The Tale Of Myra And Merrilil
by Katta

An immediate return to normal after the war was, of course, too much to expect, but there were actually very few disturbances. That was why even such an unplanned and chaotic attack as the one on lower Buckland was remembered for so long. Nobody had been prepared for a battle, and many parents were separated from their little ones. The Master of Buckland had been called right away and soon rallied folks to avert the attack, but there was still a lot of confusion afterwards, and the odd child was never found again. Certainly, as the old wives pointed out, you could really expect people like Hallie Bolger and Ethel Proudfoot to lose anything, but there was no doubt the villages had been turned quite upside down. Under those circumstances, maybe it wasn't so strange that people started to say Myra Proudfoot was a changeling.

There was something about her that wasn't quite hobbit, they said. Oh, like all in her family and most other hobbits she had dark hair, eyes and skin, and her hands and feet were as small as her mother's, but wasn't she a tiny bit too thin? Her skin was certainly more of a greyish hue than the warm, healthy chestnut brown that could be expected. And when she grew taller not only than the children her own age, but most of the tweenagers too, the gossip never ceased. Ethel Proudfoot finally had no other choice than to take her daughter to the Master of Buckland and ask for his help. He took one look at Myra and immediately agreed to take her to school in Hobbiton.

"What else could I have done?" he asked his friends at Bag End, nodding at the girl who was playing catch with Sam's children in the garden. "I mean, look at her!"

"Isn't she a bit..." Sam started, but at the stern gaze he got from Rosie he shut his mouth.

There was a scream of pain and wounded pride from the garden, and young Frodo came running back to his parents, his hand bleeding. The other children followed close behind.

"She bit me!" he complained.

Myra, finding herself on the receiving end of three reproachful glances, only raised her chin. "He pushed his brother."

The glances immediately turned to little Merry's dirty face that was striped with tears. He stuck his hand into Myra's, and she squeezed it hard.

"I suppose that's all right?" Sam said, and the question mark at the end was practically visible.

"No, it isn't." Rosie's face was determined, and she gestured for the girl to come closer. "I'm glad you want to defend my boy, but you must never bite anyone, or get into a fight. Not in our home, you don't. Is that clear?"

Myra squirmed, but she couldn't get out of that gaze. Finally she mumbled, "Yes."

Rosie didn't see how Myra stuck out her tongue as she raced back into the garden. Only little Merry did.


Myra eventually learned not to bite people. Quickly stomping on their feet was a lot more effective, and also easier to deny. Boys' private parts were another option, if one to use only in the most severe circumstances.

Like when somebody hurt little Merry.

Myra saw very little of her own family, but quite a lot of the Gamgees, whether they wanted her to or not. Merry was the only one who welcomed her with the same enthusiasm every time. Elanor saw no point in a playmate who didn't care for toys or animals except to break or torment them. As for Frodo and Pippin, they put her in a particular category of evil far beyond the disdain they felt for all other girls.

Sam and Rosie... well, they tried. It would have been easier if she hadn't been such an unpleasant little girl.

"What's for dinner?" she'd ask, leaning her bony chin on the window sill.

Rosie had stopped asking her if she didn't get food at the school. She did, and it didn't matter to her. She had chosen the Gamgees. The girl was, to put it simply, a leech.

"Cabbage mutton," Rosie might reply. "Do fetch the others, will you?"

Myra obediently fetched the others. Bringing news of food for a moment made them more benign towards her, and she revelled in each friendly shove as they raced back to the hole. If she could have made herself a Gamgee, she would have. Meanwhile, she was satisfied to beat and tease them as much as they did each other, pretending she was a real big sister.

And in Merry's eyes, she was. She had bitten Frodo that first day more as a way to get respect than because she actually cared, but Merry, who found his brother's attitude less than comforting, made much more of it. He adored her. And if at first she found his adoration slightly annoying, she didn't have so many friends that she couldn't learn to appreciate him.

"You're a fat pig, Merry," she told him when he couldn't catch up with her long legs. "And you think with your stomach."

Merry shrugged, something he managed remarkably well even while running. All hobbits thought with their stomachs. And he didn't mind Myra calling him a fat pig, because she hit anyone else who attempted to call him names.

The only time she didn't fight for him was when he complained about being called "baby Merry" by his parents.

"It's only so they can tell you from the Master of Buckland," said Myra, completely uncomprehending.

"Well, I hate it." He kicked a stone loose from the dirt and sent it flying across the yard. "I hate 'little Merry' too. I'm not little."

She looked down at him. From her perspective, head and shoulders taller than him as she was (not to mention two years older), he most definitely was little.

"What would you prefer then? Merry junior?"

Merry made a little giggly noise. "No. He's not my father."

"Mini Merry then," she joked, laughing more and more as she continued her suggestions. "Merry the Kid. Merry of a Slightly Smaller Stature. Young Merry. Merry li'l."

"That I like," he said.


"Merrilil. It sounds like a real name."

"It's just another way of saying little Merry."

"Not the way you said it."

And so she called him Merrilil. No one else really took to it, but for him it was enough that she used it.

Since she always kept him safe, it was with great dismay that he realised he couldn't return the favour. Myra was so hostile nobody ever said anything to her face, and he couldn't help her fight the whispers and hints that took place behind her back. It came to him very slowly over the years that while he had Mother and Father, Elanor, Frodo, Pippin, Goldilocks and all the others always surrounding him, Myra had letters coming from her mother once a month, and nothing else. Much slower was the understanding that this might be because Myra wasn't like other hobbits.

It had never really mattered to him when he was little, and he couldn't say it mattered to him now either, but he kept noticing new little things that separated Myra from everyone else. The way she stayed up until dawn if she had the chance. The joy with which she wrung the head off a chicken or cut the throat of a pig. How she only appeared to get thinner and bonier every year.

At first he wasn't sure if she had noticed. Then she entered her tweens, and as other girls spoke of dresses and weddings, Myra started speaking of her family.

"Maybe I really am a changeling," she said, staring into the reflective surface of a dinner plate she was drying.

"You'd better not drop that," Merry warned her, scrubbing the cutlery. "Why would you be a changeling?"

"Because I look like a changeling, stupid." She continued to mirror herself. "Do you think I might be an elf? My ears are a bit pointy."

Merry, who had never seen an elf, only shrugged. The truth was, he didn't want Myra to be a changeling, because he had a vague feeling that if she was, she would have to live with her real family.

"I think you're a hobbit," he said promptly.

She spun around, putting the plate down. "Merrilil, look at me. My hair is straight, and it doesn't grow on my feet. Feet with toenails better not mentioned, I might add. My nose is crooked, my eyes are small and far between, my face is flat as a pancake and I'm much too thin. What does that make me?"

Merry stared at his toes. He was far too shy a young hobbit to say what he was thinking, which was "mine".


It was early autumn when Myra left without a word to anyone. She knew very little about other races, but was vaguely aware that some of them used to come to Bree. And so that was where she went first, standing on the streets too scared to enter any buildings.

Apart from the hobbits, everyone was taller than her, and most were fairer. Some had straight hair, some had flat faces, but she couldn't point at anyone and say "that one looks like me".

"Sir," she said, stopping a man who seemed less busy than everyone else. "What would you say I am?"

The man only muttered "a damn nuisance" and proceeded. Strangely enough, his reply gave Myra courage. These people may be bigger than her neighbours in Hobbiton, but they really weren't all that different. She ran through the streets between ponies and carts, stubbornly pulling people's coat sleeves to ask them what they thought she was. No one seemed very pleased by the disturbance, but around the tenth time the tall human man she asked actually took a good long look at her.

"From the size of you I'd say hobbit. But you don't have the build of one. Dwarf, maybe. Which are you really?"

"I wouldn't know," she said, her heart pounding in anticipation. "Where do the dwarves live?"

"In caves up in the mountains."

"Much obliged," she replied and curtsied to his back, since he hadn't stopped to accept her gratitude. Though for once in her life, the gratitude wasn't faked, and the polite words came easily.

The good thing about mountains was that they were so easy to find. Myra sold everything in her pockets, which was as many glittering items as she had been able to find in Bag End, and sneaked away before the questions of where she had gotten the things turned into interrogation.

The trouble only arose when there were no more villages to buy food from. Myra was quite skilled at throwing stones at birds or tying twigs and rattles to cats' tails, but she had never learned much proper hunting. Berries and nuts weren't enough to fill her stomach, and when she ran into a dead pigeon she was hungry enough to remove the worms and eat it raw. To her surprise she actually liked the taste.

Even with the addition of dead animals to her diet, she still was a bit on the hungry side by the time she reached the mountains and spotted her first dwarf. She had climbed a cliff that looked like it led to an entrance, but found only a cave little more than a shallow dent in the rock. Turning around, she saw a small bearded man below her, and jumped down, careless of her own safety.

He didn't take well to suddenly finding a girl in front of him. "Where did you come from?"

"The Shire," said Myra, trying to catch her breath. She couldn't take her eyes off the axe he carried. Was it really as sharp as it looked? "You are a dwarf, aren't you, sir?"

"Naturally." He scrutinised her, never having seen anyone like her. He was a sheltered kind of dwarf and didn't leave his own mountain much. "But what are you?"

"That's what I would like to know. I was raised a hobbit, but I think I'm a changeling of some sort. A man in Bree suggested I might be a dwarf."

The dwarf snorted. It was the first time he heard of hobbits or Bree, and he immediately got a low idea of both. "Don't be stupid. Your hair is too thin, and you're too tall."

She decided not to kick him in his private parts, even though she felt he deserved it. He might still have useful information. "So what am I, then?"

"What do I know? You could be an Elf, for all I care."

He had meant this as a grave insult, but Myra took it differently altogether. "Really? You think I am?"

"Wouldn't surprise me," muttered the dwarf, who had only seen elves once, at a great distance. "Got that skinny look on you, just like them."

Overwhelmed with joy, if still somewhat hungry, she interrogated him about the whereabouts of elves. His instructions were somewhat vague, but she was quite confident that she'd be able to find the elves sooner or later. Her immediate problem was finding something to eat.

"Can I have your axe?" she asked. "It would be very useful for killing animals."

"No, you can't. Do you think I'd give my best axe to a stupid girl who doesn't even know what she is?"

This time, she had no qualms whatsoever about kicking him.


Even with the dwarf's axe, finding food and shelter was hard work, and by winter Myra started to wonder if perhaps she was a hobbit after all. A very stupid young hobbit who didn't have the sense to stay out of the snow.

At one point she lay down, tired and hungry, and contemplated freezing to death right there. The idea of her own tragic death gave her great joy and comfort at first.

"Why shouldn't I die?" she asked herself out loud. "It's not as if anyone would miss me."

This thought made her stand up immediately and brush the snow off her clothes. It struck her that if no one would miss her, dying would in fact not be tragic but only pathetic. In that case, living on was a much more satisfying future.

Her decision not to be pathetic was hard to stick to, though, when she reached Mirkwood and met the elves.

There were two of them, tall and willowy, and even though they were kinder to her than the dwarf had been, they made her feel much worse.

"Am I an elf?" she asked them in a last attempt to believe this.

They didn't stop rubbing her feet to get the circulation back, but she could see the horror in their faces before the woman answered, "No, child, I'm afraid not."

That was when she realised that in the eyes of these beautiful people, she wasn't just ugly, but horrifying.

They tried to be helpful, teaching her how to make snares because they could see she was feeding herself poorly. But when she, as she had grown used to, took the prey fresh from the snare and ate it while its blood was still warm, they turned their heads in disgust.

She was barely more than a child, and so they took pity on her. Although it disturbed their aesthetic sense, they studied her face closely, and determined from her eyes and her cheeks that she had some likeness to the humans from south east. It was the kindest thing they could think of saying, and possibly true as well.

Myra groaned inside at the thought of going such a long way, but since it also meant getting as far away from the elves as possible, she thanked them very kindly and walked off right away.

The relief was as great on both sides.


She never made it to the south east. The snow made her journey slower, and by the time it melted she still had miles left to go.

She had reached the point where the journey itself was more important to her than where it might lead. Her experience so far had taught her there would hardly be a welcoming party expecting her at the far end. It didn't matter. Her journey was her life. If she was nothing else, she could at the very least be Myra the Walker, who could walk through terrains that would leave other hobbits panting behind.

Although she didn't know it herself, she had grown leaner and stronger during her journey, and she learned how to use the axe and snares so that she no longer had to walk half-starved.

She didn't know how long she walked, but the first flowers had just dared to raise their heads when her search came to an end - and not in the way she had expected. As usual, she had curled up in a ball under her winter coat to sleep, and at first she thought she was dreaming the whispering voices. But she didn't for a second believe she was dreaming the eyes.

She sat up with a start and saw grey shapes gathering around her, not close enough to touch, yet too close for comfort. Their slanting, gleaming eyes didn't leave her for a second, and Myra was not yet experienced enough to tell hostile interest from real danger.

"What do you want?" she asked, pulling her legs up under herself.

"We were just wondering what a lovely little Uruk-hai is doing so far away from the flock."

It was uncertain whether "lovely" or "Uruk-hai" was the word that caught her attention most. In either case, she got their gist. She had found what she was looking for, these were the people she belonged with - and she had no idea what they were.

"Uruk-hai?" The shiver in her voice could have been from the cold.

"Man-Orc." The leader was moving closer now, reaching out to touch her hair. "Don't you know what you are?"

She pushed him aside and stood up, hand flying to the axe. "I do now."

Why she chose to challenge him she would never know, but it was clear this was the right course of action. The Orc tangled his fingers into her hair and pulled, hard enough for her to lose balance. But Myra had learned from fighting hobbit girls how to ignore hair pulling, and the pain didn't stop her from swinging her axe. If he had waited longer to let go, he could have lost a hand.

"Don't you think it's unfair that you have an axe and I am unarmed?" he asked at one point, spreading his arms.

She swung it again. "Maybe. But your friends are free to step in any time they like."

They would, too, if she got close to killing him, but so far her suggestion was an insult to his skill. Instead, a crescent-shaped sword was passed forward to the leader, who took it to meet her next blow. Fighting became harder when she had to keep watch not to be harmed herself, and she was sweating in spite of the cold by the time she managed to disarm him.

The next second, three Orcs were holding her still. She fought them, not because she thought she could get loose, or because she was afraid of what they might do to her, but to show them she gave in to no one.

"Still, girl!" the leader ordered, getting off the ground. "You have won. Stop fighting us."

She bit the closest Orc just to make a point, and then stilled. When they let go of her, she bounced back to her feet.

"Is it true?" she asked, trying not to sound like a little girl expecting a present. "Have I won?"

"You have." He didn't sound too happy about it. "You may now hunt with us."


Hunting with the Orcs was much more fun than it had been when the Elves taught her to use the snares. The Orcs never told her to take it careful with the animals. On the contrary, when one of them caught a live fox, they dropped it on her while she was sleeping to see how she would react. She was scratched badly before she woke up enough to understand what was going on, but once she did she strangled the fox and was one lesson wiser.

The prank with the fox was done by the younger Orcs. The older kept a distance from her at first, because the Uruk-hai, although respected, weren't the kind of company they usually kept. But Myra, never having met people so like herself, was happy to fight along fullblood Orcs without any pretence. She did kick the first young one who tried to bite her in the back, but eventually she got the gist and bit people herself as often as she could. It was a thrilling time for her, full of blood and bones and glorious death.

And then they started speaking of going north.

"It is darker there," the leader explained. "And less humans to worry about. Most of it has no inhabitants at all."

"Huh," said Myra. She didn't want to admit it to anyone, afraid they might kick her out of the group, but she was beginning to miss hot baths. And as much fun as it was staying up all night to kill animals, seeing the sun once in a while wasn't such a horrible thing.

She continued to say nothing as she followed the flock north, convincing herself that this was what she wanted. These were her people. Of course she belonged with them.

Then the day came when she could see the mountain tops by the horizons, and she stopped short, causing the young Orc behind her to step on her heel.

She didn't want to go any further. Obviously it had to do with the fact that she didn't want to go back into the mountains, any more than she wanted to go back into Mirkwood. But that wasn't the only reason. Maybe if she hadn't seen the mountains, she would never have stopped to think it through, but the truth was, she didn't want to go to the north either.

She looked at her kinsmen, the ones she had made friends with and the ones more aloof. Oh, she liked them well enough. A lot, some of them. But if she had to choose between living her whole life with them in the high North, or living her whole life without them, she was definitely choosing the second option. She could hunt alone, after all.

"Are you coming or not, Man-Orc?" an elderly member of the flock barked from her side.

She looked at him and bared her teeth in a weak smile.

"Sorry. I will have to decline."


The Shire looked the same, which surprised her a little, while at the same time it felt only natural. During her entire life there, nothing had ever changed in the Shire. Why should it now?

She didn't go anywhere in particular at first, just strolled around the towns in strange little twirls and circles. At one point, she made it as far as to lower Buckland, but at the edge of the village where she was born she turned again. This wasn't the place to go, either.

So, if she wasn't to hunt alone - an opportunity she was starting to find more and more appealing - there was really just one place left to try.

And so, late in autumn, she entered Hobbiton, and as the day darkened she stepped inside the garden of Bag End, where a chubby young hobbit was lying on the ground, smoking his pipe.

"When did you start smoking, Merrilil?"

He raised his head and stared at her for a few seconds, before standing up. He was still as clumsy as ever before, but a lot taller. Stepping closer, she found that she was only half a head taller than him now.

"When did you start stealing jewelry and sneaking off in the night?" His voice was different too, deeper, and for a moment she felt as if she didn't know him at all anymore.

"I'm an Orc."

His eyebrows flew up. "And that's why you steal things?"

"No, that's why I ran off. To find out."

They were standing very close now, close enough for them to smell each other: the sweat and earth on Merrilil, and the blood and ingrown dirt on Myra.

"You could have told me," he scolded her. "I would have gone with you."

"I didn't want you to."

She had subtly known to challenge the Orc leader, and she had won. Now she challenged Merrilil. But he was no Orc. Would he take the challenge, and what would happen if he did?


Goldilocks came running into the living room, and halted with some difficulty in front of the large armchair where her mother was seated.

"Myra's back, and she and young Merry are kissing in the garden!" she said with the excitement that comes only from truly juicy gossip.

Rosie put her knitting down and looked at Sam over Goldilocks's head. Sam looked back at Rosie. None of them said anything for a brief moment.

"Don't you have homework to do?" said Rosie, picking up her knitting.


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