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Oliphaunt am I by Elemmírë - Marigold's Tale Challenge 35

Dec. 3rd, 2006

05:46 am - Oliphaunt am I by Elemmírë

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A look at how the oliphaunt got its poem...






Oliphaunt am I


By: Elemmírë


Summary: A look at how the oliphaunt got its poem ...


Disclaimer: The Lord of the Rings does not belong to me, nor am I making any profit off either its story or characters.


Author's Note: Written for Marigold's Tale Challenge 35. The theme was to write a hobbity story that includes any sort of mythical creature. I also had to include the following elements: a dead tree, a pot of soup, & Paladin. Also, the very last part of this tale implies movie-verse, although the rest is book-verse.


 


 


‘I was just running over some of the Rhymes of Lore in my mind,’ answered the wizard. ‘Hobbits, I suppose, have forgotten them, even those that they ever knew.’


‘No, not all,’ said Pippin. ‘And we have many of our own, which wouldn’t interest you, perhaps…’ ~J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, 'The Palantír'


 


Afterlithe (July), 1293 Shire Reckoning


Somewhere off the coast of Harad ...



Isengar Took simply could not believe the sight before him. He gasped, his eyes widening as he bore witness to the things that legends were made of there on the nearby shore.


Long ago when the hobbits had been wanderers and had not yet settled in the Shire, there had been stories trickled down from the Northmen of old. Tales, of giant creatures that lived in the Far South that had long noses like a snake and were rumored to be as big as a house ... a Man's house, that was. The ever-practical hobbits had naturally over the years dismissed such creatures as being purely mythical.


Today, Isengar found that was not so.


He had been below decks when the ship he was on had sailed into port late last night and so, he had not yet viewed the lands new to him. Since the ship had never sailed this far South before, the captain had ordered that Isengar remain onboard to guarantee his safety, as the warrior-like Haradrim had most likely never set sight upon a hobbit before. Isengar had naturally protested. His curly hair had grown long enough to cover his pointed ears and he'd even promised to wear the wide-width shoes that had once been crafted for him to disguise his bare, furry hobbit feet when certain situations called for it. Dressed as such, he had argued that he would appear instead as a child, given his stature. The captain had stood firm, however. "Not all cultures value children the same, Isengar. It has been rumored that children are used as slave labor this far South."



Disappointed, Isengar had sighed and returned to his duty as cook's assistant in the galley. This was to be his last voyage ... for now anyway. When his father had allowed him to go off to Sea, it was with the stipulation that he be home again by the time he was to Come of Age. He had been helping to make a pot of soup, when his sharp hearing had detected an unusual sound. He'd dropped what he was doing to run out on deck, much to the cook's chagrin.


Isengar now stood atop a wooden crate in order to see over the ship's rail at the strange land paralleling them. He watched as several giant grey creatures stomped their way about the land, being commanded by the dark-skinned Swertings that rode high upon their backs in structures that resembled towers or houses of the Big Folk.


"The Swertings call 'em Mûmak, but I've heard 'em called Elephants by others," the cook who had followed him on deck said, as he wiped his hands clean with a rag. "The Haradrim use them to fight with. Mean creatures they be."


"Elephant," Isengar tried the strange word on his tongue, but with his heavy Tookish lilt, it came out as 'oliphaunt.'


The cook gave him a quizzical look before nodding and heading below decks once more, leaving the little one to gape at the animals that were unlike anything he'd ever seen before.


Elated to discover that he was perhaps finally on the right track to locating his missing brother, Isengar pulled a well-worn scrap piece of tanned animal hide out of his pocket. He really had no need to reread the poem written on the tattered hide, for he'd memorized every word of it years ago, but his eyes quickly scanned the words of the poem before staring at the giant creatures rumbling about on the shore.



Oliphaunt am I


Grey as a mouse,


Big as a house,


Nose like a snake,


I make the earth shake ...


Biggest of all,


Huge, old, and tall.


If ever you'd met me


You wouldn't forget me.




"Hildifons must have made it all the way south to this region ... the Sunlands," Isengar whispered, both in awe at the distance his missing brother had covered and at the supposed creatures of myth standing before him.


Hildifons Took had left the Shire four years earlier to embark on a grand adventure. At first, letters would arrive to the Great Smials from Hildifons, detailing where he'd been and what he'd seen. However the further away from the Shire he'd travelled, the fewer and far between the letters had become. Such were usually written upon whatever scrap parchment the wandering hobbit had come across and it was Hildofon's very last letter ever received by the Took family that had spurred young Isengar's wish to have an Adventure of his own to see such astounding creatures. That very short letter had included the scrap of hide Isengar now held in his hands.


Hildifons had never returned home to the Shire; his letters had stopped coming and it was not known what ever became of him. Having inherited his own share of wanderlust, Isengar had talked long with his father and volunteered to go in search of Hildifons. After all, there had to be someone, somewhere that had interacted with him during the past four years. And so, he'd taken to the Sea in order to search for news of his older brother.


Being the highly adventurous Took that he was, Isengar climbed up the rigging to the crows nest in order to obtain a completely unobstructed view of the oliphaunts. He spotted several of the ships' crew below on shore; some were trading wares and goods obtained at previous ports, others were haggling over prices in order to restock their dwindling supplies. From this angle he could see that the great beasts were being used as labor to clear away the large limbs from a patch of dead trees, no doubt fallen in some fierce storm that the terribly warm and humid region was prone to.


Isengar watched the oliphaunts all afternoon that day. Despite growing afraid when one oliphaunt broke loose from its iron chains and went on a rampage, he was astounded by their overall sheer size, never having seen the like before in all of Middle-earth. He watched in fascination as the odd-looking beast threw rocks with its long nose and sounded its anger with its trumpeting roar, its ears flapping madly. It stomped its rounded feet, making the earth visibly shake and the seawaters ripple against the wooden hull of the ship.


"No one at home will ever believe this," Isengar whispered, a smile of wonder beaming brightly upon his dirt-streaked face.


That night as he lay snug in his hammock aboard ship, Isengar used his last sharpened stub of graphite to write down his own verse inspired by the Oliphaunt of the South. Blending Hildifon's words with his own, the finished verse read:



Oliphaunt


Grey as a mouse,


Big as a house,


Nose like a snake,


I make the earth shake,


As I tramp through the grass;


Trees crack as I pass.


With horns in my mouth


I walk in the South,


Flapping big ears.


Beyond count of years


I stump round and round,


Never lie on the ground,


Not even to die.


Oliphaunt am I,


Biggest of all,


Huge, old, and tall.


If ever you'd met me


You wouldn't forget me.


If you never do,


You won't think I'm true;


But old Oliphaunt am I,


And I never lie.

* * * * *


‘That,’ said Sam, when he had finished reciting, ‘that’s a rhyme we have in the Shire. Nonsense maybe, and maybe not. But we have our tales too, and news out of the South, you know. In the old days hobbits used to go on their travels now and again. Not that many ever came back, and not that all they said was believed…~J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, 'The Black Gate is Closed'



 


Yule, 1295 Shire Reckoning


The Great Smials, The Shire



It was Isengar's first Yule celebrated at home since he'd gone off to Sea. He was of course, welcomed back home and heralded with open arms from his family. In fact, he was the talk of the party. Both positive ... and negative, depending on whom one listened to.


Most hobbits thought Isengar's fantastical tale of sighting an oliphaunt to be just that ... a tale to delight his nieces and nephews and nothing more. Few outside of the more adventurous members of the Took family truly believed in the existence of the mythical creatures ... just as few believed in faeries, magical rings, or even dragons. It just wasn't plain hobbit sense, many said.


Being the youngest child of twelve, Isengar was quite happy to suddenly be at the center of attention and to be able to share tales of his many Adventures. It would be these tales that would delight and spur the wild imaginations of his little Took nephews, Adalgrim, Flambard, and Sigismond, and even that of the more predictable and unadventurous wee Bilbo Baggins.


Eventually Isengar's poem about the mythical oliphaunt was included in a book of children's nursery rhymes. As the years passed by and Isengar returned to the Sea, the poem grew very popular amongst the hobbit children. The well-to-do learned their letters by copying the words of it and the poorer illiterate memorized the stanzas. The origins of the verse were soon purposefully forgotten however, save perhaps by the Tooks.


* * * * *


Solmath (February), 1392 Shire Reckoning


Bag End, The Shire



23-year old Frodo Baggins sighed as he sat at his desk working on the lessons Uncle Bilbo had set before him that morning. He stretched the growing kinks out of his back and yawned, before staring dismally at the numbers he'd scratched onto the practice ledger. Down the hallway he could hear little Sam attempting to read that poem about the oliphaunts. Bored with his own lesson, Frodo listened to Sam read. The eleven-year old child was doing quite well under his uncle's tutelage.


"Very good, Samwise," he heard Bilbo praise.


"Do oliphaunts truly exist, Mr. Bilbo?" Sam asked in wide-eyed wonder.


Frodo heard his uncle laugh cheerily before replying that he too once asked that very same question of his own mother, Belladonna Took. Frodo turned back to his figuring, a smile now upon his face.


"Do you ever think we'll see an oliphaunt one day, Mr. Frodo?" Sam asked eagerly of him later that morning during elevenses.


* * * * *


….but the Mûmak of Harad was indeed a beast of vast bulk, and the like of him does not walk now in Middle-earth; his kin that live still in latter days are but memories of his girth and majesty.


Sam drew a deep breath. ‘An Oliphaunt it was!’ he said. ‘So there are Oliphaunts, and I have seen one. What a life! But no one at home will ever believe me…’ ~J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, 'Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit'


 


Afteryule (January) 1, 1420 Shire Reckoning


The Great Smials, The Shire



Thain Paladin Took II walked into the dimly-lit sitting room located off of the Old Took's study. He'd had trouble sleeping and had decided to take a walk about the Great Smials when he'd noticed light coming forth from this seldom-used room. Upon entering the room, Paladin was surprised to discover his son.


Pippin lay sleeping curled up on the floor, one of Pearl’s exquisitely knitted blankets covered his bare legs and feet. Paladin sank down to the floor next to his only son, still unable to completely fathom the change that had come over his little lad since he’d gone off into the Wild with his cousins and Samwise Gamgee. With a gentle hand he gave Pippin’s auburn curls a tentative stroke. Pippin mumbled something unintelligible and snuggled closer to the hands that had reassured and protected him for all his life.


Paladin reached down and picked up the book Pippin had been reading. It was an old book of Took nursery rhymes that had been in the family for generations now. A small graphite stick rolled out from underneath the book across the hardwood floor.


Inside the book, marking the page containing the verses about the mythical Oliphaunt, was a loose sheet of folded parchment. Curious, Paladin unfolded the paper and recognizing Pippin’s handwriting, he began to read:


Oliphaunt am I


As grey as they say,


I can make the earth shake


And when I stomp, it feels like an earthquake ...


High upon my back,


I carry evil Men into battle


They do not care if my tusks crack


As I run with the pack


For as loud as thunder I sound


When my nose trumpets the sky


All who stand before me, tremble at my might


‘Mumakil!’ they shout


I run, trampling all in my sight.


I am bigger than the old stories tout


For Oliphaunt am I


Wounded, I lay down to die


Crushing all in my path,


Including little Hobbits found nearly under my side



Underneath the vivid words, was a rough sketch of the enormous beast Paladin had always thought as being of mythic proportions. "Oh, Pippin," he whispered. "What have you been witness to, my son?"


Paladin smiled in wistful remembrance as he recalled a time that now seemed so very long ago ... a time when he'd been privy to hearing his son ask the very same question he once had asked his own father as a lad. "Da, are oliphaunts real?"



Pippin stirred awake, his green eyes focusing on his father, who he once thought he would never see again. "They're real, Da," he whispered back, tears welling in his eyes as he recalled the horrific sight of dear Merry lying bleeding on the cold, hard ground, one of the gigantic beasts having nearly crushed him in its fall to death. "The Oliphaunts are real."


~The End~



Comments:

[User Picture]
From:grey_wonderer
Date:December 3rd, 2006 07:17 am (UTC)
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This was brilliant. The poem connecting them all through the years and the moment between father and son at the end was heartbreaking. This will go in my favorites. Great story!
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:December 3rd, 2006 08:25 am (UTC)

From Elemmírë

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Wow! I'm very honored and flattered, Grey Wonderer! Thank you for such kind words. One day I hope to expand on Isengar's tale, per request of Marigold. I'm very glad you enjoyed this so much!

~Elemmírë~

p.s. I LOVE</i> your icon with Pippin shouting 'I'm HUNGRY Merry!' ROTFL!!!
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:December 4th, 2006 05:50 am (UTC)

From Elemmírë

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Thank you very much, Gravity!

~Elemmírë~
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:December 4th, 2006 05:54 am (UTC)

From Elemmírë

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You're absolutely right--Pippin still needs his father's comfort ... and in many ways, that's a comforting thought to Paladin as well. He knows and hopefully understands at least some of what Pippin went through outside of the Shire. He can see his son is a changed lad, but a lad that still has need of him even though "growing up" during the journey.

I enjoyed writing this tremendously and I'm very glad you enjoyed Pippin's addition to the poem as well.

Thanks for reading/reviewing, SlightlyTookish!

~Elemmírë~
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From:surgicalsteel
Date:December 3rd, 2006 02:21 pm (UTC)
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Oh, a marvellous blend of movie and book - just lovely!
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:December 4th, 2006 05:56 am (UTC)

From Elemmírë

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Thank so very much, Surgical Steel!! I'm very glad you enjoyed!

~Elemmírë~
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From:shirebound
Date:December 3rd, 2006 03:01 pm (UTC)
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This is a marvelous progression through Time, linked by the poem... and by certain hobbits who venture far, seeing what others might never even imagine to be true. Wonderful!
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:December 4th, 2006 06:01 am (UTC)

From Elemmírë

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Thanks, Shirebound! Althought the hobbits had a poem about the oliphaunt, there were none who still lived and lay claim to actually seeing this enormous creature of Men's tales. The oliphaunt to the hobbits, therefore, became as a myth to them ... until the Travelers saw them, of course.

I had a lot of fun writing this one and per Marigold's request, I hope to one day eleborate more upon Isengar's (and Hildifon's)story.

Thank you again, Shirebound, for reading/reveiwing! *sends a warm, hobbity hug in your direction*

~Elemmírë~
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From:gloryunderhill
Date:December 3rd, 2006 03:07 pm (UTC)
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Wow, you crossed generations with this and it was seamless. I enjoyed this very much.
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:December 4th, 2006 06:02 am (UTC)

From Elemmírë

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Why thank you so kindly, Gloryunderhill! I'm glad you enjoyed this!

~Elemmírë~
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From:dreamflower02
Date:December 3rd, 2006 11:23 pm (UTC)
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What a plausible explanation for that poem! I really like how well thought out that was.

And it makes me wonder: the captain's words of warning to Isengar--could *that* be what happened to poor Hildifons? Stolen away into slavery in the South?

And the part at the end was very touching. Good blend of book and movie verse.
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:December 4th, 2006 06:10 am (UTC)

From Elemmírë

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Hi, Dreamflower! It's always a pleasure to hear from you. Thank you--it sounds like you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. :D

I like to be able to blend the two, book and film, every now and again, so long as they don't contradict one another. Both have their gaps obviously, but here while Pippin saw the oliphaunts in the movie, I'm sure that he must have seen them in the book as well charging the White City. In either event, I think he would have reacted to that sight and it would have lasting effects on him.

As for Hildifons and Isengar ... at the behest of our dear Marigold, I will one day elaborate more on the brothers' story. I've a few ideas (yes, the slavery bit is one of them) and I've added this bunny to my ever-growing hutch. *Sigh. So many bunnies and so little time to nurture them* :)

Thank you always, Dreamflower, for taking the time to read/review.

~Elemmírë~
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From:pearltook1
Date:December 4th, 2006 09:49 pm (UTC)
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"They're real, Da . . . The Oliphaunts are real." These words are almost chilling.

A wonderful story, Elemmírë! I love Hildifons and Isengar being a part of the stories and rhyms about oliphants.
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:December 8th, 2006 08:29 am (UTC)

From Elemmírë

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Thank you so much, Pearl Took! I'm glad you enjoyed. I'm also glad to see that Pippin's words had the desired effect--I wanted them to be chilling, foreboding, yet full of wonder as well.

I hope to continue the adventures of Hildifons and Isengar one day--it's on my own personal plot list anway.

~Elemmírë~
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