Not much has changed in the habit of the Hobbit in the last 60 years. He still enjoys his pipe on the bench in his garden overlooking Hobbiton. Bilbo has known and nurtured lovingly the pleasure of home and the feeling of comfort. As a small child, Bilbo had no restraints in expressing his want of adventure. With a sword in his hand and a smile on his face, he was slaying dragons left and right. An adventurous spirit had been bestowed upon him.
The meaning of “good morning”
Bilbo: “Good morning.”
Gandalf: “What do you mean? Do you mean to wish me a good morning or do you mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not? Or perhaps you mean to say that you feel good on this particular morning? Or are you simply stating that this is a morning to be good on? Hm?”
Bilbo: “All of them at once, I suppose.”
Bilbo is baffled by Gandalf’s exploration of the meaning behind Bilbo’s “good morning”. He may have only meant it as a greeting one says during the morning to someone who suddenly stands before his gate. Out of politeness, Bilbo acknowledges Gandalf’s arrival, with a look on his face proving he doesn’t have the slightest idea who this person is that he had just greeted. Good breeding, good manners.
Gandalf on the other hand takes Bilbo’s “good morning” and turns it into a test. I would suggest that Gandalf is trying to determine the subtleties of Bilbo’s thinking. The meaning of a simple greeting does not carry the weight of an individual’s interpretation of the same. Therefore, technically, Bilbo could have meant any of the questions Gandalf posed to him.
However, seeing as how he hadn’t thought about it in any specific detail but rather used it out of politeness, Gandalf was left without any further explanation. Which, in turn, could portray Bilbo to Gandalf as someone who hasn’t been intellectually challenged by anyone for a while.
To keep a mind agile, one can passively explore different concepts by reading books, doing crossword puzzles, or something similar. Or one could take a bold step and challenge oneself to active exploration. This would keep the mind on constant alert, gaining speed of thought in all its subtleties about its surroundings, solving hindrances, and all-round growth.
It may very well be that his comfortable way of life had brought Bilbo ease of thinking as well. This isn’t something Gandalf approves of, it would appear.
The rejection of adventure
Bilbo: “Can I help you?”
Gandalf: “That remains to be seen. I’m looking for someone to share in an adventure.”
Bilbo: “An adventure? No. I don’t imagine anyone west of Bree would have much interest in adventures. Nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things. Make you late for dinner. Good morning.”
Since Bilbo cannot even guess what this tall person wants with him, he again asks politely, to see if he may be of some assistance to Gandalf. However, Gandalf already has a direct purpose he wishes to push on the Hobbit. There is a plan afoot, of which Bilbo is not informed.
As soon as Gandalf mentions adventure, Bilbo’s mouth flies open and his pipe slips out. Gandalf’s want shocks him. As he rants on about the inconvenience of an adventure, his behavior turns very defensive, almost angry.
His opinion of taking part in an adventure is plainly seen and heard. Since he doesn’t consider himself an adventurous type, he greets Gandalf with a farewell “good morning”, hoping the Wizard would leave and search for an adventurer elsewhere. However, Gandalf has a different idea.
Gandalf: “To think that I should have lived to be “good morninged” by Belladonna Took’s son as if I were selling buttons at the door.”
Bilbo: “Beg your pardon?”
Gandalf: “You have changed and not entirely for the better Bilbo Baggins.”
Bilbo: “I’m sorry, do I know you?”
Gandalf: “Well, you know my name, although you don’t remember I belong to it. I’m Gandalf, and Gandalf means…me.”
Bilbo: “Gandalf? Not Gandalf the wandering Wizard who made such excellent fireworks? Old Took used to have them on Midsummer’s Eve. No idea you were still in business.”
Gandalf: “And where else should I be?”
Bilbo: “Where else…? Ahem.”
Gandalf, an otherwise calm and collected being, becomes insulted at Bilbo’s behavior. He is very much disappointed in Bilbo. Gandalf must have figured that Bilbo will retain his childlike sense of wonder and keep an open and curious mind about the world around him. Sadly, that is not to be. He has become comfortable, ensconced in his routine where mealtimes are held at the highest priority.
Even when his own change in behavior is being openly portrayed as negative, Bilbo stays within the limits of good manners. Gandalf’s statement clearly bothers him, but instead of hotheadedly defending himself, he simply asks Gandalf to explain himself. This may point out to the fact that he himself is aware of the changes of attitude that have taken place in his life and is interested in finding out how this person, still unknown to him, can know so much about him.
Fireworks seem to be the only association Bilbo has with the name Gandalf. He must have thought him old when he was little, and now that he sees him years after he is surprised he still roams Middle-Earth. This is not something Gandalf sees as positive, throwing him into retirement already without him having finished his duty in Middle-Earth. But that just explains the limited knowledge that Bilbo has of Gandalf and his purpose on earth.
Gandalf: “Well, I’m pleased to find you remember something about me even if it’s only my fireworks. Yes. Well, that’s decided. It’ll be very good for you and most amusing for me. I shall inform the others.”
Bilbo: “Inform the who? What? No…Wait. We do not want any adventures here, thank you. Not today. Not… I suggest you try Over the Hill or Across the Water. Good morning.”
It had apparently taken only Bilbo recognizing Gandalf to make him the participant in an adventure. It could also have something to do with the reaction Bilbo had to his own mention of fireworks. There was still amazement in his voice as he remembered seeing them as a child. Or that Gandalf simply wanted Bilbo to change, seeing as he didn’t like what he encountered.
Bilbo never wanted an adventure. He disappears quickly behind his own Hobbit hole doors, turning the lock behind him, in order to avoid Gandalf coming into his private space. Bilbo was adamant to avoid Gandalf at all costs. Just the thought of him being chosen for a laborious task is a cause for fear and concern. He frightens as Gandalf’s eye pierces through the small beveled window.
Even as he goes to the market to procure groceries he nervously looks around himself to see if Gandalf might be lurking from about.
Hiding from a Wizard
Mr. Worrywort: “Hello, Mr. Bilbo. Here. Have a feel of me tubers. Nice and firm they are. Just come in from West Farthing.”
Bilbo: “Very impressive, Mr. Worrywort. Now, I don’t suppose you’ve seen a Wizard lurking around these parts?”
Mr. Worrywort: “A tall fellow. Long grey beard. Pointy hat. Can’t say I have.”
A woman Hobbit’s stacked wicker baskets with a pillow placed resembling a Wizard’s hat has Bilbo hiding scared behind Mr. Worrywort. Gandalf must have really instilled the fear of adventure into him. Hiding from a Wizard is in itself pointless since they are very resourceful at finding someone. Bilbo nevertheless gives his best to hide from any unwelcome eyes. We know from what happens next that his efforts failed.
So, follow me to my next post.
Photo credit to Der Hobbit Broschur XL 2020, Athesia Kalenderverlag GmbH