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The Purple Path  by Dreamflower

B2eM Prompt and Path: Path: Purple; Prompt--Folklore, folk tales, and old wivesí tales
Genre: Friendship, Family
Rating: G
Warnings: n/a
Characters: Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee
Pairings: n/a
Creatorís Notes (optional): For a very long time, I have wanted to introduce Samwise to Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandrie; Further notes at the end of the story.
Summary: Sam discovers much of the Gaffer's folk wisdom actually comes from a very old book.

"Good husbandmen must moile & toile"

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
The Wisdom of Holman the greene-handed of Hobbiton
as told to Wiseman Gamwich of Tighfield

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,
Is little to get.
In gardening never this rule forget
To sow dry, and set 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,
The East, a forbearer, no manner of thing :
The South, as unkind, draweth sickness too near,
The North, as a friend, maketh all again clear.

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,
some all away filch,
Mark losses with grief,
through prowling thief.

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,
Give thine alms secretly,
Go by the way sadly,
Answer the people demurely,
Go to thy meat appetitely,
Sit thereat discretely,
Of thy tongue be not too liberally.
Arise therefrom temperally,
Go to thy supper soberly,
And to thy bed merely,
Please thy love duely.

He closed the book. He had a busy day in the gardens tomorrow.


Author's Notes

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.


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