Title: Eucatastrophe: A Letter Home
Theme: Myth or legend
Elements: a fruit: the shipova, which is a cross between a pear and the fruit of the whitebeam tree.
Author's Notes: This takes place in my "Eucatastrophe-universe", in which the Three Rings did not fail, but gained in power and those who sailed West were given the option to return to Middle-earth, and in which Frodo was fully healed and able to stay in Middle-earth. At the time of this story, he is 83 and has retired to Minas Anor to write the definitive book on the languages of Men and Elves. He and Gandalf are living in the same house where the Fellowship stayed after the war, and staying with them are Merry's son Periadoc, Pippin's son Faramir and two of Sam's sons, Merry and Pippin Gamgee. They have come to spend couple of years studying and learning at the King's court. (In this universe, the Fourth Age actually begins on the date of the Ring's destruction, rather than two years later.)
Summary: Frodo writes a letter home, and has a story to tell Merry...
Word Count: 2.207
Eucatastrophe: A Letter Home
Midsummer's Day, F.A. 32
I was very glad to get your news! It is hard to imagine little Wyn being courted! I certainly hope that her suitor is worthy of her, though I would think he would live in terror of breaking her heart! Pippin mentioned in his letter of how you have made it a point to speak to the lads who have been buzzing round her while sharpening your sword. I would say, "shame on you" in a very repressive older cousin manner, if the image it brought to mind did not make me grin so much. Still, she has a few years yet to her majority, and tweens can be fickle, so perhaps your lass will change her mind.
Your son is doing well in his studies, according to his tutor at Court. Master Herion says Perry is a very apt scholar and is somewhat in competition with the other students, stung to furious effort whenever any of the others get ahead of him or get better marks in anything. I find him less attentive with the lessons I set him. He seems to need the presence of others to spur him on. Your namesake Merry-lad, and young Princess Miniel seem to be his chief rivals, save in mathematics. Pippin-lad has quite a talent for numbers and he has impressed Master Herion immensely with his skill with sums, though he is barely adequate in his other studies. Fam's become a more attentive pupil than I remember him being in the Shire, though he seems to love sport and the arms-training the youngsters are given here better than his books. You and Sam and Pippin should be very proud of your sons; they are excellent representatives of the Shire here in Minas Anor, and have made many friends here.
However, he and Fam and Merry-lad and Pippin-lad have also had their share of mischief. Only a few weeks ago, they brought a new addition to the household, a stray mongrel that caught their attentions when they found it being abused in the lower city. Perhaps it will give you some idea of the creature's size when I tell you that Faramir decided to name it after Bill the Pony. That turned out to be an unfortunate choice, as "Bill" turned out to be a she, and an expecting mother at that! She is now called "Billie" and we have six mewling pups on the premises, which we will have to find homes for. I have to warn you that the lads are determined to bring her back to the Shire. I suppose that you, Sam and Pippin can draw straws, and the loser will get the privilege of housing the beast. (Actually, she is rather amiable. You know my feelings on the subject of large dogs, and can be assured that if she were not a good-natured animal, I would not have her in the house. But she is very large!)
We recently spent a few days in Ithilien, with Faramir and Éowyn. I am sure that Perry will fill you in on all the details of the visit in his own letter; but I thought I would tell you of something I heard while I was there. Éowyn's Rohirric chambermaid, Milda was persuaded one day to relate an old tale of Rohan, one she had learned from her grandmother. I know that you and I have often discussed the connections between the language of Rohan and that of the Shire, and of the legends of the holbytlan that are sometimes heard among the common folk there. So I know you will appreciate this tale, which I shall endeavour to set down in her words.
“Long ago, when our people dwelt still to the East of the Great River, many long generations before the Longfathers of Eorl the Young became the chiefs of our peoples, there dwelt a widow and her youngest son.
Her husband had been slain by invaders from the East, and her two older sons had gone off to join their father's eored to avenge him, leaving their youngest brother Wat to care for their mother. But alas, things grew difficult for just the two of them, and at last all they had left was her husband's horse. They loved the horse, not least because it had been in their family for many years, but the choice was between keeping the horse and the three of them starving together, or selling him and perhaps keeping them all fed.
So young Wat went off with the horse to find a buyer. As it so happened, not many miles distant a man called out to him: "Where are you going in such a hurry, boy?"
"If you please, sir, I am going to sell my father's horse."
Now this man was greedy and less than honest, but he said to the lad "I will buy your father's horse."
Now Wat was pleased to have found a customer so quickly. He dismounted and said, "What will you give me?"
The man took out a couple of silver pennies, and said "I will give you a purse of silver."
The lad's eyes shone with pleasure! He and his mother would be able to live in comfort with that much coin! So he agreed to the bargain. The man took the silver pennies, and placed them in a small leather purse, heavy and jingling, and gave it to the delighted boy. Then he got up on his new horse and rode off swiftly.
Alas! When the lad looked in the purse, he discovered that only the two pennies he had been shown were of silver-- the rest of the purse was filled with nails! He turned to shout at the thief to stop, but the wicked man was long gone from sight. Weeping with despair, the boy wandered from the road, paying no heed to where he was going, for all he could think of was how he had been cheated and his mother's disappointment when he returned.
He knew not how long he wandered, but it began to grow later, and he realised he was lost. He espied a small hill and decided to climb to the top and see if he could get his bearings. But he had not ascended even halfway when suddenly, his foot sank into a hole and he fell to the ground. This was the last straw, and he simply lay there and wept for his misfortune.
But suddenly his grieving was interrupted.
"Hoy! You great lummox! Why have you put your foot through my front door?"
He gazed up in astonishment. There stood a little person, half so high as a man. He was dressed all in green, and his ams were akimbo as he glared at Wat.
Wat sat up and stared. "Who--or what-- are you?"
"I am the Tucca and my people are the hole-dwellers. This is my home. Now who are you and why are you blubbering on my doorstep?"
And so young Wat began to tell the little man his whole story. He showed him the purse, and told of how he had been cheated. The Tucca's expression grew grave, and he nodded in sympathy. "I see you have had a dreadful time of it, young man. Why don't you come inside and get warm, and have something to eat? It is getting dark-- you can find your way home in the morning."
The Tucca indicated something Wat had not seen before: a small green door, set into the hillside. It was damaged, hanging from its hinges where his foot had crashed into it, but the Tucca pushed it aside. Wat had to crawl to come inside, but once there he could stand up, although his head very nearly touched the ceiling. He was inside a cosy house, built into the hillside. There were many more little people inside, and all stared in astonishment at their large guest. Still, they made him welcome, and brought him food to eat: delicious bread, yellow cheeses, a stew of mushrooms and a mug of small beer. He ate his fill and then he fell sound asleep upon the hearth, to the sound of the little people singing.
But while he slept, the little people were very busy.
Not too far distant, the man who had cheated the boy had made camp. He made a fire, and set a pot of soup upon it for his supper. Then he turned his attention to feeding the horse, and hobbling it, for it had taken a dislike to its new master, and had thrown him and tried to run off. He never noticed the small figure that crept up to his fire and stirred something into his soup. And after he ate, he grew very sleepy indeed...
When Wat awakened the next morning, he discovered he was outdoors upon the hillside. He could see no sign of the broken door, nor of any of the little hole-dwellers he had met the night before. He rubbed his eyes and thought he must have been dreaming. But as he gazed down the hill, he saw to his delight, his father's horse, calmly grazing at the foot of the hill. Joyfully, he ran down to it and mounted, and allowed it to take him back home, for of course the horse knew the way!
Still, as he went, he mused over things, and he realised that he would have naught to show for his efforts save the two silver pennies. They were better than nothing of course, but he knew his mother would be disappointed. And yet, he could not bring himself to be-- for they did have the horse again!
His mother had been worried and anxious for her boy, for she had not expected him to be gone all the night. When he rode into view, she was so delighted to see him that she did not even scold him for not selling the horse. He came into their house, and recounted to her all his adventures, and took out the little purse, to show her the two pennies and the nails-- but when he poured it out, lo! it was filled with silver pennies!
They gazed in shock! How had this come to be?
As for the villain, he too awakened-- very late in the day. But when he woke he found that he was in a completely strange place. There was no fire, nor sign of one, no horse, and he discovered to his dismay that he'd not a stitch of clothing on-- not even his smallclothes! As he jumped up with a cry of alarm he saw a tiny person standing not far away, holding a bow with an arrow notched, aimed steadily at him.
"You have been a thief and a liar," said the little person. "Now you must reap your reward. You must make a new start of your life, and be an honest man from this day on." Suddenly, the little man vanished. And the thief was left to make his way as he was-- but he was honest from that day on, for fear of the little people.
Wat and his mother meanwhile delighted in their new good fortune, which was increased mightily with the return of his brothers-- who had escaped from their captivity among the enemy and made their way home!
I am certain that the story has been embellished and transformed over the generations, but I think that you will see as well as I do the possibility that there might actually have been a "little man", a "hole-dweller", behind the story! And I am quite sure that you will take note of the name of their leader! Milda says she knows more tales of the holbytlan from her grandmother, so I am in hopes of sending you more.
I hope you enjoy the fruits I'm sending-- one of the crates is for you, the others are for Bag End and the Great Smials. In addition to the peaches, lemons, limes and oranges, I am including a tasty fruit that has recently made its way into the City from Lebinnin. It is called a "shipova", and I'm told it is a cross between the common pear and the fruit of the whitebeam tree. The fruit is very uncommon. I will mention to you as I did in my letter to Sam: do not bother with saving the seeds; it is the result of grafting, and the seeds do not breed true. However, if I can learn more about the procedure, I will send you both more information. Pears grow in the Shire, and so do whitebeam, so I do not know why such a thing could not be repeated there.
Gandalf sends his greetings, as well as his thanks for the cask of Old Toby you sent him for your birthday. I know that the King also was quite pleased with his as well, as I saw the look of delight on his face when he opened it. I also saw the look of dismay on the Queen's face. She is no fonder of the smell of pipe-weed than Legolas.
I miss all of you, but my book is coming along very nicely, now that I have access to the Archives here, and the warmer climate is kind to my old bones, now that I am no longer as young as I once was. Please give Estella and the lasses my greetings and my love.