'A' is for 'Apple'. by curiouswombat

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Story Notes:

Tree and Flower Awards, Drabble, Second Place



During the last two months of 2009 the challenges at Tolkien Weekly followed the theme of trees.

I began the first one 'Apple' with the sentence 'A is for Apple' in my mind, and this implied a school room with a young pupil.  From this first idea grew the whole series of drabbles about Eldarion and hid new governess - nine in all, one for each of the challenges.

They are all, but one, meant to be gently amusing.

I am leaving you to work out for yourself what the prompt was for each drabble...

“A is for Apple”.


“Pardon?” the young woman asked.

“Why is A for Apple?” Eldarion expanded.  “Why isn’t A for Ada?  Or for Nana, her name is an A word.  Why Apple?”

“Um,” his governess began, “A is for Apple because it’s easily drawn, and is a fruit that everyone knows.”

“But why Apple?  Why not Apricot?  Apricots are fruits and they’re easy to draw.  Or,” warming to his theme, “Almond – nuts are easy to draw.  Why Apple?”

On only her second day, she found herself using words she had sworn would never pass her lips.

“It just is.”


“So,” said the governess, “let us think a little more about your ‘A’ words.

“Acorn – how wonderful an acorn is; with time, soil and water it grows into an oak – the mightiest of trees.”

“No it isn’t,” said Eldarion, “the mightiest of trees, I mean.

“When I was small I visited my great-grandfather when he lived up a h-u-ge mallorn tree.  It was much higher than Ecthalion’s tower and just as big around the base and…”

“The oak”, his governess said firmly, (trying not to imagine a great-grandfather who would live in a tree) “is the mightiest tree… in Gondor.”


Good morning Eldarion,” the governess said, “we will start today with another letter of the alphabet.  Today’s letter is ‘U’.”

Eldarion carefully wrote in his book ‘UuUuUu…’

“U is for uniform, like the citadel guards wear; or for unicorn – you have seen one in our story book.”

“But… but… why isn’t U for you?  I don’t mean for ‘Firiel’, but for ‘you not me’.  Or why not for yew – the tree?  There are some beautiful yew trees in the gardens of the Houses of Healing – look – just down below.”

“Because,” said Firiel with a distinct sense of triumph, “that’s ‘Y’!”


Firiel had learnt that trees were often a good way to hold her pupil’s attention.  It was, she supposed, all that elvish blood running through his young veins.

“W is for ‘Willow’.  And also for ‘Weeping’.  The Weeping Willow; that must be a very sad tree.”

Eldarion considered.

“Uncle Pippin says that willows can be really bad tempered and ‘out to get people’.  But Uncle Legolas says that they need listening to, and understanding, and love; and then they’ll be happy and nice to you.”

His governess considered the fey creature that was Uncle Legolas.

‘Yes…’ she thought, ‘…he would.’


It is really quite a small tree,” Eldarion said, in a matter-of-fact voice.  “The one before it was much taller, Ada says, but it was dead in the heart and stood only as a symbol… waiting.”

Firiel had once seen the old tree. She had also seen the old Steward once or twice.  The similarity had not struck her until now.

“It will grow tall and strong,” Eldarion continued, “if… ‘well nurtured and gently pruned’.”

Looking at these two saplings of the House of Telcontar, Firiel thought, ‘As the old resembled the old, the same is true of the new.’


“But why?”

Firiel sometimes thought it was her young pupil’s favourite question.

“Why do we use the very same word for different things? Does it mean they’re connected to each other?”

As she considered her answer, Eldarion continued, “Is a pound weight just enough to pound leaves to a paste? Do pine trees fret for their friends?”

“What do you think?” his governess asked, meaning ‘are the words really related?’

Eldarion, however, answered a different question.

“I don’t think they are clever enough; they don’t seem to be very bright trees.” He looked thoughtful. “I know! I’ll ask Uncle Legolas…”


“Uncle Legolas brought special bushes from his Ada’s. His Ada is a King, you know. Like my Ada.”

“Yes, Eldarion, I know. Now … our lesson?”

Secretly Firiel thought that a Northern forest kingdom would make for a very poor sort of King; not like King Elessar.

When she saw the bushes she was even less impressed. Plain green, with no beautiful flowers, they had leaves so sharp she feared for Eldarion’s fingers.

But when, at Mettarë, the bright red holly berries brought smiles to the royal couple, Firiel was reminded that they, too, had been replanted from the North.


Sitting in the walled garden, where pale flowers were opening in the spring sunshine, Firiel was glad that the King had suggested outdoor lessons for Eldarion.

Presently, though, her young charge was learning from a more experienced teacher; a lesson also approved by the King.

Fey the elf might be - but he was commendably patient as he taught Eldarion how to plant the small seedlings.

As his soft voice explained which trees live best together Firiel suddenly remembered her mother singing –

“The oak and the ash, and the bonny ivy tree…”

If Legolas saw her tears, he said nothing.


It was Spring-Day; the annual celebration of new life.

This year Firiel, and two guardsmen, would accompany Eldarion to the Spring Fair as his parents had been awake all night.

“A sister,” he told her.

“How wonderful!”

“I suppose so, but I wanted a brother.”

So did every little boy, she thought, ruefully.

“But,” he brightened, “Nana picked a good name. Lasainiel – new leaf – as her birthday is Spring-Day.”

He paused, looking a little puzzled.

“Although I don’t understand why Ada said that it was probably fortunate, then, that Uncle Legolas didn't visit us at the end of last spring…”


Chapter End Notes:

There is now a second set of stories featuring Firiel and Eldarion here on Many Paths to Tread - it is called 'What is Red?'



Disclaimer: The characters in this story do not belong to me, but are being used for amusement only, and all rights remain with the estate of JRR Tolkien.

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