1. Sticks and Stones
"Go on cry baby!" Thump! Pippin's head spun and he saw beautiful green stars set in a velvet blackness as the fist connected with his jaw. He hit the ground and scrabbled around trying to pick up his precious slate and pencil. Eventually his vision cleared again and he looked up at his tormentor and bit his lip hard. He knew the one thing not to do was cry.
"I'm not crying, just leave me alone." Pippin struggled up to his feet again, but by now there was a small circle of lads around him, all bigger than he. "I didn't do anything to you!"
"Oh Mr high and mighty Thain Peregrin Took!" Although Jerborius Tuppdown, or Jeb for short, was not quite 3 foot tall, for a hobbit lad he was big, and to little Pippin he seemed a giant. "Think you're so grand, but nobody likes you!" With his last statement Jeb delivered a vicious kick to Pippin's ribs as if to prove his words.
Jeb Tuppdown had been in the Tuckborough school longer than any of the other lads and would have left by now if he had paid more attention to his lessons and less to being the torment of the younger pupils. But he was not the brightest of hobbits and also, unfortunately, was the product of a gossiping mother who knew some kind of scandal, real or imagined, for almost every hobbit family in the Shire. Mistress Tuppdown was not a vindictive hobbit, but rather silly and thoughtless about the effect her tittle-tattling had on others.
The circle of lads jeered and laughed and each time Pippin tried to get up and escape, another would push him down with a punch or kick, one even cruelly stamped on Pippin's foot. "Thinks he's so posh just 'cause his Pa is the Thain!"
"Doh I don't!" Pippin exclaimed, trying to talk through his hand that was clutched to his nose to stop the bleeding. "I nedder said dat!"
"Your parents didn't even want you – nobody wants you!"
"You're not even theirs. They bought you off a wanton lass that had you the wrong side of the blanket – my Ma told me!"
"Only reason your Pa had you – was just so as he could be Thain!"
"Dat's not true!" Pippin was crying now in spite of his resolve. He sat in the dirt with large tears running down his face, mixing with the blood from his nose. "My Papa was always de T'ain!"
"Not true! Not true! Liar! Liar!"
"Pippin Took is a Liar
stick his feet in the fire!
Are they done? Whadda ya think?
Take them out and see if they stink!"
Jeb leaned down now and caught hold of Pippin by his hair, pulling his head back and pushing his face close to the terrified youngster. "Your Ma and Pa didn't want you. They only got you because your barmy old cousin couldn't woo a lass and hasn't got children."
"What's dat to do with me?" Pippin answered back. He saw that things could not get much worse, no matter what he said.
Jeb thrust Pippin down on the ground and rubbed his nose in the dirt. "Because your barmy old cousin promised your Pa he could be Thain if he got a lad! Ha! And you were it! So they didn't want you. They went out and bought you off a gypsy for thirteen pennies and told stupid ol' Ferumbras you were theirs. I don't 'spect they even like you."
"'S not true." Pippin was sobbing now. He found the taunts hurt even worse than the blows. Why did all these big lads hate him? He had not given them any reason. He was always polite. In fact he was always scared of them, that's why he was polite. But it did no good. He hated school and wished he could stay at home with his sisters and cousins.
But once Pippin had turned seven his father had decreed he should attend school in Tuckborough, rather than be tutored at home with his sisters and the other family children. The Thain had decided it would be an excellent experience for his son to mix with people outside the Took clan and the school had a good mixture of merchants', wealthy farmers' and other well-to-do hobbits' sons. In addition the current schoolmaster, Mr Penawl, was very highly thought of, with excellent qualifications, he had even studied with elves and spoke an Elvish language.
But ever since Pippin had started at the school in Tuckborough, his classmates had tormented and chased him and, when they could catch him, beaten him without mercy.
To begin with, Pippin's biggest problem had been the schoolmaster himself, who had ridiculed the youngster's poor handwriting and caned him in front of the whole school. That had set the scene for the bullying, but then the canings had suddenly stopped. Merry had forged some homework for him and after that Mr Penawl hadn't seemed to mind his scruffy work. Pippin had no idea why, but was grateful for the respite.*
Nevertheless, in spite of the schoolmaster's apparent change of heart, the lads still saw him as someone to bully. He was small and had important parents and probably wouldn't tell on them. Added to which, there was this strange tale of why he was born. That his parents had made a bargain with the peculiar old Thain, that if they could produce a son and heir the title would pass to their family. Eglantine Took already had three daughters and the eldest was fourteen, nobody thought she would have more children. So when Peregrin, a lad, arrived and Ferumbras III abdicated the title of Thain in favour of Paladin Took, there was some speculation of wizard's magic at work or, worse still, the rumour that the new heir was the misbegotten son of a harlot that his parents had bought.
The boys now started up another taunting rhyme, one that Pippin had never heard before, although it was not the first time it had been spoken:
"His father went an' bought him
So's he could be the chief
But his mother was a gypsy
And his sire was a thief!"
"Dat's a wick'd, wick'd lie!" Pippin mumbled, his hands still clutching at his bleeding nose.
"'Tis as true as the blood on the nose on your face!" Jeb laughed. All the others laughed too and Pippin was kicked once more.
Suddenly there was a shout from outside the circle. "Hoi! Danno's got a pig's bladder, come and have a game!" The circle dispersed as the lads found something more interesting to kick and raced off after the inflated bladder, dribbling it to and fro between them.
Pippin lay still for a while longer, afraid to move. Then he slowly pulled himself up and realised that all the lads had gone. His vision was sorely limited as he found one eye was almost completely closed and he could not open it. He hurt all over and his nose wouldn't stop bleeding. He crawled over to the fence and caught hold of the post to pull himself up. Once on his feet, Pippin made it back to pick up his poor slate and pencil, which thankfully, although scratched, were still in one piece. Then he limped over to the animal trough in the middle of the street and, laying his slate down, fished out his handkerchief, wetted it and dabbed at his swollen face. He was grateful there was no one else around to witness his disgrace.
His clothes were torn and dirty and his hands scraped and his knees grazed. But that was nothing to what he guessed his face looked like. Pippin peered tentatively into the trough to see his reflection. The sun was bright and his watery face squinted back at him through one eye. There was blood all over his face and down the front of his shirt and his nose was beginning to swell up to match his closed eye. Whatever would his parents say?
* See Recaptured Continued - Chapter 12/104 In Dreams
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.