The Ogre and the Waterlilies (a Hobbit fairy tale)



This story was told by Cloves at the historical field trip to Adso's camp.

Well this story is of the forest right behind us, the one our folks in Buckland call the Old Forest.
It's a bit scary I think, so you might not want to hear it, what with being so close to it now...
.....all right.

Once upon a time...
Well, when I say once upon a time, it was not too long ago, for clearly there were Hobbits living here, but also not too recent, or it'd still be the talk of the Shire!
So once upon a time, but not too long ago, there was a poor Buckish family. Buckish I say, but of course I don't mean Brandybucks. Because they're well off!
But they lived in Buckland, and the land all belonged to the Brandybucks, so there was little land left where another Hobbit family could live. And so they had no fields and not much to sell at the market.
And therefore they couldn't buy things at the market either, and they either had to grow things themselves, or get by without them.

They lived right by the Old Forest. (It was called the Old Forest even then.) Well, I guess it was slightly younger than it is now, but that doesn't matter much to a forest.
Anyway, one winter it was particularly cold, and they could just barely get by.
And one day... the mother looked into the flour chest and saw that there was just one pie worth of flour left!
So she said to the father: "I don't know what we should do", she said, "we don't have enough to get by you and me and the two kids through the winter, it were best we never had kids at all."
And the father looked pondering, and said: "Well, your crying doesn't help, we have kids after all, but what we don't have is firewood."
"But we can't afford any more," the mother said. "And we're not allowed in the Brandybucks' forest any more after the Mushroom incident!"
The father nodded, but looked to the old forest meaningfully.

In the next morning, the mother woke up the kids early in the morning.
She said "Wake up, children, we are going to the Old Forest tonight, to collect firewood."
The kids looked scared. "But we heard the forest is haunted!"
"It is all right, children. I have baked our last flour into a magic pie for you. If you meet the spirit of the forest, give him the pie and tell him that we need his help, or we will surely starve."
The children looked quite doubtfully at the pie (it was really a quite small pie) but they did not dare saying anything.

So they went into the deep, dark forest.
The two Hobbit-children looked for firewood, but it was cold, and they did not dare leave the hedge out of sight.
"For surely if we lose the hedge," the boy-hobbit said to the girl-hobbit, "We will get lost, and the spirit of the forest will eat us."
But the girl-Hobbit had a better idea.
"There is not good wood close to the hedge," she said. "I have an idea. We will use the pie to make a track, when we are done we will follow the pie-crumbs back to the exit."
"But that is our magic pie!"
The girl said: "Our mum wanted it to protect us in the forest. I don't believe in forest spirits."
And off she went into the deep forest, the boy trailing behind.
They went deeply into the forest, leaving a trail of pie crumbs behind.

And after a while, they had foudn as much wood as they could bear on their backs!
So the boy-Hobbit said to the Girl-Hobbit: "Let us go back, I'm tired and it will be dark soon.
Let us follow your trail back and get home."
So they turned around and looked for the crumbs. But to their dismay they could not see any!
They looked for a long time, but they just couldn't find any trace of the trail, and in their looking they got quite turned around and lost.
"Oh no," moaned the boy, "Whatever shall we do! Surely the ghosts have eaten our crumbs."
"Don't be silly, brother, "the girl said, "There are no ghosts."
What should happen at this very moment that they stumbled out into a clearing and onto a house made of... Don't be silly, it was made of stone and wood.
But out of the windows, a delicious tempting smell of pie was wafting.
The hobbit-children's stomachs grumbled loudly as a horde of bears.  Of course they hadn't had any dinner, all they had with them was a pie and they used it for the trail, remember?
The boy was so hungry he temporarily forgot his fear of ghosts. But the girl regained her wits faster.
"No, don't! It's surely a trap!"
"There's nobody home, I am sure they won't mind," the boy said as he tried to climb up to the window.
The girl shook her head scaredly.
"They must be strange people to live so deep in the forest. I am sure they leave pie out to lure in little Hobbits and eat them!"
But the boy was adamant, and he climbed into the window and dropped onto the floor below.
The girl shrieked, for from the house there came a loud CRASH! and clanging like a horde of hungry ghosts.
And pulling together all her courage, the little Hobbit-girl climbed up to the window. "Brother, I'm coming!"
What did she see as her brother on the floor, dripping wet and in the middle of what looked like a bunch of bathtubs!
"Brother, are you all right? Did the ghosts try to cook you in their soup-pots?" the girl yelled.
"Help! Help! They are grasping at me with long hands!" the boy screamed.
The girl climbed into the window, but what she saw suddenly made her laugh.
"That's not hands, you silly! That's roots!"
The boy was lying in tubs full of waterlilies!
And they had tangled up all around him with long roots of what he thought was grasping hands.

But when they had recovered from their scare, the children were still worried.
"What strange house is that, with floors covered in waterlilies!"
"And what strange people must that be, and we have come in and destroyed it and cannot get out."
Because the windows were a lot higher from the floor of the room than from the outside. And the door was locked.
"We must find fresh waterlilies or the lord of the house will surely eat us for dinner!"
"But how? I could lift you out of the window, sister, but what would you do out in the snow?"
"I don't know... I'll figure out something! Quick, I hear someone coming, hide in the closet and I'll try to slip out!"
The boy nodded and hid in the nearest closet. And for sure, there were heavy steps on the door... and a big huge man with bright yellow boots stomped into the house. The sister quickly snuck out and ran off as fast as her little Hobbit feet could carry her. She hadn't gotten a good look but she hoped she hadn't been seen... and her brother neither!

She ran and ran until she reached a stream.
"Surely there must be lilies here," the girl thought.
But it was getting dark, and there was ice and snow everywhere, and the girl could not find a single lily, so late in winter.
"Oh no, I am cold and lost and the ogre will surely eat my brother now!" she sobbed and began to cry.
When suddenly, she saw a light nearby, at the water.
"Why are you crying, Hobbit-child?" a voice said.
The girl looked up, ready to scream and run again.
But the figure she saw was so pretty it could absolutely not be a ghost!
It was a pretty lady, all in blue, and glowing slightly in the dark.
The girl was scared, but she repeated her words.
"An ogre?," the woman said.
"Yes, a huge man with yellow boots, and we've spilled all his waterlilies, and if I don't find new ones he will surely find and eat my brother."
To the girl's surprise the woman smiled.
"I shall show you waterlilies, child. But are you not scared to go there and face the ogre again?"
The child nodded. "But I have to save my brother!"
"Would you not rather save yourself? He might already be dead."
The girl shook her head resolutely. "Absolutely not! What would mom say if I came back without him!"
At this the lady in blue laughed, and her laughter was like the tinkle of a thousand bells.
And it was so cold, her laughter fell to the floor like ice crystals, and everywhere it fell, a lily grew up.
The lady said, "You can pick them, but what wll you say to the ogre?"
The girl grew silent at that, but she picked the waterlilies anyway, making sure to get the whole roots and everything so they could be planted like she had seen in the tubs. And when she was done she carried them to the house, with one last bow to the lady that had been so nice to her.
But she thought of the last question and looked worried.
"What can I tell the ogre?" she wondered. He's probably eaten my brother by now.
So she thought, and thought, but could not get to an answer, band suddenly she was back at the house already and still had no answer.
The doors were closed, and looked very locked, but there was smoke from the chimney.
She silently padded around the house and looked into the window. There was the main room, and the ogre was right there, sitting on a chair in the middle of all the tubs and snoring! The tubs had been cleared up, but he waterlilies were almost all destroyed from the boy-hobbit's thrashing around, and looked very poorly.
The girl looked around the house to see any signs of hobbit-eating in progress. But there was no sign, only the snoring of the ogre.

Then the girl hand an idea. Quickly, she took some of the strongest waterlilies she had gotten from the lady and tied their roots together. The roots made a rope! Quickly she tied the rope to the windowsill and climbed down into the room.
Then she looked around for her brother. There was no sign, and she feared the worst.
But then she saw two hairy feet sticking out of one cabinet.
Silent as a mouse, the girl walked over to the cupboard and opened it. Inside was her brother, fat asleep and dreaming happily! And all around him... were pie crumbs!
The cupboard he had hidden in was the ogre's pie cabinet, clearly!
She kicked her brother in the shins so he would wake up. "What are you doing eating pie while I am out in the snow, risking my life for you?"
He rubbed his head (he had bumped it on the upper shelf as he sat up) and shot back: "What were you doing out so long while I had the fears of my life sitting in the cupboard, waiting for the ogre to discover and eat me?"
"No time for that now," the girl whispered. "We have to go!"
She quickly replaced the waterlilies and showed her brother how to climb out of the window.

But just as they were about to be safe...
The ogre woke up!
"Hey! What are you doing?" he rumbled in a deep voice.
The girl and boy screamed and almost fell out of the window. They could hear the ogre get up behind them... when suddenly there was a loud CRASH! and the ogre had fallen over in the room.
Because the girl had used the rope not only to climb, but also to tie his boots together!
So the girl and boy ran as fast as their feet could carry them.
And as the sun rose...
They could find their trail!
Because the pie crumbs... of course they had been eaten by birds! But...
...the pie had been spoiled!
And the whole path was littered with bird droppings from very nauseous looking birds.
So they found their way back, and to the hedge. And when they returned, mom and dad greeted them overjoyed, for they had surely thought them lost in the forest.
They had really been very worried, and blaming themselves for it.

Oh yes, and it had a good ending!
Because apart from the wood, the children brought back two more things!
The boy had been quite clever, because he had stashed some pies under his hat and in his pocket.
But the girl, when she looked into her pack, found something even better!
The lady had given her one last waterlily, and put it in her bag so it would not be left with the others in the house.
And the next year... the family could grow these beautiful lilies, and sell them at the market!
And they never had to be pie-less and wood-less in winter again!

And if you don't believe me, you can go to Buckland and see for yourself. Because the waterlilies still grow there, in the pond in the shadiest corner, right next to the Old Forest.