Gandalf visits Bilbo at Bag End.
...one morning long ago, Bilbo was standing at his....
© Alan Lee.
Gandalf's visit to Bilbo Baggins in this most fateful of days was not happenstance, and as it turns out, it is not the beginning of a carefree children's tale about dwarves and hobbits although that was the initial intention of the writer and much of this wonderful book reads that way.
Our introduction to hobbits and their world is innocuous enough, "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit", and a wizard by the name of Gandalf happens by as Bilbo stands puffing his pipe on his own front doorstep. Coincidence? No. Planning and fate are better words.
In Unfinished Tales and the chapter, The Quest of Erebor, the careful reader learns that this meeting was carefully planned, laboriously sold to Thorin Oakenshield who resisted it mightily, and indeed Bilbo was chosen for this quest with other and darker plans in mind.
Gandalf was already aware of Saruman's potential betrayal. He knew of the darkness growing in Mirkwood and his mission that day had a dire urgency about it. Sauron had risen again and attacks on Rivendell and Lórien were imminent unless there was something significant to be done to disturb the plans...such as dealing with a certain dragon named Smaug.
It is here that fate and happenstance stepped in as Gandalf stumbled upon a distraught and fuming Thorin who is intent on reclaiming the halls and the fortunes of his people in the Lonely Mountain, now the lair of the fearsome Smaug.
Bilbo had caught Gandalf's eye years before. "I knew in my heart that Bilbo must go with him, or the whole quest would be a failure - or, as I should say now, the far more important events by the way would not come to pass". So, from this one admission from Gandalf's lips, many would say that today and tomorrow is when Gandalf sent Bilbo out to find the Ring.
The quest begins today.
© Middle-earth Journeys. Images © Alan Lee.