Book Simple: Bilbo’s Adventure Ends at Pea Soup Anderson’s
a blogumn by Amy Brown
When I left off reading The Hobbit last week, Bilbo Baggins had stumbled across a ring belonging to Gollum, a slimy little creature, hidden in a dark cavern of the Misty Mountains. Discovering Bilbo has a knife, Gollum “became quite polite. ‘Praps ye sits here and chats with it a bitsy, my preciouss. It like riddles, praps it does, does it?’” And the battle of wits is enjoined.
Gollum asks “What has roots as nobody see, Is taller than trees Up, up it goes, And yet never grows?” As Joshua correctly noted, the answer is a mountain, just like our Mt. Shasta, which in daytime is rather glorious. In his first battle, Bilbo prevails. He also discovers that the ring (a rather large feature in another set of books by the same author) has certain magical properties that come in rather handy.
Besides that first stroke of good luck, no one has ever had a more thoroughly disaster-prone road trip than Mr. Baggins. Bilbo hits his head a lot. The dwarves, who loudly doubt his usefulness, leave the hobbit behind at nearly every opportunity. He’s harassed by trolls, chased by wolves, nearly burnt by goblins, entrapped by giant spiders, doused by several rivers and bewitched by a dragon. He frequently has to go without the lovely “bacon and eggs and toast and butter” available in his hobbit-hole pantry.
Such, as well, was my unhappy fate on our drive home. This past weekend I had the pleasure to watch some new friends get married in Ashland, OR. It was a delightful time, but inevitably the end arrived, bride and groom packed off to Seattle, best man toast given (to great acclaim). The boyfriend (and aforementioned best man) and I packed up the rented suits and got on the road.
The twelve hours between Ashland and Burbank stretched grimly onward, with nothing but the sad, saturated-fat laden offerings of highway road stops to stem off starvation. Luckily, our hosts in Ashland had packed us a bag full of treats, including some delicious cashew nut trail mix that got me through until we reached Pea Soup Andersen’s, where at long last I was permitted to feast.
As G.K. Chesterton wrote, “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” Bilbo’s troubles allow him to prove his worth to his traveling companions, whom he rescues from the spiders and from their Wood-elf captors. The hobbit meets and befriends bears and eagles and elves, braves battle and outwits the dragon as surely as he did Gollum. Bilbo learns to feel a gratitude for his adventures: “I never expected to be so pleased to see the sun again,” he notes, “and to feel the wind on my face.” As Gandalf notes, travelling back with him to Bilbo’s Hill, he is not the hobbit he once was.
Of course, coming home brings its own strife; Bilbo returns to his hole to find it up for auction, his long absence leading his family to imagine him dead. I found myself back in L.A. on Thursday morning facing a pile of work and emails that made me wish Smaug could eat me instead. And a cold!