had the ring of Truth to them.’ His eyes were haunted with shadows from the past. ‘Your father, and your Uncle Merry, and Mayor Sam with them, saved many lives of Tooks and Tooklanders, coming when they did.’ His gaze bored into the younger hobbit. ‘The lives of all your family among them.’ He took a shuddering breath. ‘To make an example of Pippin’s father, mother and sisters,’ he repeated. ‘Farry, you’ve seen something of the evils of Men.’ 

‘I have,’ Faramir said. But he was bothered that his uncle had seemed to leave out one name from his narration. ‘And Frodo...’ 

Ferdi shook his head. ‘I don’t see that Frodo saved all that many lives,’ he said, ‘except, of course, for the lives of the ruffians that threw down their weapons at Bywater.’ He held up a staying hand when Farry would have answered him indignantly. ‘I’m not talking about what he did in the Southlands, Farry,’ he said. ‘That was a wonder, and a marvel, and though it is difficult to grasp even now, after hearing Pippin’s stories, I know that Frodo saved all the free peoples at great cost to himself – Hobbits and Dwarves, Men and Elves alike.’ 

He took a deep breath and shrugged tension from his shoulders before continuing, ‘But when he returned, I think, from what your father has said, that he was too weary and sick at heart and had seen too much death and pain in his travels. He told your father and the others that he wanted no more killing.’ Ferdi sighed. ‘And in the end, he saved the Tookish archers from the shame of shooting down unarmed opponents. He knew, somehow, the terrible harm that it would do to our very souls... and he saved us from that...’ (he was speaking of his fellow archers, such as Reni and Tolly and Hilly, for he himself had been struck down and left for dead earlier in the battle) ‘...and so that is what we choose to remember him for.’ 


The Battle of Bywater

It was all a lark, keeping the ruffians out of the Tookland. A lark, and yet deadly serious business--for we'd be dead if they could catch us. A game it was, trap the ruffians and dance away, laughing, like one of the faerie folk of legend. "Catch me if you can!"

And Pip returns from the dead in knight's clothes, leading us marching and singing in his pony's wake. I laugh aloud--a game it is, and what a game!

But the rest was no game; ruffians climbing the walls to get at us shooting into their midst. One jumped over, raised his club, took aim... a Took fell. Not content merely to escape, the ruffian raised his club again, and again--until my arrow took him.

I don't remember the rest. I shot into the mob, I shot... and was pulling back the bow to shoot again at the ruffians, strange, sitting upon the ground with hands upon their heads, in the midst of a battle! ...when a hobbit stepped in the way, jerked at my arm to spoil my aim. Have done!

I hold that arrow in my hand.

How did my quiver come to be empty?


From Chapter 94. Fireworks, from At the End of His Rope

After the feast, and the toasts, the King rose from his seat, and all the guests followed his example. He moved to stand before the Master, Mayor and Thain. He bowed deeply, then stood to one side, unsheathing his sword, raising it high in the torchlight.

'We are here to honour the Ring-bearers,' he said. 'One of them stands before you, and the other we will remember as long as memory endures. Praise them with great praise!'

A great shout went up from the Kingsmen and the Rohirrim; the hobbits joined the glad cry, and the Travellers were reminded of the field of Cormallen.

When the shout died away, Ferdibrand gave a signal. His archers quickly formed and marched forward, to stand before the head table. Ferdi nodded to the Thain, and then all of the Tookish archers bowed low before the Mayor.

A blushing Samwise turned to Pippin, who shook his head. 'I had nothing to do with it, Sam,' he said softly. 'The Tooks salute courage; it is one of the few things they respect.'

As the Tooks rose from their homage, Ferdibrand raised his bow in salute, then gave a nod to dismiss the archers, who melted once again into the crowd.


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