Gandalf Visits Bombadil
XX : Gandalf and Bombadil eat trout with Harry and Barry
The two Hobbits and Bombadil and the Wizard Gandalf ate their Trout
and drank their Tea in near silence. For Hobbits eating is ever a
serious affair, especially when they eat because they are hungry. And
these two were hungry, there was no mistaking that.
Gandalf watched them as they ate their fish down to white shiny bones
and licked their fingers clean. They looked hopefully at Tom and
Gandalf as if hoping there was more food in their packs but when none
was forthcoming they drank their Tea.
“It is not sweet,” said Harry, politely. “I mean, a fellow doesn’t always want something sweet.”
“It is bitter,” Barry said. Then, somewhat hastily, “But refreshing!”
“It is an acquired taste,” Gandalf said gravely. He set his mug down
and drew his pipe from his pack and began tamping some Pipeweed into it.
The two Hobbits stared in fascination. They watched every move, looking at each other every few moments, then back at Gandalf.
Gandalf picked a coal out of the fire, using two sticks as tongs, and
held the coal to his pipe. Soon a stream of smoke poured from his mouth
and nostrils and he regarded Barry and Harry with one eyebrow raised.
He created smoke-pictures, as he often did when he was in a mellow
mood. These pictures were of Trees, and the Crescent Moon, followed by
a small, unthreatening Dragon that flew into the fire.
Bombadil, watching, kept his laughter silent. For it was a sight to
provoke laughter, the solemn Wizard with his audience of two awe-struck
Hobbit youths, their mouths hanging open..
“I’ll be----I’ll be switched!” Barry said. “I never saw such a sight!
What is that leafy stuff? What is that thing you put it in? Why do you
breathe the smoke? And how do you make the pictures? Can you show me?”
“Steady on, young Barry,” Gandalf answered. “One question at a time, if you please!”
He puffed on his pipe, staring into the fire. ‘So these Hobbits do not
know of Pipeweed,’ he thought. ‘Therefore, they have been estranged
from their kin in the Shire for a very long time. Curious…..very
curious…’ He looked at the expectant young faces and relented, and
answered the questions. “One,” he said, “the leafy stuff is called
Pipeweed. Two, the thing I put it in is a Pipe. Three, I breathe the
smoke because I think it is pleasant to do so. Four, since I am a
mighty Wizard, I can make wonderful smoke pictures. Five, no, I do not
think I can show you. It is an Art that takes many years of practice to
learn, and most never learn to do more than blow simple rings.”
“I could learn,” Barry asserted boldly. “I am said to be very clever!”
Harry smacked his brother’s arm again. “Belt up! You know you are not
supposed to blow your own horn, Barry. And besides, to be the clever
one in our family isn’t saying much.”
“You are such a wet blanket, Harry! Why old Mother Silverfoot saddled
me with you instead of Marco or Blanco, I’ll never know!” He frowned at
his brother. “You have no sense of adventure, Harry, and that’s a fact.”
Harry flushed angrily. “Adventure! You mean foolhardiness!” Then he
glanced at Gandalf and Bombadil. “We ought not quarrel in front of
these strangers, Barry, even you should see that.”
“Your brother is right,” Master Tom said gravely. “It is always better
to present a united front.” He rumbled around in his pack and pulled
out a wafer of waybread. “Try this,” he said kindly. “Goldberry made
this and I think you will like it better than Gandalf’s Tea.”
“It is very good,” Harry said, chewing. “Who is this Goldberry that made this?”
Tom’s face softened and his merry blue eyes took on a far-away look.
“The River-Daughter,” he said, in his sing-song way. “Fair lady
Goldberry, daughter of the River. She waits now for Tom, waits for his
footfall on the grass….”
“Ah,” Harry said. “I see she is your sweetheart.”
Barry sighed. “We had to leave our sweethearts behind us, sad to say.”
Then he grinned. “But then, they will be so glad to see us when we get
Gandalf laughed heartily. “Every cloud has a silver lining, does it
not? Tell me, young Harry, how far it is to your home, and your
“Three or four days walking,” Harry replied. He hesitated. “Please sir,
do not misunderstand me! I think you are honourable folk, you and
Master Tom here, but I am not perfectly sure I should just lead you to
“Very wise,” Gandalf replied. “But I think in this case, your caution is not needed.”
“But if you were Evil, you would say that, wouldn’t you?” Harry insisted.
“If I were Evil,” Gandalf said, waving his hand over the fire, “all
your caution would not avail you!” As he spoke the fire flared up in a
gout of blue, and a loud bang smote their ears.
The two young Hobbits leaped to their feet, their faces pale with fear,
swiftly drawing their knives. They held their long knives steady, and
stood close together facing Gandalf and Tom. “That was ill done of
you!” Harry said. “Why do you wish to frighten us, if you mean us no
“I apologize,” Gandalf said ruefully. “Sometimes I act without thought.
I only meant to show you that if we were intent upon harming you, we
would have already done so. We would not have bothered sharing our Tea
with you, and the waybread.”
“Come, young masters,” Tom said. “Let us not spoil a merry meeting with
hard words. We will come with thee to thy home, and speak with thy
Elders, and all will be well. For the world is wide and changing, and I
deem thy folk will be glad to learn of it!”
Barry and Harry sheathed their knives and looked soberly at each other.
“Might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb,” Barry said. “We
broke nearly every Law already, just speaking to these fellows and
eating with them.”
Harry nodded. “I daresay we are in for it, either way, brother. So
tomorrow, we shall set out, if that suits you, Master Tom, and you,
too, Mithrandir Wizard.”
Gandalf put out his hand. “Let us shake hands on that, then. Do not
fear! You will not be punished, but will rather be heroes, when your
folk meet us! Why, those sweethearts of yours will be queening it over
all the other lasses in no time at all, thanks to you two.”