A small face peered over the edge of King Thranduil’s desk.

“I am sorry, Legolas,” said the Elvenking, without looking up. “It cannot be helped.”


“We will go another time.”

“Could we not,” the elfling persisted, “go afterwards.”

“Afterwards will be too late.”



King Thranduil sighed—an Elvenking was a poor match for a small, determined elfling.

No, Legolas,” he repeated. “As I have already explained”—he gave the child a little hug—“the messenger arrived unexpectedly, and must be dealt with today. That means that I have to cancel our excursion. We will still spend tomorrow together, ion nín, but we will not be able to see the sun rise over Erebor, as we planned. However, we will do that another time.” The King looked down at his son—and the disappointment on the boy’s little face suddenly wrung his heart. “Well... Suppose we open one of your presents a day early?”

Legolas’ smile could have melted ice.


At the heart of King Thranduil’s cavernous study, a couch, some chairs, and a low table (standing upon a beautiful Haradin rug) formed a comfortable sitting area, where the Elvenking entertained his more important guests—and drove some of his harder bargains.

Today, a pile of presents lay beneath the table, sent by the King’s various allies in celebration of his son’s conception day.

Thranduil watched Legolas run over to the parcels, his little arms flailing. “Just one, Lassui!”


There was a large one, wrapped in scarlet velvet; there was a long, thin one, wrapped in royal blue; there was a round one, wrapped in rich green brocade; and there was a wooden-box one, inlaid with figures—a bird, a foot, and a strange, staring eye—fashioned in ebony and in tinted ivory.

“Choose,” said Thranduil.

Legolas considered the different shapes, sizes, and colours, and decided he liked the red one best. “This one, Ada.”

“Very well. Open it.”

Excitedly, Legolas untied the cord and pulled the wrapping away. Inside was a jerkin of smooth, brown leather—rich, like a ripe chestnut—decorated down the front with swirly patterns, and around the bottom with shiny metal points.

The elfling sat back on his heels with a puzzled frown. “A goblin coat...”

“Mannish armour, Legolas,” said his father. He picked up the tiny cuirass and examined the tooling of its boiled leather, and the casting of its brass studs. “And very fine armour it is. Later, we will write to Chief Bóðvarr, thanking him for his generosity, and telling him how much you appreciate his gift.” He laid the cuirass on the table. “Now, ion nín, did you bring your Primer?”

“Yes...” Legolas toddled back to his father’s desk and picked up a small book, which he held up for Thranduil to see.

“Good,” said the Elvenking. “I must go to the Great Hall, to receive the messenger—”

“Can I come too, Ada?”

“No; not today, Legolas.” The Elvenking lifted his son onto the couch. “Today, I want you to stay here, like a good boy, and learn your tengwar. I will send Gwanur Nerdanel to sit with you.”


Feet dangling and lips pursed, Legolas watched his father leave the study. Why do messengers always come when Ada is supposed to be taking me out into the Forest?

He sighed heavily and, opening his Primer, turned to the table of tengwar, and carefully unfolded it. He placed his little hand over the caption beside the first character, and stared at the black squiggle for a moment or two.

Tinco,” he said, decisively, and lifted his hand. The answer was there, but Legolas could not decipher it.

Undeterred, he carried on. “Palma.” He raised his hand. “Or... Calma?”

It was far too hard without his Ada or his Gwanur Nerdanel there to tell him when he was right. Legolas looked at the goblin coat lying on the table and wondered whether goblins had to learn to read.

“Only goblin words,” he thought. “Like ‘gurrrr’,”—growling, deep in his throat—“and ‘gaarrh’.”

Not hard words.

Not Elvish.

He laid down his Primer—carefully, because his Ada had told him that a book was the most valuable thing in the world—scrambled to the floor, and picked up his goblin coat.

It was stiff, and quite heavy, but he slipped his hand through one of the armholes, and shrugged it on—


The little goblin raised his arms and, stamping his feet, shook his fists at one of the stone Ladies standing beside the fireplace. “Gah! Gaarrh!

The stone Lady was not impressed.

The goblin sighed. “Where is my goblin sword?

Legolas thought of the silver paper knife on his Ada’s desk. But his Ada had told him that he must never, ever touch it...

The goblin wondered whether goblins really needed to do what their Adas had told them.

Legolas decided that it would probably be best if they did.


The goblin dropped to the ground, his head darting this way and that, his beady eyes surveying the Haradin landscape. Directly ahead, a huge pile of treasure lay glittering in the mouth of a cave.

Legolas crawled forwards on his hands and knees, his little behind high in the air.

There was a long, thin sapphire, blue as the sky; a big round emerald, green as the Forest; and a wooden box, no doubt filled to the brim with coins of silver and gold...

Legolas could not help noticing that the wrapping on the blue parcel was loose, and—once he had seen it—it was hard not to stretch out his hand, and poke it with a finger.

The goblin caught a glimpse of gnarled wood, polished smooth—not a goblin sword, but a goblin club!

Legolas looked over his shoulder. The door was closed. No one could see him.

The goblin crawled closer.

But Legolas’ Ada had said that he could only open one present.

The elfling chewed his lip. The wrapping had been tied with a golden cord, and the bow had slipped, allowing the edges of the fabric to fall apart. And Legolas was good at tying bows, so if he unwrapped the goblin club, he could wrap it up again, properly.

That would not be naughty. He pulled the end of the cord.


The goblin seized the weapon and jumped to his feet, waving it in the air. “Gah! Gaarrh!

The stone Lady looked a bit frightened.

“I—want—your—gold!” The goblin threw himself at the wooden chest.

The box lid flew open.

“Oh!” squeaked Legolas.

Inside, the box was divided into compartments, each lined with dark red silk, and sitting in each of the holes was a little statue—six shiny black and six frosty white.

Curious, Legolas lifted out one of the black pieces. It was cold, and very heavy and, when he looked at it closely, he smiled, for it was a lion—which he recognised from a picture in one of his Ada’s books—sitting on its haunches, its curly head held high, its broad, velvety muzzle wrinkled in a fierce snarl.

Legolas set the lion on the table and pulled out a white piece. This one was a deer, tall and slender, hiding behind a tree stump.

The goblin grabbed both animals.

“I am going to EAT you,” he threatened, in a deep, dark voice, making the lion loom over the deer.

“No, no,” he piped, making the deer back away.

“Raaaaa,” he roared, making the lion pounce.

“Aagh,” he squealed, making the deer struggle, “aaaagh!”

But, safe in Legolas’ little hand, the deer suddenly broke free and, leaping high, it alighted on the Forest green brocade, and slipped into hiding between its folds.

“YES,” cried the goblin, spotting a flash of curved metal beneath the green fabric. “A goblin helmet!”


Legolas stared thoughtfully at the last of his presents.

“Go on,” said the goblin. “We are already in trouble, so opening that one will not make any difference.”

“No,” said the elfling, firmly. He slid his hand under the green fabric and pulled out the deer.

“What are you doing?” asked the goblin.

“I am putting them back,” said Legolas, fitting the piece into its little compartment. He picked up the lion. “And then I am going to wrap everything up again.”

Just try the helmet.

“No.” Legolas closed the box lid, and fastened the catch.

“Only for a moment. Look.” The goblin pulled aside the wrapping. The helmet was a funny shape—wide and shallow, with a tall crest that ended in three clawed feet—but it was the right size.

Legolas looked down at the silver drinking cup. “Well...” he said.

“Go on.”

“I have to learn my tengwar.”

“Learning tengwar is boring,” said the goblin.

“I know.”

“Being a goblin is fun.”

“I know,” Legolas admitted. “But Ada said—”

“Ada said! Ada said!” cried the goblin. “Ada said that he would take you out into the Forest! Ada said that you would spend the night under the stars. Ada said that you would watch the sun rise over Erebor on your conception day—”

“But a messenger came—”

“If you put that helmet on,” said the goblin, “we can go out.”

“By ourselves?”

“Why not? You want to go.”

“Yes,” said Legolas. “But... But I want to go with Ada.”

“You are scared!”

“I am NOT!”

“Then why not put the helmet on, and go?”

“Because,” said Legolas, his little face screwed up in misery, “because... Ohhhh!” He grasped the green fabric in frustration.


Half an hour later

“Oh! Your Majesty.” Mistress Nerdanel, almost colliding with the Elvenking as she hurried towards his study, dropped into a low curtsey.

King Thranduil frowned. “Why are you out here?” he demanded.

“I received your message only moments ago, sire. I... I am sorry, I—”

“Are you saying that Legolas has been on his own all this time?”

“He has, sire.”

The Elvenking sighed. “Well—he is a responsible boy. Yes”—he dismissed the elleth with a wave of his hand—“you may go, Nerdanel.”

“Thank you, your Majesty.” She curtsied again.

King Thranduil opened his study door—


The story continues…




Contents page

Contents page

Back to chapter 3

Chapter 3

What does Legolas decide?


The Little Prince
Little Legolas teaches Thranduil an important lesson.

Extra scene

The King
Thranduil learns an important lesson.

Extra scene

The butterfly
Little Legolas learns about life and death.

Extra scene

The artist
Little Legolas’ drawing gives Thranduil an unpleasant surprise.

Extra scene

The gyngerbrede
Little Legolas does some cooking, Thranduil does some listening, and they both have some yuletide fun.

Extra scene

Ada … ’daddy’
Lasdithen … ’Little Leaf’
Lassui … ’Leafy’
Ion nín … ’My son’.