An Unexpected Party
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and a bad smell, nor yet a dry, sandy hole with nothing in it: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
It had a round door like a porthole, painted green with a shiny yellow brass knob in the middle. Behind the door there was a hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke. On the floor there were carpets and chairs, and on the walls there were lots of pegs for hats and coats — the hobbit liked visitors. The tunnel wound on and on, going into the side of the hill — The Hill, as all the people for many miles round called it — and many little round doors opened out of it, first on one side and then on another. Bedrooms, bathrooms, cellars, pantries, wardrobes, kitchens, dining-rooms, all were on the same floor. The best rooms were all on the left-hand side, because only they had windows, round windows looking over his garden and meadows, going down to the river.
This hobbit was a very rich hobbit, and his name was Baggins. The Bagginses had lived in the neighbourhood of The Hill for a long time, and people considered them very respectable, not only because most of them were rich, but also because they never had any adventures or did anything unexpected. This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure, and did completely unexpected things. Maybe, as a result, he lost the neighbours’ respect, but he gained — well, you will see whether he gained anything in the end.
The mother of our hobbit… what is a hobbit? I suppose hobbits need some description nowadays, because they have become rare and shy of the Big People, as they call us. They are (or were) a little people, about half our height, and smaller than the Dwarves. Hobbits have no beards. There is little or no magic about them, but they can disappear quietly and quickly when the Big People come along, making a noise like elephants. They are often fat in the stomach; they dress in bright colours (especially green and yellow); wear no shoes, because the soles of their feet are leathery and covered with thick warm hair. They have brown curly hair on their heads, long brown fingers and friendly faces. Hobbits laugh deep fruity laughs (especially after dinner, which they have twice a day). Now you know enough. As I was saying, the mother of this hobbit — of Bilbo Baggins — was Belladonna Took, one of the three daughters of the Old Took, head of the hobbits who lived across The Water, the small river that ran at the foot of The Hill. They said that long ago one of the Tooks had a fairy wife. That was, of course, absurd, but certainly there was something strange about them, — and sometimes members of the Took-clan went away and had adventures.
Mr Bungo Baggins, Bilbo’s father, built a luxurious hobbit-hole for his wife (and partly with her money), and there they remained to the end of their days. Still it is probable that Bilbo, their only son, although he looked and behaved exactly like his father, got something a bit queer from the Tooks, something that only waited for a chance to come out. The chance never arrived, until Bilbo Baggins was grown up, about fifty years old.
One morning, when Bilbo Baggins was standing at his door after breakfast smoking a long wooden pipe, Gandalf came by. Gandalf! He had been away over The Hill on his own business since the Old Took died.
So that morning Bilbo saw an old man with a stick. He had a tall pointed blue hat, a long grey cloak, a silver scarf over which a white beard hung down below his waist, and huge black boots. «Good morning!» said Bilbo. The morning was really good: the sun was shining, and the grass was very green. But Gandalf looked at him from under long bushy eyebrows. «What do you mean?» he said. «Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning?»
«All of them at once,» said Bilbo. «And that’s also a very fine morning for a pipe of tobacco out of doors. If you have a pipe, sit down and let’s smoke!» Then Bilbo sat down on a seat by his door, crossed his legs, and blew out a beautiful grey ring of smoke that floated away over The Hill.
«Very pretty!» said Gandalf. «But I have no time to blow smoke-rings this morning. I am looking for a companion in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.»
«Of course — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and don’t like adventures. I can’t think what anybody sees in them,» said our Mr Baggins. Then he took out his morning letters, and began to read. He wanted Gandalf to go away. But the old man did not move. He stood leaning on his stick and gazing at the hobbit without saying anything, till Bilbo got quite uncomfortable and even a little angry.
«Good morning!» he said at last. «We don’t want any adventures here, thank you!» By this he meant that the conversation was at an end.
«Now you say ‘Good morning’ and mean that you want to get rid of me,» said Gandalf.