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'For you little gardener and lover of trees,' she said to Sam, 'I have only a small gift.' She put into his hand a little box of plain grey wood, unadorned save for a single silver rune upon the lid. 'Here is set G for Galadriel,' she said; 'but also it may stand for garden in your tongue. In this box there is earth from my orchard, and such blessing as Galadriel has still to bestow is upon it. It will not keep you on your road, nor defend you against any peril; but if you keep it and see your home again at last, then perhaps it may reward you. Though you should find all barren and laid waste, there will be few gardens in Middle-earth that will bloom like your garden, if you sprinkle this earth there. Then you may remember Galadriel, and catch a glimpse far off of Lórien....'

Sam went red to the ears and muttered something inaudible, as he clutched the box and bowed as well as he could.

It seems odd to carry around a box of dirt for a year. If he was going to make any use of it, he'd need a lot. Is there any mention of how much dirt Sam got?

  • 5
    Think of it like holy water. You want to bless someone, you sprinkle it on them. They don't need to swim in it. – Misha R Dec 11 '18 at 7:22
  • Big enough to fit Davy Jones' heart in – Azor Ahai Dec 11 '18 at 17:58
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It's not big. When Galadriel gives it to Sam, she says:

'For you little gardener and lover of trees,' she said to Sam, 'I have only a small gift.' She put into his hand a little box of plain grey wood, unadorned save for a single silver rune upon the lid. 'Here is set G for Galadriel,' she said; 'but also it may stand for garden in your tongue. In this box there is earth from my orchard, and such blessing as Galadriel has still to bestow is upon it.

Much later, back in the Shire, we see:

Then suddenly one day, for he had been too busy for weeks to give a thought to his adventures, he remembered the gift of Galadriel. He brought the box out and showed it to the other Travellers (for so they were now called by everyone), and asked their advice. 'I wondered when you would think of it,' said Frodo. 'Open it!' Inside it was filled with a grey dust, soft and fine, in the middle of which was a seed, like a small nut with a silver shale. 'What can I do with this?' said Sam.

So, there's nothing like a precise dimension, but it's a "little box of plain grey wood" which contains "grey dust, soft and fine" and a "seed like a small nut." He uses the dust very carefully, only a grain at a time:

So Sam planted saplings in all the places where specially beautiful or beloved trees had been destroyed, and he put a grain of the precious dust in the soil at the root of each. He went up and down the Shire in this labour; but if he paid special attention to Hobbiton and Bywater no one blamed him. And at the end he found that he still had a little of the dust left; so he went to the Three-Farthing Stone, which is as near the centre of the Shire as no matter, and cast it in the air with his blessing.

There's many grains of dust in even a small box of "fine grey dust" and if each grain corresponds to a tree which is planted personally by Sam he'd have a huge amount of work to use up even a small portion of dust. This, again, points to a small box.

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    It also "put into his [hobbit-sized] hand" - so it has to be something a child cold hold in one hand. – Dale M Dec 11 '18 at 1:23
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    I always imagined it as like a traditional snuff-box — so pretty small, maybe something like 1x3x5cm, certainly something that could comfortably fit in a pocket or the bottom of a pack without taking up much space or weight. – PLL Dec 11 '18 at 2:58
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    grain, n: 3 (abbreviation gr.) the smallest unit of weight in the troy and avoirdupois systems, equal to 1/5760 of a pound troy and 1/7000 of a pound avoirdupois (approximately 0.0648 grams). [because originally the weight was equivalent to that of a grain of corn.]—Webster's British English Dictionary – Lexible Dec 11 '18 at 4:44
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    For those reading this answer who, like me, find themselves bugged by the question "What did he do with the nut, then?!": The little silver nut he planted in the Party Field where the Party Tree had once been, and the nut grew into a Mallorn tree: the only Mallorn west of the Mountains and east of the Sea, and one of the finest in the world. – zibadawa timmy Dec 11 '18 at 8:48
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    @Separatrix: I have to disagree. "Grain = small particle" was most certainly a known and used sense in Tolkien's day, alongside the now-mostly-obsolete unit of measure. That doesn't mean you're wrong, but it does cast doubt on what I take to be your reasoning. – Tim Pederick Dec 11 '18 at 13:31

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