Five Things That Never Happened To Bilbo Baggins
2010 Award Category: Genres: Alternate Universe - First Place
Story Type: Story ✧ Length: Ficlet Series
Rating: Teen ✧ Reason for Rating: Implied violence and dark themes
Summary: Five AUs-- things that could have happened to Bilbo, but didn't.
Reviewed by: Virtuella ✧ Score: 10
Dreamflower has previously reflected on The Importance of Being Bilbo in a very interesting essay; here she puts the spotlight of speculative examination on the crucial role of this character in a neat packet of well-written vignettes that show scenes which - fortunately for Middle-earth - never happened. The fate of Middle-earth would have been grim or, to speak less dramatically, the plot line of Tolkien's main tale seriously warped, had the efficient gardener at Bag End seen the scratch marks on the door and painted them over before the dwarves arrived or if, the Valar forbid, Gollum had killed Bilbo in his mountain tunnel. Similarly catastrophic, and heart-breaking in the bargain, would have been the scenario in which Frodo drowns along with his parents. That Bilbo might have joined Balin in Moria is, as soon as one considers it, a natural and convincing assumption. How would Frodo have responded if he had found Bilbo's grave alongside Balin's? And finally, what would have happened if the Council of Elrond had accepted Bilbo's valiant offer to take the Ring? It is not to be assumed that he would have had the strength for the quest, and yet, who knows? Someone might write that story one day. For now, we thank Dreamflower for these inspiring miniatures.
Reviewed by: Dwimordene ✧ Score: 10
These are fantastic little AUs! Dreamflower picks her moments and deploys them with devastating efficacy. All the ways in which Bilbo's life might have been different, due to one of his own decisions or the random chances of fate. I love how the most ordinary, simple things are enlisted to create radical differences: what if some diligent gardener had painted over the mark Gandalf left in the door, so that the Dwarves did not find Bilbo's house? What if the river had taken one more victim? Other times, Dreamflower shows us how decisions Bilbo himself could have made would shift the story. I think my favorite is ficlet four: Dreamflower fools the reader at first, showing a situation that could belong to multiple times, and which we associate most naturally with the escape from the goblin tunnels in the Misty Mountains. Yet all along, she drops little hints that jar us, but are not quite enough to shake us out of our assumptions until right at the end, when she shows us when and where we really are. Then, despite the dark ending, you can hardly help but be delighted by how she puts two very different journeys together, tying knots in the canonical story in very satisfying ways. Taken as a whole, these ficlets enrich each other, creating a kaleidescope-like effect - they're different, yet they form a whole that shows how many different possible Bilbos there are, and how lucky he was to have avoided them. Highly recommended!
Reviewed by: The Lauderdale ✧ Score: 10
Ok, I've seen the "Five Things That Never Happened" premise elsewhere, but the difference is that I ENJOYED this one. It took me a quick reread on the first ficlet to realize exactly what that business with the door was, but when I did realize I laughed out loud. The next two were very grim (that line about the coffins was a doozy), but I would have to say that my favorites were #4 and #5. I think that's because, whereas #1-3 were "endings" (although logically #1 probably wouldn't cause more than temporary confusion and irritation on the part of Gandalf and Thorin before the matter was cleared up), #4 and #5 promise brave new tales in their own right. Technically speaking #4 presents itself as an ending as well, but I would still love to see that story from the beginning, taking it from Balin's invitation on! And...it doesn't *have* to end that way, does it? After all, Bilbo has his Ring... Meanwhile, #5's idea of Bilbo taking Frodo's place...oh, I should love to see someone write that. He has aged, certainly, in the years since giving up the Ring, but I imagine there's another adventure in the old fellow yet. And of course there is a fascinating essay competing in this year's MEFAs, "Ring-bearers, Aging, and Life in Aman" by GamgeeFest, which lends credence to this with its notion that the Ring continued to elongate Bilbo's life, even after he gave it up... In short, my pleasure in this mini-series stems as much from the possibilities it opens up as from the individual ficlets themselves.
Reviewed by: Kara's Aunty ✧ Score: 9
1 made me snort. Wouldn't those Dwarves have been in trouble if Holman had been so quick of the mark? I wonder if they would have had to find themelves a new burglar ... 2 is a rather creepy what-might-have-been if Gollum had overpowered Bilbo in the cave. Effectively chilling. 3 brought a lump to my throat. Even more chilling than the second, but also deeply sad - for all of Arda. 4 was intriguing. I shudder to think of Bilbo's fate had he followed Balin on one last adventure! 5 was one to think about! I don't know if Gandalf would have accepted Bilbo as Ring-bearer again (IMO), given how Bilbo reacted when parting with it so many years earlier. Gandalf knows that, as resilient as Bilbo was to it, the hobbit still coveted the RIng - a secret desire that may have grow despite nearly two decades without it. Plus the Ring was much stronger by the Council of Elrond. Would Bilbo have been strong enough to carry it a second time - and at his age - without finally succumbing to its lures? As much as he might have wanted to, I'm not sure Gandalf would have trusted poor Bilbo with it as far as Hollin. Still, a very interesting premise. In fact, I loved all 5 of these!! Excellent work ;)
Reviewed by: Adonnen Estenniel ✧ Score: 6
This series is quite ingenuous, and I enjoyed every scenario that came up. The prose was witty and clever; the imagery was vivid. The Hobbit-style of speaking, thinking, and writing was very much in evidence, which is something that many authors try to recreate, but fall short on. Bilbo has always been one of my favorite characters, and whenever I read The Hobbit or the early bits of The Fellowship of the Ring I often wonder how things could have gone. This is something that most fanfiction authors do, I think, but I am one of those lazy few who never take the time to actually think out the story for themselves, simply preferring to wait until someone else writes it. So, this ficlet series has answered many of my own imaginings, in a way that I could not have managed.
Reviewed by: Nath ✧ Score: 6
It's no secret that I like AUs, and the 'Five things' format is always a good way to sketch interesting possible turning points. It's Bilbo's turn this time, and the five possibilities are all rather chilling and/or disastrous in their extrapolated consequences, though the first one made me smile as well. Indeed, what if someone had removed the burglar's mark on Bilbo's door? The most intriguing one though was the idea of Bilbo being invited to join Balin's expedition to Moria, shortly followed by him continuing the Quest from Rivendell. In the second one, Bilbo is betrayed almost immediately by the Ring, and the third one, as well as being tragic in its own right, makes one wonder what will happen after. All in all, a nice little collection of speculations.
Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon ✧ Score: 6
I've always enjoyed the Five Things fanfic exercise; it opens up whole new vistas, and generally leaves me both in awe of the fanfic writer's imagination and the original writer's ingenuity. I love this version because of its audacity - meddle with Bilbo's history, and one risks losing the War of the Ring before it is even begun. Which is what Dreamflower does in the first (and, I must admit, my favorite) of these vignettes, not to mention most of the other [Things]. I guess I prefer the first vignette because it seems both the most outrageous and the most natural and hobbity twist of fate; but the other chapters make for heart-pounding, heart-wrenching reading as well. Imagine Bilbo joining Balin's quest to re-colonize Moria, an unexpected tragedy on the Brandywine, or the unthinkable happening after Strider leads the four hobbits to Rivendell... Excellent stuff, Dreamflower!
Reviewed by: Larner ✧ Score: 6
A thought-provoking series of ficlets, each presaging a distinct Might-Have-Been for Bilbo Baggins, this is one nomination I heartily endorse. What if Holman Greenhand had ordered Bilbo's door repainted before that unexpected party, or if the Ring had betrayed Bilbo as It had Its former bearer? Would there have been someone else Bilbo might have chosen as his heir had there been three on the river that evening? Dreamflower has chosen her moments well, and indicates what might well have happened otherwise than it did in canon, then leaves us to consider what might have happened next. Certainly I found my own imagination beginning to chew on the possibilities, and I've had to tell myself, NO--too many irons in the fire already--won't write that one NOW! Well done and definitely thought-provoking. Am so glad that Hamfast didn't have that pot of green paint available!
Reviewed by: Elleth ✧ Score: 5
Oh! OH! I'm very, very fond of AUs in such mini scenarios, I love five times ficlets, and these were especially well done, and I am not only saying that because Bilbo holds a special place in my heart. The scenarios are funny, horrible (in the best way possible!) and sad in turn, some offer intriguing alternatives to canon, some explore the reasons behind these alterations, and I'm hard-pressed to figure out which of these is my favourite - perhaps the fifth. The implications of Bilbo on the Ring Quest are heartwrenching in so many ways. Extremely well done and highly recommended.
Reviewed by: Aiwendiel ✧ Score: 4
This set of ficlets explores five very plausible alternatives that would have changed the course of history, not just for Bilbo but for all who wander in Middle Earth -- and inevitably, for the worse. Much worse! Dreamflower's pieces present these alternate realities indirectly, without slamming the reader's nose into where these changes would lead, but slyly, by leaving us no other conclusion but to mutter to ourselves...uh,oh... oh, no.... Perfect Tolkien-esque style and voice. Well imagined scenes. Brilliant!
Reviewed by: Marta ✧ Score: 4
The key to a good AU is that it departs from canon at just the precise point. Any changes are deliberate and done with the accuracy of a surgeon's blade, and this "five things" series definitely qualifies on that count. I can see the things described here happening all too easily, and fans of Bilbo will savor these what-ifs. Really nice work on this, Dreamflower.
Reviewed by: Cathleen ✧ Score: 4
This series of drabbles has quite a chilling aspect to it in some places. I shudder at the very thought of Gollum ending up with the Ring and poor Bilbo being dragged off as food! Yikes! And Frodo not living to make the journey that saved Middle earth? Boromir with the Ring? As usual, Dreamflower has been able to take the challenge offered her and create a most wonderful, if frightening, bit of lore for us, this time in an AU, which we don't see very often from her. Truly a bit of "Food for thought"!
Reviewed by: Linda Hoyland ✧ Score: 3
Any of these things could so easily have happened to Bilbo and we can only be thankful that they did not. Dreamflower makes each AU scenario all too believable and each scene feels like a lost snippet from the book. Clever, chilling and expertly written.
Reviewed by: SurgicalSteel ✧ Score: 2
Five separate AUs exploring what might have been if things had gone slightly differently for Bilbo - each of these leaves me wondering what happened next.