HOW THE HOB-HOUND CAME TO BE

A SANTHARIAN BEDTIME STORY

 
Santhalan Bedtime Stories   
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Introduction. 'How the Hob-Hound Came to Be' is a version of a common halfling folk-tale, as narrated to Jenna Silverbirch by a farmer of the Dogodan shire. The halflings take great pleasure in accosting Big Folk travellers and telling them tall tales, some with a deal of truth in them, some with none, to see how readily they’ll believe in them. The Hob-Hound story is a favourite, and is also a popular bed-time story for hobbit children, although this particular version is by far one of the longest stories concerning the origin of the Hob-hound, perhaps designed to eat up as much of a big-folk traveller’s time as possible. Those versions intended to be bed-time stories for halfling children are greatly summarised and can be as much as a tenth of this version’s length. Note the frequent use of alliteration, a common device in many hobbit stories.
 

he Hob-hounds, you say? Our little Koda-dogs? Well, there’s a fair few tales about them, oh yes. Mighty useful beasts to us small folk, you see. There were the time a Koda saved a village- or were it a rimrunner? I can’t quite recall. Or the ghostly white dog who plagued some poor folks years back. Ah, but I bet you’re wondering just how them kodael dogs got so small, ain’t you? You’re not? Well, it’s a good enough tale...

There were once a hobbit who had his home not all that far from the house of one of the big folk. Now, these homes, there t’wasn’t much difference between the two, except of course that one was snug in a hill and the t’other were a four-walled thing of brick with a neat pointed roof. As there t’wasn’t much difference between the hobbit and the big-folk farmer, except of course that one were much taller than t’other. In fact, those two were so similar that of an evening they’d oft share a pint or a pipe out on the bench twixt their two houses and go nattering on about that and this till the sun sank.

Now one day, the farmer, he comes out of an evening to meet his mate by their bench, and the hobbit stands to greet him, when this hobbit, why, he nearly jumps clear out of his britches. For what has the farmer brought with him but a big, bawling, caterwauling monster a yapping and a yowling clean enough to wake the bones of the hills.

“Why,” says the farmer “What’s so a feared ye?” For the hobbit, he’s quivering beneath the bench his hands high over his head as if all the devils of the earth were clambering towards him.

“What’s a feared me?” says the hobbit, getting right indignant. “What’s a feared me is that thar four-legged felon you’re dragging t’wards me by a rope, gnashing it’s teeth and looking right proper nasty, o’course!”

“Why!” says the farmer, starting to chuckle. “Why this ain’t no monster! It’s just my Bess. Han’t you ever seen a hound before? She’s only griping because she caught her paw in yonder ditch a minute back. You’re all right, aren’t you, girl?”

And the hobbit, he starts to uncurl out from under the bench as he sees that now the monster’s ceased it’s yapping, why, it’s giving him a right friendly look, it’s tongue hanging out sideways of it’s maw. Now this is such a silly face for a monster to be pulling that the hobbit, he starts chuckling too.

“Well if that ain’t the daftest monster I e’re seen,” he says. “What do you need to keep such a dafty for, old friend? ‘Cept to cheer you up a gloomy grey day, I suppose.”

“Ah,” says the farmer, and he tells the hobbit how the funny-faced monster helps him with all manner of tricksy things around his home, like as ferreting out ferrets or rats or any other nuisancical pests, or scaring birds, or guarding this or that or t’other. “And sometimes,” the farmer finished, “It’s nice t’have her company of an evening. My Bess is so cheerful, there ent a day, gloomy or grey or ghastly, that she can’t cheer me up from.”

The hobbit, he’s quiet a-while, thinking like.

“Well now, friend,” he says, a-stroking of his chin. “I very much like the sound o’these hounds. Very much! Seems they’re right proper useful.”

“Oh, they are, and friendly as any folk if you pick the right one,” says the farmer. “Why don’t y’have a stroke of her?”

So the hobbit reaches out, hand hovering over the beast’s head, for he’s still not quite sure if this sharp-toothed creature is safe, and gives it a quick pat. Straight away, the monster’s tail starts thumping and thwacking the ground and its silly great grin widens. So the hobbit, feeling right amused by all that, scratches the beast’s ears and strokes it’s head till it’s maw is so a-gape he’s surprised its jaw don’t fall off.

“Why, what a wonderful beast!” the hobbit says. “I do wish I had one o’ my own. Seems they’re proper useful t’have about the place.”

“Hm…”says the farmer, and he starts a-stroking his chin as well. “I suppose I could let Bess stay up in yon hole wi’you for a day or three. T’see if it’d be a worthwhile thing. You keeping a hound, I mean.”

Well, the hobbit being right taken with the beast, he agrees straight away.


The next morn, after the hobbit’s clearing up this and that left from his first breakfast, there’s knocking at the door. He trots down the hall to open it, and there’s the farmer, with his hound Bess on a lead he’s grasping one hand, and a pile of blankets in t’other.

“Here’s Bess-” says the farmer, and holds out the lead for the hobbit to take. Now, Bess is grinning and gaping same as ever, and sitting quiet at her master’s feet, but as soon as the hobbit takes the lead-end, she’s up and bolting down the hole’s hall. The poor hobbit, being only small, all of a sudden finds hisself being yanked sideways and dragged down his hallway sharpish.

“Help, help!” cries the hobbit. “This beast’s gone mad as a march-hare!”

The farmer, he rushes down the corridor quick as his lanky legs can run, and soon has hold of his h’irksome hound once more. The hobbit, shocked and downright shaken, picks hisself of the ground while the farmer gives Bess a good telling-off, which quietens the beast till she’s got her head hung low and her tail a-drooping.

“I’m not so keen on keeping this hound now, friend,” says the hobbit, brushing the dust from his feet “If she runs off with me regular, why, I’ll be sending her straight back to you with no supper!”

“I’m sure she were just excited at being in such a strange new place, full of funny smells and such,” says the farmer “She’ll calm down, I’m certain. In a week you’ll be wondering how you ever lived without a hound by your side!”

So the farmer explains this and that about how to look after a hound, and soon enough he’s gone trundling back to his home, leaving the hobbit with a pile of blankets in his arms.

The hobbit’s still not sure about the hound, and sets the blankets- which are Bess’s bed- out in the hallway, and goes to soak his poor sore feet. He’s expecting Bess to burst through the door at every moment as he sits there, feet in a nice hot tub of water. Any second, the door’ll crack and she’ll jump in, snarling and snapping at me, he thinks to hisself.

But a whole half hour went by and there was no noise from the hall save the tick-tocking of the grand old clock. By then the hobbit, he’s getting proper shifty, imagining the hound working up all manner of mayhem and mischief outside his door. I know that beast’s doing something tricksy out there, he thinks, There’s a chill in me bones! Though that could be ‘cause me water’s gone cold.

By now he’s all worked up with suspicion, so he dries off his feet and creeps to the door, pushing it open slightly and slowly. And d’you know what he found? Why, Bess were only snoozing on her heap of blankets, and when he goes over to her she looks up with that silly old grin across her maw. He gives her a pat, and she starts a-thumping her tail.
“You’re just a sleepy old creature, aren’t you, girl?” says the hobbit, feeling rather shameful now he sees she weren’t up to anything. “And I’m just an old fool t’think you were a monster. Now come along, and we’ll get some second breakfast.”

For the rest of the day, Bess follows the hobbit round as he does this and that and t’other, the hobbit giving her scraps to eat and Bess keeping quiet and peaceful, which suits the hobbit right nice. By the time the evening comes and the hobbit heads out to meet the farmer, leaving Bess dosing on her blankets once more, he’s grinning as much as the hound.

“She’s proper pleasant to have around,” says the hobbit to the farmer. “Nice having a spot of company, like you said.”
“There!” says the farmer, triumphant like “I said it plenty, I did! I knew you’d like having a hound about the house!”
“Well,” says the hobbit, “I may’nt or I may. We shall have to see how I feel after these three days is up.”


On the second day, the hobbit decides to go for a between-breakfasts stroll. So, thinking it’d do Bess good to have a run round the country-side, he goes to fetch her lead and fastens it to her collar. While he’s fumbling with the fiddly thing, Bess sits there nice and quiet, but the very instant he takes a hold of the lead and starts to say-”Right, girl, let’s be o-” she’s darted out the door quick as a kuata up a tree.

This poor hobbit finds hisself again being pulled helter-skelter by the hound without the strength to stop her, and all he can do is hold on tight for fear of letting go and being flung into the bushes speeding by with a crash and a crack, for none of his cries of ‘stop, stop!’ can halt or slow the beast.

Soon enough, Bess begins to slow, no doubt tired out, and her tongue and tail go droopy-like, and she skids to a stop.

The hobbit stumbles sideways, still mighty thrown off balance. He’s panting as much as the beast, and covered in mud-spatters from his frightful ride as well. But when he looks up, he’s sees they’re nothing more than a dusting compared to the great spatters of mud coating Bess from top to toes to tail.

“Well, now, girl” he says, bent over and puffing all the while. “That were enough for twenty ‘tween-breakfasts walks at least!” Bess just barks and looks awful pleased with herself. “But I think it’s time to be heading back homeward now. My legs’ll no doubt drop off if I don‘t get a sit down soon!” So he starts trudging back along the trail of broken bushes and churned earth Bess left before her. He’s gone a fair way when he realises Bess hasn’t followed. She’s still stuck to the same spot, panting and wagging her tail and covered in mud.

“Now, come along!” he says, sharpish like. But Bess still don’t budge.

So, with an idea of what’ll happen next, he has to trundle back beside her.

“I’m going to take a-hold of your leash, Bess,” he says, as calm as he can manage. “But I don’t want you darting off like you did afore. I only want to go for a pleasant stroll, see? Don’t mean I want to go on a wild ride around all the shire and back!” All Bess does is give him a queer look with her bright brown eyes, so, tentative as you please, he reaches out to take her lead again.

And do you know? I’m sure you can guess what came next. As soon as he grasps the lead, Bess is up and bounding back the way she came afore he has the time to blink.

The poor hobbit don’t have the strength or spirit to shout for Bess to stop, so all he can do was once more hold on tight as he could, as his poor sore feet make skid marks in the dirt, and Bess churning up more mud than previous.


Soon enough they are back in front of the hobbit’s hole. Once he’s gathered his breath and rubbed his red-raw hands, the hobbit looks up. And do you know, instead of a dog, stood in front of his front door were a heap of mud with a wagging tail stuck out the side.

“Bess!” the hobbit exclaims. “You filthy creature! You can’t be coming in the house in that sorry state, oh no…” So the hobbit wanders back inside and comes back out a while later pushing his biggest bathtub, full of fresh hot water. After an awful lot of pushing and groaning, he gets Bess into the tub and starts scrubbing. Now, the top coat of mud comes off pretty quick, but Bess is so slathered that most of it is stuck fast to her fur and won’t come out even after half an hour of scrubbing. Eventually the hobbit becomes fed up with cleaning and fed up with the silly old hound who’s been causing the trouble.

“You still can’t come in my clean house!” he says as he upends the bath tub, and Bess with it. “Tis your own fault, for running off like so!” And with that he storms into the house, dragging his tub behind him and slamming the door before Bess can squeeze in past him.


The hobbit spends most of his day laying around, soaking his rubbed skin and generally feeling sorry for himself. Now and then Bess scrabbles at the door, whimpering to be let in, but the hobbit is still fuming mad and don’t let her in.
Now, that evening, a drizzling rain began to fall. The hobbit don’t think much of it at first, till the sound of rain on his windows gets a little louder and a little harder, and then a little louder and harder once more, and again and again, till the clouds were pouring down water by the bucket load.

“Bess!” cried the hobbit, looking out the window. “She’ll be soaked!” he began down the hallway, thinking of letting the hound back in, but halfway down he stopped. “Well now,” he wondered aloud. “My scrubbing couldn’t shift the mud on her, but p’raps a good downpour could clean her up!”

So thinking he’ll let the hound in in the morning, the hobbit heads off to find some supper and soon after he’s fast asleep in front of his fire.


The next morn, the hobbit rises and goes about his business as usual. He’s feeling pretty pleasant, save for when he heads out to his back garden to take in his washing and finds that several of his favourite pairs of trousers have shrunk in the wash and are a little to tight to be comfy. When he’s eaten first breakfast, he goes out to see how Bess is doing. Well, he looks all about for her for a fair long time and can find no sign of the pesky hound save a great deal of muddy paw prints scattered all over the hill side.

“Oh, what by Dailreen’s fair face am I to do!” the hobbit exclaims in his panic. “What on earth will my good pal say if I’ve lost Bess!”

Now, a wailing and weeping and in a general state of shock, the hobbit sits down on the hillside and puts his head in his hands. And do you know? He hears a strange snuffling noise coming towards him. So, getting a little fearful like, he peers ‘tween his fingers, and sees Bess scrambling up in his direction.

“Bess!” he cries out in delight, and rushes down to her. “You’re not lost at all!”

But a strange thing happens. The closer he comes to the hound, the smaller she seems to get. He thinks it must be a trick of his old mind, till he’s right beside her and finds that this hound is three times as small as Bess.

“You’re not Bess!” he says. “You must be one o’ her pups.” But the closer he looks at it, the more the hound looks like Bess. It’s got the exact same coat, for one thing, and the same silly lopsided grin.

The hobbit is, of course, mighty puzzled. He thinks and thinks but can’t work out what has happened to the hound. He shifts on his feet to get into a more pleasant thinking position, and then winces as his too-tight breeches pinch him in the unmentionables. And then he realises!

“Why, Bess!” he shouts. “You’ve shrunk in the wash!”


When the hobbit goes to give Bess back to his friend that evening, the farmer is mighty shocked, as I’m sure any right-minded man would be, big-folk or not. The hobbit explains how all that hot water and cold water must have shrunk Bess, and pretty soon the two friends are laughing fit to pop at the silliness of it all.

“So,” says the farmer “Asides from the running off, did you like having a hound about the house?”

“I certainly did.” says the hobbit. “And now she’s shrunk, she’s a perfect size for me.”

Now, hearing this, the farmer goes quiet, thinking to hisself.

“Well now,” he says. "She's certainly a little on the short side for myself."

"What are you planning, friend?" says the hobbit, noting the crafty look in his friend's eye.

"Well indeed," the farmer goes on, seeming not to be paying attention to the hobbit. "And I have two other fine hounds back homeward. Yes, why I'm quite certain."

"Certain of what?"

"Friend, would you like to keep my shrunk Bess as your very own hound?"

The hobbit, he's so stunned it takes him a whole minute of umm-ing and err-ing and goodnessgraciousme-ing afore he can answer.

"Would I?" he eventually spits out "Would I ever? Well, I think I'd be a ninnyhammer not to! That's be the nicest thing in all the shire- nicer than third breakfast, I should say! I would be mighty pleased to have Bess in my home, and it's mighty mighty kind of you t'offer."

And so, that evening the old hobbit came home with a hound in tow. And it weren't long afore Bess gave birth to six fine little puppies, and do you know, all grew to be as small as she were. The hobbit, he gave these puppies to some of his acquaintances and it weren't long again afore all the shire had a hound in the home, them being so agreeable and affable and all.


And that, my good mate, is how the hob-hound came to be.

Oh- and they say that the hobbit made sure to take Bess out for a walk every day. But didn't he get all muddy with her rushing off, you say? Ah, no, my friend, they were clean as clean when they came back. Do you know why? Why, because now Bess had shrunk, the hobbit were strong enough to pull her back!

 


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 Date of last edit 20th Fallen Leaf 1669 a.S.

Bedtime Story written by Jenna Silverbirch View Profile