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Timeline Event

Bilbo adopts Frodo as his heir

Event Type: Genealogical

Age: 3rd Age - The Stewards

Year: 2989

Description:

Bilbo Baggins adopts the orphaned Frodo Baggins, his second cousin once removed:
Bilbo was very rich and very peculiar, and had been the wonder of the Shire for sixty years.... The riches he had brought back from his travels had now become a local legend.... And..., there was also his prolonged vigour to marvel at. Time... seemed to have little effect on Mr. Baggins. At ninety he was much the same as at fifty. At ninety-nine they began to call him well-preserved, but unchanged would have been nearer the mark....

[As] Mr. Baggins was generous with his money, most people were willing to forgive him his oddities and his good fortune. He remained on visiting terms with his relatives (except, of course, the Sackville-Bagginses), and he had many devoted admirers among the hobbits of poor and unimportant families. But he had no close friends, until some of his younger cousins began to grow up.

The eldest of these, and Bilbo's favourite, was young Frodo Baggins. When Bilbo was ninety-nine, he adopted Frodo as his heir, and brought him to live at Bag End; and the hopes of the Sackville-Bagginses were finally dashed. Bilbo and Frodo happened to have the same birthday, September 22nd. 'You had better come and live here, Frodo my lad,' said Bilbo one day; 'and then we can celebrate our birthday-parties comfortably together.' At that time Frodo was still in his tweens, as the hobbits called the irresponsible twenties between childhood and coming of age at thirty-three.

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 1, Ch 1, A Long-expected Party

[Said] the Gaffer,... 'Anyway: there was this Mr. Frodo left an orphan and stranded, as you might say, among those queer Bucklanders, being brought up anyhow in Brandy Hall.... Mr. Bilbo never did a kinder deed than when he brought the lad back to live among decent folk.

'But I reckon it was a nasty shock for those Sackville-Bagginses. They thought they were going to get Bag End, that time when he went off and was thought to be dead. And then he comes back and orders them off; and he goes on living and living, and never looking a day older, bless him! And suddenly he produces an heir, and has all the papers made out proper. The Sackville-Bagginses won't never see the inside of Bag End now, or it is to be hoped not.'

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 1, Ch 1, A Long-expected Party

Otho would have been Bilbo's heir, but for the adoption of Frodo. He read the will carefully and snorted. It was, unfortunately, very clear and correct (according to the legal customs of hobbits, which demand among other things seven signatures of witnesses in red ink).

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 1, Ch 1, A Long-expected Party

By this adoption, Bilbo ensured that Frodo would succeed him as the head of the Baggins family, to the great disappointment of Otho Sackville-Baggins:

Customs differed in cases where the 'head' [of a family] died leaving no son. In the Took-family... descent was strictly through the male line. In other great families the headship might pass through a daughter of the deceased to his eldest grandson (irrespective of the daughter's age). This latter custom was usual in families of more recent origin, without ancient records or ancestral mansions. In such cases the heir (if he accepted the courtesy title) took the name of his mother's family — though he often retained that of his father's family also (placed second). This was the case with Otho Sackville-Baggins. For the nominal headship of the Sackvilles had come to him through his mother Camellia. It was his rather absurd ambition to achieve the rare distinction of being 'head' of two families (he would probably then have called himself Baggins-Sackville-Baggins): a situation which will explain his exasperation with the adventures and disappearances of Bilbo, quite apart from any loss of property involved in the adoption of Frodo.

I believe it was a moot-point in Hobbit lore (which the ruling of Mayor Samwise prevented from being argued in this particular case) whether 'adoption' by a childless 'head' could affect the descent of the headship. It was agreed that the adoption of a member of a different family could not affect the headship, that being a matter of blood and kinship; but there was an opinion that adoption of a close relative of the same name 1 before he was of age entitled him to all privileges of a son. This opinion (held by Bilbo) was naturally contested by Otho.

The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Edited by Humphrey Carpenter, Letter 214 to A. C. Nunn, 1958-59?


Notes
The date of this event was calculated by adding Bilbo's age at the time of the adoption, ninety-nine, to the year of his birth:

2890
Bilbo born in the Shire.

The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, The Tale of Years: The Third Age

1Balbo Baggins is Bilbo's great-grandfather and Frodo's great-great-grandfather:

descendants of a common great-grandfather of the same name.

The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Edited by Humphrey Carpenter, Letter 214 to A. C. Nunn, 1958-59?

Contributors:
Elena Tiriel 20Jul07, 17May10

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