Of Pumpkins and Pippin by IgnobleBard

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Story Notes:

Written for the harvest/halloween challenge on the LOTR Community LJ.


Legolas looked at the object on Merry’s table with a dubious eye. “What did you say this is called?”

“A pumpkin,” Merry said, giving the orange rind a hearty thump. “It’s like a… a… Don’t you have these in Mirkwood?”

Legolas laughed. “I think if we did I would certainly remember.” He touched it tentatively with his long slender fingers. “How do you eat it?”

“It’s the inside that’s good to eat,” Merry explained, “baked into things like pies mostly.”

Just then Faramir, Pippin’s son, came in holding an enormous knife. “But before we eat it, there’s the fun part.” He gave Merry and Legolas mischievous smile.

“Now, lad, be careful that you don’t carve off a finger instead of carving a face in old Jack,” Pippin said, placing a hand on his son’s shoulder.

“Jack?” Legolas said. “Why do you give it a name?”

“The idea,” Merry explained, “is to carve a face into the pumpkin and turn it into a lantern by placing a candle inside. It will scare off evil spirits. We call it 'Jack of the lantern'.”

Legolas was familiar with many mortal superstitions but this was new to him. He watched in fascination as Merry, Pippin, and Faramir took turns cutting the pumpkin open, scooping out the innards, and carving the face. There were triangles for the eyes, a circle for the nose, and crooked square teeth set in a menacing grimace for the mouth.

When the work was done, Merry cleaned up the pulp, separating the seeds and setting them aside to roast for later while Faramir went to fetch a candle and Pippin and Legolas studied the pumpkin’s face. “Is it supposed to be frightening?” Legolas asked at last.

Pippin grinned at him. “Not really. I mean, not anymore. The tradition is mainly for children now, though we still have a few old timers who really believe. Take a walk by the Gaffer’s place tonight and you’ll see.”

Faramir came in with the candle and Pippin cut it down to a stub with the knife and placed it inside the pumpkin. He took the firebrand to light it but paused and peered at Jack’s mouth. “I think you missed a little pulp here,” he said, reaching in to flick it away. He let out a shriek and pulled out his hand, showing Faramir a missing finger. Faramir jumped and squealed and Legolas instinctively took a step forward but then Merry and Pippin began to hoot with laughter. Pippin slowly unfolded his finger to show it had not been bitten off and Faramir punched his father on the arm then folded his own arms in a pout.

“I wasn’t fooled,” Faramir said sullenly.

“I was,” Legolas said with a chuckle. “I thought I was going to have to slay the beast to free your father.”

“You did?” Faramir was wide eyed.

“Indeed. Shame on you, Pippin, for scaring me like that,” Legolas admonished with a wink.

Merry was still wiping tears from his eyes as he said, “He pulled the same thing on me the first time we carved a pumpkin together. I didn’t speak to him until midsummer.”

Now they all laughed. “So this is part of the tradition too?” Legolas asked.

“I guess it is,” Pippin replied.

A couple of days later Pippin was walking along the path to Brandybuck Hall at twilight. Merry had invited him over for some hot cider and he was looking forward to spending the evening swapping stories with Merry and Legolas. He pulled his jacket close against the sharp autumn air and breathed out a cloud of mist. A gust of wind rustled the naked tree branches causing them to creak and groan. Pippin hurried along thinking how nice it would be in front of a warm fire on a night like this.

As he approached Merry’s hole he noticed a new jack of the lantern on the stoop. Drawing nearer he saw that the face carved on it looked very much like an orc. The eyes glowed with an eerie fire and the sharp, jagged teeth were bared in a snarl. The workmanship was like nothing he had ever seen in the Shire and he wondered if Legolas had tried his hand at the hobbit tradition. He didn’t have long to consider it though, because just as his foot hit the stoop the face let out a mighty orc war cry! Pippin shot straight up in the air and came down with his feet already running in the opposite direction.

Inside Brandybuck Hall, Merry and Faramir peered out the window. They were laughing so hard they couldn’t speak. Finally, Merry regained his breath and flung his arm around Faramir’s shoulder.

“I have been wanting to do that for years,” Merry said, still gasping with glee. “I must be sure to thank Master Legolas tomorrow for his help, and you must apologize to your father for me. I don’t think he’ll be speaking to me anytime soon.”




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