ather 'round young and old,
gather round the hearth, for outside is cold! And for the winter's cold, a
remedy I has, a tale of Gaffer Klas!
Klas, as well you know, was a blacksmith, with arms as big around as tree
branches, a chest as wide across as a cask and hands the size of hoglings. His
beard was white as snow, and trailed down past his belt, and the hair on his
toes was curly and white too! And clever was Klas, with his eyes bright and his
belly large, but even Klas could not have seen the winter coming.
A winter to end winters, with snow to cover the windows of hole and house alike.
Snow piled high enough to make the Big Folk wade through it like marsh muck!
Snow, piled so high to cover entire doors and leave poor hobbits trapped!
But not Klas, for big though he was, and old though he was, his step was light
and his feet were nimble and clever as his hands.
The winds of the winter tore the leaves off of the trees and blew the teeth out
of old gaffers' mouths but didn't bother Klas. He took a shovel and dug out the
poor folk stuck in their houses. A few, who thought themselves quite clever, had
tried to climb out of chimneys only to find themselves stuck, and Klas helped
pull them out as well.
A winter so cold and bitter it froze over the great river Vandrina, and all the
ponds and creeks from here to the forest. And out of the cold and the dark of
the winter came the wolves.
Aye, wolves! Great black beasts the size of a pony, they slunk out of mountains
to the east and across the Vandrina and into the Shire. The wolves had eaten
everything in the mountains that they could find, and picked the bones bare!
Everything else had fled the dreadful Winter coming out of the North. And the
wolves came into the Shire and feasted on the hoglings and ponies and hobbits
Klas stood at his forge, banging his hammer, pumping the bellows all the while.
Klas did not heed the winter, for his forge kept him warm. And the folk came to
Klas and said "Klas, save us from the wolves!" And while Klas was strong and
clever, even he knew he could not fight the wolves.
So Klas stood at his forge, banging his hammer and pumping the bellows. And the
folk watched as Klas made something. And when Klas was done banging his hammer
and pumping the bellows he had an axe. And the folk said "Surely with such a
great axe, Klas will save us from the wolves".
But Klas did not go to kill the wolves. He went and he chopped down a tree. And
he dragged the tree back to the forge and threw the head of the axe back into
the fire of his forge.
And once again the folk of the shire came to Klas and said "Klas, save us from
the wolves!" But Klas simply stood at his forge, banging his hammer and pumping
his bellows. And the folk watched as Klas made something else. And when Klas was
done, he had made a saw. And the folk said "What will Klas do with a saw to save
us from the wolves?" And with his saw, he sawed the tree into boards, and then
threw the saw back into the fire of his forge.
Klas banged his hammer and pumped the bellows of his forge, and the folk came a
third time and said "Klas, save us from the wolves!" When Klas had finished, the
folk looked and saw that Klas had made a barrel. And one of them said to Klas
"What will you do with a barrel to save us from the wolves, Klas?" But Klas
merely swung the barrel over his back, picked up a branch from the tree he had
cut down with his axe and walked out to find the wolves.
Klas did not have to walk long until he heard the wolves howling to one another,
and so Klas howled back, louder than all the wolves. And the wolves chased after
Klas. Klas led the wolves to the mouth of a cave, and there he stood, and he put
down the barrel at the mouth of the cave. Out of the barrel, he took some meat
and this he laid on the snow. And he broke the barrel, and burned it to cook the
meat, but the lid of the barrel Klas saved. The wolves smelled the meat and saw
Klas' fire and came running.
And as the wolves came running, Klas took the lid of the barrel and he held it
in one hand and with the stick he'd taken from the tree he banged on the lid
like a drum. The wolves were frightened by the noise, but not for long.
It seemed as though the wolves would have Klas for their supper after all, but
Klas was clever. The cave he had led the wolves to was home to the great Bear of
Winter, and the Bear was King of all the beasts of winter. Kuatu and mice and
hares all hid from the great Bear, birds flew south at the sound of his snores.
The Bear of Winter had gone to sleep after the snow had fallen, and now Klas was
standing outside his cave, banging and making all sorts of horrible noise.
The great Bear of Winter roared and the wolves worried for a moment. Had they
fled there, the wolves might have lived. Klas continued his banging, and the
Bear came out of the cave. And such a bear it was, with paws as big as your
head, fur like a blizzard and claws like great knives. His tremendous roar
caused the snow to shake from the trees and the wolves quaked with fear. And the
bear struck at the wolves, thinking they had made all the noise, and killed
every last one of them, and went back to sleep.
Now Klas was strong and so he broke the necks of every last one of the wolves to
make sure they were dead. And he tied all of the wolves to the hoops of his
barrel, and put the hoops across his stick and dragged them all back home.
All the folk had surely thought Klas dead, and so no one was expecting Klas back
at his forge. And he worked quickly and quietly all through the night, banging
his hammer, and pumping the bellows of his forge. And with the hoops of the
barrel he threw back into the fire. He banged his hammer and pumped the bellows
of his forge, and made a knife. With the knife, Klas skinned the wolves, gutted
them and took the meat from their bones.
Klas ran quick as a rabbit from house to house, delivering wolf skin blankets
and sausage for roasting to the homes of the poor hobbits that had suffered from
the wolves. In through windows and down chimneys Klas delivered his packages,
and as the sun crept over the hills, Klas returned to his forge.