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Lessons for a Young Hobbit  by Larner

Lessons for a Young Hobbit


A is for Arnor

            “Arnor?  The ancient kingdom within which we live was called Arnor?”

            “Yes.  Argeleb the Second, then King of Arnor, gave us these lands for our own.  What was once Cardolan of Arnor is now the Shire.  I suppose the name means the Royal Land, or the High King’s Land.  It’s from Adúnaic, you see, in which the ar- prefix indicates royalty.  At first they used the Elvish tar- to indicate the one named was the King, but that changed when they embraced Adúnaic.  Kings once dwelt in Buckland, and the Barrow-downs hold the tombs of Arnor’s royalty.”

            Frodo’s eyebrows rose.


B is for Books

            Books!  Frodo stood close to the shelves and inhaled the intoxicating scent of leather and old glue, crackling paper and parchment and ink.  How rich this room was in terms of information, waiting patiently to be mined by a young Hobbit intent on adding to his personal store of knowledge.

            He ran his finger down the spine of a volume bound in calfskin, embossed with a silver ship with a star shining from the mast.  “Tales from Beleriand,” he read as he translated the Tengwar script.  And it was there for him to read at his leisure!  He felt blest!

C is for Camping

            “Camping?  You propose camping as a subject for study by the lad?”

            “I know it sounds frivolous, Saradoc, but I assure you that I am serious.  Where would I have been had Uncle Isengar not taken me camping when I was young?”

            “But Frodo will never be leaving the Shire—not the way you did.”

            “And do you truly think that we who are adults now will always manage to keep him safely at home within the Shire?  We cannot rule his final fate, you know.”

            A listening Frodo felt chills run up his spine, and hugged his new pack.

D is for Drawing


            “Drawing certainly is one of Frodo’s Gifts,” Aunt Dora Baggins said as she looked through the folder Bilbo had given her to examine.  “This Butterfly appears almost ready to Flutter Away!”

            Bilbo nodded with satisfaction.  “He’s always been good with drawing, but now he’s becoming a veritable master.  And for Yule I’ve managed to procure for him colored chalks made by the Dwarves of Erebor.  I cannot wait to see what he does with them!”

            By spring Dora had three great pictures of butterflies and flower blossoms, framed in delicate pale birch, hanging in her parlor.  She felt Most Gratified!

E is for Etiquette

            “Etiquette?  Why must I study etiquette, Bilbo?”

            “Think, Frodo.  First, you are the Master’s nephew and a cousin to the Thain himself, as well as being the ward and heir-presumptive to me as the Baggins.  You’re even related by marriage to the Mayor!  People expect that you will know how to behave properly in all circumstances, you understand.  You will also need to hold your own against Lalia and the S-Bs, which will be much easier when you do it with impeccable behavior.  Besides, if I don’t insist on you studying etiquette your Aunt Dora will never leave us be!”

F is for Farming

            “Farming’s the backbone of Shire life!” Bilbo exclaimed as they rode down the lane into the farm on which Paladin Took and his family dwelt.  “Without farms, where would we obtain our food?”

            For days Frodo collected eggs with Pervinca, fed the stock with Pimpernel, wielded a hoe with Pearl, smeared liniment on sheep with Eglantine, mucked stalls with Paladin and the hands, went over accounts in the evening, and kept little Pippin under watch between times.  Before they went to sleep the fifth night, Bilbo examined his hands.  “Each blister’s a badge of honor, Frodo-my-lad.”

            Frodo smiled in satisfaction.

G is for Grammar—and Gardeners

            “Grammar indicates that if’n isn’t a correct word to use,” Frodo began, only to be interrupted by Bilbo.

            “That’s quite enough of you trying to be the grammar-shiriff,” the older Hobbit said.  When Sam had gone home for lunch, Bilbo explained, “You must understand, Frodo, that we are already challenging the Gaffer’s expectations by seeing to it that his children know how to read and write and figure.  If you insist that Sam speak with grammatical correctness, he will see it as you encouraging his son to be above himself, and he may forbid him taking more lessons.”

            Frodo nodded.

H is for History

            “History,” sniffed Menegilda, “seems to serve as the bulk of the lad’s studies.”

            Bilbo shrugged.  “Those who refuse to study history are often doomed to repeat past mistakes that might well have been avoided.”

            “But why so much focus on Elves, Men, and Dwarves?  What do Big Folk have to do with us Hobbits?”

            “Do you truly think that if those around us find themselves caught in a war that we will go unscathed?  Let there be at least one Hobbit of sense who is familiar with patterns of history who can advise the rest if the worst should come.”

I is for Illustration and Illumination

            “Illustration is adding pictures to stories to depict scenes from them.  Illumination is decorating each leaf so as to make the turning of each page a joy.”

            Frodo nodded at these descriptions.  He’d determined to copy out a story from one of Bilbo’s books of tales for Merry for Frodo’s next birthday, and now decided he’d illuminate it.

            Bilbo’s tray of colored inks was pressed into use, as were Frodo’s paints.


            “My heavens!” exclaimed Menegilda.  “He’s made the very letters into trees and flowers, and look at the scrollwork of vines about each page!”

            Merry beamed.  Love filled these pages.

J is for Judgment

            “Judgment,” Bilbo said, not turning from where he watched one of the Overhill Bagginses heading down the Hill toward home, “is the most important skill you’ll need as the Baggins.  Justice cannot be too harsh, and must be properly tempered with mercy and discernment.  Come to know those you will be responsible for so that you will know what will best deter each from self-centeredness and inspire each to generosity and consideration for others.

            “As for the Sackville-Bagginses—well, they are needy and greedy, I’ve found.  But there’s always a way to bring out the best in the rest.”

K is for the King

            “The King is the proper ruler even of the Shire.”

            “But Bilbo, there hasn’t been a King in Arnor for over a thousand years!”

            “But that doesn’t mean that his heirs aren’t still somewhere, Frodo.  Arvedui Last-king had two sons, and his younger son Beleg disappeared with him into the snowy wastes of Forochel.  His heir Aranarth swore that his lineage would accept the Kingship again only when Arnor and its sister-realm Gondor were finally united once more under one rule.  And who knows?  Perhaps you shall live to see such days!”

            Frodo felt a strange thrill at such words.

L is for Language

            “Language used tells us a good deal about those speaking it.  Each people has its own language that has developed within a particular environment, and the vocabulary and rate of speech tell us what’s important to those who lived in such an environment.  Those who live in busy environments might speak swiftly so as to impart a good deal before a danger shows itself; those whose land is open and calm may speak slowly, recalling ripples of grass with the breeze blowing through it.”

            Frodo’s eyes sparkled at the thought of learning about a people just from studying their speech.

M is for Mathematics

            Mathematics began making sense under Bilbo’s tutelage.  Columns of figures in Bag End and the family’s ledgers indicated that both smial and the Baggins clan were equally solvent and prospering—financially, at least.  Children were being born at a normal rate, but----

            “I’m concerned, Uncle.  With the death of those two little lads in Overhill, that leaves no male children to carry on the name in that branch of the family.”

            Bilbo’s eyes were filled with equal concern.  “It would appear that the Bagginses, as is true of the Sackvilles, are a dying breed.  It does happen.”

            Frodo sighed.

N is for Natural History

            “Natural History’s the lad’s truest interest,” Bilbo remarked in low tones to the Gaffer, watching their two lads from the hedge around the gardens.  Frodo and Sam were across the lane in the field where they’d been walking along the hedge there.  Now the two paused, looking at something young Master Frodo had pulled from the bushes, Sam on his toes to examine whatever was held in the tween’s cupped hands.

            “Don’t understand how noone could be fascinated by bugs,” the Gaffer rejoined, but he also kept his voice low.  It was obvious both lads were absorbed in their study.

O is for Optical Illusions

            “Optical Illusions?” read Frodo.

            “Yes!  I first saw this book in Rivendell, and Master Elrond agreed to loan it to me.  I hoped that with your talent you could copy it.”

            Intrigued, Frodo opened it.

            “Now, these two lines with the arrows at the end—which appears longer?  Actually, they’re the same length.  And these stairs---do they go up to the left—or the right?  Now, this figure—what is it you see?”

            “A duck,” Frodo responded, then with surprise, “No, a rabbit!”  His eyes were beginning to sparkle with fascination.  “How odd!”

            Bilbo beamed.


As one who has taught people with visual problems, both having to do with problems of the eye and the various visual discrimination and interpretation centers within the brain and nervous system, I find visual perception to be a fascinating study.  And optical illusions are always fun to explore.  Such a book as this resides in my own library, alongside a volume that describes how studies of how people interpret such figures has revealed the heierarchical rules hardwired into our brains that allow us to properly interpret visual scenes.  I can easily imagine the Elves becoming aware of optical illusions and beginning to gather examples onto volumes.  Those described in this drabble are fairly common examples used to introduce people to the phenomenon.

P is for Poetry

            “Poetry,” Bilbo proclaimed, tapping the page before him, “is the language of the divine.  It is characterized by rhythm and usually rhyme.  It contains words carefully chosen to convey imagery and feeling.  Listen!

            “Gil-galad was an Elven king.

            Of him the harpers sadly sing….” 

            Later Frodo found Sam poring over the book from which Bilbo had read, his lips moving, tasting each syllable, committing the poem to memory.  Realizing he was no longer alone, he looked up, not with guilt but with suppressed excitement.  “Do you think, Master Frodo, as some day I might see such a thing as Elves?”

Q is for Quenya

            “Quenya?” repeated Bilbo.  “It’s a language—quite a formal Elvish language that is, I am told, spoken by few.  It’s the language of the High Elves, those who beheld the Powers in the time of the Trees before the Noldor returned to Middle Earth in pursuit of the Marrer after he destroyed the Trees and stole the Silmarils.  The High King of the Elves of Middle Earth, learning these had slain their mutual kindred in order to sail here, forbade that it be spoken openly, and thusly few use it.  But it’s not forgotten.”

            Frodo pondered this information consideringly.

R is for Research

            “Research seeks all information on a subject from all available sources.”

            “Dragons?” suggested Sam from his sums.

            “Associated words:  worm, wyrm, firedrake, cold-drake, hoards, Túrin….”  Bilbo scrawled each one.

            Frodo:  “Glaurung!”

            Sam:  “Eärendil fought one!”

            “The Battle of Sudden Flames!  Morgoth!”

            “You, Mr. Bilbo?”

            “Yes,” approved Frodo.  “The Lonely Mountain.  The Devastation.  Bard the Bowman!”

            “Now you can question individuals who have knowledge, or scan through books for any of these associated terms….”

            Frodo was soon scouring Bilbo’s library, slips of parchment in hand, having been charged to find at least twenty citations within it having to do with dragons.

S is for Singing

            “Singing,” Bilbo consoled an irate Frodo, “is anything but the frivolous exercise Lalia names it.  After all, we are told that the Powers sang the whole universe into existence.  Does that sound frivolous?  And no matter what I’ve said in my stories to the children, there is nothing in the least frivolous in the singing of Elven lords.  I’ve heard both Elrond of Rivendell and the King of Mirkwood singing, and both are capable of songs of power and majesty.  So, piffle to the pronouncements of Lalia Clayhanger Took.  They are but the whines of one who is tone deaf!”

T is for Tickling Fish

            “Tickling fish?” commented Bilbo, eyeing the string Frodo had brought back to their camp from the stream.  “Who taught you that?”

            Frodo laughed as he set them down on the metal platter Bilbo had brought along on their camping trip.  “My cousin Merimac.  He told me it was an excellent skill for a Hobbit to know if he planned to spend much time out-of-doors during the summer.  He called me an apt pupil.”

            “I wish I’d learned that trick before my adventure,” Bilbo said as he reached for a fish and began cleaning it for the pan.  “Most useful indeed!”

U is for Ungoliant

             Ungoliant!  He ought to have remembered, he thought, laboring to cut the dark web, grateful for the Elven blade he now wielded.  Sting, after all, had been intended to defend against creatures of such darkness!  An image of Bilbo seated in front of the parlor fire, reading aloud the tale of the destruction of the Two Trees by means of Morgoth’s spear and Ungoliant’s mouth-parts, Sam sitting solidly against his own shoulder as they listened and imagined the deed.  No wonder Faramir’s teachers quailed at the name of the pass!  It was named for her!  This is the Spider’s Pass!

V is for the Valar

            “The Valar, in the High Tongue, or the Belain in more common Elvish, are the Powers of the West who dwell in the Undying Lands beyond the Sea.  It was they who Sang the world into being, under the direction of Iluvatar, the Creator.  I suspect that we Hobbits were created by the harmonies of Yavanna, Lady of growing things, and Aulë, the Lord of the Earth itself.  Although, my boy, with your abiding love of stars I suspect that most of your worship would be accorded to the Lady Elbereth, or Varda, the Star Kindler.”

            Frodo indicated his understanding.

W is for Writing

            “Writing he learned as a faunt,” observed Esmeralda, “like reading.  He learned both sitting on his father’s lap while Drogo read aloud from whatever he was reading or writing at the time.  He’d take the quill from Drogo’s fingers and seek to copy the letters.  He’s always shown a lovely hand, but now his ability to express himself or an argument is excellent!  You’ve done a wonderful job in teaching him, Bilbo!”

            Bilbo advised her, “It’s more all the reading he’s done.  He reads a good deal written by the Elves, and they are the masters of writing, after all.”

X is for Xenophobia

            “Xenophobia sounds a foul word, you say?  Foul it is, sound and meaning both.  It’s the tendency to hate and fear those who aren't as you are—those of different races, from different lands, who speak different languages or  worship strange gods.  It's seen most commonly, I’m told, among Men, although I’ve known a few Dwarves who hate almost all Elves with a passion that is difficult to appreciate until you’ve seen it.

            “The epitome of xenophobia, however, occurs in goblins, who hate all others the same.  It appears to be a requirement to being an orc, you see.”


Y is for Yule

            “Yule is the season of hope, my boy.  Think on it!  The days have been growing shorter and shorter, the weather colder and more bitter, the nights darker, more forbidding, and then—there it is!  Yule comes, and the Sun turns again, begins to rise earlier and earlier daily.  It’s still cold, but the fact it isn’t so dark is enough to help us to face another day.  The dark cannot prevail!”

            Frodo thought on these words as he entered Mordor.  Perhaps he might not see the spring, but others could.  He would not allow the dark to prevail!


Z is for Zigur

            “Zigur?  I don’t recognize it.  Where did you find this word, lad?”

            “Here, in Thoughts on the Akallabeth.”

            “Oh.  Probably Adûnaic, then.  I’ve a small grammar on it somewhere—oh, here it is.”  Bilbo drew a slim volume from a shelf and leafed through it, and his expression became grim.  “Oh, I see.  Not good, my boy.  Zigur means wizard or sorceror, and was the title granted the Lord of Mordor when he was captured by Ar-Pharazôn and taken back to Númenor as prisoner.  It’s best not to name Sauron the Cruel, lest you draw his Eye your way!”

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