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50
Enlightenment

For The Birthday and for PearlTook for hers.


~~~

Enlightenment


“You’d best run, or old Mad Baggins will get you!” roared Piper Took as he chased some younger fry, shrieking and laughing, down a main passageway in the Great Smial. “There will be a great flash and a bang, and you will be no more!”

Peregrin Took stuck his head out of his study door, flushing with fury. That his own nephew should say such things was intolerable. He stepped out of the room and stuck out his unusually long (for a Hobbit, that is), leg to trip up the tween as he went by, and Piper obligingly fell sprawling upon the carpet runner, startled to find himself no longer upright.

Piper struggled to his hands and knees, and looked over his shoulder at his mother’s brother, hurt in his eyes. “What in Middle Earth did you do that for?” he demanded as he straightened up.

“What in Middle Earth are you doing, continuing that foolishness about Mad Baggins?” the Thain of the Shire demanded back.

“But it’s just a story…” the youth began, but Pippin was having none of it.

“You never knew Cousin Bilbo, but I did,” he said. “Contrary to what dear Rosamunda might have told you, Bilbo Baggins was anything but mad. Indeed, on his return from his adventure he proved himself to be particularly intelligent, sagacious, and wise—far too wise for the likes of most Hobbits, sad to say. Did he at times act in an eccentric manner? Yes, he did, but only because he’d learned the folly of mistaking predictability for respectability. He realized that sometimes doing the unexpected is exactly the right thing to do, and bother what other people think. Can you not imagine how much worse the world might have turned out had he not gone off with thirteen Dwarves, a Wizard, and a string of ponies on an adventure and found a certain gold Ring?” He shook his head. “He took the Ring and held It in his care, never using It to try to get one over on others without need, and when the time came he surrendered It to Frodo, who was exactly the one who was right to see It to where It could be properly destroyed.”

“But, he told stories about tricking a dragon!”

“Yes. So?”

“But there aren’t any dragons—you said so yourself!”

“There aren’t any that I know of, at least, although some traders in Gondor speak of there being friendly ones in the far eastern lands, dragons who are considered a blessing to know, unlike those Morgoth and Sauron used to terrorize the West. But the main reason there aren’t any evil dragons left in the lands of the Free Peoples is because your Cousin Bilbo helped see to the death of the last one. And, no, it’s not just a story. It happened. Gandalf himself confirmed it for me, as did Glóin and Gimli, and Elrond of Rivendell.”

The younger children, on finding their pursuer no longer chased them, had begun to creep back to find out what the problem was between Piper and the Thain. “Who is Elrond of Rivendell?” asked one small lad.

“He was Elrond Half-Elven, the founder and lord of Rivendell, the Elven land that lay hidden at the feet of the Misty Mountains on this side of them. Piper can tell you of it, perhaps, for he did go there with us when he was a child. Although Master Elrond is no longer here in Middle Earth.”

“Did he grow old and die?” asked a lass.

“Grow old and die? Oh, dear, no. Elves don’t grow old and die, and he was the brother who chose the life of an Elf rather than that of a Man as had his twin. No, he chose to sail West years ago to be with his parents and paternal grandparents and their families again—and his wife, too, of course. He’s gone to Elvenhome with the rest of the Ringbearers, and can’t return again, any more than the others can. There are rules, you know, that govern what those who sail West can do afterwards.”

“Why did he sail West?” asked the lad.

“Because the time for Elves within Middle Earth is almost finished, at least for the Great Elves, that is. Wood Elves might linger for ages yet, but almost all of those of the Noldor and the Sea Elves have gone by now, or will once our Lord King Elessar is gone. Now, he will grow old and die, although I pray that doesn’t happen until years after your Uncles Sam and Merry and I are gone. Middle Earth still needs him, you see.”

“But Aunt Rosamunda says that there aren’t really Elves any more,” the lad persisted.

“The one time Rosamunda Took Bolger ever saw Elves was at the first Free Fair after we returned from the war, and those weren’t full Elves. Those were Master Elrond’s twin sons, Elladan and Elrohir, the brothers of our Lady Queen Arwen. They’ve been allowed to remain in Middle Earth now as long as they wish, and they’ve told me that they intend to do so at least for as long as their younger sister remains. She chose, as did the Lady Lúthien and Elrond’s brother Elros, to become a mortal and to live and die as do Men, Hobbits, and Dwarves. She can’t sail West now, since she chose Mortality so that she could cleave to her beloved and become his wife and our Queen. We’re blessed to have her, you see. But there are still Elves within the Mortal Lands—nowhere as many as there once were, but some. There will be Elves living in Mithlond for quite some time yet, until the Last Ship sails. And Legolas has indicated he will remain in Middle Earth at least until Aragorn finally dies, in spite of the Sea Longing he suffers from. As for Legolas’s people, well, I don’t know for certain if most of them will stay or go in the end. Most of them are Silvan Elves whose people never thought to go to the Undying Lands. Some of their greater lords and ladies do have some Sindar and even Noldor blood in them, and may find the Sea calling them home, too. But I suspect that Legolas’s father Thranduil may choose to remain stubbornly in Middle Earth for as long as he can get away with it.”

“But what about the Mad Bagginses?” asked the lad.

Pippin’s temper began to rise, and he held it in check as well as he could. “What Mad Bagginses?” he asked, his tone a bit chilly in spite of himself.

“Aunt Rosamunda says that the Bagginses were all mad,” the child said.

“And your Aunt Rosamunda is a closed-minded fool,” Pippin returned. “She never forgave Bilbo for using the Ring at the Party to disappear and startle the whole family as he did, although the flash and the bang that happened weren’t actually due to him—Gandalf was the one who decided to make things appear more—well, magical by setting off a firework just as Bilbo put the Ring on his finger and went invisible. He told us that while we were in Gondor after Frodo and Sam woke up in Ithilien.”

“Who is Frodo?” asked another child.

Pippin’s voice softened. “Our Cousin Frodo Baggins was the greatest Hobbit that ever lived, in my estimation, at least. The last of the Bagginses of Bag End.”

“But there aren’t any Bagginses in Bag End,” insisted an older lad. “Mayor Sam lives in Bag End with his family.”

Piper spoke up unexpectedly. “That’s only because Cousin Frodo adopted him as his brother and heir,” he explained. “I remember Cousin Frodo. He was—well, he was wonderful!”

“That’s not what Aunt Rosamunda says,” muttered the younger lad. “She said that the Time of Troubles was all due to him.”

Piper’s father, who’d come down the way during this conversation, interrupted. “My aunt has said that, has she?” Ferdibrand sighed, shaking his head. “She has been wrong-headed about Frodo for years. Always tried to blame him for what happened to her family during the Time of Troubles. They got expelled from Budge Hall by Lotho’s people and had to live in a converted storage hole; their daughter Estella had to go into hiding here in the Tooklands, pretending to be a lad; and Fatty was frightened nearly to death by the Black Riders before he went for a rebel and ended up in the Lockholes as I did.”

“But he didn’t go blind as you did,” said the older lad.

“No, he didn’t. But his health isn’t exactly the best in Middle Earth because of what they did to him.”

“And it isn’t Cousin Frodo’s fault?” asked an older lass.

“Certainly not!” Ferdi answered. “It’s all the fault of Lotho and Sharkey and their Big Men. Frodo had nothing to do with it at all. He wasn’t even here in the Shire at the time. In fact, Frodo led those who rescued us all, once he got back home again.”

“Then why does Aunt Rosamunda blame him, then?” demanded the older lad.

“Because she’s certain that Frodo should have realized that Lotho was already trying to take over the Shire even before Frodo left. Lotho always figured Frodo would leave the Shire one day just the same as Bilbo had, so he wrote some bad clauses into his loan agreements and lease agreements that took other people’s houses and businesses if he ever did so. Ask Cousin Isumbard about it, or Everard, or Hillie. They can tell you all about it, for they helped Frodo set things straight again once he was deputy Mayor.”

“But Sam Gamgee is Mayor!” objected one of the lads.

“Old Flour-dumpling, Will Whitfoot, was Mayor then, and Lotho had him thrown into the Lockholes, too,” Pippin said. “Sam only became Mayor after Frodo left the Shire, at the next election, after he became Master of Bag End and the Hill.”

“Did Cousin Frodo die?” asked the little lass.

Ferdi smiled. “I don’t think he’s dead,” he answered her. “He was allowed to sail with the other Ringbearers and go West to Elvenhome, with Lord Elrond and Lady Galadriel and Gandalf and Bilbo. We are blessed to have two of our kinsmen allowed to go there, and no one deserves it better than they do. The Shire wouldn’t be the beloved place it is if they hadn’t proved as wise and true as they did. And if Frodo hadn’t shown such startling responsibility and endurance, the chances are that the whole world would now be in shadow. Be grateful to know that you have such a one as your cousin, Primula. Why, you were even named for his mother. Did you know that?”

“When will they come back?” she asked.

Pippin answered, “They can’t. I told you—there are rules, and those who sail to Elvenhome can’t come back again to Middle Earth. That was why Sam was able to inherit Bag End in spite of Frodo still being alive—Frodo can’t return here again, no matter how much he might wish to or we might wish him to do so. So Sam was able to become the Master of the Hill in his place.”

He straightened to his full height. “I will tell you what—this evening after supper I will be in the first Sun Room, and whoever wishes to do so can come there and hear me read the real story from the Red Book. I’ll read a portion of it every night until we are finished, and when we’re done, then you can tell me if you think Bilbo was really mad or if Frodo was to blame for what happened when Lotho took over. Is that agreeable with all of you?”

“What if you have to be away and can’t read for a night or two—or more?” asked the older lad.

Pippin smiled sideways at Piper. “Then my beloved nephew here will read instead of me,” he decided. “And if you can’t hear the story for a few nights, you can always read it for yourself when you have the chance. Our copy of the Red Book isn’t going anywhere, after all.” He gave them all a stern look. “But one thing—there’s not to be any more talk of Mad Baggins around here ever again—not where those of us who knew and loved Frodo and Bilbo can hear of it. Understand?”

With that the children indicated they accepted the offer and the agreement, and all dispersed except for Piper and Ferdibrand, who remained with Pippin. “You’ve heard a good part of the story,” the Thain said to Piper. “Now it’s time you learned the whole of it. And who knows—you might learn something about Sam, Merry and me as well that just might surprise you. Acceptable?”

“Yes,” Piper agreed.

Ferdibrand clapped him on the shoulder. “Good, son. I’m looking forward to hearing it all in order, so I’ll be there with the children to hear each evening as well. How I miss being able to read a book for myself! Now, if you will come with me, your mother wants you to try on your new outfit we had made for the wedding next week. Come along, then—lead me back to our quarters.” And with his hand still on his son’s shoulder, the two of them headed back to their apartment, and Pippin found himself smiling after them.

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