Ladies and gentlemen, this is the first episode of our journey to the lands of Middle-Earth. Join us as we set out to explore the wonders of this forgotten land, to misty mountains and cavernous halls; mysterious forests and the green hills of the Shire. We’re going on an adventure !
A Tale Of Wide-Eyed Wonder
EPISODE I – The Shire
Third Age 1800. Eriador, The Shire.
Niphredil woke up in the early hours of the morning. Like every day, she woke before her parents, who were still fast asleep in the room adjacent to hers. She slipped quietly in her clothes and opened wide the windows of her bedroom, letting a refreshing breeze in the smial. Leaning on the window sill, she closed her eyes and let her thoughts wander.
She liked these quiet early mornings, alone at her window. Soon, the Shire would rouse from its slumber and life would fill the streets of Hobbiton. Until then, it was as if time had decided to slow down for a while and the world belonged only to her and the bird’s chirping. Scents of ripening fields filled her lungs. It was already Autumn, and the harvest-time was nigh.
She opened her eyes again. Far to the East, the Sun was already starting to cast her light over the crest of the hills. Everywhere, trees and leaves and flowers started glittering, as the sunrays were scattered by the morning dew. Like a prism of light, the red and gold shades of the falling leaves mingled with the green of the grass of the Shire. The rising mists enshrouding the rolling hills of the Shire truly were a sight to behold. Yet Niphredil saw it not, as her eyes looked beyond the hills, her gaze attempting to pierce the haze and see what lies beyond. Beyond her village of Hobbiton, beyond the Bywater river, beyond Frogmorton, Whitfurrows and the bridge of Stonebows that crossed the Brandywine and was the eastern border of the Shire. Beyond that even, far to the East, to mythical lands, lost forests and cities you could easily get lost in.
Unheeding, time went on and the Sun continued its ascension, and the Shire arose with the cries of the roosters. Yet another day, thought Niphredil. Another day in the Shire. Nothing unexpected ever happened here. Only trees, gardens and fields as far as the eye could see. Its people were little more interesting, peaceful and content with their quiet lives.
She loathed this simple and rustic beauty, for she had never seen anything else. She was tired of peace and calm, and wished to seek adventure beyond the border of the Shire. Explore the world, and maybe, hopefully, see some of the Fair People, the Elves.
Wearyingly dull were the days here, ever the same, ever unchanging, month after month, year after year. 33 years it had been already. Well, not quite. Tomorrow was to be her 33rd birthday. Tomorrow she would become an adult, as hobbit tradition wants it. Incidentally, she would become free to leave the Shire and live a life of adventure like her ancestors.
Always she had dreamt of adventure. To flee the heady atmosphere of her parents smial on the hillside of Hobbiton. To walk in the tracks of her legendary ancestors.
When she was but a young hobbit lass, she marvelled at the tale of the history of the ancient forefathers of the hobbits of the Shire. Indeed had the Shire not always been inhabited by hobbits. They originally lived in the upper vales of the river Anduin, which flowed east of the Misty Mountains, from the far northern mountains of Ered Mithrin to Gondor in the South.
About 200 years ago, gentlehobbits of great strength and honor led their people into a long voyage from their initial homes into the West, towards the Misty Mountains. To flee the rising evil of Mirkwood and the increasing number of Men, they began their wandering days.
Three hobbit kindreds, the Fallohides, Harfoots and Stoors, took three different roads. The Fallohides, people of the woods, crossed the Misty Mountains and met the Elves by Rivendell. The Stoors, people of the rivers, climbed the Redhorn Pass above the dwarven capital of Khazad-Dûm, which would later be known as the Moria. The Harfoots, people of the hills and closest to the hobbits we know, wandered further into the West, into Wilderland, until they finally settled into what we know today as the Shire.
Such a rich history, full of great deeds and accomplishments. Yet the hobbits of today were nothing like their wandering ancestors. Preferring peace and quiet to the risks and dangers of adventure, the old gaffers and gammers of Hobbiton said to her when she told them of her plans :
“You’re like all the young’uns now’days, restless young lass. Ye better worry ‘bout yer future, yer family and yer land instead of worrying ‘bout queer places you’re not meant to go. We don’t want no adventures here, thank you, brings only trouble and disquiet”.
As for her parents, well, they hadn’t answered when she told them of her plans of travel. Though that was as she had expected. They hadn’t uttered a word since they had returned from their own journey, to visit distant relatives in the East. Though that was almost 20 years ago now, they had remained obstinately mute and indifferent to the world around them ever since; accomplishing only daily tasks in the fields to assure their survival, like automats.
Their own daughter they ignored. The initial happiness to see them return quickly turned into tears, the tears into despair. She cried and wailed, in vain. The smiling and loving parents that had left her for their many months long journey in the East would never return. She’d never feel their embrace again. She mourned for weeks as desolation struck her. Eventually, she recovered, finding strength in the memories she reminisced of her parents before their doomed journey.
Thus she had to repress her excruciating loneliness and heartrending despair to live on, and for the better part of her late childhood, she had to care for herself alone. Even though she still lived in the same house as her parents, she was now living with strangers. Every now and then, the empty eyes of her parents woke the painful emotions she thought she had hidden far enough in her mind, never to be seen again. She wanted to be strong to be able to flee the Shire, now synonym of a lost times of happiness and an unending sorrow.
Friends came to see them and were met only with silence. Even today, she still remembers how apathetic her parents were against the increasing concern from their neighbours, despite the unease their state caused around them. Wholly detached from their environment they seemed to be, as if they didn’t belong to this world anymore.
After the final attempt the friends of Veryan and Nostariel Took made at making them reconnect with their surroundings, they gathered at their doorstep to decide what was to be done. Apprehending her parents absence of reaction, Niphredil had hidden herself when the four hobbits had arrived, but overheard their conversation when finally they came out, discouraged by the obtuse silence opposed to them. Bruno Bracegirdle, Pansy Proudfoot, Goldilocks Goodenough and Mirabella Mugwort shared their thoughts :
“I don’t understand what’s happened with them. Used to be very respectable folk. Very nice, well-spoken gentlehobbits. They were always ready to help me out in the fields, come harvest season. And their daughter was so sweet, as nice a young hobbit as you could wish to meet.” said Mirabella.
“They’ve been like that since they returned. All this adventuring must have knocked the senses outta them. Their relatives beyond the Brandywine River, they’re queer folk. Fool about with boats on that big river. Anduin they call it, or so I heard. There’re dark places out there, if all tales be true.” agreed Pansy.
“T’is what you get for leaving your home, going off to odd places with queer people and just altogether meddling with strange and unnatural things. Small wonder trouble came of it, I say.” said Goldilocks.
“Beats me why they left their young daughter alone, too. Poor thing.” vituperated Mirabella.
“Bloody adventures. Hate them.” put in Bruno.
“I think we better leave them alone. Can’t do much about their current state anyways, I figure.” Pansy, one of the longest friends of Veryan, Niphredil’s father, further added, “Never saw anything like them empty eyes of theirs, gave me shivers.”
They parted on these words.
Niphredil had wanted to hate her parents for leaving her alone, but could not. Instead, she hated this artefact they had brought back in their linen sack. One night she went with a torch to the hidden room her parents had stashed it away, out of sight. She wanted to burn the vile thing, to destroy the symbol of her parents doom. Opening the sack however, she saw nothing unusual, only an old parchment, similar to those she used to see her father write on. On the parchment lay several verses of an old traditional poem, scribbled down in the neat and tidy handwriting of her father. Determined, she had closed the sack and extinguished the torch. She couldn’t destroy the last token of her parent’s sanity. To this day, she remembers the entirety of the poem.
So it began.
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
And so it goes. Tomorrow, she will set out at dawn.
This, dear listeners, was the first episode of our voyage in Middle-Earth; A Tale Of Wide-Eyed Wonder. Pack your bags, we’re going on an adventure ! Tune in next week for the second episode : The Old Forest.