I’ve mentioned regularly during this Rivendell series how much reading the chapters again has reminded me of Bilbo’s importance as a character in the story, in spite of not actually being in it very much, and of the warmth of his relationship with Frodo. Tolkien doesn’t spell out the history of that relationship here (or anywhere, really), but their mutual regard is implied everywhere. So is the depth of Bilbo’s feelings, even if he doesn’t express them directly. As Gandalf remarks after Bilbo offers to take the Ring, “we do not doubt that under jest you are making a valiant offer”. Bilbo, in the manner of hobbits, often will say serious things lightly. How I would love to have seen this scene played, and played well.
Jan-u-wine has written a beautiful poem, Heir to the Dreamer, that moves me very much. Written from Bilbo’s point of view in the year he decides to take Frodo to live with him and be his heir, it lets us look inside the story of their relationship. It gives us a vision of the origins of the love that would move Bilbo, at one hundred and twenty-eight, living in idyllic retirement, to volunteer to go to Mordor in order to spare his heir.
The poem follows the screencaps, which illustrate one of my favourite moments in the film. Frodo, small and unnoticed in the midst of all the uproar, steps forward, volunteering to carry the Ring to Mordor. The fragmented arguments of the assembly continue. Frodo's offer is made a second time, in a louder voice. Gandalf’s reaction, when he hears Frodo's words, moves me to the depths. My heart melts at the sight of his love mixed with grief. It is only a brief close-up, but Gandalf's face shows how clearly he knows what Frodo will be taking on, volunteering to go to Mordor.
Book scene: from The Council of Elrond.
There was a silence. At last Elrond spoke again.
‘This is grievous news concerning Saruman,’ he said; ‘for we trusted him and he is deep in all our counsels. It is perilous to study too deeply the arts of the Enemy, for good or for ill. But such falls and betrayals, alas, have happened before. Of the tales that we have heard this day the tale of Frodo was most strange to me. I have known few hobbits, save Bilbo here; and it seems to me that he is perhaps not so alone and singular as I had thought him. The world has changed much since I last was on the westward roads.
[They then discuss what might be done with the Ring. It can’t go to Bombadil, can’t stay in Imladris, can’t be sent over the Sea. Erestor concludes they must either hide it for ever, or unmake it—but how might that be done? Elrond speaks.]
‘[I]t seems to me now clear which is the road that we must take. The westward road seems easiest. Therefore it must be shunned. It will be watched. Too often the Elves have fled that way. Now at this last we must take a hard road, a road unforeseen. There lies our hope, if hope it be. To walk into peril—to Mordor. We must send the Ring to the Fire.
Silence fell again. Frodo, even in that fair house, looking out upon a sunlit valley filled with the noise of clear waters, felt a dead darkness in his heart.
[Boromir proposes that they use the Ring for their own ends, but Elrond reminds him that it would be impossible, the Ring being altogether evil. Glóin asks whether the remaining lesser rings of power might be united against Sauron. Gandalf tells how Thráin’s ring was taken from him in torment in Dol Guldur. What then of the Three? Sadly Elrond explains that even though the Three were not made by Sauron, if the One were recovered by Sauron, the thoughts of the keepers of the Three would be laid bare. Yet if the One were destroyed, the power of the Three might be destroyed along with It.]
‘Yet all the Elves are willing to endure this chance,’ said Glorfindel, ‘if by it the power of Sauron may be broken, and the fear of his dominion be taken away for ever.’
‘Thus we return once more to the destroying of the Ring,’ said Erestor, ‘and yet we come no nearer. What strength have we for the finding of the Fire in which it was made? That is the path of despair. Of folly I would say, if the long wisdom of Elrond did not forbid me.’
‘Despair or folly?’ said Gandalf. ‘It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not. It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope. Well, let folly be our cloak, a veil before the eyes of the Enemy! For he is very wise, and weighs all things to a nicety in the scales of his malice. But the only measure that he knows is desire, desire for power; and so he judges all hearts. Into his heart the thought will not enter that any will refuse it, that having the Ring we may seek to destroy it. If we seek this, we shall put him out of reckoning.’
‘At least for a while, said Elrond. ‘The road must be trod, but it will be very hard. And neither strength nor wisdom will carry us far upon it. This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.’
‘Very well, very well, Master Elrond!’ said Bilbo suddenly. ‘Say no more! It is plain enough what you are pointing at. Bilbo the silly hobbit started this affair, and Bilbo had better finish it, or himself. I was very comfortable here, and getting on with my book. If you want to know, I am just writing an ending for it. I had thought of putting: and he lived happily ever afterwards to the end of his days. It is a good ending, and none the worse for having been used before. Now I shall have to alter that: it does not look like coming true; and anyway there will evidently have to be several more chapters, if I live to write them. It is a frightful nuisance. When ought I to start?’
Boromir looked in surprise at Bilbo, but the laughter died on his lips when he saw that all the others regarded the old hobbit with grave respect. Only Glóin smiled, but his smile came from old memories.
‘Of course, my dear Bilbo,’ said Gandalf. ‘If you had really started this affair, you might be expected to finish it. But you know well enough now that starting is too great a claim for any, and that only a small part is played in great deeds by any hero. You need not bow! Though the word was meant, and we do not doubt that under jest you are making a valiant offer. But one beyond your strength, Bilbo. You cannot take this thing back. It has passed on. If you need my advice any longer, I should say that your part is ended, unless as a recorder. Finish your book, and leave the ending unaltered! There is still hope for it. But get ready to write a sequel, when they come back.’
Bilbo laughed. ‘I have never known you give me pleasant advice before,’ he said. ‘As all your unpleasant advice has been good, I wonder if this advice is not bad. Still, I don’t suppose I have the strength or the luck left to deal with the Ring. It has grown, and I have not. But tell me: what do you mean by they?
‘The messengers who are sent with the Ring.’
‘Exactly! And who are they to be? That seems to me what this Council has to decide, and all that it has to decide. Elves may thrive on speech alone, and Dwarves may endure great weariness; but I am only an old hobbit, and I miss my meal at noon. Can’t you think of some names now? Or put it off till after dinner?’
Film scene:[Frodo, still seated as the assembly argues, watches the Ring. On it he sees reflected the images of the assembly engulfed in conflict, while the voice of the Ring repeats the "Ash nazg" incantation).]
Gandalf: Heard over the tumult: Do you not understand? While you bicker amongst yourselves, Sauron's power grows! None can escape it! You will all be destroyed!
[Frodo rises to speak and tries to make himself heard over the crowd.]
Frodo: I will take it! I will take it!
[Gandalf hears and reacts first, then the rest. They all stop talking and turn to look at Frodo.]
Heir to the Dreamer
~ by jan-u-wine
It cannot be nine years they are gone.
It cannot be the lad grows,
grows no better.
It was Yule
when last I chanced
to see him,
and the great Hall filled
with warmth and light...
and couples a-courting
in sweet-shadowed corners.
Bright brown brew,
and fresh-pressed cider,
from cook's vast black kettle,
wended pleasant down many
I had sampled more than a pint
of honey-tipped ale
when I spied him.
If laugher were a Sea,
it were a Sea broken
by the silence of that shore.
I could not help but see
the quiet of my cousin's eyes,
mirrored in his own,
nor the grace
that bespoke the 'faerie wife'
in that odd-slender form.
It was that night I gave him his father's pipe.
From the hollowed tusk of a mighty
bound in Elven-flowered silver
And the lad took it,
and became more quiet, still.
A nail-bitten thumb
followed the curve of the stem,
touched the bowl as if to tamp down
what was there only in imagination.
He turned from me then,
looked past diamond windows,
blazened with warmth and light,
to that which lay beyond.
Silenced by winter's breath, it was,
grey and stone-still,
This will not do.
No, this assuredly will not do.
He will not know another winter here,
I promise myself,
he will not know another season of despair.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Beyond the window of my study,
old Hamfast and his youngest,
(too small as yet to work the garden,
but not to be denied)
turn soil beneath the cloud-milked Sun.
The boy's feet carry him, in their excitement,
to my door.
A small hand enfolds two grey spheres,
round as marbles,
delicate-veined and shining against dirt-smeared fist.
He is not so old yet as to know what these might be,
but his eyes, green as old-willow bark,
round with wonder
as the creatures unfold upon his palm.
And the other.
They have decided me.
In the fall of this year,
when the harvest is called home
(and before ever the river falls to chill'd sleep)
I shall call Home a harvest of a different sort….
a harvest of youth-awkward limbs and lonely heart,
a harvest of sea-dreams and eyes bemused by stars….
He shall be my heir,
this Elf-strange lad who shares the day of my birth.
And I will teach him what he must needs know:
which crop is sown in spring,
and which must wait for summer's heat…
what river feeds which farmer's land….
the proper tang of proper leaf…..
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~
The gold nib of my pen meets parchment,
twines words of salutation to those of invitation.
He will come, I know it.
He will come,
and live beneath the green of the Hill,
and dream of the moon-silvered Sea
in the room that was his father's.
He will come.
I have decided.
Next entry:~ Riv. 10: Council of Elrond 4 – ‘Though I do not know the way’, plus jan-u-wine’s 'The Counsel of Elrond’.
Riv. 9 ~ Council of Elrond 3: ‘I will take it’, plus “Heir to the Dreamer”.
~*~ Happy 126th Birthday, Professor Tolkien! I am so grateful this man lived and created such wonders for so many to enjoy and…
~*~ Happy Birthday, Frodo and Bilbo! Greetings! Forgive my lack of presence, the combined result of responsibilities to others and…
~*~ Happy Birthday, Frodo and Bilbo! ~ Bilbo Baggins, Esquire: two views, sketches by Alan Lee. ~ Bilbo Baggins by Daniel…