He gave away presents to all and sundry - the latter were those who went out again by a back way and came in again by the gate. Hobbits give presents to other people on their own birthdays. Not very expensive ones, as a rule, and not so lavishly as on this occasion; but it was not a bad system. But they never got tired of them. On this occasion the presents were unusually good.
The hobbit-children were so excited that for a while they almost forgot about eating. There were toys the like of which they had never seen before, all beautiful and some obviously magical. Many of them had indeed been ordered a year before, and had come all the way from the Mountain and from Dale, and were of real dwarf-make. When every guest had been welcomed and was finally inside the gate, there were songs, dances, music, games, and, of course, food and drink.
There were three official meals: lunch, tea, and dinner or supper. But lunch and tea were marked chiefly by the fact that at those times all the guests were sitting down and eating together. At other times there were merely lots of people eating and drinking - continuously from elevenses until six-thirty, when the fireworks started. The fireworks were by Gandalf: they were not only brought by him, but designed and made by him; and the special effects, set pieces, and flights of rockets were let off by him.
But there was also a generous distribution of squibs, crackers, backarappers, sparklers, torches, dwarf-candles, elf-fountains, goblin-barkers and thunder-claps. They were all superb. The art of Gandalf improved with age. There were rockets like a flight of scintillating birds singing with sweet voices. There were green trees with trunks of dark smoke: their leaves opened like a whole spring unfolding in a moment, and their shining branches dropped glowing flowers down upon the astonished hobbits, disappearing with a sweet scent just before they touched their upturned faces.
There were fountains of butterflies that flew glittering into the trees; there were pillars of coloured fires that rose and turned into eagles, or sailing ships, or a phalanx of flying swans; there was a red thunderstorm and a shower of yellow rain; there was a forest of silver spears that sprang suddenly into the air with a yell like an embattled army, and came down again into the Water with a hiss like a hundred hot snakes. And there was also one last surprise, in honour of Bilbo, and it startled the hobbits exceedingly, as Gandalf intended.
The lights went out. A great smoke went up. It shaped itself like a mountain seen in the distance, and began to glow at the summit. It spouted green and scarlet flames. Out flew a red-golden dragon - not life-size, but terribly life-like: fire came from his jaws, his eyes glared down; there was a roar, and he whizzed three times over the heads of the crowd.
They all ducked, and many fell flat on their faces. The dragon passed like an express train, turned a somersault, and burst over Bywater with a deafening explosion. The pain and alarm vanished at once, and the prostrate hobbits leaped to their feet. There was a splendid supper for everyone; for everyone, that is, except those invited to the special family dinner-party. This was held in the great pavilion with the tree. The invitations were limited to twelve dozen a number also called by the hobbits one Gross, though the word was not considered proper to use of people ; and the guests were selected from all the families to which Bilbo and Frodo were related, with the addition of a few special unrelated friends such as Gandalf.
Many young hobbits were included, and present by parental permission; for hobbits were easy-going with their children in the matter of sitting up late, especially when there was a chance of getting them a free meal. Bringing up young hobbits took a lot of provender. Some of these were only very distantly connected with Bilbo, and some of them had hardly ever been in Hobbiton before, as they lived in remote corners of the Shire. The Sackville-Bagginses were not forgotten. Otho and his wife Lobelia were present. They disliked Bilbo and detested Frodo, but so magnificent was the invitation card, written in golden ink, that they had felt it was impossible to refuse.
Besides, their cousin, Bilbo, had been specializing in food for many years and his table had a high reputation. All the one hundred and forty-four guests expected a pleasant feast; though they rather dreaded the after-dinner speech of their host an inevitable item. He was liable to drag in bits of what he called poetry; and sometimes, after a glass or two, would allude to the absurd adventures of his mysterious journey. The guests were not disappointed: they had a very pleasant feast, in fact an engrossing entertainment: rich, abundant, varied, and prolonged.
After the feast more or less came the Speech. They were sipping their favourite drinks, and nibbling at their favourite dainties, and their fears were forgotten. They were prepared to listen to anything, and to cheer at every full stop. My dear People, began Bilbo, rising in his place. Bilbo left his place and went and stood on a chair under the illuminated tree. The light of the lanterns fell on his beaming face; the golden buttons shone on his embroidered silk waistcoat. They could all see him standing, waving one hand in the air, the other was in his trouser-pocket.
His name, of course, was Proudfoot, and well merited; his feet were large, exceptionally furry, and both were on the table. Proudfoots, repeated Bilbo.
Today is my one hundred and eleventh birthday: I am eleventy-one today! Many Happy Returns! Bilbo was doing splendidly. This was the sort of stuff they liked: short and obvious. Deafening cheers. Cries of Yes and No. Noises of trumpets and horns, pipes and flutes, and other musical instruments. There were, as has been said, many young hobbits present.
Hundreds of musical crackers had been pulled. Most of them bore the mark dale on them; which did not convey much to most of the hobbits, but they all agreed they were marvellous crackers. They contained instruments, small, but of perfect make and enchanting tones. Indeed, in one corner some of the young Tooks and Brandybucks, supposing Uncle Bilbo to have finished since he had plainly said all that was necessary , now got up an impromptu orchestra, and began a merry dance-tune. Master Everard Took and Miss Melilot Brandybuck got on a table and with bells in their hands began to dance the Springle-ring: a pretty dance, but rather vigorous.
But Bilbo had not finished. Seizing a horn from a youngster near by, he blew three loud hoots. The noise subsided. Cheers from all the assembly. Something in the way that he said this made an impression. There was almost silence, and one or two of the Tooks pricked up their ears. Indeed, for Three Purposes! First of all, to tell you that I am immensely fond of you all, and that eleventy-one years is too short a time to live among such excellent and admirable hobbits. Tremendous outburst of approval.
This was unexpected and rather difficult. There was some scattered clapping, but most of them were trying to work it out and see if it came to a compliment. Secondly, to celebrate my birthday. Cheers again. For it is, of course, also the birthday of my heir and nephew, Frodo.
He comes of age and into his inheritance today. Together we score one hundred and forty-four. Your numbers were chosen to fit this remarkable total: One Gross, if I may use the expression. No cheers.
This was ridiculous. Many of his guests, and especially the Sackville-Bagginses, were insulted, feeling sure they had only been asked to fill up the required number, like goods in a package. Vulgar expression. It is also, if I may be allowed to refer to ancient history, the anniversary of my arrival by barrel at Esgaroth on the Long Lake; though the fact that it was my birthday slipped my memory on that occasion.
I was only fifty-one then, and birthdays did not seem so important. I now repeat it more correctly: Thank you very much for coming to my little party. Obstinate silence. They all feared that a song or some poetry was now imminent; and they were getting bored. But Bilbo did not sing or recite. He paused for a moment. He spoke this last word so loudly and suddenly that everyone sat up who still could. I regret to announce that - though, as I said, eleventy-one years is far too short a time to spend among you - this is the END.
I am going. I am leaving NOW. He stepped down and vanished. There was a blinding flash of light, and the guests all blinked. When they opened their eyes Bilbo was nowhere to be seen. One hundred and forty-four flabbergasted hobbits sat back speechless.
Old Odo Proudfoot removed his feet from the table and stamped. It was generally agreed that the joke was in very bad taste, and more food and drink were needed to cure the guests of shock and annoyance. For the moment most of them took it for granted that his disappearance was nothing more than a ridiculous prank. But old Rory Brandybuck was not so sure. I believe that mad Baggins is off again. Silly old fool. But why worry? Frodo was the only one present who had said nothing. He had enjoyed the joke, of course, even though he had been in the know.
He had difficulty in keeping from laughter at the indignant surprise of the guests. But at the same time he felt deeply troubled: he realized suddenly that he loved the old hobbit dearly. Frodo did not want to have any more to do with the party. He gave orders for more wine to be served; then he got up and drained his own glass silently to the health of Bilbo, and slipped out of the pavilion.
As for Bilbo Baggins, even while he was making his speech, he had been fingering the golden ring in his pocket: his magic ring that he had kept secret for so many years. As he stepped down he slipped it on his finger, and he was never seen by any hobbit in Hobbiton again. He walked briskly back to his hole, and stood for a moment listening with a smile to the din in the pavilion and to the sounds of merrymaking in other parts of the field. Then he went in.
Rite of passage
He took off his party clothes, folded up and wrapped in tissue-paper his embroidered silk waistcoat, and put it away. Then he put on quickly some old untidy garments, and fastened round his waist a worn leather belt. On it he hung a short sword in a battered black-leather scabbard. From a locked drawer, smelling of moth-balls, he took out an old cloak and hood.
They had been locked up as if they were very precious, but they were so patched and weatherstained that their original colour could hardly be guessed: it might have been dark green. They were rather too large for him. He then went into his study, and from a large strong-box took out a bundle wrapped in old cloths, and a leather-bound manuscript; and also a large bulky envelope. The book and bundle he stuffed into the top of a heavy bag that was standing there, already nearly full. Into the envelope he slipped his golden ring, and its fine chain, and then sealed it, and addressed it to Frodo.
At first he put it on the mantelpiece, but suddenly he removed it and stuck it in his pocket. At that moment the door opened and Gandalf came quickly in. I suppose you feel that everything has gone off splendidly and according to plan? A little addition of your own, I suppose? It was. You have wisely kept that ring secret all these years, and it seemed to me necessary to give your guests something else that would seem to explain your sudden vanishment. It has now come to the final point. You have had your joke, and alarmed or offended most of your relations, and given the whole Shire something to talk about for nine days, or ninety-nine more likely.
Are you going any further? I feel I need a holiday, a very long holiday, as I have told you before. Well-preserved indeed! I need a change, or something. Gandalf looked curiously and closely at him. I want to see mountains again, Gandalf, mountains, and then find somewhere where I can rest. In peace and quiet, without a lot of relatives prying around, and a string of confounded visitors hanging on the bell. I might find somewhere where I can finish my book. I have thought of a nice ending for it: and he lived happily ever after to the end of his days. Frodo has read some already, as far as it has gone.
In fact he offered to once, just before the party. But he does not really want to, yet. I want to see the wild country again before I die, and the Mountains; but he is still in love with the Shire, with woods and fields and little rivers. He ought to be comfortable here. I am leaving everything to him, of course, except a few oddments. I hope he will be happy, when he gets used to being on his own. Well, no! Here it is in my pocket! Gandalf looked again very hard at Bilbo, and there was a gleam in his eyes.
Why do you want me to? It was sharp with suspicion and annoyance. It was important. Magic rings are - well, magical; and they are rare and curious. I was professionally interested in your ring, you may say; and I still am. I should like to know where it is, if you go wandering again. Also I think you have had it quite long enough.
Bilbo, unless I am quite mistaken. Bilbo flushed, and there was an angry light in his eyes. His kindly face grew hard. It is my own. I found it. It came to me. My own. My precious. Yes, my precious. And why not? Even if Gollum said the same once. And I shall keep it, I say. Gandalf stood up. He spoke sternly. It has got far too much hold on you. Let it go! And then you can go yourself, and be free.
Do as you promised: give it up! If you say that again, I shall. Then you will see Gandalf the Grey uncloaked. Bilbo backed away to the wall, breathing hard, his hand clutching at his pocket. They stood for a while facing one another, and the air of the room tingled. Slowly his hands relaxed, and he began to tremble. What is it all about? I am not trying to rob you, but to help you. I wish you would trust me, as you used. He seemed to dwindle again to an old grey man, bent and troubled.
Bilbo drew his hand over his eyes.
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And yet it would be a relief in a way not to be bothered with it any more. It has been so growing on my mind lately. Sometimes I have felt it was like an eye looking at me. Go away and leave it behind. Stop possessing it. Give it to Frodo, and I will look after him. Bilbo stood for a moment tense and undecided. Presently he sighed. I will. It would quite spoil the joke. You had better take it and deliver it for me. That will be safest. It will be safe enough there, till Frodo comes. I shall wait for him.
Bilbo took out the envelope, but just as he was about to set it by the clock, his hand jerked back, and the packet fell on the floor. Before he could pick it up, the wizard stooped and seized it and set it in its place. Suddenly it gave way to a look of relief and a laugh. They went out into the hall.
Bilbo chose his favourite stick from the stand; then he whistled. Three dwarves came out of different rooms where they had been busy. It was a fine night, and the black sky was dotted with stars. He looked up, sniffing the air. What fun to be off again, off on the Road with dwarves! This is what I have really been longing for, for years!
Take care of yourself! You are old enough, and perhaps wise enough. I am as happy now as I have ever been, and that is saying a great deal. But the time has come. He paused, silent for a moment. Then without another word he turned away from the lights and voices in the fields and tents, and followed by his three companions went round into his garden, and trotted down the long sloping path. He jumped over a low place in the hedge at the bottom, and took to the meadows, passing into the night like a rustle of wind in the grass.
Gandalf remained for a while staring after him into the darkness. Frodo came in soon afterwards, and found him sitting in the dark, deep in thought. He always used to joke about serious things. I wish I had come back sooner, just to see him off. He left a packet for you. There it is! But keep it secret, and keep it safe! Now I am going to bed. As master of Bag End Frodo felt it his painful duty to say good-bye to the guests. Rumours of strange events had by now spread all over the field, but Frodo would only say no doubt everything will be cleared up in the morning.
About midnight carriages came for the important folk. One by one they rolled away, filled with full but very unsatisfied hobbits. Gardeners came by arrangement, and removed in wheel-barrows those that had inadvertently remained behind. Night slowly passed. The sun rose. The hobbits rose rather later. Morning went on. People came and began by orders to clear away the pavilions and the tables and the chairs, and the spoons and knives and bottles and plates, and the lanterns, and the flowering shrubs in boxes, and the crumbs and cracker-paper, the forgotten bags and gloves and handkerchiefs, and the uneaten food a very small item.
Then a number of other people came without orders : Bagginses, and Boffins, and Bolgers, and Tooks, and other guests that lived or were staying near. By mid-day, when even the best-fed were out and about again, there was a large crowd at Bag End, uninvited but not unexpected. Frodo was waiting on the step, smiling, but looking rather tired and worried. He welcomed all the callers, but he had not much more to say than before. Bilbo Baggins has gone away; as far as I know, for good. Inside in the hall there was piled a large assortment of packages and parcels and small articles of furniture.
On every item there was a label tied. There were several labels of this sort:. Adelard had carried off many unlabelled ones. Milo never answered letters. She was a young Baggins, and too obviously considered her face shapely. Hugo was a great borrower of books, and worse than usual at returning them. Bilbo believed that she had acquired a good many of his spoons, while he was away on his former journey. Lobelia knew that quite well. When she arrived later in the day, she took the point at once, but she also took the spoons. This is only a small selection of the assembled presents.
It was a tendency of hobbit-holes to get cluttered up: for which the custom of giving so many birthday-presents was largely responsible. Not, of course, that the birthday-presents were always new, there were one or two old mathoms of forgotten uses that had circulated all around the district; but Bilbo had usually given new presents, and kept those that he received. The old hole was now being cleared a little. Every one of the various parting gifts had labels, written out personally by Bilbo, and several had some point, or some joke.
But, of course, most of the things were given where they would be wanted and welcome. The poorer hobbits, and especially those of Bagshot Row, did very well. Old Gaffer Gamgee got two sacks of potatoes, a new spade, a woollen waistcoat, and a bottle of ointment for creaking joints.
Rory quite forgave Bilbo, and voted him a capital fellow after the first bottle. There was plenty of everything left for Frodo. And, of course, all the chief treasures, as well as the books, pictures, and more than enough furniture, were left in his possession. There was, however, no sign nor mention of money or jewellery: not a penny-piece or a glass bead was given away. Frodo had a very trying time that afternoon. A false rumour that the whole household was being distributed free spread like wildfire; and before long the place was packed with people who had no business there, but could not be kept out.
Labels got torn off and mixed, and quarrels broke out. Some people tried to do swaps and deals in the hall; and others tried to make off with minor items not addressed to them, or with anything that seemed unwanted or unwatched. The road to the gate was blocked with barrows and handcarts. In the middle of the commotion the Sackville-Bagginses arrived. Frodo had retired for a while and left his friend Merry Brandybuck to keep an eye on things.
When Otho loudly demanded to see Frodo, Merry bowed politely. Just go and tell him so! Merry left them a long while in the hall, and they had time to discover their parting gift of spoons. It did not improve their tempers. Eventually they were shown into the study. Frodo was sitting at a table with a lot of papers in front of him. He looked indisposed - to see Sackville-Bagginses at any rate; and he stood up, fidgeting with something in his pocket. But he spoke quite politely. The Sackville-Bagginses were rather offensive.
They began by offering him bad bargain-prices as between friends for various valuable and unlabelled things. When Frodo replied that only the things specially directed by Bilbo were being given away, they said the whole affair was very fishy. I insist on seeing the will. He read the will carefully and snorted. It was, unfortunately, very clear and correct according to the legal customs of hobbits, which demand among other things seven signatures of witnesses in red ink.
But Lobelia was not so easily got rid of. A little later Frodo came out of the study to see how things were going on and found her still about the place, investigating nooks and comers and tapping the floors. He escorted her firmly off the premises, after he had relieved her of several small but rather valuable articles that had somehow fallen inside her umbrella. Her face looked as if she was in the throes of thinking out a really crushing parting remark; but all she found to say, turning round on the step, was:. Then they went round the hole, and evicted three young hobbits two Boffins and a Bolger who were knocking holes in the walls of one of the cellars.
When he had overcome Sancho and pushed him out, Frodo collapsed on a chair in the hall. He had hardly sat down, when there came a soft knock at the front-door. It can wait. He went on with his tea. The knock was repeated, much louder, but he took no notice. Half a minute! Come in! I thought it was Lobelia. But I saw her some time ago, driving a pony-trap towards Bywater with a face that would have curdled new milk.
I longed to disappear. In fact, it is partly about that that I have come to say a last word. I have heard his story: how he found it, and how he used it: on his journey, I mean. He said you had pestered him till he told you, so I had better know too. It was very unlike Bilbo to do so, anyway; and I thought it rather odd. But odd things may happen to people that have such treasures - if they use them. Let it be a warning to you to be very careful with it.
It may have other powers than just making you vanish when you wish to. No need to worry. But if you take my advice you will use it very seldom, or not at all. At least I beg you not to use it in any way that will cause talk or rouse suspicion. I say again: keep it safe, and keep it secret! I may be able to tell you something when I come back.
I am going off at once: so this is good-bye for the present.
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I was looking forward to your help. Expect me when you see me! I shall slip in quietly. I find that I have become rather unpopular. They say I am a nuisance and a disturber of the peace. Some people are actually accusing me of spiriting Bilbo away, or worse. If you want to know, there is supposed to be a plot between you and me to get hold of his wealth. How abominable! I would give them Bag End and everything else, if I could get Bilbo back and go off tramping in the country with him.
I love the Shire. But I begin to wish, somehow, that I had gone too. I wonder if I shall ever see him again. Good-bye now! Look out for me, especially at unlikely times! Frodo saw him to the door. He gave a final wave of his hand, and walked off at a surprising pace; but Frodo thought the old wizard looked unusually bent, almost as if he was carrying a great weight. The evening was closing in, and his cloaked figure quickly vanished into the twilight.
Frodo did not see him again for a long time. The talk did not die down in nine or even ninety-nine days. The second disappearance of Mr. Bilbo Baggins was discussed in Hobbiton, and indeed all over the Shire, for a year and a day, and was remembered much longer than that. It became a fireside-story for young hobbits; and eventually Mad Baggins, who used to vanish with a bang and a flash and reappear with bags of jewels and gold, became a favourite character of legend and lived on long after all the true events were forgotten.
But in the meantime, the general opinion in the neighbourhood was that Bilbo, who had always been rather cracked, had at last gone quite mad, and had run off into the Blue. There he had undoubtedly fallen into a pool or a river and come to a tragic, but hardly an untimely, end. The blame was mostly laid on Gandalf. And to all appearance the wizard did leave Frodo alone, and he did settle down, but the growth of hobbit-sense was not very noticeable. But that was short of the mark, for twenty guests were invited and there were several meals at which it snowed food and rained drink, as hobbits say.
He said that he did not think Bilbo was dead. He lived alone, as Bilbo had done; but he had a good many friends, especially among the younger hobbits mostly descendants of the Old Took who had as children been fond of Bilbo and often in and out of Bag End. Folco Boffin and Fredegar Bolger were two of these; but his closest friends were Peregrin Took usually called Pippin , and Merry Brandybuck his real name was Meriadoc, but that was seldom remembered. Frodo went tramping all over the Shire with them; but more often he wandered by himself, and to the amazement of sensible folk he was sometimes seen far from home walking in the hills and woods under the starlight.
Merry and Pippin suspected that he visited the Elves at times, as Bilbo had done. Frodo himself, after the first shock, found that being his own master and the Mr. Baggins of Bag End was rather pleasant. For some years he was quite happy and did not worry much about the future. But half unknown to himself the regret that he had not gone with Bilbo was steadily growing. He found himself wondering at times, especially in the autumn, about the wild lands, and strange visions of mountains that he had never seen came into his dreams.
So it went on, until his forties were running out, and his fiftieth birthday was drawing near: fifty was a number that he felt was somehow significant or ominous ; it was at any rate at that age that adventure had suddenly befallen Bilbo. Frodo began to feel restless, and the old paths seemed too well-trodden. He looked at maps, and wondered what lay beyond their edges: maps made in the Shire showed mostly white spaces beyond its borders.
He took to wandering further afield and more often by himself; and Merry and his other friends watched him anxiously. Often he was seen walking and talking with the strange wayfarers that began at this time to appear in the Shire. There were rumours of strange things happening in the world outside; and as Gandalf had not at that time appeared or sent any message for several years, Frodo gathered all the news he could. Elves, who seldom walked in the Shire, could now be seen passing westward through the woods in the evening, passing and not returning; but they were leaving Middle-earth and were no longer concerned with its troubles.
There were, however, dwarves on the road in unusual numbers. The ancient East-West Road ran through the Shire to its end at the Grey Havens, and dwarves had always used it on their way to their mines in the Blue Mountains. But now Frodo often met strange dwarves of far countries, seeking refuge in the West. They were troubled, and some spoke in whispers of the Enemy and of the Land of Mordor. That name the hobbits only knew in legends of the dark past, like a shadow in the background of their memories; but it was ominous and disquieting. It seemed that the evil power in Mirkwood had been driven out by the White Council only to reappear in greater strength in the old strongholds of Mordor.
The Dark Tower had been rebuilt, it was said. From there the power was spreading far and wide, and away far east and south there were wars and growing fear. Orcs were multiplying again in the mountains. Trolls were abroad, no longer dull-witted, but cunning and armed with dreadful weapons. And there were murmured hints of creatures more terrible than all these, but they had no name. Little of all this, of course, reached the ears of ordinary hobbits. But even the deafest and most stay-at-home began to hear queer tales; and those whose business took them to the borders saw strange things.
Who invented the stories anyway? Take dragons now. They do say that one bigger than a tree was seen up away beyond the North Moors not long back. He works for Mr. Boffin at Overhill and goes up to the Northfarthing for the hunting. He saw one. There was some laughing and clapping: the audience seemed to think that Ted had scored a point. The Bounders have never been so busy before. They do say they are going to the harbours, out away beyond the White Towers.
But it was an old tradition that away over there stood the Grey Havens, from which at times elven-ships set sail, never to return. But Ted laughed. Let them sail! He believed he had once seen an Elf in the woods, and still hoped to see more one day. Of all the legends that he had heard in his early years such fragments of tales and half-remembered stories about the Elves as the hobbits knew, had always moved him most deeply. Baggins now, that I work for. He told me that they were sailing and he knows a bit about Elves.
And old Mr. Your good health! Sam sat silent and said no more. He had a good deal to think about. For one thing, there was a lot to do up in the Bag End garden, and he would have a busy day tomorrow, if the weather cleared. The grass was growing fast. But Sam had more on his mind than gardening. After a while he sighed, and got up and went out. It was early April and the sky was now clearing after heavy rain.
The sun was down, and a cool pale evening was quietly fading into night.
He walked home under the early stars through Hobbiton and up the Hill, whistling softly and thoughtfully. It was just at this time that Gandalf reappeared after his long absence. For three years after the Party he had been away. Then he paid Frodo a brief visit, and after taking a good look at him he went off again. During the next year or two he had turned up fairly often, coming unexpectedly after dusk, and going off without warning before sunrise. Then suddenly his visits had ceased. It was over nine years since Frodo had seen or heard of him, and he had begun to think that the wizard would never return and had given up all interest in hobbits.
But that evening, as Sam was walking home and twilight was fading, there came the once familiar tap on the study window. He pressed him for news of himself and of the wide world, and soon they were deep in talk, and they stayed up far into the night. Next morning after a late breakfast, the wizard was sitting with Frodo by the open window of the study. A bright fire was on the hearth, but the sun was warm, and the wind was in the South. Gandalf was thinking of a spring, nearly eighty years before, when Bilbo had run out of Bag End without a handkerchief.
His hair was perhaps whiter than it had been then, and his beard and eyebrows were perhaps longer, and his face more lined with care and wisdom; but his eyes were as bright as ever, and he smoked and blew smoke-rings with the same vigour and delight. He was smoking now in silence, for Frodo was sitting still, deep in thought. Even in the light of morning he felt the dark shadow of the tidings that Gandalf had brought. At last he broke the silence. You say the ring is dangerous, far more dangerous than I guess. In what way? It is far more powerful than I ever dared to think at first, so powerful that in the end it would utterly overcome anyone of mortal race who possessed it.
It would possess him. The lesser rings were only essays in the craft before it was full-grown, and to the Elven-smiths they were but trifles - yet still to my mind dangerous for mortals. But the Great Rings, the Rings of Power, they were perilous. And if he often uses the Ring to make himself invisible, he fades: he becomes in the end invisible permanently, and walks in the twilight under the eye of the dark power that rules the Rings. Yes, sooner or later - later, if he is strong or well-meaning to begin with, but neither strength nor good purpose will last - sooner or later the dark power will devour him.
There was another long silence. The sound of Sam Gamgee cutting the lawn came in from the garden. He thought the ring was very beautiful, and very useful at need; and if anything was wrong or queer, it was himself. Though he had found out that the thing needed looking after; it did not seem always of the same size or weight; it shrank or expanded in an odd way, and might suddenly slip off a finger where it had been tight.
He took all the credit for that to himself, and he was very proud of it. Though he was getting restless and uneasy. Thin and stretched he said. A sign that the ring was getting control. There is a last test to make. But I no longer doubt my guess. A shadow fell on my heart then, though I did not know yet what I feared. I wondered often how Gollum came by a Great Ring, as plainly it was - that at least was clear from the first.
When I at last got the truth out of him, I saw at once that he had been trying to put his claim to the ring beyond doubt. The lies were too much alike for my comfort. Clearly the ring had an unwholesome power that set to work on its keeper at once. That was the first real warning I had that all was not well. I told Bilbo often that such rings were better left unused; but he resented it, and soon got angry. There was little else that I could do. I could not take it from him without doing greater harm; and I had no right to do so anyway.
I could only watch and wait. I might perhaps have consulted Saruman the White, but something always held me back. Yet he is great among the Wise. He is the chief of my order and the head of the Council. His knowledge is deep, but his pride has grown with it, and he takes ill any meddling. The lore of the Elven-rings, great and small, is his province. He has long studied it, seeking the lost secrets of their making; but when the Rings were debated in the Council, all that he would reveal to us of his ring-lore told against my fears.
So my doubt slept - but uneasily. Still I watched and I waited. And the years passed. Yes, they passed, and they seemed not to touch him. He showed no signs of age. The shadow fell on me again. There is time yet. Until that night when he left this house. He said and did things then that filled me with a fear that no words of Saruman could allay. I knew at last that something dark and deadly was at work. And I have spent most of the years since then in finding out the truth of it.
Be able to rest in peace, I mean? Among the Wise I am the only one that goes in for hobbit-lore: an obscure branch of knowledge, but full of surprises. Soft as butter they can be, and yet sometimes as tough as old tree-roots. I think it likely that some would resist the Rings far longer than most of the Wise would believe.
Otherwise, he might live on for years, quite happily: just stop as he was when he parted with it. For he gave it up in the end of his own accord: an important point. No, I was not troubled about dear Bilbo any more, once he had let the thing go. It is for you that I feel responsible. It would be a grievous blow to the world, if the Dark Power overcame the Shire; if all your kind, jolly, stupid Bolgers, Hornblowers, Boffins, Bracegirdles, and the rest, not to mention the ridiculous Bagginses, became enslaved.
You should be thankful. But your safety has passed. And hobbits as miserable slaves would please him far more than hobbits happy and free. There is such a thing as malice and revenge. I was not sure of it myself when I was last here; but the time has come to speak. Give me the ring for a moment. Frodo took it from his breeches-pocket, where it was clasped to a chain that hung from his belt.
He unfastened it and handed it slowly to the wizard. It felt suddenly very heavy, as if either it or Frodo himself was in some way reluctant for Gandalf to touch it. Gandalf held it up. It looked to be made of pure and solid gold. It is quite plain, and it never shows a scratch or sign of wear. Frodo gave a cry and groped for the tongs; but Gandalf held him back. No apparent change came over the ring. After a while Gandalf got up, closed the shutters outside the window, and drew the curtains.
For a moment the wizard stood looking at the fire; then he stooped and removed the ring to the hearth with the tongs, and at once picked it up. Frodo gasped. As Frodo did so, he now saw fine lines, finer than the finest pen-strokes, running along the ring, outside and inside: lines of fire that seemed to form the letters of a flowing script. They shone piercingly bright, and yet remote, as if out of a great depth.
The letters are Elvish, of an ancient mode, but the language is that of Mordor, which I will not utter here. But this in the Common Tongue is what is said, close enough:. This is the One Ring that he lost many ages ago, to the great weakening of his power. He greatly desires it - but he must not get it.
Frodo sat silent and motionless. Fear seemed to stretch out a vast hand, like a dark cloud rising in the East and looming up to engulf him. The beginnings lie back in the Black Years, which only the lore-masters now remember. If I were to tell you all that tale, we should still be sitting here when Spring had passed into Winter. The rumours that you have heard are true: he has indeed arisen again and left his hold in Mirkwood and returned to his ancient fastness in the Dark Tower of Mordor. That name even you hobbits have heard of, like a shadow on the borders of old stories.
Always after a defeat and a respite, the Shadow takes another shape and grows again. But that is not for them to decide. Professor Bhaer goes to the Marches' and stays for two weeks. On his last day, he proposes to Jo. Jo accepts. When Aunt March dies, she leaves Plumfield to Jo. She and Bhaer turn the house into a school for boys. They have two sons of their own, and Amy and Laurie have a daughter. At the apple-picking time, Marmee celebrates her 60th birthday at Plumfield, with her husband, her three surviving daughters, their husbands, and her five grandchildren.
Meg, the eldest sister, is 16 when the story starts. She is referred to as beauty and manages the household when her mother is absent. According to Alcott's description of the character, she is brown-haired and blue-eyed and has particularly beautiful hands. Meg fulfills expectations for women of the time; from the start, she is already a nearly perfect "little woman" in the eyes of the world.
Meg is based in the domestic household; she does not have significant employment or activities outside it. Meg is employed as a governess for the Kings, a wealthy local family. Because of their father's family's social standing, Meg makes her debut into high society, but is lectured by her friend and neighbor, Theodore "Laurie" Laurence, for behaving like a snob. Meg marries John Brooke, the tutor of Laurie. The sequel, Little Men, mentions a baby daughter, Josephine "Josy" Brooke,  who is 14 at the beginning of the final book. Critics have portrayed Meg as lacking in independence, reliant entirely on her husband, and "isolated in her little cottage with two small children".
According to Sarah Elbert, "democratic domesticity requires maturity, strength, and above all a secure identity that Meg lacks". The principal character, Jo, 15 years old at the beginning of the book, is a strong and willful young woman, struggling to subdue her fiery temper and stubborn personality.
The second-oldest of four sisters, Josephine March is the boyish one; her father has referred to her as his "son Jo", and her best friend and neighbor, Theodore "Laurie" Laurence, sometimes calls her "my dear fellow", and she alone calls him Teddy. Jo has a "hot" temper that often leads her into trouble.
With the help of her own misguided sense of humor, her sister Beth, and her mother, she works on controlling it. It has been said that a lot of Louisa May Alcott shows through in these characteristics of Jo. Jo loves literature, both reading, and writing. She composes plays for her sisters to perform and writes short stories. She initially rejects the idea of marriage and romance, feeling that it would break up her family and separate her from the sisters whom she adores. On her return home, Jo rejects Laurie's marriage proposal, confirming her independence.
After Beth dies, Professor Bhaer woos Jo at her home, when "They decide to share life's burdens just as they shared the load of bundles on their shopping expedition". The marriage is deferred until her unexpected inheritance of her Aunt March's home a year later. Jo also writes the first part of Little Women during the second portion of the novel. According to Elbert, "her narration signals a successfully completed adolescence". Beth, 13 when the story starts, is described as kind, gentle, sweet, shy, quiet and musical. She is the shyest March sister. She is especially close to Jo: when Beth develops scarlet fever after visiting the Hummels, Jo does most of the nursing and rarely leaves her side.
Beth recovers from the acute disease but her health is permanently weakened. As she grows, Beth begins to realize that her time with her loved ones is coming to an end. Finally, the family accepts that Beth will not live much longer. They make a special room for her, filled with all the things she loves best: her kittens, piano, Father's books, Amy's sketches, and her beloved dolls. She is never idle; she knits and sews things for the children who pass by on their way to and from school.
But eventually she puts down her sewing needle, saying it grew "heavy. The main loss during Little Women is the death of beloved Beth. Her "self-sacrifice" is ultimately the greatest in the novel. She gives up her life knowing that it has had only private, domestic meaning. Amy is the youngest sister and baby of the family, aged 12 when the story begins. Interested in art, she is described as a "regular snow-maiden" with curly golden hair and blue eyes, "pale and slender" and "always carrying herself" like a proper young lady.
She is the artist of the family. She is chosen by her aunt and uncle to travel in Europe with them, where she grows and makes a decision about the level of her artistic talent and how to direct her adult life. She encounters "Laurie" Laurence and his grandfather during the extended visit. Amy is the least inclined of the sisters to sacrifice and self-denial.
She behaves well in good society, at ease with herself. Critic Martha Saxton observes the author was never fully at ease with Amy's moral development and her success in life seemed relatively accidental. Ultimately, Amy is shown to work very hard to gain what she wants in life, and to make the most of her success while she has it. Due to her early selfishness when her friends knew she would not share any pickled lime and attachment to material things, Amy has been described as the least likable of the four sisters, but she is also the only one who strives to excel at art purely for self-expression, in contrast to Jo, who sometimes writes for financial gain.
For her books, Alcott was often inspired by familiar elements. The characters in Little Women are recognizably drawn from family members and friends. Lizzie, Alcott's beloved sister who died at the age of twenty-three, was the model for Beth, and May, Alcott's strong-willed sister, was portrayed as Amy, whose pretentious affectations cause her occasional downfalls. Alcott readily corresponded with readers who addressed her as "Miss March" or "Jo", and she did not correct them. However, Alcott's portrayal, even if inspired by her family, is an idealized one. For instance, Mr.
March is portrayed as a hero of the American Civil War , a gainfully employed chaplain , and, presumably, a source of inspiration to the women of the family. He is absent for most of the novel. While he espoused many of the educational principles touted by the March family, he was loud and dictatorial. His lack of financial independence was a source of humiliation to his wife and daughters. The first volume of Little Women was published in by Roberts Brothers. The first printing of 2, copies sold out quickly, and the company had trouble keeping up with demand for additional printings.
They announced: "The great literary hit of the season is undoubtedly Miss Alcott's Little Women , the orders for which continue to flow in upon us to such an extent as to make it impossible to answer them with promptness. Whether it ever rises again, depends upon the reception given the first act of the domestic drama called Little Women.
Versions in the late 20th and 21st centuries combine both portions into one book, under the title Little Women , with the later-written portion marked as Part 2, as this Bantam Classic paperback edition, initially published in typifies. Each chapter is numbered and has a title as well. Part 2, Chapter 24 opens with "In order that we may start afresh and go to Meg's wedding with free minds, it will be well to begin with a little gossip about the Marches.
Some editions listed under Little Women appear to include both parts, especially in the audio book versions. Chesterton notes that in Little Women , Alcott "anticipated realism by twenty or thirty years," and that Fritz's proposal to Jo, and her acceptance, "is one of the really human things in human literature. Jackson said that Alcott's use of realism belongs to the American Protestant pedagogical tradition, which includes a range of religious literary traditions with which Alcott was familiar.
He has copies in his book of nineteenth-century images of devotional children's guides which provide background for the game of "playing pilgrim" that Alcott uses in her plot of Book One. When Little Women was published, it was well received. According to 21st-century critic Barbara Sicherman, during the 19th century, there was a "scarcity of models for nontraditional womanhood", which led more women to look toward "literature for self-authorization.
This is especially true during adolescence". In late 20th century, some scholars have criticized the novel. Sarah Elbert, for instance, wrote that Little Women was the beginning of "a decline in the radical power of women's fiction", partly because women's fiction was being idealized with a "hearth and home" children's story.
But Elbert says that Little Women did not "belittle women's fiction" and that Alcott stayed true to her "Romantic birthright". Little Women's popular audience was responsive to ideas of social change as they were shown "within the familiar construct of domesticity". The girl story became a "new publishing category with a domestic focus that paralleled boys' adventure stories. One reason the novel was so popular was that it appealed to different classes of women along with those of different national backgrounds, at a time of high immigration to the United States. Through the March sisters, women could relate and dream where they may not have before.
At the time, young girls perceived that marriage was their end goal. After the publication of the first volume, many girls wrote to Alcott asking her "who the little women marry". Sicherman said that the unsatisfying ending worked to "keep the story alive" as if the reader might find it ended differently upon different readings. Alcott used Friedrich to "subvert adolescent romantic ideals" because he was much older and seemingly unsuited for Jo. In the s, gendered separation of children's fiction was a newer division in literature.
This division signaled a beginning of polarization of gender roles as social constructs "as class stratification increased". After reading Little Women, some women felt the need to "acquire new and more public identities", however dependent on other factors such as financial resources.
In the pages of Little Women , young and adolescent girls read the normalization of ambitious women. This provided an alternative to the previously normalized gender roles. While "Alcott never questioned the value of domesticity", she challenged the social constructs that made spinsters obscure and fringe members of society solely because they were not married. These sisters, and in particular Jo, were apprehensive about adulthood because they were afraid that, by conforming to what society wanted, they would lose their special individuality.
Alcott "made women's rights integral to her stories, and above all to Little Women. In Little Women , she imagined that just such an evolution might begin with Plumfield, a nineteenth century feminist utopia. Little Women has a timeless resonance which reflects Alcott's grasp of her historical framework in the s. The novel's ideas do not intrude themselves upon the reader because the author is wholly in control of the implications of her imaginative structure.
Sexual equality is the salvation of marriage and the family; democratic relationships make happy endings. This is the unifying imaginative frame of Little Women. Isabella Russell-Ides created two stage adaptations. Marian de Forest adapted Little Women for the Broadway stage in A one-act stage version, written by Gerald P. Murphy in ,  has been produced in the U. Marisha Chamberlain   and June Lowery  have both adapted the novel as a full-length play; the latter play was staged in Luxembourg in In January , another film adaptation was announced with a casting call.
Little Women has been made into a serial four times by the BBC : in when it was shown live , in , in ,  and in Both anime series were dubbed in English and shown on American television. In , Lifetime aired The March Sisters at Christmas directed by John Simpson , a contemporary television film focusing on the title characters' efforts to save their family home from being sold. A adaption is that of Balaji Telefilms in India. The web series is called Haq Se. Set in Kashmir, the series is a modern-day Indian adaptation of the book.
The novel was adapted to a musical of the same name and debuted on Broadway at the Virginia Theatre on January 23, and closed on May 22, after performances. A production was also staged in Sydney, Australia in The opera was shown on television in and has been staged by other opera companies since the premiere.
A dramatized version, produced by Focus on the Family Radio Theatre ,  was released on September 4, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about the novel. For other uses, see Little Women disambiguation. Katharine Cornell became a star in the London production of de Forest's adaptation of Little Women. Novels portal. Dramatic Publishing. Spark Educational Publishing. Alberghene, Janice M. Psychology Press. Simon and Schuster. Univ of North Carolina Press. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. Irving to Irving: Author-Publisher Relations — New York: R.
Bowker Company. New York: W. James, Edward T. Harvard University Press: Little Women.