Bilbo helps little Frodo with one of a hobbit-child's most important traditions...

(Written on Sept. 22, 2011, to celebrate the occasion of The Birthday!)

A Form of 'Thanksgiving'

Bilbo picked up the dustcloth, and then put it down again. How ridiculous! he told himself! Bag End was as spotless as it was possible to be. He could see his reflection in the brass vase on the mantel, and there was not a smudge anywhere nor even a book out of place! He picked up a sofa pillow, fluffed it up and then put it down in a different spot. No, no, that wasn't better at all! He moved it back to its original position, and then tweaked it so that it was straighter. Perfect.

He went to the window for the dozenth time this morning, but still there was no sign of a pony trap coming up the road towards Bag End. They had said they would arrive before luncheon, and here it was, nearly one!

Luncheon! He bustled into the large dining room, seldom used unless he had many guests. But today and tomorrow was a very special occasion, and so he had laid the large table already with the finest china and silverware. There were only four places laid, all near the head of the table. One place was different than the other three: a small, but heavy silver plate with a high rim etched with a border of gamboling lambs, a small silver spoon, and a small mug of silver with two handles, engraved on one side with an ornate letter "B" and on the other side with a duckling wearing a bow upon its neck. There was no chair at that place.

From there he went into the kitchen: creamy mushroom soup already simmering at the back of the stove, stewed apples, a pork roast nearly done to a turn, potatoes in their jackets baking in the embers…what else needed doing?

A sudden rap on the door sent him flying from the kitchen to the front hall, and he flung upon the door with a grin. "Drogo! Primula! and little Frodo!"

"I thought we'd not make it by one, Uncle Bilbo," said Drogo, proffering his hand for a hearty shake.

Bilbo smiled at his favorite cousin as he gripped his hand and patted it fondly. "You've a good ten minutes to spare, Drogo."

"Unca Bibo!" crowed the little faunt in his mother's arms, reaching his own out to be taken. Primula laughed and allowed Bilbo to take the excited child.

"Unca Bibo," he squealed, "it's our birfday tomorrow!"

"Yes, Frodo, I know! Are you excited to become a faunt?"

He nodded seriously. "I can give presents!"

"Yes, indeed, you can, my lad!"

Drogo caught Bilbo's eye. "I must go out to the trap. Hamfast is bringing out our things before he takes the pony trap down to the stables; but with little Frodo, we have a good deal of gear to bring in, including his high chair. I'm going to give him a hand."

Bilbo grinned, "Good luck with getting him to let you help!"

Drogo laughed. "I'll manage."

Bilbo and Primula took Frodo into the sitting room, and heard the bustle in the hallway as the various travelling cases and other paraphanalia were brought in.

Bilbo and Primula exchanged a chuckle as they heard voices in the front hall.

"You oughtn't to be a-carrying that chair, Mr. Drogo! It's not proper!"

"That's quite all right, Master Hamfast. You brought in practically everything else. How is your good wife Bell? And your little lad Hamson should be very nearly out of faunthood by now? What is he, five?"

Distracted from his worries about propriety by parental pride, the gardener answered, "The lad's just turned six! And he's got a little brother now, Halfred, as is almost two."

"You don't say! Well, that is good news! Thank you for bringing up our things, Master Hamfast."

"No trouble, Mr. Drogo, no trouble at all!"

Soon the family were all seated about the table in the dining room, Frodo in his high chair was pleased with his special dishes, and all of them were enjoying a fine luncheon.

After luncheon, little Frodo was put down for a nap. Worn out by the long two-day journey from Buckland and sated by a fine meal, he easily succumbed to slumber.

Back in the sitting room the adults sat about and enjoyed a good gossip, as Primula and Drogo filled Bilbo in on all the doings of Buckland, while Bilbo recounted the goings-on in Hobbiton. The couple also presented Bilbo with their birthday gift for him: a fine silver inkwell and matching penknife.

Frodo wakened in time for tea. It was a fine tea, and Frodo was even allowed to have a bit of very milky tea in honor of the occasion. He managed to have a fine time with the fairy cakes, and his face and mouth were a positive rainbow of colours.

Bilbo laughed. "I wish Cousin Calla was here to capture that sight for all time! It is a shame there's no magic way to make a picture of such moments!"

Drogo chuckled as Primula led the little one off to wash his face. "It would be a fine thing for us fond parents and doting uncles to have, but just think of how he would feel about such a thing when he becomes a tween!"

Supper was a lighter meal: more of the delightful mushroom soup, served with yeasty rolls and a salad.

Bilbo begged the privilege of putting little Frodo down for the night, so Primula offered to do the washing up. Bilbo led the little one to his parent's guest room, where a truckle bed had been set up for him, and washed him up and put him into his little nightshirt. Then he sat down in the rocking chair with him.

"Tell a story, peese, Unca Bibo!"

"All right, Frodo. Let me think a moment…Ah! I have just the thing…"Once there were two little hobbits named Tip and Tulip. They were brother and sister, and they lived in a cozy little smial with their mama and their papa and their auntie. One day when it was Tip's birthday, his auntie took him out to find mathoms for his mama and his papa and his sister… "

"Unca Bibo!"

"Yes, Frodo?"

"Will you take me to get mathoms?

"Yes I will, bright and early in the morning, right after first breakfast."

Frodo smiled and snuggled into Bilbo's lap, "Good. More story now, peese."

But Frodo was sound asleep before the story came to its gentle end. Bilbo stood carefully and leaned down to tuck him into the little bed. He was just pulling up the blankets snugly beneath Frodo's chin, when Primula peeked in the door. "Ah! You did get him to sleep! I was afraid that he'd be far too wound up tonight," she whispered.

"Tip and Tulip do the trick every time," Bilbo whispered back. "Good night, my dear! I'm going to have a sniff of air and a smoke before turning in."

"I imagine Drogo will join you." She gave Bilbo a peck on the cheek. "Good night, Bilbo!"

First breakfast was in the kitchen: toast with butter and strawberry jam and porridge with honey and cinnamon, stewed fruit, tea for the adults, and milk for Frodo.

Primula soon had Frodo cleaned up and dressed in sturdy playclothes that nevertheless showed her fine hand with a needle. Little bumblebees were stitched across the yoke of his shirt, which buttoned into his blue breeches.

Primula gave him a hug. "Be good for Uncle Bilbo, Frodo-lad!"

"I will, Mama!"

Bilbo and Frodo went out into the garden hand-in-hand, but Bilbo let go as they began to explore. He wanted Frodo to feel free to pick flowers even if it might damage the beautiful borders one which Hamfast had worked so diligently. The flowers would come back, but a lad only became a faunt once in his life, after all!

Frodo did yank up a mum, a snapdragon, two asters and some lavender. But he continued toddling down the path towards the gate, so Bilbo hurried to keep up with him. Along side of the road he plucked up a late dandelion that was quickly denuded of its fluff, milkweed and goatweed. He held the "bouquet" up critically. "Will Mama like it?" he asked.

"I am sure she will," Bilbo said.

"Good. I hafta find something for Papa now." He bent down at the side of the road and looked intently. "Dere's a bug, Unca Bibo! Papa likes bugs."

Bilbo looked down and shuddered at the sight of an uncommonly ugly pest with many legs. He'd no idea what it was, but he was sure that his gardener would know. "Well, Frodo, I think that your Papa might like the bug, but would your Mama like for your Papa to have it?"

Frodo looked up at him thoughtfully. "No," he said, shaking his head sadly. "Sorry, bug, you can't come live with my Papa. Mama wouldn't like you."

A moment later, Frodo suddenly darted across the dusty road, nearly giving Bilbo palpitations as he rushed to catch up with the child's unexpected progress. Once more, Frodo was digging in the dirt. He came up with a stone. It was nicely shaped, almost perfectly round, and had pleasing streaks of brown, black and white. Frodo handed it up to Bilbo. "Papa will like this!" he exclaimed.

Bilbo gave the stone a little rub with his pocket handkerchief to shine it up a bit, and handed it back to the lad. "There you are, Frodo-lad!"

"It's pretty!" he said.

"Yes, it is! Now we have something for your Mama and your Papa, so we will go back to Bag End now.

Frodo allowed Bilbo to hold the flowers, which were rather bedraggled by now (but that is part of the tradition of such offerings) so that he could hold Frodo's hand. The dart across the road had quite alarmed Bilbo.

At the door Bilbo handed the child back the flowers. He dusted the child off a little, but he was still grimy. His feet were damp with dew, and his head as well, as he had shaken it from the leaves onto his dark curls.

Primula and Drogo were waiting in the sitting room. Frodo hid his little offerings behind his back, and Bilbo gave him a gentle push.

His parents smiled down at him, and he ran over to the settee, and thrust the flowers at his mother. "For my birfday, Mama!"

"Oh, Frodo! They are beautiful!" She gave him a hug, and buried her face in his curls to hide her tears of pride. Frodo suffered her attentions for an instant, and then pulled away and turned to his father.

He put forth his left hand with the stone. "For you, Papa!"

Drogo took it and inspected it carefully, and then gave Frodo a fierce embrace. "It will be precious to me always!"

Frodo allowed his father to pull him up onto his lap. He looked up at Bilbo. "I din't get you a present, Unca Bibo!" he said with dismay.

Bilbo laughed. "That is all right, Frodo. I was your helper. I do not need a present!" He bent down. "But I do have a present for you, my lad!"

He went over to his desk and picked up a package; it was large and flattish and wrapped with brown paper and string.

Frodo tore into it in delight, and gave a squeal of pleasure. "A book! A storybook!"

Primula looked at Bilbo doubtfully. "Are you sure he is old enough to take care of it?" she asked.

"It is sturdily made and well-bound. And the pictures are quite colourful. They are stories about Tip and Tulip, Frodo!"

"T'ank you, Unca Bibo!"

"Well, I do believe it is time for me to prepare second breakfast," Bilbo said, and turned to head into the kitchen, followed by Primula who wished to find a vase for her flowers. Drogo took Frodo to give him a wash-up, and then led him into the kitchen where the adults all bustled about the business of preparing eggs and sausage and scones and fried potatoes and other such good things.

Frodo sat on the floor in the corner and looked at the beautiful pictures in his book, and wished he knew what the words said. Then he looked up at the adults and sighed. He had a present for Mama and Papa. He needed one for Unca Bibo!

Primula turned from taking up the sausages, so that she could set the plate on the kitchen table when her eyes fell on the picture book…abandoned. She put the platter down with a thump, while the fork went tumbling to the floor as she gasped. "Where's Frodo?"

Drogo turned from fetching the cutlery and noticed the kitchen door was ajar. "He's gone outside!"

Bilbo put the teapot down quickly, and all three of them rushed outside.

"Frodo!" Primula shouted in a panic.

"Here I am, Mama!" crowed a little voice from the middle of the vegetable patch. He came marching out proudly, his hands filled with some of the Gaffer's prize taters! "I got a present for Unca Bibo!"

Bilbo looked at the lad, his blue eyes shining proudly out of a very grubby face—the child was dirt-coloured from head to toe. He walked unsteadily up to Bilbo and held up his prize: Bilbo's own potatoes from his own garden. He knelt down in the dirt next to the child with no regards to the knees of his own breeches, and took the offering with a smile. "Thank you very much Frodo! We shall have these potatoes for our supper tonight! They are a wonderful present!"

But as they went back inside, Bilbo wondered with no little trepidation what he would tell his gardener!

Author's Note:

The custom of becoming a faunt on a hobbit-child's third birthday is described in JRRT's Letter #214:

"Giving gifts: was a personal matter, not limited to kinship. It was a form of 'thanksgiving', and

taken as a recognition of services, benefits, and friendship shown, especially in the past year.

It may be noted that Hobbits, as soon as they became 'faunts' (that is talkers and walkers:

formally taken to be on their third birthday-anniversary) gave presents to their parents. These were

supposed to be things 'produced' by the giver (that is found, grown, or made by the 'byrding'),

beginning in small children with bunches of wild flowers. This may have been the origin of the

'thanksgiving' presents of wider distribution, and the reason why it remained 'correct' even in the

Shire for such presents to be things belonging to or produced by the giver. Samples of the produce

of their gardens fields or workshops remained the usual 'gifts given', especially among the poorer


The idea that faunthood officially ends on the child's fifth birthday is my own. And you will note that the title for the story is a quote from this portion of the letter.

Part of the dialogue came from one of the drabbles in my drabble series about Drogo Baggins, "A Decent and Respectable Hobbit", found on this archive:

Bilbo guided three-year-old Frodo into the room, as his parents watched. The faunt grinned, hands behind his back: face shiny; hair on head and feet damp; clothes askew; traces of mud on his breeches.

"For my birfday, Mama!" He thrust out his right hand: in it, a ragged bouquet, equal parts fall garden flowers and weeds. Primula took them, hugging her lad. Bilbo saw her tears of pride.

Frodo held out his left hand-a small stone, round and shiny, striated brown, black and white. "For you, Papa!"

Drogo took it, embracing his son. "It will be precious to me always."

A Form of 'Thanksgiving'