| It had snowed again during
the night and Greenwood the Great looked like the tiny Forest inside
the snow globe that Legolas ada had given him on his
last conception day. Standing upon the terrace, just outside the
Gates of Thranduils Halls, the elfling watched curiously as
his friend, Aredhel, holding on to her fathers hand, sat down
upon the white ground.
Would you like to play with us, your Highness?
asked his fathers Chief Counsellor.
No, thank you, Lord Astaldo, replied Legolas, politely.
Ada said that I must wait for him hereand that I must
not get dirty.
Smiling, Lord Astaldo bowed his head, then he, too, sat down,
a little way away from his daughter. Ready?
Aredhel laughed. Yes, Ada.
Wide-eyed, Legolas watched the pair sink onto their backs.
Now, said Lord Astaldo, use your arms and legs
as I showed you.
Despite his fathers instructions, Legolas moved a little
closer. Aredhel was flapping her arms up and down like a birds
wings, and sliding her legs back and forth like a pair of shears.
The elfling frowned
Thranduil approached his small son. Legolas!
The boy turned, and the wistful look on his little face took
the Elvenking by surprise. Whatever is happening out there?
He strode outsideand sighed. Are you not several thousand
years too old to be doing that, Astaldo?
The Counsellor pushed himself up on his elbows and smiled at
his king. Children are only this age once, your Majesty,
Fortunately, Thranduil agreed.
Legolas slipped past his father.
Look, Lassui, said Aredhel. She rolled over onto
her side and scrambled to her feet and both elflings, standing
side-by-side, stared down at the marks she had left on the snow.
What is it? asked Legolas.
A snow Varda, said Aredhel. Seehere is
her head, and there is her gown, and this is the starlight around
Legolas grinned. Ada, look
Come, Legolas, called his father. We have important
things to do this morning.
The King and the Crown Prince of the Woodland Realm mounted their
horses and, escorted by a company of lightly-armed warriors, crossed
the Forest River and trotted along the imposing, tree-lined avenue
to meet their guestsa ragged-looking band of men, muffled
in wool and swathed in furs, slowly ploughing their way through
the deep snow, leading their exhausted horses behind them.
Thranduil greeted the men formally, welcoming them to his home
for the Yuletide celebrations, and introducing his small son to
It is an honour, your Highness, said the chieftain,
bowing low. The man was shorter than an elf, and much broader,
and his hair and beard were white and unruly, but his smile was
Beaming, Legolas placed his hand upon his heart, and bowed his
little head, and said, in Westron, as his father had taught him,
I am pleased to meet you, Chief Bóðvarr örðigskeggi.
Then, all by himself, he added, Would you like me to show
you how to walk on the snow?
To the elflings surprise, the Beorning did not say yes.
Instead, he threw back his head and laughedHo, ho,
ho!and all his men laughed with him.
Hush now, ion nín, said Thranduil,
I will explain later.
For the rest of the day, King Thranduil plied the Beornings with
mulled ale and with roasted meats; then, early the following morning,
he lured Chief Bóðvarr into his study to discuss matters
of mutual advantage.
The Elvenking had planned that Legolas should be present at the
discussionsFor that is how I learned statecraft,
by listening to my fatherbut, at the last
moment, he changed his mind. Lassui has taken a liking to the
man, he thought, and the man to him. He would be a distraction.
He beckoned one of his guards. My compliments to Mistress
Nerdanel, Maeglin, he said. Tell her I wish her to
take care of my son for the rest of the day. Go with Maeglin,
Gwanur Nerdanel received her orders with a cheerful smile. I
was just going to the kitchens, little prince, she said,
to make some gyngerbrede for my nephews. Shall we go together?
She held out her hand.
I did not know that you could make gyngerbrede,
said Legolas, scampering along beside her.
Goodness, child! Where did you think it came from?
Legolas thought for a moment. Esgaroth, he
The kitchens (which Legolas was usually forbidden to enter) were
an exciting place, full of elves slicing, stirring, beating and
bakingall cheerfully making the exotic and delicious-smelling
dishes that would be served at that evenings Yuletide Feast.
The head cook, though surprised to receive a royal visit, made
the little prince welcome, finding him a starched white clothwhich
Gwanur Nerdanel tied around his middleand a high stool,
and setting him up in a quiet corner with various strange-looking
objects and some interesting-looking jars.
And there are some fine loaves in the pantry, he
I will go and fetch one, said Nerdanel. Wait
here, little prince.
From his stool, he watched the elleth cross the kitchen and disappear
through a door; he watched her emerge, moments later, carrying
a long loaf of white bread; and he watched her stop to speak to
one of the elves, who was sprinkling something into a bowl...
Then he examined the utensils, one by one, experimentally running
his fingers over the sharp teeth of the grater, pulling a few
funny faces in the shiny saucepan, tapping a song on the table
with the wooden spoon...
He put the spoon down.
Gwanur Nerdanel was still talking.
Then he picked up each of the jars in turn, and read its label
out aloud. Sa-ffron. San-dal-wood. Cin... Cin-na-mon. Pep-per.
Pepper? He pulled out the cork and peered insidethe
pepper was a fine, grey powder. He sniffed. Oh!
he gasped, Ah! He screwed up his little face, andandand
Legolas looked around, guiltily.
But, luckily, no one had seen what had happened. He jammed the
stopper back in the jar, and put the jar with the others.
Are we ready, little prince? asked Gwanur Nerdanel,
Yes, said Legolas, hiding behind a huge smile.
They boiled the honey, and added some sandalwood to make it red,
and sprinkled in the spices, though Legolas did try to
persuade Gwanur Nerdanel that the gyngerbrede might taste better
without the pepperThat is what makes your tongue tingle,
Then Legolas added the breadcrumbs, a small handful at a time,
and Nerdanel stirred, until the mixture was stiff enough, and
they tipped it out, and patted it square, and Nerdanel cut it
into thin slices.
Now for the best part, she said, smiling down at
the elfling. She laid one of the slices on a wooden board and,
using the point of a knife, she cut it into the shape of an elfhead,
arms, body and legstrimming away the extra paste. There.
Can I make one?
Of course, little prince. Nerdanel carefully lifted
the biscuit, laid it on a wooden rack to harden, and put another
slice of gyngerbrede on the cutting board.
Legolas rose up on the rung of his stool and, leaning on the
table, (and being very careful with the knife, as instructed),
he scratched a figure into the paste.
He looks happy, said the elleth, cutting round the
outline for him. Wherever is he running, in such a hurry?
Outside, said Legolas, to play in the snow.
The Elvenkings Great Hall was decked with boughs of holly
and with garlands of evergreens for the Yuletide feast. Legolas,
wearing his very best tunic and his princely coronet, sat at the
High Table, between his father and Chief Bóðvarr, who
loved children (but, sadly, had none of his own) and was in his
element, teaching the elfling to hang a spoon on the tip of his
nose, to burp at will, and to drain his little tankard of spiced
apple juice in a single draught.
Well done! he roared.
The chieftain picked a chunk of roasted fowl from a serving platter.
Ah, he said, I have found a wishbone, your Highness!
He stripped off the meat and held out the bone. Pull,
Legolas, though he had never heard of a wishbone before, grasped
one end, and pulled.
There was a quiet snap.
You have won, your Highness, said the Beorning. Look!
Legolas looked, but could not see how the man could tell.
Now, said Chief Bóðvarr, you must
make a wish.
What sort of wish?
Any sort of wishwish for something you want more
than anything else in the world.
Legolas looked dubiously at the broken bone.
Anything, said the Beorning.
I wish... said Legolas.
No, no! Bóðvarr laughed. You must
not say it out loud, your Higness. It must be secret.
But how will he know what I want?
How will who know?
The Beorning laughed again. It is the gods who grant your
wish, your Highness, not... Oh, I see. He leaned
in closer to the elfling. Tell me what you want,
he said. Whisper.
The main courses were cleared away, and the serving elves and
ellith brought in the dessert trays, laden with cider-soaked caraway
cakes and dishes of spiced syllabub, with plates of gyngerbrede
and fruited biscuits, and with boards of fine cheeses. To the
High Table one of the elves carried a special platter and, with
a deep bow, laid it before King Thranduil.
Look Ada, cried Legolas, bouncing up and down with
Over his head, his father and the Beorning chieftain were deep
in conversation. Legolas tugged at the mans sleeve. Look,
Lassui! cried Thranduil.
The chieftain shook his head, smiling. What is it your
Highness? Oh, yes! Look, your Majesty!
Frowning, the Elvenking followed the mans pointing fingerand
even his irritation immediately vanished. On the oval wooden plate,
two gyngerbrede elves, one large, one small, were running excitedly
across a snowy Forest of rosemary and bay leaves sprinkled with
fine white sugar.
Did you make these yourself, Lassui? he asked.
Yes, said Legolas, proudly. Well, Gwanur Nerdanel
helped with the mixing and the cutting, but I drew them,
and I made the trees, andoh, he squeaked,
remembering the pepper incident as his father picked up the the
larger of the gyngerbrede elves and bit off its head, does
itdoes it taste all right, Ada?
It tastes very good, said Thranduil. Clever
Stifling a yawnfor the room was warm and he had already
been listening to the Elvenkings proposals for some hoursChief
Bóðvarr örðigskeggi set his tankard on the
table and settled back in his chair, stretching his legs out towards
That is enough, for now, I think, he said. It
is time you took your son for a walk in the snow.
King Thranduil scowled. What?
The snow, said the Beorning. I know
that an elfling grows more slowly than a man child, but even Legolas
will not be young for ever. Do not waste these precious days of
Yuletide buttering up a crusty old warrior. Your son wants to
play in the snow. Go and take him outside.
Legolas is a sensible child, said Thranduil. He
He wants to play in the snow, said the Beorning,
firmly. He told me so himselfhe wants to play with
you. Go and take him out. He folded his arms across
his chest. You will not get another word out of me on any
Do not be childish! said Thranduil.
Go and be childish! said the Beorning.
The Elvenking gasped.
The man laughed. I will still be here, he added,
diplomatically, when Legolas has tired himself out.
Elflings do not tire so easily, Chief Bóðvarr,
But a man, said the Beorning, yawning openly now,
can take a nap, King Thranduil, and will awaken much more
inclined to talk.
Look Ada, said Legolas, excitedly. as they passed,
hand-in-hand, through the Enchanted Gates, it is snowing
Thranduil, remembering the days when, as an elfling, he had played
in the snow with his own father, pointed to the far bank of the
Forest River. Last one across the bridge is a goblin!
Laughing, Legolas dashed off, with his ada at his heels.
And the Beorning chieftain, taking a little fresh air on the
terrace, watched them, smiling.