Return of the King
By J. R. R. Tolkien
Houghton Mifflin Company
Copyright © 1967
J. R. R. Tolkien
All right reserved.
THE LORD OF THE RINGS
THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING
A Long-Expected Party
When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be
celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special
magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.
Bilbo was very rich and very peculiar, and had been the
wonder of the Shire for sixty years, ever since his remarkable
disappearance and unexpected return. The riches he had brought back
from his travels had now become a local legend, and it was popularly
believed, whatever the old folk might say, that the Hill at Bag End
was full of tunnels stuffed with treasure. And if that was not enough
for fame, there was also his prolonged vigour to marvel at. Time wore
on, but it seemed to have little effect on Mr. Baggins. At ninety he
was much the same as at fifty. At ninety-nine they began to call him
well-preserved; but unchanged would have been nearer the mark. There
were some that shook their heads and thought this was too much of a
good thing; it seemed unfair that anyone should possess (apparently)
perpetual youth as well as (reputedly) inexhaustible wealth.
"It will have to be paid for," they said. "It isn"t natural,
and trouble will come of it!"
But so far trouble had not come; and as Mr. Baggins was
generous with his money, most people were willing to forgive him his
oddities and his good fortune. He remained on visiting terms with his
relatives (except, of course, the Sackville-Bagginses), and he had
many devoted admirers among the hobbits of poor and unimportant
families. But he had no close friends, until some of his younger
cousins began to grow up.
The eldest of these, and Bilbo"s favourite, was young Frodo
Baggins. When Bilbo was ninety-nine he adopted Frodo as his heir, and
brought him to live at Bag End; and the hopes of the Sackville-
Bagginses were finally dashed. Bilbo and Frodo happened to have the
same birthday, September 22nd. "You had better come and live here,
Frodo my lad," said Bilbo one day; "and then we can celebrate our
birthday-parties comfortably together." At that time Frodo was still
in his tweens, as the hobbits called the irresponsible twenties
between childhood and coming of age at thirty-three.
Twelve more years passed. Each year the Bagginses had given
very lively combined birthday-parties at Bag End; but now it was
understood that something quite exceptional was being planned for
that autumn. Bilbo was going to be eleventy-one, 111, a rather
curious number, and a very respectable age for a hobbit (the Old Took
himself had only reached 130); and Frodo was going to be thirty-
three, 33, an important number: the date of his "coming of age".
Tongues began to wag in Hobbiton and Bywater; and rumour of
the coming event travelled all over the Shire. The history and
character of Mr. Bilbo Baggins became once again the chief topic of
conversation; and the older folk suddenly found their reminiscences
in welcome demand.
No one had a more attentive audience than old Ham Gamgee,
commonly known as the Gaffer. He held forth at The Ivy Bush, a small
inn on the Bywater road; and he spoke with some authority, for he had
tended the garden at Bag End for forty years, and had helped old
Holman in the same job before that. Now that he was himself growing
old and stiff in the joints, the job was mainly carried on by his
youngest son, Sam Gamgee. Both father and son were on very friendly
terms with Bilbo and Frodo. They lived on the Hill itself, in Number
3 Bagshot Row just below Bag End.
"A very nice well-spoken gentlehobbit is Mr. Bilbo, as I"ve
always said," the Gaffer declared. With perfect truth: for Bilbo was
very polite to him, calling him "Master Hamfast", and consulting him
constantly upon the growing of vegetables — in the matter of "roots",
especially potatoes, the Gaffer was recognized as the leading
authority by all in the neighbourhood (including himself).
"But what about this Frodo that lives with him?" asked Old
Noakes of Bywater. "Baggins is his name, but he"s more than half a
Brandybuck, they say. It beats me why any Baggins of Hobbiton should
go looking for a wife away there in Buckland, where folks are so
"And no wonder they"re queer," put in Daddy Twofoot (the
Gaffer"s next-door neighbour), "if they live on the wrong side of the
Brandywine River, and right agin the Old Forest. That"s a dark bad
place, if half the tales be true."
"You"re right, Dad!" said the Gaffer. "Not that the
Brandybucks of Buckland live in the Old Forest; but they"re a queer
breed, seemingly. They fool about with boats on that big river — and
that isn"t natural. Small wonder that trouble came of it, I say. But
be that as it may, Mr. Frodo is as nice a young hobbit as you could
wish to meet. Very much like Mr. Bilbo, and in more than looks. After
all his father was a Baggins. A decent respectable hobbit was Mr.
Drogo Baggins; there was never much to tell of him, till he was
"Drownded?" said several voices. They had heard this and
other darker rumours before, of course; but hobbits have a passion
for family history, and they were ready to hear it again.
"Well, so they say," said the Gaffer. "You see: Mr. Drogo, he
married poor Miss Primula Brandybuck. She was our Mr. Bilbo"s first
cousin on the mother"s side (her mother being the youngest of the Old
Took"s daughters); and Mr. Drogo was his second cousin. So Mr. Frodo
is his first and second cousin, once removed either way, as the
saying is, if you follow me. And Mr. Drogo was staying at Brandy Hall
with his father-in-law, old Master Gorbadoc, as he often did after
his marriage (him being partial to his vittles, and old Gorbadoc
keeping a mighty generous table); and he went out boating on the
Brandywine River; and he and his wife were drownded, and poor Mr.
Frodo only a child and all."
"I"ve heard they went on the water after dinner in the
moonlight," said Old Noakes; "and it was Drogo"s weight as sunk the
"And I heard she pushed him in, and he pulled her in after
him," said Sandyman, the Hobbiton miller.
"You shouldn"t listen to all you hear, Sandyman," said the
Gaffer, who did not much like the miller. "There isn"t no call to go
talking of pushing and pulling. Boats are quite tricky enough for
those that sit still without looking further for the cause of
trouble. Anyway: there was this Mr. Frodo left an orphan and
stranded, as you might say, among those queer Bucklanders, being
brought up anyhow in Brandy Hall. A regular warren, by all accounts.
Old Master Gorbadoc never had fewer than a couple of hundred
relations in the place. Mr. Bilbo never did a kinder deed than when
he brought the lad back to live among decent folk.
"But I reckon it was a nasty shock for those Sackville-
Bagginses. They thought they were going to get Bag End, that time
when he went off and was thought to be dead. And then he comes back
and orders them off; and he goes on living and living, and never
looking a day older, bless him! And suddenly he produces an heir, and
has all the papers made out proper. The Sackville-Bagginses won"t
never see the inside of Bag End now, or it is to be hoped not."
"There"s a tidy bit of money tucked away up there, I hear
tell," said a stranger, a visitor on business from Michel Delving in
the Westfarthing. "All the top of your hill is full of tunnels packed
with chests of gold and silver, and jools, by what I"ve heard."
"Then you"ve heard more than I can speak to," answered the
Gaffer. I know nothing about jools. Mr. Bilbo is free with his money,
and there seems no lack of it; but I know of no tunnel-making. I saw
Mr. Bilbo when he came back, a matter of sixty years ago, when I was
a lad. I"d not long come prentice to old Holman (him being my dad"s
cousin), but he had me up at Bag End helping him to keep folks from
trampling and trapessing all over the garden while the sale was on.
And in the middle of it all Mr. Bilbo comes up the Hill with a pony
and some mighty big bags and a couple of chests. I don"t doubt they
were mostly full of treasure he had picked up in foreign parts, where
there be mountains of gold, they say; but there wasn"t enough to fill
tunnels. But my lad Sam will know more about that. He"s in and out of
Bag End. Crazy about stories of the old days he is, and he listens to
all Mr. Bilbo"s tales. Mr. Bilbo has learned him his letters —
meaning no harm, mark you, and I hope no harm will come of it.
"Elves and Dragons! I says to him. "Cabbages and potatoes are
better for me and you. Don"t go getting mixed up in the business of
your betters, or you"ll land in trouble too big for you," I says to
him. And I might say it to others," he added with a look at the
stranger and the miller.
But the Gaffer did not convince his audience. The legend of
Bilbo"s wealth was now too firmly fixed in the minds of the younger
generation of hobbits.
"Ah, but he has likely enough been adding to what he brought
at first," argued the miller, voicing common opinion. "He"s often
away from home. And look at the outlandish folk that visit him:
dwarves coming at night, and that old wandering conjuror, Gandalf,
and all. You can say what you like, Gaffer, but Bag End"s a queer
place, and its folk are queerer."
"And you can say what you like, about what you know no more
of than you do of boating, Mr. Sandyman," retorted the Gaffer,
disliking the miller even more than usual. "If that"s being queer,
then we could do with a bit more queerness in these parts. There"s
some not far away that wouldn"t offer a pint of beer to a friend, if
they lived in a hole with golden walls. But they do things proper at
Bag End. Our Sam says that everyone"s going to be invited to the
party, and there"s going to be presents, mark you, presents for all —
this very month as is."
That very month was September, and as fine as you could ask.
A day or two later a rumour (probably started by the knowledgeable
Sam) was spread about that there were going to be fireworks —
fireworks, what is more, such as had not been seen in the Shire for
nigh on a century, not indeed since the Old Took died.
Days passed and The Day drew nearer. An odd-looking waggon
laden with odd-looking packages rolled into Hobbiton one evening and
toiled up the Hill to Bag End. The startled hobbits peered out of
lamplit doors to gape at it. It was driven by outlandish folk,
singing strange songs: dwarves with long beards and deep hoods. A few
of them remained at Bag End. At the end of the second week in
September a cart came in through Bywater from the direction of the
Brandywine Bridge in broad daylight. An old man was driving it all
alone. He wore a tall pointed blue hat, a long grey cloak, and a
silver scarf. He had a long white beard and bushy eyebrows that stuck
out beyond the brim of his hat. Small hobbit-children ran after the
cart all through Hobbiton and right up the hill. It had a cargo of
fireworks, as they rightly guessed. At Bilbo"s front door the old man
began to unload: there were great bundles of fireworks of all sorts
and shapes, each labelled with a large red G and the elf-rune, .
That was Gandalf"s mark, of course, and the old man was
Gandalf the Wizard, whose fame in the Shire was due mainly to his
skill with fires, smokes, and lights. His real business was far more
difficult and dangerous, but the Shire-folk knew nothing about it. To
them he was just one of the "attractions" at the Party. Hence the
excitement of the hobbit-children. "G for Grand!" they shouted, and
the old man smiled. They knew him by sight, though he only appeared
in Hobbiton occasionally and never stopped long; but neither they nor
any but the oldest of their elders had seen one of his firework
displays — they now belonged to the legendary past.
When the old man, helped by Bilbo and some dwarves, had
finished unloading. Bilbo gave a few pennies away; but not a single
squib or cracker was forthcoming, to the disappointment of the
"Run away now!" said Gandalf. "You will get plenty when the
time comes." Then he disappeared inside with Bilbo, and the door was
shut. The young hobbits stared at the door in vain for a while, and
then made off, feeling that the day of the party would never come.
Inside Bag End, Bilbo and Gandalf were sitting at the open
window of a small room looking out west on to the garden. The late
afternoon was bright and peaceful. The flowers glowed red and golden:
snap-dragons and sun-flowers, and nasturtiums trailing all over the
turf walls and peeping in at the round windows.
"How bright your garden looks!" said Gandalf.
"Yes," said Bilbo. "I am very fond indeed of it, and of all
the dear old Shire; but I think I need a holiday."
"You mean to go on with your plan then?"
"I do. I made up my mind months ago, and I haven"t changed
"Very well. It is no good saying any more. Stick to your
plan — your whole plan, mind — and I hope it will turn out for the
best, for you, and for all of us."
"I hope so. Anyway I mean to enjoy myself on Thursday, and
have my little joke."
"Who will laugh, I wonder?" said Gandalf, shaking his head.
"We shall see," said Bilbo.
The next day more carts rolled up the Hill, and still more
carts. There might have been some grumbling about "dealing locally",
but that very week orders began to pour out of Bag End for every kind
of provision, commodity, or luxury that could be obtained in Hobbiton
or Bywater or anywhere in the neighbourhood. People became
enthusiastic; and they began to tick off the days on the calendar;
and they watched eagerly for the postman, hoping for invitations.
Before long the invitations began pouring out, and the
Hobbiton post-office was blocked, and the Bywater post-office was
snowed under, and voluntary assistant postmen were called for. There
was a constant stream of them going up the Hill, carrying hundreds of
polite variations on Thank you, I shall certainly come.
A notice appeared on the gate at Bag End: NO ADMITTANCE
EXCEPT ON PARTY BUSINESS. Even those who had, or pretended to have
Party Business were seldom allowed inside. Bilbo was busy: writing
invitations, ticking off answers, packing up presents, and making
some private preparations of his own. From the time of Gandalf"s
arrival he remained hidden from view.
One morning the hobbits woke to find the large field, south
of Bilbo"s front door, covered with ropes and poles for tents and
pavilions. A special entrance was cut into the bank leading to the
road, and wide steps and a large white gate were built there. The
three hobbit-families of Bagshot Row, adjoining the field, were
intensely interested and generally envied. Old Gaffer Gamgee stopped
even pretending to work in his garden.
The tents began to go up. There was a specially large
pavilion, so big that the tree that grew in the field was right
inside it, and stood proudly near one end, at the head of the chief
table. Lanterns were hung on all its branches. More promising still
(to the hobbits" mind): an enormous open-air kitchen was erected in
the north corner of the field. A draught of cooks, from every inn and
eating-house for miles around, arrived to supplement the dwarves and
other odd folk that were quartered at Bag End. Excitement rose to its
Then the weather clouded over. That was on Wednesday the eve
of the Party. Anxiety was intense. Then Thursday, September the 22nd,
actually dawned. The sun got up, the clouds vanished, flags were
unfurled and the fun began.
Bilbo Baggins called it a party, but it was really a variety
of entertainments rolled into one. Practically everybody living near
was invited. A very few were overlooked by accident, but as they
turned up all the same, that did not matter. Many people from other
parts of the Shire were also asked; and there were even a few from
outside the borders. Bilbo met the guests (and additions) at the new
white gate in person. He gave away presents to all and sundry — the
latter were those who went out again by a back way and came in again
by the gate. Hobbits give presents to other people on their own
birthdays. Not very expensive ones, as a rule, and not so lavishly as
on this occasion; but it was not a bad system. Actually in Hobbiton
and Bywater every day in the year it was somebody"s birthday, so that
every hobbit in those parts had a fair chance of at least one present
at least once a week. But they never got tired of them.
On this occasion the presents were unusually good. The hobbit-
children were so excited that for a while they almost forgot about
eating. There were toys the like of which they had never seen before,
all beautiful and some obviously magical. Many of them had indeed
been ordered a year before, and had come all the way from the
Mountain and from Dale, and were of real dwarf-make.
When every guest had been welcomed and was finally inside the
gate, there were songs, dances, music, games, and, of course, food
and drink. There were three official meals: lunch, tea, and dinner
(or supper). But lunch and tea were marked chiefly by the fact that
at those times all the guests were sitting down and eating together.
At other times there were merely lots of people eating and drinking —
continuously from elevenses until six-thirty, when the fireworks
The fireworks were by Gandalf: they were not only brought by
him, but designed and made by him; and the special effects, set
pieces, and flights of rockets were let off by him. But there was
also a generous distribution of squibs, crackers, backarappers,
sparklers, torches, dwarf-candles, elf-fountains, goblin-barkers and
thunder-claps. They were all superb. The art of Gandalf improved with
There were rockets like a flight of scintillating birds
singing with sweet voices. There were green trees with trunks of dark
smoke: their leaves opened like a whole spring unfolding in a moment,
and their shining branches dropped glowing flowers down upon the
astonished hobbits, disappearing with a sweet scent just before they
touched their upturned faces. There were fountains of butterflies
that flew glittering into the trees; there were pillars of coloured
fires that rose and turned into eagles, or sailing ships, or a
phalanx of flying swans; there was a red thunderstorm and a shower of
yellow rain; there was a forest of silver spears that sprang suddenly
into the air with a yell like an embattled army, and came down again
into the Water with a hiss like a hundred hot snakes. And there was
also one last surprise, in honour of Bilbo, and it startled the
hobbits exceedingly, as Gandalf intended. The lights went out. A
great smoke went up. It shaped itself like a mountain seen in the
distance, and began to glow at the summit. It spouted green and
scarlet flames. Out flew a red-golden dragon — not life-size, but
terribly life-like: fire came from his jaws, his eyes glared down;
there was a roar, and he whizzed three times over the heads of the
crowd. They all ducked, and many fell flat on their faces. The dragon
passed like an express train, turned a somersault, and burst over
Bywater with a deafening explosion.
"That is the signal for supper!" said Bilbo. The pain and
alarm vanished at once, and the prostrate hobbits leaped to their
feet. There was a splendid supper for everyone; for everyone, that
is, except those invited to the special family dinner-party. This was
held in the great pavilion with the tree. The invitations were
limited to twelve dozen (a number also called by the hobbits one
Gross, though the word was not considered proper to use of people);
and the guests were selected from all the families to which Bilbo and
Frodo were related, with the addition of a few special unrelated
friends (such as Gandalf). Many young hobbits were included, and
present by parental permission; for hobbits were easy-going with
their children in the matter of sitting up late, especially when
there was a chance of getting them a free meal. Bringing up young
hobbits took a lot of provender.
There were many Bagginses and Boffins, and also many Tooks
and Brandybucks; there were various Grubbs (relations of Bilbo
Baggins" grandmother), and various Chubbs (connexions of his Took
grandfather); and a selection of Burrowses, Bolgers, Bracegirdles,
Brockhouses, Goodbodies, Hornblowers and Proudfoots. Some of these
were only very distantly connected with Bilbo, and some of them had
hardly ever been in Hobbiton before, as they lived in remote corners
of the Shire. The Sackville-Bagginses were not forgotten. Otho and
his wife Lobelia were present. They disliked Bilbo and detested
Frodo, but so magnificent was the invitation card, written in golden
ink, that they had felt it was impossible to refuse. Besides, their
cousin, Bilbo, had been specializing in food for many years and his
table had a high reputation.
All the one hundred and forty-four guests expected a pleasant
feast; though they rather dreaded the after-dinner speech of their
host (an inevitable item). He was liable to drag in bits of what he
called poetry; and sometimes, after a glass or two, would allude to
the absurd adventures of his mysterious journey. The guests were not
disappointed: they had a very pleasant feast, in fact an engrossing
entertainment: rich, abundant, varied, and prolonged. The purchase of
provisions fell almost to nothing throughout the district in the
ensuing weeks; but as Bilbo"s catering had depleted the stocks of
most stores, cellars and warehouses for miles around, that did not
After the feast (more or less) came the Speech. Most of the
company were, however, now in a tolerant mood, at that delightful
stage which they called "filling up the corners". They were sipping
their favourite drinks, and nibbling at their favourite dainties, and
their fears were forgotten. They were prepared to listen to anything,
and to cheer at every full stop.
My dear People, began Bilbo, rising in his place. "Hear!
Hear! Hear!" they shouted, and kept on repeating it in chorus,
seeming reluctant to follow their own advice. Bilbo left his place
and went and stood on a chair under the illuminated tree. The light
of the lanterns fell on his beaming face; the golden buttons shone on
his embroidered silk waistcoat. They could all see him standing,
waving one hand in the air, the other was in his trouser-pocket.
My dear Bagginses and Boffins, he began again; and my dear
Tooks and Brandybucks, and Grubbs, and Chubbs, and Burrowses, and
Hornblowers, and Bolgers, Bracegirdles, Goodbodies, Brockhouses and
Proudfoots. "ProudFEET!" shouted an elderly hobbit from the back of
the pavilion. His name, of course, was Proudfoot, and well merited;
his feet were large, exceptionally furry, and both were on the table.
Proudfoots, repeated Bilbo. Also my good Sackville-Bagginses
that I welcome back at last to Bag End. Today is my one hundred and
eleventh birthday: I am eleventy-one today! "Hurray! Hurray! Many
Happy Returns!" they shouted, and they hammered joyously on the
tables. Bilbo was doing splendidly. This was the sort of stuff they
liked: short and obvious.
I hope you are all enjoying yourselves as much as I am.
Deafening cheers. Cries of Yes (and No). Noises of trumpets and
horns, pipes and flutes, and other musical instruments. There were,
as has been said, many young hobbits present. Hundreds of musical
crackers had been pulled. Most of them bore the mark DALE on them;
which did not convey much to most of the hobbits, but they all agreed
they were marvellous crackers. They contained instruments, small, but
of perfect make and enchanting tones. Indeed, in one corner some of
the young Tooks and Brandybucks, supposing Uncle Bilbo to have
finished (since he had plainly said all that was necessary), now got
up an impromptu orchestra, and began a merry dance-tune. Master
Everard Took and Miss Melilot Brandybuck got on a table and with
bells in their hands began to dance the Springle-ring: a pretty
dance, but rather vigorous.
But Bilbo had not finished. Seizing a horn from a youngster
near by, he blew three loud hoots. The noise subsided. I shall not
keep you long, he cried. Cheers from all the assembly. I have called
you all together for a Purpose. Something in the way that he said
this made an impression. There was almost silence, and one or two of
the Tooks pricked up their ears.
Indeed, for Three Purposes! First of all, to tell you that I
am immensely fond of you all, and that eleventy-one years is too
short a time to live among such excellent and admirable hobbits.
Tremendous outburst of approval.
I don"t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I
like less than half of you half as well as you deserve. This was
unexpected and rather difficult. There was some scattered clapping,
but most of them were trying to work it out and see if it came to a
Secondly, to celebrate my birthday. Cheers again. I should
say: OUR birthday. For it is, of course, also the birthday of my heir
and nephew, Frodo. He comes of age and into his inheritance today.
Some perfunctory clapping by the elders; and some loud shouts
of "Frodo! Frodo! Jolly old Frodo," from the juniors. The Sackville-
Bagginses scowled, and wondered what was meant by "coming into his
Together we score one hundred and forty-four. Your numbers
were chosen to fit this remarkable total: One Gross, if I may use the
expression. No cheers. This was ridiculous. Many of his guests, and
especially the Sackville-Bagginses, were insulted, feeling sure they
had only been asked to fill up the required number, like goods in a
package. "One Gross, indeed! Vulgar expression."
It is also, if I may be allowed to refer to ancient history,
the anniversary of my arrival by barrel at Esgaroth on the Long Lake;
though the fact that it was my birthday slipped my memory on that
occasion. I was only fifty-one then, and birthdays did not seem so
important. The banquet was very splendid, however, though I had a bad
cold at the time, I remember, and could only say "thag you very
buch". I now repeat it more correctly: Thank you very much for coming
to my little party. Obstinate silence. They all feared that a song or
some poetry was now imminent; and they were getting bored. Why
couldn"t he stop talking and let them drink his health? But Bilbo did
not sing or recite. He paused for a moment.
Thirdly and finally, he said, I wish to make an ANNOUNCEMENT.
He spoke this last word so loudly and suddenly that everyone sat up
who still could. I regret to announce that — though, as I said,
eleventy-one years is far too short a time to spend among you — this
is the END. I am going. I am leaving NOW. GOOD-BYE!
He stepped down and vanished. There was a blinding flash of
light, and the guests all blinked. When they opened their eyes Bilbo
was nowhere to be seen. One hundred and forty-four flabbergasted
hobbits sat back speechless. Old Odo Proudfoot removed his feet from
the table and stamped. Then there was a dead silence, until suddenly,
after several deep breaths, every Baggins, Boffin, Took, Brandybuck,
Grubb, Chubb, Burrows, Bolger, Bracegirdle, Brockhouse, Goodbody,
Hornblower, and Proudfoot began to talk at once.
It was generally agreed that the joke was in very bad taste,
and more food and drink were needed to cure the guests of shock and
annoyance. "He"s mad. I always said so," was probably the most
popular comment. Even the Tooks (with a few exceptions) thought
Bilbo"s behaviour was absurd. For the moment most of them took it for
granted that his disappearance was nothing more than a ridiculous
But old Rory Brandybuck was not so sure. Neither age nor an
enormous dinner had clouded his wits, and he said to his daughter-in-
law, Esmeralda: "There"s something fishy in this, my dear! I believe
that mad Baggins is off again. Silly old fool. But why worry? He
hasn"t taken the vittles with him." He called loudly to Frodo to send
the wine round again.
Frodo was the only one present who had said nothing. For some
time he had sat silent beside Bilbo"s empty chair, and ignored all
remarks and questions. He had enjoyed the joke, of course, even
though he had been in the know. He had difficulty in keeping from
laughter at the indignant surprise of the guests. But at the same
time he felt deeply troubled: he realized suddenly that he loved the
old hobbit dearly. Most of the guests went on eating and drinking and
discussing Bilbo Baggins" oddities, past and present; but the
Sackville-Bagginses had already departed in wrath. Frodo did not want
to have any more to do with the party. He gave orders for more wine
to be served; then he got up and drained his own glass silently to
the health of Bilbo, and slipped out of the pavilion.
As for Bilbo Baggins, even while he was making his speech, he
had been fingering the golden ring in his pocket: his magic ring that
he had kept secret for so many years. As he stepped down he slipped
it on his finger, and he was never seen by any hobbit in Hobbiton
He walked briskly back to his hole, and stood for a moment
listening with a smile to the din in the pavilion and to the sounds
of merrymaking in other parts of the field. Then he went in. He took
off his party clothes, folded up and wrapped in tissue-paper his
embroidered silk waistcoat, and put it away. Then he put on quickly
some old untidy garments, and fastened round his waist a worn leather
belt. On it he hung a short sword in a battered black-leather
scabbard. From a locked drawer, smelling of moth-balls, he took out
an old cloak and hood. They had been locked up as if they were very
precious, but they were so patched and weatherstained that their
original colour could hardly be guessed: it might have been dark
green. They were rather too large for him. He then went into his
study, and from a large strong-box took out a bundle wrapped in old
cloths, and a leather-bound manuscript; and also a large bulky
envelope. The book and bundle he stuffed into the top of a heavy bag
that was standing there, already nearly full. Into the envelope he
slipped his golden ring, and its fine chain, and then sealed it, and
addressed it to Frodo. At first he put it on the mantelpiece, but
suddenly he removed it and stuck it in his pocket. At that moment the
door opened and Gandalf came quickly in.
"Hullo!" said Bilbo. 'I wondered if you would turn up."
'I am glad to find you visible," replied the wizard, sitting
down in a chair. 'I wanted to catch you and have a few final words. I
suppose you feel that everything has gone off splendidly and
according to plan?"
"Yes, I do," said Bilbo. "Though that flash was surprising:
it quite startled me, let alone the others. A little addition of your
own, I suppose?"
"It was. You have wisely kept that ring secret all these
years, and it seemed to me necessary to give your guests something
else that would seem to explain your sudden vanishment."
"And would spoil my joke. You are an interfering old
busybody," laughed Bilbo, "but I expect you know best, as usual."
"I do — when I know anything. But I don"t feel too sure about
this whole affair. It has now come to the final point. You have had
your joke, and alarmed or offended most of your relations, and given
the whole Shire something to talk about for nine days, or ninety-nine
more likely. Are you going any further?"
"Yes, I am. I feel I need a holiday, a very long holiday, as
I have told you before. Probably a permanent holiday: I don"t expect
I shall return. In fact, I don"t mean to, and I have made all
'I am old, Gandalf. I don"t look it, but I am beginning to
feel it in my heart of hearts. Well-preserved indeed!" he
snorted. "Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I
mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread. That
can"t be right. I need a change, or something."
Gandalf looked curiously and closely at him. "No, it does not
seem right," he said thoughtfully. "No, after all I believe your plan
is probably the best."
"Well, I"ve made up my mind, anyway. I want to see mountains
again, Gandalf — mountains; and then find somewhere where I can rest.
In peace and quiet, without a lot of relatives prying around, and a
string of confounded visitors hanging on the bell. I might find
somewhere where I can finish my book. I have thought of a nice ending
for it: and he lived happily ever after to the end of his days."
Gandalf laughed. "I hope he will. But nobody will read the
book, however it ends."
"Oh, they may, in years to come. Frodo has read some already,
as far as it has gone. You"ll keep an eye on Frodo, won"t you?"
"Yes, I will — two eyes, as often as I can spare them."
"He would come with me, of course, if I asked him. In fact he
offered to once, just before the party. But he does not really want
to, yet. I want to see the wild country again before I die, and the
Mountains; but he is still in love with the Shire, with woods and
fields and little rivers. He ought to be comfortable here. I am
leaving everything to him, of course, except a few oddments. I hope
he will be happy, when he gets used to being on his own. It"s time he
was his own master now."
"Everything?" said Gandalf. "The ring as well? You agreed to
that, you remember."
"Well, er, yes, I suppose so," stammered Bilbo.
"Where is it?"
"In an envelope, if you must know," said Bilbo
impatiently. "There on the mantelpiece. Well, no! Here it is in my
pocket!" He hesitated. "Isn"t that odd now?" he said softly to
himself. "Yet after all, why not? Why shouldn"t it stay there?"
Gandalf looked again very hard at Bilbo, and there was a
gleam in his eyes. "I think, Bilbo," he said quietly, "I should leave
it behind. Don"t you want to?"
"Well yes — and no. Now it comes to it, I don"t like parting
with it at all, I may say. And I don"t really see why I should. Why
do you want me to?" he asked, and a curious change came over his
voice. It was sharp with suspicion and annoyance. "You are always
badgering me about my ring; but you have never bothered me about the
other things that I got on my journey."
"No, but I had to badger you," said Gandalf. "I wanted the
truth. It was important. Magic rings are — well, magical; and they
are rare and curious. I was professionally interested in your ring,
you may say; and I still am. I should like to know where it is, if
you go wandering again. Also I think you have had it quite long
enough. You won"t need it any more, Bilbo, unless I am quite
Bilbo flushed, and there was an angry light in his eyes. His
kindly face grew hard. "Why not?" he cried. "And what business is it
of yours, anyway, to know what I do with my own things? It is my own.
I found it. It came to me."
"Yes, yes," said Gandalf. "But there is no need to get angry."
"If I am it is your fault," said Bilbo. "It is mine, I tell
you. My own. My precious. Yes, my precious."
The wizard"s face remained grave and attentive, and only a
flicker in his deep eyes showed that he was startled and indeed
alarmed. "It has been called that before," he said, "but not by you."
"But I say it now. And why not? Even if Gollum said the same
once. It"s not his now, but mine. And I shall keep it, I say."
Gandalf stood up. He spoke sternly. "You will be a fool if
you do, Bilbo," he said. "You make that clearer with every word you
say. It has got far too much hold on you. Let it go! And then you can
go yourself, and be free."
"I"ll do as I choose and go as I please," said Bilbo
"Now, now, my dear hobbit!" said Gandalf. "All your long life
we have been friends, and you owe me something. Come! Do as you
promised: give it up!"
"Well, if you want my ring yourself, say so!" cried
Bilbo. "But you won"t get it. I won"t give my precious away, I tell
you." His hand strayed to the hilt of his small sword.
Gandalf"s eyes flashed. "It will be my turn to get angry
soon," he said. "If you say that again, I shall. Then you will see
Gandalf the Grey uncloaked." He took a step towards the hobbit, and
he seemed to grow tall and menacing; his shadow filled the little
Bilbo backed away to the wall, breathing hard, his hand
clutching at his pocket. They stood for a while facing one another,
and the air of the room tingled. Gandalf"s eyes remained bent on the
hobbit. Slowly his hands relaxed, and he began to tremble.
"I don"t know what has come over you, Gandalf," he said. "You
have never been like this before. What is it all about? It is mine
isn"t it? I found it, and Gollum would have killed me, if I hadn"t
kept it. I"m not a thief, whatever he said."
"I have never called you one," Gandalf answered. "And I am
not one either. I am not trying to rob you, but to help you. I wish
you would trust me, as you used." He turned away, and the shadow
passed. He seemed to dwindle again to an old grey man, bent and
Bilbo drew his hand over his eyes. "I am sorry," he
said. "But I felt so queer. And yet it would be a relief in a way not
to be bothered with it any more. It has been so growing on my mind
lately. Sometimes I have felt it was like an eye looking at me. And I
am always wanting to put it on and disappear, don"t you know; or
wondering if it is safe, and pulling it out to make sure. I tried
locking it up, but I found I couldn"t rest without it in my pocket. I
don"t know why. And I don"t seem able to make up my mind."
"Then trust mine," said Gandalf. "It is quite made up. Go
away and leave it behind. Stop possessing it. Give it to Frodo, and I
will look after him."
Bilbo stood for a moment tense and undecided. Presently he
sighed. "All right," he said with an effort. "I will." Then he
shrugged his shoulders, and smiled rather ruefully. "After all that"s
what this party business was all about, really: to give away lots of
birthday presents, and somehow make it easier to give it away at the
same time. It hasn"t made it any easier in the end, but it would be a
pity to waste all my preparations. It would quite spoil the joke."
"Indeed it would take away the only point I ever saw in the
affair," said Gandalf.
"Very well," said Bilbo, "it goes to Frodo with all the
rest." He drew a deep breath. "And now I really must be starting, or
somebody else will catch me. I have said good-bye, and I couldn"t
bear to do it all over again." He picked up his bag and moved to the
"You have still got the ring in your pocket," said the wizard.
"Well, so I have!" cried Bilbo. "And my will and all the
other documents too. You had better take it and deliver it for me.
That will be safest."
"No, don"t give the ring to me," said Gandalf. "Put it on the
mantelpiece. It will be safe enough there, till Frodo comes. I shall
wait for him."
Bilbo took out the envelope, but just as he was about to set
it by the clock, his hand jerked back, and the packet fell on the
floor. Before he could pick it up, the wizard stooped and seized it
and set it in its place. A spasm of anger passed swiftly over the
hobbit"s face again. Suddenly it gave way to a look of relief and a
"Well, that"s that," he said. "Now I"m off!"
They went out into the hall. Bilbo chose his favourite stick
from the stand; then he whistled. Three dwarves came out of different
rooms where they had been busy.
"Is everything ready?" asked Bilbo. "Everything packed and
"Everything," they answered.
"Well, let"s start then!" He stepped out of the front-door.
It was a fine night, and the black sky was dotted with stars.
He looked up, sniffing the air. "What fun! What fun to be off again,
off on the Road with dwarves! This is what I have really been longing
for, for years! Good-bye!" he said, looking at his old home and
bowing to the door. "Good-bye, Gandalf!"
"Good-bye, for the present, Bilbo. Take care of yourself! You
are old enough, and perhaps wise enough."
"Take care! I don"t care. Don"t you worry about me! I am as
happy now as I have ever been, and that is saying a great deal. But
the time has come. I am being swept off my feet at last," he added,
and then in a low voice, as if to himself, he sang softly in the dark:
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
He paused, silent for a moment. Then without another word he
turned away from the lights and voices in the fields and tents, and
followed by his three companions went round into his garden, and
trotted down the long sloping path. He jumped over a low place in the
hedge at the bottom, and took to the meadows, passing into the night
like a rustle of wind in the grass.
Gandalf remained for a while staring after him into the
darkness. "Goodbye, my dear Bilbo — until our next meeting!" he said
softly and went back indoors.
Frodo came in soon afterwards, and found him sitting in the
dark, deep in thought. "Has he gone?" he asked.
"Yes," answered Gandalf, "he has gone at last."
"I wish — I mean, I hoped until this evening that it was only
a joke," said Frodo. "But I knew in my heart that he really meant to
go. He always used to joke about serious things. I wish I had come
back sooner, just to see him off."
"I think really he preferred slipping off quietly in the
end," said Gandalf. "Don"t be too troubled. He"ll be all right — now.
He left a packet for you. There it is!"
Frodo took the envelope from the mantelpiece, and glanced at
it, but did not open it.
"You"ll find his will and all the other documents in there, I
think," said the wizard. "You are the master of Bag End now. And
also, I fancy, you"ll find a golden ring."
"The ring!" exclaimed Frodo. "Has he left me that? I wonder
why. Still, it may be useful."
"It may, and it may not," said Gandalf. "I should not make
use of it, if I were you. But keep it secret, and keep it safe! Now I
am going to bed."
As master of Bag End Frodo felt it his painful duty to say
good-bye to the guests. Rumours of strange events had by now spread
all over the field, but Frodo would only say no doubt everything will
be cleared up in the morning. About midnight carriages came for the
important folk. One by one they rolled away, filled with full but
very unsatisfied hobbits. Gardeners came by arrangement, and removed
in wheel-barrows those that had inadvertently remained behind.
Night slowly passed. The sun rose. The hobbits rose rather
later. Morning went on. People came and began (by orders) to clear
away the pavilions and the tables and the chairs, and the spoons and
knives and bottles and plates, and the lanterns, and the flowering
shrubs in boxes, and the crumbs and cracker-paper, the forgotten bags
and gloves and handkerchiefs, and the uneaten food (a very small
item). Then a number of other people came (without orders):
Bagginses, and Boffins, and Bolgers, and Tooks, and other guests that
lived or were staying near. By mid-day, when even the best-fed were
out and about again, there was a large crowd at Bag End, uninvited
but not unexpected.
Frodo was waiting on the step, smiling, but looking rather
tired and worried. He welcomed all the callers, but he had not much
more to say than before. His reply to all inquiries was simply
this: "Mr. Bilbo Baggins has gone away; as far as I know, for good."
Some of the visitors he invited to come inside, as Bilbo had
left "messages" for them.
Inside in the hall there was piled a large assortment of
packages and parcels and small articles of furniture. On every item
there was a label tied. There were several labels of this sort:
For ADELARD TOOK, for his VERY OWN, from Bilbo; on an
umbrella. Adelard had carried off many unlabelled ones.
For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with
love from Bilbo; on a large waste-paper basket. Dora was Drogo"s
sister and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo;
she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more
than half a century.
For MILO BURROWS, hoping it will be useful, from B.B; on a
gold pen and ink-bottle. Milo never answered letters.
For ANGELICA"S use, from Uncle Bilbo; on a round convex
mirror. She was a young Baggins, and too obviously considered her
For the collection of HUGO BRACEGIRDLE, from a contributor;
on an (empty) book-case. Hugo was a great borrower of books, and
worse than usual at returning them.
For LOBELIA SACKVILLE-BAGGINS, as a PRESENT; on a case of
silver spoons. Bilbo believed that she had acquired a good many of
his spoons, while he was away on his former journey. Lobelia knew
that quite well. When she arrived later in the day, she took the
point at once, but she also took the spoons.
This is only a small selection of the assembled presents.
Bilbo"s residence had got rather cluttered up with things in the
course of his long life. It was a tendency of hobbit-holes to get
cluttered up: for which the custom of giving so many birthday-
presents was largely responsible. Not, of course, that the birthday-
presents were always new; there were one or two old mathoms of
forgotten uses that had circulated all around the district; but Bilbo
had usually given new presents, and kept those that he received. The
old hole was now being cleared a little.
Every one of the various parting gifts had labels, written
out personally by Bilbo, and several had some point, or some joke.
But, of course, most of the things were given where they would be
wanted and welcome. The poorer hobbits, and especially those of
Bagshot Row, did very well. Old Gaffer Gamgee got two sacks of
potatoes, a new spade, a woollen waistcoat, and a bottle of ointment
for creaking joints. Old Rory Brandybuck, in return for much
hospitality, got a dozen bottles of Old Winyards: a strong red wine
from the Southfarthing, and now quite mature, as it had been laid
down by Bilbo"s father. Rory quite forgave Bilbo, and voted him a
capital fellow after the first bottle.
There was plenty of everything left for Frodo. And, of
course, all the chief treasures, as well as the books, pictures, and
more than enough furniture, were left in his possession. There was,
however, no sign nor mention of money or jewellery: not a penny-piece
or a glass bead was given away.
Frodo had a very trying time that afternoon. A false rumour
that the whole household was being distributed free spread like
wildfire; and before long the place was packed with people who had no
business there, but could not be kept out. Labels got torn off and
mixed, and quarrels broke out. Some people tried to do swaps and
deals in the hall; and others tried to make off with minor items not
addressed to them, or with anything that seemed unwanted or
unwatched. The road to the gate was blocked with barrows and
In the middle of the commotion the Sackville-Bagginses
arrived. Frodo had retired for a while and left his friend Merry
Brandybuck to keep an eye on things. When Otho loudly demanded to see
Frodo, Merry bowed politely.
"He is indisposed," he said. "He is resting."
"Hiding, you mean," said Lobelia. "Anyway we want to see him
and we mean to see him. Just go and tell him so!"
Merry left them a long while in the hall, and they had time
to discover their parting gift of spoons. It did not improve their
tempers. Eventually they were shown into the study. Frodo was sitting
at a table with a lot of papers in front of him. He looked
indisposed — to see Sackville-Bagginses at any rate; and he stood up,
fidgeting with something in his pocket. But he spoke quite politely.
The Sackville-Bagginses were rather offensive. They began by
offering him bad bargain-prices (as between friends) for various
valuable and unlabelled things. When Frodo replied that only the
things specially directed by Bilbo were being given away, they said
the whole affair was very fishy.
"Only one thing is clear to me," said Otho, "and that is that
you are doing exceedingly well out of it. I insist on seeing the
Otho would have been Bilbo"s heir, but for the adoption of
Frodo. He read the will carefully and snorted. It was, unfortunately,
very clear and correct (according to the legal customs of hobbits,
which demand among other things seven signatures of witnesses in red
"Foiled again!" he said to his wife. "And after waiting sixty
years. Spoons? Fiddlesticks!" He snapped his fingers under Frodo"s
nose and stumped off. But Lobelia was not so easily got rid of. A
little later Frodo came out of the study to see how things were going
on and found her still about the place, investigating nooks and
corners and tapping the floors. He escorted her firmly off the
premises, after he had relieved her of several small (but rather
valuable) articles that had somehow fallen inside her umbrella. Her
face looked as if she was in the throes of thinking out a really
crushing parting remark; but all she found to say, turning round on
the step, was:
"You"ll live to regret it, young fellow! Why didn"t you go
too? You don"t belong here; you"re no Baggins — you — you"re a
"Did you hear that, Merry? That was an insult, if you like,"
said Frodo as he shut the door on her.
"It was a compliment," said Merry Brandybuck, "and so, of
course, not true."
Then they went round the hole, and evicted three young
hobbits (two Boffins and a Bolger) who were knocking holes in the
walls of one of the cellars. Frodo also had a tussle with young
Sancho Proudfoot (old Odo Proudfoot"s grandson), who had begun an
excavation in the larger pantry, where he thought there was an echo.
The legend of Bilbo"s gold excited both curiosity and hope; for
legendary gold (mysteriously obtained, if not positively ill-gotten)
is, as every one knows, any one"s for the finding — unless the search
When he had overcome Sancho and pushed him out, Frodo
collapsed on a chair in the hall. "It"s time to close the shop,
Merry," he said. "Lock the door, and don"t open it to anyone today,
not even if they bring a battering ram." Then he went to revive
himself with a belated cup of tea.
He had hardly sat down, when there came a soft knock at the
front-door. "Lobelia again most likely," he thought. "She must have
thought of something really nasty, and have come back again to say
it. It can wait."
He went on with his tea. The knock was repeated, much louder,
but he took no notice. Suddenly the wizard"s head appeared at the
"If you don"t let me in, Frodo, I shall blow your door right
down your hole and out through the hill," he said.
"My dear Gandalf! Half a minute!" cried Frodo, running out of
the room to the door. "Come in! Come in! I thought it was Lobelia."
"Then I forgive you. But I saw her some time ago, driving a
pony-trap towards Bywater with a face that would have curdled new
"She had already nearly curdled me. Honestly, I nearly tried
on Bilbo"s ring. I longed to disappear."
"Don"t do that!" said Gandalf, sitting down. "Do be careful
of that ring, Frodo! In fact, it is partly about that that I have
come to say a last word."
"Well, what about it?"
"What do you know already?"
"Only what Bilbo told me. I have heard his story: how he
found it, and how he used it: on his journey, I mean."
"Which story, I wonder," said Gandalf.
"Oh, not what he told the dwarves and put in his book," said
Frodo. "He told me the true story soon after I came to live here. He
said you had pestered him till he told you, so I had better know
too. "No secrets between us, Frodo," he said; "but they are not to go
any further. It"s mine anyway.""
"That"s interesting," said Gandalf. "Well, what did you think
of it all?"
"If you mean, inventing all that about a "present", well, I
thought the true story much more likely, and I couldn"t see the point
of altering it at all. It was very unlike Bilbo to do so, anyway; and
I thought it rather odd."
"So did I. But odd things may happen to people that have such
treasures — if they use them. Let it be a warning to you to be very
careful with it. It may have other powers than just making you vanish
when you wish to."
"I don"t understand," said Frodo.
"Neither do I," answered the wizard. "I have merely begun to
wonder about the ring, especially since last night. No need to worry.
But if you take my advice you will use it very seldom, or not at all.
At least I beg you not to use it in any way that will cause talk or
rouse suspicion. I say again: keep it safe, and keep it secret!"
"You are very mysterious! What are you afraid of?"
"I am not certain, so I will say no more. I may be able to
tell you something when I come back. I am going off at once: so this
is good-bye for the present." He got up.
"At once!" cried Frodo. "Why, I thought you were staying on
for at least a week. I was looking forward to your help."
"I did mean to — but I have had to change my mind. I may be
away for a good while; but I"ll come and see you again, as soon as I
can. Expect me when you see me! I shall slip in quietly. I shan"t
often be visiting the Shire openly again. I find that I have become
rather unpopular. They say I am a nuisance and a disturber of the
peace. Some people are actually accusing me of spiriting Bilbo away,
or worse. If you want to know, there is supposed to be a plot between
you and me to get hold of his wealth."
"Some people!" exclaimed Frodo. "You mean Otho and Lobelia.
How abominable! I would give them Bag End and everything else, if I
could get Bilbo back and go off tramping in the country with him. I
love the Shire. But I begin to wish, somehow, that I had gone too. I
wonder if I shall ever see him again."
"So do I," said Gandalf. "And I wonder many other things.
Good-bye now! Take care of yourself! Look out for me, especially at
unlikely times! Good-bye!"
Frodo saw him to the door. He gave a final wave of his hand,
and walked off at a surprising pace; but Frodo thought the old wizard
looked unusually bent, almost as if he was carrying a great weight.
The evening was closing in, and his cloaked figure quickly vanished
into the twilight. Frodo did not see him again for a long time.
Copyright © 1954, 1965, 1966 by J.R.R. Tolkien;
1954 edition copyright © renewed 1982 by Christopher R. Tolkien,
Michael H.R. Tolkien, John F.R. Tolkien and Priscilla M.A.R. Tolkien;
1965/1966 editions copyright © renewed 1993, 1994 by Christopher R.
Tolkien, John F.R. Tolkien and Priscilla M.A.R. Tolkien.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.
Excerpted from Return of the King
by J. R. R. Tolkien
Copyright © 1967 by J. R. R. Tolkien.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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