A few days had passed since the Company had left Lake-town, and the barren wilderness plundered by the dragon was starting to drag on Bilbo. At night under the glimmering stars Thorin oft spoke to him of the wild forests of pine, and fir that had inhabited the hills and peaks. But they had all fallen to dragon fire, leaving dreary, heartless ruin.
On the third day they set up camp, lighting no fires lest they alert lurking enemies of their presence. As Bilbo sat with Bofur and Balin eating cram and watching Thorin as he examined the sky, pacing to and fro, a realization came upon him.
He was one year and fifty!
Bilbo shoved the last of the hard biscuit-like food in his mouth, and then started counting on his fingers and muttering to himself.
“What are you doing there, lad?” Bofur asked.
“No, no. Shh, shh, shh…”
He looked up at the moon, and the stars. Then, realizing he was right, a small smile graced his face, leaving him looking fair and child-like.
“It was my birthday,” he said.
“Pardon?” Balin asked.
“The, the, the day we were in the barrels—well, you were in them, I rode them—it was my birthday.”
Bofur and Balin broke out in wide grins, and then turned to the rest of the group. “Oi, it was Mr. Bilbo’s birthday when we fled from the wretched Elf kingdom!”
The rest of the Dwarves broke out in cheers and one by one went over to congratulate him. Fili tried giving him a knife, and Bilbo had to decline. Sting was fine as it was. Besides, accepting gifts for such an occasion wasn’t Hobbit fashion.
Then it hit him. Oh no. Oh no!
He didn’t have gifts for the Company! What was he to do?
“Excuse me for one moment.”
Bilbo rushed off to his pack, and searched through it, looking for anything he could give to thirteen Dwarves. But unless they wanted more cram he had nought to give them.
“Blast it!” he cursed.
“Lost something?” Kili asked.
“No, I—” Then he realized the Dwarves wouldn’t know of Hobbit customs. As for Hobbit customs, Bilbo was far past those. He was adventuring, and had seen violence. Surely this small thing…
However, it did strike him that he desired to give a gift to Thorin. The Dwarven king stood majestic and lordly in the moonlight, like carven stone, his eyes like fair jewels plundered beneath the earth. His wanderings and watchings had taken him to a peak, thus he had missed all the commotion.
But what could Bilbo give him?
He groped around in his pockets, and his hand came upon something soft, something he had picked up in Lake-town during their short revelries.
The Dwarves, seeing Bilbo was otherwise preoccupied, began to talk and jest amongst themselves, giving Bilbo plenty of time to sneak off on his own.
He stole away from the camp, and fingering what was in his left pocket, he wandered over to Thorin.
“Beautiful night,” Bilbo commented, breath misting in the chill air.
“Only when I look upon the stars from the gates of Erebor shall the night be beautiful.”
Bilbo chewed on his bottom lip. “Riight.”
Then Thorin turned his gaze upon Bilbo and he smiled, a sight more delightful than the jewels Bilbo had been promised lay in the dragon’s hoard.
“Forgive me,” he said. “To be so close to my home, yet not be able to enter it has left me in a dark mood. But now that you’re here, all is well.”
Bilbo found himself smiling back at him. He wished to embrace him as they were wont to do, wished to share his warmth and lie together, but no, he had business.
“It was my birthday,” Bilbo said. Thorin raised an eyebrow. “The day we were on the Forest River to the Long Lake.”
Thorin seemed aghast, as if wondering how he could have missed such an occasion.
“Then when we reach the mountain you shall be heaped with presents!”
Bilbo shook his head, looking down, still fiddling with the item in his pocket.
“No, you’ve got it wrong. Hobbits—we don’t accept gifts on our birthdays. We give them. So I thought… Well… Here.”
He took the item out of his pocket and thrust it into Thorin’s hands. At the brush of their fingers joining together warmth bloomed in Bilbo’s chest, nearly enough to chase out the chill.
A bemused look passed over Thorin’s face as he held up the handkerchief.
Bilbo scratched at his nose, lowering his head, cheeks flushing red.
“I picked it up in Lake-town. Thought I might use it since I’ve missed my own. But turns out I forgot about it entirely. I don’t have much else to give, so I thought, I don’t know, perhaps it could be a sign of how you’ve changed me. Of what I was, and how I don’t need it anymore.”
“Master Baggins, this is too great a gift.”
“No, no, really, it’s just a square of cloth.”
Thorin grasped Bilbo’s shoulder, stepping closer to him. Bilbo breathed in deeply, looking up to meet his dark eyes, so intense yet blanketed with a gentleness that brought courage and love to his heart.
“It means much to me, and I will keep it near.” He placed it in a pocket inside his vest, close to his heart, and then he embraced Bilbo. “You need not have changed for me, Bilbo. I have come to realize that your ways were just right all along.”
Bilbo held him tightly, hands brushing against the waterfall of his dark locks.
“I’m glad I have changed,” he told him. “Perhaps I needed it, and I think Gandalf saw that. Not all is dark and cruel, Thorin. You’ve taught me much: about—about honor, and loyalty, and courage… and love.”
“Love is a fair thing.”
“I always thought so. Though I’ve never gone looking for it.”
Thorin drew back, and ran a hand through Bilbo’s curls before caressing his cheek.
Bilbo shrugged. “Not many Hobbits seemed to show my inclinations.”
Thorin gazed upon him with a fondness that had Bilbo reaching up to feel over the familiar roughness of his beard.
“Would it be wrong of me to admit that I am glad?”
Bilbo shook his head. “Of course not. Meeting you: I think it was meant to happen.”
Thorin chuckled, and drew Bilbo against him once more, strong arms nearly crushing him. Yet it was something he enjoyed quite dearly.
“I suppose we have the Wizard to thank for that.”
“Or… just you.”
Thorin drew Bilbo into a kiss beneath the cold light of the moon. Love bloomed amongst desolation, and Bilbo’s birthday gift lay safe against Thorin’s breast.
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In defense of The Hobbit movies
I'm gonna be honest and confess I didn't watch the Hobbit movies years ago out of pure prejudice. The dislike of many people for them was very loud at the time, one of the main reasons being (at least in the criticism I came across) that they were unfaithful to Tolkien's original work. Now that I've seen the films and also read the book, I have to admit that the claim is absolutely true, but, in my opinion, not necessarily in a bad way. Let me explain.
If you've read "The Lord of the Rings" first, "The Hobbit" can be quite the surprise. The writing less mature, the story told in a synthetic way that resembles more of a childs tale than the epic in three parts that would see the light years later. It's compact, not a word out of place, it follows a classic structure without taking risks and manages with expertise the basics of storytelling. It isn't bad at all, but because of this nature it can't hold a lot of complexity. The characters, aside from Bilbo and maybe Thorin, are barely sketched, the story doesn't have time to develop more than a handful of key scenes, let alone get into descriptions or details about the fantasy world we're venturing in. It's interesting how out of something so simple and schematic Tolkien could create one of the richest universes of fantastic literature, but that's another subject entirely.
Given the simplicity of the original story, yes, I do believe it was a stretch to try and make three movies out of it. Yes, I do believe that the gesture of knocking Bilbo out during the entire Battle of the Five Armies should have been kept as a subtle testimony of how little Tolkien cared about war itself and how he was way more interested on what the experience does to people. But in other aspects, and because of the simplicity mentioned before, I think the films take a step in the right direction deviating from the source material. They gave us distinct looks and personalities for each dwarf, when in the book they were all more of less an indistinguishable mass. They spent more time on the little adventures sprinkled around the written story and added a sense of excitement that is much lessened in the book. They made the characters a whole lot more complex and interesting: we have Bofur's gallows humour and unending kindness, Fili's borderline irrational selflessness, Nori's mischievous charm, Thorin's struggle with his heritage, the traps of his mind, his sense of self. We got to touch on subjects that seemed barely developed or downright absent in the original work: dealing with mental illness, the absurdity of war, cultural differences and prejudice, love, home, sacrifice. Sure, there's a blatant lack of racial diversity in the casting, and for me that's probably the weakest point of the movie, but we got other forms of representation: an awesome main female character that is relevant for the story and much more than a love interest, and a disabled miner and toymaker that is never treated as any less than the rest of his companions (Bifur has admittedly a minor role, but he's so important!). We got, in short, a profound tale of love, friendship and bravery, where the original book was, as it deemed itself, a modest adventure.
The films aren't perfect (that "fixing" of Bifur near the end, the completely unnecessary love triangle, SO many Legolas stunts) and of course, if you don't like them for any reason, that's completely valid. However, I still think they have more to them than we often give them credit for. In the end, while I agree that they're are unfaithful to this particular Tolkien book, I still believe they're ultimately faithful to the spirit (the anti-war mindset, the bulletproof friendships, the tragic and intense love stories, the themes of damage and healing, and, very importantly, how a handful of seemingly unlikely people can save the world, even against a much more powerful enemy, if they put their hearts on it...) of his work as a whole.
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