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Author name: iavalir
Recipient's name: dreamflower02
Title: Fairy Lights
Rating: G
Request: I'd love a story about young Bilbo having a Yule holiday with his parents, Bungo and Belladonna. Could be at home in Bag End, or could be visiting kinfolk at the Great Smials. Any age from infancy to coming-of-age; could be funny, fluffy or serious; whatever floats your boat.
Author's notes: One of the riddles is taken from chapter “Riddles in the Dark.”
Summary: Bilbo always waited for Yule, when he would go searching for Fairy Lights.

Young Bilbo loved the snow and the chill that came with it, for it meant Yuletide was coming. But it was not the gifts that he anticipated most, unlike the other hobbit children and much to his father Bungo’s dismay. The coming of Yule meant riddles, written by his mother Belladonna and hidden about the house. If he answered every riddle correctly, he would be led to his prize: a jar of fairy lights.

This game she played with him since he was three, and this would be the four year in which they play. The Fairy lights were real, his mother explained to him. Real and magical and very precious, and any she came across during her travels she would store for this special day when he would receive them.

“But why are they called lights and not fairy dust?” Bilbo asked, studying the contents for the first time.

“They come from the fairies - tall, starlight beings - who live in the forests and make music, “ Belladonna explained. “The music becomes magical dust, but they are not just any dust, you see!” She scooped a tiny portion in his hand and sprinkled it over his food. “A small bite and your year will be blessed and merry!”

“Why riddles?” Bilbo asked.

“Fairy lights love a wise mind,” his mother explained. “They disappear if they are not touched for a long time, and they flourish when a mind is growing and learning near it, especially a child’s mind!”

Bilbo’s eyes sparkled as he vowed he would read and learn as much as he could. He didn’t know why his father never had any such knowledge of the world to share with him. He gave him toys for Yule, which were well and good, but Bilbo loved more books and relics from other lands and other peoples.

Of course, he did not know that the fairy lights were simply salt dyed into shades of golds, violets, and crimsons, and that the dust were made the night before in the kitchen by Belladonna herself as she argued with her husband on whether making such games was healthy for a hobbit child.

On the morning of Yule, Bilbo awoke early, but before he could make it to the tree, Bungo picked him up.

“You have the whole day!” his father laughed, and made sure Bilbo would first eat his breakfast. The presents sat, enticing him throughout the entire day. It wasn’t like Bilbo to choose anything over food, but the fairy lights he knew would make even eating better. It wasn’t until after lunch that finally Bilbo could open his presents.

Bilbo went for the smallest gift first, which turned out to be mittens. He frowned, having hoped the box would have contained his first riddle.

“So much for using your mind,” he told himself.

“Open the rest!” Bungo encouraged. “You’ll find your riddle yet!”

After finally caving in, Bungo had bought Bilbo books, and building blocks as well, all to keep Bilbo’s mind sharp. Bungo would hate to admit it, but it gave him a joy to see his son’s face light up with every new gift. But he knew which gift Bilbo wanted the most, but he and Belladonna had planned not to give it to Bilbo till last.

When all the presents were opened, finally a last one was handed to Bilbo, and he cried out excitedly. Tearing through the multiple layers of gifting paper, he found the thin strip of parchment which he had been dreaming of all month.

“Eggs!” he yelled out just seconds after reading the riddle. “It’s eggs!”

“Clever boy,” Belladonna whispered to Bungo as Bilbo set off for the kitchens. He peaked around the jar of pickled eggs, lifted it, and retrieved the second strip of parchment.

The hunt lasted for hours. The clues sent Bilbo throughout the cozy hobbit hole, in bedrooms and guest rooms and the kitchens and the sole study room. Though each riddle got more difficult, he was able to answer all without much help. He just needed to use his mind. The more he used it, the stronger the fairy lights would become.

An eye in a blue face
Saw an eye in a green face.
“That eye is like to this eye”
Said the first eye,
“But in low place,
Not in high place.”

“Eyes,” Bilbo repeated. “Eyes, eyes…” He studied the portrait of his mother, then traced her gaze to another painting across the room. But no new riddle was there.

“Eyes…eyes…” He went through the house, repeating the word and stopping each time he found another portrait with no success. “Blue face…green face…” he must have walked in circles, trying to find something new in the room he’d only just been in. Taking pity (and since Belladonna wasn’t looking), Bungo tapped him on the shoulder and pointed to another painting. But Bilbo didn’t understand at first. There were no eyes in the painting, just a field of daisies in a green field and a big sun shining overhead in the bright blue sky…

Grinning, he reached behind the painting and pulled out the final clue.

Sometimes I smile to the right
Sometimes I smile to the left
I can light your way,
And I can be unseen.

“The moon!” Bilbo said happily, thinking of how the moon looks like a sideways smile at times. The last riddle was quite simple, but for a fleeting moment he stood transfixed in fear. Did his mother put the jar of fairy dust up on the moon?

Bilbo shook his head. His mother was magical he was sure, but he doubted she could hide the fairy dust on the moon. The riddle simply meant he had to go outside to the garden; the moon’s light would guide him to the fairy lights. And without first putting on a coat, he dashed outside into the cold, his eyes studying the snowy ground for any jar.

It did not take him long. The jar was placed underneath a tree, the dust lights glowing, full of magic. Bilbo held it to his eyes to inspect with wonder, knowing he would have a very blessed and merry year ahead. But as he lowered the jar, another light caught his eyes. It lay far away from him, and he ran to the edge of the fence to get a better look.

Fairies! A line of fairies, far away in the forest, were traveling, their auras lighting the forest and their path. They were just as his mother described them to him: tall, with long flowing hair and a voice that, even from this distance, was spellbinding. Their song made him want to laugh and cry, to dance and to stand still to absorb its beauty though he understood not a word of it. He had half a mind to run out and seek them out. Where were they going? What would he see? And Bilbo then became filled with the mad thought, of leaving his home and going over hill and under hill, leaving the borders of the Shire to lands unknown and even far to the East. What adventure would he have out there?

Adventure. The word brought a shy smile from Bilbo, a secret desire that even at this age he would never utter. It was simply taboo. He turned around and ran back into his home.

“You found the fairy lights!” Belladonna said cheerfully when she saw the jar in his hands. “This year you will be blessed indeed, my son!”

“You were out for a long time,” Bungo added as Bilbo handed over his prize to Belladonna.

“I saw more fairy lights - Mum, I saw the fairies!”

“Did you?” Belladonna said, and glancing up at Bungo gave him a wink. “Tell me while I prepare the table!” she said as she led Bilbo to the dicing room.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 1st, 2014 02:16 am (UTC)
What an utterly lovely and creative story! I adore this tradition Belladonna invented for Bilbo. It kept his imagination alive, his mind sharp, and even readied him for a dangerous Adventure far in his future. I really enjoyed this.
Jan. 1st, 2014 03:32 am (UTC)
What a delight! I adore young and clever Bilbo using his mind and his imagination to solve the riddles, which explains why he was so good at them years later even under the pressure of being possibly eaten!

I also love Belladonna's own cleverness in doing what she could to make fairies real to her son. It's the kind of thing I once used to do for my little sister and brother many decades ago.

And best of all was that Bilbo got to see "fairies" for himself at the end!

Wonderful, wonderful story! Thank you SO much!
Jan. 1st, 2014 05:28 pm (UTC)
I liked this. And I love the riddle tradition - it shows how Bilbo is good at riddles when he grows up and goes on an adventure.
Jan. 1st, 2014 07:11 pm (UTC)
Oh this is so utterly cute and so cleverly written! I adore young Bilbo going on a riddles quest, but I also like the differences between his parents and how that played out. But the end, oh wow! You had me going like: 'oh my, he's not going to wander off in the dark cold night, is he?'
Jan. 1st, 2014 11:23 pm (UTC)
Oh, so perfect a Yule for the wee lad! And to see Elves in the distance while he finds his "Fairy Lights" is just the right thing! I can appreciate why Bungo is concerned, but it prepares Bilbo for the day when he goes into the world and finds himself meeting Elves for himself. How could Bungo Baggins appreciate just how much this will mean to the world of Arda?
Jan. 2nd, 2014 02:33 am (UTC)
This is so adorable! I don't even have a lot of words - just the care you crafted this fic with, the riddles - and such clever foreshadowing - and the idea of tiny Bilbo racing around the house looking for the riddles, and finally the Tookish strain flaring up when he sees the Elves, I love this so much, dear! ♥
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


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