The Magnificent Speaks
"Well", said Merry as he looked at the eager faces in front of him. "Where to begin?"
"At the beginning?" suggested Tom Gardner, who with his twelve years
was the youngest in the company, except for Elanor's baby Elfstan, who
was asleep in her lap.
Merry and the others laughed and that eased the tension a little.
"Right you are, Tom-lad. At the beginning it is. Well, not the very
first beginning of course, I was not there thankfully, but perhaps the
beginning of my own part in the story.
I remember I had been counting the days until it would be Their
Birthday. At his last visit to the Hall, Frodo had given me a few hints
about the Party being one of special magnificence. I was so exited I
could barely wait. I begged my parents to let me go to Hobbiton early,
but they would not hear of it. So I had to wait patiently. But patience
wasn't one of my qualities at the time, and the rumours I heard did not
make my waiting any easier.
To be rid of my constant attempts to persuade them, my parents finally
gave permission to ask Pippin to come over to Brandy Hall. I think his
parents were quite glad to be rid of him, as a matter of fact. When it
comes to giving parents a hard time, little Pip was the champion."
He grinned up at Pippin, who gave him a sour smile. Merry laughed and continued:
"Waiting was not so hard when we were together, and we phantasized
about what the party was going to be like. We had heard about magic
presents, marvellous food and fireworks…
When we woke up one morning my mother told us a small host of Dwarves
had passed the Bridge that night, with a cart full of presents, for the
Party no doubt. We had never seen a Dwarf before and I remember we
refused to speak to her for several days because she hadn't woke us up
And then, one evening, I remember it being a Friday, a cart came from
the Old Forest. Pippin and I were the first to spot it. We saw the
figure driving the cart and we knew immediately it wasn't a Hobbit. He
was tall, with a long white beard, bushy eyebrows and clad in grey,
with a big pointy hat. I had seen him before, once, so I knew who he
"Gandalf, of course!" yelled Sam's youngest daughter.
"Indeed, Ruby love, it was Gandalf the Grey, the wizard. Well, I didn't
know then what a wizard was exactly, only that he could produce the
greatest fireworks in Middle-Earth. We had never seen them before, but
everyone would still speak of them and especially Pippin was really
fond of those stories and knew them all by heart.
Gandalf kindly asked my father permission to stay the night at the
Hall. Da let him stay at Crickhollow, but very reluctantly. He did not
exactly trust queer Big Folk, especially not when they were known as
'wizards' and came out of the Old Forest with a cart full of strange
objects. But he was a friend of Bilbo's, so he could not refuse."
Merry smiled at the memory. "Of course, this was a chance for Pippin
and me to get an early peek into the preparations for the Party, so the
next morning, when Gandalf was still inside, we sneaked over to the
cart and started opening one of the packages, revealing - as we had
suspected - a colourful array of rockets. We were just looking which
one seemed most interesting to snatch away, when I felt a painful
sensation in my ear. I looked up… and over us towered Gandalf, looking
both stern and slightly amused.
"Trying to get your hands on Party Business, eh?" he said. It was
useless to deny it, since we were caught in the act. Gandalf looked at
me. "A big boy like yourself should know better, Meriadoc Brandybuck,"
he said. "Yes, I still remember you, how could I forget such a good
friend of Frodo's?" I beamed for a moment, then realised this wasn't an
appropriate time. But Gandalf had not seen it, he had turned his
attention to Pip, who quickly returned a rocket to his outstretched
hands. "And you, young master, must be a Took. You bear great
resemblance to my dear old friend Gerontius, the Old Took as you might
"He was my great-great-grandfather, Gandalf," said Pippin in a clear
voice. "My name is Peregrin Took and I am to be the next Thain."
Anyone would have been impressed by the straightforwardness of such a little Hobbit, but not Gandalf.
"Are you now? In that case I surely would expect you to have a little
more responsibility than trying to steal fireworks, Master Took. And
that goes for you too, Master Brandybuck."
We both hung our heads, we knew he was right. He started to get the
cart ready and we just stood there. Finally Pippin lifted his head a
little and asked "are you going to turn us into toads, Gandalf?"
He suddenly laughed out loud, and we were relieved to find out that
wizards could laugh like anyone else, and we were less afraid of him.
"Not today, Peregrin," he said. "I don't think Frodo would ever forgive
me. Besides, I suspect hím to have awokened your curiosity in
the first place. Am I right?"
I refused to betray my dear cousin, but I'm afraid my face showed the
truth, because he laughed and said: "in that case it would be more
appropriate to turn hím into a toad."
He winked at us and rode away to Hobbiton.
And then finally, finally, the day of departure came. There was nothing
but rain on the way to Hobbiton, and we were genuinely concerned that
the Party would be spoiled by the weather. But when we arrived at Bag
End on Thursday Morning, the sun was shining brightly and the weather
was warm and wonderful.
After congratulating Bilbo and receiving our presents, we delivered
Pippin to his parents and I went to look for Frodo. When I found him I
immediately saw that something was bothering him. But when I finally
got the chance to talk to him, he wouldn't say anything, and he was
very busy so he couldn't talk very long. Soon after I forgot my
concern, because the Party was just so wonderful. There has never been
and will never be a party like that ever again. Everything was only the
best: the food, the drink, the presents, the entertainment… Bilbo had
certainly put some effort into it. And the fireworks! I had never seen
anything like that before.
At the end of it there was a dragon made of red and gold light, and it
flew over our heads! I will not deny I was scared, but I was also
exited and thrilled to see a real dragon. I was actually rather
disappointed when I was told it only vaguely resembled the real thing.
When it was time for supper we were invited to the pavillion for the
private family dinner. Needless to say the dinner was as splendid as
the rest of the Party had been, although I dreaded the thought of
Bilbo's after-dinner-speech, as I think most Hobbits did. But the
speech turned out to be the most interesting part of the evening, as a
matter of fact. Bilbo first started with the regular stuff, the
thank-you-all-for-comings and announcements of obvious things. When he
called our host a 'Gross', everyone was very insulted, but I thought it
rather funny. It was so much like Bilbo to think of something like that.
The big scare came, of course, when he announced he was leaving and he
vanished with a great flash of light. Everyone was immensely upset. I
heard my grandfather say to my mother that Bilbo had gone away again,
and that was exactly what I suspected, but I think that I, apart from
Frodo and Gandalf of course, was the one who understood the most of
Bilbo's mysterious disappearance. I had seen him use his magic Ring
before once, and I had read a few pages of his Red Book, so I knew by
experience what he was capable of. The only thing that didn't fit in
was the flash of light, but it didn't take me long to understand that
it was Gandalf's doing.
Everyone was running around and asking for Bilbo, but I already knew he
was gone and would not come back again. I knew how dearly Frodo would
miss him and figured he might need me, so I went to look for him to see
what I could do.
He turned out to be thrilled when he found out I had not come to
trouble him with questions and he eagerly accepted my help. Together we
arranged the ending of the party and I remember feeling very dignified
and important when I spoke to the guests for Frodo, the new Master of
The next morning I left the Green Dragon early to help Frodo clean up
the mess. And some mess Bilbo had left behind! Not the mess from the
party I mean, although that was quite alarming to look at I must admit,
but moreover all the people who came for information about Bilbo's
disappearence and to take away presents, whether intended for them or
We gave away the presents, chased away the youngsters who were constantly invading and had to deal with Lobelia of course.
I wanted them to go away and leave Frodo alone. Couldn't they see how tired he was?
Frodo finally collapsed by the end of the day. He sat down, looking
weary, and he told me: "lock the door, and don't open it to anyone
today, not even if they bring a battering-ram."
Poor Frodo. I highly doubt that anyone was concerned about him at the
time, while he had suffered a great loss indeed. Bilbo was still alive
perhaps, but he would probably never see him again. He was tired and
sad and no one seemed to care.Yet he kept his patience and good humour,
and bore his fate with silent acceptance, like he would do later. Even
then I already thought he was brave. He has always been brave."
Merry had to swallow hard to keep back the tears. It would not be the last time.
"Have a cup o' tea, Merry," said Rosie softly as she offered the Master
of Buckland a warm cup. "All this storytelling must have given you a
sore throat by now."
"Thank you, Rose." Merry smiled warmly as he accepted the tea, took a few sips and put the cup down.
"What did you do after the Party, Da?" asked Rory, curious at what would happen next.
Merry took a deep breath. "I stayed with Frodo for a long time. I think
it has been the longest of my many stays at Bag End. I was actually
terrified that Frodo would one day follow Bilbo and disappear like his
uncle had done. But he seemed not to be planning such a thing. Once he
had gotten over the departure of Bilbo, he settled in quite well in his
new position. So I finally decided it was safe for me to leave. But I
wasn't comfortable with it and my visits became more frequent after
Bilbo had left. I wanted to keep an eye on Frodo, make sure he wouldn't
give me the slip and sneak off. At that time it was just plain
selfishness that drove me. Frodo was like a brother to me and I didn't
want him to go because I simply couldn't miss him."
"You may call it selfishness, I would rather call it love," said Sam.
Merry looked at him, surprised. Why was it that Sam often reminded him
of Gandalf lately?
"Oh, where was I?" he suddenly said, realising he had been quiet for several minutes.
"Yes, Frodo. Well, I visited him more than twice as often as I had done
when Bilbo was still around. We'd take long walks together, and when he
was older we took Pippin along as well. After a few years I started to
notice that Frodo wasn't changing at all. Only in his eyes could you
see his true age, but as the years progressed he never showed any
further sign of age. After a while folk started to guess me older than
him, and he was fourteen years older! At that time we just laughed at
it, I teased him about being 'well preserved', and he teased me about
looking older. I never connected it with anything unnatural, I thought
he was just lucky.
My concern had all but disappeared, and when Gandalf first showed
himself again in the Shire after so many years, it came back twice as
heavy. Of course, I never believed all the talk that went around about
Gandalf pressing Bilbo to leave the Shire, but I was afraid he might
bring news from Bilbo that would make Frodo change his mind about
staying. Gandalf had the gift of bringing news that somehow always
seemed to mess up things. They did not call him 'Stormcrow' for
So when I saw Gandalf cross the bridge on his horse on the way to
Hobbiton, I followed as soon as possible in case I would have to stop
My fears turned out to be silly, as I arrived at Bag End Gandalf had
already left again, and Frodo was the same as he always had been. But
the concern lingered inside my mind.
After this, Gandalf visited Frodo more often - well, more often than he
had ever done before - and that only got me more suspicious. Why would
Gandalf, who had so many important matters to tend to, suddenly come to
the Shire so often? Especially when all he'd do was look how Frodo was,
exchange some small talk and leave the same day. Rather odd, I reckoned.
That was when I started to 'guard' Frodo. I called upon Pippin and
Fatty to help me and they did, but more for me than for Frodo at first.
I think they thought I overreacted, but I couldn't explain my
When I thought he was ready, I told Pippin about my suspicions and was
surprised to find he shared my feelings. It would not be the last time
I'd underestimate him.
From then on, the two of us watched Frodo with equal intensity, but it
was not good enough, as we found out. I remember we pretty much
panicked when Frodo was away for a day and a half. We were scared he'd
taken off. But he came home that afternoon, and we found out later he
had been visiting Elves and fell asleep under a tree.
That was the point when we realised we were taking this over the top a
bit. We decided to rest our cases and only come into action when Frodo
would start behaving odd - well, more than usual anyway. The problem
was we both lived pretty far away, too far away to be able to observe
Frodo all the time. We needed someone who was always close to Frodo,
someone who was loyal and whom we could trust…"
All the heads of the children gathered around Merry's chair now turned
to Sam, who seemed to turn a little red - or was it just the light of
Merry smiled. "Yes, children, indeed.
It was Pippin who suggested Bag End's gardener Samwise, since he knew
Sam was trustworthy, secretive… and had a concern for Frodo's welfare
that was at least as great as ours. So one day, we stole away the young
gardener from the lawn to ask. When we proposed our plan to Sam he
politely refused at first. "I really shouldn't go spyin' on Mr. Frodo
like that, Mr. Merry," he said.
"Please Sam, it's important to us."
Sam shook his head. "I'd never doubt your good intentions, sirs, but
Mr. Frodo is old enough to look after his own and he really don't need
a babysitter, if you pardon me."
"You don't have to babysit anyone, Sam," Pippin said. "We just need you to tell us when Frodo is acting strange…"
Sam shook his head again, more furiously this time. "I hadn't expected
you to believe all the talk they've been havin' around about Mr. Frodo.
You should know better. No matter what they say, Mr. Frodo is a perfect
gentlehobbit and that's the truth! Now, if you'll excuse me…"
He started to walk away from us and Pippin and I exchanged a glance.
"Sam," I called after him. "We don't believe those stories any more
than you do. But we ask you this because we're scared that Frodo is
going to leave us."
It took Sam two strides to get back to us. "What? You think Mr. Frodo is going to go away like Mr. Bilbo did? Why?"
We explained it all to him and he, naturally, agreed to help us immediately.
In the years that followed, our little conspiracy transformed into a
well-organised network of spying. As soon as Gandalf would turn up
again, I was the first to notice as he always took the Brandywine
Bridge. I'd then send word to Pippin and we'd secretly come together in
an Inn near Hobbiton, where we waited for Sam to report to us. He'd
tell us everything that had been said and done and we'd stay for a few
more days, sometimes in secret and sometimes not, to see if there were
any remarkable changes in Frodo. They never occurred, and as time
passed our spying grew to be more of a game than something serious. But
serious or not, we were still ever watchful.
Then, all of a sudden, it wasn't a game anymore. And that was when
Gandalf returned to Hobbiton once more in the early spring of 1418. I
saw him race over the Bridge and somehow I knew this was serious.
Gandalf seemed genuinely concerned, an emotion I didn't think he even
Pippin and I arrived at Hobbiton the next evening, and Sam was already
waiting for us in the Ivy Bush. When I saw the look on his face I knew
for sure that something was amiss.
"Thank goodness you've made it, sirs," he said. "Mr. Gandalf and Mr.
Frodo have just gone to bed. They had a long talk tonight. I've never
seen that wizard so upset, sirs, I didn't even think he could be upset,
if you follow me. But now he was. He said to Mr. Frodo he had come to
talk to him about his Ring, or Mr. Bilbo's, actually. He said it might
be dangerous. "Why?" asks Mr. Frodo and then Gandalf said something
about that they shouldn't be talkin' 'bout such matters at night, and
that he'd best wait for daylight to tell him whole story. Rightly sirs,
I didn't understand much of it, to tell you the truth, but Gandalf did
mutter somethin' 'bout the Shire and all of Middle-Earth bein' in
danger, and that somethin'needs to happen, and that I do understand and
I don't like it al all, 'cause I think Mr. Frodo will be wantin' to do
somethin' about it."
My heart had nearly stopped when I heard Sam mention that the Ring was
the cause of Gandalf's coming. The thought that it might be dangerous
gave me the chills. It had made Bilbo disappear. Would it now take
Frodo away as well?
That's when I decided to tell Sam and Pippin all I knew about the Ring.
Until then, I had kept it a secret, it was Bilbo and Frodo's business
after all, but this was an emergency.
Of course, the small amount of knowledge of the Ring I had was not
enough to understand the whole situation or to make up a proper plan,
so the next day Pippin and I stayed restlessly in the Bush, waiting for
Sam to show up with news. But he didn't.
The next day we went out to look for Sam and found him in his Gaffer's
garden, but he refused to say anything. After a little persuasion, we
finally got one scentence out of him: "I'm sorry, dear sirs, but Mr.
Frodo said he would have Gandalf turn me into a toad if I tell anyone
So that was it, then. Sam had been caught and put himself on parole.
We knew something important was going on and that it had something to
do with the Ring, but we didn't know what Frodo was going to do. We
felt helpless. Poor Sam was obviously torn in two, but he kept his word
and we respected him for it.
There was nothing for us to do but wait and keep watchful. I had never dreaded a summer so much as this one."