The Lord of the... whatever, Book I, Chapter 1:

A Long-Expected Parting

     "So you're going to go through with it, then," Gandalf the Wizard said 
     "I am," Bilbo replied. "I've been planning this for a long time. 
It'll give the Hobbits of the Shire something to talk about for the next 
nine days - or ninety-nine, more likely. Anyway, at least I'll have my 
little joke."
     "Who will laugh, I wonder?" Gandalf mused aloud, scratching his 
beard idly.

     For weeks carts and caravans were coming from all over Middle-earth 
to bring provisions for the Grand Old Party, as Bilbo referred to it. 
Wagons of food from the Dwarvish mines at Erebor, shiny rocks from the 
Sea-elves and fancy seductive packages from southern Mirkwood arrived 
daily, making the neighborhood generally more crowded and cluttering up 
avenues. Even those who hadn't said anything bad about Bilbo before were 
starting to show their annoyance. "Mr. Bilbo Baggins is starting to get a 
mite annoying," old Gaffer Gamgee grumbled, standing outside the pub. 
"Queer goings-on, and no mistake. Why just yesterday a bunch o' pesky 
Wood-elves dragged their cart right acrost my yard and ruined my taters!"
     "A bunch of Men from Bree came to my place yesterday and tried to 
sell me some aluminum siding," mused Old Noakes of Bywater. "They said it 
was because they had extra after building that horrible Quonset hut over 
the Party Tree, and they were trying to unload it. Strange folk 
     "Yes, but it's good for the economy," sneered Bill Ferny, the local 
banker. "A lot more money in circulation. Market's been doing well. 
Unionization is down because of all the entry-level service positions 
that are being created. Widening gap between the haves and have-nots, 
don't you think? Good to find work for idle hands."
     "And you don't know nothin' about anythin', Ferny," Gaffer Gamgee 
snapped, echoing the popular community sentiment. "Mr. Bilbo Baggins is a 
right bastard, as I've often said, and it's small wonder if trouble don't 
come of him and his imperialist ways. The Revolution's a'comin', and it's 
the likes o'you who'll be the first ag'inst the wall, so sayeth the 
Lord." And with that he spat a well-aimed beer-nut into Ferny's glass.

     At last the day of the Big Party arrived. Everywhere there was too 
much to eat, and by midafternoon there were broken presents lying all 
over the Shire attesting to the low quality of their manufacture. Gandalf 
set off a series of fireworks later on in the day, including great 
skywriting missiles and little flaming butterflies who took to wing, 
sailed off into the Eastfarthing and burned all its trees to the ground.
     The last firework sent up a great black smoke which took the shape 
of a giant mountain of fire. A flicker could be seen of a giant dragon 
sailing about its peak; after a moment the great dragon went sailing over 
the heads of the crowd, causing great panic and consternation and six 
outright heart attacks before imploding somewhere over the 
Sackville-Baggins' neighborhood, causing considerable property damage 
which was never properly repaired for generations afterward.
     "That is the signal for supper!" Bilbo cried out to the survivors, 
who were only partly mollified.
     Later on, in the specially-designed quonset hut which Bilbo had 
built especially for the occasion, all his friends and neighbors were 
helping themselves to their third helpings of macaroni and cheese and 
potato salad (the latter laced liberally with what Bilbo called the 
"traditional secret ingredient", which while not actually a narcotic 
still had unusual effects, the sum of which were still under scientific 
inquiry in some circles), Bilbo stood up and motioned for quiet. "A 
speech! A speech!" some of his neighbors cried out in fear.
     My dear Hobbits! Bilbo began. There was much cheering at this, 
as Hobbits on the whole are a rather egocentric lot, and anyway the 
latest round of potato salad was beginning to kick in.
     My dear Bagginses and Bracegirdles, Boffins and Borfledebees, 
Casmits and Cantankerums, Fassbinders and Fazoolas, Wombats and 
Wafflefoots. "WaffleFEET!" cried out an irate old man at the back, in 
fact the very man who had earned the name when Bilbo's nephew Frodo had 
accidentally dropped a hot waffle-iron on his feet some years ago. He had 
borne the Bagginses no ill-will, since the settlement was quite generous.
     Wafflefoots, continued Bilbo, oblivious. This is my nine hundreth 
birthday! And though one million years is too short a time to have spent 
with you all...
     There was some muffled conversation throughout the hall, which Bilbo 
took notice of. Well, on bad days it seems like a million years, he 
explained. Anyway, though ten billion years is long enough to endure 
from all of you, this is IT... I am GOING... I am leaving NOW... 
GoodBYE! And with that Bilbo leaped up, tore all his clothes off, 
scattering them about the astonished guests' heads, and ran from the 
great Hut screaming and flailing his arms.
     Young Frodo looked on in bemusement, refusing to answer questions 
from the astonished crowd. Everyone knew, of course, that Bilbo was a big 
man in the community. But - and Frodo looked at the crowd, particularly 
noting the astonishment on old Lobelia's face - until now, nobody knew just 
how big.

     "Well! That's done!" Bilbo laughed, emerging from the bedroom at Bag 
End freshly dressed. "You know, Gandalf, I've been wanting to do that for 
as long as I can remember. Now I think this would be an excellent time to 
leave the Shire, at least before they can all find their torches and 
axe-handles. Everything stays with Frodo, as we promised."
     "Including the Ring?" Gandalf asked.
     "Well, yes, I suppose so," Bilbo replied. He pulled the Ring out 
from under his cloak, where it hung on a fine golden chain Bilbo had 
stolen of old from the Brandybucks. "Still, though, I kind of hate to get 
rid of it."
     "This seemed to me to be the only thing worthwhile about your whole 
stupid plan," Gandalf said uncharacteristically. "Put it on the mantel 
and walk away from it. It has got far too much hold on you. Let it go!"
     "It's mine! And I shall keep it, I say!"
     Gandalf raised himself up to his full height. Bilbo's hand reached 
quietly for the hilt of his sword. "It will be my turn to get angry 
soon," the wizard intoned. "Listen to me: you must give Frodo the Ring!"
     Bilbo suddenly laughed. "Oh, that?" he grinned. "Well, of course 
I'm giving him the Ring! I thought you meant the chain." Slipping the 
Ring off the chain he set the circle of gold on the mantel without a 
second thought. Then he slipped the chain about his neck. "I love this 
chain. Stole it from old Matuseck Brandybuck back before he went senile. 
Wouldn't part with it for love nor money. No, I don't give two flies 
about the Ring. Nothing but trouble, that thing has been.
     "Well, I'm off, Gandalf! I'm off on the road again, and not a moment 
too soon by the look of that crowd down there." And taking an old 
walking-stick from the stand by the door Bilbo went outside, taking a 
path around the back of the Hill so he could leave unobserved, and as he 
left he began singing a song quietly to himself:

      While often by the door I lie
      And look upon the mountains' feet
      And think of rains and hikers' pains
      And sleeping wetly in the sleet,

      When darkness' cry does terrify
      And wilderness encircles you,
      And being food for goblins' brood
      Is one choice, and starvation two;

      Then staying home instead of roam
      Will have a very great appeal!
      Forego the Quest! And have a rest!
      Let Dwarves and Elves and wizards squeal!

      But since the Shire is filled with ire,
      And all my neighbors fevers grip,
      It's plain to see! I must agree!
      The time has come to take a trip!

     Hours later Frodo returned to Bag End, a little glad to have thrown 
off the pursuit at last. He started at first to discover someone waiting 
for him in the living-room, but sighed with relief when he saw it was 
only Gandalf.
     "Did he get away?" Frodo asked.
     "He did," Gandalf replied. "And just at the last, for they were 
getting ready to set after him with dogs. Luckily he doubled back at the 
Three-Farthing Stone, as I recommended, or there would be a special 
bonfire in Tuckborough tonight. Are you well?"
     "Yes," Frodo replied. "I managed to convince everyone I was 
uninvolved with the Hay Incident."
     "Good," Gandalf said. He lit his pipe with a nearby candle and 
looked at Frodo evenly. "He left things for you on the mantel. The deed to 
Bag End, a signed statement saying you were only an unwitting accomplice 
in the Bywater Incident, and-"
     "The Ring!" Frodo said, looking at the mantel with astonishment. 
"Has he left me that?"
     "He has," Gandalf replied, "though you'll have to find a new chain. 
But if I may counsel you in the use of your own - don't use it! Now or 
later! It may have other powers besides quick and easy seduction."
     "I can't believe Bilbo left me the Ring," Frodo gasped. "He used to 
say that it and a bottle of Westfarthing Chinook was all you needed for 
the perfect weekend."
     "Well, lock it up someplace and stay away from it," Gandalf intoned. 
"No Took-wives, no Elf-virgins, and no real estate deals. And no political 
aspirations! In the morning I'm off to see if I can learn more about it. 
In the meantime leave it unused until I return."
     "I'll, uh, I'll think about that, all right," Frodo blurted, trying 
hard not to think about the Ring and young Cassiopiea Took.
     The next morning Gandalf left, leaving Frodo with only his thoughts, 
his yearnings and a half-empty bottle of Westfarthing Chinook for 

Table of Contents / Book I, Chapter Two
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This chapter of this epic work is presented through the courtesy of O. Sharp <ohh-aaaaaaat-netcom-dawt-com>. Copyright © 2000 by the author. All rights reserved. Some variance between this e-text and the original printed material by Professor Tolkien is inevitable. Using this as an electronic resource for scholarly or research purposes may lead to a certain degree of academic embarassment. All agree that the printed version of the text, available from respectable publishers such as Houghton Mifflin and Ballantine Books, is to be preferred. Don't run through the house with those scissors.