Off in one corner of the Party Field, helping to cook the huge quantities of food the hobbits were consuming with gusto, were dwarves, real live dwarves from far away with long beards and pointed hats. They looked exactly the way Bilbo had described them when telling stories about his adventures. Pippin’s respect for old Cousin Bilbo was rapidly increasing as he watched the dwarves talking amongst themselves in their strange-sounding language.
There were also stacks and stacks of presents for the guests at the party, all colorfully and carefully wrapped and decorated. Pippin leaned over to Merry, sure his older Brandybuck cousin would know the truth regarding what was in those boxes.
“Merry,” he whispered, “Vinca told me that there are toys for us, toys that came all the way from Dale with the dwarves. Is that really true?”
“I’m not sure, Pip, but it probably is. Frodo told me a while ago that the dwarves came with lots of packages. You’ll just have to see what you get.”
Esmeralda Brandybuck overheard her son’s last comment and nodded her head at Bilbo. “And you will find out soon, Pippin dear—Bilbo, Frodo and Gandalf are beginning to pass out the presents.” Pippin felt his eyes widen, for as impressive as the dwarves were, Gandalf was positively awe-inspiring. He dimly remembered meeting the wizard once or twice when he was younger, but now Gandalf seemed far taller and more imposing to Pippin; he was nothing like Pippin’s memory of a friendly old man in gray. He hoped suddenly that he would be lucky and get a box full of Gandalf’s best fireworks.
Bilbo started at the near end of the table, handing his contemporaries like Dora Baggins, Lilac Took, and Rory Brandybuck their presents first. At the other end, Pippin bounced up and down, desperate to see the packages Bilbo was distributing. He managed to hit both Pearl and Pimpernel with his elbows, earning himself angry glares from his sisters. His mother fixed him with a stern look and muttered, “Peregrin Took! Do stop it! You’ll fly right off the bench at this rate!”
Paladin glanced at his son and gave him a tolerant smile. “Oh, come now, Tina, it’s understandable the lad’s excited—you know what splendid presents Bilbo always gives. Let him have a little fun.”
Eglantine subsided, but not before giving Pippin another look. Merry put a kindly hand on Pippin’s shoulder. “Here comes Bilbo, Pip. Now you’ll know!”
Bilbo reached the Tooks and Brandybucks with a beaming smile, followed close behind by Gandalf and Frodo with their arms full of boxes. Bilbo embraced Esmeralda and Eglantine, shook hands with Saradoc and Paladin, and kissed Pearl on the cheek. “Well, now,” he said expansively, “I daresay all of you realize how much you are my favorite relations, since Gandalf and Frodo are helping me give out your presents!”
“We are honoured, indeed,” Paladin said quickly, climbing to his feet and bowing to the wizard, for his father had taught him to respect Gandalf since he was a child. But Pippin, forgetting his previous fear, looked up and blurted, “What have you got for me?”
Gandalf burst into hearty laughter. “A true Took indeed—forthright and to the point! But I am afraid, Master Peregrin, that I do not have your present.”
Frodo pulled out a package from his stack. “Here it is. Go ahead and open it, Pippin-lad.”
Pippin snatched the box and shook it, and then began ripping the brightly colored paper and ribbons off. He was faintly aware of the exclamations from the rest of his family as they received their presents, but then he concentrated on the large object he pulled out of the box. Not fireworks, he thought in disappointment, holding the polished wooden toy up, not recognizing the gems that formed its eyes. “What is it?” he said in puzzlement. “A fish?”
Gandalf chuckled. “No, Peregrin, it is called a dolphin, and this one is very special. Let me show you.” He laid down the other things he was carrying and took the dolphin from a stunned Pippin, who could not believe that Gandalf of all people was teaching him how to play with his toy. The wizard reached into the box and lifted out a crystal flask. He then flipped open a hidden lid on the top of the dolphin and poured a clear and fragrant fluid into it from the flask.
“See this handle, Peregrin?” Gandalf said kindly, setting the dolphin in front of Pippin and turning one side towards him. “Crank this around and around, and you will get a very nice surprise.” Everyone else stopped to observe.
A doubtful Pippin did as he was told. No sooner had he begun than bubbles surged from the dolphin’s open mouth, huge, beautiful, rainbow-colored bubbles that smelled like every kind of flower in the Shire’s gardens and beyond. He could not sort out all the smells—there were roses and lilies and carnations and many others. As more and more bubbles streamed into the air, he clapped his hands. “Look, look! I can take it into my bath with me, can’t I? I’ll never run out of bubbles now!”
Bilbo hugged him affectionately. “Exactly! Your mother told me how much you like your baths, so I thought this would be just the thing. Glad you like it, my boy.”
Frodo reached out and popped a large violet-scented bubble floating over Pearl’s head; she giggled as the perfumed drops fell into her hair. “These are lovely, Pip! Can I borrow it for my bath?”
Pippin shook his head vigorously. “No, Pearl! Get your own!” Everyone laughed, especially Pearl and Frodo. Merry cranked the handle again and produced a fresh flood of bubbles.
“There you go, Pippin, lots to pop if you want.” But Pippin watched the bubbles float skyward, sparkling in shades of blue, green, gold, and red as the sun shone on them. He looked at Gandalf, who was gazing at him intently, and impulsively reached out and slipped his tiny hand into the wizard’s.
“Thank you, Gandalf, for showing me how to play with my fish,” he said earnestly. “It’s wonderful.” He sighed happily as he continued to watch the bubbles. “I wish this day would never end.”
Gandalf placed a fatherly hand on Pippin’s head. “So do I, Peregrin, but unfortunately nothing stays the same, not even for us wizards.” He moved away to rejoin Bilbo and Frodo, who had shifted to the next table. Pippin stared after him, wondering why Gandalf had looked so sad for a moment.
Grown-ups are strange, he thought, and hard to understand. He poked at a bubble and grinned as it exploded. Cousin Bilbo was a fine fellow to give him such an unusual toy—he would be the envy of all his cousins at Great Smials. These are almost as good as fireworks after all!
* * * * *
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.