The Middle of Middle-earth by Shirebound

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Book-verse: Merry and Pippin did not attend the Council of Elrond, nor were they immediately chosen to accompany Frodo and Sam to Mt. Doom.

The Middle of Middle-earth   

And at the end he found that he still had a little of the dust left; so he went to the Three-Farthing Stone, which is as near the centre of the Shire as no matter, and cast it in the air with his blessing.      

‘The Grey Havens’, The Return of the King   


At first Elrond looked up once in awhile, but the youngest hobbit didn’t seem the least bit restless. Pippin was perched high above him, overlooking the expansive and detailed map displayed in Rivendell’s largest library. Seated comfortably on one of the rungs of a rolling ladder used to access the upper shelves, he gazed down so silently that Elrond eventually forgot he was there.

“And that’s where the Three-Farthing Stone is set,” Merry continued, pointing to a spot on the map.

“Excellent,” Elrond said with a smile. He continued to make notes and sketches on a pad of fine paper which he would use to add to his map in the future. “That is another detail Bilbo did not mention.”

“I found it!” suddenly came an excited yelp from over their heads. “It’s right there!”

“Pippin, watch out!” Merry shouted, looking up in alarm. “You’re slipping!”

“I’m not,” Pippin declared, hastily tightening his grip on the ladder. “Master Elrond, why isn’t the middle marked? Is there a stone there?” He scowled downwards. “Are those lands really brown? Nary a tree?”

Elrond glanced at the map, then at Merry for help, then up again towards Pippin.

“You will need to be more specific, Peregrin,” he said at last. “Would you like help getting down?”

“Thank you, no. I can see much better from up here,” Pippin said. He pointed down, towards the map. “Right there is the middle, as best I can figure. Where it says Brown Lands.”

“The middle,” Elrond murmured to himself. Then he smiled gently. “Ah, I see. Merry and I were discussing the center of the Shire, and you have discovered the center... of my map? Hmmm...” The Brown Lands perhaps weren’t the exact center of Middle-earth, but of the lands shown on his map... near enough. “You have a good eye, Peregrin.”

“Please call me Pippin,” the young hobbit said. “Are the Brown Lands just brown, then?”

“They are, Pippin,” Elrond said softly. “Once that area was lush and green... interlaced with gardens of great beauty tended by the tree shepherdesses who are now lost. Great evil befell that land, and it has not recovered.”

“If the land is barren, how do you know about the gardens?” Merry asked, curious as always. “Did you see them?”

Elrond sighed. “The Enemy burned and poisoned those lands before I travelled past them; not a living thing there did we see. But the stories of the missing tree maidens go back deep into our legends and songs.  We had no time to search for them on our desperate march south, but I remembered, and called for them.”

“And?” Pippin asked breathlessly.

“They did not come.”

“Ohh,” Merry said. “That’s so sad.”

“How long ago was that?” Pippin asked.

“Three millennia,” Elrond said quietly, and the hobbits gasped. After a long pause, Pippin stirred.

“Well,” he said, “maybe the gardens will come back after Frodo.... well, you know, finishes what he needs to do. And then a marker can show that it’s the middle, so people will know. Hobbit children like the Three-Farthing Stone.”

“They do,” Merry agreed with a smile. “The center of the Shire is special to the children, because of course the Shire is the center of the whole world.”

“And there’s something else missing from your map, Master Elrond,” Pippin piped up again. “Where’s Frogmorton? Merry, show him where it is. The Floating Log is a wonderful inn, isn’t it, Merry?”

“It certainly is.”

As the Elf-lord’s gaze left the scorched lands and returned to the green Shire, Merry saw the pain and loss fade from his eyes. Noticing this, he wondered – not for the first time – how many of Pip’s seemingly impulsive outbursts were actually deliberate.

As Merry pointed out on the map the very important location of The Floating Log Inn, and Elrond chuckled as he made a note of it, Pippin’s attention was caught by Rivendell itself. On the map it didn’t seem so very large, and they could most likely scout out the middle by the time Frodo needed to leave. It would be a nice walk... and a most excellent distraction.

** END **      

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