A/N: I submit this fic as evidence in the case against compulsory education. See, folks? This is what your kids actually do in history class.

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or places borrowed for this fic (heck, I don't even own the plot!). My profuse apologies to Mr. Tolkien for what I've done to his story.

The Cautionary Tale of Bilbo Baggins

Once upon a time in the Third Age there was a lovely green land called the Shire. The people of the Shire were a peaceful folk, farmers, millers, brewers of ale, or inn-keepers all, and they called themselves hobbits. The peoples of other lands (who were often not quite so peaceful) called them the Little Folk, Halfings, Periannath—but mostly they called them Short.

In this lazy little land of well-tended farms and cheerful inns there lived a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo was a typical sort of hobbit; he liked good food and smoke rings, his nice little hobbit-hole, and The Quiet Life in general. Bilbo was also comfortably well-to-do, and very very respectable (which, of course, is hobbit-talk for Unspeakably Dull).

Then, one day, a ragged-looking old man in a tattered gray cape, with a wooden staff and large boots came knocking at Bilbo's front door. In the more civilized realm of Gondor, a character of this description might be mistaken for a wandering hobo, bag lady, Jehovah's Witness or other such roving solicitor and politely discouraged from entering by a salvo from the city walls. Not so in the Shire.

Bilbo Baggins opened the door, and before he knew it the old man (who happened to be Gandalf the Wizard) and thirteen of his closest friends (who happened to be Expatriated Dwarves) were milling around in Bilbo's neat little home and demanding seed cakes. Thus, Bilbo took his first bewildered steps down the path to being Not So Very Respectable After All.

There was a lot of talk about mountains and gold and dragons that night, and the next morning Bilbo was out the door, down the road and far from Hobbiton before he could say "Eru-damned Istari!" (which he might very well have said had he had a clear idea what was happening).

Perhaps the only person who would have been more surprised to find Bilbo Baggins on an Adventure than Bilbo Baggins himself was Bilbo's dearly departed (but highly respectable) father, Bungo Baggins. If Bilbo felt a slight tremor in the ground as he set out on his journey, it was on account of that esteemable hobbit rotating in his grave.

Bilbo soon found that he had an astonishing knack for attracting accidents, trouble, sticky situations, and criminal misdemeanors of all kinds. By the time he and his thirteen dwarven companions had reached the Lonely Mountain, Bilbo had:

-attempted to pick a troll's pocket, resulting in the capture and near-consumption of his companions (1 count of petty larceny; 13 counts of reckless endangerment)

-been taken prisoner by goblins of the Misty Mountains (15 counts of trespassing on goblin property)

-engaged in a game of riddles with a tricksy, smelly, dictionally-challenged, and Otherwise Creepy creature named Gollum (no charges; Gollum cheated too)

-found and made use of a Ring of Power, artifact of Evil imbued with the power of Sauron (several counts of gross ignorance)

-been recaptured by hungry wargs and very peeved goblins; nearly roasted (1 count of exceptionally bad luck)

-become hopelessly lost in the vast and terrible forest of Mirkwood (14 counts of being too foolish to obey instructions;14 additional counts of being too stubborn to ask for directions)

-fought with, killed, and heinously insulted a number of giant spiders in order to free his ensnared companions (63 counts of aggravated assault; spiders are also pressing charges for slander)

-survived, alone and invisible in the palace of Thranduil (several counts of unlawful entry; 300+ counts of petty larceny)

-engineered the escape of his thirteen unfortunate companions from aforementioned palace (13 counts of aiding and abetting)

and, finally

-traversed the River Running by barrel (14 violations of inter-realm commerce laws)

Yes, Bilbo Baggins had a rare talent for attracting Adventure, and by the time he got to Laketown he could be considered a most disreputable hobbit indeed. After all, although many of the things that happened to him in the beginning were the work of Cruel and Ironic Fate, by the time he reached the end of his journey Bilbo was being very adventurous all on his own.

This is not to say that Bilbo was entirely happy with his newfound connection to his Inner Burglar, or that he never tried to retain his respectability. In the beginning, many were the times that he wished with all his little hobbit heart that he had never heard of Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Nori, Dori, Ori, Óin, Glóin or any of the rest, and most especially Thorin Oakenshield. Many were the times that he wished that, instead of conferring the power of invisibility (which only seemed to encourage the dwarves in their larcenous plans for Bilbo), the Ring had done something actually useful (like allowed for time travel). Bilbo would have returned to that fine summer morning when Gandalf first knocked on his beautiful green door, kicked it shut in the wizard's face, and locked himself in his deepest and best-stocked pantry until Smaug was dead and his Mountain crumbled (or at least until the scones ran out).

Alas, this sort of resistance to his transformation was short lived. Although Bilbo claimed that he could "stop whenever he wanted", he just couldn't seem to kick the habit of being adventurous (and burglary had become a sort of addiction). By the time he reached the Lonely Mountain, Bilbo was a Most Infamous hobbit indeed, indeed.

But inside the Lonely Mountain lived someone even more infamous than Bilbo. The dragon Smaug had acquired the place, fully furnished, in a hostile takeover from Thorin's father. It was Smaug's plan to corner the Middle-earth gold market and use the profits to set up a chain of luxury condominiums on the Bay of Belfalas.

But Thorin (who had some leftist political leanings) thought a radical redistribution of wealth was in order. (More specifically, he thought the wealth should be redistributed to him.) And he thought Bilbo was just the comrade to do it.

By this point, Bilbo had become so used to thievery, burglary, and Doings of Dubious Legality in general that grand larceny didn't seem like such a bad idea. So off he trotted down into the dragon's lair to see what he could make off with. When he trotted back up again, he had in his possession a rather large and valuable golden cup that didn't belong to him.

When Smaug discovered the theft he was (justifiably) enraged. Some tiny, brash, and morally bankrupt creature had invaded his home and filched a very pricey piece of tableware. Something had to be done.

Now, the proper procedure would have been for Smaug to alert the authorities, and then, after the cup had been found and the culprit apprehended, press charges against Bilbo in the High Court of Barad-dûr (the dragon was, after all, a creature of Morgoth and therefore Evil). However, Smaug scorned the legal system (he thought lawyers were poisonous worms) and much preferred vigilante justice.

So off Smaug flew in a towering rage, fully intending to find the thief, smash him into tiny pieces, incinerate the fragments, and leave what was left in a jelly jar outside the West Gate as an object lesson to other would-be burglars. He flew around the mountainside to the alcove where the miserable criminal was probably skulking. He breathed torrents of fire into the little opening, and smote the rock face with great blows of his tail until part of the mountainside crumbled and collapsed. Then, satisfied that the insolent little upstart was good and smashed and dead (but still feeling a little tweaked), he flew off to Esgaroth to devour some maidens.

But Bilbo was not dead, and neither were his companions (though they were very frightened and rather singed). And when Smaug flew to Laketown, he found no tender maidens, but an abundance of stout bowmen, one of whom had the audacity to shoot the affronted dragon dead.

In the end, Bilbo escaped his Quest (physically) unscathed. But his disgracefully unrespectable (and seemingly incurable) penchant for Adventure, Burglary, and Invisibility demolished his good reputation. Ever afterwards, he was known in the Shire as "Mad Baggins" and considered a very queer and shady character indeed. And he never could kick the habit of slipping on his ring whenever the Sackville-Bagginses came to call. However, Bilbo was not inclined to complain too much. At least Smaug had not succeeded in smashing him into Halfling pudding.

The moral of the story: Bad hobbits are hard to break.

Well, if you had any doubts as to whether the pun really is the lowest form of humor, I think I've removed them. In a perfectly just world, I would be dragged out and shot for that one. But on the other hand, I'm sure you're now a morally better person for having read this fable *snerk*. Oh, and for all you law students out there, I know absolutely nothing about legal stuff, other than what you can get from watching a few episodes of "Law and Order". If something isn't accurate, tough noogies! (Just kidding, tell me in a review:))