Gandalf Visits Bombadil

by Vison

“Master Tom!” Gandalf breathed, “Those are Hobbits!”

Tom and Gandalf exchanged glances, then both looked back at the sight before them.

Two young Hobbits were crouched by a small fire, holding out their hands as if to warm them. A couple of fish were skewered on a stick that leaned over the flames, and a battered, soot-covered kettle steamed on a rough trivet made of stones.

It was a scene that reminded Gandalf sharply of the early days of the Quest of the Ring. But there was nothing Shire-ish and plump about these fellows, they were lean and brown, and they had an air of competence that made them seem wholly at home in this wilderness. There was something of Strider, Gandalf thought, in their looks and their shabby clothes.

“Hobbits,” Bombadil mused. “Hobbits, here. This is passing strange, Mithrandir! True that I have not passed this way for many long years, but surely not that long.” He looked thoughtful, and at last went on, “Well, maybe it has been that long.”

Gandalf frowned under his bristling eyebrows. “I am curious, Master Tom. Let us introduce ourselves.”

“Do not be so hasty!” Bombadil said, shaking his head.

“They are Hobbits,” Gandalf said, “not Orcs, nor savage warriors from far away.”

“True, true,” Bombadil replied. “But they are not much like our friends from Bree or the Shire in their looks. They look as though they know which is the sharp end of their knives.”

They stepped out of the trees into the little clearing.

The two Hobbits leaped to their feet and with amazing speed set arrows to their bowstrings. “Hold up,” one said. “Just stop right there, if you please!”

Gandalf and Tom stood with their empty hands outstretched. “Greetings,” Gandalf said. He saw that they were very young, and the frightened look in their eyes belied their stern manner. “We come as friends,” he said.

“What manner of creatures are you?” the other Hobbit said. “Are you Trolls?”

“No,” Bombadil replied, bowing. “I am Tom Bombadil, and this is the Wizard Mithrandir.”

“Well, you speak like courteous folk,” one said, “whatever you may be. I am Harry son of Bento, and this is my brother Barry.”

The one named Barry spoke up. “Why are you here, in our forest? How did you get past the border?”

“We are traveling for pleasure,” Gandalf replied, “and we came to no border.”

Bombadil was silent. He did not say the truth, that these woods were his from Beginning days, and these Hobbits were the interlopers. He was as curious as Gandalf to know more about them.

The two Hobbits exchanged worried looks. “No border? But our border is a day’s march west of here, you must surely have felt it, as you crossed!” Harry said.

Barry said, his voice trembling somewhat, “It must be that you are Witches, for no ordinary mortal may pass there without pain! Not only Giants, but evil Giant Witches, I think. You are breaking our Law, strangers, and had better leave our land!” He drew back the string of his bow once again.

Gandalf again put out his hands, palms out. “We mean thee no harm, Barry son of Bento.” His gaze caught and held that of the young Hobbit.

Barry relaxed his hold on the bow and lowered it. “There is something strange about you, traveller, yet I think you are telling the truth. Still, it is not up to me or my brother to welcome you. Any stranger entering our land must be brought before the council. Or so the Law says.”

Harry nodded. “It is the Law, and we have been taught so. But I have never heard of anyone having to do it before!”

Here Bombadil spoke. “We do not ask thee to break thy Law. We are willing to see thy Council.”

Again the two young Hobbits exchanged looks. “But we are bound for the Border, and must not turn about to escort you.”

“Why are you going to the Border?” Gandalf asked.

Harry sighed. “We are going to go beyond, and try to find others of our folk. The Council has sent us.”

“The Council!” Barry snorted. “Mother Silverfoot, you mean!”

Exasperated, Harry smacked his brother on the arm. “There is no need to blab all our business before these strangers, you ninnyhammer!”

Gandalf laughed. “Be sure, young Hobbits, that your business is safe with us! And I think that your errand may be delayed, for we can bring news of other folk to your Council.”

“You can?” Barry said. Then he grinned. “Well, of course you can, because you are ‘other folk’ yourselves. But the Council wants Hobbits, not Giants.”

“Well, I cannot bring them Hobbits, but I can bring them news of Hobbits, and many Hobbits, too. It is a long, perilous journey to those places, young Barry, and I fear that thy brother and thee would lose thy way, or come to harm in the Old Forest. For beyond thy borders the Forest is the enemy of all that go upon two legs.”

“That is not news to us, stranger.” Harry drew a chain out of his shirt and showed Gandalf the Amulet that hung on it. “This is a Charm to keep us safe, out there.”

Gandalf did not touch the Amulet. “I think,” he said gently, “that the days of Power for such Charms is over.”

“That is what Lady Silverfoot fears,” Harry said. “She says that times have changed, and we must change with them.”

Barry nodded, and looked sad. “Everything good is going, the Elders say. It’s not fair! Just when I am nearly of age!”

“Don’t be such a selfish brute,” Harry chided his brother. “It doesn’t just affect you, you know!”

Master Tom gestured to the fire. “Your fish are getting scorched.”

Harry quickly pulled the fish out of harm’s way. “I don’t suppose you are hungry, are you? I mean, you are welcome to share our meal….”

“Thank you,” Gandalf said, laughing, “we are very hungry indeed. But fear not, for we will catch our own fish, and if you will let us cook them at your fire, we can share your company if not your food.”

As he spoke, Bombadil was already at the side of the stream. He reached in and pulled out two fat silvery-sided trout.

The two Hobbits stared in wonder. “I never saw anyone tickle trout that fast before!” Harry said.

“Ah,” Bombadil said, smiling, “I have had a great deal of practice.” He quickly cleaned the fish and slid them onto the sharpened sticks. “Mithrandir! Is there any Tea left in your pack?”

“Enough for this evening,” Gandalf answered. He dropped the leaves into the steaming kettle and drew it back from the flames. “Do you and your brother like Tea?” he asked Harry.

“I don’t know,” Harry answered. “But if it’s good, I’m sure we will.”

“Hobbits!” Gandalf said, shaking his head. “Hobbits are the same everywhere, I see. Food and drink are food and drink to them.”

Bombadil and the two young Hobbits looked at him oddly. “What on earth does that mean?” Master Tom asked.

“A jest, Master Tom,” Gandalf said, sighing. “Only a jest…………….”

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