Every journey begins with that first fateful step. It’s a dangerous business. But, as many a Hobbit has discovered, those risky comings and goings are often fruitful despite the odds.
When the Hobbits returned to the Shire in The Return of the King, they thought the hard times were behind them. Smooth sailing was the course ahead. Then calamity shook them. The filth of Saruman, like a disease, had infected and immobilized much of their homeland. Their journey led them to a place intended for safety that only offered further strife. Yet, even through “The Scouring of the Shire,” the Hobbits emerged triumphant.
If I were to make the journey and visit one place in the Shire today, it would be to that grand Party Field where once stood the Party Tree under which Bilbo gave a notable birthday parting. Here, in green pastures, a fond and living memory dwells. By the efforts of Samwise Gamgee, the locale has a renewed aura of hope. It is a place made sacred by song and dance. The gardener Hobbit, after mourning the destruction of the late Party Tree of his youth, decides to beautify the despoiled turf.
As the authors of The Hobbit Party describe it, “Sam then takes the single seed given to him by Galadriel and plants it in the place of the party tree, cut down by hooligans. Soon a much larger and grander tree, a Mallorn, grows up to take its place, a glimpse and share of the grace of Lothlórien transplanted into the heart of the Shire” (Witt and Richards 186).
Yet, it did not shoot up overnight. After planting the seed, it caused dear Sam much anxiety as he sat out the Winter. The following season did not disappoint. “In the Party Field a beautiful young sapling leaped up: it had silver bark and long leaves and burst into golden flowers in April” (The Return of the King, 331).
If my feet were to be so blessed as to venture to that country—serene and simple—they would carry one who seeks to know. I would inquire of the site where grief was buried and hope blossomed. If Sam himself is not in, I would gravitate to the next of kin, his wife Rosie or one of their descendants.
Taking me by the hand, they would lead me to the shade of the Mallorn and tell, perhaps, the tale of how it came to be. Sam had lost friends and found them again. In face of desolation, he had built the Shire back up. That’s what the new Party Tree represents.
Reclining on the rolling verdure beneath azure skies and golden boughs, I would see the sun glistening through the leaves. Just as hope had sprung from that little seed, so also it burst afresh within our hearts. Our longing was not in vain. It has been fulfilled. Spring is here.
John P. Tuttle
John is a Catholic journalist and creative. His writing has been published by The Hill, Tea with Tolkien, The University Bookman, VoegelinView, CiRCE Institute, The Millions, Voyage Comics, Crepe & Penn, and elsewhere.