If you read to the end of the Lord of the Rings and on into the index you discover that King Aragorn made it a law that big people were to keep out of the Shire. To be honest, I never understood that. But now that I live in a small community, beautiful and rich, it’s beginning to make sense to me. ‘They’ve cut down more trees’, ‘they’ve put up another set of new buildings,’ and ‘they’ve primped out the corners of our streets so we can no longer take the shortcuts we used to take at the stoplights,’ these are common complaints that we say every day.
Any changes would bother me, as a Valley resident of almost 25 years. But my older friends who’ve lived here their whole lives are the ones that are really affected. They just want, like the hobbits, to keep the Shire as it has always been. Hobbits are unable to change what the big people do in the world. They want their own little land to be left alone.
But I think it would be sad if the Shire were no longer visited by any other people. After all, wasn’t it a group of visiting dwarves and a wizard that started Bilbo off on that first adventure? We may not want to turn our area into a commercial landing zone lining the insides of a few important people’s pockets. But we’d like to have the friends come; the ones with beautiful creativity and a different yet interesting point of view. The ones that share and enrich, but don’t set out to destroy. Bring on the dwarves!
Donago sat back in his favorite chair and put his hairy feet up on the hearth. It was at times like these that he thought he should find himself a friendly hobbit maiden to ask if he could marry, one that could take turns with him in keeping a fire burning in the hobbit hole for warmth. For now he felt too lazy to get up and make himself dinner. He yawned.
He imagined a little hobbit maiden with delicate ears, a tidbit nose, and a quiet manner. He smiled to himself but in looking around his hole he thought it was too messy to impress anyone. Litters of parchment filled with his drawings and his verse, still watered yet otherwise forgotten pots of flowers and herbs, dusty candlesticks needing to be trimmed; it was true he ought to get going around here. No hobbit maiden would want to stand beside him pottering in the kitchen or making food. And yet he had a nice big hole, cheery with built in bookshelves and a fireplace in every major room.
He sat up and stoked the fire. He would go out and take a stroll through the grasses towards the downs. That always got his blood flowing, especially if he went far enough to catch a whiff of the elusive seabreeze that danced on the tip of the wind just for him. A few minutes later he set off, a bluster of wind whipping down the track of the hillside and tickling him along. He felt a rise of merry laughter and let it out. Why not? He lived at the end of the row, and there was his own beautiful tree waving at him, on the land that the elf had boughten for him. He’d been pleased to discover that he owned quite a bit of land around that tree now, land that he could keep greedy hands off of forever if he wanted.
He passed the tree and entered the world beyond. He went so far he left behind the borders of the Shire. He went down the level, for he wanted distance and speed, to course along his thoughts and his future ambitions. After a long time he grew breathless, so he stopped humming and became quiet; not stealth quiet but hobbit quiet.
It was then that he heard murmuring, and the tinkling sounds of someone making camp. He tilted his pointed ears. He knew that going south, towards the far downs; you’d meet up with the road eventually, and head either deep into the Shire or go the other way, the way of the elves and the sea.
But these noises were to the North and to the Moors; a few miles out towards the tower hills, and there was no path or thoroughfare. What was up there? No Hobbits bothered to explore this expanse of land. He ducked his head and crept now, lowering himself and widening his feet to be quiet. The sun was lowering in the west, almost concealed by the distant hills. He was trying to be quiet, but the beings he was stalking were not. His heart started pounding as he approached.
For he saw a group of big people, men that to him seemed to have dark menacing expressions and eyes that danced with raucous laughter. Their fire cracked and one of them looked his way, almost right into his eyes, except that the man didn’t know he was being watched. One of the others said something and the words were sneering. The fellow in his field of vision turned his head to roar with the rest.
All of a sudden Donago sank down into the grasses. He felt like a small rabbit in its burrow. Around his beloved home predators stalked, carrying fire and big heavy boots on their trampling feet. Their gazes were set on a different horizon, and Donago wondered what it could be that they saw. But having met that fellow’s eyes he was certain of one thing.
This big intruder valued this land and its benefits for different reasons than he did. In standing and roaring, bold as brass, the man felt he had a right to go and do whatever he wished. Donago wondered what would happen if he got up and tried to question them. If he told them, even though technically they were outside the borders of the Shire for now, that they had no right to come and frighten the small creatures that lived nearby.
Or what if he came in another way? Hearing their laughter again he could almost understand them. What if he came with a song and a tale, what if he offered up a meal at his table? They might push in the frame of his round front door. They might track in mud all over his floors with their big boots. And for certain they’d eat him out of house and home. But maybe he could make them turn from frightening to friends.
He shook his head and melted away, making no more noise than a whisper or a silent scurrying chipmunk. Not knowing what was best he abandoned both plans, and got out of the intruder’s earshot. Once free into the grasses he hurried along in the twilight, eager now to return to his hole and burrow safe by the fire, make himself a solitary dinner, and read a good book. He could only hope those strangers meant the Shire no harm.