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B2MeM Prompt and Path: The Purple Path, prompts Full Moon and Bronte quote. [Squares one and two]
Once, during the time before Roverandom had been reunited with Little Boy Two and his family, he had been taken away by Mews the Seagull to the Moon and many an adventure he had there, too! He met the Man-in-the-Moon and his little dog who was also called Rover (and that was how Roverandom got his name, as of course there could not be two little dogs with the name in the same place. It might have confused the Man-in-the-Moon. Or perhaps not, as he was very wise), so enchanted Rover became Roverandom, and the moon dog became known as Moon-Rover.
The Moon was a marvelous place, all white and black and shades of grey, and filled with things Roverandom had never encountered before. The Man-in-the-Moon gave both Roverandom and Moon-Rover wings, and sent them off from his high white tower on the white side of the Moon to go play. When the two little dogs became hungry they would fly back to the window kept open for them, and there would find bowls of delicious food and clean water. Sometimes the Man-in-the-Moon was there, sometimes he was not.
Once they came back to the tower and discovered that Mews the Seagull (who carried all the post from the various Earths to the Moon) was there, having just brought the post. The Man-in-the-Moon was sitting at a table set for tea, and had just opened a letter.
"My dear Tilion." he read. "That's one of the names I am called, especially by my oldest friends," he said before continuing. "It has been a good long while since I have seen you. I've been watching you wax and wane for many a year from down here, and thought perhaps it might be nice to get together for a good long talk to catch up on the news. Things here are changeable and hectic, and of course, I've found myself tasked with meddling in affairs that have not before been any of my business."
The Man-in-the-Moon chuckled. "He just says that. He's always liked to meddle, so that's probably why he was given the job in the first place." He poured himself a steaming cup of tea, and cut himself some bread and cheese that was set on the table before him. (He also cut two little chunks of cheese for the two dogs, who each caught one mid-air.) "I wonder, old friend, if you would not care to join me for an evening. I am currently journeying in a charming little land called Bree, and staying in an inn called The Prancing Pony. It's well known for the fineness of the food and the brownness of its beer. I shall be staying here for three nights running if you care to join me for supper while I am here.
If you should come, be sure to ask for me by the name of 'Gandalf' as I am known in these parts. I seem to have picked up any number of strange names as I wander around among the mortals who dwell here.
"Well, well," said the Man-in-the-Moon. "As folks say 'There's another country heard from'. I haven't seen him in ages, and I've been cooped up in my Tower until I am ready for a short change. I think I shall take him up on his invitation." He looked down at the two little dogs sitting at his feet, and said "You fellows can get on without me for a while, can't you?"
"Of course I can," boasted Moon Rover. "I can take care of everything while you are gone!" He jumped up and put his paws on the Man-in-the-Moon's knee and gave a confident bark.
Roverandom was not quite so bold. He was still wary of wizards after old Artaxerxes had put the spell on him that had turned him into a tiny toy dog. But he nodded his agreement. "We will get on just as well as we can," he said. "But we will miss you!"
The Man-in-the-Moon laughed. "Of course you will!" He patted them both on top of the head, and then said, "Well, then, I must get ready and be off!"
Roverandom and Moon-Rover trotted about behind him as he called for his coachman, a lanky thin fellow who never seemed to have a word to say, to hitch up the four beautiful white horses to his great round coach. As the coach took off into the sky to follow the moonpath down to the green and blue world below, the two little dogs flew around it, barking a cheerful farewell. Then as the coach became too tiny to see, the two of them flew off to play in the fields and woods of the white side, among the musical flowers and silvery grasses and the tall black-trunked trees.
Time passed, and Roverandom reckoned that on the world below a whole night and another day had passed. He and Moon-Dog flew high in hopes of seeing the Man-in-the-Moon return. Sure enough, just as the birds of the woods were settling in to roost, they could see the dot of the coach growing larger.
Off they flew to the tower, and arrived at very nearly the same time the coach did. What a surprise to see a strange old man alight from the coach. The coachman climbed down from his high seat and went to the door of the coach. Then he and the stranger (who looked much like The Man-in-the-Moon, though perhaps shabbier) reached in and pulled out The-Man-in-the-Moon, who was snoring loudly. They each put one of his arms about their necks and began carrying him up to the tower, and then up the many stairs to the rooms at the top.
"What is the matter with my Man?" asked Moon Rover, as he hovered about the stranger.
"Yes!" said Roverandom. "Why won't he wake up? And why does he smell so unpleasantly?"
The silent coachman rolled his eyes, but Olórin chuckled. "It's been many a year since my old friend had the chance to eat and drink his fill, or to make merry the whole night through! He danced and sang, and quaffed brown beer 'til the Sun came up. It was all we could do get him back into his coach. Since it seems to be my fault, I decided to help see him home and nurse his sore head."
And so he did, settling The Man-in-the-Moon into his bed, and giving him a tea to settle his headache and his stomach, and putting a cold cloth across his eyes. Then he tip-toed out. Moon Rover stayed and curled up on the bed beside his master's feet, but Rover followed the other wizard out.
Olórin went into the kitchen and made himself some tea and toast, easily finding where things were; he didn't even need to ask where the toasting fork was, nor the tea caddy.
"Would you please tell me what happened, Sir?" Roverandom asked politely (and so you can see he truly had learned his lesson about being courteous to wizards), for he was always a curious little dog.
The wizard smiled. "It really was my fault, for I had forgotten how long it had been since Tilion spent time in the world below. The Prancing Pony brews very fine brown beer, and its food is quite delicious. When he arrived, we went in to supper, where a fine meat pie, breads, cheeses and pickles, fruits and cakes, were all set before us, for the innkeeper was quite proud to host so famous a guest as The Man-in-the-Moon! There was also a pitcher of beer, and the serving maids had been instructed to keep it filled. We ate and drank, and there was a fine fiddler there. There was also a little dog, a terrier, I believe his name was Brownie. I think you might have liked him, for he was a jolly fellow. A tabby cat also called the tap room home; she prowled across the shelves where the dishes sat and the spoons hung, keeping her eye on everything in the room below.
There was much singing and dancing as the night went on, and my old friend joined in with a will. The jollier he became, the more worried I became, for I was not sure I would be able to get him home! Still, we finally did manage to get him back in the carriage and on the way back here."
"How did you come to know our Man-in-the-Moon?" The little dog was resolved to ask questions so long as this wizard was willing to answer, which shows he might have got along famously with another of the wizard's small acquaintances.
"Once, long ages ago before the Sun and Moon, we both spent some time in the gardens of the Dream Master, Irmo, who was also called Lorien, after those same gardens. He taught us of the ways of dreams, and how to walk their paths, and how to use those dreams to teach, to soothe or to trouble, the peoples of the world. When our time with Irmo was finished, I was sent on to other masters and other tasks. Tilion remained there for a while, and then he too went on to another master, the Huntsman. Later on, he was set to be the steward of this Moon, and from here he guides the nightly dreams of children. Still, we kept in touch in the fashion of wizards, and so I was glad to get this chance to see him. I do think that next time, I will find another place for us to meet than at a tavern!"
Olórin stayed a while longer on the Moon, going with The Man-in-the-Moon to the dark side where the dreamers gathered a few times. But finally he said "This has been a lovely visit, but it is time that I return to my duties on the world below. I hope that someday, I shall see you all again. Good-bye, Tilion! Good-bye, little Moon-Dog, you are of much comfort to your master! And Good-bye to you, curious little Roverandom; one day you shall find what you are looking for!" He clambered into the coach, for The Man-in-the-Moon had lent it to him for the return journey.
They waved at him, and watched him until he became a small speck, and then they turned away.
"I will miss him," said Roverandom. "He was a very kind wizard."
"So will I," said Moon-Rover, "He told very good stories."
B2MeM Prompt and Path: The Purple Path, prompt: Tyranny [Third Square]
The Rise and Fall of a Tyrant
He watched angrily. Toffee was stuck to its hand; it shook its hand and then stuffed it in its mouth slobbering and giggling. Stupid baby! The toffee should be Lotho's!
He stomped over and grabbed the baby's arm to take its candy. "Gimme!" he shouted. To his surprise, the baby yanked its arm free and glared at him. He tried to snatch it again, but the baby flailed its arm and the toffee stuck in Lotho's hair.
"Mommy!" Lotho screeched.
But today his father sent him off. "The lad's working. Find something else to do with yourself."
One day he'd be his own boss; no one would tell him what to do.
But then he paused. The sprat he'd shoved was Merry Brandybuck, the Master of Buckland's grandson! It would make no difference to his mother, but his father would likely object. His father's biggest rule was "Don't make trouble for me."
So...he was hit in the face by a ball! That would work...
Ted chortled. "O' course she did, a rich hobbit like you?"
Frodo just looked down his nose. "I have a matter of business to discuss with you and your mother."
Lobelia came up behind her son. "What sort of business? We don't acknowledge you as the Family Head." Her look was even more sour than that of her son.
"Several years ago, Otho made a standing offer for the purchase of Bag End. I was wondering if that offer still stood?"
Lobelia's eyes widened. "Bag End?"
Lotho schooled his face. "Come in, Frodo, and we can discuss it."
They wandered around Bag End, his mother commenting on the changes she'd have made. She wanted to get rid of the stuff in the wizard's room that fool Bilbo had made. He wasn't so sure. After all, he was by the way of soon doing business with a Man from down South; it would make a nice accommodation for him.
Lotho pursed his lips. "He did, did he?" He couldn't have people mocking him in the inns. People had no right to ridicule him. He was the richest hobbit in the Shire now, what with the pipeweed he'd been sending out of the Shire. People should treat him with respect. It was his due.
Time to send his Big Men out to shut down the inns; if anyone got hurt it wouldn't be his fault.
There was a knock at the door. Sandyman came in, dragging a miserable looking hobbit behind him. "This here's my cousin Marco Muddifoot. Bolger don't know him."
Lotho grinned. "Mr. Muddifoot, you are going to worm your way into Bolger's rebels and lead them into my trap."
"Why would I do that?"
"I'm your mother's new landlord; she wouldn't do well out in the cold."
"Thank you, Mr. Sackville-Baggins. The road has been long and uncomfortable, and travelling conditions are deplorable these days!"
Lotho was glad now that he'd preserved that room for Big Folk. He hoped Mr. White would be comfortable there.
He found it hard to assert himself with the Big Man; when Mr. White spoke it was hard to disagree with him. He always sounded so reasonable until Lotho thought about it later. And now those Men who had been so useful looked to Mr. White and refused to obey Lotho. Sometimes he wondered why they had ever obeyed him.
He'd tried to dissuade her, when she began to object to those sheds in the garden. Granted, they were an eyesore, but it wasn't worth objecting. Not when the Men were so unpredictable. It was too dangerous.
He watched out the window appalled, as they dragged her off. What had he done? Why had he brought these people to the Shire?
Just then the door opened, and Worm entered, but not with food.
The Man came over and lifted a pillow from the bed.
Lotho was too weak to resist as it descended over his face.
B2MeM Prompt and Path: The Purple Path; prompt, quote on insomnia below (Square 4)
“That’s the advantage of insomnia. People who go to bed early always complain the night is too short, but for those of us who stay up all night, it can feel as long as a lifetime. You get a lot done.”
Bilbo padded into the little kitchen of his quarters in the Last Homely House, and made himself a cup of peppermint tea. While he was at it, he picked a out a few sweet biscuits from the crock where they were kept, and put them on a plate. He carried them into his dim sitting room. The only light was the banked fire in the hearth and the starlight peeking through the window above his desk.
When he had begun to feel wakeful in the night, at first he had tried various methods of putting himself to sleep. Counting backwards from a thousand didn't work, it just confused him when he began to lose track. Chamomile tea, once a very effective sleep aid, no longer seemed to help much either. He had consulted Elrond about it.
"Sadly, Bilbo," the Elf had said, "I have learned that this insomnia is very common to mortals who are up in years for their kind. I can give you a sleeping draught, but those can be dangerous if you rely on them for too long."
Since there was no one for him to disturb at night--most of the Elves did not sleep anyway--Bilbo had decided to simply make use of his time. Some nights, he simply stayed in the Hall of Fire all night, like many of the Elves did. But most of the time he would go to bed. There were nights when he even fell asleep and stayed that way. But most nights he would drift off only to waken after an hour or two and could never get back to sleep.
Some nights he lay awake in his bed and reminisced about the Shire, wondering how Frodo was, and whether Bag End was faring well. Other nights he would remember his journeys and his friends. Other nights, like this one, he would arise and put on his shabby dressing gown, get something to eat, and work on a project. He often worked on his poetry, but not always.
Tonight he took his midnight nibbles to the teatable in his sitting room, and lit the lamps. On the table were some of the books he'd borrowed from Elrond's library, his notes on translation and a notebook. He pulled the lantern closer and picked up the silverpoint stylus he used when making notes. He was working on The Lay of Leithien. He had begun his translation shortly after he had observed the Dúnadan with the Evenstar. The parallels were obvious, even to his mortal eyes, and he wished to honor them with this one day.
The problem, of course, was that Westron seemed such a dull and pedestrian language in comparison to the original. Still, he was not going to give up. That insufferable elf Lindir looked down his nose, thinking Bilbo had outrageous cheek to even think of such a task.
He took up his notes and began to compare the words. Perhaps shorter words would scan better here. "Beautiful" was more accurate, but "fair" fit better with the rhythm he had begun to establish...
He began to write, his tea cooling and his last biscuit lay half-eaten on the plate as he scribbled away, scrawling rhymes in the margins of the page as he sought the best words.
By the time Dawn showed it's face through his window, he stretched and yawned. He had needed an adjective, and having rejected "slender", "graceful" and "limber", had wavered between "lithesome" and "lissom", finally settled on the latter. Perhaps it was a good place to stop.
He stood up. Time to get dressed; he could go down to the kitchen and get a first breakfast--the loaves would be fresh out of the oven right now. Indeed. He would have breakfast and then come back to his room for a little nap before second breakfast...
Yes, he'd made a lot of headway. Perhaps the nighttime was the best time to be writing of Elves beneath the stars. It was just as well he couldn't sleep.
B2MeM Prompt and Path:: Purple Path, Prompt--the Darkening of Valinor (Square Five)
Format: Art, Mixed Media
Characters: Ungoliant, Laurelin, Telperion
Creator’s Notes (optional): My first piece of art for the 2017 B2MeM
Summary: Ungoliant attacks Laurelin and Telperion
Ungoliant and the Two Trees
Click on the link below to see the art.
Mixed Media collage, using cardstock, scrapbooking paper, acrylic paints, embossing powder, Mod Podge(TM) and calligraphy.
I used acrylics to create the sky on the background on a 12"x12" piece of canvas-textured cardstock. Then I used scrapbook paper, sponged with metallic gold for Laurelin and metallic silver for Telperion. I cut the trees from a pattern I made, and glued the trunks to the background, making sure to intertwine the branches in the center. I used gold and silver embossing powder for each of the trees, and set it with a heat gun.
Then I used a pattern I made for a spider, and cut it out of black cardstock, which I placed at the bottom, partially covering the Trees. I used a sponge and black acrylic paint to show the darkness coming from Ungoliant. Finally, I used a piece of grey scrapbook paper to write the quotation:
B2MeM Prompt and Path: Purple path; Prompt--a verse of the "Misty Mountain song", quoted below
Beyond the Dreams of Avarice
On silver necklaces they strung
Bilbo woke, sitting straight up in his bed. His heart was pounding, his breath caught in his throat. He'd had no such disturbing dreams since he had been a young tween, fever-dreams during the Fell Winter. The songs of the Dwarves were haunting, melancholy and strange.
But what disturbed him now was not the dragon, horrible as it sounded. Death and destruction were things of horror and sorrow; but the beauty frightened him, visions of gems, bright as the Stars and Moon, and a feeling of yearning. Such things as treasures were not for hobbits and could only bring trouble.
B2MeM Prompt and Path: Purple path; Prompt--Things that go bump in the night
A Night By the High Hay
"Da! Wake UP!" Young Periadoc shoved his father's shoulder. Merry sat bolt upright instantly, his sword in his hand. Perry looked even more alarmed at his father's manner of waking than he had at the noises which had startled him.
Merry shook his head briskly to come fully awake and looked at his son. "What's wrong?" This had been Perry's first time to sit watch when camping with his father. Merry had business in Standelf the next day, just a half a league South of where they had set up camp. Since Pippin and Fam were visiting at Brandy Hall, they'd decided to take the lads with them and camp out.
"I heard something! Something's out there!"
Across the campfire, the other two members of the party awakened. Pippin, like his cousin woke quickly, sword in hand. His son Faramir also sat up, though more slowly. "What's going on, Papa?"
"Perry heard something," said Merry, "though we've yet to find out what."
"There it is again! What is it?"
Merry and Pippin stood up and looked in the direction from which the sound had come. Marry picked up a brand of firewood, and lit the end in the embers of the campfire. He held it up, and he and Pippin ventured slowly to the East a few steps. There just next to the High Hay, as the hedge wall was called, were two substantial broken branches. Several trees were crowded close the great green thicket that formed the wall between the Old Forest and Buckland. Two of the largest had clearly broken limbs.
"That was a warning," said Pippin.
Merry nodded. "We're too close." He raised his voice: "All right! You have made your point! We'll move further away!"
The four hobbits quickly broke camp, smothering the embers of their fire with dirt and gathering up their gear and the ponies, who had been tethered nearby, and moved a few rods further West. They did not bother with a fire, as the night was fair. They once again tethered the ponies and laid out their bedrolls.
"Won't we need a fire for breakfast?" asked Fam.
"I don't think so. We'll break our fast at the inn in Standelf," answered Merry. "Now, let's get some sleep."
"I'll keep watch the rest of the night," offered Pippin. Merry nodded his agreement.
The next morning, when they prepared to leave at first light, Fam pointed towards the High Hay. "Look!"
There were no trees visible beyond the hedge.
"Well," said Merry, "that answers one question I've always wondered about, ever since Isengard."
"Yes," said Pippin. "There are clearly huorns in the Old Forest."
As they rode to the village, Merry asked, "Did we ever tell you about Treebeard and Fangorn Forest?"
Perry had heard some of the story, but Fam had not, so their fathers regaled them with the tale until they came into Standelf. The sight of the inn, with its sign of The Watching Elf (a rather poorly rendered Elf, Merry and Pippin thought, though they'd never tell the innkeeper so) reminded them all of breakfast, and all thoughts of tales vanished.
B2eM Prompt and Path: Path: Purple; Prompt--Folklore, folk tales, and old wives’ tales
There was a knock on the door of Number Three early in the morning. Mr. Frodo had given Sam a whole day off for himself, since today was a very special birthday: he was thirty-three, and coming of age. The Gaffer and the rest of the family were over to the Party Field, getting things set up for his party--the first real birthday party with people other than family attending that Sam had ever had!
He was unsurprised to see Mr. Frodo there; his Master always came early in the morning if he did not make it the day before, to give Sam his gift.
"Happy birthday, Sam!" He held forth a package carefully wrapped in muslin and tied with red ribbon. It felt like a book, but then Mr. Frodo often gave Sam books. This one was a little heftier and a little thicker than most books in the Shire.
"Thank you, Mr. Frodo. Come in, if you want to." He stepped back and allowed Frodo to enter the smial. They went over to the chairs by the hearth, and Sam sat down to open his gift. He untied the ribbon, and allowed the fabric to fall away. There was a book bound in brown leather, with a picture of sheaves of wheat embossed into the leather. The title was embossed in gold leaf, entirely too fine for the likes of Sam Gamgee he thought, but he kept that thought to himself. Mr. Frodo did not like to hear that sort of thing, however true Sam thought it to be.
Five Hundred Points of Goode Husbandrie
Sam looked up in shock. "One o' my longfathers wrote a book?"
Frodo laughed. "Two of them, in fact. Master Holman retired to Tighfield to be near his daughter, Rowan, who had wed Master Wiseman's son Hob. Master Holman and Master Wiseman became good friends, and the latter was impressed with the former's wise sayings and decided to write them all down as dictated. It's all in the preface, if you will just look." Frodo was grinning like a cat what had got into the cream, and that made Sam smile, too. He opened the book. The first page said what the cover had, and added "In the Year of Shire Reckoning 1293". Sam's brow furrowed. "This book is new," he said, "and that's your writing".
"Yes, it is," replied Frodo. "I came across an old copy in the Great Smials two years ago. Paladin loaned it to me to copy. I finished it up this winter, and after I returned the original to the Tooks, I put this one in the hands of the book-binder in Michel Delving. He sent this to me by post last week. I must say he did a lovely job."
Sam's jaw dropped. To think of Frodo going to all that work and expense for him! He choked down his protests. He had to breathe a little bit before he was able to say "Thank you," calmly and sincerely.
Frodo grinned once more. "You are most welcome, Sam! I knew at once when I found it that you absolutely must have a copy. Aren't you going to read it? I know you can't read it through all at once, but do take a look!" Frodo paused and blushed. "I did clean up some of the spelling," he added.
Sam nodded and skimmed through the preface, and decided he would have to read at least this part to his family in the evenings, for it told of how the two hobbits had become friends. Holman was not lettered, but Wiseman was, and he soon persuaded his friend to allow him to write down all of his various sayings on how to garden and farm to get the best crops and most profitable use of the land. They were all in simple rhymes, and to his surprise, Sam recognized some of them.
"By sowing in wet,
"Why that's one of the first things Gaffer taught me. I never knew it was handed down in the family!"
"And listen at this, Mr. Frodo! "The stone that is rolling can gather no moss." How many times does the Gaffer say that?"
The two hobbits spent quite some time going through the book; Frodo was familiar with it, as he had copied it out, but he had not remembered it all. Besides it was fun to see Sam's reactions when he'd come across some of his Gaffer's sayings, sometimes reworded slightly, but the same meaning. They were having so much fun they completely forgot about the party, until the door burst open and Sam's little nephew Erling came barreling in. "Unca Sam! Unca Sam! Your party's all ready for you!"
Sam carefully closed the book. He'd make a proper read of it later. He took it into his room and laid it on the table by his bed, and then he went with Frodo out to greet the guests who'd come to wish him well on his coming of age.
Sam stared out at the brown broken lands ahead of him. Here they were, headed into Mordor, just where they didn't want to be. But it had to happen. If'n Mr. Frodo didn't destroy the Enemy's Ring, the whole world would fall into darkness. As often happened, his longfather's wisdom came into his mind.
The West, as a father, all goodness doth bring,
Everything he longed for was to the West, the Shire, green grass, cool water, and Rosie. But Mr. Frodo was here, and that outweighed everything else. They needed to keep going to the East and the South before they could go West and North.
Sam's eyes grew grim as they rode through the Shire, seeing the destruction and the frightened people. He muttered under his breath.
"What's that, Sam?" asked Merry, distracted by Sam's mutterings from the amusing sight of the Shirriffs trying to keep up with them.
Sam spoke up, loud enough for their "escort" to hear:
Some steal, some pilch,
He was pleased to see several of them blush and hang their heads.
Frodo Gardener looked at the book that lay in his hands. It was no longer new, as it had been the day his father had received it from Frodo's namefather, but the cover shone with the patina of well-worn hands and much use. This was the book with which his father had taught him to read. This book was filled with the wisdom of his ancestors.
He read the passage that his father had left a bookmark in, a last message of advice from his father. Samwise had taken Elanor the Red Book, and that was right. He'd much rather have this one.
Do thy work wisely,
He closed the book. He had a busy day in the gardens tomorrow.
The inspiration for this is Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandrie. This PDF version is the Full text of "Five hundred pointes of good husbandrie. The ed. of 1580 collated with those of 1573 and 1577. Together with a reprint from the unique copy in the British Museum, of A hundreth good pointes of husbandrie, 1557"
This book of farming and gardening advice, mixed with plain old everyday good sense and mixed in with folk wisdom done all in rhyme, was written by Thomas Tusser. He was the original source of a number of our everyday sayings, a sort of British Elizabethan era version of Benjamin Franklin. I first came across it in another old and currently out of print book, Lost Country Lives by Dorothy Hartley. She used it as the organizing principal of her own book about life in rural England between the days of Tusser all the way up to the 18th and early 19th century.
I, like Frodo, took liberties with the spelling, since I wanted my readers to be able to understand the verses.
Most of the advice is organized by the months of the year, and describe the different tasks that the farmer or gardener should be undertaking during that month. If you are wanting some ideas of what a character might be doing in a certain season of Middle-earth, you might want to check it out!
Wiseman Gamwich and Holman the green-handed were both direct ancestors of the Gamgees and the Cottons. Obviously, Holman, from his name, was highly successful as a farmer and/or gardener, and I thought perhaps from his name, Wiseman might very well be literate. It seemed not unlikely that Holman might move to Tighfield to be close to his oldest daughter Rowan, and become good friends with her father-in-law.
B2MeM Prompt and Path: The Purple path; Prompt--“The gods were gathered on guarded heights, of doom and death deep they pondered. Sun they rekindled, and silver Moon they set to sail on seas of stars.” JRR Tolkien, Völsungakvida en Nÿja (Square 10)
Fruit and Flower
Yavanna sang: in the darkness fruit and flower were kindled.
B2MeM Prompt and Path: Purple path; Prompt-- Inclement weather (Square 12)
Rainy Day at Bag End
Merry stared morosely out of the window in his guest room at Bag End. It was pouring down rain, not simply a gentle garden-blessing rain, but a downpour complete with window rattling thunder and cracks of jagged lightning. So much for plans to go to Hobbiton with Pippin and Frodo. He heard Pippin pad up beside him and sigh.
He looked down at his little cousin. "I know Pip! I don't think we'll be taking a stroll into town to visit the shops today." He tried not to sound too unhappy. Pip was only seven and would take disappointment hard. At fifteen, Merry had to set a good example, after all.
Pippin took his hand. "That's all right, Merry. I guess we'll find something else to do, anyhow."
Merry had no chance to answer, because just then came the call that cheers up any young hobbit.
"Breakfast!" came Frodo's voice down the hallway. "Stir yourselves up, lads. I've griddlecakes and fresh strawberries and bacon!"
The two lads perked up at once, and grabbing their dressing gowns, they raced to the kitchen. Pippin still had only one arm in his when they came through the door to the warmth of the kitchen, and Merry stopped him to untangle him and get his arm through. Frodo looked on fondly, shaking his head.
"Where's Bilbo?" Merry asked, as he picked Pippin up and plomped him down in his chair at the kitchen table.
"He's sleeping in this morning, as he was up late last night working on translating that poem Lord Elrond sent him from Rivendell. He said not to get him up before elevenses!"
As Merry saw the meal was nearly ready, he busied himself setting the table for the three of them, pouring cups of tea for himself and Frodo, and a cup of cold milk from the larder for Pippin. Just as Frodo was setting the platter of griddlecakes on the table he looked angrily out the window at the back garden. Merry was alarmed as Frodo placed the dish down with a clatter and quickly strode over to open the door, letting in a blast of cool damp air.
Merry turned to see what the problem was. Frodo stuck his head out the door. "Samwise Gamgee! What on EARTH are you doing out there in this kind of weather? You get in here this minute!"
In just a moment, a dripping wet Sam showed himself shame-facedly at the door. Frodo pulled him inside by the arm. "You are likely to catch your death of cold, Sam! What would the Gaffer say if you got laid up with lung fever?"
Sam hung his head. "He'd say as I was a Tom-fool wooly-headed tween, since that's what he said when I left the hole this morning. He said as I didn't need to check the garden today, that Mr. Bilbo wouldn't mind. But, Mr. Frodo, them seedlings as I planted a couple weeks ago, I just had to see how they was faring..."
Frodo was roughly toweling down the soaking gardener with a kitchen towel, muttering under his breath about "...too conscientious for his own good...not enough sense to come in out of the rain..."
Merry piped up to distract Frodo. "Well, Sam, how were they faring?"
Sam was glad for the interruption. "Well the cabbages and radishes looked just fine, but the poor little carrots and lettuces are all beat down; I'll likely have to re-seed them." He looked sad; he hated it when that happened.
Frodo shook his head. "You stand right there for a moment, Sam. I'll be right back. Merry, pour him a cup of hot tea and set him a place at the table." Shaking his head, Frodo left the kitchen.
Merry handed the teacup to Sam where he stood. He chuckled at the look on Sam's face. "He doesn't scold you often, does he?"
Sam gave a rueful half-smile. "Only when he thinks I've done aught to hurt meself, Master Merry."
"Well, you know, it is kind of raining right now."
Sam finally laughed. "I guess I deserved it, seeing as I went against the Gaffer to come up here anyhow."
Pippin, who had been watching with eyes wide as saucers, for he'd never even seen Frodo so much as mildly cross with Sam before, piped up. "I'm glad you came, Sam! Now we'll have more company, since we have to stay in!"
Sam grinned at the little Took's enthusiasm. "Why, thank you, Master Pippin! It's good to see you so cheerful!"
Frodo came in just then with an armload: a large towel, and several items of clothing. He thrust them at Sam. "I am sorry for shouting, Sam, but I should hate for you to get ill," he said. "Now, you go to the bathing room and change your clothes. They're bound to be a bit small as thet are some of Bilbo's old things, but they will fit better than any of mine. Lay your things out to dry in front of the boiler. Then you come back and join us for breakfast!"
Sam hurried to do as he was told, rather than risk Frodo's ire again. As he left the room, Merry cheerfully added, "And do hurry before the griddle cakes get cold."
The gardener was back in almost no time at all (Bilbo's garments more or less fitting, being only too short in the sleeves and at the knees), and the four young hobbits sat down to a long drawn out first breakfast that kept going right into second breakfast. They entertained themselves with hobbity gossip of the goings on in Brandy Hall and the Great Smials and Hobbiton. Pippin had them all gasping with laughter as he described how one of the chickens at Whitwell had decided his sister Pimpernel was its mother, and followed her around wherever she went. "She can't shake it whenever she goes outside it comes running right up to her. Papa teases Pimmie, and says the chicken is his grand-daughter. She gets so mad that her face turns purple and her eyes bulge out like this..." and he made a horrific face that almost made Sam spit out his tea for laughing. Though their conversation was punctuated by the sound of wind, rain and thunder, they scarcely noticed it.
Finally, they finished filling up the corners and amiably did the washing up together, Pippin's task being limited to drying the silverware, and they were finished.
"Why don't we go into the parlour," said Frodo, "and I'll tell you stories of Bilbo's Adventure!"
Frodo had barely begun to tell of the Battle of Five Armies, when he stopped suddenly. "I've an idea! I shan't just tell the story! Merry--pop into my room and get the wooden box from under my bed. Those armies have not seen the light for many years, and I don't believe Sam or Pippin have ever made their acquaintance!"
Merry grinned, and rushed to do Frodo's bidding. The two of them had always had so much fun with those old toys!
Soon he came back with a fairly good-sized wooden box and handed it to Frodo, who opened it, and held it so that Sam and Pippin could see inside. It was a set of little figures with which to re-enact Bilbo's Adventure, or create a child's own adventures. Originally, it had included only a hobbit, a wizard, thirteen Dwarves, three trolls, a mechanical Dragon, that would flap its wings and roar when the little key in its back was wound up, and about a dozen each of Elves and goblins. In the years since Bilbo had first gifted nine-year-old Frodo with it, Bilbo had sent more Elves and goblins, some Men, including a bowman, some Spiders and wolves and a few Eagles on sticks, that flapped their wings when the sticks were pulled. His final gift had been a bear, a large one, to represent Beorn. That had come the year he turned fourteen.
Pretty soon the four hobbits had the figures all set up and they began to fight the battle. Pippin wanted to change the story so that Thorin and Fili and Kili didn't die. It took them a while to figure out how to accomplish that, but finally settled on having the Eagles snatch them away from the battle at the last second. Merry decided that Bilbo did not get knocked on the head either, and used Sting to slay several goblins. Sam thought he didn't like changing the story from the way it happened, but he didn't say anything about it.
They were quite absorbed in their play that they were startled when Bilbo stuck his head in the room. "Frodo! You didn't wake me!"
Frodo turned his head to the clock on the mantel. It was a quarter past noon! "I'm sorry, Bilbo! We lost track of time!"
"Well, I'm going to whip up a quick meal--whether it's late elevenses or early luncheon, I'm not sure. Put these things away for now, and get ready to eat."
Pippin might have protested, but his tummy gave a growl, and he realised he was hungry. "I missed elevenses!" he said, surprised.
Frodo and Merry made quick work of stowing the toys back into their box, and Sam and Pippin followed Bilbo into the kitchen to help him prepare a platter of bread, cheeses and fresh fruit.
As they ate, Pippin gladly exclaimed, "I'm so glad it rained! We had lots of fun this morning!"
"Look!" said Merry, pointing out the window. "The rain's stopped and the Sun is shining!
B2MeM Prompt and Path: Purple path; Prompt--Act of Kindness, "Answer a question"
Genre: Act of Kindness
Creator’s Notes (optional): I thought and thought about what my act of kindness would be. It seemed this one might be the most useful.
Summary: I'll answer any question I can about the fandom that will be helpful to the questioner.
How May I Help You?
Here on SoA, you may also ask questions in the reviews and I will reply to the best of my ability!
B2MeM Prompt and Path: Path Purple; Prompt “Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night.” William Blake(Square 13)
Format: Four Drabble set (400 words)
Genre: Vignette, Character studies
Characters: Frodo, Merry, Pippin, Sam
Creator’s Notes (optional):
Summary: Each part of the day has its own special blessings. (A four drabble set)
Day After Day a Good Day
1. Tol Eressëa
Frodo thought best in the mornings. He would rise and take a walk on the beach as the Sun rose, letting his mind wander. Sometimes he wrote in his head, composing things he wished to write. Sometimes he would have imaginary conversations with his old friends of the Shire, telling Merry or Pippin or Freddy some of the things he'd learned since he had come here. But not with Sam, for he was saving those up for when Sam arrived. And he would finish his morning walk by thanking Eru for all his blessings and the beauty around him.
2. Brandy Hall
The Master of Buckland found his best time for getting work done was between elevenses and luncheon at one. Some days it was his time to inspect the fields and orchards, other days he would schedule meetings with the heads of various villages in Buckland or he would go into Bucklebury for any Hall business there. Rarely (or at least more rarely than the Thain) he would hear disputes. He would also write his letters to his friends Outside, to Éomer or Éowyn or Aragorn. But Highday was his favourite: for it was then he scheduled weddings and Naming Days.
3. The Great Smials
Thain Peregrine Took enjoyed his meals, but he thought supper was the best meal of the day. Unless there was a special occasion, he only had supper in the Great Hall on Highday. The rest of the week supper was a private meal with his family in their own quarters. There he and Diamond gathered their children around a table filled with everyone's favorite foods and listen to the things that had happened during the day. Pippin enjoyed being able to dress comfortably and indulge in more casual manners and fill up the corners for as long as he liked.
4. Bag End
Samwise Gamgee always went to bed with a feeling of satisfaction about his day, his family and his life. Here he was, next to the most beautiful wife in the Shire, and under his roof nine bonnie and healthy lasses and lads, another little one nestling beneath Rosie's heart. He had useful work, like Mayoring, and enjoyable work, like gardening, to occupy his day, and good friends throughout the Shire and in the wide world beyond. If anything was wanting, it was Mr. Frodo. But Sam could see the West through his window. He slept soundly, dreaming of their reunion.
B2MeM Prompt and Path: Purple Path; Prompt--“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” John Steinbeck
The Perils of Perfectionism
The first time I encountered the phrase "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good," it was almost twenty years ago on the Society for Creative Anachronism's usenet forum, the Rialto, and was a favorite saying of a Peer, Sir Cariadoc. I have later seen or heard it in different forms from various sources, from Steinbeck (above) to Shakespeare. I have always found it a very profound and true aphorism, worthy of remembering in many areas of life.
As I understand the saying, many people will delay, postpone, or even refuse to attempt, an undertaking until they have everything they need to get it "perfect". Instead of just doing their best, even though it may not come out as well as the person attempting it would hope, they simply avoid trying.
Sometimes this is simply fear of criticism, but other times, it's the idea that if it isn't perfect, it isn't worth trying. There is another saying, "If you can't do it right, then don't do it." I find that idea confusing and counterproductive. How can you learn to do anything if you don't practice?
What does this mean in the context of Tolkien fandom? Well, what is it you want to do within the fandom?
Do you want to write fanfiction, but fear that your first tries will be laughable (and not in a fun way) or mocked for their flaws? The truth is, that's quite as likely as unlikely. There are a lot of mean people out there with too much time on their hands, whose main fun in life is trolling and scaring newcomers. But there are also a lot of kind and helpful people who will enjoy your efforts and encourage you to become better, who will like your ideas and welcome fresh blood into the fandom. Write your story, and do your best to make sure that it is at least correctly spelled and punctuated. If someone spots canon flaws or a character being "OOC" or "out of character", listen to them and use their advice to improve your next story, and your next and the next after that. Strive for future perfection, but do not let not achieving it to discourage you. Aim higher than your reach, and you will get better, if not perfect.
Do you want to do fan art? I am a very strong believer that everyone has the seeds of an artist within him or her. Yes, some people are talented in certain areas, and may pick up an artistic technique more quickly than others, but they still have to learn the techniques. Can you read and follow directions? Books and tutorials on YouTube or classes can give you the techniques you need to create just about anything you want. The only drawback is not being perfect on your first try, or even your tenth--but with practice you will come up with a piece of art that will be perfectly acceptable to most of your fellow fans. And the fun thing about learning techniques is that to those who have learned, they become simple, while to those who have yet to learn, they appear marvelous!
The same thing goes if you would like to try something technical. Do you want to build a website? Or start your own archive? There are those who will help you achieve your dreams, and there are ways to learn how to do such things yourself.
Perfection is always beyond us, but it is also always worth striving for, and worth sharing the results of that striving. Tolkien himself suffered through the wish for perfection and the desire for time to achieve it and the knowledge that it was always beyond his reach: he described his dilemma in his beautiful allegory, Leaf by Niggle. Niggle (and Tolkien) finally realized that the act of creating is worth doing whether it was ever perfected or not--but it could only achieve greatness by sharing with others.
The Tolkien fandom is an old and established one. It will never go away completely, though it may ebb and flow. But for it to keep healthy and expand, it constantly needs new people, new fans, bringing new enthusiasm and new ideas into it. And it needs for those who are not new to welcome the newcomers and to try new things themselves. Don't wait for perfection to share your good ideas and good projects!
It is by practice that good becomes better. It is by sharing that better becomes real.
B2MeM Prompt and Path: Purple path; Prompt--Day and Night (Square 11)
Format: Triple Drabble (300 words)
Genre: Family, Gen, Narrative
Characters: Frodo, Bilbo, Sam, Gandalf/Olórin, OFC
Creator’s Notes (optional): This triple drabble features one of my OFCs, Mirimë/Adamanta, a Maia of Nienna, formerly of Yavanna. She is the legendary "fairy wife" of the Tooks, for long ago she took the form of a hobbit lass and wed Tûk, the ancestor of all the Tooks. Frodo and Bilbo meet her when they dwell on Tol Eressëa after sailing West. Her story can be found in my WIP, Ancestress. All chapters are only 300 words.
Summary: Adamanta knows that her time with her great-grandchildren will come to an end one day, and she must make the most of her time.
During the day, she was Adamanta. She enjoyed taking care of her smial, and of her guests, when Frodo and Gandalf and Samwise visited the Vale. When they were not there, she tended her garden and wandered through the grassy meadows and climbed trees and fished in the Water below the Hill where her smial was. Or she would go to visit the hobbits and walk on the beach with them or visit the shops and take tea with them. She still missed Bilbo, though it seemed she had only known him a short time. She liked being a hobbit once more, and having her (many-times-great) grandsons come here had freed her of the all consuming grief of losing Tûk. Her sorrow was now but a dull ache instead of a sharp hole in her heart.
But at night, she left her hobbit fana behind, and as Mirimë, went clad in spirit to the home of Elrond, where her kinfolk made their home here in the West. There she would watch over Frodo and Sam, skimming their dreams and memories, getting to know them better. She would not intrude into that which they wished kept private, but only those thoughts they might share with her anyway, were there time enough and thought. As often as not, she was joined by Olórin. He did not mock her urgency to be with them as much as she could, for he felt it as well. Often he would gift her with tales that Frodo and Sam could not, of her other children, Ferumbras and Gerontius and Belladonna and others. She took comfort in knowing that even when Frodo and Sam slipped out of their mortal shell, she would still have one friend left who knew and loved them.
Normally I would put this in my "Dreamflower's Musings" anthology, but decided it would be better to remain with the other parts of my 2017 Back to Middle-earth Challenge pieces.
B2MeM Prompt and Path: Purple path; Square 4, Wild Card--"Complete any prompt from the Orange path" (non-fiction). I chose Worldbuilding.
Creator’s Notes (optional): This essay is basically backstory I have constructed for my version of the Shire, concentrating on a few aspects of Shire society, and some explanation for how I came up with that backstory.
Nearly all quoted references in this section are either from the Prologue of LotR, or from The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien's Letter #214. I hope to later footnote this more thoroughly.
Summary: Tolkien gives us a lot of information about the society of the Shire, but only some of the particulars. Coming up with details is up to the author of the fanfic; here are a few of mine.
Throughout The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien gives us a lot of information about the Shire and its society. In addition, his Letters, particularly Letter #214, and in some of the supplemental material, such as Peoples of Middle-earth we find a lot more clues about how the Shire works. Some things we are told outright, and other things we only understand through hints.
In addition, we also know from Letters and from various biographical material, that a lot of the Shire was inspired by places of his childhood, in particular the parts of rural England where he lived during his formative years. So finding out details of those sorts of places during that time, and perhaps a little earlier, prove useful in figuring out details that Tolkien himself never bothered with, either because they were irrelevant to the story he told, or because he simply had little interest in them.
Then there are the little things that seem odd about the Shire. Nearly all of the societies outside the bounds seem much less advanced in many ways. Hobbits seem to have manufactured objects not found elsewhere, and yet we are told they are an agrarian race which seemingly would not have the wherewithal to create such items as mantel clocks and umbrellas.
And finally, there is the nature of hobbits. Comfort seeking, but able to do without when necessary; family oriented; peace-loving, caring and compassionate; practical; isolationist as a people and suspicious of outsiders; yet also hospitable and gregarious. They are a very contradictory race.
I've tried to factor as many of these things as possible in fleshing out the Shire for the purposes of writing my stories.
In my earliest stories, I found myself feeling my way along as I tried to flesh out the legalities of some things as they might be practiced in the Shire. In this I was mostly guided by the Prologue in FotR, and by Letter #214. I also kept in mind how most of the early "voting" societies were run historically--most of them were not our modern democratic "one person, one vote" communities, but rather were oligarchies in which only certain persons in certain positions could vote. This then was the model I based my Shire politics on.
In the Prologue we are told: The Shire at this time had hardly any 'government'. Families for the most part managed their own affairs. From this declaration comes the foundation of Shire government as I envisioned it.
First of all, from Letter #214, hobbit families were considered a dyarchy, in which , in which master and mistress had equal status, if different functions. Either was held to be the proper representative of the other in the case of absence (including death). There were no 'dowagers'. If the master died first, his place was taken by his wife, and this included (if he had held that position) the titular headship of a large family or clan. This title thus did not descend to the son, or other heir, while she lived, unless she voluntarily resigned. However, in that same letter, we are given the tale of Lalia Clayhanger Took, who held on to the headship of the Took family even after her son became Thain. Lalia was by all accounts a very poor example of a matriarch, to say the least. So, in "my" Shire, I decided that for a few generations after Lalia's time, most widows of adult sons voluntarily passed that honor on because they did not wish to be thought of as "another Lalia". The aftermath of the Occupation of the Shire by Saruman's ruffians changed this back, as there were a lot more widows, and hobbits remembered the way it used to be.
At any rate, hobbits always remained patrilineal (the family name passing down through the male side of the family) and among the Tooks, the Thainship was always passed down to the eldest male. Generally, the head of the Family was the eldest male of the main line of the Family and his wife, or his widow if he were deceased. All matters of discipline were handled by the Family Head, whether great or small, unless he or she found that it was too tangled a matter or if it impinged on the rights or property of another Family. In such a case, the Family Head could request to consult with a neutral party; usually this was the Thain, although along the Brandywine and in Buckland it might be the Master of Buckland, or in some cases, perhaps the Mayor of Michel Delving. In a serious case, it might even be taken to all three. But such things were definitely rarities. Most of the time all such matters were settled by the family and for the family.
The only real official in the Shire at this date was the Mayor of Michel Delving (or of the Shire), who was elected every seven years at the Free Fair on the White Downs at the Lithe, that is at Midsummer. As mayor almost his only duty was to preside at banquets, given on the Shire-holidays, which occurred at frequent intervals. But the offices of Postmaster and First Shirriff were attached to the mayoralty, so that he managed both the Messenger Service and the Watch.
Since Tolkien did not give us the details of how an election was held in the Shire, I decided that in the oligarchy I imagined, there was a Convocation of Family Heads every election year, in which they picked a Mayor. For an issue of great importance to the Shire as a whole, the Thain could call for a special Convocation. This almost never happened.
The Thain was the master of the Shire-moot, and captain of the Shire-muster and the Hobbitry-in-arms, but as muster and moot were only held in times of emergency, which no longer occurred, the Thainship had ceased to be more than a nominal dignity.
I give the Thain a few more duties. He is one of the "go to" people in the case of disputes too complicated or touchy for a Family Head to deal with; he also co-ordinates duties that concern the Shire as a whole, such as the upkeep of the Stonebow Bridge over the Brandywine, or the condition of the roads. He can also call a Convocation when necessary. This is in addition to his duties as The Took and Head of his own Family.
The people in the Marish were friendly with the Bucklanders, and the authority of the Master of the Hall (as the head of the Brandybuck family was called) was still acknowledged by the farmers between Stock and Rushey. By the time of LotR, the Master of Buckland is considered second only to the Thain as an authority in the Shire, though his authority is limited by geography. The status of Buckland is one of convenience. Bucklanders would consider themselves a part of the Shire when it might come to those Outsiders (like Breelanders, or wandering Dwarves or Men), but think of themselves as separate from the Shire when coming to certain traditions or customs. There is clearly a great deal of intermarriage between the Brandybucks and the Tooks, and certain other Great Families.
Yes, I have done a lot of extrapolation and expanded on some things not overtly stated in canon. Tolkien's occasional use of the phrase "great families" has in my version of the Shire become Great Families. Using Peoples of Middle-earth as my guide, I decided that those families who received their own family trees in that book were the most prominent families of the Shire: those at the top are the Tooks, the Brandybucks, the Bolgers, the Boffins and the Bagginses. I added a sixth, the Proudfoot family right after, since they seem to be both prolific and married into the top families. These are the oldest families within the Shire and remain at the top unless an official decision is made to place them lower in the hierarchy. The top of what? The Great Roll of Families, which include those six plus about fifty more families of prominence. The remaining families of the Shire are attached in some way to the more prominent ones, although at some point a vote may place them on the roll.
Post-war, some families that were not prominent became that way--the Gamgees eventually ended up near the top, right after the Brandybucks, and the Cottons also gained a higher position, after the Boffins. The governance of the Shire did change somewhat after the War of the Ring, which I will cover more thoroughly in another section..
Continuing my Wild card--
We are not given a lot of information about education in the Shire, although it is clear that Shire hobbits are in general fairly literate. There is a very active Postal System, engaged in delivering letters all over the Shire, which would not be a particularly profitable endeavor if the majority of hobbits were not literate. In the Prologue Tolkien tells us By no means all Hobbits were lettered, but those who were wrote constantly to all their friends (and a selection of their relations) who lived further off than an afternoon's walk. And in the chapter “Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit”, it is said All hobbits, of course, can cook, for they begin to learn the art before their letters (which many never reach)
So it is also clear that literacy is not universal in the Shire; the Gaffer Gamgee is illiterate, as are his children, until Bilbo takes a hand in young Sam's education.
Therefore, I rather arbitrarily decided that literacy is about 75% in general, with the rate a bit higher in Buckland and the Tooklands, which are the seats of the two most prominent families, and a bit lower in more isolated areas and small villages. I am of the opinion that the area of Hobbiton would also be rather high, due to the presence of the Bagginses, but still have some families that are unlettered.
So how were young hobbits educated? I again turned to the Prologue, where the most important quote about Shire society is to be found: The Shire at this time had hardly any 'government'. Families for the most part managed their own affairs.
I take this to mean that there were no government sponsored public schools. Therefore, families saw to the education of their children. This could also explain the pockets of illiteracy: if the parents did not read and write they could not teach their children. Therefore, some families might remain illiterate for generations.
Did the families hire tutors? I thought this over and came up with a “yes, but no” answer. Here is the system I came up with:
A child's first tutor would be his or her parents (especially in the case of an only child) or if there were older siblings far enough along in their lessons, a brother or sister. Such lessons would consist of basic reading, writing and arithmetic, and not much more. For the majority of Shire hobbits that would be as far as lessons went, especially among the working class hobbits.
For the children of the gentry, learning needed to go further. They would need to learn such things as history, husbandry, genealogy, and managing their inheritances, and perhaps other things as well. Would the Tooks or Brandybucks or Bagginses entrust this important knowledge to strangers? No, learning must have usually been a family affair. Most of the Great Families had a Family Tutor; unless he was the Head of the Family, he'd be paid a small stipend to spend most of his time educating the young cousins, neices and nephews of his clan.
Of course, it was not completely all in the family, as the case of Sam Gamgee shows. Therefore I decided that in some cases children might be educated by (or for) an employer or a Master/Mistress if they were apprenticed. I figured that most of the gentry would want servants with at least a basic education, and that most artisans and craftshobbits would also want apprentices who could also read and write. If for some reason, the employer or Master/Mistress could not undertake the task, they might pay someone to do this on their behalf.
Teaching in this version of the Shire was primarily a male task, undertaken by bachelor uncles or adult cousins who had a natural scholarly bent. Females usually only taught (other than their own children) if they had a special area of talent or expertise. (Just as in my Shire, healing was a female profession; male healers were rare, and rather regarded as not quite as good. The women were the primary healers, physicians, not nurses. Nursing was done by family members of both sexes; or if no family member was available, by the healers' apprentices. But I digress; healing will probably have its own section.)
Speaking of special talents and abilities, it was expected that an adult who was a skilled artist or musician would take on teaching the skills to younger family members. In my Shire, Frodo had an older cousin. She was a renowned painter, and when Frodo proved to have artistic ability, she began giving him lessons in art which continued until he moved from Brandy Hall to Bag End. Esmeralda Took played the fiddle, and she taught Pippin to do so, since Merry had no interest in music. Pippin also learned other instruments from various Took cousins. Folco Boffin learned to play the flute from one of his older cousins. In the case of such specialized lessons, gender was of no account.
Of course, all this was formal learning, apart from the everyday household skills young hobbits were taught. Cooking was one of the most important, and little hobbits often were accomplished at tasks that might be found inappropriate or dangerous by a modern adult. Yet they learned to safely work around fire and to use sharp knives. This was not something that only the lasses learned. Cooking was not a gender specific task. And any adult or older hobbit might be teaching the lesson. Certainly cooking would be learned from whomever in the household was the main cook, but other members might teach different skills. I have always pictured preparing a meal as a cooperative venture in hobbit households, with the hobbits working as a team with very little need of direction once they reach a certain skill level in the kitchen. But it is not instinctive. It must be taught.
Formal lessons as taught by parents or teachers were usually done in the teacher's home. Usually a table would be set aside for the pupil or pupils. The youngest would work first on slates, and then perhaps on cheap paper (Yes, there was paper in the Shire. It is an ancient process and can be done in the home. Rag paper is not hard to make.) When a young hobbit grew more skilled with the pen, he or she would also begin to learn to use parchment.
Rote learning was common; young hobbits learned to memorize their letters, their ancestors, their numbers, and to recite poetry and other pieces. As their writing skills improved they were also set to writing essays on various subjects. In fact, the writing of essays was often used as a form of discipline. A young hobbit who did something foolish might be given an essay to write about what the consequences of such an action might be.
Teachers were absolutely autonomous. Each one set his own lesson plans, chose all his own materials and methods, and decided how to schedule the pupils. In some families one-on-one was the most common form of teaching. In the larger families, the family tutor might take on as many as four or five pupils at a time. Hobbits would have been appalled at the idea of a class of twenty or thirty children all the same age, and none of them related to one another!
The children did not spend all day having lessons. Instead, perhaps three or four times a week they would spend a few hours at it. Small ones still learning the basics from a parent or older sibling might only spend an hour or so a day. Older children who went to the Family Tutor would spend about three or four hours at a time on three or four days out of the week at their lessons. Homework as we know it was rare.
In my Shire universe, the Bagginses tended to have a scholarly bent. Bilbo's father Bungo was a rarity—a Family Tutor who was also Family Head. Bilbo followed in his father's footsteps. Drogo Baggins was being groomed by Bilbo to take over as Family Tutor when he got old enough, but all of that changed after his Adventure. Bilbo lost his reputation after his return, and his students had made other arrangements. The only pupil Drogo actually taught was Frodo. After his father's death, Frodo was tutored by the Brandybuck family tutor until he went to Bag End, and Bilbo took up the role. Bilbo never again became the primary Baggins tutor, however.
Dinodas Brandybuck, one of the younger brothers of the Master Rorimac Brandybuck, was a long-time tutor at Brandy Hall. He taught a number of young Brandybuck hobbits, beginning with his younger siblings, and continuing on through his neices and nephews and younger cousins, including Frodo for a time, Merry, and even Pippin when he was on lenghthy visits to Brandy Hall.
In the Great Smials, there were at least four teachers, all cousins or nephews of the Thain. One of them had the task of evaluating young hobbits who came to work as servants in the Great Smials, and making sure each and every one could at least read, write legibly, and do simple sums.
Brandy Hall also required basic literacy, though they did not maintain a tutor for that task. Instead the senior servants were tasked with seeing that the new hires could read and write.
At all levels, the end of the pupil's education was at the discretion of the teacher, with input from the student and his or her parents. There was no actual formal graduation, although some teachers might make some sort of special occasion of the accomplishment. When the tutor felt the young one had learned all he had to teach, he or she was simply released from future lessons. Sometimes the pupil might decide to quit. There was no stigma to this nor repercussions unless a parent decided otherwise.
Throughout history, up until the last couple of centuries in our own history, the way to learn a craft or artistic skill was through apprenticeship to one who had already mastered the subject. Even now, apprenticeships still exist, although they are no longer the primary way to enter a profession.
Among hobbits, someone in a skilled profession would choose their apprentices first among their own children and kin, but would also take on other young hobbits if they showed talent in their field. Depending on the profession, the age and number of apprentices would vary, but it would be unusual for a Master or Mistress to have more than two at a time, unless they were family.
We know that among the Gamgees, Sam tried out for a while with his uncle Andwise Roper of Tighfield, the Ropemaker; however, Sam's heart was in gardening and he returned to his father's side. His older brother Hamson did indeed apprentice with Uncle Andy and apparently stayed there afterwards. Sam's brother Halfred also moved away, to the North-farthing; it is not a stretch to imagine that it also could have been for an apprenticeship of some sort or other.
In my Shire, most young hobbits began their apprenticeships in their mid-teens (since I follow the two-thirds ratio on age, with Hobbits aging at two-thirds the rate of Men, this would have been in pre-adolescence rather than adolescence), but some jobs or professions preferred older apprentices. Among Healers, this would have been about twenty-five to twenty-eight years old.
While the average apprenticeship was seven years, it would not be unheard of for one to be a little shorter or last a little longer, depending on the abilities of the apprentice. There was no "journeyman" stage, as hobbits did not usually travel around a lot. However, when finishing an apprenticeship, a hobbit might continue in a more or less independent partnership with his or her Master or Mistress, until he or she feels confident enough to strike out alone.
I came to these various conclusions about hobbit education through my own research into the early history of education added to my interpretation of the importance of family in the Shire. I find it far more plausible that hobbits would handle the teaching of their young this way, rather than giving the task over to someone outside the family. This is of course, my own headcanon, one that I think can be supported by logic and the hints in canon. But it is by no means something to insist upon, and other writers of fanfic have come up with their own ideas.
Continuing the "Concerning the Shire" entries from B2MeM March '17.
B2MeM Prompt and Path: Purple path; Square 4, Wild Card--"Complete any prompt from the Orange path" (non-fiction). I chose Worldbuilding.
Of the five major hobbit characters we come to know about in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, only one of them has a paying job.
Frodo, Merry and Pippin are what I classify as gentry, among the upper class of hobbits who are wealthier, more educated and from older families than the majority of hobbits. This is not to say they do not work at all; running an estate, managing the extended family and so forth can be a lot of work. But they do not get wages for that, and for the most part it does not involve much in the way of physical labor.
Samwise Gamgee, we are told, is a gardener. A respected profession in the Shire, to be sure. His father, Hamfast, is called "Master", and Sam grows up to work under his father and then to take the job on his own. This generally seems to be the pattern of work in the Shire, although sons do not exclusively follow their fathers into the same occupation.
Tolkien does not tell us much of the jobs held by Shire-hobbits. Sam is one of the few working class hobbits we know by name. (Farmers Maggot and Cotton are two others.)
We know that both the named farmers are considered persons of importance in their immediate area, and Farmer Cotton and his sons are already defying the Ruffians in a small way before the Travellers return home, so in the absence of recognized authority (as the Mayor was in the Lockholes, the Thain was under siege, and Buckland cut off from the Shire) might have been considered a spokesperson, if not a leader in fact. In an agrarian society, as we are told that the Shire is, this makes sense for those whose jobs are raising food.
But there are many jobs and trades mentioned in canon. From The Hobbit we see mentioned: greengrocer, and we also hear of "Messrs. Grubb, Grubb and Burrowes" at the end of the story when the contents of Bag End are being auctioned off. I have always presumed that since they were in charge of what was basically an estate sale, that they were a firm of lawyers, although there are a couple of other possibilities as well. In my Shire I did decide to do that, and a Mr. Grubb is Bilbo's personal lawyer.
In LotR, we know that there are inns, so innkeepers exist; shops mean shopkeepers; a Postal Service means post-hobbits. All the crafts needed to keep the Shire going must exist, as well as the hobbits who know how to do them. Tolkien never tells us much about the infrastructure, he simply assumes we will know it is all there.
And of course, we do. But many fanfiction writers want to know more, and when we are not given them, we create our own explanations. I am no exception, and have come up with some various bits of headcanon to fill in the details of my own stories.
As I stated in my earlier part about education, the majority of healers in the Shire are female. I simply decided that this is one way in which the Shire differs from our own world. There are male healers, but they are few and far between. Of my very many hobbit healer characters, only one is male. He happens to be the Head Healer at Brandy Hall in the years leading up to and immediately after, the War of the Ring.
One of the things that seems to be unique to "my" Shire is the practice of Healing in the Shire. Because my husband (a Registered Nurse for over forty years) is also a Certified Healing Touch practitioner, I decided that some of the ideas and practices might be ones that would be of use to hobbit healers. For the purposes of story and plot, I have somewhat exaggerated the scope of Healing Touch, so that it is a much more reliable diagnostic tool than it is in reality. One of the tools used by each of my healers in the Shire is a pendant, each one unique, with which the healer may diagnose past and present ills. Healing Touch is used in other ways among hobbits as well, though I have made less use of that aspect in my stories.
As in the rest of Middle-earth, much of the medical practices of the Shire rely on herbal medicine, making use of various plants and herbs to create tonics, potions, teas, salves and other such things in order to treat the patients. I rely on a number of books and online sites to try and make the concoctions my healers come up with plausible.
Another way in which the hobbit healers differ from those of the healers of other races of Middle-earth is that they make very little use of surgery. Surgery is mostly used to repair injuries, such as sewing up cuts or amputating damaged limbs. Most hobbit healers are aware of other techniques known in Middle-earth of various invasive surgeries, but they are frowned upon as too dangerous. This attitude begins to change after the War of the Ring, when some of the practices from outside begin to be found in the Shire.
Dentistry is not practiced by healers as such. Hobbits have barbers (although I am quite certain the actual Westron word for barber is different, since hobbits don't have beards), however they specialize in hair-cuts, foot-grooming and pulling teeth. If a hobbit healer has a patient with an infected tooth, she will call upon one of the local barbers to deal with the tooth-pulling.
Hobbit healers are usually assisted by one or two apprentices, who come to them somewhat older than apprentices usually do; most crafts take their apprentices young, in their teens (which among Men would be pre-adolescent, rather than adolescent), but among healers the apprentices are usually in their mid to late tweens.
Most healers live in the villages and towns in small houses with their apprentices. They tend to cultivate their own gardens and grow their own herbs, which they process in their own stillrooms. However, there are a very few apothecaries in the Shire who do not practice healing, but instead concentrate on herbal lore and making preparations for healers and for families who don't have their own stillrooms.
The Great Families who dwell in multi-family smials usually have their own healers. They are paid a retainer and stipends to be at the service of the household. In Buckland, the healers tend to be family members. But the Tooks tend to hire outsiders. This is probably due to the fact that the Tooks have a reputation of being remarkably obstreperous patients; a family member would likely find it difficult to ride herd on them. There the healer is a non-family member, and lives on the grounds of the Great Smials, but not within them. She has a cottage of her own close to the Smials where she dwells with her apprentice.
However, this changed post-War, as Diamond North-Took, who was a healer's apprentice, married the Thain's Heir, Peregrin Took. She never became the official healer of the Great Smials, but she did become a Mistress of Healing, and was often available to take care of medical needs there. In addition, a Took cousin also became a Healer, and she did become the official healer to the Tooks.
Just about every craft necessary for everyday life was also held as an occupation by someone. There were potters, weavers, spinsters, tailors, seamstresses, ropers, millers, smiths, bakers and artists of every kind. In my Shire, potters were mostly female and weavers mostly male. Spinning was almost exclusively female, but tailoring was done by both genders. However, non-tailored sewing for hire (of shirts, household linens, undergarments, etc.) was also almost exclusively female, and was usually done for pin money--most hobbit families did their own simple sewing and mending. Milling, baking and metal smithing tended to be family businesses, and the gender depended on the family make-up, whether there were mostly sons or daughters in the family.
To be an artist (as in a painter or sculptor) or a musician was not a common profession, as most were talented amateurs. But there were some who made enough of a name for themselves that they could eke out a living with their talent. If they were a part of a secure family they could do very well for themselves. One of the most well known Shire artists of the late Third Age was Calla Brandybuck of Brandy Hall. Her portraits were much in demand, as were her impressively illuminated documents. She even had commissions from as far away as Long Cleeve in the Northfarthing. Lalia Clayhanger Took tried to get Calla to paint her portrait, but was refused. Calla also was the art teacher for Frodo Baggins during his youth in Brandy Hall.
The services needed to carry on with everyday life were also represented; not simply the usual household servants of the wealthy, but those who hired themselves out to perform services for others: farm workers, carters, drovers, tinkers, and so forth.
Of course we must not forget the public servants: the Post, the Shirriffs, and the Bounders. The Shire Post was the largest of the public services, and was overseen by the Mayor. Every town or village of any size had a Post Office, and those too small to have their own had a Post Rider come through every few days. In those small villages the post would be left at a local shop or tavern to be picked up. The Quick Post riders were the dashing heroes of the Post. They rode the fastest ponies at breakneck speed to get urgent messages to their destination. They were given special chits, to give to innkeepers or livery stables to get fresh ponies for their destination. The Thain kept four messengers at the Great Smials who were also considered a part of the official Shire Post, though he saw to their stipend and their keep. In Brandy Hall it was a less formal arrangement; there were usually a few cousins who were designated messengers when there was need. Bucklebury had it's own Post Office and Quick Post riders.
Lawyers were in much demand in the Shire, and wills and other legal documents were their main livelihood. In addition, lawsuits were not unheard of. If a hobbit felt that a crime had been committed that the Family Head could not deal with (for example, if a member of another family had offended, or if the Family Head felt he (or she) could not be impartial, a lawyer might be engaged to arbitrate the case, rather than taking it to the Thain or the Mayor. This was called an "action-at-law" and could be very expensive for the loser. But more about that in the part on Shire Law.
Business and Trade
The Shire, in spite of its general insularity was a place with a thriving economy. In spite of the dangers and difficulties of the Late Third Age elsewhere in Arnor, the Shire was at peace internally, and not only that still saw some trade from the Outside, at least up until the final few decades preceding the War of the Ring.
The Great East-West Road ran through the Shire from the Stonebow Bridge over the Brandywine all the way to the Far Downs just East of the White Towers (in later years after the coming of the King, that area became a part of the Shire, called the Westmarch). It is my belief that in the years before trade was disrupted by the general troubles that foreshadowed war and invasion, that both Dwarves and Men often traveled that route, and carried out trade with the hobbits of the Shire. It is unlikely that they went far off the beaten track, but it's clear that there were certain items found in the Shire that (from what Tolkien tells us in the Prologue) were unlikely to be manufactured there: things like mantel clocks, pocket watches, umbrellas, and likely other things of that nature.
In my Shire, this is the result of profitable trade with the Dwarves of the Ered Luin (Blue Mountains). In fact, one particular Dwarf clan had a business agreement with the North-tooks in the Northfarthing. A certain North-took had an inventive mind, but no skill in making his ideas a reality; the Dwarves produced many of his ideas to sell to other hobbits, and his family were the distributors. However, his own role in the agreement was a closely guarded family secret.
There was also trade with the Outside through the Southfarthing: pipeweed was its main crop, and while most was sold within the Shire, Shire leaf was prized throughout the North by both Men and Dwarves. But there was a less savory side to the trade in the Southfarthing. According to the Tale of Years, S.R. 1353 (T.A. 2953), some sixty-five years before Gandalf even knew that the One Ring was in the Shire, Saruman became suspicious of all the time his fellow Istar spent there. He could not understand it was out of simple friendship, especially with the Took clan, and admiration of the Hobbit race. Saruman was certain that Gandalf had found something of actual value there. It was then he began to spy on the Shire, and began to set up business agreements with prominent Southfarthing leaf-growers, such as the Sackvilles and the Bracegirdles. It was, naturally, not the value of the pipeweed he valued, but the opportunity to insinuate his agents there and to gather information.
Trade with Bree was mostly through the Brandybucks, and had at one time been rather brisk, but as the roads grew more dangerous, that trade had begun to fall off and was quite rare by the time of Bilbo's famous Party. After the War, it once more became common to travel between Buckland and Bree.
Within the Shire itself, there were all sorts of the usual shops. In "my" version of Hobbiton, there was a green-grocer, a baker, a butcher, a dry-goods shop, a stationer, an inn (the canonical Ivy Bush; the more famous Green Dragon was actually in Bywater), a tailor, and several other shops. All of these shops were locally owned and family operated.
However, one enterprising hobbit in "my" Shire was early in thinking up the idea of chain stores. The Brownlocks were a wealthy and prominent hobbit family, although not in the top of the Roll of Great Families. Carlo Brownlock owned a large dry-goods store in Michel Delving. He had five sons, and wished to provide for all of them. Since only his oldest son would become Family Head, he began to open similar shops around the Shire. He had one in Tuckborough, and eventually opened one each in Budgeford and Hobbiton. Each of his younger sons was placed in charge of a store, while his older son oversaw the entire family. During the Occupation of the Shire, the Michel Delving store managed to hide away most of its inventory, and made use of it to assist hobbits suffering from the depredations of the Ruffians. The stores in Hobbiton and Budgeford, however, were looted. The store in Tuckborough was the only one that remained open for business throughout the "Troubles". However, the Brownlocks were able to recoup their losses, and eventually two more stores were opened in Long Cleeve and at the newly built village of Newbridge, at the site of the former Sarn Ford. They were run by Carlo's grandsons.
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