Thank you to everyone that submitted entries for December’s Rewrite Tolkien contest – The Hobbit as written by Charles Dickens.
December’s Grand Prize winner is….
The Quest for Erebor. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Durin’s Day by Andrés Carrandi of Mexico City, Mexico
Runner-up: A Hobbit Carol by Arlothia of Washington, U.S.A.
Congratulations! And stay tuned for more information on January’s contest.
The Quest for Erebor. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Durin’s Day.
by Andrés Carrandi (Mexico City)
Thror was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt about that. Thorin saw him fall in Azanulbizar at the hands of Azog, and Thorin’s word was good among dwarves in any corner of this Middle-earth. You will therefore allow me to say emphatically that Thror was as dead as a gemstone. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate. If we were not perfectly convinced that Beren had died by the wounds inflicted to him by the Hell Hound, there would be nothing more remarkable in Dior being born at Dor Firn i Guinar , than there would be of any common Hobbit coming to existence in any Hobbit hole on the Western side of the Water.
Once upon a time, Thorin was counting his profits in a well-lit room in the heart of his new domains in the Blue Mountains. Business was good, and the gloomy shadows of Erebor had begun to slip away from his first line of concern, although he was sure they were never to completely go away. In short, It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, the dwarves had everything before them, they had nothing before them–
There was no King on the Throne of Gondor. There was no King Under the Mountain. In both kingdoms it was clearer than crystal that the echoes of evil had triumphed, that things in general were settled for ever.
It was the year 2940 of the Third Age of the World, and Thorin was startled by a cheerful voice crying his way: “Happy Durin’s Day, uncle!” It was Fili, Thorin’s sister’s son. “What’s happy about it? It’s a poor excuse to remind us we were driven from the Halls of our Fathers by a worm. Every silly dwarf with Happy Durin’s Day in their mouth should be shaved clean with his own battle axe, and thrown into a feast of Elves…”
“Nephew! You keep Durin’s Day in your own way and let me keep it in mine. Good morning!” Fili understood and left his uncle, who made for home only a few moments later.
Thorin’s rooms were in a dark chamber in the dark corners of the Dwarven tunnels deep in the Blue Mountains. He had lived there with his father Thrain in the early days of their exile, when their mood too was dark. As Thorin approached the door a shadow caught his attention near the knocker.
Now, it is a fact, that there was nothing at all particular about the knocker on the door, except that it was very large. It is also a fact, that Thorin had seen it, night and morning, during his whole residence in that place. Then let any dwarf explain to me, if he can, how it happened that Thorin, having his key in the lock of the door, saw in the knocker his grandfather Thror’s face.
Thorin was startled, but immediately, the knocker was a knocker again. “It’s just anger,” he said to himself, and entered his deep dark chambers mumbling the words of a song, brought forth to memory by Fili’s talk: “Far over the Misty Mountains cold…” A gust of wind crossed the chamber, even though there were no open doors or windows to account for. A bluish glimmer appeared to emanate from the room next door, a deathly shine akin to an Elven blade near a goblin.
“Thorin….,” said a familiar voice. “Thorin!”
It was definitely his grandfather’s voice.
“Grandfather?,” asked Thorin timidly, terrified and painfully aware that he was addressing a dead Dwarf.
“Come forth and know me better,” said the Ghost. Thorin obeyed immediately, brought back to his childhood days in which Thror’s words commanded not only him, but the entire realm of Erebor. He found the dead King Under the Mountain much similar to the way he remembered him, only wearier, and carrying long chain made of mithril and solid gold.
“Thorin, you have abandoned all plans to reclaim our land in the East”
“We have a good life here, far away from the dragon…”
“No excuses, Thorin! You dishonor our father Durin as I did… going elsewhere looking for wealth and riches, instead of going back and reclaiming my own. The attempt on Moria cost me my life, and the mercy of Aüle. Look at these chains… they were forged with every day I maintained our kin away from the kingdom Aüle entrusted to us. Yours was as long the day of the Battle of Azanulibizar…”
Thorin answered amid tears: “But, is there nothing you can do to save yourself? Is there nothing to regain the mercy of Aüle and go rest in the Halls of our Fathers with Durin and his folk?”
“Nothing left for me,” said Thror, “but there is still hope for you, Thorin. Tonight you will be visited by the spirit of a Wizard. Take heed of his teachings, as only they lay between you and your damnation. Wait for him when the Moon reaches its zenith.” Then Thror vanished into the darkness, and Thorin was left alone in his chambers, musing over what his grandfather’s ghost told him.
The bell announced the coming of the first hour. Thorin awoke hesitantly and found himself surrounded by a bright light; not the deathly hue of his grandfather’s ghost’s glow, but the glimmer of all that is good and hopeful about magic in the world.
Trying to block the light out of his eyes, he got up and saw the silhouette of a tall figure with a pointy hat in the corner of the room.
“Are you the Spirit of the Wizard whose coming was foretold to me?, asked Thorin.
“I am,” answered the Spirit. “My name is Gandalf. And Gandalf means me.”
“Show me the way Gandalf. I follow you humbly and with a spirit willing to learn from your teachings.”
“Touch my staff,” Answered the ghost whose name was Gandalf, “We shall have to go through fire and water.”
“Spirit, I am but a mortal dwarf, and prone to burn and drown.”
The Wizard’s spirit looked sternly at Thorin Oakenshield. “You shall have to face fire before the end, Thorin, but fear not for now. Everything you shall see are but shadows of things that have been or things that might yet come to pass. They shall not take heed of you, they cannot harm you. Touch the staff, now.”
Thorin obeyed the Spirit, and in an instant his chambers vanished in a haze, and transformed into the shadows of a memory of years past: amid a crowd of merry souls, he recognized a sight very dear to his heart.
“Do you know this place?,” asked the spirit.
“Know it? Here I lived my first moments of joy after our exile! Why, it’s the Inn of The Prancing Pony!” Thorin was as giddy as a Dwarf boy first prenticed at the forge.
The Spirit of the Wizard allowed himself a smile of joy upon seeing a trace of the Thorin he desired to awaken, but swiftly returned to his stern countenance. “Thorin, we should sit down. There is much to say.” As soon as the two of them were seated, Gandalf went straight to the point of this most extraordinary meeting.
“Your kin is disgraced, Thorin son of Thráin son of Thror. You have met your grandfather earlier, but you do not yet know the fate of your beloved father. His penance was much harder, I am afraid to say: found in the dungeons of the Necromancer, having lost the mind with which he was left after the horrible events of Erebor,” Thorin did not speak. There was nothing he could say. Gandalf went on: “They did not honor their royal lineage and only timidly spoke of reclaiming their throne. They forgot Dwarven ancient magic, and forsook the chances the sacred days offered them.”
“They forsook the sacred days?,” asked Thorin almost appalled.
“But that is right, is it not, Thorin? Every silly dwarf with Happy Durin’s Day in their mouth should be shaved clean with his own battle axe, and thrown into a feast of Elves.”
Thorin then looked ashamed of his earlier words. “But tell, me Spirit, are there not kind words you might offer me? Words of hope? Words of comfort?”
“Make for Erebor and be there on Durin’s Day. I have none other. Now, Thorin touch the staff again. There is still one more thing that I would have you see.”
Thorin touched the Wizard’s rod and the shadows of the tavern faded as his chamber’s had done before. Now he was on top of the Misty Mountains on a clear day, all of Middle-earth within his gaze to East and West.
“Now look East, Thorin,” said the Wizard’s spirit.
As Thorin turned, he saw the East covered in flames. From the Grey Mountains to the Ash Mountains, over Mirkwood and across the Sea of Rhûn there was nothing but fire and smoke. In the far Northeast a blazing speck of light gleamed above it all.
His voice trembling with fear, Thorin mustered the courage to ask the question to which he knew the answer well: “O, Gandalf, what poor realm of Middle-earth is that blazing spot to the far North and to the far East?”
“Those are the Iron Hills, razed to the rock by Smaug and other worms from the North.”
Thorin, now openly cried in anguish: “But tell me, Spirit, are these things that will come to pass or only things that may yet come to pass? What of my cousin Dáin?”
“I see an empty throne,” said the Spirit, “if the shadows follow their course, your cousin Dáin will die, and with him his Kingdom.”
“O, Spirit! Please tell me I can yet change these events, please tell me there is still hope,” Thorin sobbed as he fell to his knees clenching the Wizard’s Spirit’s robes in his hands, “I shall go to Erebor, I shall be there at the sacred time! The Mountain shall see me at sunset of Durin’s Day! I shall honor my forefather and I shall reclaim my Kingdom and my throne, and be merciful and bring glory back to my people and my kin! O, please, Spirit!”
Thorin then opened his eyes and found himself clenching his sheets at the foot of his bed, within his own chambers.
He went out into the caverns and asked a young dwarf who was passing by: “Lad, what day is today?”
“Why, it’s Durin’s Day!”
“I haven’t missed it! Gandalf’s Spirit did it in one night! Of course he did! He can do anything! Thank you Gandalf, thank you, Grandfather! From this day on, I shall not rest until I am King Under the Mountain, and I shall honor the spirit of Durin’s Day and his memory all throughout the year!”
Thorin was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more. Until his death, he became as good a friend, as good a leader, and as good a Dwarf as Middle-earth knew. And it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Durin’s Day well, if any Dwarf alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as many Dwarves observed, may our beards grow ever longer, every one’s!
A Hobbit Carol by Arlothia (Washington State)
Bilbo Baggins had finished writing in his notes for the night and had just settled down with a nice cup of tea to stave off the December chill when there came a knock on the door. Startled, and slightly annoyed at the interruption, Bilbo rose from his seat and, thinking he knew who it was, yelled to the offending person as he walked to open the door.
“Lobelia, I’ve told you already! I’m not going! So if you would please leave me in—” He was cut short as he jerked the door open and saw that it was not his dreadful cousin, but none other than Gandalf the Grey.
“Do you always yell at your visitors when they come calling?” Gandalf asked dryly. Bilbo smiled with a glee he had not felt for some time. But before he had the chance to invite his old friend inside Gandalf spoke again.
“Am I to believe you are not going to the Yule Feast tomorrow Bilbo Baggins? And look! Your home isn’t even decorated! Not a shred of festivity to be seen! How do you explain that?”
Bilbo was taken aback by this unexpected criticism and was not at all pleased by it. “Well, not that it’s any business of yours, but I don’t feel like celebrating this year. Now if all you’re going to do is show up here unannounced and tell me how to live my life then I suggest you leave me alone. Goodnight!” And with that Bilbo angrily slammed the door in the wizard’s face.
Gandalf stood on the doorstep, shaking his head with a sigh. “I helped you out of your shell once,” he muttered, walking away. “And maybe I can again. But it won’t be thirteen this time. Just three.”
Inside, Bilbo hadn’t gone two steps when his doorbell rang. With a very agitated sigh Bilbo yanked open the door, a scathing remark ready, when he stopped dead in his tracks. It was not Gandalf who stood before him, but a very pretty Hobbit lady.
Bilbo’s mouth and eyes gaped wide at the sight of her. “This isn’t possible. This is a dream.”
“Well, dream or not, aren’t you going to let your own mother inside out of the cold?” she said, for this was indeed Belladonna Took, Bilbo’s own long-departed mother. Without knowing what else to do Bilbo let her in.
Belladonna looked around the Hobbit-hole, nodding approvingly. “You’ve taken good care of Bag End since I’ve been gone,” she said. “But why haven’t you put up all those wonderful Yule-garlands and Yule-wreaths?”
“I’m…I’m not putting them up this year,” Bilbo managed.
“What?! My little boy who so loved Yuletide refusing to decorate? Oh Bilbo,” she sighed. “Where is that wild little Hobbit boy who would run around the house wrapped in evergreen fronds and race outside at the first sign of snow just to catch a snowflake on his tongue? What happened to you?”
Bilbo couldn’t meet her gaze. “I’ve grown up,” he said. “I’m too old to do that any more.”
“Nonsense! You are never too old to enjoy the holiday season. Look at all the fun you used to have.” She gestured out the window and when Bilbo looked he saw not a snowy winter’s night, but a snowy winter’s day with little Hobbit lads and lasses all bundled up and chasing each other around with snowballs in hand and shouts of laughter on their lips. Among them was young Bilbo himself.
“Are you saying that you are too old to even enjoy the simple things you use to?” Belladonna continued. Bilbo had no answer to that but his mother smiled lovingly at him. “Come now,” she said. “Where are those boxes of decorations you have hidden away?” Reluctantly, Bilbo led the way to a small storage closet at the back of his smial.
“There they are,” he said, opening the door. But when he turned around his mother was gone. She was nowhere to be seen. Crestfallen, for he really had started to feel the Yuletide joy swell within him, he slumped off to sit back by the fire. But he hadn’t been there a wink when the doorbell rang again.
“Who could this be now?” Bilbo asked with a mixture of exasperation and hesitant curiosity.
Opening the door he found himself looking upon a very kind and familiar face with a long white beard and red hood.
“Balin! My dear chap! Whatever are you doing here so far from home?”
“Far from home, maybe,” he said, stepping inside. “But exactly where I am needed I expect.”
“What do you mean?” Bilbo followed the old Dwarf into the living room.
“I told you the last time I was here that I was at your service and I have come to honor that promise.”
“What service could that be?”
“Are you really refusing to go to the feast tomorrow?”
“Not you too,” Bilbo groaned. “I suppose you’re just a dream as well?”
“Maybe. But I’m right, aren’t I?”
“Not to seem rude, but I believe that’s my decision and it’s been made. So I thank you for your visit and you are welcome to stay but I am in no mood to celebrate.”
“You know very well why not.” Bilbo rubbed his face and sat down heavily in his chair. “It’s been a year. It doesn’t feel right to celebrate with them gone. It feels too much like forgetting them.” Bilbo looked up to face Balin. “Which is why I am choosing to stay home and work on my book. Like any other night.”
“We all miss them back home. But do you think that sitting sad and alone is the best way to honor them?” Balin pointed to the fire in the hearth and, following the gesture, Bilbo found himself gazing not at a small, cozy fire, but a fierce blaze in a grand stone hall filled with Dwarves nursing mugs of ale while they feasted and talked and laughed without a care in the world. Bilbo recognized all the remaining Dwarves from the Company celebrating among them.
“They have more reason than most to mourn,” Balin said, “but that isn’t stopping them from enjoying life enough for those who can’t.” He turned to face the Hobbit. “I know you’re hurting laddie. And it’s your right to. But don’t you think it’s time you let go of that pain?”
“Are you asking me to forget them?”
“Of course not. All I’m saying is that you need to go on with your life instead of wearing your past on your sleeve.”
“I’m sorry Balin. But I don’t think I can.” The grand halls around him faded until only his drawing room was left.
Balin smiled sadly. “It’s your choice laddie. But I think you might come to regret it.” And with that the old Dwarf left. Bilbo sat there, sadder than before. That glimpse of the Dwarves had made him realize how much he missed the wider world and excitement.
“Do you think your grief is only affecting you?” asked a voice from behind. Startled, Bilbo stood and turned to face the intruder.
Standing there at the room’s entry was a young Hobbit lad whom Bilbo had never seen before, though he did look familiar with his mass of dark curls and wide blue eyes set in a bright cheerful face.
“Who are you and what are you doing in my house?”
“I live here, or I will soon enough.” Bilbo’s brows furrowed but the other Hobbit continued. “All your moping around is having a bad influence on those around you, especially your younger cousins. They look up to you, you know.”
“I’m sorry, but do I know you?”
“Not yet. But you will. Let me show you.” He led Bilbo to one of the guest rooms. Sitting on the bed was a young Hobbit child. His shoulders were shaking and occasionally a muffled sob would escape him. In his hands was a small wreath.
“And who is this?” Bilbo questioned.
“That’s me the year I came to live here. You see, I always loved Yuletide but you’d have none of it. No decorations. No feast. No celebrating. All because you were still stuck in your mourning.”
A voice rang through the house.
“Boy! You’re not still in your room are you? Go wash up now or your supper will get cold.” The voice was cross and tired and Bilbo gasped when he saw himself coming towards the room.
“Coming sir,” the young boy answered, hiding the wreath under his pillow and wiping his eyes and nose before the old grump could see. But not quickly enough.
“My word, are you still going on about it? Stop your snuffling. There is no point in parties. I’ll have nothing to do with them and neither will you. Now hurry up or you’ll go to bed hungry, understand?” And with that the older Bilbo stomped away.
“I hate you,” he heard the child whisper before he scurried off to the washroom.
Bilbo watched them go in horror.
“And that wasn’t the first or last time I said that,” his companion told him.
“Will I really be that cruel?” Bilbo asked.
“You don’t have to be. You can change all this.”
“How? Please, tell me how!”
“You know how. Go to the Yule Feast tomorrow. Laugh again. Celebrate. Do you really think that Thorin, Fíli, and Kíli would want you to become a bitter old man because of them? No one is asking you to forget them. Far from it. But you are doing their memories none of the service you promised them cooping yourself up in your house all day. So what do you say? Will you go?”
“Yes!” Bilbo said without hesitation. “I will. Oh forgive me I’ll do it!”
The young Hobbit smiled. “Then I must go. You have a party to prepare for after all.”
A loud popping from the fireplace startled Bilbo awake, making him drop his cold mug of tea. He paused. Had that all been a dream?
But dream or not he remembered it all and it had made its impression on him.
He quickly set about decking his halls with garlands and wreaths and preparing the gift he would give to whoever’s name he drew out of the Yule-hat.
In the blink of an eye it was time to leave for the Yule Feast and Bilbo walked briskly out his door and down to the Party Tree. It was a lovely party and Bilbo found himself quite enjoying himself despite his former mood. He felt more like his younger self. But not completely. He had changed in his time with the Dwarves and it was up to him to decide which direction those changes would take him.
When the time came for the gift exchange the name he drew was a cousin of his from his father’s side, a Drogo Baggins.
“It’s good to see you here Cousin Bilbo,” said the dark-haired Hobbit once Bilbo had found him. “We didn’t think you’d be coming.”
“Neither did I but…I had a change of heart I guess you could say. Here, this is for you.” Bilbo handed him a small wrapped box.
Drogo smiled in delight, accepting the gift. “Why, thank you!” He opened the box and pulled out a small wreath. Drogo stared at it.
“It’s not much,” Bilbo said hastily. “It was a last minute change of heart, you see, so I didn’t have much time to prepare…”
Drogo looked up at his cousin with tears of gratitude in his big blue eyes and Bilbo was taken aback by the resemblance Drogo had to the boy in his dream. “It’s more than enough. You see, we’re a bit on hard times so we haven’t been able to make much of Yuletide at home. This really means a lot. Thank you. And bless you, Bilbo Baggins.”