Blunt the knives and bend the forks!
Thats what Bilbo Baggins hates-
Smash the bottles and burn the corks!
Cut the cloth and tread on the fat!
Pour the milk on the pantry floor!
Leave the bones on the bedroom mat!
Splash the wine on every door!
Dump the crocks in a boiling bowl;
Pound them with a thumping pole;
And when you’ve finished, if any are whole,
Send them down the hall to roll!
That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates!
So, carefully! Carefully with the plates!
This week, I attended the local midnight showing of The Hobbit. And then I went back today and watched it again with my husband. I hope no one will think of it as a major spoiler if I tell you that a good deal of the action at the beginning of the movie takes place in Bag End, the masterpiece of a magical home in which Bilbo Baggins lives. At the high frame rate, watching the movie was like watching a BluRay film, and I appreciated and drooled over every last detail of the cozy Hobbit hole on the big screen.
But one thing struck me as I watched Bilbo waddle comfortably around his peaceful and warm little home, and then stare in frantic but very British-polite silence as his house is thrown into chaos by the Dwarves. Bilbo runs around the house, grabbing a chair from a dwarf, saying it's "an antique, not for sitting," chastises another dwarf for cleaning his boots on his grandmother's heirloom box, and of course infamously panics when the dwarves begin tossing around the cutlery and plates.
Now, I've seen the animated version of The Hobbit, and I've read the book, but somehow it didn't really strike home with me until I was watching this new film version with the utterly real and lived-in Bag End full of cozy Domythicity I could really sink my teeth into. All of a sudden I realized that I could so very utterly sympathize with Bilbo Baggins. Although I also don't mind visitors as long as I know them ahead of time, I also tend to get rather obsessed with keeping every last corner of my home neat. I'm the person who walks out of a room and someone scoots a stool a few inches off-kilter with a twinkle in their eyes, just to see me walk back in and immediately go straighten it.
And let me tell you, this sort of behavior doesn't lend itself well to guests feeling welcome. I pride myself on creating and constantly improving a home that will feel like an extension of the people who live there, as well as an outward reflection of myth, fairy tale, and wonder. But I also want a space that will welcome those who visit with open arms. Despite Bilbo's full-to-bursting larder of food, and the warm crackling fire and cozy feel of his home, his attitude toward his guests was entirely panicked and hostile. I could feel myself wincing with him as I saw the dirt and filth ground into the carpet, or see a dwarf using a crocheted doily as a dish rag.
To have a warm and cozy home to look forward to returning to when one is out adventuring is a wonderful and blessed thing: Bilbo refers to this later in the film. And yet there has to be a balance. For all the Baggins in my blood (the Hobbit who loves nothing more than to stay home by the fire drinking tea and reading), there is also Took (someone who needs a bit of adventure and risk taking in her life too). The best of home owners, like the best of adventurers, can balance out the two, and make their guests feel welcome and at home as well.
The morning after the chaotic dwarven party, Bilbo opens his eyes and sees a perfectly clean, perfectly quiet house entirely restored to rights. He smiles and nods, and then realizes that sometimes the cleanest and most organized house is still missing the things a home requires: life, song, laughter, and movement. Furniture is made to be sat in, stools are meant to be moved where needed. Bilbo and I both need to learn to loosen up a little, and enjoy the adventures that arrive at our front doors.