If You Go Down to the Woods Today, Beware of a Big Surprise

by Laiquendi

It was a dark and gloomy night as a heavy fog clung to the ground like a damp blanket that had been sucked on for far too long. A low rumbling was heard in the distance, its deep and mournful aching filling the air with dread and distrust. The stars were hidden from sight until just the darkness hang overhead, like a big thick roof that stretch into the sky forever. The night was still and clear as four small figures tiptoed carefully across the moors.

“Pssst! Frodo!” One of the figures whispered into the night, his swaddling clothes muffling all but the loudest cry.

“What?!” The lead figure whispered back, when suddenly his left foot made an indignant squelching noise. “Oh look what you’ve made me do now, Merry!”

“What happened?! What happened?! Is it going to eat us?!” The fat slow figure in the back began protesting.

“No, but if your stomach doesn’t stop rumbling, Sam, then I’m going to gag you and dangling carrots menacingly in the air!” The third figure yelled out in annoyance.

“It’s all over my foot!” The lead figure, Frodo, exclaimed with a cry. “This’ll never wash out! Has anyone got a light?”

A brilliant light suddenly shot out from behind Frodo, threatening to blind him if he dared to look.

“Ok! Who brought the flashlight?” The second figure, Merry, protested. “This is suppose to be a haunted story, who brings a flashlight on a haunted story!?”

“Sorry, Mr Merry. Sorry, Mr Pippin. Sorry, Mr. Frodo, sir.” Sam bemoaned as he fumbled with the strange apparatus. “I just thought it would be useful, you see, being in the dark and all.”

“How are you even able to power it. Sam? There aren’t any batteries in Middle-Earth!” Pippin said quizzically, trying to examine the large device that Sam held around his sodden blanket.

“Potatoes, Mr Pippin.”

Everyone suddenly turned and looked at Sam with disbelief.


“Yep! Mr Aragorn told me that this baby would get 10 volts to a spud. Good for at least 30 seconds, not counting recharge, if you get my understanding. The King Edward’s have a lot higher wattage, but too expensive for my tastes. These Maris Piper’s are cheaper but have more raw power, if you know what I mean. Just ram these little rods into the skin and hey presto! Power!”

“Anyway…” Frodo continued, examining his foot in the newly discovered light source.

“Ooo… you’ve got a nasty case of SITM there, Frodo. Could be nasty.” Merry said as he spied the offending article.

“SITM? What’s that?” Pippin countered quickly.

“Stick In The Mud.”

“Ouch! Nasty! That stuff’ll never wash out!”

“Well we’ll just have to lump it for now.” Frodo interrupted, “On with the show… and turn off that flashlight Sam, before you blind someone!”

The bright light suddenly vanished and the four lonely figures were left standing in completely darkness. All alone with nothing around them, frightened and scared like children who had lost their parents at a theme park, but this time there was no attendant to make a loudspeaker announcement.

The small party continued on across the moorland, Frodo’s foot squelching loudly every few seconds like an annoyingly out of synch clock.

“You know Frodo, maybe you should get that seen too. It’s not like we’re very stealthy, what with you announcing our presence and all.” Pippin piped up after a short while, as the squelching continued unabated.

“It’ll be fine, we’re going to keep going!” Frodo said reassuringly as the party continued on its squelching trek. Sluurrrp. Slurrrrp. Slurrrrp.

“Well if you ask me, Frodo, it’s not getting any quieter. I know this good herbal remedy of my Auntie Flora… or was it my Cousin Gertrude? No, wait, Cousin Gertude is married to Merry’s uncle Edmund, and he’s the brother of my sister Lily’s best friend’s husband Bramble. No, wait…” Pippin stopped again, running off names on his fingers.

“Come on, Pip! It’ll be alright!” Frodo said, his voice becoming more annoyed as the rambling continued.

“My Old Gaffer used to stick plums on muddy foots.” Sam suddenly said.

“I heard the juice got sticky between the toes though.” Merry responded, turning to face Sam, or wherever he thought Sam was in the darkness.

“Oh no, plums are no good.” Pip persisted. “A good damson cordial will do the trick. Soaks up the mud like a sieve, and stops split ends too!”

“No one’s going to do anything to my foot! Now come on!” Frodo bemoaned as he dragged the group onwards.

“Where exactly are we supposed to be going anyway, Frodo? I was rather distracted by this young lassie at the bar, and you know, she had these rather fine jugs of ale. And..” Pippin’s incessant talking resumed quickly.

“We’re going to capture the treasure of the Were-Squirrel of Lower Hollow. Hidden deep in the murky depths of the Old Forest, where no Hobbit dare to tread, or risk loosing their head!” Frodo spoke softly, the tension in his voice almost palpable.

“The Were-Squirrel… oooooohhh.” Pippin exclaimed in surprised.

“Are you sure it was the Were-Squirrel?” Merry jumped in. “I thought it was the Horridly Disfigured Tree of Old Farmer Juniper. You know, the one that cut off his own head with a pitchfork after the pig stampede in ’89?”

“Oh that one! My second cousin Artichoke rode one of those pigs, don’t you now. Came 32nd, I believe. But then again he wasn’t the most agile of the Tooks, must be his mother’s side.” Pippin continued.

“What does a Were-Squirrel look like Mr Frodo?” Sam squealed, wrapping his blue and white-stripped picnic blanket tighter around his chest.

“Strider told me that stories say it was once a Hobbit that was bitten by a rabid squirrel! Every 3rd night of the new month, that Hobbit was cursed to undergo an ugly transformation and turn into a huge squirrel! Praying on the local villagers buy throwing nuts at them, and other annoying things that squirrels do.” Frodo told the group, his voice dropping to but a whisper.

“Didn’t your Auntie Nora undergo a similar transformation, Pip?” Merry asked.

“No, that was glandular. Although they saw that if look at her beard really hard you’ll see stars.” Pip responded quickly.

“Really?!” Sam shouted in surprise.

“Yep, but I think that’s just from the big rolling pin she hits people with.” Pip finished as the look on Frodo’s face became more irritated.

The four figures continued their journey across the dark and muddy plain with intermittent squelches until Frodo suddenly stopped, causing Merry to stumble and fall ontop of him. Carefully picking himself up and scrapping off the mud, Frodo gathered up the group and threw a dark look at Merry.

“We’ve come to the edge of the Old Forest… Inside is the lair of the Were-Squirrel, hidden high amongst the trees. There is no turning back now….” Frodo proclaimed to the huddled group, an air of calm filling the misty fog around them.

“Well we could turn back.” Merry quickly said. “I know this good Inn just around the corner, does all day breakfasts!”

“Oooh!” Sam jumped up quickly, as Pippin followed suit before being dragged back by Frodo.

“No one is going to chicken out of this one! We’re off to see the Were-Squirrel!” He replied sternly, bring the situation under control. Then giving his friends a not-so gentle push, Frodo propelled the party into the trees to continue the quest.

It seemed to be even darker amongst the trees than it had been on the moor, and the four Hobbits kept bumping into each other, or trees, before Merry called a quick halt to the proceedings.

“I am all up for investigating the deadly Were-Walrus, or whatever, but unless we get some more light I’m going to turn back and get some breakfast!” He yelled loudly, making no attempt to move before being quickly bowled over by a blind Sam. “Sam, where’s that flashlight of yours?”

Merry heard a lot of fumbling around, before suddenly being assaulted by the mighty power of the potato.

“Found it!” Sam’s voice floated from somewhere beyond the bright whiteness as Merry waved his arms emphatically in the air to block the light.

“Turn it off! Turn it off!” He shouted with alarm before the light just as quickly stopped.

“If we are going to use it, I suggest you go in front, Sam. We’ll follow behind…” Frodo said, pushing Sam to the front of the party. Pippin grabbed the blinded Merry and pulled him behind Frodo as Sam stood on his own at the front.

“But, but..” Sam protested slowly, realising that it meant he was eaten first.

“Come on Sam! That-a-way!” Pippin pointed as it dawned on Sam that he did not get a choice in the matter.

The bright beam shot out again as Sam powered it up with another potato, and pressed forward into the murky depths.

Their journey proceeded without incident, save for the continual fizzing of Sam’s potatoes as they ran out of energy. The fried remains looked golden and crispy as Merry quickly decided it was worth the risk of eating. They continued like this until suddenly a deep moaning emerged from the dimness of the trees.

“What was that?!” Merry squealed, holding on to Pippin for dear life.

“Sam’s stomach again.” Frodo replied, “Or Merry’s, from all those fried potatoes most likely.”

“Aint me, Mr Frodo, sir!” Sam responded quickly.

“Then what was it?!” Merry squealed again.

“The Were-Squirrel….” Pippin announced with awe. “And it sounds pretty hungry, either that or it not getting enough fibre in its diet. Much like my Great-Uncle Dandelion…”

“Not now Pip!” The other three shouted, before drawing closer to Sam and his flashlight.

The party pressed forward slowly now, swinging the light back and forth as someone thought they saw something moving amongst the trees.

“Uh.. Mr Frodo, sir… I think we have a problem.” Sam muttered as the flashlight began to slowly dim. “It looks like the potatoes are running out."

“I knew we shouldn’t have let Pippin talk us into a potato salad when we left Bag End!” Merry exclaimed, despite having had at least three portions of the meal.

“It’s all right, people, the Were-Squirrel doesn’t eat Hobbits…” Frodo said reassuredly, before another load moan ran through the trees.

All three Hobbits screamed loudly, before Sam realised what it was and then gave a belated scream of his own.

“How do you know it doesn’t eat Hobbit, hmmm? How do you know!” Pippin yelled in horror, his eyes wide with shock. “My nephew Cedric eats cabbages… and he’s suppose to be a vegetarian! A vegetarian I tell you! We’re all doomed!”

Another deep moaning sound echoed through the trees, then unexpectedly a large nut fell on Sam’s head.

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!” Merry shrieked, before letting go of Pippin and running wildly off into the forest.

Pippin just stood silently, his face pale white as he pointed at the offending nut. Frodo reached down and examined it before realising that Sam had passed out from the shock.

“It’s just a hazelnut. Probably disturbed from the tree in the wind.” He said, turning the nut over in his hand. “Nothing to worry about.”

Then a second nut fell from the sky and Pippin fainted almost immediately.

“Well you two are a lot of good aren’t you!” Frodo moaned as he tried to wake the pair.

Frodo managed to eventually rouse both of his remaining companions as they gathered stock of what had happened so far.

“It was only two nuts. Nothing to worry about.” Frodo said, attempting to console his friends.

He was rudely interrupted by Pippin who was staring off into the distance, his pale face turning even whiter as he tried to mumble something to Frodo.

“Www…wwer…whairskkwiral!!” Pippin shouted, freaking out as a dark shadow loomed in the fading light of Sam’s torch.
Following Pippin’s lead, Sam screamed his head off and then turned to ran after the vanished Merry, closely followed by the mumbling Pip.

“What?! There’s nothing there!” Frodo cried out, standing alone in the woods in the last remaining vestiges of light.

The final potato fizzed and sizzled, giving off a crispy fried smell as the flashlight failed. Frodo was left, on his own, standing in the darkness of the Old Forest.

“Boo.” Came a voice suddenly from behind, causing Frodo to finally scream like a girl and run headlong into the trees.

Aragorn stepped out of the shadows and wandered over to the pile of fried potatoes, retrieving the abandoned flashlight from where it had fallen.

“That’ll teach them to steal my things!” He said slyly to himself, a satisfied grin plastered across his face.

“Were-Squirrel indeed!” Before another nut fell from the tree above him.

Looking suspiciously around, Aragorn quickly departed as a low moan was heard amongst the bouncing branches….