The Hobbit Regendered
Original by JRR Tolkien
Genderswapped by Kate Harrad
Chapter One: An Unexpected Party
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle. The door opened on to a tube-shaped hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with panelled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs, and lots and lots of pegs for hats and coats – the hobbit was fond of visitors. The tunnel wound on and on, going fairly but not quite straight 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. No going upstairs for the hobbit: bedrooms, bathrooms, cellars, pantries (lots of these), wardrobes (she had whole rooms devoted to clothes), kitchens, dining-rooms, all were on the same floor, and indeed on the same passage. The best rooms were all on the left-hand side (going in), for these were the only ones to have windows, deep-set round windows looking over her garden and meadows beyond, sloping down to the river.
This hobbit was a very well-to-do hobbit, and her name was Baggins. The Bagginses had lived in the neighbourhood of The Hill for time out of mind, 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: you could tell what a Baggins would say on any question without the bother of asking her. This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure, and found herself doing and saying things altogether unexpected. She may have lost the neighbours’ respect, but she gained – well, you will see whether she gained anything in the end.
The father of our particular hobbit… what is a hobbit? I suppose hobbits need some description nowadays, since 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 bearded Dwarves. Hobbits have no beards. There is little or no magic about them, except the ordinary everyday sort which helps them to disappear quietly and quickly when large stupid folk like you and me come blundering along, making a noise like elephants which they can hear a mile off. They are inclined to be fat in the stomach; they dress in bright colours (chiefly green and yellow); wear no shoes, because their feet grow natural leathery soles and thick warm brown hair like the stuff on their heads (which is curly); have long clever brown fingers, good-natured faces, and laugh deep fruity laughs (especially after dinner, which they have twice a day when they can get it). Now you know enough to go on with. As I was saying, the father of this hobbit – of Bilba Baggins, that is – was the fabulous Bungo Took, one of the three remarkable sons of the Old Took, head of the hobbits who lived across The Water, the small river that ran at the foot of The Hill. It was often said (in other families) that long ago one of the Took ancestors must have taken a fairy husband. That was, of course, absurd, but certainly there was still something not entirely hobbit-like about them, – and once in a while members of the Took-clan would go and have adventures. They discreetly disappeared, and the family hushed it up; but the fact remained that the Tooks were not as respectable as the Bagginses, though they were undoubtedly richer. Not that Bungo Took ever had any adventures after he became Mr. Belladonna Baggins. Belladonna, who was Bilba’s mother, built the most luxurious hobbit-hole for him (and partly with his money) that was to be found either under The Hill or over The Hill or across The Water, and there they remained to the end of their days. Still it is probable that Bilba, his only daughter, although she looked and behaved exactly like a second edition of her solid and comfortable mother, got something a bit queer in her makeup from the Took side, something that only waited for a chance to come out. The chance never arrived, until Bilba Baggins was grown up, being about fifty years old or so, and living in the beautiful hobbit-hole built by her mother, which I have just described for you, until she had in fact apparently settled down immovably.
By some curious chance one morning long ago in the quiet of the world, when there was less noise and more green, and the hobbits were still numerous and prosperous, and Bilba Baggins was standing at her door after breakfast smoking an enormous long wooden pipe that reached nearly down to her woolly toes (neatly brushed) – Gandalfine came by. Gandalfine! If you had heard only a quarter of what I have heard about her, and I have only heard very little of all there is to hear, you would be prepared for any sort of remarkable tale. Tales and adventures sprouted up all over the place wherever she went, in the most extraordinary fashion. She had not been down that way under The Hill for ages and ages, not since her friend the Old Took died, in fact, and the hobbits had almost forgotten what she looked like. She had been away over The Hill and across The Water on business of her own since they were all small hobbit-girls and hobbit-boys.
All that the unsuspecting Bilba saw that morning was an old woman with a staff. She had a tall pointed blue hat, a long grey cloak, a silver scarf over which a white beard hung down below her waist, and immense black boots. “Good morning!” said Bilba, and she meant it. The sun was shining, and the grass was very green. But Gandalfine looked at her from under long bushy eyebrows that stuck out further than the brim of her shady hat. “What do you mean?” she 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; or that it is morning to be good on?”
“All of them at once,” said Bilba. “And a very fine morning for a pipe of tobacco out of doors, into the bargain. If you have a pipe about you, sit down and have a fill of mine! There’s no hurry, we have all the day before us!” Then Bilba sat down on a seat by her door, crossed her legs, and blew out a beautiful grey ring of smoke that sailed up into the air without breaking and floated away over The Hill.
“Very pretty!” said Gandalfine. “But I have no time to blow smoke-rings this morning. I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.”
“I should think so – in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them,” said our Miss Baggins, and stuck one thumb behind her braces, and blew out another even bigger smoke-ring. Then she took out her morning letters, and begin to read, pretending to take no more notice of the old woman. She had decided that she was not quite her sort, and wanted her to go away. But the old woman did not move. She stood leaning on her stick and gazing at the hobbit without saying anything, till Bilba got quite uncomfortable and even a little cross.
“Good morning!” she said at last. “We don’t want any adventures here, thank you! You might try over The Hill or across The Water.” By this she meant that the conversation was at an end.
“What a lot of things you do use Good morning for!” said Gandalfine. “Now you mean that you want to get rid of me, and that it won’t be good till I move off.”
“Not at all, not at all, my dear madam! Let me see, I don’t think I know your name?”
“Yes, yes, my dear madam – and I do know your name, Miss Bilba Baggins. And you do know my name, though you don’t remember that I belong to it. I am Gandalfine, and Gandalfine means me! To think that I should have lived to be good-morninged by Bungo Took’s daughter, as if I was selling buttons at the door!”
“Gandalfine, Gandalfine! Good gracious me! Not the wandering witch that gave Old Took a pair of magic diamond studs that fastened themselves and never came undone till ordered? Not the woman who used to tell such wonderful tales at parties, about dragons and goblins and giants and the rescue of princes and the unexpected luck of widowers’ daughters? Not the woman that used to make such particularly excellent fireworks! I remember those! Old Took used to have them on Midsummer’s Eve. Splendid! They used to go up like great lilies and snapdragons and laburnums of fire and hang in the twilight all evening!” You will notice already that Miss Baggins was not quite so prosy as she liked to believe, also that she was very fond of flowers. “Dear me!” she went on. “Not the Gandalfine who was responsible for so many quiet lasses and lads going off into the Blue for mad adventures. Anything from climbing trees to visiting Elves – or sailing in ships, sailing to other shores! Bless me, life used to be quite inter – I mean, you used to upset things badly in these parts once upon a time. I beg your pardon, but I had no idea you were still in business.”
“Where else should I be?” said the witch. “All the same I am pleased to find you remember something about me. You seem to remember my fireworks kindly, at any rate, and that is not without hope. Indeed for your old grandmother Took’s sake, and for the sake of poor Bungo, I will give you what you asked for.”
“I beg your pardon, I haven’t asked for anything!”
“Yes, you have! Twice now. My pardon. I give it you. In fact I will go so far as to send you on this adventure. Very amusing for me, very good for you and profitable too, very likely, if you ever get over it.”
“Sorry! I don’t want any adventures, thank you. Not today. Good morning! But please come to tea – any time you like! Why not tomorrow? Come tomorrow! Good-bye!”
With that the hobbit turned and scuttled inside her round green door, and shut it as quickly as she dared, not to seem rude. Witches after all are witches.
“What on earth did I ask her to tea for!” she said to herself, as she went to the pantry. She had only just had breakfast, but she thought a cake or two and a drink of something would do her good after her fright. Gandalfine in the meantime was still standing outside the door, and laughing long but quietly. After a while she stepped up, and with the spike of her staff scratched a queer sign on the hobbit’s beautiful green front-door. Then she strode away, just about the time when Bilba was finishing her second cake and beginning to think that she had escaped adventures very well.
The next day she had almost forgotten about Gandalfine. She did not remember things very well, unless she put them down on her Engagement Tablet: like this: Gandalfine Tea Wednesday. Yesterday she had been too flustered to do anything of the kind. Just before tea-time there came a tremendous ring on the front-door bell, and then she remembered! She rushed and put on the kettle, and put out another cup and saucer and an extra cake or two, and ran to the door.
“I am so sorry to keep you waiting!” she was going to say, when she saw that it was not Gandalfine at all. It was a dwarf with a blue beard tucked into a golden belt, and very bright eyes under her dark-green hood. As soon a the door was opened, she pushed inside, just as if she had been expected. She hung her hooded cloak on the nearest peg, and “Dwalina at your service!” she said with a low bow.