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I must admit, now that the big secret about the Elf-root is out, that this entire story was inspired by a discussion about asparagus we had on LJ. Personally, I’m very fond of asparagus, and we were discussing possible recipes for preparing it, until somehow the question what Hobbits would think about it came up.

From that moment on, there was no stopping the story. The addition of the Mad Took and the Dwarves was an unexpected turn, even for me, as I originally only planned Missus Ruby and Hamfast Gamgee to be in it. But, as the Professor himself had said, the story grew while I was writing it, taking unexpected turns – it was great fun to write, but I’m glad it’s finally done.



On a bright spring day of Astron, almost to the day six years after Mr. Bilbo Baggins’ infamous departure from his home, Holman Greenhand was once again working in the flower garden of Bag End, feeling supremely content. It was a splendid day, he found, with the Sun shining so warmly, and the grass being so very green, and the birds gossiping in the trees most merrily.

Also, his youngest son had finally got that tooth which had been tormenting him for a week or so, making him cry day and night and keeping Holman and Sunflower and the other four children from any decent sleep. The only one who could sleep undisturbed in those days had been the Gammer, who’d become quite deaf in the recent year – so deaf that she would call ‘Enter!’ whenever the thunder rolled over the hill.

But the day before the bothersome tooth had finally broken through, which meant that Holman could finally sleep through the night – which, in turn, also meant that he’d go on with his work cheerfully and with renewed strength. Having entrusted the rows consisting the taters and the infamous Elf-root to Hamfast Gamgee, who, now twenty-two years of age, had already become something of an authority when it came to taters and various roots, Holman could focus his energies on the flower beds that had made the gardens of Bag End famous and much envied, ever since he’d taken them over.

As he was working contentedly – perhaps he was ever whistling a merry little tune under his breath – all of a sudden a long shadow was cast upon him. He looked up in surprise, and saw the tall, grey-clad figure of Gandalf the wizard towering over him, crowned with that big, pointy blue hat of his, and that silver scarf wrapped around his neck.

On the wizard’s side stood an old-looking yet still sturdy Dwarf – not one of those Holman had seen on Mr. Bilbo’s birthday party, though – wearing travelling clothes and a scarlet hood. His snow white beard was forked and braided, long enough for him to tuck it into his golden belt; his eyes bright and full of mirth.

“Mr. Gandalf, sir,” said Holman in surprise. “We haven’t seen you none since you came in with Mr. Bilbo, in the middle of the Sale! Five years ago it was, wasn’t it? What brings you to Hobbiton again?”

He didn’t voice his suspicions, but his tone spoke clearly enough of his fear that the wizard might inspire his Master to do something… unexpected again.

The Dwarf laughed, his voice surprisingly deep and rich; it was a very pleasant sound, the voice of someone who laughed a lot, despite everything fate might throw into his face.

“I see your reputation as a troublemaker has come before you, Tharkûn,” he said, his bright eyes twinkling in good humour. “Fear not, Master Hobbit; we do not intend to take the esteemed Bilbo Baggins with us to another adventure. We only wanted to see how he is doing.”

Holman blinked at the Dwarf warily. “And you would be, good sir…?”

“Forgive me, good sir, for my apparent lack of manners,” the Dwarf swept off his scarlet hood and bowed deeply. “Balin son of Fundin, at your service. And you are the gardener of our esteemed Mr. Baggins, I suppose?”

Holman nodded. “Holman Greenhand, at your service. And Mr. Bilbo is down at Number Five, helping Mr. Drogo get settled.”

“Drogo? His cousin who greeted him upon his return?” asked Gandalf. “He has moved out of his parent’s hole then? Why ever would he want to do so – unless, of course, he is getting married?”

“That he is, Mr. Gandalf, sir,” replied Holman, more than a little impressed by the wizard’s understanding of Hobbit customs. “He’s marrying Miss Primula Brandybuck at Yuletide, he is. They’ve had their eyes on one other since Mr. Bilbo’s return, but Miss Primula was way too young back then, and the Master said as they ought to wait for a couple of years afore they could marry.”

“And they decided to move to Backshot Row of all places?” Gandalf was still a little surprised. “I thought Bilbo’s reputation was not the best among his kin and neighbours.”

“Mr. Drogo doesn’t care none what other people are saying,” explained Holman. “He loves Mr. Bilbo, he does; and as Mr. Bilbo owns all the holes along Bagshot Row, he’s offered to sell Number Five as was standing empty to Mr. Drogo. They say Missus Ruby got into a real fit, what with her son making business with the Mad Baggins, but Mr. Drogo’s done it anyway. I wonder how long it will take for Miss Dora to speak with him again.”

“Miss Dora?” as a rule, Gandalf knew his Hobbits well enough, but after a while even his head began to spin from all the names strewn into the simplest of conversations.

“Mr. Drogo’s older sister,” Holman began to warm up to the topic; it was nice to find one of the Big People with interest and understanding for Hobbit issues. “You see, Mr. Mungo Baggins, who was Mr. Bilbo’s gaffer, he had two brothers and two sisters. Mr. Largo, his youngest brother, was the father of Mr. Fosco. Mr. Fosco married Missus Ruby – she was born a Bolger, you know – and they’ve got three children, Miss Dora, Mr. Drogo and Mr. Dudo. So, Mr. Fosco is the first cousin of Mr. Bilbo’s father, the late Mr. Bungo, and thus Mr. Drogo and his siblings are all second cousins of Mr. Bilbo.”

Gandalf’s eyes began to glaze over. Balin, the white-beaded Dwarf, however, grinned broadly at the Hobbit.

“You were right, Tharkûn,” he said in deep satisfaction. “They are truly worse with their family trees than any Dwarf clan could hope to ever become. A lot worse, in fact. Now, what do you think about going in and allow our esteemed friend to confuse us with tales about his family some more?”

“Oh, certainly,” replied the wizard. “We need to speak with him indeed – and not just about his family. There are some things about his story of the time when he was separated from the rest of you that do not sound right.”

“You believe he lied to us?” asked the Dwarf doubtfully.

“Not directly, I do not think so,” answered Gandalf. “Perchance he has just left out things he did not find important. Or he remembered some details falsely. In any case, I intend to find out the whole story – and the way it truly happened.”

“let us seek him out, then,” said the Dwarf, and the two of them turned back towards the Bagshot Row to find Bilbo.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
As he continued working on his flowerbeds, Holman thought for a while about the wizard’s words that he’d just overheard by accident, wondering why old Gandalf seemed so worried. So what if Mr. Bilbo had told a story a little differently than it had truly happened? It was just a story, wasn’t it? Everyone knew that stories, ‘specially good ones, often changed by the telling… or did wizards see such things differently? The Dwarf, Mr. Balin, didn’t seem to care none, so what was the issue?

Holman shook his head remembering what his father had once said to him: Don’t meddle with the affairs of wizards, lad, for they are subtle and quick to anger.

It had always seemed like a useful piece of advice, and Holman Greenhand decided to follow it now.

~The End~


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