Back to Middle-earth 2009 fics: 8. Day 8: In The Mouths Of Hobbits (Merry, Eomer, FOC)

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8. Day 8: In The Mouths Of Hobbits (Merry, Eomer, FOC)

Prompt for Day 8: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Is it? And ugliness? Is it also relative?

Write a story, poem or create an artwork where the contrast beauty/ugliness plays a central role.


In the mouths of Hobbits

"And what may you be doing, lady Aethelwyn?"

The girl--almost a mirror image of her mother, thought Merry—looked up while trying to smile and wipe off tears at the same time. Her attempt would have been comical if it weren't for the crying.

"Please, master Holdwine, don't tell my father! He'll be mortified if he knew I was crying because of this!"

"And what is 'this'?"

Merry had a good idea, but he thought that he should ask anyway. He'd learned never to make light of women's tears. He'd also learned that, when you are a twelve-year-old human, some problems tend to magnify themselves. Blowing a last ring of smoke before putting his pipe away—he thought it might end up being a rather long conversation—he waited for her answer.

"Some of the girls…" she stopped, looked around. A small, dainty frown formed on her face. It was clear that elaborating was painful for her.

"Some of the girls?" he prodded.

"Some of the girls tease me because of my hair."

Oh…

"What of it?"

The look she gave him was perplexed.

"What do you mean? Well, it's dark, or course!"

"You have beautiful hair, glossy, and dark like eventide," he said, stating the obvious, stalling for time.

She gave him a grunt which made her sound just like her father. "Not everybody thinks so."

"Oh, don't they?"

"No. Leofric, for one…" she said, wistfully. He was beginning to get a good idea where this was going, but had to ask anyway.

"And who is Leofric, whose opinion matters so much?"

"A boy." She frowned even deeper, and a blush crept up her cheeks. It was not embarrassment, he thought, but anger. "I know I should not care, but there you have it."

Of course, thought Merry. A girl just in her tweens would be thinking about boys. 'Tis the way of life. And yet… that a boy should think less of her because of such a beautiful, rare hair color in The Mark could not be conceived of, but he had seen queerer things in his lifetime. It occurred to him that he should point out to Aethelwyn that her father simply adored her mother, maybe even more so because of her dark hair. And he would have, but he remembered how his own tweens did not think much of anything he had to say. No. Any kind of useful advice for someone going through this interesting age would have to appeal to other sources by way of example first.

"I learned a long time ago that beauty really is not everything, though sometimes it may well feel like it. We all want beautiful things, yes? We want to be beautiful ourselves; but, who gets to decide what is pretty and what isn't? Doesn't it depend?"

"Upon what?"

"Many things. What may be beautiful to one may not be to another, according to their own experience of the world. Some like the sea, some like the plain, and some like the mountain. It all depends. That, m'lady, is what makes the world interesting. Variety. Not all horses can be gray, not all flowers can be white. We need the differences."

"That makes it easy when you are like most people, but hard when you are not."

That was too true. Merry knew that her hair color was just one of the small things that would set her apart from others in the future; it would get harder as she got older. The thought of it brought a pang of longing—the kind only a parent can feel when he thinks that it does not seem but a few short years when his children when young and innocent. The world takes care of that quickly, and soon Aethelwyn would learn by herself. He wished, for a moment, that he could spare her that knowledge. Alas, that he could not, but mayhap he could help her in her present plight.

"Do I have your leave to share an old memory with you?"

Her eyes lit up, briefly, and it was not without some pride at his story-telling reputation in The Mark that he began recalling one of the most singular people he had ever met, and that was saying much indeed.

"Far away," he began, after clearing his throat, "in a forest close to the land of my birth, my friends and I encountered a very strange, yet powerful being." He paused, letting that sink in. "Being, I say, because I could never really tell what he was. He was not a man, not a holbytlan; he was not an orc, nor an elf. He was… himself. Powerful, I say, because he saved us from being eaten alive by an evil… ahem… willow… but that does not come into the story. His name was Tom Bombadil."

"Tom Bom—" she repeated, testing the foreign sound in her mouth.

"Bombadil. Or at least that is the name he gave to us. It became clear, in the course of our acquaintance, that he was more powerful that he let on, but was content with the ordinary life of a wood-dweller. That is the case, you know, sometimes, when you have the proper motivations. And he did."

"What were they?"

"Well, he had his forest, for one. He was the master of it, making sure that every living thing in it fulfilled the measure of its creation, that they did not disturb each other. Did I tell you what he looked like?"

A minute shake of the head, cautious.

"He was just a little taller than a Dwarf—recall master Gimli, if you please, and you will come close to it—with a round, red face, full of laugh-wrinkles, and a caper of a gait; blue coat, yellow trousers, and that about does it. Picture that!"

She chuckled then. Even for a rohirrim, that picture had to be rather amusing.

"When we met him, he was gathering water-lilies. Guess for whom?"

"For whom?"

"Well, his wife, of course. The lady Goldberry!"

He let his mind be carried back to that day when they met the beautiful lady Goldberry, hoping that his own expression would pique her curiosity enough. It worked.

"He was married to a lady?"

"Aye, the most beautiful lady you could ever imagine. Tall and slender, like a willow-wand, with long flowing hair and the most melodious voice that you will ever hear. Picture them together, whimsical Tom Bombadil and delightful Goldberry. Can you think of a more mismatched pair?"

The amusement in her face showed him that she could not. Indeed, he would not have been able to had he not witnessed it himself.

"Odd they looked indeed, but they 'fit' together. So much in beauty and love is about fit, I find. They were one in thought and purpose, and oneness that expressed itself through two quite distinct outlets. When they moved together, they moved as one, like a dance where each partner gives an end to the part the other began. Aye…" he drew this thought out for just the right length of time, "one could tell that they were happy, fulfilled, together. Regardless of how different they each looked from the other."

She mulled on that for a while. A gust of wind tugged at their cloaks; he went to secure his book, and she tucked a stray curl behind her ear, looked keenly at him. For all she looks like her mother, she is becoming more like her father in her pensive mood.

"How can you make someone like you how you are?"

Hmmm… "We can't."

"That means that Leofric will never like my hair."

"Maybe not. But who is to say that, somewhere, someone else won't? Your life will be more the richer for the search and, when you find them, keep them close to you. Love… the kind that endures, anyway, is not about beauty, but it is about that something in the soul that is akin to that in another's, and yearns for it. One day you will find what that is. And will treasure it."

He became silent now, allowing her the time she needed to digest that. A slow smile drew itself on her face. She may yet be all right.

"Would you, lady Aethelwyn, try hard to find those people?"

"I will, master Holdwine," she said, laid a kiss on his forehead (and he had to admire how much she had grown since he had been there last), and left in search of her brothers, he thought. When Merry knelt to retrieve his book, he saw Eomer approaching.

The King of The Mark sat beside him, put a hand on his shoulder.

"I thank you for that, master Meriadoc. I could not have said it better."

Merry knew that he could not have, and smiled to himself.

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.

Story Information

Author: Starlight

Status: General

Completion: Work in Progress

Era: Multi-Age

Genre: General

Rating: General

Last Updated: 06/24/09

Original Post: 03/13/09

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