For Tolkien fans who have only seen film interpretations or haven’t read The Lord of the Rings recently, the name Fatty Bolger probably doesn’t mean much. Fatty is one of the residents of the Shire who plays “Sir Not Appearing in This Film.” And I think that’s too bad. He’s one of Frodo’s closest friends. He protected Frodo’s secret. He saved Frodo’s life. And he helped protect the Shire from the dark forces that were closing in on the Free Folk of Middle-earth. And he doesn’t get the recognition he earned for the part he played.
Let’s meet Fatty. Like the rest of our hobbits, Fatty doesn’t go by his given name which is Fredegar Bolger. And he’s introduced as one of young descendants of Old Took who was fond of Bag End and its masters. Fatty helps pack Bag End and knows that Frodo intends to leave the Shire instead of actually living in Crickhollow (though Frodo doesn’t know Fatty and the others know). Fatty also helps Merry move Frodo’s furniture and books, and I think we all know how much someone has to love you to help move your books. So why did Fatty stay behind?
Fond as he was of Frodo, Fatty Bolger had no desire to leave the Shire, nor to see what lay outside it. […] His task, according to the original plans of the conspirators, was to stay behind and deal with inquisitive folk, and to keep up as long as possible the pretence that Mr. Baggins was still living at Crickhollow. He had even brought along some old clothes of Frodo’s to help him in playing the part. They little thought how dangerous that part might prove.
Did you say “dangerous”? Oh my, yes. The same night a handful of Black Riders ransacked the hobbits’ room in Bree, the rest of the Riders had a mission of their own in Buckland.
The house at Crickhollow stood silent. Fatty Bolger opened the door cautiously and peered out. A feeling of fear had been growing on him all day, and he was unable to rest or go to bed: there was a brooding threat in the breathless night-air. As he stared out into the gloom, a black shadow moved under the trees; the gate seemed to open of its own accord and close again without a sound. Terror seized him. He shrank back, and for a moment he stood trembling in the hall. Then he shut and locked the door. […] There was a faint stir in the leaves, and a cock crowed far away. The cold hour before dawn was passing. The figure by the door moved. In the dark without moon or stars a drawn blade gleamed, as if a chill light had been unsheathed. There was a blow, soft but heavy, and the door shuddered.
‘Open, in the name of Mordor!’ said a voice thin and menacing.
At a second blow the door yielded and fell back, with timbers burst and lock broken. The black figures passed swiftly in.
At that moment, among the trees nearby, a horn rang out. It rent the night like fire on a hill-top. […] Fatty Bolger had not been idle. As soon as he saw the dark shapes creep from the garden, he knew that he must fun for it, or perish. And run he did, out of the back door, [without being seen by the Black Riders, I might add] through the garden, and over the fields. When he reached the nearest house, more than a mile away, he collapsed on the doorstep.
Fatty’s flight cause the alarm to be raised across all of Buckland. The Black Riders fled. They knew the Ring wasn’t in the Shire, but where? It would take them time to discover that.
And from there Fatty fades from thought until the War of the Ring is over and the Shire has been scoured.
The day after the battle.
[Battle of Bywater – 1419, the last battle fought in the Shire] Frodo rode to Michel Delving and released the prisoners from the Lockholes. One of the first that they found was poor Fredegar Bolger, Fatty no longer. He had been taken when the ruffians smoked out a band of rebels that he led from their hidings up in the Brockenbores by the hills of Scary.
Bill Ferny and other shiftless men, under directions from Sauroman, had taken control of the Shire and ran a systematic program of ruining the blissful life of the hobbits. Fatty had been the leader of a group of guerilla rebels- not unlike Faramir and the Rangers of the South- to protect his Shire from the Dark Powers. In exchange for his resistance and courage he was locked in a lightless cellar and starved: Fatty no longer.
Fredegar is every bit as much a hero of the fight to free Middle-earth as any member of the Fellowship or the knights of Rohan or soldiers of Gondor. He knew that there was still some good in the world. And it was worth fighting for.
(REPOST from 2014)