Ch. 09 – Enclosure


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.


4 thoughts on “Ch. 09 – Enclosure”

  1. Good defense of why commons are good and necessary. Plus not putting up walls or turning backs on others. Nor is he helping the problem of Sara by trying to blame Frodo for Sara’s bad behavior. The conversation with Frodo started out shaky, then got better when Bilbo noticed the walking stick. I like that the treasures aren’t shiny — there are other people around with dragon fever, but not Frodo (or Bilbo). He finally talked with Gilda. She was mostly practical, but I didn’t like how she scolded Bilbo for not speaking because Frodo told him not to, that Bilbo was wrong to let a “young boy” rule him on that. I disagree, Frodo needs to know he can trust Bilbo’s word. Bilbo keeps his promises anyway.

  2. Hi Julie,

    Yes, the simplicity of the gifts Frodo was able to preserve point to their emotional vs. monetary value. He preserves what is meaningful about a person or a place. The Ring has very few ways to try to seize him or Bilbo.

    The trust Frodo has in Bilbo is vital for both of them.

    Thanks for reading!

  3. I do wonder, in Tolkien’s world is it just that cultural change and industrialization are bad, or did they just happen at the same time as Saruman’s fall and the darkening of the world? I don’t recall in the books, but in the movies Saruman tore down huge swathes of forest to feed his forges, and then nature got pissed).

    Correlation, causation, or just coincidence?

  4. The movie is not true to the book chronologically, but Saruman had basically deforested the area around Isengard by the time of the Ring War.

    JRRT has an intense love of nature, especially trees. In this, he was an Edwardian Romantic. He also despaired at modernity, it’s greed, speed, filth and ugliness, its coarse brutality. To him, industrialization was an advance of evil. Throughout his stories, any kind of pride in making things, from Feanor to Sandyman, was a sign of a damaged, if not corrupted, soul. He liked cultures that hit a certain mash-up of Classical Roman & early Renaissance (with a dash of High Middle Ages) and then stopped. Hence, Numenor & the Elven kingdoms. At the same time, his view of civilization is that it is always in decline, which is why nothing lasts. Mortality, not sin, is the central burden of his moral universe.

    That said, anything that smacks of cultural development, especially of advances into modernity, would meet with his displeasure.

    For me, I’m interested in showing how cultural change is always a mixed bag, but is usually useful for shaking up ossified power structures.


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