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Ho, Ho! My Lads  by Dreamflower

Authors’ Notes: This is a plot bunny hatched during Hurricane Ivan, and inspired by the musical setting of The Hobbitons to “Down, Down to Goblin-town” .

In this story, Frodo is 31, Sam is 20, Merry has just turned 18, and Pippin is not quite 10. (The equivalent of 20, 13, 12 and 6 in Man years.)

Disclaimer: Middle-earth and all its peoples belong to the Tolkien Estate. We own none of them. Some of them, however, own us.



“Well, lads, here we are,” said Bilbo as they pulled up to the gate at Bag End. A sleeping Pippin stirred in Merry’s arms, and sat up. Frodo hopped down from his seat on the cart, and took a couple of the travelling cases from the back.

“Frodo, would you go on up, and unlock the door, please?” asked Bilbo. “Good afternoon, Master Hamfast and Samwise.”

The gardener and his son had left off trimming the hedge when the cart had approached.

“Good day, Mr. Bilbo,” said the Gaffer. “Did you have a nice trip?”

“Tolerable,” Bilbo said. “Could Samwise tend to the cart and pony for me?”

Sam nodded and took the reins. Merry also got down from the cart. He made Pippin stand up, and then said “I will help Sam with the cart and pony.”

Little Pippin stood there wobbling, blearily rubbing his eyes for a moment, until Bilbo took his hand. “Come, Pippin-lad, let’s go up to the hole.”

“Is it time yet for tea, Cousin Bilbo? I’m hungry!” said the nearly ten-year-old, perking up. Bilbo had been rather indulgent in the matter of bedtime the night before. They had been staying at Brock Hall in Budgeford, with the Bolgers, and the lads had been having a grand time with Fatty and Estella, and Fatty’s friend Folco, who had stayed over for the occasion. But Pippin had been hard to rouse so early that morning, and had fallen asleep in Merry’s lap after they had stopped for a brief luncheon.

Bilbo laughed. “Not quite yet, but I daresay that we can that we can find something in the larder to keep you happy until then, my dear. ”


In the small stable, Merry and Sam began to unharness the pony.

“Did you have a nice birthday, Mr. Merry?” asked Sam.

Merry suppressed a sigh. On his last visit to Bag End, Sam had started tacking that “Mister” onto his name, and Merry couldn’t get him to drop it. It felt uncomfortable, especially since Sam was two years older. Frodo had told him to leave it alone, that he could get Sam in trouble with the Gaffer, but Merry missed the way they had once been just playmates.

“I did, Sam. I wish you could have been there.”

“Would’ve been nice, Mr. Merry, but the Gaffer needs me here, and Buckland‘s a far piece away. Maybe someday I‘ll get over that way.”

Merry nodded, and for a few minutes the lads concentrated on the task at hand. When they finished, Merry reached in his pocket. “I’ve a birthday present for you, Sam.”

Sam’s warm brown eyes lit up as Merry shyly handed him the small package, wrapped in a scrap of cloth, and tied with string.

Merry watched as Sam untied the string, and the cloth fell away to reveal a knife with a short, stubby blade, and a gently curved wood handle. “The gardener at Brandy Hall has one like it--he says it’s really useful for taking cuttings and graftings and things like that.”

Sam grinned. “This is right nice, Mr. Merry!” But then his face fell. “I’m not sure that the Gaffer would think it’s proper, me getting such a nice gift and all.”

Merry flushed and looked away. “Just tell him it was some old mathom no one wanted.”

Sam looked up sharply, and they both knew that it was a lie, but Merry was not about to have Sam’s father make him give it back. He had picked it out specially for Sam when that tinker had come from Bree.

“Thank you, Mr. Merry.”


In the kitchen, Frodo busied himself making a pot of tea, while Bilbo cut some sandwiches and got out the biscuit tin.

Pippin sat at the table, swinging his little legs, and fidgeting in impatience. Bilbo had given him a pear to tide him over, but the lad had made short work of it. “Is there any honeycake, Cousin Bilbo?” he piped.

Bilbo laughed. “No, but I don’t see why there shouldn’t be some at teatime.”

Just then, Merry came in, and they all sat down to have a snack.

Bilbo had begun to feel a touch of alarm at the state of his larder. He tended to forget how much provender was needed when the younger cousins came to visit Frodo. His ward was beginning to leave his ravenous tweens behind, but Merry would soon enter them. And Pippin’s appetite was already famous. Bilbo shuddered to think what it would be like when that lad hit his tweens.

“Frodo, my lad, I shall need you to go to market this afternoon before it closes. Just let me make a list.”

The list was soon finished. “Pippin,” said Bilbo, “would you like to go to the market with Frodo and Merry, or would you like to stay here and help me make honeycakes?”

Pippin’s green eyes grew wide. This was a difficult decision. Going to the market would be fun, and he’d be with his Merry and his Frodo. On the other hand, people hardly *ever* seemed to want his help when they cooked, for some reason. And maybe Cousin Bilbo would tell stories while they baked--”Help with the honeycakes, please.”

Bilbo laughed, and Frodo felt relieved. Keeping track of Pippin at the market was easy--one just followed the trail of minor and major disasters.


Frodo and Merry headed down the Hill, pulling the small hand-waggon they would use for Bilbo’s purchases. As they came to the bottom, Merry laughed.

“Do you remember when you gave Lotho a bloody nose right on this very spot?”

Frodo grinned. “That is one of my fonder memories to do with him. He should never have laid hands on you.”

Merry shook his head, still laughing. “It was worth it. The look on his face--priceless.”

They started at the bakery, then the butcher, the cheesemaker and then finally the grocer; soon they had the little waggon filled, and Merry was waiting in the lane for Frodo to finish paying the grocer. He heard the clop of pony hooves, and stared.

“Frodo!” he called.

His cousin came out at that moment, carefully putting the change into the little pouch of coin Bilbo had given him. “What is it, Merry?”

“Look!” he pointed.

Riding past and attracting stares from more than just the two lads, were four Dwarves, leading two other ponies laden with packs. They watched the riders with wide eyes as they passed up the road.

Merry turned to Frodo. “I’ll bet I know where they’re going!”

Frodo laughed. “That’s no wager, cousin. You know as well as I do where they’re headed.”

Merry started to dart after them, but Frodo shot out an arm and snagged him by the collar. “Don’t you forget we have these groceries to bring home. We can’t run, and I’m not making the trudge alone.”

Merry glanced at the waggon. “Frodo, do you think that we’ve got *enough* food?”


Bilbo thought they had done quite well. There were some nice honeycakes in the oven giving off a lovely smell, and they very nearly had the kitchen all cleaned. Somehow, he seemed to have used a great many more bowls and spoons than usual. There had been a little mishap with the flour, and a bit of an incident with the honey, a good deal of which had found it way *into* Pippin, as well as on him. The lad was liberally dusted with the flour, and he looked up with his green eyes quite startling in the white face. There was flour in his hair, both on his head and his feet, and all over his clothes. Some of the honey had got on his curly head as well. The child also seemed a bit more energetic than usual, and Bilbo remembered Cousin Tina’s warnings about Pippin and sweets.

The lad was hopping up and down now, giving off little white clouds. “I do think we made splendid honeycakes, Cousin Bilbo, don’t you? Just wait till Merry and Frodo see! Do you know Mother has *never* let me make honeycakes? Nor Vinca! She’s going to be so jealous that I got to! When are they going to be done Cousin Bilbo? They smell so good--” The child paused briefly to take a breath, and Bilbo was astonished at how long he could talk without doing so.

Just then there was a knock at the door. Oh, bother! Who could it be? “Pippin, do be a good lad, and answer the door.”

Pippin took off at a run, and it occurred to Bilbo just an instant too late that the lad would be a rather startling apparition to whoever was at the door. Oh, dear! He wiped his hands on his apron, and prepared to start for the front hall.

Pippin yanked the front door open and gave a yelp. Four large and hairy beings stood there on the doorstep. One of them started to speak, “Is Bilbo Baggins--”

Pippin turned and ran toward the kitchen, yelling “Bilbo! Bilbo! It’s *Dwarves*!” He suddenly stopped halfway there, and ran back where the callers stood waiting on the mat. “You *are* Dwarves, aren’t you?”

“Yes, laddie, and we--”

Pippin dashed off again, this time colliding with Bilbo. “Cousin Bilbo, they *are* Dwarves!” He started to run back again, but Bilbo clamped a firm hand on his shoulder and guided him more decorously back to the door.

“Dori! Nori!,” he exclaimed. “What a pleasant surprise! Do come in.” He looked beyond, at the other two.

“Bilbo,” said Dori, “these are Nuri, son of Nain, and his brother Borin.”

Bilbo made a bow, still keeping hold of Pippin, who was trembling with excitement. “Bilbo Baggins at your service.”

The two also bowed. “At yours and your family’s,” they responded.

“And who is this fine laddie?” Dori reached out and patted Pippin’s head.

“Ow!” said Pippin, as Dori’s hand came away liberally covered with flour, honey, and several chestnut colored hairs.

Bilbo suppressed a chuckle. “This is my young cousin, Peregrin Took, called Pippin, who is visiting.” He gave Pippin a tiny squeeze on the shoulder to remind him of his manners.

The lad gave a little bow, looking up with big green eyes through his lashes. “Peregrin Took at your service.”

The Dwarves grinned, thoroughly charmed by this polite little apparition.

Just then, Bilbo spotted Frodo and Merry hurrying up the path with the hand-waggon.

More introductions took place. Only Frodo had met Dori and Nori before. He and Merry then pulled the provisions around to the kitchen door.

Bilbo’s new guests came in, and hung their cloaks and hoods in the front hall. Then Bilbo escorted them to their guest rooms, attended by Pippin, who was asking non-stop questions. But Bilbo kept a firm hand upon his shoulder, and did not allow him to follow the Dwarves into their rooms.

“Come, Pippin,” he said as they returned to the kitchen, where Frodo and Merry were putting the purchases away. “I’ll tend to that, my lads. I have another job for you--” he paused for a moment to take up a thick cloth and remove the honeycakes from the oven.

“What’s that, Uncle Bilbo,” asked Frodo cautiously. He knew Bilbo.

“Take young Peregrin there, and give him a bath before tea. He seems to be a bit sticky.”

Frodo and Merry looked at one another with expressions of wry resignation. Pippin definitely needed a bath. With a sigh, they led the bouncing Took off to the bathing room.

“Frodo! Merry! Did you see the Dwarves? Do you think that’s the same Dori and Nori from Cousin Bilbo’s adventures? How long do you think they will stay? Do Dwarves like honeycake? I think they have nice eyes, but they are so *very* hairy--”


The Dwarves had brought their packs in off the ponies, and then Borin was to take them down to the stable. Bilbo called Sam to give the Dwarf a hand. “Borin, this is my gardener’s lad, Samwise Gamgee.”

Sam blushed to the tips of his ears, but he managed a bow. “At your service, Mr. Borin, sir.”

Borin smiled. “Are all young hobbits so well-mannered?” he asked as they led the ponies to the stable.

Sam went even redder if possible. “Er, well, you know Mr. Bilbo has told us all kinds of stories about Dwarves and such--” he stammered to a stop, not sure what to say next.

“I have heard much of Master Bilbo Baggins. He is greatly admired by my people, especially those of my kindred who travelled in his company.” Borin paused as they finished one pony and started on another. “Master Baggins said that the gardener is your father?”


“Well, I am no great judge of such things, being more used to the caverns of my people, but I do not believe I have ever seen such a nicely kept garden.”

Sam grinned. “My Gaffer would be right pleased to hear that, Mr. Borin.”


Frodo paused in his mopping to push the wet curls out of his eyes. The bathroom floor had very nearly as much water as the tub. Merry came in, his sandy hair also damp, still buttoning the dry shirt he had donned.

“He’s clean, dry and dressed,” said Merry. “I’ll finish up here so you can change, too.”

“Thank you,” answered Frodo, handing him the mop, and then with a touch of alarm, asked “Where is he?”

“Oh, Bilbo sent Pip into the sitting room to entertain the Dwarves while he cooks. He’s decided we’re having late tea or early supper, otherwise known as--”

“’Tupper’!” finished Frodo with a grin, using a word Bilbo had coined. “Well, I’m off to get dry, and then we’d better go rescue the Dwarves from an inquisitive Took.”

A few minutes later, they entered the sitting room to see the intrepid Pippin seated on Dori’s lap, playing with the Dwarf’s beard.

“Isn’t it hot?” he asked.

“Not that I notice, lad,” laughed the Dwarf.

“Merry says Gandalf has one. Is his as nice and furry as yours?”

The other Dwarves sniggered.

“Well, being taller, his is a good deal longer, but I do not think it so full and luxurious as Dwarven beards.”

“What’s lux--luxurus?” asked Pippin, distracted from beards for a moment by the new word.

“Lux-ur-i-ous,” said Frodo. “It means very rich and fine.”

“Oh.” Pippin ran his fingers through the hair again. “It *is* very rich and fine, Master Dori.”

“Thank you,” said the Dwarf smugly. Nori rolled his eyes, and Nuri and Borin exchanged wry looks.

“Merry, come feel how soft it is!”

“Erm--no thank you, all the same, Pip!” Merry nearly choked trying to suppress his laughter.

“Do all Dwarves have beards?” Pippin asked.

Dori shook his head in amazement. “He is very full of questions, isn’t he?”

“You have no idea!” exclaimed Frodo. He swooped down and lifted the child off the Dwarf’s lap. “That’s enough, Pip,” he said.

Frodo sat down with Pippin in his lap, and amazingly, the little one quieted, snuggling against his cousin’s chest. He started to put his thumb to his mouth, but Frodo took the little hand gently and brought it back down to his lap. Pippin’s parents had decided he was old enough to stop sucking his thumb.

Merry watched, and surprised himself by feeling just a bit jealous. He was not sure if he was jealous of Frodo because he had Pip, or jealous of Pip because he himself was too big to sit in Frodo’s lap any more. Well, that was just silly. He laughed at himself silently. After all, he had Pip a great deal more often than Frodo did, and even if he didn’t fit in Frodo’s lap any more, he was getting old enough to do some grown-up things with his almost grown-up cousin.

He sat back and listened to Frodo talking to the Dwarves about their journey. They were going back to the Lonely Mountain from the Blue Mountains, and had stopped in the Shire to leave some purchases that Bilbo had made. He wondered if they would stop in Buckland as well. He was sure that his father would like the chance to see some Dwarven made products. Perhaps he could find a chance to mention it to them before they left.

“And of course,” said Nori, “we are looking forward to hearing of your uncle’s newest commissions--”

“I think,” said Frodo, “that we should not discuss that right now.” His eyes flicked down to Pippin and over to Merry.

Merry’s ears perked up. Bilbo was going to commission some things that they did not want him and Pippin to overhear? Interesting. He tried to pretend that he had not noticed, but he was not sure he fooled Frodo.

Just then Bilbo came from the kitchen to announce that the meal was ready.


Since there were so many guests, Bilbo had laid the meal in the dining room, and soon four hobbits and four dwarves were sitting down to a table groaning with food: there was a huge tureen of potato and leek soup, ham salad, fried potatoes with cream sauce and garnished with chopped bacon, and a big dish of glazed carrots. There were mushrooms fried up with bacon and onions and wine sauce, and a mushroom omelet. There were pickles, and pickled onions and pickled beets. And there were two kinds of bread from the bakery, and four kinds of cheeses, from soft and white to hard and yellow, and a crock of fresh butter, and strawberry jam. And there was plenty of drink to wash it all down, tea and ale and milk and even coffee, which Bilbo had brewed in honor of the Dwarves.

Dwarves are *almost* as serious in the matter of food as hobbits, and for a good long time, the only one speaking was Pippin, who somehow could talk non-stop, even while seemingly eating his own weight in food.

Right now he was describing his adventure in baking honeycakes. To Bilbo’s amusement and amazement, he detailed every single step of the process. If the lad were not so messy, he could turn into quite a good cook--he did not forget a single step (or misstep) of the process.

“So after we measured out the butter, we put in the eggs. There were three of them to go in, but one got dropped on the floor. But that was all right, because there were some more in the larder, so I got another, and I didn’t drop that one. And then I helped to measure out the honey. Did you know honey drips for rather a long time?” He stopped to pop a pickled beet into his little mouth, and washed it down with a sip of milk. “But I cleaned off the honey that got on my hands, only Cousin Bilbo said I should wash them with water as well, so I did, though I don’t know why--” brief pause for a bite of ham salad, also washed down with another sip of milk “as I had licked it off, every bit--” another pause for a forkful of fried potatoes “--so then Cousin Bilbo let me stir it all together. I stirred and stirred--”

This non-stop monologue continued unnoticed, as the others at the table said things like “Please pass me some more of that soft cheese”, “May I have some more soup, Cousin Bilbo?” and “Are there any more of the mushrooms?”

By the time the actual honeycakes arrived, accompanied by treacle tart with custard and an apple cobbler, Pippin had finally got the honeycakes into the oven and was telling Frodo and Merry about the arrival of the Dwarves. The meal had reached that pleasant stage hobbits called “filling up the corners”, where one simply nibbled, and had the pleasure of playing with the food. Even Pippin went quiet as he busied himself making little balls out of his cheese, before putting them into his mouth. The Dwarves simply pushed back from the table, and Borin belched. This earned him a glare from Dori, and Borin remembered that belching, while good manners among Dwarves, was not necessarily so among other kinds of peoples. “Excuse me,” he muttered.

“Not at all,” said Bilbo, who remembered Dwarven manners from his own travels.

“Well, Bilbo,” said Dori, “we do have a bit of business to discuss--”

“Not quite yet, my dear Dori. ‘Little pitchers’ and all that, don’t you know.”

Merry looked up alertly. He knew what Bilbo meant, he’d heard it from adults enough to know that it meant “Little pitchers have big ears”. In other words, there was something very interesting indeed going on here. And he intended to know what. He glanced over at Frodo, who regarded him with a raised brow, and a look that said “Don’t try it”, which Merry regarded as a direct challenge.

When finally the meal was ended, Frodo and Merry quickly cleared the table and cleaned the kitchen. Bilbo was a tidy cook (when not being assisted by young Tooks) and so there were only the plates and dishes from the meal to wash. Frodo and Merry, perhaps reminded by the presence of Dwarves in the smial, entertained themselves by singing “Chip the glasses and crack the plates! Blunt the knives and bend the forks--”* They ended the song in laughter, and left the clean dishes drying on the shelf.

The two of them returned to the sitting room, where Bilbo sat with Pippin on his lap, the room wreathed in smoke. Frodo sat down with Merry, and they listened to Bilbo and Dori and Nori reminiscing over their long ago journey. It was always somehow different, Merry thought, to hear Bilbo talking over his adventure with someone else who had actually been there, than it was when he was just telling stories of what had happened. It brought home the fact that it was all true, that it *wasn’t* just stories, and made him admire Bilbo even more.

Pippin was making a great effort to keep his eyes open, but his little head kept drooping and then jerking up. Finally, he lost his battle and nodded off.

“I think perhaps it is time for young hobbits to be in their beds,” said Bilbo.

Merry looked a bit rebellious, but he did not say anything. It had occurred to him that they were not going to say anything interesting as long as they knew he was there. He had plans.

Bilbo looked at Frodo expectantly, but Frodo said “I think, Uncle Bilbo, that you ought to take him. He might rouse if you tried to hand him to me. Besides, I get to tuck the lads in all the time, you might as well have a turn. I’ll stay here and entertain your guests.”

Bilbo looked at Frodo sharply, but his young cousin met his eyes with guileless innocence. That made Bilbo all the more suspicious, but he didn’t say anything. Let the lad have his secrets.

The old hobbit, with Merry at his heels, carried Pippin into the guest room that the two lads were sharing on their visit. With Merry’s assistance, he got the small one undressed and into his nightshirt. It was amazing how limp and boneless the very young could be when sleeping. Merry got into his own nightshirt, and clambered into the bed, settling himself against his small cousin’s side. Bilbo pulled the covers up, and dropped a brief kiss on both their brows. “Sleep well, Merry,” he said, before going out.

Merry waited a few moments, until he was sure that Bilbo had returned to the sitting room, and then sat up. He could not wait too long. He might miss something interesting. He looked at Pippin. He should wake him and take him along.

“Hsst. Pip.” He shook the thin little shoulders.

“Mer? ‘s it teatime?” he mumbled, before subsiding once more into soft snores.

Merry chuckled softly and shook him once more.

“Sorry, Mer. Di’ n’t mean to leave it under your bed…”

Merry’s eyes widened in alarm. He shook him harder. Pippin opened his eyes and looked at his older cousin resentfully. “Pip, what did you leave under my bed?”

“Don’t ‘member,” he said. He looked as though he were going to fall asleep again, so Merry gave him one more shake.

“Pip! Don’t you want to find out what the Dwarves are up to?”

*That* woke him up!

Silently the two lads slipped from the bed and padded down the corridor and slipped behind the open door of the sitting room to listen.


* From The Hobbit, Chapter 1, “An Unexpected Party”



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