A Conspiracy Unmasked & The Old Forest
Consider a hobbit, one Fredegar “Fatty” Bolger. He neither has a particularly inspiring or encouraging name nor a set of very attractive attributes: hungry, timid, and perhaps naive, to call to mind a few. He is an average hobbit, lacking the eccentricities or extraordinary charms that make Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin so delightful to follow. He passes through our story for but an instant. He is not the focus of our attention.
Fredegar Bolger misses his opportunity. Unlike the four hobbiteers, Fredegar Bolger never has the chance to accomplish much, to perform great deeds of serious impact and merit, to grow and be transformed for the better. His fear and anxiety overshadow his loyalty to Frodo: though part of the great “Conspiracy,” he is unable to follow through and serve his friends until whatever end. In fact, Tolkien originally had planned for five hobbits to leave Crickhollow for Rivendell (hence why Merry mentions six horses in the stables). But in the end, even the author himself couldn’t convince Fredegar Bolger to go on any adventures: instead, he remains the hobbit left behind, the one to “guard” the home front.
And yet, to quote Tolkien himself, “they little thought how dangerous that part might prove.” They, the hobbits, did not consider how dangerous Fredegar Bolger’s part might become. For while the hobbitastic four trek into the shadows of the Old Forest, our particularly uninspiring standard hobbit has his own role to play: to keep up the ruse, to buy Frodo time, to distract whoever comes asking for them. Even with Black Riders lose in the Shire, Fredegar Bolger’s loyalty remains firm enough to stay and see his own small part through. In his insecurity ends up being just enough strength to significantly help Frodo.
Fredegar Bolger, our hapless hobbit, is a paradox. He is both a hero and a coward, an essential component and a casted away extra. Certainly in him we see the loss that comes with not answering the call, of turning aside because of fear or anxiety or comfort or unwillingness. Were the rest of the four halflings of the hobbitpocalypse like him, Sauron’s victory would have been ensured. Yet, somehow, he also embodies the simple, small, and humble way one can influence great deeds. Without his unassuming house-sitting, all might have been lost just as well. Given only one talent, good and faithful Fredegar Bolger somehow finds a way to double its value.
In an amusing way, perhaps we all are a little like Fredegar Bolger. We are tempted to harden our hearts and not answer the call that God has for us: the vocation, the sacrifice, the mission. We walk the fine line between unwillingness and acceptance during the toughest moments of life. Nevertheless, we also have the potential in small and simple ways to have a profound influence on our families, our communities, our society, our world. Though our contributions in this life may be humble, they may also have profound influence that we may never realize.
So, here’s to Fredegar Bolger: a hobbit after our own hearts. In him may we always remember that from our own failings can arise our most honorable moments.