Relations – Bilbo POV
In which the past is pondered, hospitality is served, songs are sung, and Bilbo shows that respectability can cut both ways.
So, how do you fight back when the most valuable social good to posses is to be respectable, and you aren’t?
Traditional societies are violent, disciplinary, bigoted, narrow-minded, greedy, selfish and cruel. They may be viewed through rose-colored glasses, but usually only by those at the top of the social order, for whose comfort and enrichment the society exists. People who refuse their designated position suffer for their resistance. Or, sometimes, they suffer because the people in positions of power and authority decide to treat them badly for shits and giggles.
Resistance requires smarts, a thick skin, and things that other people want, like a hoard of dragon gold. Bilbo’s travels outside of the Shire has given him a view of it that is more critical than his kinsmen. He has found a purpose in his life that he didn’t have before, when he was (like everyone else) more concerned with fitting in than with doing good. He is also, by nature, a kind person, with a capacity for empathy rare anywhere in Middle-earth. He spared Gollum, he has never use the Ring for wicked purposes, he tried to stop a war, he uses his own wealth to make life better for others.
His kindness in fanfic often devolves into treacle, where he’s just a big, cuddly, eccentric, generous guy who dotes on his little cousins. Bilbo is also someone who killed spiders the size of ponies, walked into a dragon’s lair, faced down Gollum, and refused to be cowed into doing wrong by any other character in his adventure. He has a backbone of steel. As a result, he does not hesitate to get right in his less-admirable kin’s faces in ways they find very hard to fight back against. His words are as sharp as Sting’s blade.
This chapter also begins to build out Bilbo’s back story. He’s an interesting guy.