The Fragrance of Ithilien

From: Odds & Ends - Not quite themes but interesting, nonetheless.


This really just a bit of melody heard twice. In each case, the first four bars are the same but after that the melody diverts into its own tune. The AS-ROTK describes it as "the Shire’s sweet melodies ... laced with hints of the Fellowship theme" (Doug Adams).

The name, Fragrance of Ithilien, is used for the first scene on the MusicNotes sheet music for The Return of the King (Track 17 music). For the second scene, the music is called A Toast in the Shire.

It is not labeled as a separate theme or setting of the Shire theme in the CR-ROTK material but I think it works to associate the music in the two scenes and I like the name. So let's keep it here in Odds and Ends... shall we?





Places this theme is heard in ROTK:

  • When Frodo awakens in Ithilien after the destruction of the Ring. Played on flute by Sir James Galway.

  • When the four Hobbits are in the Green Dragon after returning to the Shire. Played on fiddle by Dermot Crehan.

"Fragrance of Ithilien" comes from the book, although it is from Sam's perspective upon awakening, not Frodo's... who is already awake in the story.

When Sam awoke, he found that he was lying on some soft bed, but over him gently swayed wide beechen boughs, and through their young leaves sunlight glimmered, green and gold. All the air was full of a sweet mingled scent.

He remembered that smell: the fragrance of Ithilien.

(From ROTK, book 6, Chapter 4: The Field of Cormallen)

Something I wrote a long time ago about the 'fragrance of Ithilien' passage in the book:

This delight of the senses is a stark contrast to their experience in Mordor. It's like turning on a light in a room that has slowly grown dark with the fall of night. It also is significant that the point of view is Sam's. I went through the book from this point and documented our view of Frodo. What I found was remarkable. We are slowly being weaned from Frodo. (It began before this moment, this was just the moment I chose to start at.) We don't see things from Frodo's point of view very often anymore. When people ask him questions others will answer. When he asks questions he doesn't receive an answer. We even hear descriptions of how others direct his actions. Just like the slow darkening of the room, Frodo's place in this story is fading. And it's so gradual it's not readily apparent. So on one hand, the expected progression of the story would be towards happiness because the evil is conquered. And we are happy. But there's this melancholy hanging over the celebrations that is hard to put our finger on. I think it has a lot to do with the crafting of the story... this gradual fading of Frodo.

Something I'm writing now:

This music works well to underline this. It sounds happy. Well, at least happier than all that Mount Doom music. And both the waking scene and the Green Dragon scene are moments when we are 'happy'. But the music is also just a wee bit sad and there is a tinge of something on both of those scenes such that we "begin to understand... there is no going back."