by Belladonna Baggins née Took
(transl. Cat Pegg)Chapter One: I Leave The Shire
The Took family … was liable to produce in every generation strong characters of peculiar habits and even adventurous temperament.
The Fellowship of the Ring
'You shouldn't smoke,' I said firmly, 'it'll take years off your life.'
'Is that so?' said Gandalf.
Possibly I should describe the scene in which this conversation took place. I was in a tree. Gandalf – you've probably heard of Gandalf, he's a wizard – was sitting with his back against it, wiggling his scrawny toes in the grass, and smoking a pipe. A little blue butterfly hovered at the edge of his hat, quite oblivious to the fumes. Birds were singing, bees were humming, the ruckus going on down the lane in Great Smials was almost muffled.
'Your hair's grubby,' I added. 'You haven't been looking after it.'
'I regret, Miss Took, that the privations of the road …'
'I wouldn't know,' I said, and sighed.
He cocked a bushy eyebrow at me. I pointed down the lane. 'It's my older brothers,' I said, 'seven of them. They have forsaken their essential Tookishness and desire respectability. It's a mug's game and I told them so.
'More to the point, they won't let me go off on an Adventure. I'm only thirty-two and I need permission from my family. I have to admit that I forsook the behaviour appropriate to a young hobbit when I expressed my displeasure at their refusal to give it. They are shouting at my bedroom door right now.'
'They appear to be under the erroneous impression that I am in there, sulking. My youngest sister, Mirabella, is aiding that impression by banging on the wall every now and then. I snuck out the window.'
'I recognize you now,' he said. 'You are that Belladonna Took that once set off all my fireworks in one ghastly holocaust –'
'I was much younger then. It was an accident.'
'And staged a masque of Bandobras Took inventing golf –'
'That was a team effort.'
'And planted the Green with daffodils –'
'I helped plant the daffodils.'
'And defenestrated the -'
'That was me. It was very ugly. And I glued it together better than new afterwards.' I smiled, thinking of old triumphs. A thought struck me.
'Are you not that Gandalf that sent my older brother Hildifone on an Adventure?'
'I have many names,' he said, 'in many lands. Hildifone did know me as Gandalf.'
'Well? Do you have any more Adventures? I could go on one. And climb a tree, and see the sea, and catch a bee – well, maybe not the bee …'
'Hildifone never came back,' he said, chewing his moustache. The blue butterfly was hovering by his ear at this point.
'Knowing Hildy,' I said, 'he's having a party somewhere and has forgotten the time. Or he got lefts and rights mixed up again and is visiting the Swertings in the Sunny Lands. Pleeeease. I won't play with your fireworks. I promise.'
'Belladonna Took,' Gandalf said, 'I do not keep Adventures in my back pocket to entertain young Hobbits. You must seek elsewhere.' It was at about this point that a little bird, black-and-white with a bright red head and green on its wings fluttered out of the trees and perched on the wizard's shoulder. It chirped into his right ear and his eyes went wide and round. 'In any case,' he said, hauling on his socks and boots, 'I must be off. A matter of some urgency has come to my attention. Perhaps we can continue this discussion another time.' And he left, just like that.
There I was, with the butterfly, left to our own devices.
'Butterfly,' says I, 'just what is an Adventure, anyway? Exploring the burrows of my ancestors on the banks of Great River – that's an Adventure.'
The butterfly bobbed up and down, as if to say 'Yes.'
'Going camping, by comparison, is just a minor amusement and no harm could come of it.' The bug bobbed sideways, agreeing with my negative (the no harm part). 'Excellent!' I said, clapping my hands.
I needed some camping gear.
This was actually very tricky. I needed to plan and execute raids on several sites of strategic importance that would all be guarded at this time of day. I called to mind the words of my Great-Great-Uncle Bandobras: Audacity, Tenacity, Plasticity.
Audacity involved climbing back up an ivy-covered hillside, through a window that gets smaller every year - drat the thing - and into my bedroom. Dear Mirabella was still thumping on the wall with a broomstick, bless her. I put a finger to my lips and hurriedly packed some clothes and hooked my bow off the wall. Then I was squirreling out the window again and skidding down the hillside with no-one else the wiser.
Tenacity meant hiding in deep cover for several hours, waiting for the kitchen to finally be empty. I hurriedly packed some dried meat, flour, tea, a few raisins – and realized to my horror that my little brother Isengar had been sitting in an inglenook watching me the whole time. He's actually quite easy to bribe – you may find this information useful someday.
The last task required Plasticity in both body and mind. Planning a route through Great Smials is difficult at the best of times. Avoiding all the inhabitants (not counting younger siblings) is almost impossible. Fortunately, I knew to climb up the tower Great-Great-Grandmother built as a folly, down the inside, into a basement, through a secret passage I found by accident and up a disused chimney. This perilous route got me to the Study, where I had last seen my tinder-box and lantern. I found them in the clutter on the mantelpiece and an unexpected bonus in the chair by the little fire:
Dad was awake.
'Adamanta,' he said cheerfully in his wavering voice.
'No Dad,' I said, kissing him on the top of his scaly, wrinkled head, 'I'm Belladonna.'
'What was that?'
'Belladonna!' I shouted. 'Your daughter! Dad! I'm going away on a trip!'
'Oh, that's lovely, enjoy yourself, dear.'
If you think about it, that constitutes permission from the head of the family, so everything I did later was perfectly justified.
'Dad! I brought you some flowers!' I continued, but his eyes were closing again. I put the daisies, a little crumpled, in a vase, and poured him some more water, then back up the chimney. Little did I know that this would lead to the most dire encounter of all.
I was on the road out of Tuckborough, a pretty path with flowering hedges, when I saw him. I tried to roll out of sight under a hedge but it was too late – I'd been spotted. A pair of perfectly manicured, exquisitely combed feet stopped beside my hiding place.
'Are you all right, Miss Belladonna?' he said anxiously.
'There is no need for a Miss,' I said irritably, rolling from the hedge and dusting my skirts. 'Carting ten barrows of daffodil bulbs, on a moonless night, together, surely puts us on first name terms. Does it not?'
He blushed and looked at his feet. So did I.
I didn't know why, but for the past six months I hadn't been able to look at Bungo Baggins without getting red in the face. It was ruining a perfectly sensible relationship between adventuress and, er, sidekick. It was embarrassing. It made me want to, well, blush.
He looked at my backpack, and at the bow slung across it.
'I'm going away on a trip,' I said breezily, 'I don't expect to be long.'
He didn't say anything. I noticed that there was a large bundle of carnations hidden behind his back. I knew how long he'd been growing them. Aargh.
'Look,' I said, 'I'm almost thirty-three. I'm going to be respectable soon, whether I want to or not. I could not bear to be respectable without doing something of note.'
'You could be noted for growing the finest garden in the Shire,' he said desperately. 'I could help you.'
'It's not the same,' I said, hopping from one foot to another.
'Do you need a –'
'It's just a camping trip,' I said. 'And practically in the Shire. How much harm can I come to in the Shire?'
'I'll be ever ever so careful, I promise you. And I always keep my promises to you.'
He wrung his hands, mashing the flowers slightly. Then he sighed and nodded. I sidled up and gave him a quick peck on the cheek before running down the road.
I didn't look back.Next: The Old Forest
1. While I was using all of the Middle Earth books as a reference, this owes more to The Hobbitthan The Lord of the Rings.
2. This story is eight chapters long, and will be updated every Monday, assuming that I don't forget.
3. Reviews are welcome. (This is my first post to - please be kind.)