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Time to Make a Change  by Pervinca

Time to Make a Change


A/N: This is not going to be a happy story. It centres around how the five major hobbits (Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin) deal with the loss of their respective fathers – or parents in the case of Frodo. Each hobbit will have his own chapter, and I may even have an epilogue in which the children of Sam, Merry and Pippin’s have to let their fathers go. Almost like several little stories in one.

This first chapter is for Bilbo, and the title comes from one of his father’s sayings that Bilbo quotes to the dwarves (when they get trapped in the secret passage into Smaug’s lair): “While there’s life, there’s hope”. I will try and incorporate Bungo’s other two favourite sayings into the story.

1: While There’s Life (Bungo Baggins)

S.R. 1326


The December of 1325 brought some of the worst weather the Shire had seen since the Fell Winter of 1311. Just as that winter had claimed many lives, as the New Year began, the whole Shire had suffered great loss.

For the most part, the deaths were in poorer families. Their homes were more open to the chilling wind, and many of them could not afford to pay healers to treat their ill. Sicknesses spread rapidly through large families. Children and the elderly were the first to be taken, but several young and fit hobbits also lost their lives.

Richer families were not immune though. In Hobbiton, Bag-End was considered the most luxurious and desirable hole. It hardly seemed possible that one of its inhabitants would fall ill from the cold, but as January 1326 rolled by, Bungo Baggins lay deathly ill.

Bungo was not young, but at eighty he was not especially old, and he had always been fairly fit. However, Bungo was on quite friendly terms with most of the poorer families on Bag Shot Row and he had been helping them tend to their ill and try to warm up their homes. There was little doubt that Bungo’s kindness was the cause of his illness.

Young Bilbo Baggins was devastated by his father’s condition. He had always been certain that Bungo would be around for a good many years yet – eighty seemed far too young to die. Bilbo could remember going to his grandfather’s funeral just a few years before. Old Gerontius Took had lived to be 130 years old. Why should Bungo Baggins not also live to that age?

If possible, Bilbo felt worse for his mother than for himself. Bungo and Belladonna had always been very much in love – they still often acted like a pair of love-struck tweens, much to Bilbo’s embarrassment. Bilbo wondered what his mother would do if Bungo did die. Would she follow soon after? Bilbo shuddered at the thought. He was not ready to be all alone in the world.

These were the thoughts that ran through Bilbo’s mind as he prepared morning tea for his parents. Belladonna rarely left the side of Bungo’s sick bed, so most of the work around the home was left up to Bilbo. Fortunately, the gardener of Bag-End, and Bilbo’s good friend, Holman Greenhand was always willing to help.

“Miss Belladonna still likes honey in her tea, don’t she, Mister Bilbo?” Holman asked.

“Yes, thank you, Holman,” Bilbo sighed. “Have I thanked you for all the help you’ve been for me?”

“There’s no need to thank me! For starters, I suppose it’s a part of me job, helpin’ out like this. And for seconds, there’s naught I wouldn’t do for you, Mister Bilbo.”

Bilbo managed a smile. His family was lucky to have such a kind-hearted and dedicated hobbit working for them. If only everyone could have someone so devoted. “Thank you Holman. So…” Bilbo searched his mind for a new topic of conversation. “Tell me news of your family.”

“Well, my cousin, Hobson – the Roper, you know him, don’t you? – should be having a new baby soon. His wife, Daisy, looks about ready to pop! They’re certain it will be another lad – Hamfast is what they want to call him. I wonder what they’ll do if it’s a lass.”

“Come up with a nice, simple flower name, no doubt.” Bilbo finished arranging the tea on a tray. “Would you like to come with me, Holman?”

“Well, er, I hope you won’t mind if I say no, Mister Bilbo…”

“I understand. I don’t much enjoy seeing sick hobbits either.” Bilbo looked at his feet. “Especially when it’s my own father.”

Holman placed his hand in Bilbo’s shoulder, momentarily forgetting that it was not his place – as a gardener – to do so. For a moment, he took his part as a friend. “Don’t you worry, Mister Bilbo. Mister Bungo is a strong fellow. He may just pull through. Now off you go. I’ll get started on this mess.”

“Thank you, Holman,” said Bilbo, and he did not mean for cleaning up.

With a heavy heart, young Bilbo made his way to his parents’ room. It was always his most hated chore – taking meals to his father. As much as Bilbo loved Bungo, it was almost too much for him to wait at the door until his mother or one of the healers admitted him. He never knew what to expect inside: Bungo stubbornly fighting the illness, or Bungo losing a desperate battle.

On this day, it was, sadly, the latter. Bilbo had never seen someone look so sickly, so close to death. Bungo’s skin was pale and clammy, with beads of sweat on his forehead. Belladonna sat at her place, by the side of the bed, wiping her husbands face with a dampened cloth. There were two healers in the room also, both of whom looked sad and full of pity.

At that moment, Bilbo knew his father was going to die. The tray fell from his hands, shattering the plates and cups, and spilling tea and biscuits all over the floor.

“Oh, Bilbo!” Belladonna cried. She left her seat and ran to Bilbo, gathering him in her rams like he was a child again. “What is wrong? Please tell me you are not also ill!”

“No, Mother, I’m fine,” Bilbo replied, with tears stinging in his eyes. He lowered his voice until it was a scarce whisper. “Father’s going to die, isn’t he? He’s not going to get better.”

Belladonna did not reply. She pulled away from her son and looked him in the eyes. Bungo’s eyes. In fact, every feature of Bilbo had come from Bungo. “Oh, Bilbo,” she said again.

“Bilbo? Come here my lad,” Bungo called in a wavering voice. He raised an arm weakly and beckoned.

Bilbo looked at his mother and she nodded. He made his way to the chair beside Bungo’s bed. “Yes, Father?”

“My dear, dear Bilbo. My only son, my only child.” Every breath seemed an effort for Bungo, but he continued. “Sometimes I used to think it a pity that we had no more children – there’s enough room here for many, many more. I used to get into so much trouble with Longo and Bingo when we were lads. The scourge of Hobbiton, we were. But Bella – my beautiful Belladonna – she only wanted you. Only one. I suppose growing up with ten brothers and sisters was probably hard to do.” Bungo could not find the heart to tell Bilbo the other reason he was an only child. He and Bella had tried twice before Bilbo came along. Both the children – one a lass, the other a lad – had died within their first few days of life. But Bungo had never been one to give up hope. They had tried once more and been blessed with Bilbo – and at the same time, one of Bungo’s favourite proverbs was born: “Third time pays for all.”

“It would have been nice to have brothers and sisters,” Bilbo admitted. “But then I would have had to share you and Mother. Besides, I have plenty of cousins, and Holman is as good a friend as any hobbit could wish for.”

Bungo managed a smile. “You always were a smart lad, my boy.”

Bilbo could contain his grief no longer. The tears he had been holding in burst free. “Father, I don’t want you to die!”

“Bilbo, all must die, eventually. Except the elves, of course. And old Gandalf – I do wonder if wizards ever age. He still looks the same as he did when I was a lad!”

“But you’re still young!”

“Remember little April Twofoot? From Bag Shot Row? She was only sixteen, and she died. My son, there is no such thing as too young. You are never too young – or too old, for that matter – to do anything. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Father.”

“Every worm has its weakness, Bilbo, and though I am by no means a worm, my weakness seems to be kindness. My helping out our poorer neighbours was what made me sick. But I do not regret doing it. If I had, more would have met poor little April’s fate. Do you with that I had no helped them?”

“No, Father!” Bilbo sobbed.

“Good lad. I would not have liked to leave this world knowing that you did not approved of one of my decisions.”

“Father, what am I to do without you?”

“You have come of age now, Bilbo. You are old enough to be the Master of Bag-End, and so you shall be.” Bungo grinned. “I also need you to look after that wily mother of yours. Make sure she doesn’t run off on an ‘adventure’.”

A tearful laugh came from behind him, and Bilbo realised that his mother had returned to the bed.

“Father, you’ve taught me so much…” Bilbo began.

“And don’t you forget any of it, Bilbo. I have a feeling that you will do something great with your life. The name of Baggins will not be tarnished in your trustworthy hands.” Bungo reached up and touched his son’s cheek. A face that looked so much like his own, but within Bilbo’s eyes, he could sometimes see a swirl of green. Belladonna had green eyes. “Bilbo, my son, my beautiful son…”

Bungo’s eyes closed and he saw no more. Bilbo’s world froze. He could not hear Belladonna’s sobs, nor the comforting words of the healers. He could only hear silence, and he knew that the steady, almost unnoticeable sound of his father’s breathing and heartbeat had stopped. Without it, the world seemed empty.

“Father? Father!” Bilbo sobbed. All of the sounds around him came rushing back. “Father, please, come back. I still need you!”

* * * * * *

A week later, the funeral of Mr Bungo Baggins was held and many attended. He had been well respected and liked in the Hobbiton, Overhill and Bywater areas. And, then, of course, there was all of the family and extended family. The Tooks had liked the husband of Belladonna a great deal, despite him being a “dreadfully dull Baggins”.

Bilbo hardly heard the encouraging words that every guest offered him. He always muttered some form of thanks, though. His father had always taught him the proper manners. Eventually, Bilbo found his way to the front step of Bag-End, the only sanctuary from the army of well-wishers.

“Mister Bilbo?” Holman Greenhand called softly. He was the only hobbit to find his new master.

“Hullo, Holman,” Bilbo said, quietly. Holman sat next to Bilbo. Fortunately for both of them, the snow had lessened in previous days.

“I was thinking about which bulbs to plant,” Holman said at length. He tried to keep the conversation light. “I’ll have to start plantin’ soon if we want them up for Spring.”

“Tulips would be nice,” Bilbo replied. “Pink and yellow ones. And marigolds – but they can wait until Spring.”

“Sounds good to me, Mister Bilbo.”

“Father always loved marigolds.” Bilbo looked up at Holman. “If your cousin’s baby turns out to be a lass, do you think you could suggest Marigold as a name?”

“Shall do, Mister Bilbo.” Holman smiled. “Perhaps you should keep the name in mind in case you ever have a lovely little daughter. ‘Marigold Baggins’ has a nice ring to it.”

Bilbo smiled back. “But I would have to find a lovely wife first – one that could put up with me! No, Holman, I don’t think that I shall ever marry.” He sighed and his smile faded. “I would not wish to put any lass through what my mother went through.”

“Not even the love she shared with Mister Bungo? Just wait and see, Mister Bilbo. You may yet meet the lass of your dreams some day, and then Bag-End will be filled with the laughter of little Marigold and Bilbo II and Bungo II and little Bella, and any others that may come along.”

Bilbo finally smiled again. “There is plenty of room in Bag-End for children, isn’t there?”

* * * * * *

Holman’s little cousin was born a month later; a lad, as Hobson and Daisy had guessed. Holman never had any children of his own, but he took young Hamfast under his wing and trained the lad up to take over the gardening of Bag-End after him.

Holman also told Hamfast about how Mister Bilbo Baggins had wanted him to be a lass called Marigold. Hamfast never forgot this, and when his third daughter was born, he could think of no better name than “Marigold Gamgee”.

* * * * * *

A/N: Well, there’s Bilbo’s chapter. Please tell me what you think. I wanted to involve Sam’s family to set up the deep friendship and affection that we all know develops between Sam and Frodo. Frodo’s chapter is next.


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