The Lord of the... whatever, Book I, Chapter 3:
Three Is Company
Despite Frodo's resolution to leave at once, he was in truth very
reluctant to start, now that it had come to the point. One afternoon
two or three weeks after Gandalf's warning (or maybe four, or perhaps
just one; Frodo spent most of the days that followed drunk, and rather
lost track of time), Frodo went to the wizard for advice. "Gandalf,"
he asked, voice filled with concern, "I can't just vanish without a
trace. After Bilbo's farewell stunt, I'd never be able to look the
old hobbit in the eye again if I didn't keep up the family tradition.
Like father, like son, you know."
Gandalf, confused, said, "Father? What are you talking about?
Bilbo was your first and second cousin, once removed either way... I
should know, I had to sit through two and a half hours of old Gaffer
Gamgee's genealogy lectures at the party. Seating me next to him was
one of Bilbo's little jokes."
"Oh, well, you know," Frodo fumbled, "Bilbo did have the Ring and
all, and my mother was quite comely when she was a lass... the whole
thing has been discussed before, though not generally in polite
company. I'd rather not talk about it. And anyway, this isn't
getting me any closer to an excuse to leave."
"Don't worry, Frodo," replied Gandalf. "I thought you might prove
to be hesitant, so I've taken some steps of my own to provide for a
suitably ignominious departure for you."
Just as Frodo gave Gandalf a sharp, suspicious look, a hammering
sound came down the hall from the front door. "What in the heavens is
that?" cried Frodo.
"Unless I miss my guess," Gandalf explained, "those will be your
creditors. I took the liberty of closing your bank accounts and
taking out a number of short term loans in your name from some of your
competitors in the 'Sharkey' business. As I recall, they come due
today. Incidentally, I've got to be off to, er, scout out the road
ahead, so I'll just slip out and catch up with you later. Look for me
in Bree!" And with that, the old wizard dashed off and was gone.
Frodo leapt out of his chair in a panic, as the hammering on the
door became more insistent. "What have you done with my money?" he
yelled in the direction Gandalf had run, but he knew that chasing the
wizard would only waste valuable escape time. Fortunately, Pipsqueak
and Morrie were visiting for the day, accompanied by Pipsqueak's
annoying younger brother Fatty, and Sam was back in the cellar doing
some unspecified repairs. Quickly, Frodo rounded up his friends and
explained the situation.
"The Sackville-Baggins 'family' is here to take everything they can
get their grubby hands on," Frodo explained, "and that includes me and
all of my friends. We'd better clear out in short order if we don't
want to end up at the bottom of Bywater Pool. Quickly, now, run
through the hole and grab everything valuable that isn't bolted down:
the thought of the Sackville-Bagginses getting a hold of my things
makes me sick, and anyway, I'll be broke if we don't pile up some of
this loot before we go."
Quickly the five hobbits scattered throughout the hole, filling old
pillow cases with whatever they could carry. Frodo had a strong door,
but now the pounding gave way to a repeated ramming sound; he knew
they didn't have much time. He met Pipsqueak, Morrie, and Fatty in
the study as they had agreed: it was on the lefthand side of the hall
(going in) like all the best rooms, for these were the only ones to
have windows large enough for a desperate hobbit to climb out in an
emergency. After a tense minute's delay, Frodo shouted back into the
hole. "Sam!" he called. "Sam! Time!"
"Coming, sir!" came the answer from far within, followed soon by Sam
himself, wiping his mouth. "I was just saying farewell to Rosi--um,
the beer-barrel in the cellar."
Frodo looked down at Sam's hand. "Give me that Ring," he snapped,
as he yanked the ancient artifact off of Sam's finger. With that,
they all scrambled out of the window along with their bags of loot.
Just at that moment, a great crash came from the hall as the door
finally gave way.
"Sam," said Frodo once they were outside, "take this key to your
father, and tell him to hold on to it. We're going need it when we
come back for revenge. Then cut along the Row and meet us as quick as
you can at the gate in the lane beyond the meadows. We are not going
through the village tonight. Too many ears pricking and eyes prying."
Sam ran off at full speed, while Frodo and the others loaded the cart
that Morrie had fortunately brought along that morning.
The sun went down. Sad and frightening sounds came from within Bag
End in the dark, as the Sackville-Bagginses wrecked and looted the
place in their search for Frodo. Once the cart had been hastily
packed, Frodo sent Morrie and Fatty with it on ahead. Morrie was,
as a rule, terrible company on a hike, and Fatty was a hundred times
worse. "Sam and Pipsqueak and I will meet you at the safehouse in
Crickhollow the day after tomorrow," he said, and they drove away as
quietly yet quickly as they could.
Frodo looked back at the dark black windows of Bag End, some of
which were being smashed out as he watched. One of the windows near
the cellar seemed to have a ripped piece of a hobbit lass's dress torn
and fluttering on a nail. He waved his hand to his long home.
"Good-bye!" he said, and then turned and (following Bilbo, if he had
known it) hurried after Pipsqueak down the garden path. Taking the
most secret route they knew, they jumped over the low place in the
hedge at the bottom and took to the fields, passing into the blessed
concealment of darkness like a cattle rustler into the grasses.
They met Sam at the gate, and proceeded along the deserted lane for
a mile or two, at which point they cut off into the fields to throw
off pursuit. After some time they crossed the Water, and made their
way toward the hilly country to the south. "Well, I'll say this,"
remarked Frodo as he looked back into the valley of Hobbiton and back
to the Hill, where tiny flames had begun to rise from the vicinity of
Bag End, "that was quite an exit. I wonder if I'll ever be able to
show my face in that valley again?" Sam and Pipsqueak were walking on
ahead exchanging dirty stories, and Frodo's question went unanswered.
The three friends walked on and on into the night. Eventually, the
moon set, and after Pipsqueak nearly fell into a deep streambed for
the third time, the hobbits agreed that they should stop where they
were and sleep for the night. Of course, none of them had thought to
take any bedding with them on the trip, so they all curled up on top
of the tree roots nearby, ignoring the soft, comfortable bed of
fir-needles that covered the ground beyond the roots. They set no
watch: they had drawn lots, but when Frodo and Sam noticed Pipsqueak
cheating they all decided it was a lost cause and went to bed.
A few creatures came and looked at them as they slept. A fox
passing through the wood on business of his own stopped several
minutes and sniffed. "Hobbits!" he thought. "And sleeping out of
doors under a tree at that. There's something mighty queer behind
this. I'd better head off to tell my friends Bombadil, Gandalf, and
El Rond all about it in short order. Good thing I can speak Westron."
The next morning came, pale and clammy. The three friends went on
walking through the trees, and Frodo began to chant to himself in a
The Road goes ever on and on,
and on and on and on and on,
and on and on the Road has gone,
why did I let Morrie drive the cart?
Sam and Pipsqueak stopped and gave Frodo an odd look, but when he
didn't respond they all went on their way, deeper into the wood.
The sun was beginning to get low and the hobbits had just passed
into a stand of beech trees when they heard hoofbeats on the road
behind them. "Quick!" whispered Frodo, staring back the way they had
come. "They must have found our tracks sooner than we thought. Hide
behind the trees!" He turned back around, and realized that his
friends hadn't needed his advice: they had already run a good ways
into the wood and buried themselves under a pile of leaves. Frodo
himself only had time to duck behind a nearby statue of a Pukel-man
when a tall black horse came into view.
On it sat a large black man, wearing a dark, dark grey cloak and
hood. When the horse reached the statue level with Frodo it stopped,
and the black man started looking from side to side, breathing
heavily. A light breeze blew in Frodo's direction, and Frodo caught a
whiff of a terrible smell like last Easter's missing egg. He gagged,
and the black man stared toward his hiding place and began to climb
off of his horse.
But at that moment there came a sound like mingled song and
laughter. The black man started to tap his foot, then hum along with
the music. Finally, he started singing out loud, and then suddenly
realized what he was doing. He got an extremely sheepish look on his
face, leapt up on his horse, and rode away in utter embarrassment.
"Elves!" exclaimed Sam, coming with Pipsqueak to Frodo's side.
"Elves, sir!" Frodo nodded, and as the voices drew nearer, their song
O! What are we doing,
And where are we going?
We're soon barbecuing!
The river is flowing!
up out of the valley!
O! What are we seeking,
And where are we making?
The faggots are reeking!
The bannocks are baking!
the vally was jolly,
Well, okay, not that much clearer, but Elves are like that.
Nevertheless, Sam stood enchanted. "Is it true, Mr. Frodo, that Elves
have drugs the like of which no mortal has ever known? It certainly
sounds like it."
Frodo answered, with awe but not without disappointment. "Yes, Sam.
These are, indeed, High Elves. Sadly, they share not their precious
drugs with outsiders. Still, they can be good company, and they sure
throw a great barbecue."
As the Elves drew near, Frodo stepped out into the path. "Elen sila
lumenn' omentielvo!" he said in his most friendly tones.
The Elves appeared confused. "What do you mean, Frodo, that your
sister has a wombat through her tea-time?" Frodo cursed under his
breath, and swore a silent oath to himself never to trust Bilbo's
language lessons again. The Elf went on, "No matter. You look weary
and hungry; would you like to come with us to dinner?"
"Certainly, good people," replied Frodo greatfully, for the dinner
invitations of the High Elves are rare and prized indeed, "but how do
you know my name?"
"We have watched you long," they laughed, "and your father Bilbo
before you." At this, Frodo winced, but they took no notice. "Your
adventures with that young Cassiopiea Took were quite amusing, and as
for Bilbo, well..." Frodo was now blushing furiously, and the Elves
(together with Sam and Pipsqueak) simply laughed again and said no
more. They passed on into the night, until they came to a clearing in
In the clearing, there stood a ring of great upright standing
stones, connected from top to top with other great stone slabs all
around the circle. "Welcome to Sto-wan-hensh, our hall of feasts,"
said Gildor, the leader of the Elves. "You are fortunate: it is
almost time for supper."
Even as Gildor spoke, an Elf sighting along two tall stones cried
out, "The stars are now in place! It's ten o'clock; soup's on!"
Torches and bonfires leapt into life all around the stone circle, and
soon the entire company was happily eating barbecued fox and toasted
cornbread. A large flat stone in the center of the ring had been
scrubbed clean, and was surrounded by blazing fires that heated it
almost until it glowed; an Elf was frying bacon on its top. The
hobbits tried not to feel disappointed when the High Elves didn't
offer them any miruvor when it was passed around, but other than
that the evening was perfect.
Frodo soon decided to share some of his fears and concerns with
Gildor as they ate. "Gildor, what would a black man be doing in the
Shire? We were pursued by one today, and he only left when he heard
your company approach."
"A black man? In the Shire?" said Gildor doubtfully. "I have never
heard of such a thing, not since the old days of the Kings and their
battles with Angmar. Just about everyone in this part of the world is
Caucasian, and that's a fact."
"And yet," explained Frodo, "he was there, and I was frightened.
I've never been comfortable around minorities."
From the background, Pipsqueak spoke up, "Be sure to tell him about the
smelling! I'm sure it is very important!"
"Well," Frodo said to Gildor, "he did have this awful odor..."
Gildor cut Frodo off sharply. "Hold it right there. This story is
racist enough as it is; we don't need any comments about 'Black
Breath' making it worse."
"Right. We'll drop the subject," said Frodo. "Nevertheless, I am
pursued, even before I have left the Shire. I am supposed to meet
Gandalf in Bree, but I don't know how I'll even make it that far, or
what to do if he isn't there. I'm at a loss, I'm frightened, and I'm
bearing a terrible burden on which may rest the fate of all
Middle-earth. Can you give me any advice?"
"No. Yes." said Gildor.
This chapter of this epic work is presented through the courtesy of
Steuard Jensen <sbjensen-aaaaaaat-midway-dawt-uchicago.edu>.
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.
Do not swallow this product.