Foiled Again: The Lore of Hobbits

From Applecider Bolingbroke to Deputy-Shirriff Lancogard North-Took ~ Salutations an’ all me respects to the Honorable Bounders: May a hot toddy be waitin’ at the end of all their Bounds, throughout the whole of winter.

Dear Lance,

The fourth snow o’ the season finally let up yesterday, leavin’ a cold sun ter gleam over a veritable crystalline fairyland. No denyin’ the Blue Mountains glitter like a chain o’ jewels now. But equally little denyin’ that getting’ about here be a bit of a labor.

Fortuitously, Maddie be fully a’flitter after a few days cooped up in the snowfall. I figgered this were a plum opportunity to set her aflight for a good long turn in the skies, so I dispatches her east herewith.

Meself, I ‘fess ter not mind bein’ snowbound, as it lets me devote many ponderous hours to an endeavor upon which I been cogitatin’ fer some time now:

Our ventures with that Green-Hooded Dúney Bounder Mister Halros last year (as yeh know), brought to our mutual attention the value of a stringy, scruffly little plant. Thar which Elf-folk aptly calls “
help leaf,” an’ what me Nan always called, “ach, that wretched thing is growin’ in me iris beds again.” 

Athelas, or Kingsfoil – whichever yeh choses ter call it – were an eye-opener.

So durin’ that one-two-punch o’ harrowin' scrapes last spring, I could nae help but askin’ meself why it be such a rarity that neither ye, nor I, till then, knew of its properties. 

If Kingsfoil’s healin’ influence be so very potent, says I, then why in Bullroar’s fat cat Rumblebelly’s name is it not better known? Or widely circulated?  

The notion’s been a bee in me bonnet ever since. I been makin’ an effort to investigate the subject.

The answer seems ter be agrarian in nature. 

In short? – The scruffy leaf en’t easy ter cultivate. 

I gots planters a’plenty, as any good Hobbit do. Bein’ on the Rove, a Bard wants her supply for Life’s Mishaps: Mint, an’ feverfew. Chamomile for swelling; ginger fer collywobbles. Calendula marigold fer blisters, willow bark, yarrow an’ witch hazel fer serious lesions. An’ poppy fer when yeh REALLY gots ter knock a body out.

Well, Mister Halros gifted me a couple stalks o’ the Kingsfoil plant for me own use, in emergency. So I promptly severed a root from one o’ the stalks an’ planted it in a flower pot. 

It eventually emerged in the most pitiful sprout I’ve ever seen. Thin as gossamer, an’ every bit as weak.

It withered within days. 

The same followed with the second attempt. T’were a poor start, an’ I ‘ad limited samples of Mister H’s prezzie with which ter work. 

Now, I can’t name a single Hobbit who don’t have a well-thumbed copy o’ Gammer Grantham’s Gardener’s Friend [© SR 1397, Hornblower, Hughes & Boscomb, Tuckborough]. Don’t lie; I knows you gots one too. 

Bein’ as Kingsfoil’s worth en’t common Shire knowledge, though, I were hardly surprised to find it were noted only as a weed: 

“This spindly long-stemmed shoot may appear erratically among rhubarb, cabbage, sprout, and other leafy vegetables, most particularly in the boroughs of Oatbarton, Brockenborings, Michel Delving and the Rushock. Its signature elongate leaves are of a blueish-green tint, with a paler green underside, and may be accompanied by small white blossoms of elongate, star-like points. Its shallow roots are easily pulled or raked. The leaves are non-toxic, and may be mixed with compost or fodder to no ill effect upon soil or animal.”  

So. What data do we garner from this?

All these examples be shade-garden plants. 

- Point One: Kingsfoil grow best in partial- or low-light. 

Rhubarb, brussel sprout, an’ let’s count me Nan’s iris beds too: These all likes loamy soil, keepin’ only what moisture they needs. Sprouts an’ iris also likes a bit o’ tea-water, too. 

- Point Two, then: We lookin’ at loose, damp, well-drained earth wi’ just a hint of acidity to it. 

The geography may be worth notin’. Draw a line betwixt all them boroughs, an’ yeh gets a quarter-circle swath, runnin’ nor’-nor’west along the Shire perimeter. 

- Point Three: Maybe it likes cooler places, wi’ the most pronounced seasons? ... Maybe Tuckborough to Green Hill Country’s too warm in summers, or some’ut?

Call that point a “Maybe.”

I can say wi’ certainty, it do gots a Northerly Limit: Remember when that grizzled grumpy gaffer o’ the Dúney Lads at Twilight Lake, Mister Calenglad, sent me ter deliver a parcel ter their Frozen Field Agent, Mister Lothrandir? Kingsfoil were definitely in that parcel, among other things.

So, it can’t grow too far North, either.

And thar? .... Thar be the sum total from the Lore o’ Hobbits on the subject. 

Not much ter go on, if’en me goal be to ensure a ready supply fer the Bounders, or ter stock meself against scrapes in the Wide World. 

Well? Uphill battles en’t always fought with a Sword, Lance. 

Hobbits en’t exactly renowned fer that kinda feat in any case. An' if I cannae find Lore among Hobbits, we'll just have ter dive a little deeper.

No skinny Big Folk may ever put us down on record as numberin’ Mighty among either the Warriors or the Wise (by Big Folk standards, at least. Novel as they may be). Most prolly write us off as simplistic types wha’ lives fer Food an’ Brewin’ an’ Smokin’ an’ such. As if thar be better means o’ Fellowship ever found under the sun. 

But by Bullroarer’s Sunday Roast an’ Onion Gravy! Thar be one spectacular oversight on their part, what be key ter all o’ these ‘pastoral’ pursuits. One pursuit in which Hobbits gots a Proclivity Unparalleled. 

An’ thar be a knack, fer Makin’ Things Grow.

Never let it be said a Hobbit could nae coax phlox straight from rocks. Nor never let it be said an Auxiliary Bounder dinnae ken how ter make a systematic Investigation. 

An’ NEVER let it be said a Bolingbroke be nothin’ if not the stubbornest an’ cleverest, most resourceful creature what ever lived.

I’m gonna do it, Lancey. 

I’m gonna figger out How to Grow Kingsfoil.


*     *     *
← Previous  "A Fowl Voice on the Air"     ~     Next: “Foiled Again: Lore of Elfs"→