Tinder by Celeritas

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Story Notes:

For B2MEM 2011, Day 24: Write a story or poem or create artwork using one or more animals as symbols, omens, or metaphors. Use associations and meanings from any culture or source you wish (e.g., Celtic, Native American, Biblical).

‘Badger and his family lived in a great big sett beneath the roots of an old oak tree.  They were a fine, respectable family that got on with all the other animals of the woods, and every afternoon they took their tea in the main parlour.


‘One day, there was a hustle and a bustle as a Creature scampered down the main tunnel with a panicked look in his eye.  “Hide me!” he cried.


‘Badger looked him up and down.  “I haven’t seen the likes of you before.  What is your name and business?”


‘“My name is Fox,” said the Creature, “and I’m running from some hobbits who were chasing me and trying to kill me.  Will you let me hide a while?”


‘Badger saw no reason not to, and in fact he offered Fox tea with the rest of his family.  Then, Fox left, though he promised to call again later, and though he left very muddy pawprints in the front parlour.


‘In a week’s time, Fox came in again, bearing a fine bit of meat on his back, and offered to fix supper for Badger and his family.  Badger consented, and dinner that evening was fine.  He had never tasted that meat before, and asked where Fox had gotten it.  “It’s Chicken,” Fox said.


‘“Chicken?  Isn’t that what hobbits eat?” said Badger.  “I’ve never seen one in the forest before.”


‘“Yes it is,” said Fox, “and very fine and fat, too.  If you’d like, you may come with me on my next raid, and I will show you how to get plenty more meat like it.”


‘Badger coughed, but he was too polite to say anything at the dinner-table.  Afterwards, however, he kindly requested Fox not to bring any stolen meat with him again.


‘Another week passed, and Fox came by again, this time on the run.  He said an entire hunting-party of hobbits had been gotten up and was scouring the countryside, and he needed a place to stay, for at least a week’s time.


‘Again, Badger consented.  But when he went forth to scavenge for his family, he found that there were no hobbits outside, and he began to wonder.


‘A week passed, and Fox showed no sign of leaving.  Badger began to notice that when he woke up, there was less food than when he went to sleep.  At this rate it would be hard to keep the family fed during the winter, when the ground was so much harder to dig.  He asked Fox what he knew of the situation, but Fox said he had no idea.


‘After another week, Badger’s cubs began to tell him that they heard pacing outside their doors at night, and once had woken up to see a strange face leering down at them, licking his chops.  Badger continued to scavenge outside, but he kept closer and closer to home.


‘Finally, one day, when he was supposed to be far afield, Badger heard the cries of his sow and cubs.  Immediately he rushed back home to find Mrs. Badger standing in front of the cubs, fending off the attacks of Fox.  Badger sprang upon Fox’s back, and bit and clawed him until Fox, his pretty red coat all mangled, crawled away with a bad limp, and he was never seen in Badger’s parts again.


‘And the moral of the story is, “Not all animals are as they seem.”’


Old Tom Cotton rubbed his eyes as he sat in front of the fire.  His mother had told him that story many times, long ago, and he’d always thought it was supposed to be talking about the Fox, which had seemed rather strange because all foxes were vicious thieves.  Now, after the latest Sharers had come through, and anger smouldered hot within his breast, he wasn’t so sure that the moral was talking about Fox.


He was itching for trouble, with an itch so strong that he used to think it wasn’t becoming for a hobbit.


He wasn’t so sure of that either.

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