The Old Forest
The Old Forest
or People Don't Go in There
"Oh yes they do!" said Merry, "The Brandybucks go in--occasionally
when the fit takes them. We have a private entrance. Frodo went in
once, long ago. I have been in several times: usually in daylight, of
course, when the trees are sleepy and fairly quiet." A Conspiracy
"But you won't have any luck in the Old Forest," objected Fredegar. "No one ever has any luck in there. You'll get lost."
Fredegar's fussing brought to Merry's mind the one time Frodo had
ventured into the Old Forest. It was long ago when he was a young lad
and Frodo barely in his 'tweens.
A precocious 6 year old, Merry already knew every nook and cranny of
the labyrinthine Brandy Hall. He also knew of, and had seen, the
private gate leading through the great hedge and into the Old Forest.
It was on a fine summer day when Frodo was watching Merry that they took an early morning walk along the hedge.
"Couthin Fwodo, wanna thee a thecret Doo'h?" Pronouncing r's had always
been difficult for little Merry, but now that his front teeth were
missing, he had trouble with his s's, too.
Frodo raised his eyebrows, giving Merry a sidelong glance, and smiled. "A secret door, eh? Where is it?"
"Juth follow me, Fwodo!" and Merry tugged excitedly until they reached
a small culvert partially overgrown with vines and shrowded with webs
still glistening with dew. And if he hadn't been so close, Frodo would
not have seen the passageway as anything more than a slight gap between
the great boles of the hedge.
When their eyes adjusted to the darkness, they could see the rough
brickwork lining a tunnel, leading down among the deep roots. A cool
draft of moist, earthy air freshened their faces as they decended to an
old iron gate.
There was no obvious latch. Frodo groped along the edges, trying to find a way to open it, without success.
"I know how to do it!" piped Merry, his shrill voice pinging an echo along the low ceiling.
He knelt down to the iron base and grasped what appeared to be an
ornamental ironwork of leafy vines, squeezing as hard as he could, but
failing to open the latch.
"Let me help you, Merry-lad," said Frodo as he added his strength to
the effort. A satisfying 'click', and the gate groaned noisily on its
"Let'th go, Fwodo!" Merry would have dragged him through but Frodo stopped.
"No, Merry, I think we've had enough Adenture for today!" He was using
that infuriating grown-up tone that always made Merry chaffe stubbornly
at the bit. "Besides, it's almost time for Elevensies, and then it's
rest-time for you, my lad."
"Aww!" Merry whined. Though secretly he was glad because he was
beginning to feel hungry, and the mention of food had quite made up his
mind to go along.
After a good meal, Frodo put Merry down for a rest in his room. The
great Brandy Hall was never empty, so there was no lack of supevision.
But as soon as Frodo closed the door, Merry was up with his forehead
pressed against the window, wishing he could be on another Adventure.
He fell asleep, head cradled in his arm, sitting on the window seat.
He woke when he heard Frodo enter the room, breathing hard and looking
rather pale. Merry only looked at him with wide-eyed alarm.
"You know those stories they tell about the Old Forest? Well, they're true!" Frodo collapsed on Merry's bed and closed his eyes.
"What happened, Fwodo?" Merry's eyes were still wide, but now they sparkled with keen curiosity.
Frodo's eyes flew open, but to Merry's great consternation, all he
said, after an involuntary shudder, was a whispered, "They're alive!"
Merry's reverie was interrupted by Fredegar's emphatic statement, "People don't go in there."
"Oh yes they do!" said Merry. "The Brandybucks go in--occasionally when
the fit takes them. We have a private entrance. Frodo went in once,
long ago. I have been in several times: usually in daylight, of course,
when the trees are sleepy and fairly quiet."