4. Lesson Four: Hobbits make loyal companions
My watch companion, however, I discover is also moving about a bit on the other side of camp, kicking up small flurries of snow with his furry feet and tipping his head back, eyes closed and smiling blissfully as he lets the snowflakes kiss his face.
I smile to myself as I sit back down to watch him. Finally, he catches note of my observation, and blushes a little. He walks over to me, still red-faced.
"I am sorry," Pippin says, "I suppose I am not much good as watch if I am running around like that."
"I am certain you would not neglect your duties and allow a foe to approach unnoticed," I say, gesturing for him to sit with me. "Besides, I think Gandalf was overly cautious in insisting we watch in pairs today. This land seems all barren of all life."
Pippin settles himself beside me on the low boulder, pulling his legs up and digging his toes a little into the sparse snow. "It does not snow so often in the Shire, so it is always a splendid treat for us when it does," he comments as way of explanation for his behavior.
"It is so in my land, too," I tell him. "Though it snows often upon the mountains, in the city itself it only snows once every few years, so it is always a grand occasion." I smile to myself, remembering happier times when a snowfall could delight me as much as it still does my small companion.
"What are you remembering?" a piping voice interrupts my thoughts, and I turn back to Pippin. He blushes again, and ducks his head. "I am sorry," he says, "you just looked like you were having a happy memory."
I smile at him. "I was," I admit. "You reminded me of my brother, Faramir, for a moment, when he saw his first snowfall. He tipped his head back like you were doing, to let it fall on his face. I can hear his laughter even now, so many years later."
Pippin is looking at me with interest, and brings his arms up to encircle his knees, clearly expecting me to go on. I close my eyes and picture it again.
"We were quite small -- Faramir was about four -- and my mother woke us very early one morning, telling us she had a special treat for us. She bundled us in warm clothes and took us into the courtyard, and it was just cold enough that a perfect little snow was falling. I had seen snow before, but Faramir had not, and at first he was afraid to go into it. But I ran ahead and kicked some around and let it fall on me to show him that it would not hurt, so soon he followed. He ran around and let it fall on his face, and on his tongue, and kicked it about and mashed it in his hands. He asked my mother where it came from, and she told him the Valar send it when winter is too dreary, to make the world beautiful again until spring blossoms."
I open my eyes and see that the tale has delighted my listener, who is smiling broadly. "That IS a good memory, Boromir," he says. "Thank you for sharing it."
"Thank you for reminding me of it," I answer, and smile back.
Pippin rests his chin on his knees. "So you have a brother? Do you have other siblings, too?"
"No," I answer, "just one younger brother, but he is dear to me."
"What is he like?" Pippin prompts.
I pause to turn the question over in my head, and finally say, slowly, "He is not much like me, save in appearance. He does not care for battle and glory, though he is a brave captain in defense of our home. His men love him dearly, for he has a great heart, and knows the little details of all their lives. But he cares more for learning and the beauty of our land than for adventure."
"You must miss him," Pippin says, and I nod.
"I do," I admit, feeling a pang of desire to sit and talk with my brother on the high walls of Minas Tirith once more. I turn back to the hobbit a moment later, and attempt to shake off my sudden loneliness. "And you?" I ask. "Do you have any brothers?"
"Oh, no," he answers, brushing a snowflake off the end of his nose. "But I have three older sisters. And, of course, I have Merry and Frodo."
I chuckle at this. "THREE older sisters?"
Pippin nods and smiles. "Yes, they do seem like a lot sometimes. Pearl is the oldest, and she is married now and lives on the other side of the Tookland -- that is the part of the Shire my family lives in. She has two little lasses, and was to have another baby this midwinter. I suppose it has already arrived." His face is distant and wistful for a moment, and I wonder if this is the first time it has occurred to him that he has a new little niece or nephew that he has never seen.
"Then there is Pimpernel. She is not married yet, for she says all the lads are silly and the same. But Mamma says one day she will find one who does not strike her as so silly. Pimmie has studied much with our healer, and knows a great deal about herbs and such. She is very clever and nice, but not always so much fun.
"And then there is Pervinca." Pippin rolls his eyes and pulls a funny face intended to make me laugh, which it does. "She is closest to me in age, and we played together a lot when we were little, but she can be a great deal of trouble." He lowers his voice as if telling me a great family secret. "Vinca is rather loud, and not very good at keeping secrets," he confides. "She also likes to be in charge all the time. She is very pretty, and has many suitors, but I think they are all rather afraid of her. Father smacked the back of my head for saying so, though, so I keep those thoughts to myself now."
I chuckle at this image, and imagine that Pippin's poor parents have their hands full between the young lady he has just described and the hobbit beside me. "So no brothers, hmm?" I ask. "I suppose that is why you are so close to Merry and Frodo?"
"Oh," he says carelessly, as though these words should explain everything, "Merry is just my Merry, you know, whether we'd had brothers or not. But it is really because of him that I am so close to Frodo. They grew up together at Brandy Hall, before Bilbo adopted Frodo, and were very close, even though Frodo is so much older."
I know that Frodo is the eldest hobbit, but he does not appear to be much older than his companions, so I am surprised that Pippin mentions his age. "Frodo is not very much older than Merry, is he?" I query.
Pippin laughs. "Frodo is OLD, Boromir," he states emphatically. "He turned 50 this year, while Merry is 36, and only just come of age three years ago." He must note the look of surprise on my face, for he adds, "I always thought it was just a Baggins trait, him looking so young, and Bilbo before him, but now I know it is because of the Ring." His voice drops and grows somber at the end of the sentence, and his brow furrows in concern. I turn the conversation, still curious.
"And when did you come of age?" I ask.
"Oh!" Pippin looks back up in surprise. "But I have not. I am only 28, so it will be nearly five years yet."
Now my brow is furrowed in concern. I knew that Pippin was young, but I did not know that he was not even considered an adult by hobbit standards. I suddenly understand better the way his fellow hobbits treat him. He looks at my face, then turns the conversation hastily.
"Merry really was too young to be a playmate of Frodo's, but he was born just a couple of years after Frodo's parents died. Frodo did not have any siblings, so he was really quite all alone, for all that Brandy Hall is so filled with our relations. Aunt Esmie -- that is Merry's mother -- told me once that she thinks Frodo needed someone of his own to love very much, and Merry was such a nice baby that Frodo just adored him. Then when Merry was older, Frodo was like a big brother to him -- Merry doesn't have any brothers or sisters, either. Frodo taught him all kinds of things and they were always having fun. Frodo moved to Hobbiton with Bilbo when Merry was --" here Pippin scrunches up his face in thought "-- seven, but Bilbo liked Merry quite a bit too, of course, so he spent lots of time at Bag End, as did Frodo at Brandy Hall."
"And when you came along, you just insisted on going everywhere with them," I finish the story for him.
He blushes a bit and nods. "Well, they need someone to look after them, don't you think?" he says with self-depreciating humor, then adds quietly, "But I would not trade them for brothers of my own."
"I don't imagine you would," I answer, just as quietly, and he leans against my side a little in gratitude. We finish the rest of our watch in silence, watching the snow turn the world beautiful again.
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