Prologue

Up jumped Bilbo, and putting on his dressing-gown went into the dining-room. There he saw nobody, but all the signs of a large and hurried breakfast. There was a fearful mess in the room, and piles of unwashed crocks in the kitchen. Nearly every pot and pan he possessed seemed to have been used. The washing-up was so dismally real that Bilbo was forced to believe the party of the night before had not been part of his bad dreams, as he had rather hoped. Indeed he was really relieved after all to think that they had all gone without him, and without bothering to wake him up (“but with never a thank-you” he thought); and yet in a way he could not help feeling just a trifle disappointed. The feeling surprised him.

But then, unbeknownst to Mr Baggins, last night something Tookish had awoken in him. Of course it was all That Wizard’s fault, but Bilbo did not know the full extent of how much he had been caught up in something quite outside of his scale of thought, for however briefly. It had all started two mornings past when he was standing at his door after breakfast smoking an enormous long pipe that reached nearly down to his wooly toes, his favourite morning pipe at that. An old man had come by in a grey worn cloak and a white scarf over which a white bread hung, though strands of black still showed about his lips. He had a grave look on his long face, though it seemed to Bilbo yet benevolent and still kind, such as a stern grandfather might have toward a beloved child who had just been caught pinching apples from his orchard.

“Good morning” Bilbo had called to him, though by the time the conversation was over he rather wished that he hadn’t, and by the next evening he wished that even more so. You see, Hobbits are, by nature, rather hospitable creatures and rather enjoy having guests round to share good food and conversation, and so out of instinct the poor Hobbit found himself so flustered that he excused himself from the conversation and offered up an invitation to supper the next evening as a peace offering. The wizard, for that is who the old man was, had been speaking about taking Mr Baggins on some sort of awful adventure, or at least that is what poor Bilbo had been able to surmise, and so the hobbit had made good his escape as soon as he was able.

Of course when the next evening had come round, Bilbo had quite forgotten about the whole unpleasant business and was just sitting down to a spot of tea with some cake when the doorbell went, and he found himself beset by Dwarves. First one showed up and Bilbo, being hospitable by nature as all hobbits are, had invited him in. But then another arrived, and then a pair and another five after that, and so company had become a troop and then a throng. Finally another four Dwarves arrived, including a very curt and stern, though perfectly proper, Dwarf named Thorin Oakenshield. And with them had finally come That Wizard. Apparently this whole situation had been of his design, and took no small amount of quiet amusement in the outworkings of it.

And so the evening went on, and Bilbo learned that not only were these Dwarfs on a quest to reclaim their treasure from a dragon, a very dangerous quest by the sounds of things, but that they wanted him of all hobbits, of all anyone that is, to come with them as their Burglar to help steal it back. Now of course Mr Baggins was all in favour of the sacred laws of property ownership, and enforcing those rules as much as any gentleman denied what is rightfully his. But to contend with a live dragon is another thing entirely.

Yet as the Dwarves talked and sann, Bilbo found himself caught up in the stories and songs of Dwarven yore. He felt the love of beautiful things made by hands and by cunning and by magic moving through him, a fierce and jealous love, the desire of Dwarves. Then something had awoken in him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking stick. But that desire passed and inviting them to breakfast, out of courtesy more than any other motivation, Bilbo excused himself and went to bed.

And now here he stood, in the ruin that was his kitchen, and he quickly shook the feeling of disappointment from his shoulders and went about his business, Then just as he was sitting down to a nice little second breakfast in the dining-room by the open window, in walked That Wizard into his hole rather impatient. 

“And whatever are you still doing here?” The wizard’s voice seemed to resonate around the confines of Bilbo’s hobbit-hole, as though it was too small to contain such a mighty presence. “They are waiting for you at the Green Dragon Inn. I trust you can find your way there at least.” he said with a bushy eyebrow raised. “No time for chatter, off you go!”

To the end of his days Bilbo could never remember how he found himself outside, without a hat, walking stick or any money, or anything that he usually took when he went out; leaving his second breakfast half-finished and quite unwashed-up, pushing his keys into Saruman’s hands, and running as fast as his furry feet could carry him down the lane, pass the great Mill, across The Water, and then on for a whole mile or more. Very puffed he was, when he got to the Green Dragon Inn and found he had come without a pocket-handkerchief!

Chapter I coming soon…