Title: Mad Baggins and His Gardener

Series: The Many Adventures of Mad Baggins of Bag-End

Arthur: Slipstream (slipstream_chan@hotmail.com)

Web-Site: www.geocities.com/slipstream_chan

Live Journal: www.livejournal.com/users/slipstream_chan

Archive: Contact me for permission

Rating: G to PGish

Summary: "Mad Baggins… became a favorite character of legend and lived on long after the true events were forgotten."- Fellowship of the Ring. Fable style tales based on the events of LOTR, as passed down through the generations of hobbits throughout the ages.

Notes: These tales may take some elements from certain fables and stories from my childhood such as Aesop, Mother Goose, story books, etc. The Tolloth family: Ron, Fera, Jamie, and Nora, along with their aunts, uncles, cousins, and their gardener, Percy, belong to me. Much use of the Hobbit Name Generator to sneak my friends and enemies into the various fables. Inspired by the quoted phrase from "Fellowship of the Ring" along with the enchanting hobbit fables Mary snuck into her "Pretty Good Year" series (especially "Winter's Road." Go read it, it makes me cry every time…) Enjoy!

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"…Mr. Bilbo Baggins was discussed… for a year and a day, and was remembered much longer than that. It became a fireside-story for young hobbits; and eventually Mad Baggins, who used to vanish with a bang and a flash and reappear with bags of jewels and gold, became a favorite character of legend and lived on long after the true events were forgotten." –Fellowship of the Ring

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"Mummy, I loathe pulling weeds."

Fera Tolloth leaned back on her heels and flashed a sunny smile in her daughter's direction. "Now, girl-child of mine, why would you ever do that?"

Nora Tolloth, a hobbit lass of nine summers, named after her Grandmother on her mother's side but bearing her fathers looks, frowned as she attempted to clean her hands of the damp soil without dirtying her dress. "It's hot and sticky and hurts my back. And the little nettles that spring up cut my hands." She sucked absently on her sliced thumb.

Fera wiped the back of her arm across her brow and squinted at the sun. "Aye, hot work it is, but important, Nora-Nora. Why, if we didn't pull the weeds the plants would choke, and then where would we get that sweet corn that you love to gobble so, eh?" She smiled and squeaked the bare little hobbit toes. "Like a little chicken you are, when it comes to corn. Peck peck, here comes Nora-Chick with her white and brown dress!"

Nora squealed and kicked out with her small furry feet, squirming away from her mother's tickling hands. "But why do we have to do it, Mummy? Why can't we have a gardener like Auntie has to pull the weeds for us?"

"Percy's no gardener," huffed her older brother Jamie as he hauled off another basket full of weeds to be emptied. "He's just a bum who they happened to feel sorry for enough to take in!"

"You be nice when you speak of Mr. Erthel, Jameth!" scolded Fera, even as her nimble hands wormed through the seedlings to pluck out the offensive weeds. "Perceval is just a gent a hobbit as can be. He's down on his luck, that's all, without a family or a smial of his own. He's grateful to have found so generous a family as your aunt's to allow him to work for them. It's hard to get started in this world, with our kind so scattered about to avoid the Big Folk."

Jamie scowled under his wind-blown bangs. "But he's still a gardener! And what's the use of a gardener when everybody works in the fields?"

His mother laughed at her eldest son and dumped another arm-full of weeds into his basket. "Oh, I'm sure Mad Baggins would have quite a different opinion on that!"

"Mummy, who's Mad Baggins?" asked Nora, her little brow furrowed in confusion.

Fera gasped. "What? You mean that I've never told the two of you the story of Mad Baggins?" Jamie and Nora shook their heads.

"Well, I'll just have to remedy that, won't I?" Her eyes twinkled merrily as she looked back up to the sky to gauge the position of the sun. "Yes, just enough time for a story while we weed, then inside for supper!"

Jamie was distraught. "Aww. . . Y'mean we still have to work?"

"Of course, goose! Who else is there to do it, with no family save your aunt's within three days walk? Now, where was I. . ." Fera settled into an easy pattern of work, one that let her mind roam free and allowed her to speak. She sorted through the collection of Mad Baggins tales that her mother, the other Nora, had told her, seeking the special one she knew would fit this occasion.

"It was a fine summer in Hobbiton when all the trouble started. . ."

"What's Hobbiton?" piped Nora.

"A town."

"A Big Folk town?"

"A hobbit town."

Nora's eyes boggled. "Hobbits used to live in towns? Together? Not apart in separate holes to hide from the Big Folk?"

Fera smiled sadly. "Yes, Nora-Nora, hobbits used to live in towns. We had several towns, all grouped together, and our own land, separate from the Big Folk. And it was times of peace and plenty and happiness, which is why we remember so fondly the tales that take place then."

Nora picked at the folds of her light brown dress. "But why don't we anymore? Why can't we all live together like that, not apart so that Big Folk don't see and suspect?"

Fera sighed. "Because our time has passed, dear, and we are being phased out of the world, much like the elves."

Even Jamie started. "Elves?"

Patting the earth into neater mounds, Fera smiled at her children. "Another tale, similar to this one, but for another time. And if you don't be quiet and listen, this tale'll never get told."

Once the children were settled and working slowly, Fera took a deep breath and started again.

~~~~~~~~ *** ~~~~~~~~

It was a fine summer in Hobbiton when all the trouble started. The fall harvest was looking to be splendid, judging by the enormity of the young plants that filled the fields. Hobbit tweens were dashing about, shirking their work, stealing kisses and tangling long dandelion strands in their hair.

It was in such a state that many courting pairs made their giggling way up the Hill. The Hill lay just south of Hobbiton, the tallest and grandest in all the countryside. It overlooked the town and atop its crown grew a motley assortment of trees, the last bit of the Great Forest left standing in the land.

Grigory Hillocks coaxed his ladylove away from her smial and whisked her to the top of the Hill one sunny day, in search of a place a good bit away from shouting distance to other hobbits rather than a romantic interlude. Grigory was a great brawny hobbit, with blotted cheeks and untidy hair and features more apt to anger than to merriment. His father was rich and Grigory took great amusement in using his copper to buy his way about the upper class. To everyone's surprise, he had been courting a fair-haired lass of a simple family, but not matter how many brooches he brought to offset her plain cotton dresses, he seemed no closer too completely winning her heart. They skirted up the hill, she laughing and he pinching her rump, until they collapsed, panting, under the thick paddock of trees.

The top of the Hill was actually much larger than it looked from Hobbiton, and the trees loomed in odd twisting shapes, casting strange patterns of shadows over the wild tangle of grass. The girl (her name is not known, it was left out of the tale for politeness' sake) was enchanted and wandered about sniffing the strange flowers and picking the ripe berries that stained her fingers in a multitude of colors.

Grigory, whose nose was troubled by all the pollen and sunshine, grew angry and called out in a loud voice. "Girl! If you loves me you'll gives me a kiss, you will!"

She laughed and twirled her skirts. "Nay, never! You shall have to win a kiss, they don't come free!"

Now, the couple may have thought they were alone, but they had been tailed by another hobbit. His name was Hamfast, a simple boy, who lived on the same row as the girl, a gardener. Yet his heart was not set on simple things, for he was deeply in love with this fair hobbit maiden, and loathed to see her in Grigory's arms. He peered through the grass fronds and kept a close eye on Grigory's behavior, waiting gleefully for an excuse to spring out and break his nose.

Grigory grinned lewdly, swiping at her with a big brown paw. "Haven't I won you enough? All those pretty clasps for your auburn hair, they should be enough for a thousand kisses!"

"But they were made by someone other than you! It's not your copper I want, but something else!" She grasped the lowest branch of a great silver tree and pulled herself into its boughs.

He growled at her foolishness and threw up his hands. "What do you want, lass? Shall I rip up the countryside with my bare arms for you?" He flexed to demonstrate.

"Don't!" She cried. "Rip up the land, I mean. It's such a pretty land, I'd hate to see you waste it."

Grigory leaned against the trunk and squinted to see her in the bright sunshine. "It's my father's land, you know. All this bit up to this very hill shall be mine one day, when I wed you."

"Pity that you don't enjoy it, then." She flicked a lock of her hair away from her fair face and hid behind the yellow leaves. "Come and climb this tree with me! Enjoy your land, if it is. Everything is so pretty from here."

He scowled at the slender branches and considered his hobbit girth, suddenly growing tired of her game. "Get you down from there, silly lass! Come have a roll with me by the river!"

She drew back further into the shelter of the tree at the red storm that crossed his features. "No, I shall stay here, where the air is fair and cooler than your temper."

Growling, he reached out with his meaty hands and shook the trunk hard. "Get DOWN, I said!"

She screamed then as he began to rip at the lowest branches, stripping away the silver bark in great rendering shreds. But when it seamed that he should completely uproot her perch, a loud, clear voice broke through the greenery.

"Ho! You there! What are you doing, tearing up my garden?"

Before them stood a hobbit, neither young or old, dressed all in finery that gleamed in the afternoon sun. He was taller than most but as plump as a hobbit should be, with tan brown skin and salt and pepper hair that stood at every angle on his proud head. Golden buttons gleamed on his forest green weskit, but his blouse seemed to be made of some material that was as light as air and shone with a light as bright as the evening stars. He eyed them curiously with deep hazel eyes that twinkled with mischief and took a deep puff on his ivory pipe.

Grigory was taken aback, but he quickly recovered. "These are my father's lands," he scowled. "Not yours. You'd best be off before he comes and sees you trespassin'."

The strange hobbit laughed, a deep hearty sound, and blew out a long stream of blue and pink smoke. "His lands? HIS lands? Boy, this hill has been mine for ages and ages and will be for ages yet to come. I have spent your lifetime and your father's and his father's before him cultivating this very patch of ground to my liking, and now you come and spoil my gardens!"

"Some garden this is, it's all wilderness!" Shot back Grigory, but he was becoming more restless. "And you can't have lived here all that time. You're mad, I tell you!"

Again the hobbit laughed, and with such merriment that the girl leaned out of her lone branch to peer in wonder. "Mad? Of course I'm mad! Mad Baggins am I, or so the folk call me behind my back."

He bowed towards the tree. "Pleased to meet you, madam. Are you enjoying my tree?"

She nodded.

"Stuck up there, I see. Ah well, we shall have to wait for someone to come and get you down, I suppose."

She nodded again, frightened, and glanced back nervously at Grigory, whose eyes were blazing with growing anger. He stormed across the open space, hands balling into fists. "Now, see here you old…"

He never got a chance to finish his curse, for just then Mad Baggins lost patience with him. There was a blinding flash and a bang and the wild-haired hobbit disappeared, only to appear a moment later directly behind the open-mouthed Grigory at just the right position to give him a good kick in the trousers, which he did.

"YOU see here, you miserable young oaf! Get off my land, leave the lady alone, and go wash out your ears with somebody's washing water while you're at it!"

Thoroughly uprooted by the boot to his rump, Grigory went tumbling down the steep slope. He rolled and he rolled, and when he stopped rolling, he sprang up and began a mad dash towards Hobbiton, screaming all the way.

The girl was very glad to see him go and cheered, almost falling out of the tree. She clung even tighter to the trunk in fear of falling, for though the tree was shorter than trees in other parts of the world, it was still a very good way up for a hobbit.

Here Hamfast chose to make his entrance, having laughed out all his glee at seeing the great brute known as Grigory drop kicked like a pebble down the Hill. He bowed to his love, smiling shyly, and set to the problem of getting her down. He tenderly gathered up the loose branches that Grigory had ripped down, clucking sadly at each wilted leaf. He then pulled up seven blades of the tough, springy grass. These he used to bind the branches back into their proper places where, after a few encouraging words, the bark regrew stronger than ever to make a pretty little stair for his ladylove. Blushing, Hamfast held her hand as she made her way down, marveling that the gentle gardener had mended the wounded tree.

Baggins also smiled, for he was pleased. "Well done, good master. What be your name?"

"H-Hamfast, sir," he stuttered. "Hamfast the gardener."

"Well, Hamfast, are you currently employed?"

He shook his head in embarrassment, ducking his eyes to avoid the shame of meeting his love's gaze in that enchanted glade.

"Tsk tsk, that is no way for a young strong man such as yourself to start out with a pretty wife to be! You shall have to come and work for me, for you are a skilled gardener and I do love to wander amongst my plants."

Hamfast began to nod in agreement, his head spinning, but he was caught by the bluntness of Baggins's proposal. "Work? For you? Wife-to-be?"

The girl had had quite enough, and she took Hamfast in a surprising kiss. "Yes, silly! You have most certainly earned a kiss, a thousand kisses, and I shall have to marry you to give you them all!"

Mad Baggins clapped them on the back, for if there were two things he loved more than his garden it was surprises and happy endings. "Yes, wed! And build your hole with me in my garden! Make sure to fill it with children and laughter, because unhappiness would kill some of my more delicate blooms, but play and mischief is enough to make them grow as if the fiery veins of the earth are tickling their roots!"

Of course Hamfast had to agree, and Baggins lead them to a boulder which, upon being rapt three times, opened to reveal a smial of great majesty and beauty. Here he and his love lived for all their days, among the silver trees and golden blooms and tall grass, and they did have many laughing children.

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"So you see," finished Fera "It is good luck to be a gardener and know how to tend the plants. See what it did for Hamfast, who appreciated the earth and all the growing things? A pretty wife and a great smial and good company, even if Baggins was a bit off in the head, at that."

Jamie, who had become enraptured in the story and quit working and was now busily pulling to make up for it, scowled to hide the fact that he had indeed enjoyed the tale. "Still, that was his work to begin with, not something common folk like us do. And the girl sure seemed to switch one lover for the next."

Nora twirled about, waving handfuls of weeds. "Mummy! Mummy! Do you think we could bind up the broken tomato plants with these weeds like Hamfast did with the silver tree?"

Fera beamed at her child, glad to see her happy. "Probably not, Nora-Nora. Those grasses and the trees and the garden were magic, and who knows what other sorcery Mad Baggins planted on that hill top?"

Nora didn't hear her, though. At that moment a call came up from the edge of their clearing and Ron Tolloth came up, leading their little pony laden with kindling. Nora jumped up with a cry, her weeding forgotten, and ran as fast as her furry little feet would carry her into the strong arms of her papa.