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  1. #1

    'How it came that the Shire Oak never sheds all of its leaves'

    'How it came that the Shire Oak never sheds all of its leaves'

    After having posted this line in the Lotro Beacon #40, some of you might have wondered what kind of fairy tale this might belong to; so I decided to give you a proper answer. After all, having you to wait for it in eternity wouldn't be nice to you fabulous people, would it?

    (this story is actually derived from some European fairytales that I collected in my personal library)

    Here it goes.

    Ted Sandyman stared at the wheel of his mill, that was churning steadily while the gear inside slowly turned a sack of grains into white, fine flour. It was doing well, actually everything was going well, but yet Ted wasn't content with it. It could have been better, there could be more Hobbits bringing in sacks of grain, and asking for his services, which were undoubtedly good; or it could just have been more business at all, or as the only miller he could as well demand a higher fee, or...

    Every now and then - or rather quite often - he found himself in this mood, and wished for a change that would somehow bring more income, more riches, until he was richer than all other Hobbits, even the Mayor and Mad Baggins, but no, it would not happen. Life was so unfair.

    The sack was empty, the flour done. He filled the outcome into another sack, handed it to his customer, cleaned the floor from the spilled dust, and went back to his brooding.

    The sun was setting in a wonderfully warm and quiet summer evening, and while the shadows grew over the Water, he heard the clip clop of horseshoes. 'Another customer, at nightfall?' he wondered, but the stranger who came over the bridge was no Hobbit with a wagon. Actually, his horse was much larger than a Hobbit pony, the figure of its leader was by all means way larger and riding on it; and as much as Ted tried to make out whether this long one was human or elven, he could not make it out even if he had used one of these devices that the men of Bree made for looking at tiny things - how again was that called, a magnifying glass? Whatever, his hooded robe covered everything, so that the most telling details, the ears, were totally out of sight.

    When the foreigner had reached his home and working place, he pulled at his reins and turned his head sidewards in a really strange manner. Ted could not tell if it was this screw-like move, or the fact that this figure was wearing gloves in the heat of summer, but it made his hair stand on end. If he had been able, he would have run away, but something glued his feet to the ground, and he stared at the shape with his mouth agape, shivering slightly.

    'I heard, you are not really happy with the progress of your business?' a hoarse, nearly voiceless voice was to be heard. It had to belong to the rider; yet it was hard to tell, as it would rather fill his head than the air.

    'Well, yes,' Ted Sandyman stuttered, 'er, no, it is going well, thank you. I get what I need without too much effort, if you know what I mean...' his voice trailed off.

    'You could still use some improvement, would you not?' asked the voice, 'I might be able to help you. See, I noticed that your companions don't come more often than they have to...' 'Yes, yes,' Ted replied hastily, 'I am running this mill, and they don't use, err, need it so often, this is why, nothing wrong with it, nothing at all.'

    'It could be changing,' the rider said in a way that made Ted take a step backwards, 'look at this ring here. It looks simple, but it is enchanted. If you put it on, you will become cery charming, and your compatriots may come for a visit much more often, and talk to you, have a cup of tea, you know? You could set up a tea house, or whatever you wish, and will have a better life then. And more money. And as I heard, you had also a crush on a certain wealthy lady?'

    'Well yes, no, she doesn't want...' Ted's voice faltered, but suddenly he gathered all of the courage he had, and asked, 'would make this ring make her interested in me? Anything else doesn't really, well, I am not really that much... oh, but if the ring would impress her...' he sighed.

    'You may have it,' replied the rider, 'but of course, I cannot give it for free.' 'What is it, that you want,' Ted asked faster than he would have liked to. 'It will give you a long life, too, don't worry,' the stranger said, 'but you have to be thankful for the one who created it. I ask you to be his servant afterwards.'

    Something in this demand was so wrong that Ted's common Hobbit sense was screaming: 'He's doing bad things to you', no matter what the stranger said to console him. 'No thank you,' Mr Sandyman retorted, 'I'd rather stay my own master, even if I remain unmarried; at least I will be free, maybe even in two ways of its meaning.'

    'You don't have to decide by now,' the robed figure answered, 'I will give you this ring by now as it is, so that you may try its effects for a while, and after you have done so, I will come back and ask you if you are still not willing to live with it. Note that this is not a gift, but a trial period, and I am fairly sure that by the time I have returned, you will have made up your mind. Here, take it.'

    At the next moment, the ring dropped into his hand, and he slipped it over his finger without even noticing it. 'How long will this trial last?' he asked. 'It is yours to decide,' the rider replied, 'but I think three to six months are a proper time to think it over. Until then you will have convinced this lady to be your fiancée, and will understand the value of this ring. Tell me then.' He took up the reins.

    'And this will be when?' Ted asked again. 'As I have said, it is your decision,' was the answer, 'what do you think, when will you have made up your mind?' 'In fall,' Ted said without thinking, and then he startled. 'Fall, that is, when the leaves are falling' the voiceless voice said, 'isn't it? So I will be back when all leaves have left shrub and tree, and are lying on the ground. Good, this will be the deal. I will come back in fall. Until then, be blessed by the One.'

    With this, he turned his horse around and rode back to the bridge. 'Wait, i didn't mean it,' Ted stammered, but the figure didn't listen, instead he spurred the horse which ran away with a hollow sound that didn't fit the pavement that it was moving over. 'Wait,' Ted Sandyman cried again, but to no avail. In the end he found himself left with a ring that suddenly seemed way too heavy for its size; yet he could not get rid of it for a reason he couldn't even tell.

    The following days he was worried about this strange event; but when Hobbits dropped in for a chat way more often then he was used to he forgot about it, especially as his lady started to become interested in him, or his better income, whichever it might have been.

    While the time was passing, Yavanna felt that something was amiss in Middle Earth. In the beginning, she couldn't tell what or where it was, but then it started to grow, like a spot of mould, and it began to distort the harmony that once had been prevalent in this place. When she looked over to the continent, she found that the mould had started to grow right in the middle of the most peaceful landscape that could be found in all of Middle Earth, the Shire that was tended by the Hobbits. 'How can this be?' she asked herself.

    She decided to send a servant of hers over to the shire, and as she was the mistress of plants and eagles, she asked one of the latter to fly over to this place and report everything that he would find.

    This watch took its time and not everything was visible to him, as Ted was often within his mill, so the eagle had to give up his usual habits or circling up in the air, and landed on the roof of the mill, listening to the talking that happened inside.

    'This ring, why don't you tell me who made it?' he heard a female Hobbit say. It was the fiancée of Ted, and she was eyeing his new jewelry with a kind of envy. 'This is a wonderful piece. Imagine how we walk to this jeweller and ask him to make two more rings, one for you and one for me, wouldn't this be great?'

    'Well - if I knew him, I would,' Ted answered, 'but actually it is only, temporary. Someone brought it here to - uh, have a look on it, to keep it while he is away, abroad, uh...' 'If it is so,' the lady seemed to be deeply disappointed, 'can't you ask him then, where he got it from? You surely have the money for it and another, don't you? Just hand him the amount, tell him to bring these, and everything will be alright, won't you?'

    'Well,' Ted replied, 'I don't know exactly when he will be back. Of course I will ask him to do that, and ask for the price, too, so...' 'You don't know when he will be back?' The tone in the voice of the fiancée assumed a slight shrill. 'Yes I know,' Ted tried to reassure her, 'just not the day. But he will be back when all leaves have fallen.' 'Oh good, very good...' The eagle decided that he had heard enough to return to his mistress and tell what had befallen this once beautiful country.

    'Oh no,' Yavanna said, 'does this mean, evil has made its way into the shire?' 'I cannot tell what kind of ring this is that they were talking about,' the eagle replied, 'because it was hidden by the roof. But I could feel its presence, and it was not good.'

    Then I must do something about it,' the Valar said, 'and promptly.' She wandered around the room. 'He said he would be back when all leaves have fallen,' suddenly she turned to the eagle, 'when all leaves have fallen, did he say this?' 'Every word he said,' the eagle replied, 'and in this order.'

    'So, to save him, the leaves may not fall,' Yavanna pondered, 'but leaves have to fall. If I would stop it, I would break the rules that I once made myself. So, what to do about it?' Suddenly she snapped her fingers. 'Yes, that's it. They will fall, but not at this day. Hurry back to the shire and tell me when the fall begins, and watch all trees and shrubs. Tell me of each leaf that you can watch, and in which condition the plants are.'

    While the eagle raised his wings and soared back, Yavanna began to hum a song. 'Dear Yew, keep your leaves. Dear birch, do as you are told to. Dear Elm, do the same.' She went through all the tree species that she had created, until she came to the shire oak. 'Dear oak, listen to me. Shed your leaves only when I tell you to.' Then she stopped singing.

    Several weeks later, when the rider came back to the mill, Ted knew it at once by the hollow, deep clip clop of the large horse that the stranger was sitting on. Finally the visitor had reached the mill, and he turned his head in this same disturbing screw-like manner as Ted had seen it before, a head that was completely hidden beneath a hooded robe.

    'Did you make up your mind?' the voice asked plainly. 'Well, you shouldn't be here by now.' Ted Sandyman didn't even know where he took the courage from, that he could answer in such a way. 'Don't you see? The leaves haven't fallen yet.'

    'They have,' replied the rider, 'see the empty shrubs? The tree-' he suddenly startled and looked at the oak that Ted Sandyman pointed at. 'What is this? It still has leaves?'

    'Dry, yes', the miller retorted, 'but they are still on their twigs.' 'How can this beeee...' the robed figure hissed, 'thiss iss not natshural...' He had no choice but turn around. 'I will be back in Winter,' he promised, then he rode out of sight.

    But in winter, the leaves were still there, so that the stranger had to announce that he will be back at the end of the season. 'Then these leaves will have left the tree,' the voice hissed, 'no one has ever seen a tree with dead leaves between the green, and this tree will not change this behaviour'

    The winter passed, and the first flowers of spring broke through the soil. Ted Sandyman watched the oak tree more frightened than ever. His fiancée had not witnessed these visits, so she could not understand what was haunting him. She only found that he had lost interest in her after their discussion about the rings, because it had opened his eyes and shown him that all that she had been after, was the money; and their relationship had cooled down considerably.

    He was standing outside his mill again, and while doing so, heard the clip clop from afar that he had feared so much all the time. 'Well, it looks like I finally have to make up my mind,' he thought, didn't I already? What good is a ring that brings only those to me that look at the surface, and still keeps the faithful away?' He gazed at the golden band, pulled it from his finger - strange, all the time he had been unable to remove it, and now it would nearly slide off on its own- and flung it in a wide arch into the Water.

    'Too late,' he cried towards the rider who had nearly reached his mill, 'I've decided not to keep it. There it lies; if you want it back, go and dive for it.'

    'Too late for you,' the voice hissed in a mocking way, 'the oak tree had to shed its last leaf, right when you pulled the ring off.' Ted screamed because it was true; the last leaf was hitting the ground. But then something wonderful happened.

    Right where the last withered leaf had left the twig, a green tip had already come out of its bud, much faster than usual, and unfolded its leaves. They were tiny, but everyone could see that there were leaves. 'There,' Ted Sandyman cried, 'the oak has a leaf. It is not bare, it is alive.'

    The rider raised his horse with a sharp hiss. 'Betrayal,' the voice screamed, 'who was it that betrayed me so? He must be stronger than I.' With this, he turned his horse around and thundered back across the bridge, cursing all the time until he had left the shire, never to be seen again.

    But from then on, all shire oaks would keep their leaves until they would sprout new ones from their buds, and so protect the Shire from all evil that may be, forever.

    Greetings, Polymachos
    Treufried, human Level 115 Lore Master, formerly from Maiar (DE), now on Belegaer
    Räuberhöhle auf Belegaer, Breelandsiedlung, Ochsbott, Lange Straße 5. Vorsicht, Fallen!
    Alexophor, human Level 115 Hunter, formerly a Nimrod, now on Landroval
    Awkward Animal Arena in Breeland Homesteads, 6 Long Street, Ersward (Landroval)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007


    This was very entertaining, I loved it! You sure know how to write. I am sure others will love it, too.

  3. #3
    Thanks for your kind reply. I hope you didn't mind the the two typos that I found afterwards, after having tried to eliminate all of them. They are like bad pennies, if you think you have dealt with them, they are turning up again.

    Greetings. Polymachos
    Treufried, human Level 115 Lore Master, formerly from Maiar (DE), now on Belegaer
    Räuberhöhle auf Belegaer, Breelandsiedlung, Ochsbott, Lange Straße 5. Vorsicht, Fallen!
    Alexophor, human Level 115 Hunter, formerly a Nimrod, now on Landroval
    Awkward Animal Arena in Breeland Homesteads, 6 Long Street, Ersward (Landroval)

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Typos never bother me, I do a lot of them when playing the game, walking & typing..lol..they only bother me when I cannot figure out what was meant, & they are confusing the story. Great fun reading your story. What fairy tales etc. did you use for ideas? I have always loved fairy tales, folk tales, that sort of story. Thank you for posting it so we can read it!

  5. #5
    Well, my library consists of more than one hundred books with tales from all over the world; and it is hard to remember which one(s) contain(s) this legend. I think, I found it two or three times in various tomes. These books are all written in German and old, so you couldn't even find one on your own any more.

    I found a corresponding story on an Austrian page, http://www.sagen.at/texte/sagen/oest...ddieeiche.html which contains all the elements of this story. A farmer in distress, a lower devil hunting for souls, a contract, riches, and the oak that saves the farmer's soul.
    Googling for similar stories, I found this one in English: http://talesofnature.com/2017/03/07/...in-winter-028/
    As you see, this story can vary a lot, even change its protagonist, as the main theme is not about a certain person, but the fact that evil beings are getting outwitted, because they are unaware that oaks keep their leaves well into spring.

    Greetings, Polymachos
    Treufried, human Level 115 Lore Master, formerly from Maiar (DE), now on Belegaer
    Räuberhöhle auf Belegaer, Breelandsiedlung, Ochsbott, Lange Straße 5. Vorsicht, Fallen!
    Alexophor, human Level 115 Hunter, formerly a Nimrod, now on Landroval
    Awkward Animal Arena in Breeland Homesteads, 6 Long Street, Ersward (Landroval)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
    That's cool.
    Community Manager, Lord of the Rings Online
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    Support: help.standingstonegames.com

  7. #7
    Such a wonderful story! Thank You!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Sarasota, FL, USA
    Quote Originally Posted by Polymachos View Post
    'How it came that the Shire Oak never sheds all of its leaves'
    Thanks for sharing.
    << Co-founder of The Firebrands of Caruja on Landroval >>
    Ceolford of Dale, Dorolin, Tordag, Garberend Bellheather, Colfinn Belegorn, Garmo Butterbuckles, Calensarn Nimlos, Langtiriel, Bergteir



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