KLAS AND THE BEAR

A HALFLING FOLK-TALE

 
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Introduction. This endearing tale is one of Gaffer Klas, one of several halfling folk heroes collectively called the Blessedvales. While they are occasionally confusing to the Big Folk, the Blessedvales are not deities, merely well respected and politely revered by hobbits. Gaffer Klas is not a well known Blessedvale outside of Helmondsshire, but the story of Klas and the Bear is told during the festival of Hearthdays, sometimes known as Klastide, without fail. The story has lost some of its charm in the translation to the page, and we apologize for this.
 

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 alike!

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.
 


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Folk tale written by Valan Nonesuch View Profile