The Last Battle & the Lost Road: an out-of-the-frame scene I cannot get out of my head


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This is quite out there, but there's a scene that's been playing on endless repeat in my mind lately, and I wanted to share it with you. I think it could provide a driving focus for the series and act as a unifying metaphor for the whole structure.

But first, a bit of background. As I've been listening to the discussion about how to deal with TIME in this story, it occurred to me that Tolkien himself played with the idea on a number of occasions, most notably when it came to the various PROPHECIES throughout his tales - but also, in an idea for a story he began to write, but ultimately abandoned, known as 'The Lost Road'.

The gist of 'The Lost Road' is that characters in (relatively) modern times are linked backwards in time via a series of visions to the days of legend, via the explorer Ælfwine, the Anglo-Saxon explorer who was responsible for preserving the histories of the elves that became the mythology we know today. The stories that would ultimately become Tolkien's Legendarium are thus tied inextricably to the present day, creating a grand tapestry of continuity stretching from creation itself, through the time of the elves, and forward into the ongoing story of modern man.

Tolkien also wrote about Mandos' Prophecy concerning the end of time, called the Dagor Dagorath, the Last Battle, when Morgoth himself will break through the Door of Night and lead the forces of darkness against all the great heroes of legend.

Now, of course, Tolkien (mostly) abandoned both these concepts in the ultimate final conception of the Legendarium, but enough aspects of them remain within the published Silmarillion to justify us picking them up again and using them as a scaffolding - a FRAME FOR THE FRAME, so to speak.

We don't have to - and probably don't want to - explicitly lay out what's really going on, but here's how it first came to me:

On one of the last ships from the Grey Havens, sailing into the West, a very old SAMWISE GAMGEE finds himself caught in a flash of light, looks down at his hands to find he is young once more, and realizes that, somehow, he has left the flow of normal time. The magic of the elves still holds wonders yet unexplained, he thinks.

SAM looks around, and sees his ship is not the only one upon the waters; there is FRODO, and old BILBO, and GANDALF, and GALADRIEL! How can they still be sailing, having left so many years ago? There is GIMLI, and LEGOLAS on another! GIMLI's beard is white and at his toes, and SAM is confused, for he thought they were away south yet. And there are others, most of whom are elves, and most of whom he does not recognize, but they are those we will come to know throughout the unfolding of the story: the SONS OF FEANOR, BEREN and LUTHIEN, HURIN, a harried looking old man clutching a pile of ancient books: ÆLFWINE OF ENGLAND...

SAM looks ahead and sees a golden shore, and as he watches it turns to ice and smoke, burning ships wrecked upon its banks. In the distance to his left, a vast star-shaped island capped with shining towers topples into the sea, sending tsunamis rolling and nearly capsizing his ship.

A light blazes in the sky, and Sam looks up astonished to see a ship among the clouds: Vingilot! Behind it, great dark shapes give chase... Behind the mountains of Valinor, the sunset is blotted out by a mounting thunderhead, lightning arcing and thunder booming across the waters. A red moon rises over the clouds.

This is not how SAM pictured the Undying Lands.

As his ship approaches land, a great winged figure descends and lights on a rock jutting over the beach: MANWË himself! Below him, dark-faced MANDOS stands forth and proclaims that his Prophecy has come to fruition; the Battle to End All Things is nigh. The Day of Doom has come. The Enemy has broken the Door of Night, and soon the Sun and Moon themselves shall fall. The Heroes of the Ages are called forth to do battle against the great Dark Lord, the first and greatest, the font of all evil,


The name itself booms out, twisted and perverse, swallowing all sound as it is spoken.

Other figures gather on the shore behind MANDOS: elves, and men, and dwarves. Great colossal figures can be seen emerging from the wilderness and cities beyond. Most of these faces we will see again later, as their own stories unfold. Joining MANDOS upon the shore we behold three figures: TULKAS, NWË, and a beautiful black-haired man with a black sword - TURIN TURAMBAR. They turn to face the mounting clouds.

A rending crack and roar shatters the silence, and the gathered crowds on the beach and in the ships look up in horror as the Moon itself crumbles into pieces and begins to fall from the sky. He glances from this terrible scene to FRODO's ship, where BILBO - now young, now old again - is watching SAMWISE, a knowing look upon his face. Next to him, FRODO mouths the word "Sam" and nods, smiling. "Why are you smiling?" SAM wants to yell, but his voice catches in his throat as he beholds a great wave rising beyond, soon to overtake the ships and shore. He begins to yell, "MISTER FR-" but the rest is drowned in a maelstrom of water --
SAMWISE starts awake, sweating. "Mr. Frodo told me about the dreams. He told me those stories would get to me," he mutters.

It is still dark. SAM sits up. Next to him ROSIE stirs, says, "Sam? What is it?" "Nothing," he says, pulling the blanket back over her shoulder. "Just a bit of indigestion." He gets up, leaves the bedroom, bumps down the curving hallway past room after room containing his snoring children, all on one side. Their names decorate the doors in neat handwriting - some doors with more than one name - as if SAM had carefully labeled them all so he wouldn't forget which child went with which name: ELANOR; FRODO; ROSE & MERRY; PIPPIN, GOLDILOCKS, & HAMFAST; DAISY & PRIMROSE; BILBO & RUBY. The last few doors are newer; this end of the hallway is a recent addition to the hobbit hole. The last door is blank yet.

He stumbles into the kitchen, lights a candle. We see he is middle-aged, which for a hobbit is somewhere between sixty and eighty, but that's neither here nor there. It is the year 1440 of the Shire Reckoning, nearly two decades since FRODO BAGGINS left Middle Earth. He walks to the study, and it's a familiar mess of books and maps. He's taken to MR. BILBO's old habits in his settled life here in old Bag End. He wonders if he's turning into old Mad Baggins himself.

Sam settles into a chair by a desk, and his eyes settle on the weathered scroll he had been reading - possibly translating - before bed. We glimpse words in Sindarin: Dagor Dagorath. Next to this, on a fresh page, in his own hand: The Last Battle - The End.

A troubled look on his face, he sets the document down, and gazes out the window, lost in thought. He mutters, "Bilbo..." His reverie is interrupted by a small voice replying, "What?" A tiny hobbit child wanders in from the hall, rubbing his eyes. "Bilbo" he says again, and smiles, for that is the child's name, after all. Named after the old master of this house, and perhaps most like him in disposition: always with his little secrets, and his little adventures off and around the Hill, but always first to come when dinner is called.

YOUNG BILBO toddles in and accepts SAM's offer of his lap. "Whatchoo readin'?" He asks. "Oh, nothin' important. Just doing a bit of translating, from the Elvish. Some of old Bilbo's notes, you know." "Are you done?" "Done?" "It says it's the end." "Well, yes, my boy, well, it might be. So that story says."

"Can I hear it?" YOUNG BILBO says. "Tell me the story." "You should be in bed." "So should you, da." SAM suppresses a grin. "Always with a ready bit of cheek, this one is," he mutters to himself. "So I should. Well, anyways it's no good tellin' you the end of a story."

"You don't begin a story at the end, da. You begin," YOUNG BILBO blinks, "at the beginning. Anyways," the wee hobbit says, fighting back a yawn, "I'm not going back to bed," losing the battle, "until you tell me it."

SAMWISE sighs and happy, heavy smile, and replies, "Well then, no guarantees we'll get through it all before I kick you off to bed, but if I'm going to tell it, I'd best tell it right. Beginning at the beginning. The first and original beginning, the beginning of beginnings.

"So here goes.

"There was Eru, the One, who in Arda is called Ilúvatar..."

The camera pans across the contented faces of elder SAMWISE and YOUNG BILBO Gardner (nee Gamgee), and out the window, where a single star shines brightly in the sky. The narrative of the
Ainulindalë continues, suddenly shifting into another voice now, one more regal and authoritative than any hobbit could ever conjure up. An elf voice, perhaps.

Our story has begun. How far it goes during this first installment depends, of course, on who falls asleep first.

The first installment itself, of course, must end with sun upon Bag End, and a burst of noise as the rest of the Baggins brood emerges into the hallway, all ten of them, ages two to nineteen, plus ROSIE, full to bursting with another, to find Sam asleep in the chair, with little BILBO curled up in his lap.