* See legend below for possibly much-needed explanations
Yesterday at my grandmother’s palace many folk from all around the land gathered to talk, drink, and eat tourtière made from meat that is found in no grocery store, which is, rather, hunted down in the wilds by the brave uncles of the family. Me and my mom (from the race of Men) came up to the great, sparkling white house, clad in our better garments. She went on ahead proudly, ready to deploy her social powers and prowess in the strange language of Quebecois French, as I lingered behind her, staring out past my helmet with one hand on my Sacred Book and the other stuffed into my pocket, where I hid a bit of elvish bread just in case the supper was too gross, or the meat in the pie was too moosey. We came into the grand entryway, where a forest of boots sat on the rugs beneath clouds of winter coats, and were greeted with a warm swell of conversation and the bustle of people. All sorts of folk were already gathered there. An old halfling woman, known for her odd ways, bustled up to me and stuffed a paper Christmas tree in my hand, telling me bossily to engage in the party game that I didn’t really want to engage in. Nonetheless I took the token, and then moved through the crowds to find my cousin, The King of Pistachios, tall and familiar, soaring above the heads of the French hobbits and even of some of the Men. We sat by the great fireplace and traded tales. Then we moved on to an alcove near to the grand kitchen, where hobbits and Men alike bustled to and fro among the enormous stoves, where full pigs roasted over flames that leapt higher than the heads of giants – and somewhere in that bustle of fire and food was the Hostess herself, that which Men call Grandmaman. No one knows if Grandmaman is hobbit or Man – she seems to be from the same kin as Tom Bombadil, mysterious and strange, but magical and wise to the land and its people and its laws – as well as its food.
I, who can give myself no title, and the King of Pistachios, and my fair mother sat in a quieter corner of the bustling palace, watching the hobbits, the Men, and the odd Elf go past. For the most part the gatherers were unknown to me, folk from distant places indeed, mostly hobbits, who take family connections very seriously – but there were Men among them, stout of heart, and a scattering of Elves who were somehow related. At one point in the night, while I stood near to the glittering Tree hung with its array of ornaments, and white birds cleaning their feathers deep in the musky pine branches, the door opened yet again, and looking up suddenly, I saw the Pale Queen enter, flanked by her two Men; her skin was even whiter than snow, and almost dusty, while her eyes gazed powerfully and her blue clothes caught the eyes of all who saw her. She was the sister of the Gentle Voice, who came after her, and was even more great; and after him, her lover, who has no title. They joined our party in the quiet alcove we had chosen for ourselves, and the Gentle Voice talked with my mother and with me, while we quietly went to get our food and eat it. One of the hobbit children ran past endless times with an unfathomable energy, and put pistachios (most of which had been already eaten by the King of Pistachios) into my hand as a game. Then he ran off again, and came back later; some wondered if there was Elf magic at work, which would explain that particular hobbit’s frightful energy.
While we sat there, the hobbits and Men conversed gaily, and glasses shattered quite by accident, caught up as people were in the spirit of Christmas – and Grandmaman whirled around, offering snails and melted cheese, which our company politely refused; in the air was cheer and fun and the careless happiness of such a momentous gathering. I talked some with the King of Pistachios, who, much to his misfortune, knew not the language of French. I myself spoke it little, and was more inclined to listen to the strange tales and conversations that seethed in such a lively way in the air. I ate good food and talked just a bit with some other Men and hobbits, and so the feast passed in its gentle whirlwind.
At one time there was a whole lot of us gathered in the alcove, and we were talking. Even I was somehow caught up in the conversation, though I felt in danger of being foolish, with so many ears turned my way – and the lover of the Pale Queen, at one point, called me he. I am, of course, a man, though few can see it past the terrible curse that was bestowed on me at the time of my birth, when I was cruelly made a “she” – though, possessing some insight that the others didn’t, the man did call me so, much to the chagrin of one of the hobbits, who quickly corrected him. My fair mother, as fair as always, said that it was quite all right, a fine mistake to be made (for she is one who knows of my curse), but I am not sure the others heard. In any case, the issue was immediately dropped, and at that moment, overcome, I stole away from the table and sought a quieter place. In one of the enormous mirrors that line the great front hall of Grandmaman’s palace I looked at myself, and there saw a boy in his simple dark garments, with his Sacred Book still in his hand, and his eyes staring sadly from beneath his helmet, which he wore at all times to deflect the world’s unkindness, and the arrows or stones shot from above. Recalling the unknowing words of the man, I smiled, but it turned into a grimace, and I had to stop looking.
So the night then came to an end, and the hobbits, with bellies full of bread, wine, and tourtière, shrugged on their winter coats and headed out into the night; the Men too, followed by the small number of Elves. I left with my mother and the King of Pistachios – we rode our horses out into the snowy nighttime, back into our small house upon the hill, next to the cold and perilous forest, and slept softly through the hours until the dawn brought snow and brightness to the land once more.
– French people hunt various wild animals and stick them in a doughy pie crust, and we all eat it and like it.
– are these.