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Author:Elwen of the Hidden Valley
Title:The Book Of Wisdom-Advice For Young Gentle-hobbits by Petunia Brandybuck
Theme:Graduation Gifts
Elements:book of wisdom
Author's Notes:
Summary:In the early part of the 20th century books on household management were all the rage. Who knew that they also had them in Middle earth?
Word Count:3177

I don't own the Shire or any hobbits, much as I would love to. They belong to JRR Tolkien and I am only borrowing them for the purposes of this non-profit fanfic. Aunt Petunia however, is all mine.


When Bilbo Baggins left the Shire for the last time Frodo became the Master of Bag End, with all the responsibilities that entailed. Fortunately, Bilbo had been preparing him for this event for some years, even though Frodo was never quite sure whether he would actually go through with his proposed departure.

For some months afterwards he nonetheless found himself the recipient of advice from all and sundry, some of it helpful and some of it most definitely not. It was with some trepidation, therefore, that he accepted a small package from the post hobbit the following April. Parcel's were usually fun things but the wrapping of this one, a combination of brown paper and what appeared to be old rags, declared it to be from Aunt Petunia. Presents from Aunt Petunia should always be treated with some care because they had been known to bite.

Taking it through to the kitchen, where he made himself a fortifying cup of tea before opening it, Frodo sat down at the table. He was quite surprised when it turned out to be a small book, its pages packed with Petunia's crabbed script. The contents of that little book kept him entertained through many a winter evening for it was packed with advice . . . most of which he never, ever applied.

Here are some samples from, 'The Book Of Wisdom - Advice for Young Gentle-hobbits by Petunia Brandybuck'.

“When the king returns” is a phrase often used to indicate that an event will never happen. Don't you believe it, lad. Things happen, often when one least expects them to, and when the King does return the wise gentle-hobbit should know how to address him. A King is addressed as 'Your Majesty'. Plain old, 'Sir' will not do, despite any assertions to the contrary. (This was a piece of information Frodo was actually able to make use of … one of the few.)

Afternoon tea should never be served at the table. It may have become the fashion of late but be assured that afternoon tea should always be served from a trolley in the parlour. It is the sign of a gently bred hobbit that he or she is capable of balancing a teacup and saucer in one hand and a sandwich plate in the other, without incident, whilst at the same time engaging in polite and entertaining conversation. (It must be said that Petunia never seemed to master that skill herself and her clothing was always liberally sprinkled with food and tea stains.)

Agreement is always preferable to arguments. If one does not like what another is saying either agree anyway or evict them from the property. Never argue. It is a waste of time. (Petunia always followed this advice and so never raised her voice or allowed her opinion to be changed about anything . . . ever.)

Do not house any. They are smelly, hairy things. Animals should only be seen skinned, dissected, cooked and served upon a plate. (Petunia was well known for her proclivity for chasing off with a broom any four legged animal that had the temerity to enter her vicinity.)

One need never be 'at home' to people one does not like. The windows by the side of doors in better establishments are placed there for that specific purpose, and enable one to choose who to admit to ones home. The polite caller will depart after knocking a couple of times. The impolite ones should be shooed down the path with a long handled broom. It should be noted, however, that this does not always work with relatives. (Frodo noted that Bilbo always kept a broom in Bag End's entrance hall although he had never seen him wield it, other than to sweep the floor. He was seen to cast his eyes to it upon the occasion of visits from the Sackville-Baggins', however.)

This can only ever be loosely described as a musical instrument as, when plucked, it emits a noise reminiscent of a yard full of angry hens. It holds no place in any evening of musical entertainment. (Petunia would not be moved upon this assertion and had even smashed a banjo over the head of an unwitting youngster, who had made the mistake of considering playing the instrument in her presence.)

Never trust a banker. All money should be stored primarily in one's mattress, with backup supplies secreted in various places throughout the smial and its environs. Money should never be buried in a vegetable plot however, as it is likely to re-appear every time the potatoes are lifted. (After Petunia's death it was very clear that she had followed that advice assiduously. Unfortunately, as the Shire did not produce any paper money, she would often complain that her bed had grown uncomfortable in later years.)

Clumsy creatures. (Frodo wondered what Aunt Petunia would make of elves.)

These should be celebrated at least once per year, more if required. There should always be cake and dancing. (Petunia once declared three birthdays in the same year. As nobody else was holding parties on those days there were no complaints. Her birthday mathoms were sought after items in later life as they could always be relied upon to provide an interesting topic for conversation at the dinner table.)

This should be eaten every day, twice a day. No race of people could ever be considered civilised unless they partake of at least one breakfast per day. (Aunt Petunia's breakfasts had been known to run right on into elevenses.)

The easiest way to hide the evidence. (Frodo decided that he would be wise not to ask for clarification upon this statement.)

Tweens must be chaperoned at all times or they get up to all sorts of mischief. (Frodo was pleased to note that this philosophy was not universally applied.)

Should be washed regularly or it tends to get sticky. (Having been invited to tea by Aunt Petunia upon occasion, Frodo quickly realised that she did not always follow her own advice on this matter. Her definition of 'regularly' could best be described as having been applied loosely with regard to her own china.)

An addition to one's will and a darned good idea. (When Aunt Petunia died her will took up one page, whereas the codicil's ran into twelve. Most of the items she bequeathed in those codicils had long since disappeared by the time she died, usually having already been dispersed as mathoms at various birthday parties. This resulted in some feuds among her beneficiaries that ran into several generations.)

Always read the small print. (As the nephew of Burglar Baggins, Petunia should have understood that Frodo was well aware of this. He supposed it always bore repeating, however.)

All hobbits should be proficient in this skill. (This provided Frodo with many a chuckle for Aunt Petunia was reputed to be one of the worst cooks the Shire had ever produced. Her seed cakes often did duty as door stops.)

A properly appointed hobbit hole should never suffer from this. Nor should it ooze in any way. (Frodo could not imagine Bag End ever stooping so low as to ooze.)

This should be undertaken at every celebration, regardless of the presence of music. (Aunt Petunia could often be observed prancing through the rooms of Brandy Hall rather like Luthien Tinuviel, “to music of a pipe unseen”. Like Petunia, Frodo enjoyed dancing but was more inclined to do so to musical accompaniment.)

See my notes regarding Damp. There is nothing worse than the smell of blocked drains, unless it be that of roses. (Nobody knew the reason for Petunia's dislike of roses, which was deeply ingrained. In her younger days she had once tipped a vase of roses, water and all, over the head of a prospective admirer.)

Noisy but they make nice toys. It is to be noted, however, that they do not enjoy drinking tea. A gentlehobbit should offer tea with all meals and at several points in between because it is one of the staples of a civilised life. Ergo . . . dwarves are not civilised. (To Frodo's knowledge, Petunia never had occasion to meet a dwarf and he had always found them to be quite civilised . . . despite their acknowledged general dislike of the drinking of tea.)

There are those who would argue that this is a musical instrument. They are misled. A fiddle produces a wail resembling that of a cat being strangled. (Frodo could not agree with Petunia's assessment here. He was rather fond of a lively tune on a fiddle.)

Elves and men wear them. Hobbits have more sense than to wear tight metal bands about their brows. There is, however, something to be said for a well placed ribbon. (Frodo had to confess that a fillet was not something he had ever seen any hobbit wear and so he wondered why his Aunt had thought to include it in her book at all. Her assertion could however account for a packet of hair ribbons he had received upon the occasion of her seventieth birthday. Aunt Petunia sometimes laboured under the misapprehension that Frodo was a lass.)

A good, serviceable fabric. One's nightgowns should always be made of flannel. (Although Frodo had been known to wear a red flannel nightshirt in the depths of winter, her gift of a lace trimmed, pink, floral, flannel nightgown was somewhat of a surprise. Frodo had thanked his Aunt politely and then passed it on to Bell Gamgee, who cut it down to make a gown for her youngest daughter.)

All rooms should have one. (Here Frodo had expected Petunia to list the ways to clean one so this comment could best be described as intriguing. He wondered where his aunt could have encountered a room without a floor.)

Lovely. Except for roses. (Sam always kept Bag End provided with little vases of flowers . . . sometimes even roses. Frodo made it a point to never upend the vase over Sam's head.)

This instrument provides a pleasant enough sound when played with some proficiency but produces a dreadful screeching during the learning process. One should never play the instrument unless already proficient. (Frodo tried hard to imagine the circumstance under which one would become proficient upon the instrument without first learning how to play it. He could see a pattern developing here which would explain Aunt Petunia's propensity for dancing without accompanying music.)

Annoying creatures that simply will not take, 'no' for an answer. Consequently all doors and windows in any smial should be remain firmly shut in all weathers. (Petunia was a little obsessed by flies and this habit ensured that her rooms in Brandy Hall were stifling in all seasons. Frodo had a vivid memory of Aunt Esme staggering from Petunia's apartment one mid summers afternoon, florid of face and dripping with sweat.)

It is wise to hold off having one of these until after death occurs, as most folk do not take kindly to being buried whilst still breathing. Sometimes the food is good but rarely is there any dancing. (These comments, combined with those on burial, made Frodo a little uncomfortable.)

Every hobbit hole should have a garden, primarily for the growing of produce for the table. (This was a statement Sam supported whole heartedly.)

This is best used to contain a good vintage of wine. After consuming the first bottle, however, it is wise to switch to a more robust receptacle e.g. A tankard. (Frodo was of a similar opinion and blessed Bilbo every day for bequeathing him Bag End's excellent wine cellar.)

Guests should be well behaved and never outstay their welcome. The best way to be rid of an ill mannered guest is to wait until they leave the room, then pack up their belongings and place them upon the doorstep. Upon rare occasion one may be obliged to shoo the more stubborn guest out of the door with a long handled broom. (It was widely known that to be 'well behaved' in Aunt Petunia's presence meant agreeing with her upon everything. Petunia seemed to be inordinately fond of long handled brooms.)

Laundry should be undertaken only when clothes become dirty. To wash them when they are clean is a ridiculous waste of effort. (Petunia had a propensity for stating the obvious that could sometimes surprise Frodo, however he was inclined to question his Aunt's definition of 'clean'.)

Items bequeathed to one, usually after a person dies. Sometimes they are useful and sometimes they are not. A good source of mathoms. (Bilbo had certainly left Frodo a decent supply of mathoms, some of which had originally been donated by Aunt Petunia. Over the years Frodo had gleefully gifted many of them to the Sackville-Baggins'.)

Do not worry. Everything turns up again eventually. (As Aunt Petunia's rooms always looked as though they had been hit by a whirlwind she was well qualified to offer this advice. Frodo found it a source of much regret that her words were proven correct, most particularly when applied to magical rings.)

A person of unsound mind. I have never met one myself. (Reading this book Frodo was quite sure that he could not claim the same.)

The meal served between elevenses and afternoon tea. If one is clever about it elevenses can run right on into luncheon, thus ensuring that one need not clear the table in between. (As Petunia's second breakfast often ran on into elevenses Frodo assumed, by reading this, that her entire morning must be taken up with eating. He could find nothing intrinsically wrong with this.)

One should always acquaint oneself with the rules which govern the behaviour of well bred people in their intercourse with one another. When one is conversant with them it is so much easier to be in a position to completely ignore them. (Frodo suspected that the first part of that statement had been copied from a book on etiquette. The second part was all Petunia. Bilbo could display a similar blatant disregard for good manners when the occasion suited.)

Every hobbit should be the master of his or her own smial. Do not accept any nonsense from it. (Frodo wondered if that accounted for Bilbo's habit of mumbling as he wondered about Bag End. Perhaps he had been laying down the law to his home. During his tenure, Frodo had always found Bag End to be very well behaved.)

The only good reason I can think of for keeping a cat. See my notes on animals, however. (As far as Frodo knew Bag End had only one mouse and he or she seemed disinclined to start a family so he was happy to let the creature be. It lived comfortably behind the wainscotting in the hall.)

Naps are wasted upon bairns and faunts. One should practice the art of napping with ones eyes open as soon as one reaches the tweenage years. That way one can sleep through the most boring of family events and no-one is any the wiser. It should be noted that this advice does not function as well if one has a tendency to snore. (Frodo never did master this, although there were many family occasions when he wished he had.)

A constant source of amusement. (Frodo sometimes wondered just how amusing some of his neighbours considered him.)

One can always find a reason for a party if one searches diligently enough. (This was an opinion espoused by most hobbits.)

Nasty, smelly stuff. If one must take up the habit of smoking pipe-weed be sure to open a window, but do watch out for the flies. (With her insistence upon closed windows, Frodo considered it fortunate for visitors that Petunia never took to smoking.)

A prince among vegetables which bears serving at every meal. (An opinion with which Sam concurred. Frodo was also aware that, as a prince, the potato should most correctly be addressed as Your Highness.)

There is no such thing as a rag. Old garments may be turned into all manner of useful items. (Throughout his life Frodo had been the frequent recipient of Aunt Petunia's 'useful items' . As a consequence, he always had a ready supply of mathoms.)

If one must travel they are the best means of doing so. They are supposed to be maintained by The King but he has not been seen within living memory. (Frodo considered it fortunate that, should 'The King' return to maintain his road, thanks to Aunt Petunia, he now knew the correct form of address for His Majesty.)

Servants are people too and one must establish a relationship which is amenable to both parties. (And he did.)

The proper form of dwelling for hobbits, be they high or low born. The pretentious habit of big folk for blotting the landscape by placing their homes on, rather than in it, is deplorable. (There were places even within the Shire where it was more practical to build upon the land. When this was pointed out to Aunt Petunia she simply shooed people from her presence with a long handled broom. Petunia would no doubt have considered Rivendell or Minas Tirith to be very pretentious.)

Cleaning is a waste of ones' time. (Frodo was sure Aunt Petunia had never wielded a duster in all her time at Brandy Hall, and seemed to use a broom for everything BUT sweeping the floor.)

Stains can turn the most boring of clothes into interesting works of art. (Despite Aunt Esme's best efforts, Petunia always wore some of the most 'interesting' clothes Frodo had ever encountered.)

One should only ever use tables for the setting out of food and drink. They should never be sat, recited, sung or danced upon. (Frodo considered it fortunate that Petunia was not one for frequenting taverns for she would have been thoroughly scandalised by the goings on there.)

A document setting out the disposition of ones assets after one has died. Never be without one. It saves a great deal of undignified pushing and shoving. See also my note on Codicils. (Fortunately, Frodo did not need to test that assertion whilst residing in the Shire and he could never imagine elves doing anything so undignified as 'shoving'.)

Aunt Petunia's little book travelled with Frodo to Crickhollow and later was to be seen on the bookshelf when he returned to Bag End after his adventures. When it came time to depart for the West he tucked it in his breast pocket, a little reminder of his old home to take to the new one.

It is not known what the elves made of Aunt Petunia's little book of wisdom.



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 14th, 2017 02:08 pm (UTC)
All rooms should have one.

Duh! LOL.

I'm surprised that Frodo's Aunt Dora didn't also write her own book of wisdom! She certainly wrote enough advice to qualify. =)

Edited at 2017-06-14 02:09 pm (UTC)
Jun. 14th, 2017 02:44 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is delightful! I feel that I know Aunt Petunia very well now. My favorite three snippets are:

These should be celebrated at least once per year, more if required.

One need never be 'at home' to people one does not like. The windows by the side of doors in better establishments are placed there for that specific purpose,

Every hobbit should be the master of his or her own smial. Do not accept any nonsense from it.
Jun. 14th, 2017 07:07 pm (UTC)
Oh, glory be! Between Aunt Dora's work on proper etiquette and Petunia's advice, one would be well set when visiting within the Shire! Heh! Love all of the ways in which she utilizes long-handled brooms!
Jun. 22nd, 2017 09:53 pm (UTC)
Petunia is quite a character!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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