The Yuletide Horse Fair
Now hold my hand.
Eowyn reached for the big, strong fingers, and felt them envelop
her own small hand, squeezing it gently. She smiled up at her
Yes, he said, and we are going to buy one.
Flanked right and left by a small guard of Rohirrim, the pair
walked through the frosty market, past stalls displaying skeins
of yarn and rolls of warm, woollen cloth; past strange, dark men
selling fruits and oils and strong-smelling spicesone of
them gave Eowyn a big, black berry and he and her daddy both laughed
when she spat it out because it tasted horrid; past blacksmiths,
saddlers and harness makers; past jugglers, tumblers, and a man
And everyone seemed to know them, and stepped aside, bowing as
Eowyn pulled at her fathers hand, and pointed to a man
holding a brightly-striped box, and they stopped so that she could
have a better look. Inside the box there were two tiny dwarves,
with rosy-red cheeks and big noses, and her daddy told her that
they were called puppets. They were threatening each
other with little axes.
Eowyn called to them, and they turned, startled, and peered at
her, and they looked funny, so she waved to them, laughing
And, whilst the smaller dwarf was waving back, the big one suddenly
swung his axe, and knocked the small one flat. And then he hit
him, again and again and again
Waaaaaaah! wailed Eowyn.
And her daddy picked her up, and hugged her, but he was laughing.
It is not real, little lady, he said, rubbing her
back, soothingly. Come, I will show you. He carried
her closer (and his Guards followed, forming a circle around the
Eowyn stared down at the two dwarves. The small one did not seem
to be hurt
Show my daughter how they work.
Still breathing with little, gulping sobs, Eowyn watched in fascination
as the dwarves collapsed and the man, though his hands were still
holding the box, brought out two more hands and waved them
Daddy! she shrieked, burying her face in his
Shhhhh! Shh-shh-shh! Her fathers voice
was still full of laughter. It is a game, Eowyn. Just make-believe.
She turned her head, slowly.
The mans second pair of hands had disappeared, and now
the dwarves were bobbing up and down, taking it in turns to bow
Watch, said her father. These,he
touched one of the hands holding the boxare just pretend
hands. He pinched them, hard. His real hands are inside
the dwarves, making them move. There is nothing to be afraid of.
He held out a finger and one of the puppets grasped it and pulled.
Perhaps her Ladyship would like a puppet of her own, my
Lord? said the puppeteer.
Would you like a dwarf, Eowyn?
I am going to take my hand out again, my Lady, said
the puppeteer, cautiously. There. He wiggled
his fingers and, this time, Eowyn grinned. Then he felt in one
of his big pockets. Yes
This might be small enough
for you. He held out a pretty little girl puppet with long
yellow hair, blue button eyes, and a broad smile.
Eowyn took it from him, shyly. Thank you.
Put it on like a glove, my Ladythats right. Now, move
your fingers, like this
Yes, very good!
He slipped his hand back into one of the dwarves and it immediately
sprang to life.
Wave to him, little lady, said Eowyns father.
Eowyn made her puppet jiggle.
Clever girl! Falemi, he said, to one of the Guards,
give Master Puppeteer a gold coin.
Thank you, my Lord, said the man, bowing low.
Her father carried her the rest of the way, through the fair
and out into the fields beyond, where the horse traders had gathered
to parade and sell their animals. Clinging his shoulder, Eowyn
looked this way and that.
There was so much to see!
There were strange little men, with big feet and curly hair,
leading sturdy ponies; there were rough farmers showing teams
of draught horses; there were men of Rohan selling brave young
war horses; and there were elegant southern noblemen putting their
smooth, sleek hunters through their paces.
Eowyn spotted a beautiful little colt, with huge, bright eyes
and, forgetting that she was still holding her puppet, she tugged
at her daddys jerkin and pointed excitedly.
You like him, do you, little lady? Yes, you have
a good eye for bloodstock. But, he added, kissing her temple,
we are looking for something special todayvery
specialah, yes! Look over there.
Turning, so that she could see where he was pointing, he showed
her a group of dainty little mares, fine-boned and pale as milk.
Eowyn had never seen horses so lovelyand their owners were
just as fascinating: taller than her daddy, but slender (almost
like her mummy), with smooth, fair hair and beardless faces.
Pretty lady-man, said Eowyn, loudly, pointing to
Oh! I do apologise, my Lord, said her father, with
uncharacteristic embarrassment. He bowed slightly. My daughter
is used to the burly men of Rohan
There is no harm done, my Lord, said the stranger.
His voice was gentle; and when he placed his hand upon his chest
and returned the bow, smiling up at Eowyn with twinkling blue
eyes, and said, I am an elf, híril nín,
she was captivated.
She reached out to him.
And who is this? he asked, for she was still holding
Eowyns big smile fadedthe dolly had no name. Dont
know, she said, sadly.
The toy is new, explained her father.
Eowyn hugged the puppet to her chest.
Do you know what I would call her, híril
nín? said the elf, kindly. I would call her
melmenya, because that means belove