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Elf-Envy  by Baylor

(NOTE: This is very tongue-in-cheek, and if you have not read the Premiere magazine article, Four Hobbits Walk Into A Bar, you'll miss some of the jokes.)

My father had called them “strange, homely creatures with not much to recommend them, save kind hearts,” but of course he had only ever seen the one in person. I had been disappointed that I had never had the opportunity to see the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, while he traveled in our region of Middle-earth, but in those days I was oft abroad, either ordering the defenses of Mirkwood or on errands for the King, and never did our paths cross.

So I was pleased when a few short years later one such errand for the King afforded me the chance not only to meet Mr. Baggins himself, but four others of his kind. They were not so unappealing as I had supposed; after meeting the creature Gollum, I had anticipated that they would be more alike to him, or perhaps to dwarves, save without the beards. But hobbits are like nothing else but hobbits, and they have their own charm, though it lies not in beauty or grace.

After learning that I was to journey far with four of these creatures, I set myself to the task of learning more about them ‘ere we set out. I had already observed that the easiest way to find a hobbit was to be on time to the next meal, and so I presented myself in Elrond’s dining hall promptly for breakfast the day after the Lord of Imladris appointed me to the Fellowship.

The four young hobbits were seated together, and the tallest one, Meriadoc , seemed to be in the midst of a tale. He moved his hands outward dramatically to emphasize his point, and the smallest one, Peregrin , grabbed hold of his wrist to interrupt.

"But, Frodo, do you know what happened then?" he asked in excitement (I was quite proud of myself for being able to understand the strange dialect), bouncing a little on the pillows elevating him in his seat.

"Let Merry tell the story, Pippin," the Ringbearer said patiently as he spread butter lavishly on his bread.

"Yes, because then," Meriadoc said, wrenching his wrist free with a practiced twist, "then -- Oh, hello, Legolas ."

"Good morning," I said, and before I could stop them, all four of them had risen to bow to me, scattering pillows everywhere.

"Good morning," they chorused, then began gathering pillows. I stooped to help.

"You are most kind," Frodo said politely as I reordered his seat. "How are you this morning, Prince Legolas ?"

"I am most well," I answered, "but, please, there is no need to address me so. Legolas is more than sufficient."

"Very well, Legolas ," Frodo said, and smiled warmly at me. Then the hobbits all sat and stared at me, silent. After a moment, Frodo said, "Won't you join us?"

"Yes, I would very much like to do so," I answered, and pulled up a chair between Frodo and the fourth hobbit, Samwise .

The hobbits exchanged meaningful looks between themselves, and little Peregrin's eyes grew round and large. I can't imagine any of them had taken breakfast with an elvish prince before; I politely pretended that I did not notice their reaction.

"Tea?" Frodo asked (it was already clear to me that he was the most refined of the hobbits). Elves do not usually drink tea save for medicinal purposes, but wanting to bond with my new companions, I eagerly indicated that tea would be welcome.

"Sam, would you pour some tea for Legolas ?" Frodo asked, a smile playing about his lips.

"Yes, sir," Samwise said shortly, and then set the filled cup down in front of me so hard that some of the hot drink sloshed onto the tablecloth. "Sorry, sir, my fault, that was," Samwise said, and sat back down on my other side.

"No harm done," I assured him, mopping up the spill. " Meriadoc , do continue your story. It sounded most exciting."

"Ah, well, perhaps I should wait until some other time," Meriadoc said. "It was nothing of note, at any rate."

"Oh, no, please, do go on," I urged. If we were to travel together, I wanted the hobbits to be as comfortable with me as they were with one another. "I know little of your people, and would welcome some tales of your doings."

Meriadoc looked quite nervous now, and looked to Frodo for guidance. Perhaps I was too pressing in my request so early in our acquaintance.

"If you wish to hear of our people, Merry can tell you much of the running of our country," Frodo said smoothly. "He is heir to the mastership of a lovely land, where I spent my childhood, in fact. We shall save the other tale for another day; it was getting Pippin overly excited anyway."

"It was not!" Peregrin said, waving a hand to emphasis his denial and thus knocking over his water glass. Samwise hopped up and began helping the other hobbit clean up the mess.

"There now, you see, it was so," he said to his companion, almost sounding as if he were scolding a child.

Peregrin made some reply that may or may not have been actual words; Meriadoc , though, seemed to understand his meaning and said, " Oi , that's enough, Pip." Then, turning to me, he said, "Would you like to hear of the Shire, Legolas ? I would be pleased to tell you about our home."

"Yes, please," I said, whereupon Meriadoc launched into a complicated treatise concerning the functions of his own father; someone called the thain , who I thought for a moment was Peregrin's father but later determined was rather Frodo's cousin, or related in some way to Meriadoc , it was difficult to be sure; the mayor; shirriffs ; solicitors; land-owners; heads of households; market masters; and the post.  

By the end of our meal, I was clear on one fact: hobbit society was much more complex than I had imagined it to be. I had always heard them called a simple folk, yet it seemed that was a misnomer. They all bowed to me again as they left the table, so I returned the gesture, strange as it felt.

As they left, little Peregrin said something to his companions in a high-pitched squeal that I could not quite decipher, but Frodo answered, "It was polite, Pippin, and you'll not laugh."

***


Various duties kept me from further acquainting myself with the hobbits until the following evening, when I was able to sit with them in the Hall of Fire. I was not able to persuade them to give us songs from their own land, but I treated them to a lovely lay, hoping to ease their discomfort at singing in front of such company. Then Bilbo gave us a song, well received by all, and the hobbits excused themselves for the night.

Over the next week, I was able to join the hobbits for at least one meal a day. I came to think of that seat between Frodo and Sam as "my" place at the hobbit dining table. I was now invited to call Meriadoc "Merry" and Peregrin "Pippin" and Samwise "Sam," a sign that I was being accepted into their companionship. I regretted that I had no such diminutive for them to address me with, but then, neither Frodo nor Bilbo used alternate names, so perhaps it was not called for.

Merry seemed the most interested in my friendship, and during the course of several meals, he shared with me his knowledge of livestock and crops, particularly of this so-called " pipeweed "; the brewing of ales; the preservation and preparation of foods; the burrowing of " smials "; and the rules of several hobbit games, including " conkers " and " roopie ." Merry was a most knowledgeable young hobbit; when I mentioned this to Gandalf, he confirmed the fact, as well as that Merry liked to hear himself talk.

I was delighted when one afternoon I discovered Merry, Pippin and Sam playing with some sticks and a leather ball that I immediately deduced was a roopie ball. I quickly ran to join them.

"You are practicing roopie , am I correct?" I asked. "May I join you?"

The hobbits looked uncertainly at one another. "It's really more of a hobbit game, Legolas ," Merry said, and I thought I understood the problem.

"I will be careful," I reassured them. "The last thing I desire is to inflict harm upon one of you."

"Certainly you can play," Sam said suddenly, and his companions looked at him in surprise. "We don't have proper teams, nor a second ball, but just for practice-like, perhaps you'd like to be defender and we can practice our offense."

"Wonderful!" I said. "Where shall I stand?"

Soon they had me in front of a smooth rock wall that bordered one of Rivendell's many waterfalls, and then they outlined in chalk where the goal was. "So," Sam said, looking at me with satisfaction, "all you have to do is stop us from hitting this ball against the wall inside the goal. I'll start out as tosser and the young masters here as sticks, and then we can rotate."

I determined to myself that I should let them have a few goals each, in the interest of good relations, though I knew I would have to be careful not to make it appear as though I were letting them win.

"Very well, let us begin," I said.

Hobbits move quite quickly for such a small, stocky people. And they throw quite hard, though it would seem with poor aim, as Sam's first attempt to score struck me directly in the midsection.

"All right, Legolas ?" Merry called, and I nodded, bending over to ease my breathing. Pippin seemed somewhat distressed at my discomfort, scrunching up his face and then turning away from me, his shoulders shaking. I hoped he was not too upset.

"Now, if Sam had done that on purpose, it would be a foul, but as you move so very quickly and he was clearly aiming for the goal, it is just rough luck for you,” Merry continued. “No point to Sam, though, and now I'm up for tosser ."

Saying that they needed to practice "passing," Merry first engaged in a long run toward the goal during which the ball was skillfully exchanged by the hobbits several times. At the end of this run, Merry managed to score his point through a move he called a "feint" -- he appeared ready to throw to one side of me and then actually threw to the other. Quite clever, actually, and a move I have seen in battle, though I did not expect it in play.

Pippin was up next, and also had a lengthy stretch of passing before approaching the goal. Sam was advancing the ball on the ground with his stick, when he swung back with more force to knock the ball into Pippin's hands, when suddenly --

I did not squeak or squeal. Truly. If I made any noise, it was more of a hiss of discomfort. As any male will attest, it is a most painful spot to be struck in. I could have gotten to my own feet, of course, but Glorfindel , who must have been close by, watching, suddenly was at my side, and I did not want to offend by refusing his assistance.

"Perhaps that is enough roopie practice for today," Glorfindel told my playmates.

"No, just give me a moment," I said as Glorfindel slung one of my arms around his shoulders. Sam looked stoic, though I know he must have been upset by my injury, but both Merry and Pippin looked awed, perhaps by my fortitude. Pippin’s face scrunched up again, and he suddenly turned to run behind a tree. I hoped he was not so distressed that he was crying. 

"The hobbits are tired, Legolas ; they do not go up against an elf every day," he said low in my ear, so I nodded in agreement and then let him guide me inside.

Only one in three scored against me as defender, may I point out. I understand that is a record to be proud of among seasoned roopie players.

***


The next evening, I encountered Pippin scurrying down a corridor with a platter of pastries in one hand and a carafe of dark ale in the other.

"Pippin!" I called, striding up to him and taking the pastries. "Here, let me help you."

"Thank you, Legolas ," he said, but was reluctant to give up the platter. I suppose he did not think it proper that I perform such tasks. "I am just going to Cousin Bilbo's rooms; we are having an after-supper bite."

"Is everyone there?" I asked. I had not had the opportunity to spend time with any of the hobbits after our roopie practice. "Some fellowship and perhaps story and song would be most welcome in my evening."

"Yes, well," Pippin was blushing, "it is rather a hobbit party type of thing, Legolas .”

"Really, Pippin," I said, rather saddened that the hobbits still held me so aloof, "I would be honored to join you for such an event. You need not think that this elven prince would scorn the rustic pleasures of a hobbit gathering."

Pippin's mouth formed a little 'o' of surprise. "Oh, I see," he said. "Well, if we don't have to worry about being too simple for your liking, then you should by all means come along."

"Splendid!" I said, using one of Pippin's favorite terms.

"It certainly will be," Pippin said, his eyes twinkling in delight. "We shall just say that you are an honorary hobbit."

My heart warmed to hear him say those words. I had begun to fear that the hobbits would never get over their awe of me, and that I would remain a distant, revered figure throughout our journey.

It was a most delightful evening. I learned several new songs, though I will admit, the lyrics to some of them did not seem very decent to me. I also learned a dance from Frodo called the "chicken," which he encouraged me to demonstrate some day in the Hall of Fire. I even ventured to try some pipeweed , though I feared I would never develop a liking for it.

Toward the end of the evening, Merry turned to me and said, "So, I hear you are an honorary hobbit, Legolas ."

"So Pippin has done me the courtesy of saying," I answered, sipping again at my ale. I have always preferred wine, but the hobbits seemed to favor this drink above it.

"Then we should treat you as a hobbit, truly," Frodo said. "We are not always so polite to one another, though."

I had noticed this; the hobbits ordered one another about, and traded insults with good-natured joviality. To think, that they had brought me so within their circle to treat me thus!

"Do, indeed!" I said, and was so delighted that I finished the rest of my ale in one swallow. My feat was met with claps of approval.

"Don't honorary hobbits have to clean up the mess at the end of the party?" Bilbo asked ,looking at the disarray we had wrought.

"They do, indeed," Frodo said firmly. " Legolas , you sluggard, unfold your freakishly long legs and make yourself useful!"

"Really, Legolas ,stop shoveling food in your strangely fair face and hop to!" Merry added.

"Here, sir," Sam concluded, appearing at my side out of nowhere, and then handed me an apron.

Never in my life had I before worn an apron, but I took it as the sign of honor that it was intended to be. Soon I had stacked up all the dishes and loaded up the tray to take it down to the kitchens.

"A proper hobbit, Legolas , will steal us something to fill up the corners with on his way back!" Bilbo cried as I left. His remark was met with merry laughter, and my heart warmed at my new friends’ joviality.

It really was a full tray, and I was not so steady on my feet, owing to the ale. I was so focused on maintaining my balance that I did not notice my small companion until I was many paces down the corridor.

"Legolas , let me help," Pippin said patiently, as one who has spoken several times already.

"Oh, thank you, Pippin," I said earnestly, and managed to transfer some of the load to him. Moving with much less difficulty now, we soon arrived at the kitchens.

"We needn't get anything more," Pippin said, leading me out by the hand. "They will all be off to their own beds and asleep before we are back, and you would just be in trouble with the cooks."

"Are you certain?" I asked anxiously. "I should not want to make a poor honorary hobbit on my first night as one."

"Yes, yes, I am sure," Pippin said, hanging his head. After a moment, he peeked back up at me. "I am sorry," he said ruefully. "I should not have told them what you said about not being too grand for hobbits. I know you didn't mean harm by it."

"What?" I asked, puzzled.

"They are just teasing, honestly," Pippin continued. "You are not freakish. You're just, very, well, tall. And slender. It's not that it's unattractive, really, it's just that it's not what we're used to."

Unattractive? Whatever was my little friend going on about? The features of Legolas Greenleaf were known to be fair even by elven standards, and many a mortal had looked upon me in wonder.

"But you are a good sport, Legolas , and they will respect you for it," Pippin concluded, and stopped in the corridor to turn and look up at me. "I hope you will be friends with us, truly."

The last sentence I grasped clearly -- Pippin wanted to be my friend! I smiled down at him.

"It is my honor, Master Peregrin ," I said, and he smiled sweetly at me.

Really, Father should have actually spent some time with hobbits before labeling them "homely." Pippin is quite sweet looking, in his own way, with his funny pointed face and his wayward curls and his odd little mouth. It would never suit on an elf, but all put together on him, it was rather pleasing.

Just then Glorfindel came strolling along. "Good evening," he said, and his mouth twitched as he looked at me. "Have you been assisting the hobbits tonight, Legolas ?"

"Yes," Pippin said boldly, standing up straight. "We have made him an honorary hobbit."

"Oh, sweet Valar ," Glorfindel said under his breath. Pippin's ears tilted forward, and somehow I thought he had heard the comment.

"But now it is time for bed, and Merry will come looking for me if I do not get back," Pippin said. "I am sure Glorfindel will make certain you get to bed all right, Legolas , won't you, Glorfindel ?"

"Is it Legolas who needs escorting?" Glorfindel asked. "Or is it Peregrin who needs to be taken somewhere private and thanked for his treatment of the Prince of Mirkwood ?"

"Oh, no, it's Legolas who needs escorting," Pippin said hastily. "He's had quite a bit of ale tonight." Then, to my surprise and delight, he hurtled himself at me as though I were one of his cousins and hugged me as tight as he could around the waist, pressing his face into my apron.

"Good night, Legolas ," he said.

"Good night, dear heart," I answered softly. He gave me one shining smile before scurrying off.

Glorfindel and I watched him leave. "Have you really had too much ale?" he asked me curiously.

"Just a tad," I said yawning. "I think I shall sleep tonight."

"Such strange little creatures," Glorfindel said, watching Pippin disappear around a corner. "I heard what he said, of course; his cousins would box his ears if they knew he had given them up so easily."

"Ah," I said, waving a hand in dismissal. "It is elf- envy, that is all."

"I suppose," Glorfindel said with a sigh. Then he turned to me with a critical eye and said, "For love of the Valar ,Legolas , take off that apron!"

I laughed and threw it at him after pulling it off. "Do not be so harsh on the hobbits, friend," I told him. "After all, it's hard when you're three foot six."





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