Title: The Long Winter
Challenge: Foreyule—write a story based on a folk custom, folktale, superstition, legend (or urban legend) from any folk tradition in the world
Pairing/Characters: Sam, Elanor, Gandalf, Isumbras III, a couple of OMCs and one possible Maia
Word Count: ~5,800
Warnings: No slash, much of fic happens during the Long Winter.
Summary: What really happened during the Long Winter as it was passed down to Sam, who passes it on to Elanor one snowy night at Bag End.
Author's Notes: This is for the very first waymeet challenge. Thanks to semyaza for letting me post this fic about 1-1/2 years late! Other notes appear at the end of the fic. Thanks to claudia603 for a fabulous beta reading! You asked just the right questions and pointed out the things I’d meant to include but forgot.
“I don’t think it’s ever going to stop snowing!”
Elanor shut Bag End's door against the storm. The brightness of the green paint was obscured by a rime of snow and ice that was naught but a thin dusting at the top of the door but which thickened into a layer of crunchy white frosting at the bottom. So thick, in fact, that Elanor had to put her shoulder into it as she closed the door. “There!” she said with satisfaction and turned around, hugging her elbows and smiling at her father. In spite of her words, Sam recognized the special sparkle in her eyes that was only there when the weather kicked up and brought with it a fine snowstorm. His daughter welcomed a bit of wild weather.
Sam stood in the doorway to the sitting room, pipe in hand. “Well, whether or no the snow ever stops, we’ll have a sight less of it inside the sooner you stop opening the door every few minutes. And here I thought you were all grown now that you’ve passed into your tweens.”
Elanor laughed and shook her head at the melting snow in the entry hall. “You're right. I’d best mop this up. Anyway, don’t think I’ll ever outgrow the fun of a good winter storm.”
“No, I reckon not. Leastways, that’s to be hoped for. Join me in the study when you’re done?” Sam asked, stretching his arms and neck and ignoring the loud pops and cracks that accompanied his movement. “Unless, that is, you’d rather go to bed. The night’s not getting any younger.”
Elanor patted Sam’s arm as she passed him on her way to the kitchen for the mop. “You won't get rid of me that easily. I’ll be with you in a minute.”
Well, the minute turned into ten, but Elanor was forgiven, and for a number of reasons. The mugs of steaming cocoa she brought with her on a tray that also held a plate of ginger nut biscuits was one good reason, but of course the best one was his daughter’s smiling presence. With a house as busy and full as Bag End, it was a rare night when he had her all to himself. They both made the most of these opportunities.
Soon the fire in the study was built up, and Sam and Elanor were settled in front of it, curled up in comfortable easy chairs with woolen blankets on their laps. The wind buffeted the front of the smial and the snow shushed against the windows, but Sam and Elanor paid no further heed, for they were soon deep in a conversation that lasted far into the night. Sam started it.
“You put me in mind of a tale my old Gaffer’s master told me once upon a time,” Sam said, smiling into the glowing heart of the fire.
When he did not continue, his attention captured by the play of flames in the old hearth, Elanor asked, “And what was that tale, Sam-dad? I’m still waiting.”
“Hm? Yes, I suppose I’d best tell you. I think you’ll like this one, Ellie. I liked it myself when I was a little one … to tell the truth, I haven't remembered it in years until just now when you said that about wanting the snow to never stop. I heard it on a night like this.” Sam stopped a moment to take a sip of cocoa, blowing first on its foamy surface to cool it down a little. “Though not as late as tonight, lass. I was a very young lad at the time, just a faunt, but oh, I remember that snowfall. And I said to my Gaffer’s master that I hoped it never stopped, that I wanted it to go on snowing and snowing and snowing.” Sam chuckled, his eyes again on the flames. “Didn’t he just give me a smart reply and wasn’t I surprised!”
“Shall I have to guess?” Elanor slid off her chair to kneel before Sam's chair and look up at him. If he was going to be willful about the direction of his gaze, Elanor decided that she’d better take the best position for close observation. She’d come to learn over the years that sometimes the most important words her father spoke were the ones he did not say out loud, sort of like how sometimes the silence between the notes of a song tugged at her heart the most. She pulled her blanket with her and, tucking its edges beneath her feet, she leaned comfortably against Sam's legs.
“No, not this time,” Sam said, leaning over and stroking Elanor’s hair with gentle fingers that no amount of hard work could ever coarsen, a lifetime of calluses and blisters notwithstanding. Then he leaned back and took a deep breath, the expression in his eyes growing far away again. “Well, then. My Gaffer’s master – his name was Holman Greenhand though of course you’ll already know that, having a good head for family history and all. He said to me, ‘And what do you think would happen if the snow kept falling and winter went on and on?’ I don’t remember what I said or really if I answered much of anything, not that I needed to for once he got started, it was nigh impossible to stop him. ‘There was a time when that did happen, Sam-lad. Once upon a time the snow did keep on a-falling and the air was colder than ice and the wind harsh as any there ever was in the Shire, and that's saying more than enough. There was a time when all the Shire-folk thought that spring wouldn't never come again. They were almost right.’”
"'What happened, Grand-dad?' I think I squeaked out something like that when he stopped to take a breath. I always called him Grand-dad though he wasn't, just it seemed he was. But he was an old one by then – died the next spring as I now recall or maybe it was the one after – but he liked an audience and could spin out a tale to hold a restless faunt still as a mouse."
"Runs in the family, would you say?" Elanor asked and got a tweaked nose for an answer.
"Now, let's see if I can remember it. You'll have to help me on if I get stuck." At Elanor's quizzical expression, Sam laughed and continued. "You've not heard it yet, I know, but you've always had a good hand at prodding my memory, my dear, none better."
"Well, then, I think I can manage that. Shall I write it all down?"
"P'raps. But not tonight, maybe another night, when we've got it teased out and made into a proper story."
The snow kept falling into the night as Sam searched his memory for this story heard a lifetime ago but kept buried deep in his heart to be brought out at the right moment. At one point, Rose got out of bed to see if anything was wrong, for not having Sam's solid warmth lying next to her woke her up. When she saw what was keeping him up so late, she did not interrupt. She could not hear what Sam was saying. He was speaking in a low murmur, but the look of loving attention on Elanor's face told her that it was important. So she hurried back to bed, grumbling a little about the heavy snowfall and how hungry her family would be in the morning, which was always a mystery to her since a storm kept everyone cooped up inside, with little opportunity to work up much of an appetite. But that was the truth, and one she well knew, having satisfied her own grumbling belly a time or two, whenever a rare snowstorm descended on the Shire.
As a matter of fact, there was a saying in the West Farthing that nothing beat a long tale or being shut up inside during a good snowstorm (or, even better, both at once) for working up a healthy appetite. It would be Rose's job (with some help) to satisfy the Gardner bellies in the morning. But now, in the dead of night, it was Sam's job to tell the tale.
They said it was the worst winter the Shire ever saw. At least that's what Daddy Greenhand told me. It was even worse than the Fell Winter of 1311 when the white wolves invaded the Shire over the frozen Brandywine and the horn-call of Buckland rang out. And it was no wonder that it was called ever after the Long Winter. The entire Shire froze solid for five months and the floods that came after were near as bad as what came before.
How old Holman came to hear about it, I don't rightly know. I was too young to be asking such a thing, and especially not when I was hearing such a grand tale after dark. Being naught but a faunt, it went out of my head for the most part until this very night, Elanorelle. But I've been thinking on it a bit now, and I've got an idea or two of where he might have heard this story. You can tell me your own guesses later on if you like. I'll just say that Holman Greenhand was long-lived and better-traveled than some, Hobbiton gardener that he was all his life. Oh, I don't think he went as far as Bree, he weren't no Took or Brandybuck. But I think he might have visited Buckland a time or two and even a little beyond Buckland, p'raps up the Withywindle a ways. I'd not be surprised.
Winter started early that year. 2758 the year was, I don't know how I remember that but I do. Might have seen it in one of the books Mr. Bilbo used to teach me my letters. Must have been since that's not Shire-reckoning, is it? That would make it ... 1158 in proper Shire-reckoning.
At first, folk didn't pay much heed. Cold, hard winters happened every now and again in the Shire, and folk didn't mind it so much. Gave them more reason to stay home inside, cozy-like, or bundle up and while away the hours at the Ivy Bush or some other homely place. After all, innkeepers always made sure to have a good stock of beer laid down for the winter in case it was a hard one (and even if it wasn’t).
But once Yule days came and went and winter showed no sign of slacking, folk began to get a little bothered. You see, it wasn't just the length and hardness of the winter storms, but that they came one after the other without giving folks any time to take a breath in between, and that didn't seem natural to the ways of Shire weather. There were other things that set people to worritting, too.
News was coming from the south and the east (at least it did at first, before everything stopped), and in years past, that never meant no good. After all, it hadn't been so many years since the orcs invaded and Bandobras Bullroarer helped rout them out, one and all. But now it seemed that an even worse enemy was invading the Shire.
The news was that this evil winter had reached its icy hands from the north all through the lands of Middle-earth, even as far south as places with strange, outlandish names. We might think, Ellie, that Gondor and Rohan have a homely sound now, but we've a mite more knowledge of them. More face-to-face and friendly-like you might say than the Shire-folk in the long-ago times.
Anyways, rumors began to be whispered that the snow and ice and wind were strangling the southern lands and the eastern lands too, not just the Shire. And another rumor started, though no one believed it or at least not many. Most called it fanciful nonsense and not hobbit-like at all. Some said that Winter had stolen Spring away and imprisoned her in a frozen lake far to the north, and that as long as he had her locked away, the snow would continue to fall, and all folk—good or bad, big or small—would go on suffering and eventually die away. For if Spring did not come, then there wouldn't be no way for folk to sow their crops, and if the crops couldn't be sown ... well, I'm sure you get my drift.
Be that as it may – that is, whatever the Shire-folk believed was the cause of the hard, cruel winter – all agreed that something had to be done though none knew what.
There was a Thain in those days just as there is now, and his name was Isumbras III. 'Twas only natural that people went to him with their troubles, looking to him to make things right. I don't recall all the particulars, or even if Daddy Greenhand told 'em to me, but eventually the Thain called a Shire-moot and all the heads of the great families (and the not so great and a few stragglers) in the Shire gathered together at Great Smials in Tuckborough.
Enough time had gone by and with it enough snow had fallen and was still on the frozen ground that Isumbras had already taken certain actions. He’d sent messengers to the north—to get to Bree and even farther if they could, to see what could be learned. Not one had returned nor even sent news. And he'd sent his best, even his sons, including that Bandobras who'd routed the orcs only a few years before. Not even Bandobras had come back or sent word, and that flat out scared the Shire-folk to death when Isumbras spoke of it.
While the Tooks and Brandybucks and Bolgers and Bracegirdles and all talked and talked, plainer goings-on were happening. It might make you laugh, Ellie, to think of Gandalf the Grey not being involved in the great debate, though of course there are regular ways to be involved and then there are wizard ways. And those you can’t foretell. But there he was there, having arrived to see what help he could give, and there he was during the moot keeping himself in the background, so to speak. What was he doing? Why, he was helping make a fire in the great hearth. See, they'd all run out of dry wood weeks before, and all that was left was the wet stuff, and you know how hard that is to kindle.
"What's your name, lad?" Gandalf had a helper, one of the younger hobbits, one who came from simple folk. No doubt he couldn’t resist seeing the moot.
"Greenhand," the young hobbit—in his tweens, I expect—answered. "Sam Greenhand from Hobbiton." Oh, well, Ellie, Sam's not exactly an uncommon name for a hobbit, is it? I don't suppose I was named after this Sam Greenhand ...
Anyways, this young Sam Greenhand helped Gandalf arrange the wet wood—great logs of heavy, rough, icy stuff that scraped hands raw and red—and then he stood back when Gandalf stuck his staff right into the heart of the wood and spoke a word of command. That must have been a sight, having a bit of experience myself with seeing such things. Soon a blaze was roaring in the great hearth and everyone gathered around it, rubbing their hands and feeling a bit cheered by the sight and warmth. Not that anything had been decided, though eventually a slender hobbit barely out of his tweens turned around and, with the glow of the fire at his back, spoke to the moot.
"I can go," Hereward Baggins said, for it was indeed a Baggins, a quiet gentlehobbity Baggins, who made this offer.
"What could you do, Hero?" Isumbras asked, his eyes glinting, his voice sharp, especially when he spoke Hereward’s nickname, and a very proper one it turned out to be and not just because of the Baggins family fashion for ending male names with an ‘o’. “Have you ever even been to Buckland before?”
"No, sir, I have not. I do not know what I might do, but someone must go. I have few ties here, and I’m sure Gandalf the Grey can advise me." It was true. He had no brothers or sisters, and his parents were gone as well. And Gandalf was there as he had not been when the others, including Bandobras, set out.
There was something that stirred up in Sam then, though to the end of his days he couldn’t name what it was. "But not alone surely? You can’t send him alone!"
Gandalf spoke to the crowd for the first time though his words were directed to Sam. "Oh, no, certainly not ... why? Are you volunteering?"
"Well." Sam stammered a bit. All eyes were on him now, and that was new so his face turned red. "It's not that I can do any good here. I'm a gardener by trade, and I ain't got no growing thing to garden on, but I'm strong so I might as well go."
Isumbras was still unconvinced. "But if my own sons have not discovered anything ..."
"You do not know that," Gandalf said. "Perhaps they are in need, my old friend; these two might bring them aid. And sometimes good plain sense and humility can achieve what great warriors cannot."
In the end, all agreed that Hero and Sam would set out together, carrying as many supplies as they could, heading north. Gandalf was not to go with them, but he gave them advice as to where they should head. "There is a lake called Evendim.”
“Annúminas!” Hero said.
“Yes, it is called that, too, at least the fortress that was once there was called that,” Gandalf answered, a queer glint in his eyes as he stared at Hero. “I believe you should make for Annúminas. It is said that the snow and ice has spread south and east from that very location. If you follow the course of the Brandywine, you will arrive there after many long days. Be careful, my young hobbits, but be of good hope."
They left the Shire the next morning, taking the East Road until they reached the Brandywine Bridge. They were provisioned as well as possible. Sam grumbled a bit when he saw that Hero had packed away a quill, a bit of parchment and a clay pot of ink. “What’s that for, sir? Surely there’s no need for such things.” Sam shook his head, recalling the rumors about this particular Baggins and his peculiar, bookish interests.
Hero smiled gently. “Well, Sam, it doesn’t weigh much. And I’ve never been so far north. I expect I’ll want to record a sight or two so I don’t forget anything.”
Sam shook his head again but kept quiet. It was a queer thing, but as Hero said, the writing supplies weighed little. And after all, Hero was the leader of the expedition, the brains of the quest you might say.
They remembered the journey mostly for its utter quiet and peacefulness. Almost nothing moved in the land, especially once they'd left the borders of the Shire. There was the white of the snow and ice and their frozen breath, the black of the tree trunks, and the deep green of the pine trees. It seemed that the only pink, living things were their own faces.
They met no one on their way, not even a rabbit or a fox, much less anything larger. Even the birds were silenced. Most likely they had flown away south, though if the rumors were true, then the birds wouldn't have found any warmth that way neither.
They were getting low on their provender when they reached the shores of Lake Evendim.
"Annúminas," Hero murmured. "How fitting."
Sam stood with one hand shading his eyes. The sun was that bright. "It’ll be easy to get to that there tower, won't it?"
Because there was a tower, or castle, there. They could see it though they could scarce believe their eyes. But right in the midst of the frozen lake rose blue walls and turrets of ice that seemed like they must be high as the mountains they’d glimpsed far off. Could anything still live there? Could anything have ever lived there?
"Sam?" Hero said as they made ready to go across the lake. "I've such a strange feeling about this."
"So do I, though I can't put my finger on why."
Nothing moved unless you called the glitter of cold sun on colder ice movement. The only sound was the occasional crack of a branch as it broke and fell to the ground and the groaning of the lake’s ice.
Hero said, "Before we go, I think we must do something, something to mark ourselves just in case."
"In case of what?"
"I don't know. In case we get separated and can't speak. I don't know." In a low voice, he finished. “We’ll have our names on us if anyone finds us. Gandalf perhaps.”
Sam didn’t question Hero any further; he didn’t want to think about it. What he wanted was to get on with things. They sat down on a bare patch of earth—it was more than a little strange that there was a bare patch of earth in all the snow and ice, almost like it had been scratched out by paws or hands—and they took turns with Hero's ink and quill, scratching their names onto their palms.
The sun was beginning to set when they slid down a steep slope to the lake. Sam went first onto the ice. For a few minutes the going was not too hard though a little slippery once they’d stepped onto the frozen lake. But enough fresh snow lay on the surface to help a bit.
“What is it, Sir?” Sam started to turn around for he heard a soft grunt behind him. But that’s as far as he got before someone or something (who knew what it might have been in that outlandish place) knocked him on the head. The last thing he knew before the blackness closed in was the cold crunch of hard snow against his cheek.
He woke up in the dark. He smelled the earth—oh, how strong and clean and just plain good the smell of the earth was to him. He lay where he was for a while, gathering his wits and his strength, deciding that he was in some sort of cave or tunnel. Then he stood up and found he was standing not on his sturdy hobbit feet but on all fours. And what is more, his all fours and the rest of him were covered with fur, not just his feet.
He called out to Hero and snapped his jaws shut, for his voice came out in a growl, long and lonely and rough.
Then he smelled something other than soil. It was blood he smelled, the blood of a living creature. Sniffing about, he came closer to the scent until something bolted past him.
"Rabbit, I will find you! You'd best stop hiding."
The Sam bear shambled after the rabbit, but it was too fast for him. Eventually he wound up in a dead-end and somehow he was trapped. He couldn't move forwards or backwards, for a sort of net had dropped around him. He was trapped. Then the clever rabbit stepped before him, whiskers quivering, but he came closer and spoke to him.
"Don't you remember me, Sam?"
"I remember you would be good to eat! Let me go."
"Look at your paw, Sam, look at your paw."
Sam raised one paw and saw inked on the tender pads, three letters: S-A-M. He could read it and he remembered.
"Sir?" He snuffled the air.
"Yes, Sam. It's me."
“What’s happened? Where are we?”
“Beneath the ice castle. And it’s true. Someone’s being held prisoner in a dungeon. There are guards everywhere. I’ve seen enough to know someone’s being held in the deepest dungeon there is here, but that’s all I know. We’ll have to make a tunnel to get in there. I’ve started but I can’t get very far.”
The bear snorted and held up his enormous front paws with their long, sharp claws. “These will.”
Sam helped; his strong paws made good progress, but it still wasn't enough. But as they worked, more animals appeared, drawn by the digging in the dark (and perhaps the smell of the tasty coney). There were big ones and little ones, and between the rabbit and the bear, Sam holding them down with his jaws and great paws and Hero wielding his ink and quill in his mouth, they managed to ink something. That is, they inked something once each animal’s memory of his true self came back for long enough—sometimes a name, sometimes something simpler like ‘hobbit’.
Soon they not only had Sam's bear paws to dig, but there was a wolf, two golden stags (though their antlers tended to be more for show than helpful, and to be blunt got in the way more often than not), a small lion, and a handful of chattering otters. “Tooks, I’ll be bound,” Sam said to himself before he growled to them (not for the last time) to keep quiet, or did they want to draw the attention of the guards. “No wonder they can’t remember their right names!”
Together, they worked hard. When they were tempted to fall into the ways of their new shapes and eat each other, the rabbit was always there to remind them to look at their paws. With that, they remembered their true natures and that they needed to keep digging.
Eventually they broke into the deepest dungeon though they no longer quite remembered why. They just knew they must dig deep and so they did. When they reached their goal, they found a dank, cold chamber lit by one foul-smelling candle. Lying on the dirt and rock was a beautiful maiden with golden hair that somehow shone bright even in the darkness. She was sleeping.
"Oh, it’s true! It’s Spring! The stories were all true!" The lion and the stags and the wolf and especially the otters all began a-chittering and a-chattering amongst themselves. The bear growled with satisfaction, as though he’d come across a particularly fine honeycomb. But Hero found a tender spot on Spring's ankle and nipped her once, then sprang back. The moment his teeth touched her skin, a great roar that seemed to come from the deeps of the dungeons and the tops of the ice castle's towers shook everyone’s bones and they all snapped their jaws shut for fear.
But something else happened as well. Spring began to stir. She opened her eyes, sat up, yawned and smiled. "Did you bite me, rabbit?" she asked, reaching out her hand and stroking his soft ears.
The rabbit quivered, though her touch was gentle. "I did, my lady. I fear you overslept."
"So I did, though I think there was something at work other than my own slugabed ways!"
The dungeon’s door swung open with a crash. Something stronger and darker and crueler than its iron bars stood in the doorway.
The lady stood up and laughed. "You are a silly thing! Go back to Carn Dûm or the east or wherever your foul spirit lurks these days. You have no power over the north of Middle-earth any longer. You were defeated. This is not your time. And after all, did you not know that no creature on earth can stop the seasons or master the weather forever? Go!"
He left, though he no longer seemed so fierce or so large and looming. He was shrunken, a grey old man in wet rags with an iron crown squeezing his head. He faded, but even as he did so, he lunged at the rabbit.
“You! I will remember. Always.” And the thing hissed, and the breath of it seemed to strike the rabbit like a sword for he swooned. Then the evil thing was gone.
After he left, Spring went from animal to animal and breathed on them with a fragrant breath that Sam tried to describe to his satisfaction to the end of his days (and never could quite get it). Each animal turned back into his human form until before her stood two elves, a man with long straw-colored hair, Bandobras Took and a gaggle of his kin. Last, she breathed on the rabbit, which lay still as death between what had been Sam bear’s paws and were now his arms again.
“Is he all right?” Sam’s voice trembled.
“He will be.” But she looked unsure. “I think. But this is no place for him. You must take him home as quickly as you can manage, and you must start now. I think you’ll find the castle is already melting. It will not be safe to linger here for long.”
The journey home was not easy for they had little food, but they had their hope of home and hearth to look forward to, and it was enough. They were a ragged group, but the elves accompanied them as far as the Brandywine, so they were merry for all that. The man came with them too, and he was a stout companion who came from far in the South; his journey home would be even longer than the hobbits’.
Spring also came with them as far as the Brandywine. It seemed to Sam that wherever she put her feet, there the snow and ice melted and a tender young blossom pressed its way up from the ground. He kept watch for it, with great delight. The sound of birdsong, tentative and quiet at first, also appeared wherever Spring passed, and that warmed the traveler’s hearts to hear such homely song again. When she left them, she disappeared with a wave of her hand into the old forest that lay next to Buckland.
“What happened to them after that?” Elanor asked after several minutes passed in silence. Surely that wasn’t the end!
“I don’t rightly know, Ellie-lass, at least not much. All old Holman said, as far as I can recall, was that the hobbits returned home to a hero’s welcome. Though he did say something about Bandobras and the man from the South getting the most of it.”
“But that’s just wrong, Sam-dad!”
“P’raps. Maybe it is. But you’ll write it all down for me some day, won’t you? And then we’ll have it a little clearer, won’t we?”
“Yes, father.” Elanor sat up very straight and squared her shoulders. “I think it should go in the Red Book. I know it’s not about the Quest or about you or Frodo exactly …”
“I think that’s the best thought you’ve ever had, and that’s saying a lot. Maybe the real beginning of the Quest was back then, all those years ago, before Bilbo had found the Ring or was even born. After all, there’s no real start and no real end to the story. And I’ll think a bit more on it, on what happened to Hero once he got back home, whether he got well again or not. I remember Daddy Greenhand said that Hero had to be carried a good part of the way back home. And keeping in mind what happened to Master Merry and Frodo and Captain Faramir when those Black Riders breathed over them … well, it’s no surprise that Hero needed some tender care on the way back to the Shire.”
“Hero. It was a good name for him, wasn’t it? I wonder if the Shire folk ever really realized that was right for him and not just something to tease him about. Do you think they did?”
Sam stroked Elanor’s hair. He sighed and said, “I don’t know, my dear. I don’t know. I don’t reckon it works that way. I wish it did. That’s why we need to write it all down, so maybe others will know better some day and think kindly of our Hero.”
“And Sam, too. Sam Greenhand. I would have liked to have seen him when he was a bear.”
Elanor put her head on Sam’s knee and the two of them watched the dying fire for a little while longer, neither of them saying anything, not even when they got up to go to their beds for what little remained of the night. It was not necessary.
Sam woke late the next morning, and it was no wonder, considering that dawn was close when he and Elanor made their sleepy way to their beds. He plunged his head in a basin of icy water and then dressed, sniffing appreciatively.
"Sausages! And I'll not be surprised to find griddle cakes and honey." His stomach rumbled. "Oh, talking's long, hard work."
It didn't take Sam long to make his way to the kitchen, but his progress was arrested by the sight of the front door slightly ajar. Winding a long striped scarf around his neck, he opened the door and stepped outside into the bright sunshine. The snow had stopped, and someone had cleared the path in front of Bag End.
"Look, dad!" It was Elanor who called to Sam. She was bent over the front gate, peering at something. "Look, a crocus. First I've seen,” she said. “How brave of it!"
1. This fic was inspired by Saving Spring, a Scandinavian legend retold on Encyclopedia Mythica by Ilil Arbel. You can find it here: http://www.pantheon.org/areas/folklore/folktales/articles/saving_spring.html
2. In LOTR’s Appendix A, in the section titled “Eriador, Arnor, and the Heirs of Isildur,” there is this hint of Angmar’s powers over the weather: “…and they were afraid of the Witch-King, who (they said) could make frost or thaw at his will.” While Angmar had left the north by the time of the Long Winter and so was no longer officially involved in doing harm in that area of Middle-earth, there is such a thing as malice and revenge. I think Gandalf said that, and it worked for me in this context. I doubt very much that Angmar enjoyed being driven out of the north!