Nothing of Note
With deep breaths of the earthen scents wafting past them on the cool
morning air, Bilbo and Frodo wandered along the wide grassy bank
of the Brandywine. It paralleled the road for a time until the bushes
and trees growing thick by the water's edge nudged them back to the
main path. There seemed little need for lengthy words; the waters,
birdsong, insects and breezes in the grass were sound enough. It was
only after a comfortable half-hour of ambling in this near-silence that
"Are we going anywhere in particular?"
Frodo looked up from where he had been absently scuffing a clod along
with his foot as he walked, leafing through the book he held in his hands. "No, not really.
But with the Forest on one side and the river on the other, Buckland
only gives you two good options for walking and we already went the
other way last night."
"Mm. I just wondered. I'm in no hurry."
Frodo gestured vaguely ahead. "If you go further north and over,
there's an area called Crickhollow. I was just noticing it's not on my
"Not on the map? I wonder if the Post delivers mail there."
Frodo seemed slightly miffed. "Do you think they would leave off
something just because it didn't get enough mail? And why wouldn't it?
Why should only the 'more important' ones be there?" He stooped
and picked up the clod, pitching it at a nearby tree. It smacked
the trunk in a small explosion of dirt, dead center.
Bilbo wondered at the unexpected vehemence over such a small thing. "I
was being facetious. I'm sure it was just an oversight; they show other
places that are just as small. Good aim, by the way. So tell me, what
is this Crickhollow like? I must have passed it on the way?"
He watched as Frodo's eyes unfocused slightly.
"It's a very peaceful place," he said more slowly, "though I suppose it
is a bit out of the way. Smaller homes...Nothing really worth noting
now that I think about it... some farmland. I'm not even sure there's
that many hobbits who live there."
"Well," offered Bilbo reasonably, 'You could always sort of pencil it
in anyway." He figured the lad must have some favorite childhood haunt
up that way. He remembered such things in his youth, leafy glades and
brush piles that he imagined were his own smial. "Is it much known
around here at least, where it's local?"
"I can't say it's mentioned much, it gets overlooked." Frodo was
still thinking. He glanced over at Bilbo's mild eyes. "But that can give it a
Bilbo nodded, encouraging him to continue.
"Not the kind other people think of, not crops and money, or important
names, or even history, but the quiet. The peace." He made an
impatient gesture. "Oh, Bilbo! I get so weary of all the crowding and
noise around me sometimes. I just... I know I shouldn't complain, and
they're my relatives and all, and I do care for them, but..." he trailed off.
A flock of waterbirds flew over them, all honking together in a mass of movement, bound for the river. "Like that." said Frodo.
Frodo and Bilbo stopped to watch them fly over. The honking and frantic
wing-pumping subsided as they splashed into the distant water, and the
Frodo quietly spoke again. "I really appreciate your taking the time to
come here. I apologize for sounding so ungrateful and churlish."
"Not at all, you were just being honest. And I had already guessed as much anyway."
They walked on, slowly passing a flock of stolid sheep who raised their heads
from the grass and looked at them curiously, their spring lambs
suckling without a pause. Small white tails went around like leaves in
a whirlpool, their heads always butting for more. Bilbo noticed the way
the older ones stood, solid and unmoved by the energetic youth beside
them, protecting and comforting. He hoped he could do as much.
The younger hobbit beside him grew serious as he walked. "Sometimes I
wonder what I will do - with my life I mean. I so admire those who have
some sense of purpose, or history and who are content with their lot.
They know what's expected of them and they're comfortable with it. Most
everyone I know is content with what they have, or seem to be. And I
feel like I should be. After all, I have relatives, a home, I even
have a room of my own now. But what can I do?"
Bilbo didn't reply, trying to be solid, letting him talk it out.
"Maybe I should apply with the Post and put this new map you've given
me to proper use. It has advantages. Most hobbits - at least the
ones I know - don't want to work for the Post because of the travel,
but on the other hand Post workers would meet a lot of people and see
other places in the Shire."
"Some of the biggest gossips in the Shire are in the Post." Bilbo
replied."I can't say it would suit you, but on the other hand I'd
rather have someone like you than that tongue-wagger that works in
Hobbiton. But as for their travel, well, I would say it's overrated.
They have the same route usually for years and years... I suppose there
are worse jobs out there.... With you on the job, those obscure hobbits
in overlooked Crickhollow might get some mail at last, eh?" He smiled,
then considered for a moment, remembering Hamson. "I think part of it
is you need to be suited to your purpose to be content. Some people
seem born to it. Take the Gamgee family, my gardeners, for instance."
Frodo nodded. He remembered them well.
"Wondrous gardeners," Bilbo continued. "The Gaffer boasts he has the
best potatoes of anyone in the Shire and he's probably right. He comes
from a gardening family, and I expect his sons will continue it after
"I can't garden to save my life." commented Frodo wryly.
"Well, I admit I'm a good hand with most flowers," said Bilbo, "but
when it comes to trees, and vegetables and grasses and such I'm
grateful he's there - it was the same with my father. Maybe every
Baggins should have a good gardener somewhere nearby to help him
out. The point being that you would think any hobbit in his
family would be a gardener, naturally and without thought. As you said,
it's expected of them. But - you remember Hamson?"
"Mmm. Not very well."
"Doesn't matter. Picture the Gaffer, only younger. Hamson wasn't the
bad sort, but he never did have any interest in gardening. Oh he
learned it, because he wanted to please his family, but it was never in
his heart." Bilbo tapped the front of his weskit for emphasis.
"What happened to him?"
He's apprenticed to a rope-maker of all things, and happy as a
robin in its nest - as long as you don't ask him to garden. I didn't
really realize it until he came to fill in for me a bit. I believe he's
content with his lot now - but only because he found a new home with
someone who had the same passions he did, if you can call rope-making a
Frodo quirked a smile. "Rope-making? For many hobbits, I suppose it could be."
There was a long pause, both of them lost in their own thoughts again.
Bilbo watched his young companion gazing over toward the distant river
and couldn't help but wonder if Frodo would be happy away from what he
knew. Hobbiton wasn't nearly as peaceful... more in the center of
things. Was he being selfish to...
Frodo broke his musing. "Are you content, Bilbo?"
He had to rein in his thoughts, turning them to ponder this new
question. "I don't know." he said slowly. "If you mean being at peace,
what I do isn't all fun and games. The studying and research can be
frustrating. Travel can often be uncomfortable and even dangerous. Not
all travelers are friendly for hobbits. Many of my best friends are so
far away I can never see them. And the being set apart from the rest of
"Is hard sometimes."
"Yes. But there's good and bad in everything. And after all, the good
parts are what make the best storytelling later, even if you thought
they were bad parts when they were happening." he smiled. "Am I
content? Not if contentment means staying just as I am. I'm always
looking for something new to think about. Like you, I suppose I should be content...I certainly have all I could want, one would
"But isn't it enough, to just... to live and eat and sleep and work and grow old?"
"I suppose it should be. It can be. There are many who would give their
eye teeth to enjoy the peace we have right here, right now."
"Then why aren't we content?"
"Most of us are! Many in the Shire are as content as they can be. They
are positively marinated in contentment. Don't judge others by your own
"I didn't mean 'we' as in Hobbits... I meant 'we' as in you, and I."
Bilbo was quiet for a time, walking. He had to consider the way Frodo
had referred to them, the two of them, as alike. He was very touched by
it; it reached inside him and warmed his heart somehow.
"I don't know. I used to be content. I remember great scads of contentment. Oh, days and days of it. Years, even. But then..."
"Then...?" prompted Frodo.
"Then one day a wizard showed up on my doorstep." Bilbo said
matter-of-factly. "Gandalf showed me there was so much more to these
lands, more than I'd ever been taught. The history of the Shire itself
even...I am still finding out new things. I may never be content until
I know all there is to know of this world, and there are whole areas on
maps that I have no notion what is beyond them. None!"
He gestured to Frodo's coat pocket that held the map book. "But I also
find that when I am out-and-about, I long for my own home and hearth.
So I must take my contentment in exploring what I can from time to
time." He considered the white spaces on the map. "For instance, I hear there is a place
somewhere to the East where it is so dry all year round, nothing grows.
It's all sand, for miles and miles and no water at all. It's not on the
maps, and I have not seen it; I only know from reading, and from a
Dwarf who told me of it. And he hadn't seen it himself either..."
Frodo frowned slightly and looked at him askance. "Who would want to?
Travel to such a place, I mean. A place without water would be
"True, true. To some. But it might be interesting to visit. You could
carry in a bit of water, you know. Spend a day or two there. Just to
see what it's really like."
"I don't know... I'm not sure I would care for that sort of travel, all that ways for nothing."
"Not for nothing; you would get to see things other hobbits have never seen! If it
weren't so far away, it might be a place to go in the winter, when it's
cold. If it's dry all the time, it stands to reason it might also
be hot. Like summer."
Frodo snorted lightly, unconvinced. "Rocks are dry, but cold. Maybe
it's all rock. And if its dry all the time, there wouldn't be anything
alive. Why would you want to go all that way just to see a dead land?"
Bilbo chided him gently. "I'm a touch disappointed in you, Frodo. You
sounded just like my neighbors in Hobbiton there, for a moment. Do
things have to be living to be worth seeing, or doing something about?
Do you remember the Arkenstone?"
Bilbo paused, lost for a moment in the image of the magnificent gem,
remembering the weight of it in its rag-wrappings in his hands. He
remembered seeing it lowered into its place on Thorin's cold breast,
the stone lid covering it over in darkness once more. Beauty lost
in darkness. In the heart of the mountain. He thought of the stars,
cold above, named for those who were no longer among the living.
He thought of his own ring, on its chain and its beauty, brought out of
darkness. A golden beauty. The looked down at his empty, cupped hands.
"The Arkenstone wasn't alive, but its beauty haunts me to this day."
He considered his words carefully, still exploring the concept. The
Arkenstone was found, lost and found again only to be buried. Perhaps
someday it would be brought back to light once more, for other hands to
hold. Someday when Thorin was forgotten. His hand strayed to his
pocket. Who knew how long his own ring had lain in darkness, or how old
it might be?
He plucked a leaf from the hedge as he went and twirled it absently in
his hand. "Not all beauty is living beauty, my lad. Not all deemed of
great worth is beautiful either, though many things are. And deep
things, old things - they...return after a time. The small things
endure like dandelions, passing away but also being ever-present,
because there's always more of them. That's like us, like hobbits, I
think. And we should be content with that. But it doesn't stop us from
studying the older things. They have
roots that go deeper, that aren't touched by the frost of time. Stars,
oceans and Elves... Death can be beautiful...yes, I suppose even
death has a beauty of its own."
Frodo unexpectedly smiled at this. "Death and beauty."
Frodo answered his quizzical look. He gestured out at the hedged
farming fields around them. "After endless months of talking to people
about things like crops, sauce seasonings and harness repair, it just
suddenly struck me as funny to be talking about things like Death and
Bilbo was about to reply when a hobbit rounded the line of hedges that
had been coming up alongside them. Before him came three newly shorn
sheep and he had his clippers tucked under his arm. Halting their
conversation somewhat self-consciously, they nodded polite
greetings to him as he went past. He nodded back and with a curious
look continued past them on the path to a distant low barn. The
sheep baahed in protest as they were turned from going to the field by
the stick he carried.
Bilbo leaned over and whispered to Frodo once they were past. "Instead of Death and
Beauty, there's always Life and Ugliness, I suppose." They both
"Now, that's not nice."
"No, not at all. Did you notice how much he resembled a melon, left out in the sun too long?"
"Stop that!" Frodo said as they both snickered again, glancing back to
be sure the shepherd hadn't heard them. It was a release, to enjoy a
moment of levity.
After a bit, Bilbo, who had still been pondering the original topic in
the back of his mind spoke again. "A gift of
words, as you called it, is two-edged, you know."
Frodo brushed his bangs out of his eyes and gazed up at the sky, but he was listening. "In what way?"
"Someone who has that gift can see things, notice things, that others
don't - and when it's put into words, others can see them too. But it
isn't all pleasantry and peace, what is seen. Some of it may be things you later wish
you hadn't seen at all. Things that will haunt you, that other people... they will not want to read about it."
He considered the lad next to him realizing how he had withheld many
topics from him, because they were too dark, or too difficult. Or
unpleasant. So far the education he had offered in bits and snatches
had been mild. But the lad was growing up. What would he think of the
tales of war, of hideous creatures, of greed and of traitors, now?
"It may be that contentment for us is being free to explore those
words...both pleasant and otherwise..." He felt he was
floundering somehow, being too vague. He realized he wasn't sure of the answer to
Frodo's question himself. He paused, searching for a good, solid
concept he could wisely propound as he felt was expected of him. Not
finding one, he finally veered back to the relatively mundane.
"Well, it takes thought, doesn't it? But the Road goes ever on, you
never know where it can take you. And look at me here! It swept me to
Buckland and now it's sweeping both of us too far to walk back before
dark if we don't turn around soon..."
Frodo stopped in his tracks and nodded. "True." Then he suddenly asked,"How long will you be staying?"
Bilbo looked away from those expressive eyes, out over the field. He
didn't want to see the change his words would bring. "I'm afraid I'll
have to be on my way tomorrow morning."
"What? Tomorrow? But you've only just arrived!"
"I know. But I need to be there when the Gamgees get back from their
little journey, and I have a...someone coming from another town to see
me. Remember, I hadn't planned on coming here at all."
"But..." Frodo looked terribly disappointed and inclined to protest.
"Now, none of that! I thought you were old enough now..."
"I'm sorry." Frodo said, immediately chastised. "You're right. I
just... I guess I was hoping to spend more time with you. I don't think
we've nearly finished talking."
"I can't promise to have answers for you..."
"I know. But you encourage me. It's nice to know that there are things even you don't know."
Bilbo quirked an eyebrow. "Maybe we can both learn about them together
someday. You will have to come visit me this summer, you know." He
hesitated. "Then...there won't be any rush."
Frodo brightened happily. "How long? When?"
Bilbo smiled at the 'lamb' that practically capered beside him."I'm not
sure yet. But I shall certainly write and let you know. Now let's turn
about. Hup! And off we go again. We should have packed more food. It
might be past supper by the time we get back."
"There's always food in Brandy Hall," said Frodo equitably. "If you don't mind a thrashing from the cook the next morning."
It was late in the afternoon but not yet supper when they arrived back
at the Hall, so Bilbo was spared having to find out what sort of
thrashing Frodo had referred to. The Hall was overflowing with hobbits
coming in from their work, cleaning, talking, getting ready for dinner.
While Frodo went to wash up, Bilbo requested a few withered carrots
from the kitchen and went to the stables to see his pony, leaving
instruction with the stable-master so his cart would be ready to go
first thing in the morning.
The pony reached his head over the stall door and snuffled the carrots
from Bilbo's palm, crunching them contentedly. He was obviously content
where he was, as long as no one asked him to go anywhere. Bilbo patted
his soft nose then reached up to ruffle and scritch the forelock.
The pony tilted his head with appreciation and dribbled bits of carrot
on Bilbo's coat-sleeve. Bilbo sighed.
"Well, old fellow, one more night and it's back we go." The pony
snorted lightly and shook his ears. "Yes, I know. You just want to stay
here in one place and eat to your heart's content. Not unlike most of
us, really." He scrubbed behind the pony's ears, then turned
away, brushing away the carrot bits. He washed his hands and headed in
to find Frodo and a bit to eat.