The work of rebuilding the Shire after “Sharkeys” reign begins in earnest. As part of the restoration, Sam plants a nut from Lothlorien where Bilbos great Party Tree once stood; in the spring, it grows into “the only mallorn tree west of the Mountains and east of the Sea, and one of the finest in the world.” Despite the renewal around him, Sam feels torn in two: he would like to stay in Bag End with Frodo, but he also wishes to marry Rosie Cotton and begin a family of his own. Frodo gives Sam his blessing to leave and marry Rosie-and to live with them in Bag End. Frodo, who still experiences pain on each anniversary of his injury at Weathertop, knows he will not be staying in the Shire. As Bilbo gave him the large book in which the adventures to this point have been recorded, so Frodo now gives the book to Sam, telling him that its final few, blank leaves are for him. Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin, together with Bilbo and Gandalf, make their way to the Grey Havens, at the edge of the Sea, where Bilbo, Gandalf and Frodo depart with the last of the elves for the blessed realms in the West.
With this chapter, Tolkien again takes up the theme of healing that has run throughout this final third of his story. From the Houses of Healing, to the fulfilled prophecy that healing is in the hands of the king, to Frodos admonition that Sam must be “one and whole” and his departure into the West, readers see that healing is more than a matter of physical well-being for Tolkien: it is a state of completion and soundness. In achieving the quest to destroy the Ring, Frodo has “healed” the Shire and Middle-earth. Paradoxically, however, he is a “wounded healer” (to borrow language from the psychoanalytic disciplines). This theme thus connects to Tolkiens theme of the transitory nature of life, for wholeness and healing in this sense are rare in this ephemeral world. Indeed, Frodo can only find full healing outside of it. Yet his friends, particularly Sam, can continue to live in this world, finding some measure of happiness and wholeness that reflects the greater wholeness outside the world. The theme thus resonates with not only ancient legends of Fisher Kings and wounded lands but the Christian mythos, dear to Tolkien, of a “paradise” or “next world” which breaks, here and there, into this world of daily living, often in “eucatastrophic” ways. As such, this chapter serves as a fitting conclusion to Tolkiens own mythology: began as a personal expression of linguistic curiosity, but evolved into a deeply moving meditation on power, purpose, providence and meaning that has spoken to thousands of readers, from all backgrounds, for a half century, and will no doubt continue to do so.