The Early Years of Gandalf Greyhame, aka as Mithrandir........and some previously unknown facts about his brothers............with heartfelt and humble apologies to the creator of Harry Potter, and to all the charming folks who love H. P. and his adventures..............this is derivative, but it is not an Imitation....and no disrespect was intended.....and we hopes none is taken.......
Fred and Mabel Eyestarry lived in a tiny thatched cottage on the outskirts of Upper Twitfield, near Lower Harboiledeg, about half a league from the cricket ground at Fallowfield. They married young and lived a reasonably happy life for some years. But the one cloud on their low horizon was the sad fact that they were childless. Mabel had done up the smaller of their two bedrooms as a nursery and she waited with breathless expectancy, that faded to mild anticipation, for the arrival of the Stork. The Stork failed to put their chimney on his flight plan and year after year passed with no red-faced squalling baby occupying the cunning cradle that Fred had fashioned from withy (from the Withy Windle), and that Mabel had decorated and padded with white flannel and mauve rickrack. Fred would bicycle off to the Withy Windle Waterworks every morning with his lunch bucket bouncing in the carrier basket, while Mabel kept house and visited the mums in the village and drank gallons and gallons of strong, milky tea.
Fred's job kept him hopping, as he said, cleaning the intake pipes and watching for beastly boys swimming nekkid in the reservoir, but Mabel began to be bored and restless. She started to smoke cigarettes and took to putting brandy in her afternoon tea. She fell to making eyes at the Postman, and ordered stacks of brochures for Foreign Cruises. There were Independent Films (some with subtitles) shown in the cinema at Fallowfield and Mabel became a Marlon Brando fan, and quite admired Dirk Bogarde's work.
Then a crisis occurred in the Stork Baby Assembly Factory near Leeds. Six boy babies were left over on one production run and had to be delivered Somewhere soon! "What about that Eyestarry couple?" the Plant Manager queried. "They've been waiting a while."
"But six at once? Isn't that a bit unusual?" the Shipping Manager asked. "For one thing, it's quite a load for any of our delivery chaps. Might have to send two."
"This is an emergency. Send two Storks if you have to, but get those babies out tonight! They're clogging up our facilities something fierce," the Plant Manager urged.
Thus it was that there was great excitement in the humble cottage at Upper Twitfield. Mabel "was come all over queer" just after Tea, and thought she ought to lie down a while. Fred became worried and sent for the Doctor, then took Mabel a "drop of summat hot" while they waited.
"How are you feeling, luv?" he asked tenderly.
"Ooooh, Fred," she moaned. "I've got such a tummy ache! I do hope Doctor hurries!"
Doctor arrived just in time. One by one the babies popped into this world. "Doctor," Fred whispered. "Maybe we should snuff the candle. I think the light's attracting them!"
"No, no, Fred," the Doctor laughed. "How you lay people mix things up! But I must admit, it's just like watching a doughnut machine.....my goodness! Here comes number five! Number six! I think....yes, I think....that's the last one." Doctor wiped his forehead and handed the last baby to poor confused Mabel. "Well, Mabel," he said. "Quite the armful, aren't they?"
Mabel burst into tears. "Whatever are we going to do? There's only one cradle! How am I to feed them? Think of washing all those nappies!"
Doctor patted her hand. "Now, now, Mabel. Don't get all atwitter! I'll send Mrs. Hogfoot over. She'll be thrilled to help you. Not every day six get born at once! What are they? Sixtuplets?" He packed his things away in his usual brisk manner. "I'll pop by in a day or two, Mabel, to see how you get on. Fred, you give your little wife a hand here. She's got rather a lot on her plate now, you know."
Poor Mabel did indeed have a lot on her plate. But Fred and Mrs. Hogfoot played their parts and within a week the care and feeding of six young Eyestarries was down to a routine. The babies were named, of course, and each one had a tag about his neck, so that they could be kept straight. They were: Gandalf, Saruman, Radagast, Pallando, Alatar, and George. Mabel was fond of romance, and the first five names were from one of her favourite tales. But George was named for Fred's dad, as was only proper, since George was the Firstborn.
Gifts poured in from every part of the Kingdom. A new model Washboard from the Acme Washboard Works, with a packet of Strong Laundry Powder taped to it. A dozen flannel nappies from the Flannel Nappy Firm in Fallowfield. A case of Pureed Prunes from Petunia's Puree Partnership. A five Pound gift certificate from the Grocer in Upper Hardboiledeg. The Eyestarries were left speechless. They could scarcely describe their feelings about the generosity displayed by their countrymen.
Time passed. Six little beds nearly filled the smaller of their two bedrooms. Six little beds, six little chests of drawers. Six of everything! Washing nappies had nearly worn the ribs off the washboard and Mrs. Hogfoot complained for years about the damage done to her hands by the laundry soap. But the Eyestarry babies became the Eyestarry boys as Nature intended, and while Mabel never really knew whether she was on her head or on her heels, things hummed along nicely for about ten years. She gave up smoking, of course, to set a good example. (But one wonders if it was too late. At least one of the boys became a smoker in his later life.) There were no more trips to the Cinema, and Dirk and Marlon were forgotten in the hurly-burly of her daily life. She sometimes saw her face in the mirror and wondered where that carefree young matron had gone and she tried very hard to think things were better as they were....
George became the ipso facto leader of this little brotherhood. He seemed born to run things, actually. George seemed to absorb knowledge from the very air. Where to fish so that they caught something other than old boots and empty ale jars. How to play football. The rules of Cricket. (That alone proved that George was extraordinarily gifted!) Naughty songs, and rude words. Gandalf often argued with George, but George could nearly always outtalk him; Gandalf often got even by putting toads in George's bed, or tying his socks together. George dealt with these little matters without bothering his Mum and Dad. He displayed wisdom early, and tried hard to be tolerant of his Five brothers, hoping his maturity and commonsense would rub off on them. They all wished they could be like George, so they would Fit In, but sometimes Gandalf seemed to take a wicked delight in being Different. It did not help that he, like the others, went Gray early and had a long, full beard by the time he was eight. George did not, of course. He remained pink-cheeked and brown haired until he was 47.
The Five, as poor Fred thought of them, were a bit of a disappointment to their parents. They tended to moon about, tripping over their own feet, stumbling miserably around the football pitch, hopeless at Cricket, bullied at the village school. George did his best to protect his brothers, but George could not stop the other children from nicknaming them: Gandy, Raddy, Pally, and Ally were bad enough. But Sary! How Saruman fumed and fretted. "Sary!" he would mutter. "I'm not a girl! Why can't they call me Spike? Or Sarge?"
Each boy had is own special Hobby. George collected stamps and was an eager Boy Scout, played football and cricket, and could spell quite as well as his Dad. Pally was an avid bird watcher, which was just barely acceptable to his peers. Ally loved to swim, and his Dad was appalled to learn that Ally was one of the wicked lads who skinny-dipped in the Withy Windle Waterworks reservoir. Raddy was a Nature lover, spending long hours spying out Badger holes and Otter slides. He did not bathe, as he believed that the smell of soap frightened wild creatures away. Gandy quite fancied Fireworks and studied the Pygmy culture of the Great Jungle with great interest. Sary played with dolls. "Dolls!" he sputtered. "They're not Dolls! They're simulacrums, they're automatons! Not Dolls! See how they March about? See how they growl and gnash their teeth? You can't call them Dolls!" Well, Dolls or no, they were very cleverly made and it was extremely unfortunate that young Saruman's hobby was sneered at. Mabel worried that the opprobrium of the other lads would give Saruman a complex, and she tried to interest him in Cookery. Her father and one of her brothers were Chefs, and she rather hoped that one of her boys might go into the family business. But Saruman hated cookery and could even burn the water he was supposed to boil for Tea.
The Five began to get into mischief, causing Problems. Fred kept it from Mabel, but it went against his Conscience. It was Gandalf, for instance, who put the Cherry Bomb in old Mrs. Catbird's privy. It was Pallando who taught Annie Pott's Budgie to say dreadful curse words whenever the Minister called on her. It was Alatar who threw a Mannequin dressed in an extremely skimpy bathing costume into the Reservoir on the day of the Grand Opening of the New Waterworks, causing Mayor Downside to have Palpitations. It was Saruman who lit the Warning Bonfire just before the Prime Minister's visit, leading the Authorities to treat Mrs. Thatcher as a Common Criminal when she stepped off the train. That little contretemps was soon sorted out, but things were not Pleasant in Upper Twitfield.
Then, when the Sixtuplets had their 11th birthday, strange things began to happen. The Prime Minister (not Mrs. Thatcher, but Mr. Blair) sent personal birthday greetings, as the Six were quite famous, and there was even a gilt-edged card from Buck House. The Stork Baby Assembly Factory sent the old Plant Manager out, and he brought a gift for each boy. Tears of pride ran down his withered cheeks. "One of our best runs," he said. "These lads do us proud!"
There was another gift, though, that sent chills of apprehension over Fred and Mabel. A huge crate arrived on the back of a pony named Bill, sent over from Lower Hardboiledeg, and inside were some surprising items. Five long sticks with bumps on one end. Five garments that could only be called dresses. Five pointy hats with stars on them. And five tickets to a destination that was written in funny letters that no one could read.
"Well!" Mabel said. "Whoever sent these things was terribly rude! We've six boys, not five, for one thing."
George reassured his mum. "Look, Mum," he said in his commonsense way, "I don't care about this stuff. Let my brothers share it out. I'm quite content with the new bike that Mr. Raleigh sent me."
Mabel hugged him. "Bless you, Georgie," she said proudly. "I knew I could count on you."
Gandy, Raddy, Pally, Ally and Sary hovered over the open crate. They scowled and grumbled, but they put on the dresses and hats and picked up the lumpy sticks. Lamps and chairs began to fly about, smoke puffed out the chimney, dishes danced in the cupboard, water poured Up from the sink Into the faucet. Mabel stood horrified and Fred thundered, "Stop this Nonsense! You've got your Mum all upset!"
Fred shooed the Five outside. Things got worse. Trees began to shake as if a hurricane was blowing. Birds took to flying in formation, singing Rule Britannia. Bill the pony stamped his hooves and shouted, "I'm not a beast of burden any more! I'm going to Liverpool to take up Racing!" The neighbours stared and tittered. The Postman dropped the mail at the gate, refusing to come into a garden where one thousand Spotted Toads marched in single file to the strains of Pomp and Circumstance performed by a flute-playing Snake. UpperTwitfield was in an uproar, and someone called The Authorities.
Fred and Mabel got their boys inside, and drew the curtains. "Put those wand-thingys down," Fred ordered. "Take off those hats and dresses."
The boys obeyed their Dad, but somewhat reluctantly. They had never experienced such Excitement before! New horizons beckoned. Except for George, of course, who lay sobbing in shame upon his little cot. His weird brothers had always been a drag upon his Socialization in the village, and now he feared his life was Ruined.
Fred and Mabel shared poor Georgie's fears. They had tried very hard to be Understanding and Accepting, but the camel's back had just been broken. To make matters worse, The Authorities were coming up the garden path.
Mayor Downside knocked, not very politely, on the front door. Mabel wiped her tears on her apron and opened the door. "Mayor Downside!" she said, pretending to be pleased. "What a surprise!"
"Mrs. Eyestarry, may we come in?" he asked, pushing past her. The Council and the Police Constable from Fallowfield pushed in with him.
Fred stood up, his thumbs hooked in his braces. "What is the meaning of this?" he said, making his voice deep and authoritative.
Mayor Downside gestured at the Five who huddled behind their Mum. "The antics of those boys of yours, Fred. We Simply Cannot Have It."
Fred sighed. "Well, Mayor, I am sorry for the Disturbance just now. It won't happen again. But, boys will be boys, you know."
Constable Oldbill spoke up. "They's Spotted Toads all over the street, Sir. And Bird droppings on my helmet! Who's going to clean up this mess, that's what I wants to know!"
The Mayor shushed Constable Oldbill. "Fred," he said, his voice sweetly reasonable. "Those lads of yours-well, not George, of course, but the other Five-I think they've become Too Much for your and your missus to handle. Perhaps....they ought to be Sent Away somewhere."
Mabel fired up in defense of her children. "Sent away! For what, you antiquated fusspot? A few pranks? They're no worse than any other lads!"
Fred pursed his lips and looked abashed. "Well, that's not quite true, luv. They've been Acting Up more than you know. I've been keeping things from you."
Mabel burst into tears for the fortieth time that week. "Oh, Freddie, I know, I know! I've been hearing things from all the neighbours! I'm that ashamed! But I won't have our lads Sent Away! They just need Understanding!"
Just then George, who had sidled into the room with his head held low, noticed the tickets with the strange writing on them. "What are these, Mum?" he asked.
"Why, I don't know, Georgie. They look like Railway Tickets to me-but whoever could read that funny print?" Mabel said. Reading was not her strong suit, but even Mayor Downside couldn't read the tickets when she gave them to him.
One of the Councilors piped up, "Why don't we just take the lads to the Station and give the tickets to the Stationmaster?"
It was such a sensible suggestion. But it took hours to persuade Mabel, and even then she wouldn't let the boys pack their valises. "No, no," she said. "They're too young to leave home!"
Unbeknownst to her, the Five had folded their lumpy sticks into the dresses and tucked all into their pointy hats and then into their schoolbags. They sensed that Something was Up. The whole Eyestarry family and the Authorities walked through the village to the Station, and all the neighbours were Agog with interest. The Stationmaster couldn't read the tickets either, but he wouldn't let on. The Train chuffed into the Station and the Five clambered aboard. They leaned out the open window of their compartment and made faces at all and sundry, including their brother George. Mabel turned on the waterworks again, and buried her face in her hankie.
Fred shook their hands. "Goodbye, my lads," he said. He swallowed hard and nodded. "Be careful who you speak to, and look out for one another!"
Just then the Conductor entered their compartment and took their tickets as the train pulled away from Upper Twitfield. "Hmmm," the Conductor said. "Five of you, eh? Well, well. I expect They know you're coming."
The Five looked at each other. Who knew they were coming? Where were they going?
Gandalf looked at his brothers. "Look," he said. "Old George isn't here, so I'm boss now. Anyone going to argue?"
They all argued, of course, but Gandalf won out in the end by arm-wrestling each of his brothers into submission. They whiled away the journey by annoying the other passengers and tossing apple cores out the window. They sang all the rude songs George had taught them, and made up verses using all the naughty words they knew. Saruman had brought some of his dolls and they played War on the floor of the compartment. Gandalf sneered at the dolls and Saruman kicked him in the ankle. In the ensuing melee several of the dolls were crushed and broken. Saruman, who really knew how to hold a grudge, swore revenge.
All in all, it was a jolly trip. Hours after dark the train pulled into a tiny station, but it was so dark the boys couldn't read the sign. Gandalf held up his Stick and said, "Light", and the Stick glowed enough that they could read " Frogbottom Academy Station" on the sign. They looked at each other in Consternation. Frogbottom Academy? Their hearts sank. But they had to get off the train.
The Five shambled off the train and stood on the platform, looking out into the darkness. The Train pulled away, and after a few minutes the lonesome sound of its whistle pierced the air. Just then a cart pulled by a pony (also named Bill, by the way) rattled up to the platform and a very, very tall Being climbed down and approached them.
"You must be the New Boys," the Being intoned. He smelled of Brimstone, and you could see a bit of flame peeping out from under his hat. "I'm to fetch you up to the school," he said. "Step lively! Into the cart with you all!"
Once again Gandalf took the lead, but Saruman and Radagast shoved past him and jumped into the front seat. Gandalf and Pallando and Alatar had to sit in the back on their packs. The cart jostled and rumbled over the rough surface, and being downwind of the Being, they got Sick on both the motion and the smell. The ride to the Academy seemed endless, but when the cart drew up before the door they wished they could have kept on going.
For there, standing on the Step, was the Headmaster. Dr. Bumblebee himself was there to greet the boys, for Five at once was quite rare and deserved some special recognition. Dr. Bumblebee buzzed with excitement, and quite rose off the concrete, his wings a blur, and his striped Vest glowing bright. A Giant Bee! Quite frightening to Five innocent Rustics.
"Good evening Boys," he hummed. "Come in, come in! Everyone is waiting for you! You, Balrog! Take their things up before you put Bill away. And snuff your Hair! You'll set the curtains on fire!"
Balrog, muttering under his breath, did as Dr. Bumblebee had ordered. As Balrog unloaded the cart, Dr. Bumblebee ushered the wondering Five into the Great Hall of Frogbottom Academy. Quite a crowd had gathered, for word of The Five had preceded them. Many emotions burned in many breasts as the boys followed Dr. Bumblebee into the room.
Elrond, Head Boy of Fairy House, rather liked the looks of Gandalf. Galadriel, Head Girl of Poshgirl House, thought both Saruman and Alatar were "cute". Sauron, Head Boy of Redeye House, looked disdainfully at all Five. Shelob, Head Girl of Slinky House, shook her head. For all the fanfare that had been heard about these boys, not one caught her Eyes.
The Five were overwhelmed. They all wished to break out Crying and they all wanted their Mum. But the pride of their Eyestarry blood held them up. The thought of their clever brother George enabled them to seem calm, no matter how they felt inside. And after all, wasn't their father Fred now Second Assistant Deputy Manager of the Withy Windle Waterworks? They were not Nobodies!
Well, the rest is history, of course. Their school careers are well documented since a Ghost Writer was hired to Get it Down, but unfortunately the long and rather tedious tale has not sold well. It is hard to interest the general reader in such a study-the life of a boy or boys at a school for studying Wizardry and Spellmaking does not seem to catch the public fancy in these days. Gandalf had hoped to make enough money to do some more traveling, but it was not to be. As a matter of fact, Gandalf has tried several times to have the stories "tweaked", as he feels that he is not presented in the best light. Saruman agrees. But he thinks that some excitement, such as a description of the Five's first "intimate" experiences or something of that nature, might spark readers' interest. It was only last year that the American Tabloids published the memoirs of Pansy Figleaf (her professional name), and the American public gobbled this up largely because Ms. Fligleaf had rather personal descriptions of the Five sprinkled throughout her story. Photographs were included, but this reviewer cannot be confident that the picture of Gandalf doing the Mashed Potato on a table were, in fact, pictures of Gandalf at all. It could have been any prematurely gray, bearded Wizard.
George Eyestarry went on to lead a fascinating life, and became much the most distinguished of the well-known Eyestarry Sixtuplets. He became Second Assistant Deputy Manager of the Withy Windle Waterworks after Fred retired and at the astonishingly young age of 57 became Fourth Assistant Deputy Superintendent of the Amalgamated Withy Windle & Brandywine Waterworks when that new company was formed. George kept in touch with his brothers, never letting his stellar career undermine his family loyalty. He was present at the ceremony where Gandalf was awarded some medal or another by some foreign royal, and he once showed old Mayor Downside a postcard of Saruman's little building project at a place called Orangetanc, or some similar odd name. As for Radagast, George didn't like to admit that his brother lived a strange, unconventional life in the bush, sharing his dinner with bears and wolves, and going unwashed most of the time. Pallando and Alatar went traveling in distant lands and George fervently hopes they did not get mixed up in revolutions or uprisings. No word of them has come back to Upper Twitfield for years, but dear old Mabel still watches for the post every day. "My boys won't forget their old Mum," she quavers. As for Fred, he sits by his own fireside most of the time, and nods in sleep. Sometimes he remembers the night the Storks came, and he smiles to himself. Now that the Five are long gone, and he is no longer troubled by their antics, he can be proud of them. Nearly.