Opening the door, Bilbo said with as much enthuiasm as he could muster, “Here we are!” He was greeted with with a blank stare.
The idea of adopting his cousin, Frodo, after the death of his parents had seemed like a grand idea. Not only would it thwart the Sackville-Baggines’ plan to grab Bag End, he would be able to provide for Frodo. One should always help family, he rationalized. Utilizing his wealth and position, he would be able to provide so much more then he would receive as an orphaned hobbit in Buckland. There Frodo was one among many. At Bag End he would be just one. And that was the real reason Bilbo had extended his offer of adoption: He was one also, and likely to remain so. Living the life of a solitary bachelor suited him well. It allowed him to leave on his wanderings at a moment;s whim, he was able to leave book, maps and papers lying about without anyone nagging to clean up, he could even walk around Bag End in just his nightshirt, all day long, if he took a mind to, (he never had). Yes, living without any entanglements fit him just fine. That is until night fell, and Bag End seemed to stretch into oblivion with only one tiny hobbit to fill that void. In plainer terms, Bilbo was lonely and the thought of another voice in the morning, another coat on the pegs in the front hall cheered him enough into writing that letter and opening his home to Frodo.
Yet, the cheer he had revelled in on the trip over to Buckland had quickly evaporated when he beheld his new charge and his dead eyes. Clutching the small bundle of his personal belongings, Frodo had stood like a stone as his aunt bustled around giving last minute instructions. No, that wasn’t quite right. A stone, albeit silent, still had a presence, you knew it was there, occupying space. The young hobbit was disconnected somehow. One could almost pass him off as a trick of the mind, one of those phantoms you see out of the corner of your eye, then is gone. He was polite to his Brandybuck family as he said goodbye and rose to sit in the cart without another word. As Bilbo drove the borrowed cart out into the lane, Frodo never once looked back at the only place he had ever known.
Bilbo had tried to engage the young hobbit in conversation on the ride home. He was met with barely imperceptible nods. He soon gave up and they finished the journey to Bag End in silence. When Hobbiton came into view, Bilbo began to fear that he had made a huge mistake. I should ask Gaffer Gamgee for advice, he thought as he tied up the horse at the gate to his home, He seems to know how to raise young ones. Just look at Samwise. He is turning out to be a fine hobbit.
They stood on the front stoop, Frodo still staring ahead, showing no desire to enter. “Please, Frodo,” Bilbo said as th rushed past the still hobbit into the front hall, “Come in and see your new home.”
The front hall looked empty, just like Frodo’s heart. He had no clear memory of how he had come to be standing in this strange place. In fact, the last clear memory he had was sitting at his table at home in his father’s chair, feet dangling, listening to the story of his parents death. Then everything went blank. He had agreed to this move, to the adoption by Bilbo Baggins simply because he knew he could no longer stay in Buckland. The familiar fields, the commonplace homes, the regular activities brought no comfort, only pain and loss. Each time he walked those lanes, waved at his friends and family, he expected to see his mother and father come around the corner, wrapping him up with hugs, calling him their “little joy”, making him feel safe, wanted, needed. Yet, when that corner was turned, it was empty, always empty and would remain so. He knew his life in Buckland was over.
That decision had brought him here to Hobbiton, to Bag End and his new life. Only, now has he stood with it unfolding before him, he realized he hadn’t really wanted a new life. He understood that the old one, as the only son to Drogo and Primula Baggins was illretrievable. What he secretly desired was to stop, stop time, allowing the rest of the world to continue on and he would remain as he was right now, detached, outside, apart from the teeming life of others. Somewhere behind that secret desire, buried underneath all his private fantasies, in a place that he even denied existed, one thought burned. And that was the real reason why he made no move to enter Bag End. He understood, rationally, that the tiny voice whispering to him was not to be trusted, yet he could not deny its power. “You go through that door, and you will leave your paretns behind,” it repeated to him now, “Cross over that threshold and your mother’s smile, the smell of your father’s pipe will leave you just like the morning mist on the cornfields after sunrise.” He thought he had been ready to leave everything behind, but, now that he was faced with the reality of his decision, he discovered that he was still that frightened little hobbit huddling under his covers as the Spring rain brought the thunder pounding on the windows. He needed someone to tell him the rain would stop.
Bilbo was at his wits end. Short of physically dragging Frodo inside, he saw no other way to get the young hobbit through the door. His turmoil over what to do was interrupted by the sound of tuneless whistling from the garden out back. From around the corner came Samwise, dirt from head to toe, his arms full of his morning’s labor.
“Oh, Mr. Bilbo, you’re back!,” he cried, running the short distance up to the front door, “We weren’t looking for you ’til after tea.”
Leaving the empty front hall, Bilbo came out to greet his young gardner. Sam had literally taken over the care of Bag End, now that his father was getting older and was finding it harder to spend the day stooped over, tending to the plants. It was odd, Bilbo couldn’t tell exactly when the change in gardeners had occured. Sam had been coming to Bag End with his father since he was just old enough to hold a hoe. In fact, since Bilbo had begun to teach Sam his letters, the young hobbit was always around Bag End, either outside making the barren soil bring forth life, or hunched over the desk, feet sticking out backwards across the chair, absorbing everything Bilbo showed him. Gaffer had been with his youngest son at the beginning, but over time his visits to Bag End had grown fewer and shorter until Sam was the only Gamgee keeping the gardens tended.
“The trip did not take as long as planned,” Bilbo said. It was a nice change to actually speak to someone who would answer back.
Holding up his arms, Sam showed off the garden’s yield. “I brought the best, Mr. Bilbo. Turnips, cabbage, my Gaffer’s prize taters. Everything you’ll need for a fine stew. Only,” His beaming face fell. “The carrots, Mr. Bilbo, I can’t understand it. I did everything I was supposed to, just like my Gaffer showed me, but I can’t get them to grow no how.”
Bilbo was taken by this hobbit’s genuine dismay. “I’m sure what you have there will be sufficient, Sam.”
The older hobbit’s words did nothing to placate Sam’s mood. “These here cabbages, I planted them at the same time, and they came out just fine. Now, I know carrots like a different sort of soil than cabbages, or even taters. That’s why I used more manure on them then the others. Maybe it was the manure. I don’t know what Farmer Bolger’s been feeding his cows this season, ’cause the the stuff that comes out of them just ain’t…” Sam stopped. Eyes wides as saucers, mouth gaping open, he realized what he had been prattling on about. He dropped his head to hide his shame and mumbled, “I’ll just get these inside.”
“I don’t care much for carrots anyway.”
Bilbo could not believe it! After his endless stream of witty conversation brought nary a peep from Frodo, a disertationon fertilizer had illicited a response. Not wanting to loose this opportunity, he quickly made the introductions. “Sam, I would like to introduce Frodo Baggins. He has come to live with me here at Bag End. Frodo meet Samwise Gamgee, our gardener and neighbor.”
The only proper way to seal an introduction like that was with a handshake, but Sam found his arms full of veatables. Without a second thought, he passed his burden to Mr. Bilbo, then stuck out his hand. “Please to meet you, Mr. Frodo.”
Frodo stood staring at the outstreched hand. After a moment, Sam glanced down and realized his hand was covered in dirt. He quickly wiped it on his shirt front, only slightly cleaner, then extended his hand again. “Welcome to Bag End.”
Looking at the gardener’s dirty face, Frodo saw his bright smile shine through the grime. Before he realized what he ws doing, before the tiny voice could begin to whisper its warning, Frodo reached out and shook Sam’s hand. “Thank you, Samwise.”
Bilbo didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Gathering his vegetables back from Mr. Bilbo, Sam began to talk very rapidly. “You’re gonna like it here, Mr. Frodo. Bag End is the best hobbit hole in all of Hobbiton, maybe even the Shire. And Mr. Bilbo here, why he’s a famous hobbit! Been on adventures, fought dragons, even seen elves!”
The vacant look in Frodo’s eyes began to fade, Bilbo noticed, as Sam spoke.
“I’ll just take these right inside, Mr. Bilbo. Even wash them up for you. Yes, these’ll make a fine first dinner here at Bag End for Mr. Frodo.” He disappeared into the hole. When Bilbo did not follow, he stepped back into the doorway. “You coming, Mr. Bilbo?”
He was really torn now. Should he join his talkative gardner in the kitchen and leave Frodo standing outside his door, or stand there with him, and go hungry. Even though he was listening now, Frodo had still made no move to enter Bag End.
“I bet Mr. Frodo just wants to stay outside a little longer, that’s all, enjoy the warm breeze,” Sam said, “You should have seen it last night, though. Rained so hard my Gaffer said it like to pounded the windows right out of their frames. But, it’s all gone now. The rain’s stopped and Summer was left behind.”
Frodo remained frozen in place, but, if you looked closely, the barest hint of a smile had begun to etch its way onto the corners of his lips.
After one last look at Frodo, Bilbo shook his head with resignation, and moved past Sam on his way to the kitchen. “We will call you when supper is ready, Frodo.”
Sam looked Frodo right in the eyes. There he saw the hurt, the horror of abandonment, the scared little hobbit. He instinctively wanted to help. But, he didn’t know people. He was nothing more than Samwise, Gaffer Gamgee’s youngest son, Sam the Gardener. Then be a gardener, if that’s what you are, his inner voice said. All living things need water, food, the sun and time. Time to heal, time to regrow that part of themselves that had been damaged by nature, or by tragedy. This new Baggins was definately not a plant, but Sam would tend him like a fragile flower until his roots grew deep here at Bag End.
“Take as long as you like, Mr. Frodo,” Sam said softly, his voiced pitched for only Frodo, “I’ll be right here, if you need me.” Then Sam left for the kitchen without expecting a reply.
Standing there on the front stoop of Bag End, Frodo was trying not to listen to that internal voice of doom, the one that foretold of the loss of his childhood memories. Squeezing his eyes tightly shut, shiny dots swarm in front of the darkness, as he willed that voice to cease. It was shrieking at him to turn back, to run away. He ground his teeth in his struggle to conquer that demon. Unconsciously, he stepped through the door.
It was cool inside and had a slight musty odor, like an old book just opened after many years left abandoned on the shelf. The voice that had echoed through his brain was ominiously silent now, here inside Bag End. He was gripped with panic. If the voice was gone, maybe too were his memories. What if the warning had been true? He closed his eyes again and scrambled to recall the faces of his mother and father. He was moving towards the door, to go back out again, retreat to the past.
Then the scent of his mother’s freshly washed hair wafted through his mind. His last birthday, the expression of his mother’s face when he gave her that vase he had made all by himself was instantly followed by the angry sound of his father’s voice when he had been caught, again, stealing mushrooms from Farmer Maggot’s field. His parents had not deserted him. They had followed him from Buckland, to Hobbiton, inside Bag End. In that moment, he understood, a little, about grief and the nessecity of moving on. Life can not stop, life can not retreat. We bring what we are, and were, on the journey towards tomorrow.
His eyes open now, he took in his new home. Bag End was indeed a grand place and so much room for only two hobbits. You were constantly bumping into someone at Brandy Hall, stepping on another’s toes. But, here at Bag End, he would have the space to run, room to breaths, and maybe even a private place all his own to dream. What was that his uncle had told him? The woods around Hobbiton are just perfect for a young hobbit’s imagination. Full of wonder, excitment, ready made for adventures.
Pans rattled out in the kitchen and Sam was begging Bilbo to tell the one about the trolls. Again. Hanging his coat on the second peg in the hall, Frodo went to see if he could help with his very first dinner at Bag End. It didn’t feel like home. Not yet. But, if he needed to, he now believed that he could always stand outside enjoying the warm breeze right after the rain stopped. And remember.
We return to the forests again. Our hobbit friend has lost all faith and finds the true meaning of apathy by the end of this chapter. He is taken captive by a band of elves and one human. This chapter suggests that some of his past will be revealed soon.