I am falling behind even the slow pace I chose, as tonight I decided to make my personal notes in my electronic copy as I go. I screwed with the formatting some years ago, and of course I found myself rereading the small amount I had already read as I fixed spelling and paragraph returns, and stopped to underline places for notes.
Because of this, I found that I was partially wrong about Bilbo and the stars - they do appear in conjunction with his leaving, but not until after his strength of heart decision to leave the ring, so I lose points for still going too fast, but Bilbo keeps his for spiritual fortitude.
The line comes when Bilbo steps outside with the dwarves:
It was a fine night, and the black sky was dotted with stars.
he laughs, and grasps for his heart's desire.
In my readings, it seemed to me that the stars are mentioned two ways - a simple descriptive natural way, and at times when the professor/great narrator wants me to see that the powers are watching, if not perhaps actively taking a hand in this event. (Perhaps they are passively taking a hand? That fits with my own spirituality, so I'm considering that)
But reading with The Inklings (an experience I will always be grateful for, reading with people involved as I was, reaching the Shadow of the past just as I turned 50, and feeling a sense of connection through that symbolism as well. Boy, that was quite the tangent, ne?) ... anyway, reading with the inklings, I decided to try and apply the meanings I had grown close to in all the places that they appear - after all, unrepentant panthiest that I am, why should I dismiss some of them as nature?)
So, Bilbo gets to make his own decision, then, and after it is made Eru/Valar/Narrator (and myself as observer) make their very first appearance. Gandalf has just promised that he will keep two eyes on Frodo - perhaps he is not the only one?
Also - Gates, which signify transition to me, as well as endings and beginnigs, crossroad moments --
A new gate is built for the party field, and it serves me as a symbol of who you let inside you, and who you exclude (even though Bilbo is at a moment where he is including everyone). But when Bilbo is leaving, he jumps over the hedge, avoiding the issue entirely.
Bilbo vanishes like a rustle of wind in the grass, and I fall completely into Arda, with a rustle of pages turning.