Decent tales make good neighbours by Chiara Cadrich

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Decent tales...

.oOo.

On the Hill…

Frodo and Sam, lying in the shade of the large oak atop the Hill, were munching shortbreads, out of the oven under the Hill. The last droplets of dew were vanishing in the soft morning light, dispelling in the wind above the Hill, the nocturnal dreams of its inhabitants.

Some blackbirds were exchanging rebuttals in the spring azure, spluttering to have the last trill. Bilbo sternly cleared his throat somehow, and the avian din ceased. When the master of Bag-End composed a story, the hedgerows and plowing petty people had to keep quiet!

The Hobbit cast a knowing glance at his audience who was thoughtfully chewing, adjusted his spectacles and began...

.oOo.

In the marvellous island of Numenor, eons ago[1]

King Meneldur was a gentle and affable man, who liked to exercise more in the feats of the mind than of the body. He deeply loved the island of Numenor and its rich valleys, but had little interest in the surrounding ocean. For his mind wandered beyond Middle Earth, to the stars in the heavens that watch over the course of destinies. From his tall tower in the mountains of Forostar, he sought in the firmament, the secrets of the immutable order of the world. His greatest wish was to preserve the peace of his beloved island, and his thought as King concentrated entirely on the well-being of his subjects.

Pleasant and even-tempered, Meneldur married beautiful Almarian, the daughter of the admiral of the fleet. She ruled the heart of the King and her subjects with a foresight equal to her husband’s devotion. The lineage of the princes of Andúnië, and later of the Kings of Gondor and Arnor, came from their eldest daughter Ailinel.

-“Master Baggins, who’s the story hero ?, Sam interrupted

- Good Gracious, Sam, I have not mentioned it yet!

- Why? –intense juvenile thinking, revealed by concerned wrinkles and an applied concentration grin at the corner of his lips – Is he an unknown hero?... or a shameless, nameless hero ?

- The hero is Aldarion, Sam. He is the Crown Prince, Meneldur’s heir.

- Oh… So the princess is Almarian ? And they marry at the end?

- You are mixing everything, Sam! Bilbo Exclaimed, red with frustration, dropping the hand with his pen disarmed.

- Uncle Bilbo, intervened Frodo, maybe we could overshadow the characters, who do not speak?

With a frown, the old Hobbit crossed out a few lines, grumbling regret about the impatience of youth.

Relegating to anonymity, Ailinel the powerful daughter of Aldarion, from whom sprouted the princely  lines of Andúnië, and later those of the Kings of Gondor and Arnor? Inconceivable! What was his backbreaking work worth for, romanticizing the annals of yore for these disrespectful whippersnappers?

Nevertheless, the hobbit, mumbling high maxims on the indispensable general knowledge, corrected his manuscript with his fine spidery writing. Then Bilbo cleared his throat, looked up at his audience with a severe brow, and told with a learned tone:

-“As I said, Prince Aldarion, the heir of Numenor, proved precocious in body and mind, and reached his full stature early, revealing a strong will and imagination. Prompt to generosity as cheerfulness, he also showed very proud and hardly yielded to the most compelling orders of his father the King.

Aldarion loved the sea and its mysteries from an early age. He lived among sailors, experienced adventure on the docks or secretly embarked on cutters that cabotaged around the blessed island. The home of his grandfather, the admiral Vëantur, overlooked the docks of Rómenna and anchoring offshore buildings. As a child, he learned to swim, to row and steer small boats in the clear bay.

At the age of twelve, he commanded the crew of the caravel which rallied Tol Uinen, off Rómenna. One evening, the tide surprised him ashore the island. After a cool night of mystery, Aldarion returned in triumph to Rómenna, holder of the secrets of navigation under the stars. It is even whispered that he had been instructed by Uinen herself!

- "So Uinen she was his lover, Master Baggins? Sam interrupted.

- No, Sam, Bilbo restrained himself, now red peony. Why should a twelve year old boy... have a muse? Uinen was the tutelary power of Númenor, the mermaid who kept its boats from shipwreck and saved from drowning its beautiful sailors in distress... How dare imagine that... "

But the idea had made its way into the romantic spirit of the old hobbit, who did not finish his sentence:

"After all, Sam, why not? Maybe this is the ultimate origin?"

Little throat clearing and knowing glance of approval over his spectacles:

-“Young Prince Aldarion was initiated into the mysteries of marine life by Uinen herself, who revealed to him many secrets. Aldarion returned in triumph to Rómenna, but he always kept in his  heart, the confidences of the powerful mermaid. And perhaps this intimate link was the cause of what happened in the end.

Aldarion showed passion for the art of shipwrights, and soon he developed fast and strong boats that his grandfather built and perfected with him. Soon the call of the sea left him no more respite under the haunting cry of the gulls, lest he sailed on the wave with a fair wind, at the wheel of a scooner.

When Aldarion was about to reach his majority, his grandfather Vëantur told him:

- "Son of my soul, the spring of your strength is coming, while the fall of my days is near. I want one last time, to brave the north wind, sail to the east, reach the shores of Ossiriand, and greet the Eldar. Come with me, if you will. We shall contemplate the high blue mountains and green lands with the seven golden rivers. Talk to your father about my plot. With the blessing of Meneldur, Gil-Galad the High King of the Noldor and Cirdan the Shipwright will welcome the heir of Elros! "

When Tar-Meneldur heard his son ask him leave to go, he felt that a chapter was ending in the history of his dynasty. His people had hitherto devoted its energy and thoughts to the development of "the island of the gift" and the veneration of their benefactors. The younger generation, eager for distant and mysterious lands, would walk behind the banner of the "guild of venturers", now brandished by his own son.

The king did not show his agitation and reluctance. Acknowledging that the future sovereign should learn and see the world, he replied:

- "Sail where your heart and the winds carry you, Onya, Your mother and sisters will miss you dearly! But with Vëantur’s leadership and the grace of Uinen, I will keep the hope of your swift return! But don’t you fall in love for the vast Wilderlands, you who are to become King and Father in this island! "

Aldarion bowed to his father, receiving his blessing with gratitude but weighing his warning with all the determination of a fiercely free heart.

.oOo.

The King’s premonition proved founded. Aldarion lingered in Lindon. He was more than ever possessed by the fever of the see - great crossings on a caravel riding the ocean to distant shores, with wind at his brow and foam at its bow. Upon his return, he left again almost immediately, his eyes full of dreams of golden towns, wonderful lands and fabulous adventures.

Again, the prince went abroad several times, and against the king's will, to seek fortune in distant lands. His travels stretched increasingly, as were increasing his fame among mariners, the size of his ships and his crews. Around Aldarion had reinforced the "guild of venturers", young men of all ranks who would follow their "Great Captain" across Arda...

-“But… so he has no lover ?, Sam interrupted once again, somehow shocked by these lengthy trips.

- Sam, Bilbo stared at the young hobbit, you will certainly not stop me whenever you don’t fancy a chapter, will you? Indeed there is a girl, who became his wife, but that chapter is not for the chaste ears of young hobbits! "

Resigned, Sam exchanged a knowing glance with Frodo and lay back, crunching a donut.

-“When the King considered he could stand no more and had to punish those blatent insubordination, his son’s popularity no longer allowed the guild to be forbidden. Meneldur however prevented the felling of trees, necessary for the ships’ hulls. Prince Aldarion, who no longer lived on land but on his large flagship anchored in the bay of Romenna, imagined then to establish, in the estuary of the gwathló in middle earth, a supply base and a shipyard, to take advantage of the immense forests of Eriador.

Finaly the King summoned him before his council. The prince withdrew again and was gone for a decade, plunging his family into discomfort and growing fear, and his loving bride into despair.

But what a thrilling life under the stars, constantly renewed ! What wonderful dawns, that revealed palms charged with tasty fruits, trees unknown hitherto!

.oOo.

On the Hill…

- "With all due respect, Mr. Baggins, I wonders if you still have need for my Sam this morning..."

Young Sam Gamgee rose swiftly and wiped crumbs from his lips, thrusting one last shortbread in his pocket.

Bilbo stopped reading, throwing a slightly alarmed glance over his spectacles:

- "Oh, hello, Master Gamgee! I'm afraid I abused your son's time... after, by the way, he did so well with his beans row!

- I hopes he did not bother you too much in your litteral composture[2], or... well, your writing, if you follow me...

- Well, our lads have been very useful for me to refine my last chapter. Your son is a listener of high assiduity and excellent taste! "

Old Gamgee blinked with disappointed owl eyes:

- "Many thanks for the compliment, Mr. Baggins! I knows nothing about acidity, but I sees my Sam tastes your morning production. All the same, he’ll eat less at supper... or not! Indeed, I'm glad you’re happy with him... though I'd like Sam to be as good as you say in his real job, with all respect!", the Gaffer added with a retaining distrust grin.

Sam blushed, but Bilbo had fully grasped the disapproval was indeed directed to himself.

- "I promise you not to distract your son from his apprentices duties any more, Master Gamgee!", He told contritely.

Hamfast bowed with an awkwardness that Bilbo would have found comical, if the old gardener had not seemed so embarrassed:

- "With respect again – and at any rate I am sure you mean no harm, mark you - but I hopes that nothing ill might come out of this fictitious nonsense. Ships and Kings! Beans and tatters are better for him and me! As I always says to him – Don’t you get mixed up in the affairs of your betters, or you'll get into troubles too big for you![3] Working the earth, and food and flowers that grow thickly up is the reward for the like of us! That is the place for Gamgees.[4]"

Bilbo replied nothing about the fictitious nonsense, nor about the Gamgee’s place. He was too concerned about not hurting the old gardener’s feeling of sovereign father. So he spluttered a rather conventional compliment:

- "You hold the first rank among gardeners, Master Gamgee, and your worthy son is following in your footsteps!"

Frodo waved timidly to Sam, who silently joined his father, his head bowed.

As Sam, his head bowed, silently joined his father, Frodo waved timidly at him, while blackbirds resumed a mocking hurly-burly under the raspberry hedge.

.oOo.

NOTES

 


[1]The story of Meneldur and Anardil his son, that records name Tar-Aldarion, is drawn from Unfinished tales, The Mariner’s Spouse, Tolkien. Here it is much shortened and simplified, to prevent the young reader from falling asleep.

[2]It is probably significant that the " composition" was tinged with echoes of "imposture" in the rough but vivid terminology of the Gaffer. "Litteral", instead of “literary” may also recall litter, which should obviously go to the trash! Slips of the tongue are often revealing...

[3]The Gaffer repeats this sentence in The fellowship of the Ring.He is a persistent hobbit with very constant convictions...

[4] Freely inspired from Jean de La Fontaine : Work, toil, this is the most available funding. The labourer and his sons.




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