Shepherds of the Trees, Guides of the Little Folk

Just a bit of fan fiction set in Middle-Earth...seems to be a bit of a theme of mine at the moment...set in the Second Age, so quite some time before The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, around the time of the Downfall of Numenor. Oh, and I almost forgot, it's got Entwives in it!

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1. A strange meeting

   Olo Harfoot yawned and rubbed his eyes. The bright rays of the sun were just peeking through the trees, piercing deep into his eyes. Sleepily, he put up a hand to shield himself from the harsh sunlight.

   He sat up and stretched, groaning as he tried to work out the crick in his neck. Tree roots did not make the most comfortable of pillows. A sudden grumble from his stomach told him that it was almost time for breakfast, and he remembered he had not eaten supper the night before. The rest of the tribe would be waking soon, and he did not have much to offer them at his return. He grimaced as he glanced at the pitifully small collection of mushrooms, berries and seeds that was supposed to sustain them for the next three days. They'd be lucky if it stretched to one, he thought with a sigh.

   "It's not my fault," he grumbled to himself. "Nothing grows in Autumn."Yet he knew in his heart that they would not understand. After all, his brother Marroc had brought home a whole boar the other week - just a little newborn of course, fully grown boars were far too big for even the biggest of the Little People to hunt - but still, meat was a VERY rare luxury for folk as small as the Little People. It had to be caught, after all, and there were very few animals small enough for Little People to catch. Most of the time, their focus was much more centred on trying to escape being caught themselves. Still, Marroc had done it, and now everyone would expect Olo to bring something substantial back as well. A hopeless endeavour, he thought, letting out another heavy sigh.

   "The day is yet young for such mournful, despairing sighs," came a loud, booming voice from behind him. Startled, he scurried away from the tree he had slept under, where the voice seemed to be coming from.

   "Why do you run in such haste?" the voice asked in surprise. "I am very sorry if I startled you. I rarely meet anyone with whome I can have a proper conversation". The voice was loud and strong, yet also feminine.

   Odo realised, with a start, that the voice was in fact coming from the tree itself. High up  in the trunk, two blue eyes looked down at him with a friendly gaze. Suddenly, the bits of gnarled bark that seemed to be the tree's eyebrows wrinkled in curiosity. "What exactly are you?" the tree murmured (if it is in fact possible for a voice so loud to 'murmur').

   "I might ask you the same thing!" Olo squeaked, still not fully recovered from the shock of being spoken to by a giant talking tree. Then, with a slightly embarassed look on his face and with a deeper, more manly voice: "I mean....men call us Little People. We know no other species which have words with which to give us names. All other creatures we have come across are unable to speak."

   "Yes, that has mostly been my experience as well," thee tree said with sadness. "Men and elves only. And the ents, of course, but we have not seen them in quite some time..." A strange, wistful hint of longing came into the tree's voice as she said this.

   "'We'?" said Olo in shock. "You mean there are more of you?"

   "Some, yes. We are not as numerous as once we were, but there are some of us who still watch over and defend the Children of Yavanna."

   "I see," said Olo, though of course he did not really see at all. "Um...do you mean to say that all trees can speak?"

   "Trees? Trees!? Don't be absurd!" The tree laughed, a rich, broad, booming sound which filled the whole field. "Trees cannot talk! I thought everybody knew that!" She went on chuckling for a long time.

   Olo was confused. "Then what....what....well, I mean....aren't you a....a..."

   "A what?"

   "Well, you know, a tree?"

   Once again the tree - or whatever it was - erupted into laughter. "That is the most preposterous proposition I have heard in many, many years, young....what did you say you were again?"

   "Oh, well, men call us Little People."

   "Hmm....Little People...all people are little to me. But perhaps you are smaller than most...Well, Little Person, I am an Entwife. We Entwives care for and defend the green things of this world: the trees; the plants; the mosses and vegetables and grains...More specifically, I am called Flaxhair. What do your people call you?" She spoke very slowly and ponderously, so all of this took rather a long time.

   "I...I am Olo. My people call me Olo."

   "Hmm...Olo....that is rather an odd name, isn't it? I have never met any elves or men named Olo before..."

   "Well, I suppose it is rather," Olo agreed, not daring to voice aloud his thought that someone named Flaxhair was not really in any sort of position to be making comments about strange names.

   "Well, Olo, what is it you are sighing about?"

   "I have very little food to take back to my people," he replied.

   "Hmm, well, where is your field?"

   "My field? I'm afraid I don't understand. This is the field where I come to gather mushrooms and pick berries and find seeds and nuts bt it's hardly my field, is it?"

   "No, no, silly Little Person," said Flaxhair amusedly. "I mean the field where you grow your crops."

   "Crops?"

   "Yes, your vegetables and grains. You know, potatoes and carrots and cauliflower, your wheat and barley and corn. Where do you grow it?"

   "I..." Olo stood in silence for a moment, very confused and not a little bewildered. "I'm afraid I don't understand," he repeated after a while. "How exactly does one 'grow' these things? I've never heard of carrots or wheat or corn....are they good to eat?"

   "Well, many men eat them, and you seem to be not so very different from a man, just a little shorter is all, with hairier feet and pointier ears. I prefer good soil and rain and sunlight, but then, I am an Entwife, and you are a Little Person," she said with a smile. "It's all quite simple really," she went on. "You simply dig up the earth a little, plant the seeds, and give them plenty of water and sunlight and, if the soil is good and rich, they will grow. And then, when they are ready, you take them out of the earth and eat them. They are Yavanna's creation, her gift to the Children of Iluvatar. And then there are the fruit trees," she went on. "Trees and bushes which bear fruit, each in their season. But I am sure you know about them."

   "Yes," remarked Olo faintly. "I know about them, though to grow your own tree isn't something I've ever really thought of...It makes sense, though, I suppose. A never-ending supply of apples and pears and plums..." His stomach grumbled again at the thought, which caused Flaxhair to once again laugh, even louder this time making the birds which nested in her yellow-leaved branches fly away in surprise.

   "You are hungry, Little Person," she noted with amusement. "Come, I will show you my ownn field, and perhaps you can eat from there and take food to your people. I do not eat my own crops - I am an Entwife, the very thought is repulsive to me. But I do love to watch them grow..." she said with a fond smile. "Come," she repeated. "I will show you."

   "Show me? How?" asked Olo. It was proving to be a very confusing morning.

   "I will carry you, of course!" she responded, and to Olo's surprise she uprroted her enormous legs, stepped back, and bowed down for Olo to climb onto her shoulder. After a moment's hesitation, he did so, and together they began their journey across the Brown Lands.   

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