“Gandalf was thinking of a spring, nearly eighty years before, when Bilbo had run out of Bag End without a handkerchief. His hair was perhaps whiter than it had been then, and his beard and eyebrows were perhaps longer, and his face more lined with care and wisdom; but his eyes were as bright as ever, and he smoked and blew smoke-rings with the same vigour and delight”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
“Good morning!” said Bilbo, and he meant it. The sun was shining, and the grass was very green. But Gandalf looked at him from under long bushy eyebrows that stuck out further than the brim of his shady hat. “What do you mean?” he said. “Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?” “All of them at once,” said Bilbo. “And a very fine morning for a pipe of tobacco out of doors, into the bargain. If you have a pipe about you, sit down and have a fill of mine! There’s no hurry, we have all the day before us!” Then Bilbo sat down on a seat by his door, crossed his legs, and blew out a beautiful grey ring of smoke that sailed up into the air without breaking and floated away over The Hill.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
For each of the installments of the Hobbit movies, I’ve knitted something special to wear. I knitted a leafy scarflette for the first, a grey mohair, lacy spiderweb shawl for the second, and for the third I knew I wanted something that looked rooted in the Shire to celebrate the culmination of Bilbo’s adventure and his return home. The yarn I had picked out was appropriately called “The Shire” and was hand-dyed by Lorna’s Lace with shades of green, teal, and grey. My favorite scenes in the Lord of the Rings and in the Hobbit are of Bilbo and Gandalf together blowing smoke-rings. Both are very fond of a good smoke of Old Toby – and thus was the project born. I knit a cowl (or smoke ring, if you prefer) with a leafy pattern separated by columns of ribbing. The pattern name is Birchleaf, but I have named my rendition “Old Toby” in honor of the plant that Bilbo and Gandalf enjoyed so much.
The finished cowl reminds me that walking outside your door can sometimes be a dangerous thing as it leads you on and on to a great adventure. (And one does well to be prepared by having a cowl about one’s neck in case adventures get chilly) Another great lesson of Tolkien’s is that eventually your road will turn towards home and you find yourself back at your doorstep. All during his quest with the dwarves, memories and love of his home fueled Bilbo with courage and determination to do his best. He’s a different Hobbit when he makes his way back to the Shire, but his adventure has prepared him to appreciate and love his home even more. The simple pleasures of home-cooked food, gardening, and attempting to blow the perfect smoke ring outside his door are the moments that give depth and richness to Bilbo’s life – and to ours as well. (Though in this day and age I think more gardening and less smoke rings would be a healthier choice.)
Blessings to you,