September 18, TA 3018

Tolkien Calendar: The Great Years

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September 22, TA 3019

Bilbo's 129th Birthday and Saruman comes to the Shire.

"Rivendell" by Alan Lee
When contrasted with the celebration of Bilbo's 111th birthday, this one passes with very little fanfare. Tolkien barely devoted two lines to it. Bilbo is noticeably older. When Frodo, Gandalf and the hobbits arrive in Rivendell, they find Bilbo surrounded with books and pens and papers, "old but peaceful and sleepy." He is pleased at the cleverness of the party for arriving just in time for his birthday. All that remains of the original Fellowship is Gandalf and the hobbits and they spend the time resting, visiting and recounting their adventures. Most of the time however, Bilbo falls asleep in the middle of the stories. He is almost ready to leave; hoping only to equal or surpass the Old Took and even in this, he is resigned if it is not to be. We shall see.

Also on this day, Saruman and Grima are arriving in the shire. There is still a little bite in this snake and things will not go well with the Shire for a time. We will learn of this only after the fact but these events are foretold some weeks ago. You will recall that they met Saruman and Grima on the road and exchanged words. Saruman is bitter and demeaned but not humbled. Before they took leave of him, Saruman warns the hobbits that it will serve them right if they return to find the South Farthing less well than they would like it. This parting shot troubles Sam who does not at all like the tone of Saruman's words and is worried to get back to the Shire.

But for now, the Hobbits and Gandalf will visit with Bilbo and take their leisure at the Last Homely House.

Images © Alan Lee.

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October 5, TA 3019

Gandalf and the Hobbits leave Rivendell.

"Rivendell" by Alan Lee
With Tolkien and the Hobbits, we readers are now anxious to return home to the Shire. After nearly two years of wandering about in the Wild, we are ready for the comfort of the familiar, even if it means leaving the magic of Rivendell. We even get a new verse to the Travelling Song:

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.

Will Frodo be a traveller doomed to wander, or will there be a Home at the end of his Road? Elrond's cryptic farewell--look for us next fall in the woods of the Shire--plants the seed of the question.

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October 6, TA 3019

Categories: Tolkien Calendar

They cross the Ford of Bruinen; Frodo feels the return of pain.

At the outset of their ride home to the Shire, the four hobbits and Gandalf pass out of Rivendell over the Ford of Bruinen on the anniversary of the Nazgul attack that wounded Frodo there on his outward journey. Gandalf notices Frodo seems distant and reluctant to cross, and inquires if he is in pain. Frodo's response is one of the most poignant passages in The Lord of the Rings, for in his words we see that for him, nothing will ever be whole again. He has paid a terrible, albeit willing, price to save Middle Earth.
    Alas! There are some wounds that cannot be wholly cured, said Gandalf

    I fear it may be so with mine, said Frodo. There is no real going back. Though I may come to the Shire, it will not seem the same; for I shall not be the same. I am wounded with knife, sting, and tooth, and a long burden. Where shall I find rest?

    Gandalf did not answer.

Frodo had once said that he could go on as long as he knew the Shire was somewhere behind him. It seems sad and unfair that he will never be able to completely enjoy what he paid so much to save, yet we must remember that his sacrifice was necessary, and also freely made. There is a terrible beauty in that, and a great love.

Images © "Fellowship Journey" by Alan Lee.

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October 28, TA 3019

Categories: Tolkien Calendar

They reach Bree at nightfall.

    Gandalf has gone away on his errand, and as Merry states, "Well here we are, just the four of us that started out together. We have left the rest behind, one after another."

    The hobbits soon discover that things are not as they should be in Bree, and indeed, in the Shire as a whole. On this cold and rainy night, they meet an old adversary in Bill ferny and send him on his way with a final farewell nudge from Bill the pony.

    After all the terror that Frodo, Sam, Pippin and Merry have faced over the past year, they are not much put off by the ruffians they find in Bree. They can hear enough to know that things do not go well in the Shire, but neither are these the same four young frivolous hobbits from months past. They settle in for a night's rest at Bree, and tomorrow they will set out for home and whatever else lies ahead.

Images © "Fellowship Journey" by Alan Lee.

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October 30, TA 3019

The hobbits and Gandalf leave Bree in the morning and the hobbits arrive at the Brandywine Bridge after dark

"The Scouring of the Shire" by Alan Lee
This is a busy day. The circle is drawing to a close. It is just over one year since the hobbits began their precipitous adventure fleeing from the Black Riders. Today they will begin the final leg of the journey home but they are not the same hobbits who left.

The companions, the hobbits and Gandalf, leave Bree in the morning to a much different send off than the one the year previous. Gandalf travels with them only a short way. At the point on the East Road where Tom Bombadil took leave of the hobbits last year, Gandalf leaves them. He is set to have a long, chatty visit with Tom "the moss gatherer". No longer doomed to be "a rolling stone", Gandalf is looking forward to what he and Tom will have to say to each other. (I have to say, I would love to be a fly on that wall and hear the stories those two will tell. What questions would they answer, I wonder.)

Frodo is nostalgic to see Tom again himself but Gandalf prods the hobbits on their way lest they arrive at the gates at the Brandywine Bridge after night. The hobbits go, wondering about gates where no gates have been before and, indeed, they do arrive after dark to find them locked and barred. Even Merry's relationship to Hob Hayward, a fellow Brandybuck, was not enough to get the hobbits guarding the gates to open them. They were too afraid of "the Chief" and his Big Man. The Big Man turns out to be Bill Ferny as Merry and Pippin learn when they climb the gate. The company sends him packing with a parting shot from Bill the Pony.

There is to be no welcome home for the returning hobbits. The company takes up residence for the night in the guard shack that has replaced the inn that once stood here and, with only bits of the story gleaned from the frightened hobbit guards, settles down to sleep. But, not before breaking every rule listed on the notice that they rip from the walls. It looks to be another long day tomorrow. With no food, beer or pipeweed to be had, Sam is none to cheery about it.

Images © Alan Lee.

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Last edited: 20 September 2012 12:07:08