PartIII Chapter 2.6
Frodo and Sam to Bag End, in the Shire, on 22 June 2942
It was a grey day in Hobbiton. A grey early morn where the skies were perennially the colour of cornflowers; or at least at this time. The village and surrounding fields would be scarred under the reign of Saruman, and Bagshot Row would be destroyed, but on this morn when Frodo appeared, the Shire was still isolated and immune from the terror flowing across Middle-earth. Yet on this day, there was a grim greyness, as if something had infiltrated the Shire’s peacefulness; something had arrived, yet secret and dormant, that would change everything.
Frodo looked about him, this was his Shire, his Hobbiton, but it was different. It was some 26 years before he would be born in old lore, but the difference was more than that, it was as if some ebb of darkness had been newly born and cast upon this land. Frodo felt this and quivered. Bilbo had just returned, and returned with The Ring.
Hidden behind the last hobbit-hole in Bagshot Row, Frodo recognised some familiar faces, although much younger, going about their usual business, journeying leisurely into the fields, gossiping with neighbours. He knew that if he was not careful, he would be noticed, and a stranger in Westfarthing, as he would be in this time, would cause a flurry of tattling. So he edged-along behind the Row, towards Bag End. But he knew that he would have to come down through the garden, to get to the front door, at which time he would be in full view of any passing by. He wondered about the whereabouts of Sam, although having been warned by Gandalf that their urgent departure would more than likely affect their position, he was not concerned by his absence, but hoped he would not be too far away.
Luckily all Hobbiton thought that Bilbo was still away, and from what Sam had been told by his father, Gaffer Gamgee, Bilbo would not announce that he had returned for some days yet. So there were no visitors to Bag End that Frodo had to contend with. The garden, although kept by Gaffer in Bilbo’s absence, had grown rampant and bountiful; as Gaffer, not Bilbo, liked it; ‘natural’ as Gaffer would say; Bilbo would say ‘too natural’. The nasturtians trailed ‘over the turf walls’. (Tolkien, LOTR, Part 1)
and the foxgloves, their towering stems encrusted with scarlet bells, reached high above the other foliage, and flowed, with the violet spikes of lavender and the amber petals of sunflowers, scraggily all the way to the front door. The grassy lawn, long and luminous jade, was littered with a mass of brightly coloured wild flowers. From afar it looked like a deep emerald waterfall with brilliant swirls of purples, reds and yellows, rippling in its spray. Frodo had always loved these flowers, but now in such abundance, their combined fragrance was overpowering. Over this brilliance of colour and bouquet, Frodo sensed something dire and dark; something hidden, waiting to be discovered; something searched for, waiting to be reclaimed.
Frodo first thought was:
‘Bilbo will not like what has become of his garden’, but then, he could not help himself thinking:
‘but with what Bilbo has returned, this matters little,’ and he quivered again. However, Frodo did not allow himself to dwell on what he knew lay ahead in ‘old lore’, his path in this time was set in place.
He stood amongst the tall bushes, just to the right of the hobbit-hole, trying to gauge when best it would be to try the front door; to see if Bilbo had, as he regularly and absent-mindedly did, left this unlocked. Frodo had just taken one step out of the bushes towards the door, when a hand reached out and grabbed him from behind.
It was Sam. They stepped back into the cover of the bushes.
They were both Shire-hobbits, but different in face and figure. Both were tall for hobbits, Samwise was a fraction taller and stouter than Frodo; he had rotund face, unruly ginger hair and ruddy complexion, with warm chocolate-coloured eyes and an engaging smile and infectious laugh, which spoke of a spirit of unbridled carefreeness. Frodo was much more reserved, for the effect of being orphaned when young, left him with an air of sadness and introspection, which although he tried to mask most of the time, came through when one looked into his bright but intense sapphire eyes. With finer features than Sam, an oval-shaped face, cleft chin, blushed complexion, fine lips and upturned nose, and a mass of brown hair, gave him a handsome appearance.
The two hobbits were attired in similar garb in harvest colours: vests, coats and cloaks made of tweed wool, collared- shirts of cotton and drop-front breeches of cotton velveteen. However as usual, Sam managed to look the scruff; there was a button missing off his jacket, and it was buttoned askew, and his shirt was untucked at the back.
And so they found each other, dear friends as they had become, merging into the background of Bilbo’s garden-forest of this time.
In excited whispers, Sam described how he had appeared half-way to Overhill, and worried about being detected, did not take the road, but ran across the hillside to get to Bag End. He had arrived, just to see Frodo disappear into the garden. He was sweltering, but overwhelming pleased to see Frodo; for as he ran, he was burdened with thoughts about what he could do if Frodo was not at Bag End when he arrived.
Sam was finishing his account when they heard a commotion down the lane. A surprising thing to occur in this quiet part of the Shire. As they strained to see what was occurring, they overheard agitated mention of Bywater and The Green Dragon. They came out of the bushes to see what was happening, but Frodo pulled Sam back into the cover, for just along where the parlour was, one of the shutters was pushed ajar very slightly. Apparently Bilbo also heard the commotion and was wanting to see what it was all about. Just for this moment, Frodo saw Bilbo look out, a wan but gregarious face; then he went back inside trying to pull the shutter to.
But the shutter, with age and disuse, had warped, and despite his pulling, it shut but could not be locked in place. Frodo heard Bilbo grumble and pull, but the shutter would not bolt-shut. Frodo then heard Bilbo leave the parlour and stomp down the hall, down past the dinning room and into his study. This was their chance, for this window had a large bush of hydrangeas, huge heads of pink blossoms, obscuring the window from the lane, and obscuring their entry. They scampered across from their position, and Frodo pushed the shutter open, looked about to ensure that Bilbo was not in the parlour and climbed in. He helped Sam up and through the window so that both were now safe inside. They could hear Bilbo moving around, walking and muttering, off in the distance.
Frodo looked down the hallway. Nothing had changed in this spacious smial – his home to be. To their right was the main hallway, rounded like a tunnel, across the way was the drawing room, next to the kitchen, which had cellars and pantries. Further to the left were the study, sitting room and bedrooms. The hall and all the rooms, were paneled in pale oak from Bindbole Wood to the North, and the floor of the whole smial had tiles of a mustard colour, across which Bilbo had many multi-coloured scatter rugs. Absolutely nothing had changed. Frodo felt the soft glow of familiarity. Here they were some 30 years before he entered his new home, and everything seemed as it was then. There were even piles of things on tables and chairs, as he had remembered the friendly chaos of Bilbo’s home, although the piles now seemed recently made. Frodo was jolted from his fond memories, when he heard Bilbo walking down the hall.
‘How are we going to introduce ourselves,’ Sam said in a hushed voice.
‘Just as Gandalf said,’ Frodo replied in a return whisper.
But Sam, now in the throes of this situation, was less sure this plan would work.
They watched with the door imperceptibly ajar, as Bilbo scurried past the parlour to the front door.
They had heard no knock on this and wondered why Bilbo would be going to it. But as he passed they saw that he had a trench coat in his arms, he was going to the front hall to hang this up. He returned and continued down the hall, mumbling to himself, as he was want to do. Frodo looked intently at Bilbo as he passed, and smiled to himself, for his dear cousin, was just as he had remembered him, as if his image had been frozen in time, although now there seemed an excitement in his step. He was still dressed in his trekking garments, but being gentlemanly attired, he wore jacket and breeches of matching charcoal woolen tweed-fabric, cream collared shirt, and contrasting ochre waistcoat with brass buttons. However, Frodo could see that there was a layer of powdery dust over his clothes, as there was upon his face, hair and legs, and as he past, an odour of dusty earth exuded from him. However, nothing could dampen Bilbo’s inquisitive dark-brown eyes and jovial smile. Frodo could sense in his bearing that, while happy to have returned to his home, to his Bag End, he pined for the adventure that had come to an end. Frodo felt a sense of pride at the achievement of his cousin, his dearest Bilbo, an adventurous and free soul, so uncommon in a hobbit, despite knowing the baneful outcome of the prize he had carried into the Shire.
However back in Bag End Frodo felt safe and secure again, and his flight into Mordor and the scouring of the Shire seemed merely like a dream, a passing nightmare. He took out his chronometer and the container with the Star of Durin. He opened up the map on the floor of the parlour, and just as Gandalf had shown him, once on the map of the enlarged Bag End, he placed the container on the spot, then opened it up. As he did,
One in the east became aware of it. He summoned the Wizard:
‘The star has been released, unprotected, mark its location!’
the star’s cobalt brilliance billowed from the container, but rather than its light flying high into the air, it sunk as if made of lead, drawn as by a funnel of wind to the map where Bag End appeared.
Frodo pushed the arrow that Gandalf had set up and had warned him with care how to fix the clock. The chronometer showed the time: 8.30 am 22 June Third Age 2942. The time was now set. Frodo carefully closed the container and rolled up the chronomap.
‘It is done Sam, just as Gandalf instructed us.’
‘Yes Mr Frodo, you have set it, just as Gandalf showed.’
‘Then we had better meet Bilbo,’ Frodo responded smiling at Sam: ‘We have much to do today and our plans to set.’
They stepped out from the parlor and walked across to the vestibule. Gandalf had reasoned this to be the least confronting place to meet Bilbo. The plan was that they were to shut the front door with a light thud, and await Bilbo to come to see what happened; implying that they had just entered this way.
As had been planned, Bilbo came out of the sitting room looking to see what had caused the front door to close.
‘Bilbo…Bilbo,’ Frodo called out, despite wishing to appear confident, in a faint trembling voice.
Bilbo had nearly reached the vestibule, squinting in the darkness to see who the unexpected and unwelcomed guest was, retorting:
‘And who may you be, coming uninvited in my home?’
He had not seen Sam, as Sam had consciously hidden behind Frodo, expecting such a welcome, and not wanting to overwhelm Bilbo with more than one stranger at first-sight. But as Bilbo walked towards them, picking up his large walking stick, he continued:
‘Ah, there are two of you. Well if you think you are going to have easy pickings in robbing this hobbit, you have a big surprise install,’ he yelled this out as he approached in as menacing a pose as he could muster.
‘Hold Bilbo, we come with a message from Gandalf,’ Frodo exclaimed quickly.
‘From Gandalf you say. Well anyone could say that. What proof have you of this my fine fellow,’ Bilbo bellowed, raising his stick threateningly.
‘I have…I have a letter from Gandalf,’ Frodo replied, scared that Bilbo would not give him time to answer before he was struck.
By this time Sam had stood alongside Frodo, ready to ward off any attack by Bilbo.
‘A letter. Then you had better put it there, and step back to the door,’ Bilbo responded, pointing to the small table to one side of the vestibule. Frodo walked across to the table and put the letter down, continuing to face Bilbo as he went.
Bilbo picked up the parchment warily, eyeing Frodo and Sam:
‘Just keep your distance.’
He looked at the letter, and it was indeed addressed to him in Gandalf’s hand, and it bore Gandalf’s seal.
‘This looks genuine, but I am not a fool to think that such things cannot be forged…’
But before he could finish his words, Frodo added in a loud but respectful tone:
‘And this, which Gandalf said you would know could only have come from him,’ and he walked forward to give it to Bilbo, but Bilbo gestured with his stick raised in the air that he should put it on the table and then step back.
Bilbo eyed the object, picked it up and then gasped:
‘The Star of Durin… Gandalf gave you his Star of Durin,’ he placed his stick down…
Frodo, standing away, replied:
‘Gandalf said you would know it when you opened it…’
Bilbo looked up from the stone container, then withdrew further along the hall, continuing to watch the intruders suspiciously, and then gingerly opened the box. As he did, the cobalt light of the star rose out of the container,
The one in the east sensed its release and ordered the Wizard:
‘We have it, in Eriador, now you must pin-point the exact location… and time…quick!’
and hovered near Bilbo, then as if Bilbo was a sponge; it was absorbed into and around him. Gandalf had warned Frodo and Sam about this, otherwise they would have been terrified by the sight; but Bilbo, being in the middle of this aura, did not perceive this happening. Gandalf had assured the hobbits that this would cause Bilbo no harm, but that it was a crucial element for later… but this later was not fully explained to them; they had instructions on what to do, but not how or why. They did not question what Gandalf had told, knowing that there was much conjuring in this wizard that could not be explained, especially to simple souls like themselves. But they had no time to linger on these whys, because Bilbo was now approaching them, now no visible sign of the Star’s light, except a bluish aura around him that shimmered in the reflected light of the hall.
As Bilbo approached them, holding the closed container, they could not immediately discern his demeanor, but as he got closer they could see that it was not with anger but excitement that he approached them.
‘Ah Gandalf must trust you greatly to give into your keeping his treasured gem. I regret my lads I have not been too hospitable, but you see I have just returned from an extended time away. Please come into the sitting room while I read Gandalf’s letter. I would like to offer you some refreshments, but I do not have anything to do so.’
‘Do not concern yourself Bilbo. We knew that you would have just returned. We have bought some things to share,’ Frodo added respectfully, and Sam and Frodo followed Bilbo down the hall, past the parlour where they had entered, into the sitting room.
This was a comfortable room dominated by a vintage tapestry lounge. Frodo as a child had loved this lounge, voluptuous cushions into which one sank, perfect for lazing in. Opposite this, stood a granite fireplace, with an oak surround, which now remained unlit to hide any indication of Bilbo’s return, however, on the mantelpiece, there was a single candle, which spluttered a dim light into the room. In the far corner, stood an antique grandfather clock in Windsor Cherry, with a graceful swan neck pediment. A cherished possession of Balbo Baggins, handed down to the favourite great-grandson, Bilbo; it struck on the hour, halves and quarters with sonorous chimes. The only other piece of furniture in the room was a honey-mahogany table at one end, with six chairs, upholstered in the same fabric as the sofa. On this table were strewn remnants of Bilbo’s trip, an old hessian knapsack, crumpled papers and assorted pieces of clothing that looked they were in dire need of washing. Bilbo gathered up all these and carried them out of the room.
Frodo and Sam looked at one another, embarrassedly, not knowing if they should sit or stand. The room, in their days had been flooded with sunlight, was cold and dank. The shutters here were bolted tight, and the air smelt stale, with a hint of damp and mould.
Bilbo reentered the room with some russet earthenware bowls and balloon-shaped wine glasses.
‘Bag End has been closed most all this time of my journey, and as I do not wish yet to face some in Hobbiton, I have chosen not to air it – but think it not unpleasant with the shutters closed.’
Frodo and Sam nodded in an approving manner, and Frodo went across to the table. He opened his bag, and brought out salted meat, dark-seeded crusty bread, dried fruit and plump raisin biscuits, which he placed in the bowls, and from a goat skin wine bota, he poured burgundy wine into the glasses.
‘Ah’ exclaimed Bilbo peering at what Frodo had unpacked, ‘this looks like quite a feast; but first I must read this letter from Gandalf.’
Frodo and Sam sat down at one end of the table. Bilbo took a chair at the other.
Bilbo broke the seal of the letter and as he read it, he muttered, shaking his head, and tapping his leg in nervousness. He finished the letter, and put it down. He reached into the pocket of his jacket as if to get some reassurance, then sat silently for a few minutes, as if in a quandary about what to do next. Frodo and Sam sat in silence waiting for his response.
Finally Bilbo got up from his seat, and took his glass of wine, then returned to it, and spoke in a solemn tone:
‘Do you know the contents of the letter?’ he asked.
Frodo looked at Sam, then replied:
‘We know that Gandalf was to introduce us, and ask you…’ but before he could finish his sentence, Bilbo responded:
‘A closely-guarded secret Gandalf wishes me to discuss with you, and while I trust Gandalf, and with the Star of Durin, trust you come from him, it is not…’and he put his hand in his pocket, then realising that the two hobbits were following his movements, retracted it hastily, and put his hands on the table.
‘From Buckland Gandalf says you come…and yet both of you look familiar, do you have family in these whereabouts?’
Although it was an obvious question, neither Frodo or Sam were prepared for it, and they blithered answers separately of ‘Yes’ and ‘No’, which made Bilbo view them with suspicion.
‘Stay here, young Hobbits’, he said, and taking the Star of Durin with him, left the room.
Frodo turned to Sam and declared self-reproachably:
‘Well we mucked that up; we need a story to fix it before Bilbo returns.’
Sam immediately came up with a solution:
‘We must say, that Gandalf sent us here on this furtive errand, and as there was much at risk, we were warned not to divulge any details unnecessarily, so therefore our inconsistency…’
But before they could agree totally on the words to use, they felt a shudder of time, as if it had been intruded and saw a cobalt flash of light extrude from the room Bilbo had entered. Bilbo had opened the Star of Durin container again.
The one in the east turned to the Wizard:
‘It is in a smial named Bag End in the Shire… on the morn…. the hour before noontime on 22 June 2942. Go, prepare the Lieutenant for his journey, he must leave in five quadrals….. But…’
This one then sensed the vibe of The One reaching out…the Star had given it life…
‘Wizard… Tell the Lieutenant, there are two Halflings who have touched the star, and one hides The One Ring on his person, kill them both, and bring me back the Ring. Yes The One Ring, The Light has led me to The One - all the future will now be changed!
Go Wizard – I will not hear of your concerns… send my loyal assassin to fetch my Ring…
Bilbo returned, the aura around him had taken on a deeper hue. In grave bass tone, as if the absorption of the light had deepened his voice, he announced:
‘The Star is genuine and through it I have felt Gandalf’s presence. He spoke of sending you to me on this mission, about which you would not divulge the details, but that my cooperation was of vital importance. I can only respect my friend’s wishes. If I seem suspicious and concerned, know that what Gandalf has requested of me, no one else is aware, something I have carried close, but see that I must now share with you.’
With that he came over to the hobbits and placed his hand on their shoulders as if to comfort them and himself. He pulled the chair close to them and sat down, and as if to avoid the hearing of some unseen other, spoke in whispers.
The grandfather clock chimed the 9th hour.
‘Gandalf says you come to ask me about my experience in the Misty Mountains, and that I will only be told why some other time when he comes,’ Bilbo took a tense breathe then continued: ‘Gandalf said that you will ask for nothing except facts, that nothing else will be required,’ and at this time Bilbo hesitated, and put his hand in his pocket, ‘nothing else!’
‘Oh no Bilbo, we ask for nothing other than the facts,’ repeated Frodo assuredly.
‘If this is so important, why did Gandalf not come himself?’ asked Bilbo, still fighting off his suspicions and a mistrust that seemed to flare up within him outside his control.
Frodo thought how to reply, but in this hesitation of thought, Sam responded, trying to fill the suspicious silence:
‘Gandalf has had something else urgent to do,’ and as he could see Bilbo’s eyes squint in disapproval, ‘something else that only a wizard could attend to.’
Bilbo hesitated, then the nodding in agreement, replied:
‘Oh well, yes, there are things that wizards must attend to, that the likes of you - us - could not. Yes, I see the reasoning that could lead him to send two hobbits to seek out… seek out these facts.’
Then he looked intently at the two hobbits, and as if finally some reassurance blossomed within him, his body relaxed and he sat back in his chair, and taking a quaff of his wine, continued in an affable voice:
‘If it is the facts you need, then I suppose we might as well start from the beginning, but we should not let this delicious food and drink go to waste’, and placing a chunk of bread and meat on his plate, and taking another gulp of wine:
‘Ah, there is no mistaking this as Gandalf’s renowned brew.’
As Bilbo started to eat and drink heartily, and Frodo and Sam joined in, but cautiously only consuming a little of the wine, the tension eased and the parley progressed in amicable spirit.
‘Well, where to start?’ Bilbo pondered, munching now on a raisin biscuit and stretching out on his chair.
‘Bilbo, there were varied stories of your experiences,’ prompted Frodo, conscious that time was slipping away, and they had much still to find and do:
‘What Gandalf has asked for are the facts, everything as it was!’
‘Yes, yes, of course. Be assured if Gandalf needs this information, I will make sure that it is accurate,’ Bilbo replied, not being one who liked to be pressured, but feeling increasingly relaxed with the wine.
And so Bilbo recounted how on his way on the Quest of Erebor, his party had been set upon by orcs in a high pass in the Misty Mountains. Then forced into hiding in the mines and getting lost, he had, in groping through the dark, found a Ring, which he put into his pocket. Then he met Gollum, a loathsome creature who challenged him to a riddle-game, which he promised, if Bilbo won he would lead him safely out of the mine. In the end, when needing a riddle, Bilbo had asked Gollum ‘what he (Bilbo) had in his pocket.’ (Tolkien, LOTR, Part 1)
Despite three guesses Gollum failed the riddle, and with a dark-heart, proved false to his promise. With luck, when Bilbo put his hand in his pocket, the Ring slipped on his finger and he became invisible. Gollum rushed passed him thinking to block Bilbo’s way to the exit, but being invisible Bilbo had leaped over Gollum and fled the tunnel. Bilbo then used the Ring to escape the orcs-guards and was reunited with his companions. His use of the Ring proved “mightily valuable” – but that was another story.
Frodo thanked Bilbo warmly, but he knew that they needed precise information, and so with a courteous yet insistent tone he asked him for four specific pieces of information.
‘Bilbo, what we need now is exactly where the tunnel was where you came across Gollum; the location of his abode; what precisely was the time and date of your meeting, and what did the wretched creature say or do that made you pity and stay from slaying him?’
Bilbo pondered then jumped up, and saying that the ‘young fellows’ should remain, left the room with a hurried shuffling step and returned ten minutes later, after some muttering and straining sounds, obviously from upending and searching through boxes, with a rolled-up map.
‘I think I can show you the spot,’ he uttered, and moving the food to one side, unrolled the map on the table. It was a map of Middle-earth on one side, and on the other it followed the backbone of Middle-earth - the thousand mile chain of the Misty Mountains from Carn Dûm in the north to the Methedras in the south. It was on this map that Bilbo sought to identify the location of the tunnel. He knew that it was at the High Pass, east of Rivendell, that the company had taken shelter from a storm. Here they were captured by orcs, but then rescued by Gandalf, with the dwarf, Dori, carrying Bilbo into the tunnels, but when attacked, Bilbo was knocked unconscious and became lost.
But try as Bilbo might, reasoning here and there, he could not accurately pinpoint the location of the tunnel – the markings were not fine enough. Twenty minutes past in this deliberation, Bilbo trying to retrace his steps into the tunnel. Finally Frodo and Sam looked at each other, they realised that only the chronomap could assist them.
Frodo took out his chronomap, explaining to Bilbo that this was a magic map of Gandalf’s making, and pointed to the High Pass. Bilbo gasped as the map expanded on the High Pass, then as Frodo moved his finger, the area became magnified. And so, it was with measured movements across the chronomap, that Bilbo sought the entrance to the tunnel. But as Bilbo explained, there was so much confusion and panic, that he could only identify an approximate area for the entrance. Bilbo then hesitated, closed his eyes – he could do this differently…
The grandfather clock chimed the 10th hour.
He might easier be able to find the tunnel’s exit.
He gave quill and paper to Frodo, and said:
‘Write down what I see.’
Bilbo then recounted the images as he escaped from the tunnel. A hoary tree that had bent over with age; for he remembered being entangled in its lower branches as he fled. There was a track, yes, a track that he ran along, overrun by forest undergrowth and pitted, for he stumbled on its uneven surface, but definitely a track. Not far along there were boulders to his right… Bilbo stopped as if to examine more closely his memory. These boulders were not a natural formation… they had been positioned there purposely… it was a monument, yes he was sure, a monument or …. Bilbo stopped, searching for details that his mind took in as he ran, but at that moment of flight took no attention of… The boulders had writing on them… but he could not make thus out.
Frodo and Sam sat mum; Frodo quill poised...
Bilbo sighed, then excitedly proclaimed:
‘It was not a monument, but a sign-post; it was pointing the way up the mountain peak… and there was an elven drawing carved into the rock face...’
Bilbo stopped; his breathing became laboured as if he was experiencing once more the exertion and anxiety of his flight on that day.
Frodo leant over to him, and placed his hand gently on his shoulder, saying:
‘Bilbo, it is fine, we have enough, do not distress yourself so…’
‘No, no, my good lad, there is more, you must have it all if you are to find a way into the tunnel...’ and he began trawling his memory again…
As he ran down the track, just past the boulders, he felt as if the mountain lent over and embraced him, yes, this is where he stopped his flight, for a mountain outcrop hid him from above, from the tunnel exit, from view of orcs and the creature. He snuggled inside this crevice and caught his breath. And Bilbo came to the end of his recounting:
‘I am afraid I was so in fear of the creature, I did not take in much as I ran, but’, and he hesitated again, ‘I distinctly remember an odd rather pungent odour as I ran out of the tunnel. Of rotting material, but mixed in with the sickly fragrance of…, of nasturtians, yes nasturtians. For it was unusual to find this flower in these parts of the mountain. But I am sure, Frodo, find the nasturtians and you will find an entrance to the tunnel.’
Bilbo rested, falling limp into his chair. Frodo poured him a glass of water, but he waved that away amicably, asking instead for another glass of wine – ‘for medicinal purposes’ he insisted; for his memory was fraught with dread yet brought him draining weariness. Frodo and Sam sat waiting for him to recover. Bilbo looked over to them:
‘Yes, I must continue. The second question?’ he mumbled.
‘The time and date, Bilbo. Exactly when did you meet Gollum?’ repeated Frodo kindly, realising the trauma they were asking Bilbo to recall but also the urgency of the answers they needed.
‘Ah, when, exactly when?’ Bilbo took another slurp of the medicinal elixir:
‘Let me see, it was April when we left, and we assailed Smaug, that was October.’
‘Yes, Bilbo, in October Smaug was slain, but what date exactly did you meet Gollum?’ urged Frodo, regretting his manner, but getting rather panicky, realising that it may be impossible for Bilbo to remember this very date, when all else seemed a bit of a blur.
But Bilbo did not seem perturbed by Frodo’s insistence, but sat there pondering, then almost jumping from his seat with a revelation, he announced confidently and proudly:
‘Why how silly of me, the date was 22nd June ; for I remembered that in my crevice I pined that here I sat hiding from danger, whereas if in the Shire, it would be Loëndë, Midyear’s Day, filled with celebration and merriment, yes it was 22nd June.
‘Thank you Bilbo, Frodo said sincerely, but anxious to have Bilbo answer the next question, ‘Did you see his home?’
‘His home, his home - oh it was not one we would recognise as a home, for the base creature lived on an island in a subterranean lake which formed the heart of this network of caves. Just follow the middle path from the opening I have described – it will take you to the lake,’ as Bilbo recounted this he started to shake, ‘Oh, I am loathe to give directions to anyone of this creature, for I fear that even Gandalf would not have the power to protect himself for its evil wrath..’
‘Yet Bilbo you did not strike him down when you had the chance, why?’ Sam interjected, and Frodo chimed in: ‘What did he say to change your mind?’
Bilbo moved about in his chair, visibly tormented by the memories they were seeking from him. He drunk deeply from his wine, and spoke in a breathless, guarded, fearful voice:
‘His words were as foul as his heart,’ then as if finding courage to face the memories now haunting him, he started to speak rapidly and intensely, recounting events before they could overwhelm him:
‘He cursed much, and his frenzy was shown by his eyes which shone with fury and hate, like a green blaze. I have no doubt that there was murder in his heart, when he rushed to block my way. He cried, in monstrous rage and pity, yes for I found him pitiful, ‘Thief, thief! Baggins! We hates it forever.’* (Tolkien LOTR, Part I)
Nothing mattered, his life or another’s, except his gaining possession of ‘his precious’. I have no doubt he was possessed beyond all cure. For when he was not cursing, he spoke to himself, as if consumed by some enveloping darkness, from which only a glimmer of another existed. From this, he seemed gruesomely tormented by a constant battle within himself, between the dark and the light.’
Then Bilbo stopped, gasping for a tortured breath:
‘Ah but ask me no more of him, for my memory brings back dread, yet immense pity, for the pathetic creature.’
‘Do not distress yourself with other images Bilbo. There is no need for more. For we have what we need now, and it will soon be the zenith of the day, when we must leave,’ and Frodo looked up at the clock, it was quarter to the eleventh hour.
‘To meet with Gandalf?’ Bilbo asked.
‘We go to meet him, but not in the Shire,’ Frodo replied.
‘Then you have a lengthy journey to travel,’ Bilbo added ‘you had better be off. Will Gandalf be returning to the Shire?’
‘He plans to Bilbo, to see you, but not for awhile.’
‘And the Ring, for he knows now that I hold it,’ Bilbo retorted, nervously feeling for his prize deep within his pocket.
‘Gandalf will come…, but we will see him before then and give him your regards,’ then Frodo added, seeing Bilbo’s growing concern:
‘Gandalf has no plans for your Ring in this time. We must leave now Bilbo, we wish you well.’
‘Ah, then you will see Gandalf before I, I ask you to take him something I know that he would wish, I picked it up in my travels… ,’and Bilbo went to stand up, but his recollections had taken more out of him than he imagined, his legs quivered under him, Frodo came to his aid, and offered:
‘Stay here Bilbo and rest; tell me where your present is…’
‘Oh you will probably not be able to find it,’ Bilbo uttered in frustration, trying to stand, but sitting back down, accepting Frodo’s offer:
‘I will describe where it is, and would be most grateful if you could bring it to me so I might write a note…. It is in the far box room, a parcel wrapped in brown-paper, within is a clay pipe and a supply of Longbottom leaf…’
The clock struck the quarter to the hour before noon.
Frodo laughed, exclaiming:
‘Gandalf will appreciate such a gift!’
They discussed animatedly of the laurels of the famous weed and Gandalf’s penchant to it, then Frodo walked from the room, down past the kitchen, through the study and cellar, to the far box room. As he reached it he heard the Grandfather clock strike the eleventh hour – the strike chiming shrilly; Frodo shuddered, he did not know why.
He was searching through all the packages that Bilbo had stored in this room, he heard a heavy thud as if a door had slammed, then a piercing scream… He was so shocked at first he did not realise that it came from within the smial. Then there were other muffled screams….
He dropped what he had in his hands, and ran back to the sitting room, frantically opening the door, the candle had been squashed and the room was plunged into near-darkness. He bolted in and fell over something, dazed he picked himself up, and saw an image of raven cloth disappear down the hall… but everything was in a haze, it seemed as he tried to get up that everything was in slow-motion. He looked down, he was covered in something hot and sticky – then realised it was blood, he felt over his body looking for where he had been injured, then saw it was Bilbo he had tripped over, lying on the floor, gaping wound in his side; Bilbo’s hand reached out for him, and in a death-like wheeze, mouthed:
‘He has taken the Ring!’
‘He has taken the Ring!’ Frodo repeated in a panic, then his thoughts raced uncontrollably:
‘Who is he? Should he try to help Bilbo or run after the image he saw disappearing down the hall? Where is Sam? Could it be Sam who took the Ring? The Ring, the Ring, if Sauron gets the Ring now, then it will change all the future of Middle-earth; if he has the Ring, there would be no Fellowship – there would be no future! How did he know about the Ring – he did not know about its location before; what had Frodo done to lead him to the Ring? Was it Sauron who came and stabbed Bilbo and took the Ring? Will he be coming back now that Frodo has showed himself? Should he follow him, should he…. should he….should he contact Gandalf – oh where was Sam? He didn’t know what to do…what to do…he was useless and frightened… the Ring – oh how he had messed up this mission!’
‘Bilbo, Bilbo…, ’ Frodo called out, as if this would awaken him; he put his hand over his mouth, there was no breath – no life here.
‘Sam, Sam… where are you...?’ Frodo stood up and started to search through the darkness – and there was Sam in near the hall door, sword drawn, but motionless.
Frodo dropped down to him, ‘Sam, Sam, say something… Sam…’, tears were streaming across his face, he was desperate and alone…or so he thought. Then he felt a presence of another, he jolted up in fright…in anticipation of being struck down – he looked around the shadows of the room… but no-one was there; he turned and raced down the hall, and found, just at the front door, a black formless figure prostrate on the floor, Frodo reeled back in horror…was he alive, was he dead, one hand holding a blood-stained sword in his hand, the other arm outstretched, something clutched in his hand.
Frodo nudged the cloak, and was bending down – and as he did he heard a voice… one he had not heard before, but like that of Gandalf, he looked about startled…
‘Frodo, Frodo, you have but a minute to act, use the star and the map to reverse the time. Quick Frodo! ‘
Frodo stood frozen for a second looking down at the black form, then he took out the chronomap as instructed by the voice, he released the Star of Durin – its cobalt light ebbed through the smial, it covered the hobbits and the assassin, its light cocooning Bag End and all its inhabitants and spreading through time to all those that had been witness to its release… then he pressed Û
In another space within The Light, another chanted:
‘ Si sga sola, emm luts qasuqp,
Si sga yiqmf es sgot niops,
Lew Sga Mohgs diq emm yoshop,
To the world at this point,
May The Light for all within,
Return the time so.’
Then in that very second a swirling boom sounded as if from thunder, and then Frodo felt a shudder. Then all was still and silent. All memory and sight had been erased of this other time.
It was moments before 8.30 am 22 June Third Age 2942
…. back in Bag End Frodo felt safe and secure again, and his flight into Mordor and the scouring of the Shire seemed merely like a dream, a passing nightmare. Frodo took out his chronometer and the container with the Star of Durin. He opened up the map on the floor of the parlour, and just as Gandalf had shown him, once on the map of the enlarged Bag End, he placed the container on the spot, then opened it up. As he did,
The Ancient One shielded its light from detection.
The One in the East had sensed a reversal, but no trace of it remained. His attention was drawn to others: a first-born and a maiden. Traps were being laid.
He would not now sense the cobalt light of the Star in the Shire; he would not intervene or send his assassin into this time.
the star’s cobalt brilliance billowed from the container, but rather than its light flying high into the air, it sunk as if made of lead, drawn as by a funnel of wind to the map where Bag End appeared.
Ancient sign of an hour
The clock struck the quarter to the hour before noon.
Frodo laughed, exclaiming:
‘Gandalf will appreciate such a gift!’
They discussed animatedly of the laurels of the famous weed and Gandalf’s penchant to it, then Frodo walked from the room, down past the kitchen, through the study and cellar, to the far box room. As he reached it he heard the Grandfather clock strike the eleventh hour – the strike chiming melodiously; Frodo felt a sense of reassurance and safety, he did not know why.
He searched through all the packages that Bilbo had stored in this room. It was soon found, for the aromatic pipeweed exuded from the brown-paper covering. He brought the parcel back to Bilbo, who wrote a message for Gandalf, then retied the package.
‘Here give this to my dearest friend. When Gandalf returns to the Shire, will you accompany him?’ Bilbo asked.
‘One day Bilbo, one day we will return and be as family to you.’ Frodo said sincerely but sadly, knowing what next he must do.
Frodo and Sam stood up, and Bilbo came across to embrace them.
‘Of what I have told you, only Gandalf must know!’ Bilbo stressed solemnly.
‘Only Gandalf will, rest assured Bilbo,’ replied Frodo.
The hobbits walked down the hall to the front door, Bilbo reaching for the Ring in his pocket.
‘I wish for none to see that I have returned yet, so ask you to leave via the garden, not the path…’
‘It is as we wish it also, that none see as leave,’ Frodo responded.
And with that Frodo embraced his cousin. Bilbo looked out from the door, checking there was no-one passing. As the visitors stepped into the bushes, they saw Bilbo look after them, then close the door. The cobalt aura still shimmering around him. They walked swiftly across the garden, then up the hill at the back of Bag End and into the forest.
They stopped in the midst of a clump of ancient trees. Although it was mid-day, only shadowy light entered into its heart. The trees seem to surround them, their thick viridian foliage and elongated twisted branches forming a cocoon around them. Frodo took out the chronomap and the Star of Durin. He unrolled the map and placed the Star on Bag End. Its light billowed forth, and filled the cocoon with its cobalt brilliance, protecting them from all that lay beyond, and within nothing stirred. Its core lay on Bag End. The date read 8.30 am 22 June Third Age 2942. Frodo pressed the arrow pointing to the reverse, just as Gandalf had shown them. They heard the hum of a low chant; then a swirling boom sounded as if from thunder, and then they felt a shudder. Then all was still and silent. This eerie silence hung like a heavy mantle.
They knew what Gandalf had told them would happen. Within Bag End, all that was enveloped in the cobalt light would return to 8.30 am of that day. Nothing of their meeting would remain; everything that had happened between them and Bilbo would be erased. The ‘old lore’ would continue, uninterrupted and unaffected by their meeting. All would continue as it had been written.
Within moments, the light of the Star ceased to swirl and returned to its casket. Sam took out his chronomap, sitting it beside that of Frodo. They moved the time to dawn on 22 June of the Third Age 2941; they located the spot identified by Bilbo, hidden-deep within the Misty Mountains, and as the sun in this time moved to reign the skies in the crown of the day, they travelled back to find Gollum in his lair.