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Submissions Wanted for The Week in Tolkien Cosplay

Attention cosplayers! is pleased to announce a new weekly feature: The Week in Tolkien Cosplay. We know there are many creative fans in the Tolkien community, and we would like to showcase some the amazing costumes out there. They can be from the books or movies, just as long as they are Tolkien-related.  We’ll be posting a few of our favorites each Friday, starting January 29th.

Please send your photo and the following information to

  • Name (can be a nickname if you’d rather not have your secret identity revealed)
  • Who you are cosplaying as
  • Photographers name (if known)
  • A short bio (such as: who made the costume, how long it took to make, and any other details about it you’d like to share)


The talented Janette has been gracious enough to share her amazing Thorin as an example:

Thorin Oakenshield - Photograph by NV-Us Photography

Thorin Oakenshield by Janette Jolman- Photograph by NV-US Photography

“The picture above took about a year to make and has over 700 handmade pieces of clay for the brigandine armor. It consists of about 5 layers ranging from velvet to leather and utilized materials such as foam, wood, vinyl, resin and leather.   This was a challenging build for me as all my previous costumes for the last decade, had been primarily armor builds and this required learning how to use a sewing machine and was also a first for making prosthetics.   I’ve been doing costuming for about 13 years. One of my earliest cosplays was actually a second age elf from the prologue of LOTR.”



By submitting your photo and information, you give permission to publish it to our website, as well as social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc..)  Submission does not guarantee your photo will be published.


Posted in Creations, Fans, Community Comes to HobbitCon!

hobbitcon_4-logo-triff_die_tolkien_stars-600x184 is coming to HobbitCon 4, April 1-3 in Bonn, Germany!  TOR.n staffers deej and greendragon will be hosting panels and chatting with attendees at our fan table. We’re so excited to be joining guests from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings films, as well as lecturers, workshops, and so much more!

For information on guests, tickets, and TOR.n’s panel schedule (coming soon) please visit the HobbitCon website.  Hope to see you there!







Posted in Conventions, Events, HobbitCon

TOR.n at L.I. Geek Convention this weekend

idx_guest_graham will be at Long Island Geek Convention this weekend (May 2nd and 3rd) along with Dwalin himself, Graham McTavish! In addition to having TOR.n t-shirts, buttons, and lanyards for sale at our fan table (or try your hand at Tolkien trivia for a fun prize!), we’re also participating in several panels throughout the weekend. Stop by and say hello!



Saturday –

11:00-12:00  Tales of the Hobbit with Graham McTavish; Graham McTavish tells tales of his adventures as Dwalin in the Hobbit movie trilogy.  Hosted by Kirsten Cairns/Greendragon from

14:00–15:00  Extended Edition, Biopics … Silmarillion? What’s next for fans of Middle-earth?;
Staffers from speculate and share inside info on what may be in the Extended Edition of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. And once that is released – to what can fans look forward next? Could The Silmarillion ever make it on to the big screen?

20:00–21:00  There and Back Again – a look back over the 17 year journey through Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth; Staffers from get nostalgic! Join us as we recall the journey from Fellowship to Five Armies – the ups and downs, the quests to New Zealand, the fans and friends we met along the way. How has
your passion for Tolkien and for these movies enriched YOUR life?

Sunday – 

10:00–11:00  Tales of the Hobbit with Graham McTavish; Graham McTavish tells tales of his adventures as Dwalin in the Hobbit movie trilogy. Hosted by Kirsten Cairns/Greendragon from

13:00–14:00  Kick the Hobbit! All the things we love and hate about Peter Jackson’s second Middle-earth trilogy; A love of Tolkien is the common bond shared by all staffers at; and most of us also love Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth movies. But we still have our personal pet peeves – and now is the chance to air them! Join us to let rip about those things which just didn’t work in The Hobbit trilogy – and maybe a few from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, too! (We say it all with a great deal of affection…)

Posted in Conventions, Events, Graham McTavish

Badali Jewelry Holiday Sale


If you’re looking for the perfect holiday gift for the Tolkien fans in your life, our friends at Badali Jewelry are having a massive sale, now through December 31st.

Badali Jewelry has been in business since 1997, and currently produces officially licensed jewelry designs for ‘The Hobbit’, ‘The Lord of the Rings’, ‘The Wheel of Time’, ‘The Dresden Files’, and many others.  The artists at Badali also created the Good Luck pins that TOR.n presented to all of the Oscar nominees for ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’ trilogies.

Click here to start shopping!






(Buy tickets to The One Last Party here)

Posted in Collectibles, Collectibles, Jewelry, Jewelry, Merchandise, Shop, Tolkien Gift Guide

Hobbit Trilogy marathon in U.S. cinemas Monday 12/15


Want to see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies a little sooner than December 17th?  Movie theaters around the U.S. will be hosting a Hobbit Trilogy marathon on Monday, December 15th. The trilogy is to be shown in IMAX, and tickets go on sale Friday, November 14th. Tentative showtimes are:  An Unexpected Journey theatrical edition) at 1:00 p.m., The Desolation of Smaug (theatrical edition) at 4:05 p.m., and The Battle of the Five Armies at 7:00 p.m.. Check with your local theater to find out if they’ll be participating and for pricing information.



Posted in Hobbit Movie, The Hobbit, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition Scene Guide

DesolationOfSmaugEECover The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition is out today as a download from iTunes!

As we did last year with An Unexpected Journey EE, TOR.n has compiled detailed descriptions and screencaps from the 25 minutes of extended footage in The Desolation of Smaug.


Posted in Hobbit Movie, The Hobbit, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Uncategorized

Happy Anniversary ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’




On July 29th, 1954 George Allen & Unwin, Ltd. of London published the first part of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’.  The first printing was limited to 3000 copies, and only 1500 when it was published in the United States later that year.   Who could have predicted that this little book would go on to become one of the most popular and influential fantasy epics of all time?

Our message boards are already in full celebratory swing, so stop in and join the fun!

The Tolkienia Times: 60th Year of Fellowship Celebration Edition 

Fellowship of the Ring Anniversary: Bilbo’s Brainteaser!

Happy Birthday “The Lord of the Rings”

Guess the Phrase Game: The Fellowship of the Ring Edition


Posted in Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien, LotR Books

Peter Jackson likely to direct ‘Doctor Who’



In an interview with SFX magazine, ‘Doctor Who’ showrunner Steven Moffat stated that Peter Jackson is still in the running to direct a future episode of the long running sci-fi series.

“I think it will probably happen at some point. I mean, he can do what the hell he likes – he owns New Zealand! I think he’s sincere in his ‘Doctor Who’  fandom, to say the least.  He’s a nice guy, he quite often drops me a line after a show goes out. He’s into it – it’s just “Can you make it work?” I think he would also like us to go and make it in New Zealand! And I’m like “Okaaay… I’d rather we just flew you to Cardiff!”

You can read the full interview over at SFX.

Posted in Director news, Peter Jackson

Own the Remastered Deluxe Editions of ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Return of the King’ on July 22


On July 22nd, Warner Bros. will be reissuing remastered, deluxe editions of the Rankin/Bass animated classics ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Return of the King’.




The Hobbit Deluxe Edition Synopsis: []

The place is Middle Earth. The time is long ago, when humans shared their days with elves, wizards, goblins, dragons, heroes…and hobbits. Bilbo Baggins is a hero and a hobbit, a roundish, peaceable homebody going on a dangerous quest – even though adventures make hobbits late for dinner!

In this enchanting adaptation of the first installment of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Bilbo the hobbit is asked to recover a fabulous treasure stolen from friendly dwarfs. All he must do is brave dark forests, towering mountains, hobbit-eating trolls, huge spiders, a fiery dragon and more. Fun and amazement await – so join the quest!


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Special Features:

  • J.R.R. Tolkien Facts & Trivia
  • Cast & Crew credits
  • From the Vault: 3 WB classic cartoons: ‘Knight-mare Hare’, ‘Knighty Knight Bugs’, and ‘Rabbit Hood’
  • Trailers: ‘Tom and Jerry & The Lost Dragon’, ‘LEGO: Legends of Chima’, ‘LEGO: Hobbit’, ‘Scooby-Doo! Frankencreepy’

Format: Multiple Formats, Animated, Color, Full Screen, NTSC, Original recording remastered

Language: English
Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada)
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Number of discs: 1
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Run Time: 78 minutes
[Buy on]

My Thoughts:  It’s been many years since I last saw this, and I had forgotten how much I loved the voice talent: Orson Bean as Bilbo, John Huston as Gandalf, Otto Preminger as a very German Thranduil/Elvenking, and (my favorite) 1960’s Surrealist comic Brother Theodore as Gollum.  Picture and sound are both superb.  A great soundtrack by Glen Yarbrough.

‘The greatest adventure is what lies ahead
Today and tomorrow are yet to be said
The chances the changes are all yours to make
The mold of your life is in your hands to break”

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The Return of the King Deluxe Edition Synopsis: []

Frodo the Hobbit, the remarkable hero of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, battles more evil forces plaguing Middle Earth in The Return of the King.

The Magic Ring of The Hobbit has now become the Ring of Doom – and to restore peace it must be destroyed in the raging fires in which it was made. Chosen for the task, Frodo and faithful servant Samwise face grave perils – the worst of which is the ring’s terrible power to possess its wearer. Will Frodo give in to the madness of the ring….or will he fulfill his quest?


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Special Features:

  • J.R.R. Tolkien Facts & Trivia
  • Cast & Crew Credits
  • From the Vault: WB cartoon shorts ‘Good Knight Droppy’ and ‘Jerry Hood & His Merry Meeses’
  • Trailers: ‘LEGO: Hobbit’, ‘Tom and Jerry & the Lost Dragon’, ‘LEGO: Legends of Chima’, ‘Scooby-Doo! Frankencreepy’

Format: Multiple Formats, Animated, Color, Full Screen, NTSC, Original recording remastered

Language: English
Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada)
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Number of discs: 1
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Run Time: 98 minutes
[Buy on]

My Thoughts:  It’s a shame Rankin/Bass didn’t have the chance to do ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ and ‘The Two Towers’, as ‘The Return of the King’ doesn’t do a great job of filling in the story for those that may be unfamiliar with the first two books. The mispronunciations are a little annoying, too.  Still, the film is a lot of fun to watch; the Ringwraiths are fantastic, as is Eowyn’s confrontation with the Witch King of Angmar.  As with ‘The Hobbit’, the picture, sound, and voice talent are all top-notch.  Orson Bean, John Huston, Otto Preminger, and Brother Theodore reprise their roles; new additions include the great Roddy McDowell as Samwise Gamgee, and Casey Kasem as Merry.  Best of all,  ‘The Return of the King’ includes (in this writer’s humble opinion) one of the greatest Tolkien-inspired songs of all time:

“Where there’s a whip, there’s a way.
Where there’s a whip, there’s a way.
We don’t wanna go to war today,
But the lord of the lash says nay, nay, nay!
We’re gonna march all day, all day, all day,
Cause where there’s a whip, there’s a way.”

Posted in DVDs, Merchandise, Return of the King, The Hobbit, Warner Bros.

Doug Adams book signing at FantasyCon


Doug Adams, author of ‘The Music of The Lord of the Rings Films’ and FantasyCon guest, will be doing a book signing at booth (#519/521) on Friday, July 4th at 5:30 p.m. following his panel.  Copies of his book will be available for purchase at our booth.



Posted in Conventions, Events, FantasyCon

You can search far & wide…Tennessee’s Green Dragon Public House




Tolkien fans and non fans alike are flocking to Murfreesboro, Tennessee’s latest pub:  The Green Dragon Public House! Opened in March, 2014, this cozy pub offers a selection of food and drink worthy of second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, Afternoon tea, Dinner, and/or supper.  (more…)

Posted in Fans, Miscellaneous, Tolkien

Rewrite Tolkien March contest winners – & a special announcement!



Thank you to everyone that submitted an entry for the March Rewrite Tolkien contest – ‘The Hobbit’ in the style of Douglas Adams.  We had a lot of fun reading them!

Before posting this months’ winners, we wanted to announce that going forward, the contest will be held every other month.  This will give everyone more time to submit their best work, and the judges more time to read and enjoy the entries.   The next contest will be held in May – stay tuned for more details!

This months grand prize winner is:

“Untitled” by J.J. Lendi of Pittsburgh, PA.  Congratulations, J.J.!  Your entry will also be read live on TORn Book Club webcast this Sunday, April 6th;  click the link for showtimes.

Our runners-up are:

“Untitled” by Tom Essex (whereabouts unknown) and “There and Back Again: A Hitchhikers Guide to Middle-earth” by Jim of Chicago, IL.  Congrats to you both!


Untitled by J.J. Lendi (Pittsburgh, PA)

Somewhere in the recesses of history, before the advent of iPhones, eBooks or any other memorabilia beginning with a lowercase vowel, but after the beginnings of life on the planet, whether you believe life began with the Great Music of the Ainur, with creatures coming out of the sea and into the trees, or with one man’s unwitting donation of his own rib, there existed a world of magic, quests, and a fair amount of questionable jewelry.

This world was known to its inhabitants as Middle-Earth, though no one there seemed to know or care what exactly it was in the middle of or if they should be at all concerned about that highly suspect name.

This land of Middle-Earth plotted along for quite some time with a fair amount of drama. The many deceits by the evil Ainur known as Melkor, the sinking of great city of Numenor and the bending of the world, the Last Great Alliance of Elves and Men against the forces of evil in Mordor, and the final defeat of the Dark Lord Sauron by plunging his One Ring into the fires of Mount Doom.

This is not any of those stories.

But this is a story that involves a mountain, along with a healthy number of Elves, a fairly magical wizard, and a staggering amount of walking around. It does not, however, include any Dark Lords or places nicknamed “Doom”. So if that’s the only kind of thing you go in for then best to close this book now and save yourself from a rather disappointing perusal and the publishers of this book from a negative review on Good Reads.

However, if you are not overly obsessed with stories that culminate in the high-profile rescue of the entire world from the forces of evil and have continued reading, it might interest you to know that this book is chiefly about a rather oddly named chap called Bilbo who is in fact no taller than your average Kindergartner. In fact, this book has quite a few pint-sized heroes and villains, some of them called Hobbits, like Bilbo, who have the same basic interests as the stoner you lived across the hall from at University, some of them called Dwarves, who are more obsessed with digging in the ground than even the most avid gopher, and one particularly strange creature called Gollum, who is exactly as awkward looking as his name would suggest.

And while this might not sound nearly as exciting as a story with words like “Dark Lord” and “Doom”, where the entire fate of the world is hanging in the balance, it scores over that particular book in two rather important respects.

First, it’s much shorter, which makes it cheaper to purchase and faster to get through; and second, it’s one of the only books you’ll read this year that features a talking dragon.

But the story of the pint-sized hobbit named Bilbo, the story of his quest that doesn’t involve the end of the world, and the story of how that quest becomes inextricably intertwined with the lives of Dwarves and Elves and a talking dragon, begins very simply.

 It begins with a hole in the ground.



Untitled by Tom Essex

This is a story of long ago, when spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women and small furry-footed creatures from the Shire were real small furry-footed creatures from the Shire.

Far out in the little known north of the unfashionable part of Middle-earth lies a small unregarded country known as the Shire, inhabited by a diminutive race known as hobbits, who are so amazingly unaware of the outside world they still think second breakfasts are a pretty neat idea (believing that time is an illusion, breakfast time doubly so).

This story begins as so many stories do: it begins with a house. This house was on the top of the Hill, and inhabiting it was Bilbo Baggins. He was fifty, never quite at ease with himself, and in appearance suspiciously like a three and a half foot Arthur Dent with hairy feet – and at present he no more knows his destiny than pipe-weed knows the history of Tobold the Old and the South Farthing.

It so happened that, on one fine morning when Mr Baggins was enjoying a pipe of Old Toby, Gandalf came by. He appeared to be an old man, but was in fact a Maiar spirit from somewhere in the vicinity of the Undying Lands. Bilbo had never, ever suspected this.

“Good morning!” said Bilbo.

One of the things Gandalf found hardest to understand about mortals was their habit of continually stating and repeating the very very obvious, for example: “Good morning!”, and “You’re very tall”, and, “They’re taking the hobbits to Isengard”.

The wizard looked sternly at the hobbit in exactly the way a hobbit is looked at sternly by a wizard, and proceeded to give a complete etymological breakdown and, in the hobbit’s view, slightly pedantic analysis of the phrase “Good morning”, which was strange as he had been the one to use it in the first place.

“Can I help you?” said Bilbo, very much hoping the exact opposite.

“My name is Gandalf, and Gandalf means me.”

Bilbo had guessed as much, and hoped the old man’s obsession with grammar would end soon.

“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure – the chance to see the wonders of Middle-earth on less than thirty silver pennies a day. And help a band of travelling dwarves reclaim a kingdom and a pile of treasure from an enormous fire-breathing dragon. Along the way, there shall be giant spiders, goblins (not exactly evil, but bad-tempered, bureaucratic and generally unpleasant, who wouldn’t raise a finger to save their own mother from the Ravenous Balrog Beast of Morgoth), deformed schizophrenic hobbits and malevolent jewellry.”

Bilbo was not fond of adventures. They made one late for dinner. And he had no desire to see the wonders of Middle-earth, no matter how reasonable the budget.

And he knew nothing about dwarves.

The Red Book of Westmarch has a few interesting things to say about dwarves.

A dwarf, it says, has a fondness for a wide range of food and alcoholic beverages. Whilst some prefer pork pies and salad, others may prefer mince pies and cheese, or raspberry jam and apple-tart. All have a particular love of ale (although they are as of yet unaware of the invention of the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster). They are remarkably skilled at craftsmanship, and value gold and the stones of the earth above all else, even pork pies and salad. They are also proud of their beards, with many husbands boasting of their wives’ impressive facial hair. Although they can be calculating and cowardly, they are generally hoopy froods, though they have a very thorough and officious approach to contracts. Their poetry is generally accepted as being significantly better than that of Vogons.

Note: They have yet to fully appreciate the true merit of the Towel. When Mr Bilbo Baggins ran off without a pocket handkerchief, he failed to understand the true importance of a Towel, and later came to regret it.

Meanwhile, Gandalf leaned on his staff and continued to stare at the hobbit from under his bushy brows. This is about the most aggressive thing to do to a hobbit digesting his second breakfast, the equivalent of going up to a human and saying “Blood… blood… blood… blood…”, or a dispossessed dwarf king and saying “Homeless… homeless… homeless… homeless…”.

Or indeed dangling a piece of malevolent jewellery in front of a deformed schizophrenic hobbit.

The silence began to hang in the air exactly the way that bricks don’t.

Bilbo had begun to panic. He though seed-cake was in order. Seed-cake was good for occasions like this, he thought.

“Sorry!” squeaked Bilbo. “I don’t want any adventures, thank you. Not today. Good morning!”

Please no more grammar lessons, he thought. Please no more.

“But please come to tea – any time you like! Why not tomorrow? Come tomorrow! Goodbye!”

Bilbo scuttled back inside and shut the door.

Gandalf remained outside the door, laughing long and quietly to himself. Then, with the spike on his staff, he carved two words in large, friendly letters into the wood: ‘DON’T PANIC’.



There and Back Again:  A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Middle-Earth by Jim – Chicago, Illinois

Far out in the uncharted backwaters at the end of one of the spiral arms of the Milky Way was a small, obscure yellow star, and orbiting that star at a distance of 93 million miles was a small, obscure planet with a continent called “Middle-Earth.” On an uncharted corner of that continent was a small green country called the Shire, and in a hole in a small town of that land there lived a “hobbit.”

What are hobbits?  No one these days has seen one, and some have called them myths.  It is said that the Ents’ Compendium of Living Things has an entry on them, but no one knows for sure.  That book is so long that the publisher still hasn’t finished it, and no one has been able to finish reading the first chapter of the proofs.  The Red Book of Westmarch says hobbits are a race that looks like Men (who hobbits call the “Big People”) only much shorter, usually chubbier, and with large hairy feet.

This is a story of one hobbit, whose name was Bilbo Baggins.  It is also the story of a remarkable book called The Hitchhikers’ Guide to Middle-Earth.  The story starts with a house.  More accurately, it starts with a hole, because Bilbo’s house (like most hobbit houses) was a hole delved into a hill.  Not a damp, dank hole, mind you, or a dusty sandy hole.  Or a giant hole in an asteroid that’s really the mouth of a space monster.  It was a hobbit hole, comfortable and well-appointed.

One morning, Bilbo was just about to drink his tea when he heard a knock at the door.  He opened it and saw a large group of hobbits with pickaxes and shovels.  “Can I help you?”  Bilbo asked.  “Yes,” the leader answered, “you can get out of the way so we can level this place for the new mill.”

“Oh, excuse me.” Bilbo began.  Then he shook his head in a double take.  If he had started his tea, it would have been a spit take.  “Wait, what?  Why?”

“Mayor’s orders.  The plans have been on file in his office for six months.”

“Otho!  I should have known the Sackville-Bagginses would be behind this.”

“So will you get out of the way?”

“I most certainly will not.”  Bilbo crossed his arms.  “You’ll have to go over my dead body.”

“Oh, bother,” the leader, whose name was Ted Sandyman, said.

Just then, a tall old Man with a pointed hat, a very long grey beard, and a gnarled wooden staff strode past the workers and up to the front of Bilbo’s house.  Bilbo and Sandyman were engaged in a staredown and didn’t acknowledge him.  “Ahem,” the old man cleared his throat.

“Good morning,” Bilbo mumbled, then resumed his staring contest.

“Good morning?”  the old man asked.  “Do you mean that it is a good morning, or that you want me to have a good morning, or that you want it to be good whether I want it or not?”

“Er, I guess I didn’t really mean any of those.  I’m having a terrible morning, and I don’t know who you are.  So, good morning.  The one that means good-bye.”

“Bilbo Baggins!!!”  An angry cloud drifted across his kindly face.  “I am Gandalf.  You used to know me.  To think I would live to be good-morninged by Belladonna Took’s son, as if I had the Black Breath.”

“Gandalf!  Good gracious!  Not the Gandalf, the wizard who gave us such excellent fireworks shows when I was a boy.  I had no idea you were still wizarding, or whatever it is wizards do.  What brings you here?”

“We need to talk.  Now,” he emphasized.  Gandalf looked nervously to the eastern sky, as if watching for an approaching storm.  “Are you busy?”

“Not really, just trying to stop this gang from destroying my house, you know.”

Wizards are literalists normally, and in his hurried state Gandalf had no time to appreciate sarcasm. Plus, of all those present he was the only one who knew that the workers’ plans for Bilbo’s house were, in the space of minutes, about to become a moot point.  “Good, let’s go to the Prancing Pony in Bree.  We can talk there.”

“Excuse me, but I think you missed my point.  This good fellow,” Bilbo nodded at Sandyman, who nodded back, “says he and his gang mean to demolish my house, and I’m in the midst of standing off.  So, no prancing ponies, no talking, no Brees.”

“Oh,” Gandalf trailed off in thought and he stroked his long beard.  Once more he looked anxiously to the sky.  He had no time for reasoning, and no desire to use force.  That left only magic – the special words he learned long ago to make any crowd of hobbits disperse.

“Excuse me, lads,” he announced loudly.  “With all this standing about, aren’t you missing second breakfast?”

Forty-two pairs of hobbit eyes looked at each other, then forty-two pairs of hobbit hands dropped their tools and forty-two pairs of large, hairy bare feet ran to their respective neighborhood pubs.  Sandyman looked back, saw he no longer had no backers, thought about eating, gave an embarrassed half-bow and excused himself.

“Excellent!” Gandalf rubbed his hands together.  “Now, let’s be off to Bree.”

“Why can’t we just talk here?  We’re alone now and I expect they’ll be back.”

“Trust me, my dear hobbit.  In about –” he paused and glanced furtively at the sky — “five minutes or so, here is the very last place you will want to be.”

“Oh, all right.  Let me get my pocket-handkerchief.” Bilbo said, fumbling at his vest.

“Forget the handkerchief!  But do bring a towel.”

“A towel?”

“A towel, my boy.  The most indispensable thing you can have when you’re out and about in Middle-Earth.  If you’re shivering in the Misty Mountains, you can wrap it around you for warmth.  If your friend is getting pulled into a willow tree in the Old Forest, you can use it as a lifeline.  If you’re sleeping on the stones in Moria, you can fold it into a pillow.  If you’re wandering Wilderland you can wrap your supplies with it.  And if you’re wet from crossing the Anduin River, you can dry yourself off with it.  Now fly, you fool!  Our time is almost up.”

Bilbo ducked in and emerged a moment later holding a large guest towel.  “Er, did you bring a wagon?  Or a horse?”  he asked, looking about.  “Bree’s a ways off from here.”

“No wagon today, my lad.  We’ll be hitchhiking.”

Before Bilbo could ask what that meant, Gandalf thumped his staff onto the ground.  Bilbo noticed that its length consisted of five branches that wound around each other; at the top, four branches curled into a ball while the fifth stuck out, looking curiously like an outstretched thumb.

Then, Bilbo heard the rush of giant wings above him and looked up.  “Look!  An Eagle!  An Eagle is coming!”

“That’s our ride, Bilbo.  Hop on!”  And they flew off on the Eagle’s back.

About Eagles, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Middle-Earth says:  An Eagle is, of course, the best way to hitch a lift if you’re really in a pinch.  Problem is, they only show up if you’re really in a pinch.  They’re never around when a lift would be helpful or even important.  No, it pretty much has to be the end of the world.  There has been a lot of talk about this among the hitch-hiking community, but don’t mention it to an Eagle.  One time, a group of Eagles rescued the last surviving warriors as their village in Beleriand was being sacked by Orcs.  One warrior, Waldo, told his Eagle carrier:  “You know, we might have avoided a lot of blood if you and your mates had shown up a little earlier. Or if you’d come by a day ago to tell us the bloody Orcs were coming.  I’m grateful and all, but just saying.”  Waldo never made it to the destination.  And his best friend Beren, who stayed quiet, ended up becoming the greatest hero in history and marrying the most beautiful woman ever known.  To this day, whenever someone is about to make a smart remark to a superior being like an Eagle or an Elf, someone else reminds them: “Where’s Waldo?”

After the first few shaky moments aloft, Bilbo settled in and remarked, “this hitching is not half bad.  How does one go about it?”

“There’s a whole book on the subject,” Gandalf pulled a thick, weather-beaten leather book from the folds of his cloak and handed it to Bilbo.  “The most important rule is here on the cover.”

Two words in large print, in the Common Speech, took up nearly all of the front cover:  “DON’T PANIC.”  They were repeated on the back cover in Elvish.

“Don’t panic,” Bilbo repeated.  “I rather like it already.”

“Yes, don’t panic.  And don’t look down.”

Bilbo looked down.  And panicked.  Because at that moment he saw a gigantic fireball consume the entirety of the Shire a thousand feet below, turning his home and his town, everything he knew, to ash and a whiff of carbon monoxide.  He let go of the book.  Gandalf barely managed to catch and save it before it fell all the way to the ground.

“Don’t panic!” Gandalf reminded him.

“The whole bloody Shire’s been destroyed!  Now’s a perfect time to panic!”

“Fool of a Took!  Be careful or you’ll throw us both off!”  Gandalf grabbed Bilbo to steady him.  For a moment Bilbo felt he was about to fall, and he fainted in Gandalf’s arms.

A few minutes later, the Eagle dropped them off at the sign of the Prancing Pony.  Gandalf gently nudged him awake, steadied him, and helped him inside.  Bilbo was still shaking as the innkeeper led them to a table.

“I guess I should thank you for getting me out of there.  I gather that is what you wanted to talk about?”

“Actually, that was completely random and unrelated.  I was coming to see you anyway, and it was just lucky I happened to come today.  I found out about the demolition just this morning.  A chance meeting, as they say here in Bree.”  The innkeeper brought two ales.  Bilbo downed half of his in one gulp.

Gandalf leaned close and spoke with a low voice.  “To begin with, I’m not from Middle-Earth at all.  I’m from a place called Lorien, many thousands of leagues West, across the Sea.”

“What brought you here?”

“Well, among other things, I’m a roving researcher for that book I showed you.  It’s called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Middle-Earth.  A while back I did a chapter on the Shire.”

“Really?  What did it say?”

Gandalf cleared his throat, stood up straight, placed his right hand on his chest, and dramatically declared:  “Mostly harmless.”  He enunciated each syllable, with special emphasis on most, and sat back down.

This time Bilbo did do a spit take, spraying ale across the table.  “Two words?  That’s all you could think to say about my homeland?  And now it’s all gone?”

“Actually, one word.  The last contributor already said the ‘harmless’ part.  I added ‘mostly.’”  Again Gandalf gave the word extra emphasis, and this time he added a knowing nod and wink, brimming with pride.  “And let me tell you, it took years of research, and I was considered quite the revolutionary back home for that.  Anyway, I came to ask you to join us on an adventure.”

“I’ve rather had my fill of adventure for this morning, thank you!”  And with that, Bilbo finished his ale and wiped his hand across his lips.  He was about to get up and leave when he realized he had nowhere to go.  “Wait a minute – did you say join ‘us’?”

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