Why ‘Bilbo’s Last Song’ is the perfect read for Hobbit Day, the first day of Fall, and a farewell to Summer

With today being Hobbit Day, (named such for being Bilbo and Frodo Baggins’ shared birthday), I decided to read our copy of the very short, beautifully-illustrated picture book, Bilbo’s Last Song.

This was originally a short poem Tolkien wrote. And as you might guess, the subject is that of Bilbo preparing for his last big adventure — as he readies himself to depart into the West. It has a naturally somber and nostalgic tone, not in the least because of Pauline Baynes’ mini illustrations on the bottom of each page, depicting Bilbo’s first adventure, as told in The Hobbit.

As Bilbo reflects on his past adventures and looks to the future, I couldn’t help but think of the end of Summer and the onset of Fall. (Even the main illustrations are framed with trees which page-by-page lose their leaves.)

The main illustrations depict Bilbo thinking in his study, and then talking with Elrond, and then journeying toward the Grey Havens to sail on the White Ship. The smaller illustrations show Bilbo’s first encounter with the Dwarves (including the Unexpected Party), his discovery of the Ring and riddles with Gollum, and even the desolation of Smaug.

It’s a bittersweet poem, and matches my general feeling about Fall.

I love the Spring and Summer – everything’s always coming alive and growing! The days are long, the sun is bright, and best of all I don’t have to bundle into multiple layers just to walk outside.

I tend to struggle with the loss of warmer weather and the beginning of cold days and long nights. I’m always a little resentful about Fall, despite its natural beauty.

But seasons are just that — seasons. Seasons inherently mean they’re just a phase, coming from a previous time and ultimately leading into the next.

There’s a gift in acknowledging the roles of past, present and future seasons in our lives, and in embracing transitions… as difficult and frightening as they might be.

A friend recently pointed out her observation that even this time of pandemic is just a temporary season. This too shall pass, sooner or later.

While I may never come to love it, I’m going to try to lean into Fall.

Just as Bilbo knew his time on Middle-Earth was coming to a close and that it was time for an altogether new adventure, I can accept that this year’s Summer has reached its appropriate conclusion.

I’m coming to understand that, like Bilbo, there is so much good in accepting change — and the glorious adventures to come.

“Farewell to Middle-earth at last

I see the Star above your mast!”

Bilbo’s Last Song, by J.R.R. Tolkien

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