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From the noteboook  by Anso the Hobbit

Title: Merry`s Mushrooms

Author: Anso the Hobbit

Beta: Marigold

Characters: Merry, Frodo, Esmeralda, Saradoc, Pearl, Pimpernel, Pervinca, Eglantine, Paladin

Timeline: Brandy Hall, SR 1387 so Merry is five, Frodo 19, Pearl 12, Pimpernel eight and Pervinca two.

Summary: Because there is probably nothing as important as to know which mushrooms are good and which are bad if you are a hobbit.

Disclaimer: Not mine. They just own me.


Merry looked at the huge dish of mushrooms placed far back on the table in front of him. The bowl was almost flowing over with delicious looking fungi in a variety of shapes and colours – from long and thin ones to sturdy round ones – from almost pristine white to bright yellow and dark brown and any and every shade in between. Looking around the kitchen where his mum was occupied with cutting potatoes on the other side of the room, Merry got a stool and carefully climbed up to just have a closer look at the treats. Frodo had been mushroom-picking earlier in the day and had brought home two large baskets. Mum had ruffled Frodo`s curls then and kissed his cheek, which meant that she was very pleased with him.

Later Frodo had showed Merry how to gently brush the mushrooms off and then he was allowed to help Frodo cut them. Frodo held the knife and Merry was allowed to put his hand on Frodo`s and help with the cutting. Merry found it boring after some time, though, to pretend-cut, so he started dislocating the hats from the stems instead, giggling in satisfaction when there was a little pop sound as the hat came free. He`d been found out eventually, and Mum had taken the mushrooms away from him. “Don`t play with the food, Merry-lad. Why don`t you go wash your hands and then you can have a mug of fizzy juice when you come back.”

Merry had dutifully done as he was bid. The juice was bubbling quite nicely in his tummy now and he rubbed it happily. Fizzy juice was a funny drink, Merry thought. If you weren`t careful it would make you sneeze, which of course was very amusing but also would gain you a frown from the grown-ups. You could also belch but that would gain you a scolding if someone caught you. Frodo had taught him how to belch like a proper lad, but he had also said that Merry was not to do it when seated at the table or with his parents or other grown-ups.

Now Merry`s tummy was full of Uncle Merimac`s pale-gold pear juice and he decided that a few mushrooms would be the thing, just to tide him over until dinner. Looking at his mum again Merry quick as could be snuck a hand out and caught a few small mushrooms in his fist. He soundlessly climbed down from his stool, replaced it under the table and walked out. When he came out into the hallway he looked to both sides before hurrying to his room to eat his little treat. He knew he would get a scolding if he ate so soon before it was time for dinner.

Finished with the mushrooms Merry went in search of Frodo and found his cousin playing with Pearl and Pimpernel. Merry`s Took cousins had arrived the day before and now Frodo was playing with them. Pearl was all right, Merry thought, a bit bossy perhaps but she was a teen so nothing else was to be expected. Pimpernel was great fun to be with. She was a few years older than Merry and quite daring and liked rough lad games. Baby Pervinca was crying all the time and when she wouldn`t stop after he had tickled her or yelled or rocked her, Merry gave up and found himself profoundly tired of baby cousins. It was high time someone presented him with a new lad cousin, Merry decided. “Hullo!” he said, greeting them.

“Hullo there, Merry,” Frodo looked up from the game of farmers checkers they had been playing as the set of ordinary draughts were nowhere to be found. “Come here. What have you been up to?”

Merry walked over and plopped himself in Frodo`s lap, suddenly a bit dizzy. “Nothing. I`ve been in the kitchen. Mum gave me some of Uncle Mac`s pear juice. I bet I can make a glorious belch, Frodo. Want to hear?” Merry drew his breath and opened his mouth ready to demonstrate his skills when Frodo hastily put his hand over his mouth.

“Not here, Merry. Never in front of the lasses.”

Merry let the belch slip out in Frodo`s hand as it was quite impossible to keep it in when you first had it on the top of your throat. “I`m sorry.”

Nell giggled and Pearl looked disapprovingly at him, trying to hide her smile. She was growing up too fast, Merry thought and it was not so much fun playing with her any more. Lasses were fun up to a certain age then they became boring and concerned about how they looked and if they got dirty. Nell was not like that yet, so Merry decided that this was a perfect time to pull one of her carefully bowed yellow hair ribbons.

“Merry!” She yanked the ribbon out of his hand and tackled him so that Frodo fell backwards and hit his head on the table behind him. Merry squealed with laughter and tried to tickle back at the same time as he tried to squirm out of the way of Nell`s merciless fingers. Frodo yelped and rubbed his head, looking a little pale.

“Children!” It was Merry`s Aunt Tina. Aunt Tina was Merry`s favourite aunt and he loved her very much but she could be just like his mum sometimes, stopping the play when it was at the most fun. Nell stopped tickling and sat up and Merry decided that lying sprawled on the floor with his head on Frodo`s hip and his clothes in disorder (two buttons on his waistcoat were open) was not the best way of greeting his aunt.

“Hullo Auntie,” Merry said, sitting up.

“Hullo, Merry.” Merry watched as she surveyed the children, looking for any damage or injury and satisfied that everyone was relatively unharmed and no furniture was turned upside-down or destroyed she retrieved Pervinca from the cot. “It`s dinner time in a few minutes. Frodo and Pearl, would you be so kind and see to it that Nell and Merry have washed up and made themselves presentable before you all sit down?”

“Yes, Mama,” Pearl said. 


Merry watched Frodo intently as they ate. The large dish of mushrooms he had sampled earlier was now transformed into a lovely bowl-full of stewed mushrooms and onions.

“Merry!” Frodo hissed. “Stop leering at the mushrooms. You`ll get your portion soon.” Of course, with mushrooms being the best thing any hobbit could want to eat Merry`s mum took one plate after another and portioned out the delicacies. Merry bounced on his chair in excitement when she put his plate down in front of him. He started to eat before Frodo could serve him with chicken and potatoes and carrots. “Merry!” Frodo elbowed him gently and took the plate away before Merry could mange to eat more. “Watch your manners!”

Merry sighed and waited until his plate was properly filled and set down in front of him again. “I`m sorry,” he whispered. Merry wolfed down his food until he finally felt Da`s watchful eye on him. He slowed down and was almost finished when he discovered that Frodo hadn`t eaten much. Frodo never ate as much as Merry – or as fast – but he never ate this slow either. “Frodo? Don`t you like the mushrooms?”

“Yes of course, Merry.” Frodo started eating again but Merry clearly saw that his spirit wasn`t in it. At Merry`s persistent look he finally relented. “I`m just tired, Merry-lad. Don`t worry.” Frodo ruffled Merry`s curls and smoothed out the worried line on Merry`s brow with his thumb. “Eat up now. There`s blackberry-and apple tart for pudding.”

Merry ate the rest of his dinner in silence but couldn`t help but feeling a bit uneasy about Frodo`s behaviour. Usually Frodo would give him a special smile and say that it was such hard work looking after Merry and that that was the reason he was tired, but he hadn`t done so today.


Merry was quite pleased with that evening`s events, despite his worry over Frodo. He had been allowed to play for a longer time than usual in the bath and had made some lovely sculptures out of the foam. He stood up in the tub so that he just barely could see himself in the looking glass and made himself a wonderful helmet of foam that covered his wet curls neatly and even had a pointy top. After, he made dwarves and played at being Bilbo rescuing them from the spiders. When he was completely wrinkled from the hot water, his da scooped him up in an enormous towel and tickled him dry, making him laugh and giggle and not even feel that he dried the insides of his ears, because that was the worst thing Merry knew about bathing and if he was aware of it happening it would usually result in blood-curdling screams until the hobbit who was drying him off stopped in fear of having the whole Hall at the bathing room door wondering who was mistreating a child like that. Merry simply hated having the towel in his ears and would constantly think up new ways to avoid it.

Merry was plonked down on his bed before his da helped him put on a nightshirt. Merry thought himself big enough to put it on by himself but the buttons weren`t always easy to get into the proper holes and impatiently he just let his clothes stay unbuttoned instead. That is, until some grown up found him and re-buttoned his shirt or waistcoat or whatever he hadn`t managed.

Uncle Paladin came to tell him a story, and it was so exciting that Merry had not fallen asleep at all, and besides, it was a rare treat to have Uncle Paladin tell him a story so he wanted to enjoy all of it. When the story was over he had to have a song too so that he could fall asleep and at last he contentedly snuggled down in his blankets.


Merry woke with a start and in a rush remembered Frodo`s funny behaviour the night before. He sat up in bed and pondered for a moment if he should just turn over and sleep some more when his tummy told him that it wanted attention, so Merry decided that he would go check on Frodo and if he was well, ask him to come with him to the kitchen and have a glass of milk and bread and maybe a bit of tart if there was something left.

He jumped out of bed, but the sudden movement made him a bit queasy and he stood still for a moment. Was he that hungry? Merry remembered that he had been so hungry one time that he felt sick and he had had a headache that only went away after he had eaten. Frodo had better be well then so he could join him in the kitchen. Merry knew he was too little to help himself yet, and he was strictly forbidden to use a knife, but that was all right, he didn’t mind. He`d seen Cousin Dodinas cut himself once, and although there had been lots of blood – which in itself was interesting, but also a bit scary – Merry hadn`t wanted for Dodinas to hurt himself and felt sad when he later heard that Dodinas had been bundled off to bed and instructed to eat liver because he had bled so much. Poor Cousin Dodinas. Merry hated liver even more than he hated to dry his ears and in fear of any possible future liver meals he stayed away from the knives.

Merry padded off to Frodo`s room. He stood on tip-toe to open the door and managed to enter without any noise. The lamp was burning on Frodo`s table, something Merry found alarming. Frodo always slept with the lamp off. Always. Merry climbed up in Frodo`s bed and snuggled down beside his cousin, bumping Frodo`s chest with his head so that Frodo sleepily draped an arm over him. Merry lay still for a moment but then his tummy told him that he still was hungry. He squirmed around a bit and shook Frodo a little. “Wake up, Frodo. I`m hungry.”

Slowly Frodo opened his eyes and Merry watched as he came awake. “Merry?”


“What is it? Everything all right?”

“I`m hungry. How are you feeling?”

Frodo yawned and looked at Merry. “My head hurts but I`m all right. Why do you ask?”

“You were so strange at dinner, not teasing me as you usually do so I thought something was wrong.” Merry snuggled in deeper and felt Frodo`s arms hug him close.

“My Merry, my Merry.” Frodo said in that in a strange and a little sad grown up way Merry didn`t quite understand. Frodo wasn`t grown up yet, but sometimes he sounded like he was. Merry had a feeling that this moment was important and something to remember, so he lay still as Frodo stroked his hair and kissed his head, squeezing him a little.

When Merry thought Frodo might be asleep again he lifted his head and scooted up in the bed, kissing Frodo`s cheek, looking at him. His tummy made a funny movement and Merry decided that he`d better find something to eat now before he was so hungry he`d start eating the pillow. “I`m hungry, Frodo. Please, come with me.”

“All right you rascal,” Frodo said and tickled Merry before bundling him up in a blanket and carrying him off to the kitchen. There he sat Merry down on a chair and found bread and a quarter of a round of semi-soft cheese, milk and a bit of left over tart. He prepared a plate for Merry and sat down with his own glass of milk. Merry  started eating as Frodo watched. The bread tasted a bit funny and Merry looked at it to see if something was wrong but it looked just fine. He sipped a bit of milk but that too tasted funny. “Please may I have some water instead, Frodo? The milk tastes funny.”

“It does?” Frodo sipped a bit of Merry`s milk – perhaps the glass wasn`t properly clean and had some soap left on it? The milk tasted just fine though, but he found another glass and poured Merry some water from the bucket in the cooling-room instead.

Merry drank thirstily but the water too tasted funny. “Everything tastes funny, Frodo.” Merry sat the glass down and looked mournfully at his plate. He`d just taken a few bites of the bread and cheese, and he loved that cheese! It was one of Cook`s specialities and she added pepper and a bit of dried bell peppers and parsley to it to make the taste spicy.

Frodo came down to kneel in front of him. “Is everything all right, Merry?”

“I don`t know. I thought I was hungry but my tummy is funny and now I`m not hungry at all.” A few tears leaked down his cheeks and Merry brushed them away with his sleeve.

Frodo lifted Merry up from the chair and sat down with him in his lap, rubbing Merry`s tummy soothingly – not soft enough to tickle but not so hard that it hurt either. “Is that better? You did eat quite a lot of those mushrooms for dinner, you know.”

“I know,” Merry said. It felt good to have his tummy rubbed and he leaned into Frodo`s embrace. He didn`t think it was possible to eat too many mushrooms though, and said so. Frodo laughed and so Merry had to laugh too.

“There now,” Frodo said after a while, gently tickling Merry`s sides and wrapping the blanket in around him. “All better?”

Merry nodded and snuggled down in the blanket, sleepy again.

“All right. Let`s bundle you off to bed then, shall we? I`m sure your tummy will be good again in the morning.” Frodo rose and whisked Merry into bed. Just as Merry was about to turn over to lie on his side, something lurched inside him and he was very sick over his nightshirt and sheets and Frodo`s hands and everything. He started to cry out of sheer misery and all the soothing in the world couldn`t take away the hurt in his tummy.

“Sssh, now. Lie still, Merry. I`ll just wash my hands. Then we`ll see about getting you into a fresh nightshirt.

Before Frodo had finished washing his hands Merry was sick once more and just as the fresh nightshirt was pulled over his head a third bout came. “All right, sprout. Let`s wake your mum and see if there`s something she can do about your tummy-ache, hm?” Frodo carefully rubbed at Merry`s bare tummy, blowing at it, trying to make Merry giggle, but Merry was too absorbed in trying not to be sick to take much notice of it. Frodo bundled up the soiled sheets and nightshirts and wrapped Merry up in a fresh blanket. He placed a cushion just so in the enormous armchair and sat Merry down in it, laying him so that he rested against the cushion and the armrest. Frodo stroked his cheek and was not gone long before Merry sleepily heard his mum and da coming into the room.

Merry didn`t remember much of what happened in the next few hours but he remembered that his mum had taken him in her lap and rocked him gently and Merry thought he could stay there forever. The funny feeling in his tummy had turned to an ache now and he was sick again. He felt hot and tired and whimpered when he was put down in his bed and someone he didn`t know felt his tummy and face and asked questions Merry was too tired to answer or didn`t quite understand. Someone, his da Merry thought, stroked his brow before starting to sing softly.


“Merry my love, wake up now.” Merry didn`t know how long he had been sleeping but the sun was shining in through the window and making the green walls in his room shine golden. It must be noon soon then, he thought. He turned over and looked up at his mum who looked back at him with a smile. His tummy still felt funny but not the same funny as it had the night before when he was sick. Merry was lifted from the bed and placed in his mum`s lap. “Drink a bit of this,” she said and Merry drank and found that he was very thirsty. The drink was some sort of tea and tasted a little strange.

“Do you want to tell me what happened?”

What had actually happened, Merry wondered? “I don`t know.”

“The healer said that you probably ate something you shouldn`t have and that you were lucky to not have eaten more of it, because then you would have been very, very sick, and that would have made me very sad.” She squeezed him a little, and kissed the top of his head. “Did you eat something while you were playing outside, Merry? Perhaps you ate some of the fertiliser for the flowers? Berilac did that last year and he was quite sick after.”

“What happened?” Merry asked.

“Well, he ate some of the white bits of fertiliser and was sick just like you were last night. He had to drink lots of milk after to get it out of his tummy, but he was lucky. Did you eat that, Merry?”

Merry shook his head. He`d been playing in the fields the day before but never thought the white bits that looked like seeds interesting enough to eat them. He had eaten a flower once, but that had been all right. He`d shown it to Frodo and Frodo had said it was nastur… something and that was quite safe to eat. After, Merry had eaten a whole little bouquet of them just to see if Frodo was right.

Merry felt his mum think. He wasn`t quite sure how he knew that she was thinking, but it was something about the silence and the way her heart fluttered behind his head. “I`m sorry, Mum.” Merry hated to make people sad. “I`m sorry I made you sad.”

“Oh, sweetie.” Merry squirmed around in her lap so that he could look up at her. His mum was crying now and Merry reached out to dry the tears with a bit of his blanket.

“Don`t be sad, Mum.”

She shook her head then. “It`s all right, love.”

After a while she took up the drink she`d given Merry earlier. “Drink a bit more of this, will you, sweeting?” She lifted the cup to his lips and Merry drank some more. “Merry? Did you eat any of the mushrooms before they were cooked yesterday?” she asked when he had finished drinking.

Merry nodded. “I`m sorry. They looked so nice and I was so hungry.”

“Oh, Merry!” Merry felt his mum begin to cry again. “I thought they were far enough out of the way for you to not reach them. They are very lovely mushrooms, my love, but not all of them are good raw.” She hugged him tight again. “I`m sorry, my poppet.”

Merry did the only thing he knew that worked when he`d made someone sad and started crying too.

Merry`s mum turned him around in her lap so that she could look him in the eyes. “Meriadoc, will you promise that you will never eat any mushrooms raw again before you are completely sure they are safe to eat?”

Merry nodded solemnly. When someone called him Meriadoc it usually meant they were angry or very serious. “I promise, Mum.”

“Good. And will you promise me that you will come to me or or your father, or Frodo  if you find mushrooms you have not specifically been told are safe to eat, no matter what?”

“Yes, Mum.”

She sighed. “I suppose it`s time you learn how to pick mushrooms and separate the good from the bad. I`m sorry that you had to find out the hard way what happens if you eat mushrooms not properly prepared but perhaps it`s a lesson well learned and a lesson you will remember.”

Merry wasn`t sure what all of that meant but he thought it was important so he nodded. “I will.”

They sat like that for some time, rocking back and forth in the large chair until Merry grew drowsy again. He felt tired and empty after being sick and was relieved when he was put back to bed for a nap.


“Merry? Wake up? I`ve brought you lunch.” It was Frodo. Opening his eyes Merry saw a large tray of food on his nightstand. “Look,” Frodo said with a twinkle in his eyes, “mushrooms!”

“I`m not sure I want any mushrooms today,” Merry said and sat up. He had slept half the day away then.

“Are you sure?” It was Nell, coming in behind Frodo, carrying a chair. Behind her Pearl came in carrying another. “They look delicious.”

“I`m sure,” Merry said.

“All right.” Frodo fluffed Merry`s pillows and placed a bed-tray with a steaming bowl of chicken soup on his lap. “Your da says you`re to stay in bed today and tomorrow if you`re up to it, I`ll teach you where to find the best mushrooms!”


Many, many years later, in a book on the herblore of the Shire, Master Meriadoc dedicated a whole chapter to the fine art of growing, finding and preparing mushrooms, because he knew – from hard earned experience – how crucial it was to know what mushrooms to pick and when and how to prepare them just so to please the sensitive palate of hobbit kind.



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