The Adventures
Frodo Gardner

Volume I
Where Many Paths and Errands Meet
By Dolores J. Nurss

Chapter 29, Part 29
On the Origin of Hobbits
(November 10,1451)

Murmurs of amazement wafted through the company, from elf and dwarf alike, at what the old ent said, as the sunlight that flickered between the leaves warmed them at their work. Treebeard went on, speaking Gandalf's words. "'M�rglin was an elven-maid of the dark-haired Noldor folk, but of no great family, born here in Middle-Earth--Hollin, to be precise--and not from Valinor. Like many of the Hollin elves, she labored as a jeweler and a crafter of light wares. She was small for her kind, and often overlooked, underestimated because she seldom spoke except by the work of her hands, which, while lovely in its own right, often got lost amid the marvels fashioned by those who had studied under Aule himself. But she had nimble fingers that loved to bend the softer metals into filigrees--copper or gold, silver or tin, it little mattered to her, lead even, if she wanted a leaden color, for she cherished the result more than the rarity.

"'Often she worked with dwarves, because she felt less small among them, and they did not regard her as stupid for her silences, loving silence much themselves. They admired her handicraft, and found work for her to do, when her own people forgot to call on her at all.
"'She fashioned her filigrees like vines and fronds and flowers, twigs and fruit and leaves, as elves often do, and butterfly wings, and feathers, and ripples of water, and all the fair things of nature. Then, inspired by a dream one night, she made what she thought was a handsome copper lattice for a lantern, resembling a mesh of roots. But her family found it graceless; they shook their heads and wondered what to do with such a daughter--and then they did with her what they always had, which was to do nothing with her at all. She had grown used to this.
"'So, ignored and alone, M�rglin took the root-lamp back to her workshop among the dwarves, but just as she prepared to melt it down for other use, a dwarf named Roin stepped in and stopped her. He admired her lamp and bought it from her for beryls, which he'd observed her setting in her other filigrees for leaves. He told her that the beryls reminded him of her green, green eyes, and then he blushed, surprised to utter such words out loud--and then he fled while she stood by the crucible, wondering.
"'M�rglin started to take note of Roin after that. Like her, he did not have much in common with his own people. He liked to linger in the higher chambers where the light spilled in through shafts, sparkling in his rough, red curls; he said that he could see his work better by daylight than by any lamp. He had a ruddy, tan face where the other dwarves looked pale. When others delved downward, which is sensible in a dwarf, Roin felt drawn to delve upward, and often broke through, and then got laughed at for his folly as the dirt crumbled in on top of him.
"'In doing so he frequently came across roots, and they interested him. Roin wondered what food they sought in soil, and if you could compound this food entirely from minerals or whether it needed something else besides. He wondered what, exactly, roots did with the minerals once they gathered them, and by what magic did they change the stuff of earth into wood and bark and leaves and fruit--oh, marvelous transformation! And so he came at last, from the ground up, to wonder about trees.
"'None of his own sort had the slightest interest in Roin's curiosity, so he resolved to ask an elf--surely the elves would know the answers to all his questions. But elves for the most part frightened him--tall and haughty creatures that they were, strange with the light of Valinor in their eyes, mingled somehow with the more baleful fire of Feanor. Roin could not quite see how one should approach an elf, or whether one should even try, apart from a straightforward business deal or matters of shared craft. Except...he did recall one elf more approachable than the rest--one, furthermore, who cared about things like roots.
"'So, shyly at first, Roin asked M�rglin his questions about trees, and she answered, first by shaping him models in metal or clay to illustrate her points, as usual trusting her fingers more than words. Later she brought him topside to walk among the trees themselves, and showed him much, saying little, leading him by degrees to figure out the workings of the woods for himself. And so, without trying, she stumbled across the way that dwarves prefer to learn. He loved her for that, at first as a friend, who could understand him like no one else ever had, and she loved him, at first as a friend, because he found wisdom in her that others had passed by. They spent many days together, sometimes deep in the shops working side by side, sometimes walking hand in hand in the forests above ground. And no one noticed but themselves.
"'Then one day he said to her, "I dreamed last night of a silver tree with golden leaves, and on it, right before my eyes, there swelled a jewel for a fruit--a jewel of rare beauty, coruscating with all the colors of the rainbow." She gasped at his words, saying, "I had that same dream last night, except that the fruit fell into my lap!" Then they gazed into each other's eyes, wondering that they should become so close as to share one dream, and right then they knew that they had fallen in love indeed.
"'At that time Sauron, in disguise as Annatar, Lord of Gifts, had begun to stir up whisperings of elves against dwarves and dwarves against elves, dragging up old grievances out of their graves to make them walk again among the living. As it turned out this effort did not go very far in Hollin and Khazad-Dum--not with the alliance so convenient for both nations. But M�rglin and Roin heard much that frightened them, and they did not stay to hear the rumors peter out. In secret they pledged themselves to each other in marriage, asking nobody's permission. Then they fled through Khazad-Dum, into Lorien, and then across the river to the lower reaches of the Greenwood, far south of Thranduil's more favored marches, where few among elves or dwarves set foot.
"'It took a long while for either of their peoples to notice their absence. Long separations matter little to long-lived peoples. Even when they did discover it, neither kind imagined that Roin and M�rglin might have gone away together. Eventually everyone figured that they each must have relocated somewhere else within their own vast communities, and gave it no more thought.
"'Roin and M�rglin made their home in a lone mallorn tree that had sprung up far from its fellows, from a seed perhaps dropped by a passing bird. M�rglin wove twigs into flets in the boughs above, connected by spiraling stairs of sturdy bronze filigree that she and her husband had cast together from local ores, while Roin delved the main home underneath. The roots of that tree made a lattice for their roof, which the two of them set with crystal panes to let in the light that they loved. Here they made snug their home, and they tended the tree lovingly that protected them.

"'Roin found tourmalines of many colors in the veins of a nearby cliff; these he cut as gems for M�rglin, who pressed them into the bark in fair designs and coaxed the living wood to grow around them, so that the tree became bejeweled and glittered in the sunlight, and all the birds came 'round to admire it, building many nests. Thus the couple never lacked for song, though they had left the minstrels of their peoples far behind.
"'A raven in particular took a liking to the tree, for all ravens love shiny things; he befriended the couple, who named him Mormel. Often he would play in the air about the tree, now graceful, now clownish, now performing such aerial feats as would make them gasp for delight and astonishment. Sometimes Mormel would carry flowers up from Roin to M�rglin in one of her flets, sometimes he would carry back down to Roin the latest piece of M�rglin's handiwork (often these days a basket or other craft from what the forest provided.) Mormel made his nest not merely in the tree, but right in M�rglin's favorite flet, and the family became three.
"'I too, delighted in hovering about that tree. I confess that I sometimes let my other duties slide to linger there. I composed some of my greatest masterpieces among dreams for the family that lived, root and branch, in the jeweled mallorn tree, just for the joy of watching them smile in their sleep.
"'There came a year when M�rglin swelled like a ripening fruit, and in due time brought forth a tiny daughter. A daughter! The one thing that a dwarf prizes more than all the gold and jewels and mithril he can mine, aye, and any other thing that he could name. Roin fell to his knees and wept for joy, praising Aule and the Creator of Aule for blessing him in such astonishing fashion, saying, "Now I know that I have pleased my maker, and not done ill, to marry beyond my own race." But when his wife put the baby into his arms, and the little fist first grasped his beard, the joy of Roin went beyond all words, and he stared speechless into the blue eyes of the center of his universe, and all the world stood still. The child's mother named her M�ryave, Jewel-Fruit in her own tongue. What secret dwarvish name her father gave her I will not reveal, except to say that it showed his gratitude.
"'Mormel, of course, went careening through the air in every direction at the baby's first cry, crowing his heart out as though he had hatched her himself! Then he dived and caught a rabbit, which he brought back as though little M�ryave had been a chick of his own to eat such things.'" Treebeard chuckled just as Gandalf had. "'Oh, Treebeard, you should have seen that bird hop from foot to foot, bobbing his head, so pleased with his birthday gift! After they got through laughing, Roin cooked the rabbit and fed it to his wife to build her strength up, and they thanked the raven for his thoughtfulness.
"'M�ryave had hair as dark as her mother's, but curling like her father's. To grace that hair M�rglin fashioned a pretty little diadem of copper branches intertwined, and Roin cut the last beryls that he owned into leaves to grace it. Oh, how their daughter laughed with joy to see herself in the mirror wearing it! Having no special occasions in her life, M�ryave wore the little crown while playing in the mud or racing 'round the tree--a grubby little princess, sovereign of their hearts and hopes.
"'In all of Middle-Earth you could not find four happier people. M�ryave grew up small but healthy, loving her parents, her raven-friend, and her home beneath the tree, surrounded by a bright and pretty garden that she planted for herself. For M�ryave carried on her father's curiosity about how things grew, and her mother's love to let them grow. Mormel brought her every sort of seed that he could find, and she sowed them everywhere, then studied which conditions suited each kind best.

"'A broad meadow stretched out nearby, filled with sunshine like a little kingdom of light, and here she planted a wealth of grains and vegetables. Her sturdy little body made a joy of hard work; sometimes she would run dancing between the rows for sheer delight in the living things within her charge, as Mormel swooped and swirled for pleasure in the air above her. Where elves preferred the treetops and dwarves the earth's depths, M�ryave cherished the place between, the living soil squishing up through her oft-bare toes; she could not imagine living either above it or beneath it--she belonged in it. Oh, but she was a muddy child! But her mother only laughed and taught her to wash her own dresses, and let her be.
"'No happiness lasts forever in Middle Earth. While Roin and M�rglin built their home, Sauron taught ring-craft to the elves. When M�rglin gave birth to M�ryave, Sauron cast the Ring of Doom. War soon followed.

"'Roin and M�rglin saw smoke beyond the mountains and wondered, but did not return. Far from it--they believed that elves and dwarves had turned against each other once again. How could a family such as theirs, then, ever find any home save what they already had? Battles came and went without them, over places of importance far away. Roin said, "Let them war among themselves, if that is what they want, and let us keep our peace!"
"'Alas! The war would not let any live in peace for long. The jewels of the tree caught Sauron's eye, flashing from a distance in the cold moonlight. He had his own uses for jewels--as lenses and the bits of drills, as focuses for magic, or ground up for their minerals. He sent crebain to spy upon the jeweled tree.
Mormel the Raven recognized them as a perversion of his own kind; he knew their tongue and heard them cawing out, with malicious delight, their intent to carry tales of evil purpose. So he fought above the trees with all who neared his nest, by his lone beak and his own few claws, shrilling out his battle cries high up in the air.

"'But more crebain followed, blackening the heavens with their wings, many claws and many thirsty beaks and more behind those, till Mormel fell dead from the sky in a tumble of blood and black feathers plummeting to the earth. M�ryave wept and did not understand, nor could her parents explain to her, for they had never seen the crebain before.
"'That night the orcs arrived, to investigate the tales their spies had brought to them--aye, they investigated all right, with torch and sword and axe! Dwarves make mighty warriors, and elves have fought with much renown, but neither Roin nor M�rglin had ever fashioned weapons, nor did they own any, nor had they any experience of war--and they were only two, against a company. Elf and Dwarf made weapons of whatever came to hand to defend their child, but what hope did they have there, in their home, against such an enemy?

"'So Roin ordered M�rglin to flee with M�ryave while he covered their escape, and the battle became one standing all alone against a greedy horde. Roin fought off the invaders with his shovel like a pike, in the fury of a father and a husband defending his family's lives. He slew many orcs before he fell; I alone, of those who love the light, witnessed the valor of his stand, as I hovered in spirit over him. I will attest that many heroes sung in great renown showed less resolve and hardihood than this one forgotten, ill-armed dwarf.

"'At last he fell a final time, and did not rise up again; then did the rains crash down to wash his blood into the land, for I had no other way to weep. Yet Roin succeeded in the last thing that mattered to him, for M�rglin and M�ryave escaped indeed, and lived to see their home go up in flames behind them, a gash of light in the veil of night, a fire writhing in the distance within a tower of smoke.
"'For the orcs burned down the tree, of course, the better to rake the jewels from the ashes rather than having to pry them from the living wood. These gems turned out to have less value than the orcs expected, though, mere tourmalines, after all, of little use for Sauron's work.

"'Yet something drew the Dark Lord in person to that spot, after the orcs had done with it--some loathing for fools who would bejewel a tree for no purpose that he could see, or maybe he sensed there the birth of his own demise, and the destruction of the ring born on the same day as the ring itself. Sauron felt a need to quell something he could not name that emanated from this spot. He needed to crush it utterly. He gazed down into the ashen ruin and saw the start of a foundation already excavated. Here--though he had no love for forests--he built the Necromancer's Tower.'"
The ent fell silent, his slow breaths pacing out the length of Gandalf's pause--for Treebeard took seriously Gandalf's admonition to repeat his words exactly. Those around him had long since ceased all labor, so they sat silent, too--waiting.

"'Some would say,'" Treebeard at last said heavily for Gandalf, "'that I involve myself too closely in the lives of those I work with, that I let my heart get in the way of my efficiency. Saruman used to point this out to me regularly, in fact. But Irmo has often assured me that this trait makes him favor my work above all others. On that day, though, I wished for Irmo to command me to unlearn this habit that so often has torn my heart in two! I cannot tell you, Treebeard, how hard I had begged permission to intervene for this family. I begged to send dreams telling them to pry the jewels out of the tree before any of this could happen. I begged to warn them, at least, so that they could hide for awhile and then rebuild in some other nearby tree--I had some stout ones picked out. I wanted to teach them warcraft in their sleep, or if nothing else I wanted so badly to blast the orcs with such nightmares as would drive them all mad! On that day, for a brief time, all pity for the slaves of darkness failed me, and all faith, and almost all wisdom. The hardest obedience of my entire history was to stand by and allow events to take their course, and trust that somehow all of this would work out in the end. Only love for my master stayed my hand, though I thought him the worst of fools.
"'Eventually it did work out, though it took me long to accept. The child and her mother fled through the woods and found a colony of men to give them refuge by the Anduin's banks. "The Plain Folk", these men called themselves, or "The Ones Overlooked", for they had gone into hiding long ago, when the Kings of Numenor had decayed from bringers of knowledge and culture to tyrants in search of plunder. The Plain Folk taught themselves to desire nothing that conquerors might want, but lived for the joys of food and drink, rest and work, marriage and children, and whatever beauty life might bestow unasked. No mortals could move through the woods more unobtrusively than these, and this often saved their lives. They went barefoot for the sake of silence, and some had already begun to develop tough and hairy feet to suit the life they led. Desiring to be overlooked, they prized small women beyond the tall, and they found little M�ryave breathtakingly exquisite--a living jewel.
"'M�ryave fit right in with their ways, for she had the strength of a dwarf, the stealth of an elf, the endurance of both kinds multiplied, and a joy entirely her own. She needed nothing better for the hard, good life ahead of her. In no time at all she found a husband, a man named Halmer Tulch, and with him found again at last the happiness she thought gone up in smoke with her childhood home. She taught him how to delve a dwelling into the earth, with a bit of garden just outside the window. Soon a few others in the village tried such homes, and found them warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer than anything they'd had before.
"'One day M�ryave woke up bemused, and went to her mother, desiring counsel beyond the wisdom of men. "I dreamed," she said, "that you, and Father, and my own dear Halmer stood before me, each with a box in your hands, and that I had to choose one of them to open. You, mother, offered me a box of wood, beautifully carved and yet alive, with leaves and blossoms growing from it--nothing could ever slay that wood. Father offered me an iron box, jeweled and chased with precious metals--it would last a long, long time, though someday rust, but as a treasure it went beyond price. And my husband, Halmer, held out to me a simple box of clay, so fragile that it already showed its first cracks, though it held together well, with a smooth and shapely grace entirely its own. I felt torn--I loved all three of you, and did not wish to slight anyone by my choice. But then I realized it is natural for a wife to love her husband best of all--why resist it? The nature of the box did not matter to me nearly so much as the hands that held it, so I reached out to Halmer's box, and I lifted the lid--and out flew a butterfly!" At that she laughed and said, "Wasn't that a strange dream, Mother?"'"
"'"It was a true dream," M�rglin replied, as tears coursed down her face, though she smiled on her daughter. "Illuvatar has offered you the choice of which kind you shall follow--elf, dwarf, or man--and so you have chosen. You shall share the lifespan of your husband, and his fate after. The butterfly is your soul, which shall not stay earthbound forever. It is well, my child--for there is no curse I know of more bitter than to outlive the one you love."'"
Treebeard sighed, and Frodo heard the echo of Gandalf's own sigh. "'M�rglin did not bear her curse for long. Orcs raided the village, and she died while visiting a friend. The Plain Folk rebuilt further down the river. This time many more of the people dug their houses into hills, for they saw that in the last raid orcs had overlooked the earthen homes.
"'In the course of her life M�ryave gave birth to two daughters and a son, who married in their turn and had many children between them. Within a few generations almost everyone in that small community had dwelf-blood in their veins, and each generation stood shorter than the last, as the winters deepened and their feet grew tougher and furrier with every child born. The pure-blooded men eventually became the fathers of the Breelanders, though they never forgot their links to the smaller folk, at least not in their hearts. As for the others, whatever travelers came upon them called them Holbytla, the dwellers in the soil, and they themselves forgot that they'd had any other name or ever needed to hide, yet the old customs held; they remained content with all that kings and conquerors are foolish not to want.
"'Thus came to Middle-Earth the smallest, softest-seeming folk to ever walk this land. Yet it was these--these!--who toppled the Dark Lord at the last, unbending to his will. Do you know, Treebeard, what Galadriel found, when she broke the foundation of the Necromancer's tower and laid bare all that lay beneath?'" Treebeard asked himself, in Gandalf's voice. "'A child's diadem, of branching copper filigree, set with beryl leaves. That was the secret thing that Sauron had to crush beneath his towering pile of stone! And yet, by some miracle that even I cannot explain, the tower never could rest easy, for that soft copper wire had not bent in the slightest, in all those years of weight!'"
At that point Treebeard did a strange thing. He turned to Merry Brandybuck and, groaning with the effort, managing only by slow hard stages, he achieved what no one had ever seen an ent accomplish before--he knelt. He gestured over Thranduil on his right side, and Gloin on his left. "Bless us, Meriadoc, son far-off of M�ryave! Bless all ents, and elves, and dwarves, and let all rift between us end this day!"
Merry blinked at him, bewildered. "I...I do not know how," he said.
"Hm, well, just wish us the happiness of hobbit-kind. For those who own such happiness shall have no cause for division. And Eowyn, Lady of Ithilien, join us here, too, for your people are the heirs of the world we leave behind, and hobbits are more kin to you than anyone." So Eowyn joined them.

And still the hobbit stood before them, perplexed. Treebeard rumbled, "Go on--it is needful, Merry my friend. This day's healing concerns more than Legolas. Your blessing would seal what we have all gathered here to obtain."
So Merry solemnly said, "In the name of, of the Council of the West, and especially Gandalf and Irmo who saw their will done, I wish all of you, and your peoples, the peace and happiness of hobbits." A tightness left Frodo's breast that he didn't know he had; he felt like he looked on unstained sunlight for the first time in his life, there in that glade.
Treebeard smiled as he creaked back up to his feet again. "Well done, Master Merry! Happy was the day that you first wandered into my woods."
"Sure, well, thanks--I mean, you're welcome, or, well, hey, let's get the rest of this mess cleaned up while the sun shines, shall we?" Everyone then returned to the clean-up, and before long the meadow hardly looked like they'd lingered there at all.

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