I had intended to spend the day exploring Bree but was diverted from this by something called the Lithe Festival. I had taken a room at The Inn of the Prancing Pony and spent the evening in conversation and song in the common room. Here I learned that I had arrived just in time for the summer festival. Some events were taking place near Bree but I was told that, for the full experience, I should make my way to a place called Hobbiton in The Shire.
Needless to say, I knew nothing of these places but luckily there were a number of hobbits working for the Innkeeper, Barliman Butterbur. They are strange, little folk but very merry and I can see that I have much to learn about them. Well, they soon provided directions and I set off westwards in search of Hobbiton.
I shan’t say too much about the journey; it was long but very pleasant and I was astonished by the beauty of The Shire. Of course, it was very rustic compared to what I was used too but had an undoubted charm. The hobbits themselves were very hospitable and there were many Inns along the way – it seems that they like their food and drink in these parts.
At Hobbiton, I soon found directions up to the festival grounds. These lay on The Hill where there was a great tree standing in the centre. Apparently this is called The Party Tree and has a history – something else to check on later. The whole place was a hive of activity with a great deal of eating, drinking, dancing and racing going on.
And of course there was music. I was delighted to see a fellow troubadour called Brodoric and we soon struck up a tune together. In no time, we had a number of people clapping and dancing along. It was a joy to see folk enjoying themselves so much.
I was talking to Brodoric after and he asked me if I had knew the location of The Last Battle of the Shire. He had heard it mentioned and was curious. Asking around, I was told to visit The Great Smial nearby where a great library was held; surely the answer could be found there.
To my surprise, the location of the battle was just down the road from Hobbiton at a place called Bywater. I read the tale of the battle and then made my way to Bywater. Here I found the inevitable Inn and there settled down for the evening and, in payment for my supper, related the tale to the company. I’m sure it was familiar to all but hobbits love to hear a good story.
It seems that a company of four hobbits Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee, Meriadoc “Merry” Brandybuck, and Peregrin “Pippin” Took had been travelling away from The Shire for some time. When they returned they found their homeland to be under the dominion of Ruffians. These men had been pouring into the Shire and were under the command of “the Chief”, or “Sharkey”, who outlawed everything that the Hobbits held dear; food and Inns most notably. It did not take for the adventurers to fall foul of the rules and they were approached by the First Eastfarthing Troop in Frogmorton:
“You’re arrested for Gate-breaking, and Tearin up of Rules, and Assaulting Gatekeepers, and Tresspassing, and Sleeping in Shire-buildings without Leave, and Bribing Guards with Food”.
The four Hobbits were arrested, and the next day were escorted toward Bywater by several ruffians but managed to talk themselves out of custody. They immediately set about the task of throwing the ruffians out of The Shire. A small group of men was encountered, and Pippin declared that the King’s law now applied to The Shire and that he was an Emissary of the King. The group was routed, but they managed to get a message to a bigger contigent of men in Waymeet.
As twenty men from Hobbiton marched towards Bywater, 200 Bucklanders answered the call of Captain Merry’s horn. In Bywater, barricades were set up at the command of Merry. Meanwhile, the Cottons also joined the group.
When the Men came, they did not expect a trap. They walked up Bywater Road, to the point where Farmer Cotton was standing. They threatened him, but found themselves heavily outnumbered, and as the hobbits closed the barricade behind them, also surrounded. Their leader fell by arrows as he tried to strike at Merry. The rest surrendered.
The larger group of men from Waymeet arrived the following day. In the meantime, Pippin had set up a rebellion in Tookland, and returned with one hundred Tooks. Merry set up a defensive pocket on a heavily banked part of the Bywater Road. The men walked straight into the pocket. Some surrendered, some escaped, and about twenty broke out. Six men and two hobbits were killed. The others now became desperate, and didn’t care about escaping, only killing. The banks proved too steep to climb, and many fell before Hobbit axes. Merry and Pippin charged from the eastern bank, and Merry killed the leader.
In the end, nearly seventy men were killed and twelve were taken prisoner, while nineteen Hobbits died and about 30 were wounded. The dead Men were buried in a nearby sand-pit that came to be called the Battle Pit. The Hobbits were buried separately, and a stone was placed on their grave with a garden around it. A Roll was made of the names of all the Hobbits who fought in the Battle of Bywater, with Captains Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took listed at the top.
After the victory at Bywater, the Hobbits marched on to Bag End, where they found Sharkey. He turned out to be an old enemy called Saruman. Saruman was ordered away by Frodo but Saruman’s servant, Gríma, cut Saruman’s throat in a rage for years of oppression and abuse. He himself was shot by Hobbit archers.
The following year, preparations were made to restore the damage done by Saruman. Sam spread blessed soil he had received from Galadriel, an Elf lady, and planted a mallorn-seed on The Hill. This grew eventually to become The Party Tree.
An interesting tale and I shall have to consider making it up into a proper Ballad. But first, I have a conundrum to solve; shall I remain and explore The Shire or return to Bree? Something to sleep on I think while I dream of finding a suitable stage to perform on.