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Reflections from the Paradise of Elves  by Bodkin

The Paradise of Elves – Part 67:  Gathering 

‘The elflings are eating more than they are picking,’ Elrohir observed. 

Legolas’s long nimble fingers continued to strip the ripe berries from the low bushes in front of him.   ‘How is that possible, my friend?’ he asked

‘Unless they are grazing,’ Elladan teased.  ‘Like deer – nibbling at the berries on the vines.’

‘You know what I mean!’  Elrohir sat back and watched for a while.  ‘It seems an awful lot of work for a few berries.’

‘Where did you think your whortleberry jam came from?’ Legolas enquired, looking down his nose with mock hauteur.

‘The store cupboard,’ his friend grinned.  ‘How should I know?  Why should I care?  Just as long as it is there.’  He glanced at the basket he had been commanded to fill.  ‘I shall appreciate it a good deal more in future.’

‘I think we cultivated the bushes in Imladris,’ Elladan told him thoughtfully.  ‘They were bigger – and it took fewer berries to fill a trug.  We dried them mainly, I believe.’

‘We would send out parties at this season,’ Legolas reminisced.  ‘Ellyth, elflings, warriors – for a few days, all would seek as many of the berries as we could find to preserve them for the winter and then we would leave the remainder for the creatures of the forest, while we went home to celebrate the bounty of the wood.’

‘It all sounds a lot more fun,’ Elladan said enviously, ‘than having the gardeners deliver them by the basket-load to the kitchens.’

Legolas laughed and gestured to indicate the small bushes beneath the oaks.  ‘You are doing it now, my friend,’ he pointed out.  ‘Is it more fun?’

‘More work,’ Elrohir mused.

‘For you, my lord,’ Legolas teased.  ‘For those who did the picking, the work is no different.’

‘I would enjoy it more if I knew we could look forward to a celebration, though.’  Elladan lifted an eyebrow at his brother.

‘Adar enjoys an excuse to provide a feast,’ Elrohir agreed.  ‘This is not the time of harvest – but it is a garnering of the produce of the forest.  A celebration seems in order.’

‘We would hold a mushroom festival, as well,’ Legolas said, eyes sparkling.  ‘I remember Pippin getting very excited about the idea of that.  He and Merry and Sam long threatened to descend on Lasgalen at the time of that celebration – but I told them that even Yavanna’s generosity would be insufficient to support the demands hobbits would place on our fungi and that our people would go hungry as a result of their depredations.  I think they believed me,’ he added, ‘for it was not until I issued them with a specific invitation that they consented to leave the Shire and visit my home.’  He looked thoughtful.  ‘They had a remarkable knowledge of both what to pick and how to turn it into the most delectable treats.’

‘They were underestimated as a race,’ Elladan agreed.  ‘In more ways than one.’

‘Galion made a point of collaring Sam and sitting him down to record some of his favourite recipes.  Adar was most appreciative.  I think he overcame his suspicion of the halflings almost immediately.’

‘There is a wide variety of fungi to be found among these trees,’ Elrohir said thoughtfully.  ‘It would be rather fun to hold a hobbit-style festival to celebrate mushrooms.’

Legolas looked around the trees affectionately.  ‘The forest provides,’ he said. 

‘Although you interfere less with what is growing naturally.’  Elladan sat back.  ‘Would you not be less dependent on the forest if you cultivated more of your open spaces?  We have moved saplings from some areas to grow fruit trees – apples and plums are well-suited to this climate – and there are some areas given over to growing grain, as well as gardens planted in sunny spots.’

‘You like to control nature’s gifts,’ Legolas shrugged.  ‘We prefer to accommodate ourselves to accept what is offered.’

‘The forest changes,’ Elrohir argued.  ‘Even without interference.  Birds bring seeds; animals root in the ground – what we do is merely an extension of that.  Who are we to hold ourselves aloof from the process of change and say we may not touch?’

‘There is a difference between change and disruption,’ Legolas insisted.  ‘I have no objection to apple trees growing in the forest – but if trees are cut down to be replaced by rows of stunted trees, clipped to produce the greatest quantity of fruit – that is not right, any more than is bringing in a crop that damages the balance of species.’

‘Stop aggravating the Wood Elf, my brother,’ Elladan recommended.  ‘You know that Adar has said that nothing is to be introduced that cannot live in harmony with the forest – and that includes people!’

‘Yes, Elrohir,’ Legolas said smugly, ‘or you will find yourself assigned to your andaeradar’s court indefinitely.’  He popped a ripe purple berry in his mouth.  ‘And it will be a long time before you get another chance to go berry picking.’

‘In that case,’ Elrohir grinned, ‘I will let him get away with his primitive point of view.  For the moment, anyway.’  He placed another handful of berries in his basket. ‘Or the elflings will be finished with this task before we are.’ 


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