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Monday, March 11, 2013

Hobbiton, An Unexpected Pleasure

A Shire Hobbit home.  

I was brought to the top of the hill, where I could see the little homes dug into the hillsides.  I held my breath.  Yes, the colors were true, the gardens well-tended, the chimneys not yet smoking with the preparation of the evening meal.  I had to restrain myself from running headlong down the hill, calling out the names of friends I had never met.

No, running would never do.  Not in the Shire.  A woman of my years would be expected to retain her dignity and walk, so walk I did.  But as my eyes and ears searched every sight and sound, my heart raced.  I was not permitted to actually knock on the doors – I couldn’t even go through the gates to the tiny front gardens – but I peered as carefully as I could through the windows, looking for some movement within each home.

Bag End.
Alas, though we visitors were many that day, the village was empty.  Not a single light inside any home.  Even the one door that stood invitingly open – Bag End – seemed ready to fall shut at any moment.  NO HOBBITS HERE, a sign might well have said, even though it looked as though they had been here ten minutes before our group's arrival.

The woodcutter’s axe lay atop the chopping block, with firewood filling the wheelbarrow just next to it. The smithy’s tools lay on a worktable, but no fire burned in the forge.  The courting pond and bench felt lonely, with no young lovers there. The seesaws under the Party Tree were set up, but no children raced to jump on them.  Even the beehives sat abandoned, as evidenced by the game equipment stored next to them. The whole village seemed forsaken.

The Party Tree.
Or perhaps not.  Be still.  After a long moment, I thought I heard something.  I looked back up the hill, and heard it again - children laughing.  Smiling, I turned to continue my walk, with new eyes and ears.  Mothers cooing to their babes, fathers joking with each other, children picking wildflowers from the far side of the field fences, new-found friends of all ages sharing discoveries with each other.  Down on the field under the Party Tree, families and friends both played and rested together.  Through the windows and doors of the  little hobbit homes, through the ground up the chimneys and out of the grass percolated a sense of trust, of easy camaraderie, and every one of us on that hillside responded.  The little village was alive with sound, with purpose, and with kindness, as our group listened, chatted, and smiled with each other.

The water mill, complete with working wheel.

Down the hill again to the bridge by the water mill – trading cameras to take shots for each other, talking about our jobs, our families, our pleasure at sharing this place.  No wonder hobbits who left were considered odd – yes, it would be hard work (living off the land always is), but who would want to leave home when home provides you everything you need?

By the time we all reached the Green Dragon Inn, the Shire pub, we were completely at ease, and raising a glass (of ginger beer) to salute each other seemed perfectly natural.  And our entire group enjoyed each other’s company much more on our return bus trip.  What a model for connected, caring, social circles.  Both Tolkien and Jackson got this one right - no wonder it still resounds in my heart.  

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