- The journey home, to the Shire, saw the wizard and the hobbit reaching Rivendell on the evening of May 1st, back to the same silly singing of the Elves from the house of Elrond.
- Gandalf regaled the denizens of the house with the quest, and his own adventure – which Bilbo had not been privy to. More tales were told, but of course despite being in a premium seat, Bilbo nodded his way through it.
- They stayed a week, thoroughly reinvigorating Bilbo like a spa-getaway.
- On the way back, they picked up the trolls’ gold.
- They finally reached the Shire in June where Bilbo was just in time to stop the auctioning of Bag-End and its contents. Of course his return was a STIR, and brewed the enmity with the SBs stronger than ever, his spoon collection and his reputation the hapless collateral damage. Though he never minded being labelled “queer” (with much more innocuous connotations in those halcyon days), and began a new career as a poet and Elf-visitor.
- Years later, Gandalf and Balin visited him as he was setting his adventures into a book of memoirs (no prizes for guessing its title).
- All seemed well, with Lake-town prospering, the old Master dead (dying a fitting death from abscondment with the relief gold) and replaced by a better one. Bard rebuilt Dale, and the desolate lands were desolate no more. Even Dwarves were chummy with Elves and Men again.
There a warm welcome was made them, and there were many eager ears that evening to hear the tale of their adventures. Gandalf it was who spoke, for Bilbo was fallen quiet and drowsy. Most of the tale he knew, for he had been in it, and had himself told much of it to the wizard on their homeward way or in the house of Beorn; but every now and again he would open one eye, and listen, when a part of the story which he did not yet know came in.
It was in this way that he learned where Gandalf had been to; for he overheard the words of the wizard to Elrond. It appeared that Gandalf had been to a great council of the white wizards, masters of lore and good magic; and that they had at last driven the Necromancer from his dark hold in the south of Mirkwood.
“Ere long now,” Gandalf was saying, “the Forest will grow somewhat more wholesome. The North will be freed from that horror for many long years, I hope. Yet I wish he were banished from the world!”
“It would be well indeed,” said Elrond; “but I fear that will not come about in this age of the world, or for many after.”
The gist of the heretofore undisclosed part of Gandalf’s adventure apart from the Company.
One autumn evening some years afterwards Bilbo was sitting in his study writing his memoirs —he thought of calling them “There and Back Again, a Hobbit’s Holiday”—when there was a ring at the door. It was Gandalf and a dwarf; and the dwarf was actually Balin.
Old friends, and updates. The best kind of ending.
“Of course!” said Gandalf. “And why should not they prove true? Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!”
Cryptic wizard mode mode again!
Was Gandalf being his secretive wizardry self or had Bilbo never though to ask him what he was doing in the interim? I surmise Thranduil the Elvenking knew the outline if not the details, since it concerned his realm, which would dovetail with the camaraderie at the farewell at the borders of Mirkwood.
Here the tale wraps up, but of course does not end. It’s been said the prof embarked on an adult-version of TH complementary to LotR, but was dissuaded from seeing the project through by someone near. One can only wonder at the potential of that version. Nevertheless, the TH as the world knows it is enough (or maybe not, depending on the individual) material to be fleshed out as a movie trilogy, which is no kiddy-ride. It is perhaps in the celluloid adaptation that we glimpse and dream about the abandoned version.
Onward then, sixty years after, to LotR.
PS: Next up for the TH notation – mapping out the timeline.