There is always one corner of the world where the troubles of other people are not even heard of. A place where dragons’ mere existence is questioned. If they cannot see it, then it must not be true. The stories told of such creatures remain part of Wizard’s imagination, a story to tell the little ones. It was a place untouched by world wars and racial disagreements. There the people live in harmony, an almost symbiotic relationship with nature. There they prosper on their own, enjoying their own community and the simple way of life. That place is the Shire.
Writing the Hobbit story
Bilbo: “And that my dear Frodo is where I come in. It was a beginning of an unlikely friendship that has lasted all my life. But it is not the start of my story. For me, it began…well, it began as you might expect. In a hole in the ground, there lived a Hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole full of worms and oozy smells. This was a Hobbit hole. And that means good food, a warm hearth and all the comforts of home.”
Bilbo is commencing to write the story of his journey in his red leather-bound book. He enjoys his books, maps, and scribbles as they are, strewn across his Hobbit hole, seemingly without rule or purpose. The words on the paper make him giggle as he contemplates the simple life of a Hobbit. However, as soon as Frodo approaches him, he closes his book and stiffens his attitude. It appears as though he isn’t comfortable sharing it with Frodo, not even for a single peek.
Bilbo: “Thank you.”
Frodo: “What’s this?”
Bilbo: “That is private. Keep your sticky paws off. It’s not ready yet.”
Frodo: “Not ready for what?”
Bilbo was somewhat of a mentor for Frodo ever since he took him in after his parents died. From what we know, Bilbo had shared the stories of his adventure with him, igniting the same wondrous spirit that he himself possessed. It seems odd then to see him protect his writing from Frodo. It could be that he is simply overly critical of his own writing and chooses not to reveal it until he feels it is ready.
Or, he wants to instill a sense of privacy and respect, which in a shared home is hard to come by anyway. He may also be somewhat shy, for although he had told Frodo most of it, he had not told him all of the story. Could there be passages that he himself finds embarrassing or shameful? Does he want Frodo only to see him as he now is, rather than how he came about being the way he is?
Bilbo: “What on earth are these?”
Frodo: “Replies to the party invitations.”
Bilbo: “Ah. Good gracious. Is it today?”
Bilbo does seem very excited at the thought of his birthday celebration. Celebrations are part of the life of their community. Hobbits celebrate big. His excitement toward his birthday contradicts the assumption that he has become unsociable. He might have become somewhat of a recluse, but his birthday was still an event that was to be celebrated with the Hobbits from across the Shire. No matter what he thought of them personally, he obviously liked to make a big fuss over his turning 111 years old.
Frodo: “They all say they’re coming. Except for the Sackville-Bagginses, who are demanding you ask them in person.”
Bilbo: “Are they, indeed? Over my dead body.”
Frodo: “They’d probably find that quite agreeable. They seem to think you have tunnels overflowing with gold. It was one small chest, hardly overflowing. And it still smells of Troll.”
Frodo: “What on earth are you doing?”
Bilbo: “Taking precautions. You know I caught her making off with the silverware once.”
Bilbo: “Lobelia Sackville-Baggins. She had all my spoons stuffed in her pocket. Ha! Dreadful woman.”
Family discord has become an irreplaceable part of the relationship between relations, especially those not living in the same house. Lobelia Sackville-Baggins isn’t even Bilbo’s blood relative. She married Bilbo’s cousin Otho Sackville-Baggins and was thus made Bilbo’s relative. She is known in the Shire for her covetousness and greed. Ever since she married, she had one eye on Bag End, waiting for the day when she and her husband would inherit the estate. For all her want of Bilbo’s possessions, it is no wonder he was taking precautions.
Withholding the plan
Bilbo: “Make sure you keep an eye on her after I’m…when I’m…when I’m…”
Frodo: “When you’re what?”
Bilbo: “It’s nothing. Nothing.”
There was a secret Bilbo was keeping from Frodo. He had mentioned leaving the Shire in the past but never acted on it. For Bilbo to stop himself mid-sentence before revealing his plan gives a clue to his relationship with Frodo. He was careful not to spill the beans about his future to him. Was he dreading the goodbye, the need for explanation? Was it just cowardice? Or was he just waiting for the right moment to go off with a bang? Whatever the reason, it seems strange for him to keep anything from his one live-in relative, who might profit from knowing about it.
Two journeys tied in together
Frodo: “You think he’ll come?”
Bilbo: “Oh-ho. He wouldn’t miss a chance to let off his Whizpoppers. He’ll give us quite a show, you’ll see.”
Frodo: “Right, then. I’m off.”
Bilbo: “Off to where?”
Frodo: “East-farthing woods. I’m going to surprise him.”
Bilbo: “Well, go on, then. You don’t want to be late.”
This scene perfectly ties in with the scene in Hobbiton in the Fellowship of the Ring. Peter Jackson has performed a seamless transition from one story to the next, tying both fates and journeys together as one continuous adventure.
Bilbo: “He doesn’t approve of being late. Oh, no. Not that I ever was. In those days, I was always on time. I was entirely respectable. And nothing unexpected ever happened.”
Here we hear the first characterization of Bilbo from his younger days. He was an upstanding citizen, well-off in the contents of the Shire, highly regarded for his traits, one of which was being punctual. An interesting trait to mention. Let’s see how Bilbo was like then.
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