She’d been born Philomina Goold, grandaughter of Isembold Took and a niece of the Menegilda who’d married Rorimac Brandybuck, who in time became the Master of Brandy Hall. The Goolds were not a remarkably prominent family, although they were not declining in the numbers bearing the family name as was true of the Bagginses and had happened to the Sackvilles. They had a family farm in the Northfarthing, one in the Marish, and a farm and pipeweed plantation in the Southfarthing where they grew Goolden Lynch, not a markedly popular variety but one which was preferred by some connoisseurs.
Mina Goold had met Willeden Whitfoot at the Free Fair in Michel Delving, and it had been love from their first dance together. Now, the Whitfoots were anything but a prominent family. They’d been working class for almost the entire history of the Shire; now there were two family farms, but they’d been scrimped and saved for for quite some time, and they were becoming very successful, for the Whitfoots were an ambitious and steady lot.
Mina convinced her parents to allow her to marry somewhat early--she was only twenty-eight when she and Will were married in Michel Delving by old Doro Burrows, who’d been Mayor before Will. Doro had groomed Will to follow after him, and had been pleased to nominate Will to run when Will was still quite young, only forty-two, after all.
Mina was only thirty when her first bairn was born, young Fenton, on August 28, 1368. Not quite a month later her cousin Primula gave birth to the one of her five children who lived, on September 22. It was her third pregnancy, and it was greatly feared she’d lose this one as she’d lost the first two and as she later lost two more. Young Frodo was born over a month early, and there was a good deal of concern shown as to whether this bairn would survive to adulthood.
Fenton Whitfoot was two and a half when his sister Aster was born. They were a dear pair of bairns, and Mina doted on them. Fenton was broad and strong and very sweet, with a wicked sense of humor and a marked level of loyalty. He wasn’t anywhere as clever as his second cousin Frodo Baggins, but all signs were that he would accomplish a good deal in his life, and that he just might well follow his father’s path and become Mayor one day. He was a good Hobbits’ Hobbit, after all, was friendly and knew how to read folks well, and had an instinct for what was needed.
When Primula and Drogo Baggins died suddenly when Frodo was so very young Mina and Will had made the journey to Buckland to attend the funeral, and both Fenton and Aster tried to comfort Frodo as they could. However, Frodo was too shocked by his loss to appreciate their overtures; and neither Rory nor Gilda encouraged him to reciprocate the attempts at friendship. Frodo remained in Brandy Hall as Rory and Gilda’s ward, being fostered by their son Saradoc and his wife Esmeralda, Esmeralda Took as was. The friendship Mina Whitfoot had hoped for between her children and Frodo Baggins just never materialized.
Then came the sudden revelation in 1390 that old Bilbo had suddenly insisted on exercising his responsibility as Head of the Baggins family to see to his younger cousin’s raising, and was bringing Frodo to live at Bag End in Hobbiton. Once again Mina hoped that perhaps a friendship would rise between her son and her cousin’s son, and certainly they appeared to get along when Bilbo brought Frodo to join the Whitfoots for breakfast on the second day of the Free Fair. Mina convinced Bilbo to come to Michel Delving for Fenton’s birthday in August; but when Frodo’s birthday came that year Fenton was already scheduled to travel to the Long Cleeve in the Northfarthing to attend a birthday party for an aunt on his father’s side who’d married a North-Took. Mina hoped to arrange for the two lads to spend at least part of Yule together when a pestilence ran through the Shire in late fall and early winter, and folk here and there throughout the Shire became ill with colds, ague, and the lung sickness. Both Fenton and Frodo fell ill with the lung sickness at the same time. Frodo finally began to recover after coming very close under Death’s wings, it was said; Fenton seemed to be fighting it well, then suddenly died one night.
Mina Whitfoot had a soft spot in her heart for her cousin’s son; yet at the same time it was difficult for her to spend a great deal of time in his presence as doing so reminded her so much of her own losses, first of her cousin, whom she’d admired deeply, and then of Fenton.
Aster married a Sandheaver from Whitfurrow and moved with him to his family farm. Will enjoyed being Mayor well enough, but really wanted to do some farming of his own. He tried to convince old Bilbo to take over as Mayor, but the wily old Baggins had refused. “You don’t want me, Will,” he insisted. “Why, you’ve seen nothing until you see Lobelia at her worst, and she’d get to that all too quickly if you even breathed my name as a possible candidate. She’d have the few Sackvilles and all of the Bracegirdles in the Shire out with their whispering campaigns; and if it became known you were backing me you’d be tarred with my brush. She and Otho are as acquisitive a pair as ever breathed, and they’ve done all they can to try to get hold of Bag End; while Otho would do anything to get the title of Baggins family head. He’s quite taken with the idea of becoming family head of two families at the same time, you know, not that the Sackville family is anything to be proud of.”
Precisely how the fact that Otho and Lobelia Sackville-Baggins were acquisitive by nature had anything to do with their willingness to begin a whispering campaign against Bilbo Baggins and her husband Mina didn’t properly understand, but the threat of such a thing was enough to cause Will to simply agree and forget the idea of drafting Bilbo as Mayor.
Both Bilbo and Will, however, were all for the idea of perhaps drafting young Frodo as Mayor at some time in the future. There was no question he was intelligent and that no one knew the Shire and Buckland and their folk better than he, save perhaps Bilbo alone. He had family and business ties throughout the Shire to families both prominent and humble. He had a sterling reputation throughout the central Shire where his willingness to aid others however he could was well known and attested to. His ability to dance and sing and tell stories was widely known and admired by folk all through the Shire and Buckland. His relationship to Thain and Master and to future Thain and Master as well was well known--he’d have less trouble getting things done than had any previous Mayor. His history as one who’d made a reputation as one of the worst scapegraces in the history of Buckland when a teen even worked to his advantage, for it was proof he wasn’t just a prodigy of virtue who was trying to be above himself.
His sense of justice and responsibility, however, was what made Will favor him the most as a possible successor. Frodo had shown himself a protector of those who were weak and vulnerable and didn’t tout it about, yet this was a fact that had managed to make itself well known throughout the Shire. Once he became aware there was anyone or any family that was in need he’d do his best to see to it they were cared for either through his own generosity or by bringing them to the awareness of others for aid; and few people would even think of trying to back out of aiding those he championed. He was regularly seen helping others--helping children sweep their walks; aiding in the reroofing of houses damaged by storms; carrying purchases by gammers and gaffers; watching and entertaining groups of children so their mums and dads could get things done; encouraging children and teens and tweens to behave responsibly; helping watch sheep; aiding local farmers. Bounty from the Baggins gardens and orchard regularly made its way into the smials and homes of those who were ill or otherwise in need of aid throughout the Hobbiton-Bywater-Overhill region, whether they were neighbors or relatives or just someone who needed or deserved a bit extra.
He was equally polite and helpful to working blokes, servants, and gentry, children, adults, and the elderly. His courtesy toward others was legendary, as was his wit. And all who knew him feared the Look, which he reportedly had inherited from the Old Took himself.
Baggins responsibility, Took curiosity, Brandybuck initiative, Bolger intelligence, Boffin love of the land, Proudfoot pride, Chubbs sensitivity--Frodo was the best of his involved family heritage. Add in his physical good looks and the sense of vulnerability that he seemed to carry with him, and he was, Will thought, a natural as Mayor. And ever since Bilbo had left the Shire Will had been encouraging Frodo to run for the office.
Except--except he didn’t appear to want to be Mayor. Or perhaps it was more that he’d just successfully managed to keep putting Will off, time after time, convincing him that the time for it just wasn’t right for one reason or another.
When suddenly it became rumored that Frodo Baggins had finally spent all of the fortune Bilbo had left to him Will had been shocked. When word went out that he was selling Bag End to Lobelia and her son Lotho, old Otho having died years before, and was moving into a quiet retirement in Buckland the entire Shire was reeling. Will knew that there was something distinctly wrong with all of this; but he’d not been able to get Frodo to confide his real reasons for these unconscionable actions. All anyone seemed to know was that somehow that old Wizard Gandalf was involved, although none could say how.
The bill of sale, however, had been written out by Brendilac Brandybuck and filed by Frodo himself, as had been the one for the purchase of the house in Crickhollow where Frodo was removing to. Frodo hadn’t, Will noted, sold the smials of Bagshot Row to Lotho, however; nor had he given over any of his farm shares or other property deeds, such as that of the vineyard and wine press for the Old Winyards. Nor had he named Lotho family head.
And the will quietly presented to Will for his signature and registration, of which Will had been able to read only a limited amount, certainly didn’t read like that of one who was destitute. That will had been given into the hands of Brendilac Brandybuck for safekeeping; and the Goodbodies were Frodo’s bankers of discretion, Ordo and Oridon Goodbody to be precise, and no one had better reputations for recommending profitable investments and for personal discretion worthy of their positions than those two. Brendilac Brandybuck and the Goodbodies had a better idea as to what precisely was going on with Frodo than anyone, and they weren’t saying.
Frodo had left Hobbiton on his fiftieth birthday accompanied by his young cousin Peregrin Took, heir to the Thain, and Samwise Gamgee, who’d followed his dad as gardener for Bag End. A week and a half later and word had quietly circulated from Buckland that those three and the Master’s heir had disappeared into the Old Forest, and that the Crickhollow house had been broken into by unknown Big Folk all got up in black and riding huge black horses; and that Black Riders had approached several throughout the Shire asking after Baggins almost before Frodo had time to vacate Bag End.
Will had shared all this with Mina, along with his perception it was all wrong, all somehow false.
Then the Time of Troubles began, and there wasn’t time any more for further speculation on what was going on in the life of the likes of Frodo Baggins, for folk were far more concerned as to what was happening closer to home. Somehow it appeared that Lotho Sackville-Baggins had managed to gain deeds to most of the property in the Shire, and he was reeling it all in. He’d sold such quantities of crops from the farms he now suddenly controlled South out of the Shire that it looked as if the Shire was going to be in dire straits before the winter was over, in spite of reports of excellent harvests throughout all four Farthings and Buckland. He was closing down the inns, was tearing down the traditional water-driven mills and putting up steam-driven monstrosities in their stead, was cutting down trees, was bringing in an apparently indomitable army of Big Men to enforce his will.
No ones property rights were respected; and although he had no right to do so he’d emptied the smials of Bagshot Row and had moved their inhabitants into the substandard, ugly brick places he’d built on the edge of town. He was still the family head only for the Sackvilles, although that particular family was now basically reduced to only three males of the name throughout the Shire; but he acted as though he were the sole authority for all anywhere. He announced he was now Chief Shiriff, and took over control of that organization from Will. And when Will set out for Hobbiton to protest he’d been taken prisoner by Lotho’s Big Men and dragged right back to Michel Delving where the Men took over the old storage tunnels and made them over into a prison which they dubbed the Lockholes.
Mina begged the Big Men for knowledge of what had happened to her husband, and one of those who saw to the prison ended up assuring her he personally would see to it that Will was properly cared for. But things just kept getting worse and worse, until in the spring something happened somewhere far South and East of the Shire; but then the Big Men seemed to take heart again and over the summer things again began growing worse.
But the Shire was nowhere near as easy a nut to crack as Lotho believed. Almost every community and farm complex had carefully concealed storage holes where goods could be hidden, and soon when the Big Men came with their wagons for Gathering and Sharing there appeared to be little to be found worth taking away; and no one was telling Lotho or his supporters where the valuables had been hidden. Word had been passed by Folco Boffin for folks to hide their books; and even in Hobbiton, Bywater, and Overhill entire libraries disappeared before late spring when word had spread through the Big Men that books were desperately wanted. None could get into the Great Smial or the homes in the Tooklands; and once the nature of Lotho’s ambitions were appreciated in Buckland his ability to get things from the region across the Brandywine was suddenly extraordinarily limited as well. Boats on the river went missing or developed holes which couldn’t be repaired; bridges were undermined; the Buckleberry ferry’s ropes and poles were lost and the ferry itself wouldn’t support the weight of more than three Hobbits at a time any more. Roads were suddenly full of deep holes which impeded the movement of Lotho’s wagons and carts. Doors became impenetrable, and the fear of the Big Men was outweighed by the determination to best them however possible.
By summer fields and barns in the Tooklands and much of Buckland were being fired; by fall the amounts brought in by Lotho’s gatherers had fallen off substantially.
Then Sharkey had come near the end of September. Who he was and where he’d come from no one knew; but by the end of the first week of October all knew he was calling the shots from Hobbiton. A very Big Man himself, apparently, Sharkey’s cruelty became a byword almost immediately. The focus turned from stealing to outright destruction, with the mills turned to pouring out smoke and filth into the air and water, with trees being cut down indiscriminately, with more holes being dug out and more houses leveled.
There were two more weeks of this horror--and then rumors of all being turned about in the matter of a couple days. There was a ruckus at the Brandywine Bridge as it was said four Hobbits forcibly entered the Shire and turned the Shiriff House there on its ear, flouting the Rules, sharing out their own bounty with the Shiriffs, and blatantly ignoring both the Shiriffs’ instructions and the threats posed by the Big Men. Then the four of them were forced-marching a large band of Shiriffs across the Shire to Hobbiton and quickly defeating a group of the Big Men. Word came to Michel Delving that these four Hobbits were the four who’d gone missing a year previously--Peregrin Took, Meriadoc Brandybuck, Samwise Gamgee, and Frodo Baggins--Frodo Baggins the Responsible.
The Battle of Bywater was planned and executed; and suddenly the backbone of the tyranny waged by Lotho’s Big Men was broken. In the morning light Frodo had led a group to Hobbiton and Bag End and confronted Sharkey; he’d tried vainly to intimidate the four returned Travelers, then had tried equally vainly to stab Frodo, and had ended up killed by his own lackey.
As suddenly as it had started, the Time of Troubles was over. And Mina Whitfoot was there at the storage tunnels when they brought out Will on a stretcher and carried him home to their house hard by the Council Hole. And Mina was there while Will hammered on Frodo Baggins the next day to convince him to accept the role of deputy Mayor, and Mina saw Frodo cave in and accept the job--finally.