POV – Bilbo
In which the cousins go for a ride, Rory is the Master, Bilbo is saved by a bird, Esmie is foiled once more, and Rory gives Gilda to Bilbo.
We know what Bilbo has told Frodo about his own young life and loves. What do people who were there say about it?
This chapter is about change and the passage of time. Bilbo is almost 100 and many of the other characters are in their 80s and 90s. They’ve seen a lot in their lives and shared most of it.
For the larger socio-economic story that I’m always trying to tell in my tales, this chapter touches on the swift (by Shire standards) transformation of their sleepy backwater into the biggest agricultural and small-crafts producer in the region. Strangers are coming in, wanting things, and this is both enriching and destabilizing. Common lands are looked at as things to enclose and “make use of”.
There’s also the backdrop of the rise of Sauron. Things are darkening, twisting, right when the cultural changes are mounting. Rory watches both and is unnerved by it.
And this leads to the argument he and Bilbo have about Frodo and Sara, and where blame (or at least culpability) lies. There is an odd tension here because Rory does see Bilbo as a source or symbol of things he fears, but there is a bond between them that is stronger than the fear. If Rory really believed the worst of Bilbo, he wouldn’t speak to him of what he fears, for that would be the Master showing weakness.