Rivendell 5 ~ The Red Book: “I’m not like you, Bilbo”, plus “Rivendell Suite".
One of the things that struck me, re-reading these chapters set in Rivendell, is how close, what intimate friends Frodo and Bilbo actually are. I had forgotten. In part, it is because of the book itself: Bilbo isn’t there that much, literally, in the pages of The Lord of the Rings—an inevitability, perhaps, because he doesn’t go on the Quest. But I think my amnesia also comes from reading a lot of fanfiction that portrays Frodo in intense love relationships. Whether the author imagines Frodo involved with Sam or Merry or some other person from the Quest, or with an original character back in the Shire, these stories necessarily make Frodo’s relationship with Bilbo a side interest. It is this way in real life for most of us: when we fall in love with someone, our existing relationships with family or friends tend to take a back seat, at least for a while.
The Rivendell chapters reveal a relationship that is close and unique. Bilbo and Frodo are not depicted as a loving parent and child, or even a devoted mentor and student, but as intimate friends, of long standing, who hold each other very dear. Even the power of the Ring cannot tarnish their mutual regard. In the book, it is on Frodo’s first day out of bed, in the Hall of Fire, that the shadow of the Ring falls between them. Bilbo asks to see the Ring and suddenly, to Frodo's shock and dismay, he sees Bilbo as a grasping, withered, frightening old creature. (The specific book excerpt and more discussion will be provided when I get to that film scene.) Bilbo understands that the power of the Ring has overshadowed them. He makes a brief acknowledgement, pulls himself together, and moves the conversation in another direction. In that way they are able to let it go, and they do, spending the ensuing months delighting in each other’s company. That’s how strong their love is, and how comfortable they are with each other.
The two cousins may be widely separated in age and very different in temperament, but they have much in common, and not only ties of blood and a shared past. They share knowledge, interests and enthusiasms, perhaps even a their aesthetic sense. Perhaps the most important thing they have in common is their exceptional honesty and decency. This is difficult to find in one person, much less two.
This post also features the third poem in jan-u-wine’s “Rivendell Suite”, written specifically for this scene. Whether Frodo is out on the gallery with Bilbo in the sunlight-hours, or in the archives of Imladris at night, jan-u-wine takes up the particular bitter-sweetness, even melancholy of the film scene and develops it with the depth of her book-lover’s perspective. The Frodo Baggins I know and love resonates in every word. When I have finished reading, a savour of him lingers in my heart and mind, the way a fine wine echoes on the palate.
From Many Meetings:
The scene below continues immediately from the excerpt in the previous entry, in which Bilbo recited his song of Eärendil to the company. As the attention shifts elsewhere, Bilbo makes a proposal.
‘What do you say to slipping off for some more quiet talk?’
‘Can we?’ said Frodo.
‘Of course. This is merrymaking not business. Come and go as you like, as long as you don’t make a noise.’
They got up and withdrew quietly into the shadows, and made for the doors. Sam they left behind, fast asleep still with a smile on his face. In spite of his delight in Bilbo’s company Frodo felt a tug of regret as they passed out of the Hall of Fire. Even as they stepped over the threshold a single clear voice rose in song.
The Elves sing ‘A Elbereth Gilthoniel’.
Frodo halted for a moment, looking back. Elrond was in his chair and the fire was on his face like summer-light upon the trees. Near him sat the Lady Arwen. To his surprise Frodo saw that Aragorn stood beside her; his dark cloak was thrown back, and he seemed to be clad in elven-mail, and a star shone on his breast. They spoke together, and then suddenly it seemed to Frodo that Arwen turned towards him, and the light of her eyes fell on him from afar and pierced his heart.
He stood still enchanted, while the sweet syllables of the elvish song fell like clear jewels of blended word and melody. ‘It is a song to Elbereth,’ said Bilbo. ‘They will sing that, and other songs of the Blessed Realm, many times tonight. Come on!’
He led Frodo back to his own little room. It opened on to the gardens and looked south across the ravine of the Bruinen. There they sat for some while, looking through the window at the bright stars above the steep-climbing woods, and talking softly. They spoke no more of the small news of the Shire far away, nor of the dark shadows and perils that encompassed them, but of the fair things they had seen in the world together, of the Elves, of the stars, of trees, and the gentle fall of the bright year in the woods.
At last there came a knock on the door. ‘Begging your pardon,’ said Sam, putting in his head, ‘but I was just wondering if you would be wanting anything.’
‘And begging yours, Sam Gamgee,’ replied Bilbo. ‘I guess you mean that it is time your master went to bed.’
‘Well, sir, there is a Council early tomorrow, I hear, and he only got up today for the first time.’
‘Quite right, Sam,’ laughed Bilbo. ‘You can trot off and tell Gandalf that he has gone to bed. Good night, Frodo! Bless me, but it has been good to see you again! There are no folk like hobbits after all for a real good talk. I am getting very old, and I began to wonder if I should ever live to see your chapters of your story. Good night! I’ll take a walk, I think, and look at the stars of Elbereth in the garden. Sleep well!’
From The Ring Goes South:
The brief excerpts below comes from later in the story, after the naming of the Fellowship at the Council of Elrond. I include them here because I think they give a good overview of how the hobbits spent their time during their autumn in Rivendell.
In those last days the hobbits sat together in the evening in the Hall of Fire, and there among many tales they heard told in full the lay of Beren and Lúthien and the winning of the Great Jewel; but in the day, while Merry and Pippin were out and about, Frodo and Sam were to be found with Bilbo in his own small room. Then Bilbo would read passages from his book (which still seemed very incomplete), or scraps of his verses, or would take notes of Frodo’s adventures.
For a while the hobbits continued to talk and think of the past journey and of the perils that lay ahead; but such was the virtue of the land of Rivendell that soon all fear and anxiety was lifted from their minds. The future, good or ill, was not forgotten, but ceased to have any power over the present. Health and hope grew strong in them, and they were content with each good day as it came, taking pleasure in every meal, and in every word and song.
So the days slipped away, as each morning dawned bright and fair, and each evening followed cool and clear.
Bilbo and Frodo look through the Red Book. Seeing the page with the map of the Shire, Frodo tells Bilbo he misses it. “I spent all my childhood pretending I was off somewhere else, off with you on one of your adventures....”
Frodo: But my own adventure turned out to be quite different.
Bilbo listens, then Frodo looks at Bilbo.
Frodo: I’m not like you, Bilbo.
Bilbo touches Frodo's face.
Bilbo: My dear boy.
There are no coverings to the arch of door or window
No keeping out (or in)
the small sounds contained within night's dark fist,
the clear, sweet smell of dawn, the cold
sluice of grey rain,
the wandering finger-breaths of gentle,
I know them all now,
*such* things as might travel freely
through the unguarded air.
I know them all,
wraiths of many a night
spent watchful and silence-struck.
In the black pockets of those nights, when I imagine, even, the stars have gone out,
vanished, (like melted diamond-ice) from the swaddling of the sky,
*in* those moments when sound becomes
loud for its very lack...
in those moments, I have taken to visiting my Lord's library,
(as he said I might).
I do not feel small there,
small and adrift upon a current
which I cannot alter for all my trying.
Ancient maps of Elvish device weight the stand before me,
parchment yellow and curling beneath silver'd runes,
jewel'd markers of places long vanished from mortal eyes.
All the tales of the Ages are here,
open and simple,
all spun and told within the wandering tracery of boundary,
And in the midst of all, my heart quieted and
near-crushed with the very
largeness of what is before me,
a scroll of no great size falls open.
In the space of a breath, my mind lends
form to ink'd lines,
my feet deep in the down-fine dust of Shire lanes,
the rich tea-scent of autumn leaves filling
the pleasant dark bite of bitter ale
cold and crisp at the back of my throat.
And the maps of other lands,
the lined stories of people and places
which are *not* Home, fall,
without note, upon the floor.
I do not see them any longer, my fingers tracing,
instead, the line of Road and River,
March and Marish,
Hill and 'Hallow.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I do not believe that ever I understood myself before now.
Now, upon this autumn balcony,
Uncle's book open within my hands,
Uncle's voice (trembling with time)
speaking still of storied places,
places he shall never see again,
places which even now his adventurous
heart yearns for.
And even while I love him for all that he was
even while his voice yet dances and weaves his longing about me,
even while my eyes fill with fond tears
for the *knowing* of him,
I know, too, with finality, my own self.
I am still naught
but the orphan-hearted lad who came, once upon a harvest-time,
to live beneath a Hill.......
*all* else is but far-off dreme and empty story,
legends writ upon scrolls my heart should ne'er understand.
Never shall I have an adventure
as you did, Uncle,
an Adventure that I might
wrap within bright words
and tell, sing-song, to the little ones
on a summer's eve.
different from yours,
As different as myself.
I'm not like you, Bilbo.
I am not like you at all.
Screencap lovers should know that the talented Blossom has capped these first Bilbo-Frodo scenes to create an animated gif and slideshow (with music and bits of dialogue), plus a gallery of selected caps. If you don’t know Blossom’s work, you are in for a treat. Her caps are all from the widescreen version, and are beautifully, expressively tweaked. Each one is a work of art. To show the difference, here is her version of one of the caps above. It’s gorgeous.
If you would like to see her slideshows and caps for this scene, go to her Frodo website, In Dreams. Go to the slideshow called “My Dear Boy”. The animated gif and the gallery of caps are accessed with links provided. You won’t be disappointed!
~ Riv. 4 – Red Book: ‘This is wonderful!’, plus Pt. 2 of jan-u-wine’s ‘Rivendell Suite’.
~ Riv. 6 – ‘Ready to go home’, plus jan-u-wine's "Soon".