In the Baggins universe, Bag End is the definition of home. Described as one of the most comfortable hobbit dwellings in the area, it is the place both of its solitary bachelor residents love the most. It is fascinating to me that since The Hobbit was first published in 1937, several artists have taken a stab at depicting it visually. From Tolkein’s couple paragraphs of description, they have all managed to paint fairly similar pictures. (Click for sources.)
Each of these scenes is idyllic and fantastic, to a heart-bursting degree. But Gandalf is also present in each painting, the catalyst which will take Bilbo (or Frodo) away from this perfect home and off on an uncomfortable adventure.
I used to wonder why the Fellowship lingered so on Hobbits, Hobbiton, and Frodo’s departure from home, and why Return of the King made such a big fuss over the adventuring Hobbits’ return (that is really a subject of its own). I understand better now. The adventure is not the point. The home to be protected is the point. Of course we will linger there, because that is where we really want to stay. It took until this point in my life for that to be true of me at all; I always wanted to get on out the door and on with the adventure. Maybe I’m just growing up and becoming dull and boring; my teenage self would certainly think so. I more suspect that I’m getting to the point that the adventures have a purpose that is greater than my own fulfillment.
The Bag End bag by Susan Pandorf, in addition to being a very silly pun, is a meditation on that hobbitty home. The mushroom caps that cross each color transition of its mosaic-knit body are a reminder that the biggest adventure most Hobbits could be bothered with is a trip through the woods to pick mushrooms.
I appear to have lost my ability to take pictures as I work, so I invite you to pretend that I didn’t. This series of images captures a bit of the fun I had watching the combination of colors change the balance of my work as each new one was added.
The pattern is really quite brilliant. Each pattern repeat is a vertical mirror image, but shifted halfway horizontally, so that the first half of the new color repeat continues the old. I am explaining this terribly; you’d probably have to knit it yourself to appreciate it. But take my word for it, it’s delightfully clever. At least, this is the sort of thing that I find amusing, to contain such variety in what is essentially only five different patterned rows. “This was the sort of stuff they liked: short and obvious.” (54)
But obvious it is not, and short by no description. I knit the majority of it on our mid-October trip to Maryland, and by the end, this five-foot long strip of double-thick knitting was serving as a blanket in my chilly house.
The color combination turned out very pleasing, I think, and several people commented on it. But when they asked what it was, I felt rather sheepish answering, “um, a bag.” Because it is not obvious at all how this long strip of cloth is going to become a bag. The answer involves a bit of origami. Let me give you an idea:
Of course, in its pre-felted state, this alleged bag is big enough to serve as a gondola for the resident elf-baby. (Her mummy is Tookish enough that she’d probably allow her to go out on a boat someday.)
As of these pictures, I have only one row left and a bind-off to finish the body of the bag. Two straps remain to be knit, and then the felting starts. We will be lingering in Bag End a little longer yet. I don’t know about you, but I’m in no more hurry to leave than Frodo.