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A Lesson in the Library by Pearl Took

Author: Pearl Took
Title: A Lesson in the Library
Theme: young/old
Elements: elegant, old fashioned, fragile, wandering, sticky
Author's Notes: Rated G
Summary: Pippin is feeling out of sorts. An elderly Hobbit helps him to think through his troubles.
Word Count: 2,368

The year is 1410. Pippin is 20. Ferumbras Took, The Took and Thain, is 94 and will die in 5 years so there is talk already in the Tookland of Paladin [Pippin’s father] becoming The Took and Thain of the Shire when Ferumbras dies. An OC I’ve created for this story - Cousin Isembold II (b. 1310, 6 years older than Ferumbras) - has died and it is his funeral that has sparked Pippin’s thinking.

A Lesson in the Library

Pippin stood in the dim light in a back corner of the huge library at Great Smials looking at a shelf holding mystery stories. Why was it, he wondered, that hobbits liked scary stories? Ones with ghosts and spirits and strange creatures. Even ones of death and murder. The Hobbits of the Shire made quite the proud boast that no hobbit living in the Shire had ever murdered another hobbit. Yet . . .

He sighed as he ran his fingers along, tickling the spines of the books. He wondered if it gave them shivers the same way such a touch would often do to him.

Yet . . . he drew his mind back to what he had been thinking, yet the hobbits of the Shire were always more than willing to suspect murder. Pippin thought of his cousin Frodo. He had long endured the whispers of murder in the death of his parents. Primula pushed Drogo. Drogo pushed Primula. One was pushing while the other one pulled the pusher in with them. The shadows of the gossip would still darken Frodo’s eyes from time to time.

There was that story concerning Briffo Boffin who rather suddenly decided to move to Bree in 1210 a mere two months after his wife’s death. Her’s had been a sudden illness which no healer had been able to do anything about. There was still the whispered talk of those strange herbs Briffo grew in his garden.

And there was the horrible time in his very own family, eight years ago when he was a little lad of twelve. His dear sister Pearl being whispered about in the matter of Lalia’s strange, accidental, demise. Pippin sighed loudly. He had to admit, at least to himself, that he sometimes wondered if something indeed had happened between Cousin Ferumbras, Pearl, and that creaky old wheeled chair full of a very fat hobbitess. Ferumbras certainly had been very kind to Pearl afterwards, doing all he could to convince everyone that it was the faulty old chair that had caused the accident. Then he gave Pearl that beautiful pearl necklace. Pippin shivered. He was certain that, to this day, he sometimes heard Lalia’s chair squeaking and groaning down the main hallway toward the Great Door on pleasant mornings. Going down that hallway on what had been her last time to “take the air”.

Oh yes! Such tales were more than popular amongst the Hobbits of the Shire, even when there wasn’t the taint of murder. He looked at the titles on some of the books before him. “The Hidden Hole,” “The Hobbit Who Dissapeared,” “Lost Passageways in the Smial,” “Whispers on the Winter Wind,” “The Ghost of Griffin Goold.”

What was it about death anyway? Pippin punched lightly at the row of books, denting in their formerly neat, tidy line. Why the fuss and the bother and why did they die anyway when Elves don’t? Cousin Isenbold II’s funeral was one of those fuss and bothers, even though Pippin had really liked the old hobbit. Just another time to have to be at the Smials and among the Tooks who lived there.

“Snobs, the lot of them!” he exclaimed aloud without meaning to as he punched another section of books out of alinement.

“Not the lot of them.”

Pippin jumped, though the voice was soft with a smile showing in it. He turned to his left. An elderly hobbit stood there, dressed in elegant, though old fashioned, attire. Pippin did not recognize him but assumed he must have come for Cousin Isenbold II’s funeral. The lad shook his head and looked down at the floor.

“No, not the lot of them, I reckon. If you insist on being particular about it.”

“Ferdibrand, Isenbras* and Hilifons II* aren’t so bad,” the hobbit said encouragingly.

“Sometimes,” Pippin grudgingly admitted.

“I think you will find them to be close and loyal friends someday.”

“Hm,” the lad grunted. “Aren’t now.”

“It is the way with males, I think.”

“Not Merry!” Pippin quickly looked up, a glint of fire in his eyes. “Not Merry nor Frodo, nor Sam, nor Fatty, nor Folco. They’re nice lads.”

“None of whom live at the Smials.”

“No,” Pippin replied. His momentary ire faded and he let his head droop forward again. “They tease me here because I’m a farmer’s son. A rural lad, not a town lad. You would think I’d not been educated or something the way they go on.” The heat was coming back to his blood and he looked up at his elder. “They tease me because I speak a bit differently from the town lads, and I have chores to do and they don’t. And they tease because I have all sisters and no brothers and they tease because . . .”

Pippin punched at the books again.

“I should run off and have an adventure,” he muttered as though the other hobbit had suddenly disappeared and he was alone again. “I should run off where no one cares about who might be Took and Thain when old Cousin Ferumbras dies. And no one would care who’s daughter Pearl is, or who her brother is, or that I’m my father’s only son and a little small for my age.”

The library was silent. So much so and for so long that Pippin jumped again when the old hobbit spoke.

“It will not do you any good, lad. My goodness! You are a nervous, lad. Do you always give such a start when other people speak?”

Pippin shook his head.

“Well, that’s a comfort. Come along, then, and let us sit down.” He gestured toward a couple of overstuffed leather chairs sitting on either side of a small table just to the right of where he and the youth were standing. Pippin had always thought it an odd place for them to be as the light was always poor back in this corner. The lamp on the table was often not even lit, and even when it was, its glow was anemic at best. The two sat down, Pippin with his legs tucked beneath him and the old hobbit with his crossed at his ankles.

“There now! This is much better. Friendlier. Cozier.” He held out his hand. “Mr. Boffin, at your service,” he happily announced.

“Peregrin Took, at yours and your family’s,” Pippin properly replied as he clasped the proffered hand. “Most everyone calls me Pippin though,” he added. The old hobbit’s skin felt cool and dry to the touch and fragile like tissue paper.

“As I was saying,” Mr. Boffin said, picking up where he had stopped, “it will not do you any good, running off on an adventure.”

“Why not? Cousin Bilbo said it did him good. And I’ve read Isengar Took’s account of his travels with his friend, Rollo Boffin, and he said it did him good.”

“Yes, but they went for a reason different than your’s, young hobbit. As I recall Isengar Took went on his adventure because he felt that irresistible urge to see the world that seems to afflict you Tooks. Bilbo, if memory serves me correctly, barely chose to go, and he most certainly was not running from his own life here. Why, even my ancestor, Basso Boffin, back in 1195, left because he had to, not just in the hope it would put an end to his own problems. You, young Pippin, would be running away from your problems and, I think, from yourself as well. That, I am quite sorry to have to tell you, never works.”

“Of course it will!” Pippin was irked at this person he did not even know trying to tell him his plans were flawed. “I would not be here any longer, so the problems wouldn’t affect me any more.”

“Will it change who’s only son you are? Will it change the effects of that old problem Pearl had to deal with, or that you are her brother? Will it change that you are small for your age and that you have doubts about yourself because of all these things?”

The lad’s mouth dropped open as though he meant to respond, but no sound came out.

“Why are you looking so surprised? You said all of that just a few moments ago, although I will say you said it more to yourself than to me, even though I was standing right there. And, well, I will allow that you didn’t mention doubting yourself, but I know that is part and parcel of how you are feeling, is it not?”

Pippin had closed his mouth. His lips were now curled in to form a tight, straight line across his face. He nodded.

“Then you need to see that running from troubles doesn’t work. Wherever you go, you would be there, and the troubles are inside you.”

“But . . . but.” The lad stopped and sighed. He had to admit to himself that, even though the lads who teased him would not be there, that would not solve everything. “I would be there, wouldn’t I?”


“And I would still be me.”

“Yes. I doubt very much that you would change the moment you go a-wandering. But,” Mr. Boffin leaned over to pat Pippin’s knee, “that does not mean you might not change eventually. You might.”

Pippin perked up considerably. “Then you’re saying I should go?”

“No, no, lad. I am saying no such thing. You might change without ever leaving The Shire. You might also go on some adventure or other and change for the worse.”

The old hobbit sighed heavily. He stared off into the dark above the tops of the bookshelves and below the ceiling. “Adventures can be a sticky business. One never knows what will happen. Yours will fall upon you for a good reason when its time is full. My own I chose, and it did not go a thing like I had expected it to.”

Pippin wanted to ask a million questions, but Mr. Boffin kept talking.

“It all seemed so grand and glorious when we planned it. He for the thrill of seeing the outside world, and me just to leave home. Off we went. But every where we went, I had taken myself with me. Nothing had changed. I was still shy and unsure of myself. I was still not as confident or strong as he was. And everywhere we went he had to get me unstuck from some folly or other. There was that time . . .”

For a moment, Pippin saw himself, trudging down a gloomy road in the pouring rain . . . alone. It gave him a shiver. Then the spell, and Mr. Boffin’s tale, were interrupted.

“Pippin! Pippin, are you in here?”

Pippin glanced toward the end of the library where the entrance was. He recognized the voice; Hildifons was looking for him.

“I’m wanting to play draughts and you are much better at it than most of the other lads. Are you in here, Pippin?”

“It seems you have a friend here after all, Peregrin. He has come searching for you, has he not?” Mr. Boffin asked with a smile. “You should answer before he leaves.”

“A moment, Hilly! I’m . . .” He almost said he couldn’t go, but something in Mr. Boffin’s look made him choose to accept Hilly’s invitation. “I’ll meet you in the game room. I, eh, need to put this book back on the top shelf,” Pippin called out, then to Mr. Boffin he more quietly said, “But you’ve not finished your story.”

“All right, Pip. Meet you there, but don’t be long, will you,” Hilly called back.

“Will you run away lad?” Mr. Boffin asked Pippin; his look and voice suddenly intense.

“I won’t be long, Hilly!” Pippin called to his friend, then they heard Hildifons leave the library.

Pippin’s eyes locked with the old hobbit’s eyes “I don’t think I will, Mr. Boffin.” They remained frozen in place as an unspoken understanding passed between them. Finally, Mr. Boffin smiled and nodded. Pippin smiled shyly at the old hobbit as he stood up. “As you said, I would only take myself with me. Will you tell me the rest of your story, sir, or at least the rest of the part Hilly interrupted? I have a few minutes before I need to leave.”

“Perhaps I will some other time, lad.” A warm, gentle smile brightened Mr. Boffin’s old face. “For now, I have been able to show you the folly in trying to run from your troubles, and that shall suffice. You are a good lad, Pippin. Go be with your friend.”

“Goodbye, Mr. Boffin, and thank you!” the young Took said as he turned and trotted off down an aisle between the book shelves.

“I’ve helped another to not make my mistake, Isengar, my old friend,” Rollo Boffin sighed contentedly as he slowly faded from view.

Isenbras and Hildifons II are OCs that I’m having be in Isembold Took’s line. The Took family tree says he had “many descendants.” So, Isenbras will have been born in 1392 and is two years younger than Pippin, and Hildifons II will be born in 1386 and is four years older than Pippin. They are not brothers but are cousins.

Rollo Boffin is canon (b. 1260) according to the Boffin family tree and was two years older than [also canon] Isengar Took (b. 1262) who was “said to have ‘gone to sea’ in his youth”. Since Tolkien has Basso Boffin “reputed to have ‘gone to sea’ in 1195” I decided a later Boffin might get the urge to wander as well, and that he might have gone with his friend, Isengar Took.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 15th, 2008 07:38 pm (UTC)
Oh, I love this ghost story, Pearl! An older Hobbit advising this young one who will one day go on his own adventure. Loved meeting Rollo Boffin and learning Isengar might have had his own companion on his adventure!
Sep. 15th, 2008 07:59 pm (UTC)
so glad the old gent cared so much about the self image of the younger one. people so often forget how scared they were in their own youth and think only about the bravado they see. touching, moving, maybe even a little haunting. thanks.
Sep. 15th, 2008 10:32 pm (UTC)
This is just wonderful, Pearl! I think it's marvelous the way you built up the atmosphere, so that the reader *suspected* who Rollo was, but did not *know* until the end.

And yes, if Pippin had run off at such a young age, and without his cousins, he would have found a far different, and I fear, worse adventure than the one that was rightfully his!

Good job!
Sep. 16th, 2008 12:47 am (UTC)
Very good. This is a nice "almost" ghost story.

I loved Pippin looking at the books and thinking of the hobbits' love of murder mysteries and the like.

I'm glad the old ghost had a good talk with Pippin and was so understanding of the young hobbit's self-doubts.

I'm also glad that Hilly decided to be Pippin's friend, just when the young future-Thain needed one.
Sep. 17th, 2008 11:31 pm (UTC)
Pearl, loved this, as you already know! Now I can't wait to see what you come up with for the Halloween challenge!!!
Sep. 18th, 2008 02:56 am (UTC)
Thank you so much, Cathleen :-) It's nice to know people are looking forward to my stories. I hope I can turn out a good one!
Sep. 18th, 2008 03:25 pm (UTC)
I said you before that i very much like the story, but no harm in saying it again, is there? ;) Very nice story and I love the athmosphere in it!

Sep. 18th, 2008 08:06 pm (UTC)
thank you so much, Golden :-) :-)
Sep. 30th, 2008 04:25 pm (UTC)
oooh, a shivery ghost tale! I really like this spin on the old/young theme! What a wise ghost, too! I am oft curious about these hobbits who wandered back before even Bilbo's time!
Sep. 30th, 2008 04:34 pm (UTC)
Hi Claudia!
Glad you enjoyed my story. I too find it interesting that Bilbo was not the only hobbit to go a wandering.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


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