The Frethoni Book of Fables   
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Introduction. Fable No. 7, ca. 650 b.S. Fable #867, ca. 1495. One of the most recent additions to the "Frethoni Book of Fables" is the "Pocket Watch", not more than two centuries old. It tells us of the efforts of a dedicated and well-known clockmaker trying to repair a precious pocket watch a hobbit has given him to look after. But for some strange reason the clock never seems to be completely repaired, and the clockmaker needs to get back to work again and again. Until one day, that is...

Halfling with Pocket Watch

 Picture by Eshóh K'ryvvlen.

here once lived a very famous clockmaker in the Manthrian town of Marcogg. He was known for his sense of precision and the meticulous work that resulted from it; in fact he was so outstanding in everything he did and so committed to his craft, that his reputation spread throughout the whole of the United Kingdom. Whether it was a big clock with a pendulum or the tiniest pocket watch or a sundial, as long as the apparatus was meant to tell the time, the clockmaker knew what to do with it. He built clocks, fixed them, and sometimes even made them work better than ever before! People said that each clock the clockmaker constructed with his own hands was without a single flaw, and customers could expect such special gear to last for their whole lifetime. It goes without saying that respected nobles just had to commission their very own clock from this miraculous craftsman, and every citizen who wanted to make an impression too.

Now there was a wealthy halfling, who owned a very precious pocket watch. It was a unique heirloom he had inherited from his father and his father from his, and his grandfather from his father, so the pocket watch was among the most precious items the hobbit possessed. The watchcase for example was made of the finest gold and the dial had tiny sparkling gems instead of numbers to mark the hours. The halfling was quite proud of his watch and he loved it dearly: it was part of his family’s tradition, a symbol of his house name; it was valuable, beautiful and elegant. No one else had a watch like this.

However, one day the hands of the watch ceased moving. There was no apparent reason for that to happen, for the hobbit had always taken good care of it, but despite he wound up the watch, the hands refused to cooperate. So it came that the halfling of the watch sought out the famous Marcoggian clockmaker, confident that he could make the clock work again.

The clockmaker opened the faulty device and scrutinized its interiors with his trained eye. He tested the basic mechanics of the little machine, inspected gear-wheel by gear-wheel of the complicated, intricate clockwork. After some further research on similar clocks the master decided that he had to replace one particular wheel of the whole lot to make the entire mechanism function again. So that's what he did: He removed the defective wheel and put it in one of his drawers, which he had reserved for faulty parts for future reference. And indeed, after he wound up the treasured heirloom the hands came to life again. The clock worked, and the customer was satisfied with the result.

But after a year and a half had passed, the halfling appeared a second time in the clockmaker’s shop. While the watch still worked, it didn’t tell time as precise as before, the clockmaker was told: For some reason it went faster than it was meant to and within the time span of a day it was half an hour ahead. The hobbit begged the master to look once more into the matter; after all he had managed to spot and solve the problem the first time, and it had worked, at least for some time.

Thus the clockmaker once more checked every part of the clock, starting with the piece he had replaced the first time. But there was nothing wrong with it. At last he made out a new culprit however: Apparently a mechanical inaccuracy had developed over time due to deterioration of the material. The problem couldn’t be fixed by just putting in a new wheel here or there or tightening a few screws. Therefore, in order to be on the safe side, the clockmaker concluded that he'd had to replace a whole part of the clock’s gear. So that's what he did. Well, the clock worked, and the customer was satisfied with the result.

Nevertheless there came another time not too long after that when the clock stopped working altogether and the halfling reappeared in the clockmaker’s shop, not at all happy.

“It’s the way it was when I first came to have it fixed,” the hobbit told him. “The hands just won’t move. It’s broken again! Maybe the clock is too old and cannot be repaired anymore? You have to know, it has been passed through four generations!”

This time the shopkeeper however reassured him that he’d repair the watch once and for all. Should he be proven wrong, the hobbit wouldn’t have to pay a dime. To that his customer agreed of course and said that he looked forward to seeing the watch restored. Though, truth be told, he couldn't quite believe it.

The master clockmaker knew what he had to do: Without further investigation on the cause of the problem he opened the pocket watch and replaced all those parts of the interior he hadn’t replaced in any of his previous repairs. Only the watchcase he left unchanged. He wound it up, and the pocket watch worked.

A few days later the halfling showed up in the shop, inquiring about his watch. The clockmaker smiled as he looked into his drawer, where he stored all the defective parts. It now contained all gear-wheels, tiny screws and various metal parts, which once had been part of the beloved watch.

“Yes, “the clockmaker said to the hobbit. “At last it works – better than ever, just as I told you!” With these words he handed him back his pocket watch.

And believe it or not, but from this day on the halfling was never again seen in the clockmaker’s shop.


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